My totally badass friend, Amy Anders Corcoran, is someone whom I’ve always seen as petite, athletic, energetic, and beautiful. I knew there was a backstory to her and her commitment to fitness, though, from a few things I’d heard along the way. So after the overwhelming response of last week’s post, I asked for her two cents on the matter, and what follows is her (very honest) response.
I have an incredibly addictive personality. You cannot leave a bag of Reese’s pieces around me, you cannot give me a full bag of Doritos, if I love a song I will play it constantly, and I have never been able to get enough of WWII history. One of the million reasons I have never picked up a cigarette is that I don’t trust myself to not become addicted. These days, I have an addiction to exercise, which is likely also a flaw, although no doubt a healthier one than I have had in the past.
When I was younger and overweight, I would use food to reward myself and as a solace for bad days. This was obviously not a healthy relationship with food. I always compared myself to other girls, whether real or imagined (airbrushed) and knew I wasn’t that skinny, so just ate more Samoas. Why bother, right? Exercise was NOT an option. I took dance classes, but they put me in extra tap (thank GOD since I make money on tap dancing now!) and took me out of ballet because I wasn’t ‘built for’ ballet. I couldn’t come close to going up the rope in gym class, and was the kid the other kids were told “was holding us up from going inside because her mile time was so slow”. I will never ever forget them all lined up on the blacktop waiting for me. I still to this day cannot run outside. I do my 10Ks on the treadmill, thank you very much, Mr. Gym Teacher.
Then, in my 20s, I was fired from a cruise ship performing job for being overweight. I was humiliated. I didn’t fit into the costumes. I’m not sure why they hired me in the first place, but they did, and I realized that my weight was becoming a crutch and a way to self-sabotage. So, my addictive self poured myself into the gym. My very first workout was an incredibly slow mile that took 20 minutes on the treadmill. I soon realized that working out, besides helping the weight come off, was also giving me mental stability I hadn’t ever had. Less depression, less pessimism. Good things for someone who had chosen the arts for a profession and also likes to be around other humans.
I hired a trainer in 2007 and lost the last 20 pounds. Since then, I have put in 65-70 minutes of serious cardio and some (not enough) weight training 4 times a week. I have kept that off basically ever since, losing another 5 in grad school, and even I can say I was too skinny at that time. I remember a very dear friend saying I was in my 30s, and I needed to choose between my ass and my face. (note from Tara: that is one harsh but wise friend – never heard this before, but I’m taking it to heart!)
I can’t say that my obsession with the gym is always healthy. I will not book a hotel on a vacation that doesn’t have a gym. I will sacrifice time with friends and family to make sure the fourth workout for a week happens. It is a huge priority to me. What I can say is that my mood is much more stabilized if I work out. If it is more than 2 days between workouts, I can tell. No doubt EVERYONE can tell. My ability to see the positive almost disappears. I can count on one hand the number of weeks I have missed one of those four over the last 5 years.
I still see that chubby kid in the mirror. I always will. I know I annoy people when I say I am fat, so I work incredibly hard to not say it. When people first started saying I was skinny, I thought they were being mean. I still don’t believe it. I still see sausage arms in photos and fat knees. What I have been able to accomplish is not eating an entire bag of Reese’s and knowing that queso once in a while won’t require me to buy all new pants. I work out so I can eat more liberally. Now and again, I have to go on what I call “tightening it up”, which causes me to be addicted to counting calories.
This is who I am. If you go on a trip with me, you can bet that I will be working out at least every other day before we can start the day. If I am behind for the week, I will be finishing up my 4th workout on Saturday night at 11 pm.
Tonight, though, I gave up the fourth workout of the week so I could swim in the pool and take my niece and sister to Dairy Queen. Is this progress? I can’t be sure, but I can guarantee I will be on the treadmill first thing tomorrow and put in a few extra minutes.
Thank you, Amy, for your honesty and your openness. From the outside, your commitment to fitness makes you seem like that perfect Lululemon gym girl that I will never be, but I’m glad to hear you’re human after all! haha. A lot of people talk about the mood stabilizing effects of a daily workout – I envy your willpower, you ass kicking inspiration of a woman!
Julie McKay is a fabulous lady I went to college with, and has always been strong, talented, and sweet, with a crazy beautiful voice. She posted this on ASAS’s facebook page – thanks girl!
Men are told to be healthy and bulk up = taking up more space, while women are constantly told how to get our “skinniest arms ever!” or how to shed those “last stubborn 10 pounds” = please disappear now and don’t get in anyone’s way. And it’s true that if we’re all picking each other apart because of mostly male media expectations, we are wasting a lot of energy that could be used to do some pretty fucking cool things.
Right?! What are we still worrying about this crap for? Let’s get out there and kick some ass!
And lastly, my beautiful Emily, who is a Marine wife, singer, actress, mom, and rockstar, posted this on the comments section of my last post, and I simply had to repost it. She has always been slim in my eyes, but over the past few years, with all she’s been through, she had grown (rather understandably) more thin. And as a friend, you don’t want to say something that will upset your friend when obviously she’s going through so much, but I admit, I worried about her. I regret not saying something now – lesson learned. And that makes it all the more wonderful and heartening to hear her speak so frankly about her struggles over the past few years. I have some courageous friends…
It’s so sad how we are never “enough.” And mostly because I feel I’m in constant competition with “that girl” or “her over there” or even what I once was. When Jeff deploys- I throw myself into working out like crazy and because I don’t have to make a big Marine dinner- I settle for easy and I always end up losing weight. Probably something I can focus on while trying not to countdown the days till he returns. Plus I know he isn’t eating well in Afghanistan and is working out and I want to look my best for our reunion. But what is “my best?” I tried to get my weight down so low to try and look like my itty bitty friend- and when Jeff (about this said friend) says “wow- she is too skinny! Her husband must be scared he will break her!” I’m confused! Skinny or fat are the only two shapes in our dialogue nowadays!
Now that Jeff has been back almost 5 months, I have put back on some lbs, and I’m actually enjoying eating and DRINKING with my hubs! We did the entire Insanity program, and although difficult and it was an amazing feeling that we finished…. It created for so much stress and inconvenience in our lives. Working out when he got home at 8pm eating dinner at 9 then not going to bed till 11 to then wake up at 5 to the lily monster was not healthy! I was exhausted and my body was hurting.
I am trying to adopt the mantra “strong is the new skinny.” We need a healthy medium. I want to be healthy. I want to feel good. I want to be able to eat a cheeseburger and have a few beers and not worry about the calories. A mom gave me a great piece of advice this morning. She said “before you tell yourself something- ask yourself if you would ever tell your kid the same thing. Would you tell your little girl “ugh you have to lose 5 lbs by next month?” Or “look at those jiggly thighs?!?” Most likely no (unless she is a baby and strive to have rolls on your legs for sheer cuteness factor!)
The negativity towards body image needs to stop. Be proud you are living. Be healthy. Be strong. Be indulgent at times without regret. Be a margarita and nacho expert if that is what makes you happy. In the end I just want my kid to live a happy life – so I should strive for the same.
It’s amazing how having a daughter so distinctly changes the way you see your own life. I know your little girl will grow up to be as brave and as beautiful as her mama is, and what you said is what I want the whole next generation of women to grow up hearing. Strong is beautiful! Stay tuned, lovelies, for more viewpoints from more amazing women next week!