Baby Got Back

10.1.07: Squats and lunges are broadening my rear view

fitp2090893178_0.jpg Helga Esteb/

"If you're gonna have a big butt," Gin Miller once said to me, "have a great big butt." I'll always remember those words of wisdom.

Gin Miller, in case you don't know it, was the inventor of step aerobics, and once upon a time I had the good fortune to work with her. I was an editor at Cooking Light back then (2000-2003), and Gin was the magazine's primary fitness writer and consultant. As such, she'd make the trip from her home in Atlanta over to Cooking Light HQ in Birmingham, Alabama, a couple of times a year to hold a few meetings, maybe do a photo shoot, and teach a class or two to our staff.

I always loved Gin and gravitated toward her not only because she's such a beautiful, energetic dynamo of a wise woman, but because she's also a regular gal with a standard-issue body. Which is to say, she's no genetically blessed, freak-of-nature skinny-minny—she's someone who has to work to stay in great shape, just like everyone else.

Whereas nine out of ten models at a fitness photo shoot are struggling to fill out an extra small, Gin always wore a large (or sometimes even an extra-large). She's perfectly fit, mind you, and she ROCKS that size large—but she's also a real woman. Gin Miller is a pear, just like me. Whenever I start to get too depressed about my body shape I think of her and remember how damn fine a pear can look with a little inspiration and perspiration.

Gin was always a fan of the squats and lunges—her workouts featured them prominently, maybe throw in some step ups, some jump ups, some assorted hip and thigh and glute exercises, then more squats and lunges. Lower body work, she would laughingly explain, is the key to a great big butt. And just when I'd start to meet a little inner resistance, I'd have to give in. After all, wat's the alternative really—an awful big butt? Her little joke is really words to live by when you're a pear and chances are your butt ain't going anywhere.

Lately, though, Gin's joke has become my mantra. My new trainer, Rebecca, also loves the squats and lunges, and insists I do them and do them and do them. They're paying off with an improved hind view, I think—a higher, rounder butt. But it's also a bigger butt.

I realized this when I was trying on clothes recently—I've lost inches (or fractions thereof) off my waist and hips. When it comes to clothing size, however, I've actually increased. Clothes don't fit me the same, and they don't look the same, either. They look better, but need to be a little bigger.

I'm fighting off the panic that comes with the idea that anything is actually growing at this point, when all I want is for everything to shrink. I'm trying to get used to the idea that a fit body might not look the same as it did before the baby came—that it can be "bigger" than what I want it to be, and still look better.

I'm trying to make peace, in other words, with the idea that I might have a big butt—an even bigger butt than before—but it can be still a GREAT big butt.

Hillari Dowdle is no doubt lunging across her yard in Knoxville, Tennessee.