I’ve never known what it’s like to be skinny.
Even as a child, playing soccer at age 6, I was taller and broader than most of my teammates. By the time I was 12, they called me “Bulldozer” because of my penchant for going through a line of defenders rather than around them. Even when I became a semi-pro dancer at age 15, rehearsing 10-12 hours a week, I still had to work out every single day to keep my weight down.
In high school, acquaintances often referred to me as “Big Man.” When it came time to buy my costume for One-Act Play during my Senior year, I had to shop at a different store than my classmates: Back then, a 38-inch waist meant you had to shop at the Big & Tall store.
As a result, I’ve dealt with body image issues for over 30 years now. I never had problems with the ladies, but I always had problems with how I perceived myself, often wearing baggy clothes to hide my spare tire. One of my fitness-obsessed, post-divorce girlfriends actually dumped me after I took her to Jamaica, saying she was embarrassed to be seen with me when I took my shirt off to play beach volleyball.
Where most people gain weight when they go on vacation, my four years of adventure with Mary have actually helped me get in the best shape of my adult life. But when I was diagnosed with diabetes earlier this year, I decided it was time to get even more proactive about my health. We began swimming 3 times a week, walking our dog Huckleberry more often, and cutting our sugar and carb consumption.
As a result, I’ve lost 20 pounds in the past 7 months, and increased my strength and stamina to boot. Not only do my clothes fit better, but I FEEL better for it.
Mary’s story is remarkably similar: “At 10 years old, I was a B cup, with a chest larger than some of my teachers,” she recalls. “At 16, I was a DD, much to my parent’s horror (and my prom date’s delight). I had to evaluate every piece of clothing through the lens of whether or not it made me look like a ‘working girl.’
“By age 18, my boobs were in triple letters. To tame my buxom bosom I dressed in baggy, boxy clothes, which made me look heavy and frumpy. Such an ample chest might be a blessing if I was 5’10”, but it’s a very different story when you’re 5’2”. It took me until age 35– and meeting Bret– to become tired of hiding, embrace the way my body was made and permit my inner va va voom to shine.”
When our friends Chris Walker-Bush and Alexandra Kovacova began discussing the idea of coordinating “Men & Women of Travel Blogging” calendars to raise money for charity a few months back, it didn’t take long for Mary and I to jump on board, along with 22 other bloggers from all around the world.
Though the project has been the subject of some criticism from those who consider it a vanity project, the fact that all proceeds will be going to worthwhile charity organizations (even UPrinting.com graciously donated their printing services) made saying yes a no-brainer.
Through a vote among participating bloggers and their readers, a list of over 20 worthwhile charities was narrowed down to two: Mitrata Nepal is a children’s home in Nepal designed to provide a loving family environment for children who have known little or no security in their lives; VSO Bahaginan is the Asia/Pacific member of the world’s leading independent international development charity, which works through volunteers to fight poverty in developing countries. These two non-profit organizations will ultimately receive every penny of profits from the sale of the calendars (after covering shipping costs).
For us, posing for the calendar photos (which are not the ones featured here) was a chance to have some fun, show a sexier side of ourselves that our readers rarely get to see, and hopefully raise money (our project goal is $10,000) for a good cause. For me personally, it’s also an opportunity to celebrate the results of my hard work to lose weight, and perhaps show that life doesn’t have to stop or slow down just because you hit middle age.
At 44, I’m obviously not as young or fit as some of our fellow calendar models. But for the first time in my adult life, I’m no longer ashamed of what I see when I look in the mirror.
The calendar, which is available for purchase now at TravelBloggingCalendar.com, costs a mere $25. But for us, the empowerment of being nearly naked for charity was priceless. –by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett
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