headspace, not bodyspace

This morning on the trail.

This morning on the trail.

I’ve never in my life enjoyed working out, but I’m no stranger to the gym. When I was in my 20s and 30s, I was on a constant mission to stay and remain thin. My entire motivation was looking great in a bikini, or a body-conscious dress. There’s no shame in being motivated by physical beauty, but for me, this led to some pretty unhealthy habits, often including working out for way too many hours every day, or starving myself, or imbibing an unhealthy amount of diet shakes instead of real food (Slim-Fast, anyone?).

Years later, I decided that I didn’t care about staying a particular weight or dress size, but was more concerned with keeping my body healthy. I became a mother at 36 years old; it dawned on me that if my daughter waited until this age to become a mother herself, I wouldn’t be a grandparent until I was 72. I know I’d want to be one of those vibrant grandparents who plays with their grandchildren with ease. So I returned to a pretty steady workout regimen. And while I still never loved exercise, at least this time I wasn’t maniacal about it: I didn’t focus on the number on the scale, I listened to what my body wanted when it came to various foods. I started focusing on moving they way I used to love to move when I was a kid, which meant that I was jump-roping more, and I even started hula hooping more. I never got to “thin,” but I definitely felt strong. So that’s good, right?

Over the last 6 weeks, I’d stopped working out, mostly because life got in the way. But this week, I started working out again in earnest, the first time since before my biopsy and our epic vacation (although admittedly, we moved a lot on our vacation). With Alex returning to school, I figured it was time to focus on myself again. It’s been good.

But on Monday, after I worked up an intense sweat, I noticed not how great my body felt, but instead, how great my head felt. I mean, my body felt fine, but more importantly, I felt calmer, and more focused. It was so striking that that morning, when I pulled out my journal, I wrote, what if I switched my motivation to work out to improving my headspace, instead of my ‘bodyspace’?

Today is two years since our home was irrevocably damaged from Hurricane Harvey, and if the last few years have taught me anything, it’s how stress can affect your physical body negatively, but also how taking care of your mind and spirit can affect your physical appearance in a positive way, as well. I noticed soon after we moved into our rebuilt home, that the stress of the previous 15 months had left its mark on my face, and I made a new year’s resolution to focus on doing whatever I could to reduce stress where I could and take care of myself, to see if I could reverse the physical effects that the worry of 2018 had left on me. Almost 9 months in, I feel like it’s making a difference. But it’s suddenly occurring to me that despite what everyone tells you about diet and exercise making you beautiful, the truth is that if you want to be beautiful, it’s far less about chasing a weight or a body shape, but rather, 100% about taking care of your mind - and movement might the biggest part of mindcare of all. The physical changes (if at all) in your body are simply the icing on the cake — but your general energy? Your general presence? Your bearing? Man, that’s where the real change is going to happen. And it will be beautiful.


This morning, my muscles felt tight, and I didn’t want to work out at all. But then I remembered “headspace, not bodyspace,” and decided to go for a long walk on the trails instead of my usual hard-hitting workout. And my head feels so much better. Because I moved, but I moved in a way that felt nurturing, rather than punishing today. Some days, my head needs a punishing workout. Today it didn’t.

Honestly, I think I’m on to something.

(To that end, some personal trainer needs to come out with workouts or apps that are solely designed to make your head feel beautiful. Someone get on that.)