"You're not really the athletic type." The voice of a parent whose own insecurities led to the unintended insecurities of her oldest daughter rang in my head often enough that it was eventually replaced by my own head-voice. I
believed the voice, convinced that I could sing, write, entertain, yes, but I wasn't really "built" for the training of muscle, the straining of lungs.
Over time, the belief-seeming-truth caused fear in public situations. Can't join the youth group after church; volleyball "isn't my thing." Must dress in shower stall after gym class; I don't have a body that should be seen. Won't
dare try on the two-piece swimsuit; my curves aren't the muscled, beautiful type earned by runners and ball players.
Social gatherings in the grown-up world center on food or sports. I stay in kitchen, fearful my lack of coordination will deem me awkward. I chatter, fluent in lighthearted banter and polished at deep and meaningful conversation,
avoiding beach, pool, court, race. I master knife, mixer, measure, and stove, using flavor to feed the need for interaction, herbs and spices to mask the inner taste of discontent. But inside, I long to flex and stretch, to push muscle and lung beyond their
comfort zone. I dare myself to be brave and urge myself to push.
Still, over years, the self-dislike means trying to feed the hunger for approval, and baking and shopping often means choosing temporary "pleasure" that leads to long-term regret. Some foods that soothe temporarily bring dissatisfaction
and harm to this body I can't believe beautiful. But over years, I bear five babies, each time, my body crying out, "I can! I'm strong!"
Inside, a cocoon begins to crack, with each child unraveling a bit more, daring the critter inside to break forth. Those babies grow, and without the voice to tell them "no," they run and climb, breathless with joy for all their
bodies can do.
And one day, one tells me I can, too. I am not bound by past nor fear, but freed by youthful innocence and well-loved and loving courageous hearts. And one day, with trembling legs, I draw a breath and take a step, and I run.
Not far, but enough that breath burns and muscles ache and the silken strands of inner doubt shatter and in heart and mind and body I am FREE.
At thirty-nine years old, I joined two of my children in my first 5K. It wasn't dramatic for the bystanders on the course, but for me, it was a step toward discovering that I am beautiful, and my body was created for more. An
Olympian, I am not. But I am a strong woman who is capable of "keeping up" with my amazing children (almost!). I am well able to push beyond what is comfortable and find joy in what isn't. The food I create can be an expression of joy and freedom and at the
same time nourish palate and body, and it is my goal to share that nourishment with the ones I love... part of our journey to embrace the amazing bodies we've been given and push them to do all they can!
This year, Sargento dared me to create a recipe and tell a story of personal accomplishment. I take credit only in accepting the call to
more. My Papa made me, and He made me beautiful. This story is my dare to go higher up and further in. This recipe is one of many I hope to share to nourish the body and delight the palate!
The protein muffins are a power-packed nod to comfort food, and spinach salad a sweet memory of meals with my mom, whom I gained by marriage, and who poured her love and encouragement into me every second she got!