Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Story of the Purple Corduroys

How do you determine whether or not your workouts are 'working?' What's your barometer for 'results?' Historically, I have gone by the scale, the measurements, how the clothes fit, etc. But I've become inclined to think the way I've typically measured exercise success is, at best, misguided. The older I get, the broader my definition of 'success' has become. And, as in so many other things, becoming a mother played a role in that.

You see, this time six years ago, I was great with child. Darling Son #1 was sweetly nestled in my womb and I was the image of burgeoning motherhood... (cue inspiring music.) In truth, I was just great... and burgeoning. And becoming increasingly desperate to evict my precious tenant. My pregnancy was without complications. Both I and DS#1 were healthy and well, but I had suffered from just about every pregnancy discomfort in the book (and by 'the book' I mean, What to Expect When You're Expecting.) I had it all--wicked heartburn, sciatica, UTIs, you name it. By the time month nine rolled around, I was pretty much done and ready to get the show on the road.

I had read that taking long walks could get things going, so I decided to test the theory. Darling Husband had to go to a work thing near a huge outlet mall, so I figured I'd drop him off at his meeting, then walk the mall. I'm not normally a mall walker, but it seemed like a good idea at the time.

This mall was enormous. I seem to recall hearing that from stem to stern, it was about the length of seven football fields. I don't know if that's true, but it wouldn't surprise me if it were, because I walked the whole thing that day... more than once. Lord, I wish I'd had a Fitbit back then because my step count would have been incredible.

Of course, along the way I browsed in a few shops. I spotted a pair of purple corduroys in my pre-pregnancy size on the clearance rack for a mere... wait for it... $7! I don't even really like purple, but at that price, I couldn't pass it up. I obviously wouldn't be wearing them anytime soon, but thought they'd be good motivation to lose the baby weight. It was November. I figured I could be in them by February.

Umm... let's just say that wasn't the most realistic goal. I understand that some women get back into their pre-pregnancy size relatively quickly. I know it's possible, but I wasn't one of those women, and so aren't a lot of people.

By the end of the day, my feet ached. My legs ached. I felt like DS1 was going fall out, but he stayed put and all I had out of the experience was a pair of $7 purple corduroys that would hang in my closet for SIX YEARS.
Here they are with nearly six-year-old DS1

Yes, people, I held on to these for six long years. I moved them across seven states. I saved them through my pregnancy with Darling Son #2. I did Weight Watchers and barre and cardio and lifted weights. I walked my babies all over creation to get them to sleep. And I breast-fed, which, by the way, is not the great weight-loss panacea it's cracked up to be.

I eventually fit into my other pre-2007 clothes, but not the purple corduroys. I could get them on, zip them up, but they made me look like I was trying too hard, so I never wore them. Somehow, I still couldn't get rid of them. I don't know why... but there they hung. Eventually I realized they were just shaming me from the closet. So, this week at the behest of a friend, I resigned them to the give-away box... along with pretty much everything else I wore prior to 2007. Even the things that fit aren't comfortable anymore. Styles change and babies shift things around, you know?

Mothers need to have a little more grace for ourselves. The world needs to have a little more grace for mothers. We don't need to see pictures and articles of post-partum celebrities celebrating how 'amazing' they look weeks after having had a baby. And by 'amazing' they mean said celebrities look like they never had babies. It's odd because the softer, rounder look typical of the post-partum body used to be considered beautiful, but now it's just called 'fat.'
Looking at art books is really better for your self-image than magazines.
(This is Tiziano's Adam and Eve in the Prado, Madrid)

When I say 'grace' I don't mean 'excuses.' We can all make plenty of excuses, especially when you've just made a person. Even if the person didn't come from your own body, if you're the one up in the night, you could make excuses, but I'm not talking about that. It's true that sometimes we just need to put down the fork, or get up off the couch. And if the 'baby' is starting kindergarten, you can't call it 'baby weight' anymore. At that point, you have to own it.

But really, why do we always seem to gauge success by how small we are? Women are often talking about having thinner thighs, a tinier waist, losing pounds, inches, fitting into clothes with lower numbers on the tag.

A couple of summers ago, Darling Husband was talking workouts with a male friend of ours. It was so interesting to listen to them, because they talked only of performance--going faster, conquering bigger hills, lifting heavier. It was so fascinating because really, I almost never hear women talk about things like that. It seems women are generally more interested in being smaller, and you can tell because exercise books, DVDs and classes are usually marketed as such. Diet and fitness products that promise a smaller, leaner, lighter you sell.

So I decided to take a page from the boys' book. I started thinking more along the lines of performance and less of size. It's a much more satisfying way to approach exercise. I'm not saying wanting to be smaller is necessarily bad. Maybe you need to lose fat weight for the sake of your health, but why not include a few other criteria in your list of goals? Instead of just 'lose X pounds' or 'fit into purple corduroys,' for example, why not throw in something performance-related, like progressing to full-form pushups or improving your walking or running time? Why not think of exercise as what it enables you to do rather than just how it makes you look? It is a much more fulfilling way to think of things, and honestly, often the aesthetics follow the performance.

And so the purple corduroys are gone, but not before the small people and I had a little photo shoot with them. We had a blast and I'm glad because the fun we had was worth the $7 I spent all those years ago, and the kids are worth everything it took to have them.
I know, he's very charming.
Before I sign off, I wanted to remind you that tomorrow is the last day you can try Physique 57 online workouts for free! Click this link for details!


  1. Hi Stephanie,
    I don't own a pair of purple corduroys, but I do own a pair of green ones that I am hoping to fit into...some day. I bought them almost six years ago, and they did fit, for a while, until I started putting on weight after weaning DD. I'm one of those people who can eat whatever she wants and lose weight while breastfeeding, but then gain it back thanks to the new eating habits when the breastfeeding stops.

    Aaaaanyway... I haven't gotten rid of the green cords, but I did finally say goodbye to two pairs of jeans that were too tight around the waist. My waist has never gone back down to what it was before kids, not even while breastfeeding, and I have accepted it.

    Your boys are gorgeous, and you are one fun and beautiful mama!

    Ruth (topfitmama on VF)

  2. Thanks, Ruth! I think the thing with the purple cords is that I never wore them.... which is part of the reason I hung on to them so long. It seemed like such a waste to get rid of them. I hope the green cords find their way back on you. :)

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