My 50-year-old Body: A Love Hate Relationship

There are parts of my body I have hated ever since I knew to notice. And even at 51, I still have a problem with parts of my physique that do not bend to my will nor respond in the first two weeks of a renewed exercise program. Let me count the ways.

[Update: please check out my new site FitbyTech where I will explore this body/fitness/health issue in more detail.]

selfie this morningLove handles – had’em since I was born (slimmed them down tremendously while I was a competitive swimmer in high school, I even had a 6-pack for a brief period of time)

That fold of extra skin between my neck and my chin. It’s not actually a double chin unless I take a selfie looking down. So I always take them looking up. Duh.

I had some professional photos taken last summer and the photographer asked me, “So what are you worried about in your photos? What’s your thing that you want to be conscious of, so we can get it right?

“Double chin,” I said, without hesitation. He nodded his head in agreement. “Me too.”

I love where my body has arrived at this age. I’m not uber-fit, but I don’t consider myself fat either. And that is a HUGE accomplishment.

The love handles have been with me since I was a kid. And at various times in my life, even as an adult they grow or shrink depending on my overall fitness. And sometimes I can be fit and fat, amazing. Since I started noticing girls, and sucking in my belly (about 6th or 7th grade) I have been aware that I was a big-boned boy. There are plenty of things I can do to stay more fit, but I will probably not make it back to my swimmer body again. Ever. Fine, let’s move on.

The neck/chin area is a bit more difficult. I think it’s more about aging than anything else. Some people have surgery to tuck that extra stuff back in, but that won’t ever be my path. I got what I got, and I can work with that.

That self-acceptance has been hard won. I am still battling overweight demons at 51. Amazing. I’m better, but I still HATE my love handles. HATE HATE HATE them. And how healthy is that?

Not very.

There are two other things I need to get off my chest, while we’re on the subject of self-hatred. My physical stamina and recovery time has changed dramatically. When I play a competitive tennis match, for example, I’m going to feel it the next day. And if I play a tournament and last more than one round, I’m going to feel it for a week.

My self-acceptance is not quite what I would call self-love, but I really appreciate the term self-care.

And my eyes are going a bit wonky too. I first noticed my right eye was not as sharp as my left when I was in my mid-forties. I was amazed and disappointed. I was so proud to be the only member of my family not needing glasses. Like it was some accomplishment, or award I could take credit for. When I realised, in the middle of Whole Foods Market, that the Juice Bar sign was very blurry in my right eye, but sharp as a tack on my left; I thought maybe I was having a stroke. I just needed glasses.

Overall that’s not too bad. My list could be much longer. And I’m pretty happy with me. And there are things I absolutely love about being an “older” man.

I don’t buy into the drama most of the time. (I can choose to ignore, avoid, and delegate things that are gross or hard.)

I love where my body has arrived at this age. I’m not uber-fit, but I don’t consider myself fat either. And that is a HUGE accomplishment. I’ve always felt fat. Today I feel pretty fit. And I would love to see my abs, and I’m counting on it, but I’m not going to start marathoning or starving just to get there.

I am pleased with my mind and the wisdom the years has brought me, both about the world and about myself.

I’m quick to love. I have a lot of trust that I can manage.

I’m also quick to leave any abusive relationships.

Sex is something I crave but don’t need. [Aside: Amazing how important the Viagra market is these days. I think sex has a lot more to do with our brains and less to do with our dicks. But I’ve never imagined the need for a pill to help me get an erection. I’m sorry for those guys, and I suppose it could be in my future, but I’m working my exercise routine to help keep it from becoming part of my requirements.]

I am very happy with my kids. I love being dad. I would rather spend time with them than do any other thing on the planet. Hawaii would be nice, but Port Aransas with my kids is paradise to me.

I’ve got a lot of stories to tell. And I love to tell stories. It’s part of what I do for a living by writing social media strategies and a blog. But I love talking to people too. I love hearing their stories and comparing notes.

My self-acceptance is not quite what I would call self-love, but I really appreciate the term self-care. And by caring for myself I am showing love for parts of myself I have always tried to hide. I’m not ready to show you my love handles, but I’m ready to take off my shirt and go for a swim any day of the week. And I can imaging a scenario, at midnight, somewhere near a river, taking off all my clothes and going skinny dipping with someone special.

John McElhenney
@wholeparent

Please check out my new site FitbyTech where I will explore this body/fitness/health issue in more detail.

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image: selfie looking up, the author today 4-29-14

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