A Pinterest-perfect body: thinking twice about “trouble spots”

My increasing tendency to spend my downtime on pinterest has led me to notice a lot of pins, especially as I look at fitness-related motivation, dedicated towards certain body parts and how to make them look a certain way. Like the magazine headlines that say “A Perkier Butt in 7 Minutes a Day,” I don’t think the routines will do the trick. But even worse, I have noticed the way in which bodies are literally turned into objects—butts, arms, shoulders, abs—to go along with these routines.

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We talk about the objectification of women’s bodies, and this is an example, I’d say. We’re taking this part of a woman’s body and we’re focusing on it, removing it from context and personality. We’re also contributing to something that we take for granted sometimes—this idea that we can pick and choose how we want our body to look in sections and then achieve it through our own hard work.

When I work with personal training clients, I sometimes get the questions about “what am I working now?” and I sometimes have a sense of if the person is concerned with “toning” or afraid of “bulking up” or asking because they want to know about the functionality of what we’re doing. I really try to answer questions about how to tone a certain body part gently and not hold people at fault if they want to have tank top arms. But I hope that people know that just because things like Pinterest make it easier than ever to take for granted that every part of your body can be molded and shaped until you have the most ideal of all the ideal bodies doesn’t mean that it’s realistic or even possible.

When you think about the insane notion that you should perfect every part of your body to match the idea in your head or in the media that you see of what is defined as perfect for each region as insane, you might feel a range of things. Maybe you’re defeated—what’s the point, then? I’d argue there’s lots of points: aesthetics in general, the health benefits of working out, the functional benefits of moving your body, the sense of accomplishment and self esteem you can get from participating in physical activity, to name a few. Or maybe it feels like a relief—the pressure is off and you can be a little more appreciative of the awesome body you’ve got. Those “trouble spots” you were so concerned about before won’t hold you back if you let yourself let go of the perfectionism around our bodies that’s easy to buy into.

I hope that this post leaves you thinking, and I of course hope that you are a little gentler on yourself. Lots of people have one body part that they just can’t seem to “fix.” Our body parts are not mistakes, and this idea that if we try harder or find the perfect routine just sustains our insecurities—and keeps the people who benefit from them in power. Let’s learn to love our bodies as a whole, appreciating all of the parts. My friends over at Fit is a Feminist Issue shared this photo on their facebook page (which is always filled with interesting things to check out, I might add), and I think it is a perfect way to leave you thinking:

worth loving

Does this resonate with you at all?
Do you focus on specific body flaws? 

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Forced to pause: What I’ve been doing with myself–and my body

Since my race in July, I’ve been pretty quiet about what I’ve been up to. That’s largely because it hasn’t been much. Sad face.

About a month ago, I was going through a regular ol’ weightlifting workout at the gym. I was on my own and I’d just finished training some clients and having woken up early, I was feeling pretty tired but nothing too out of the ordinary for a morning training session. I did a couple of snatches after a normal warm up and I ended up dropping the bar behind me and not bailing quick enough. So, the bar landed on my lower back (off to the side) and since then, I’ve been dealing with it.

The first two weeks were tough and even though I tried, my body yelled at me to back off. Lifting weights was definitely out of the question, but I thought yoga might be alright. Turns out, nope. After a while, I started to go to yoga and take it at an easy pace. I tried some runs and realized they were out. I went to the pool and avoided looking at the clock in favour of appreciating that I could move.

Like I said, it’s been about a month. I went on my first bike ride last week, and it nearly killed me. I took a few more days off. I started to do some light weights, avoiding things that hurt me. I tried biking again—success. My runs have created some kind of hamstring, or maybe IT band pain that is all new for me. Ohhhhh, left side of my body, how you test me!

I’ve been impressed with my ability not to freak out over this. I had the week leading up to my thesis defence without the normal outlet/distraction of working out to keep me from freaking out, and I think I was more prepared for it. And as I’ve come back to my activities, I’ve realized which ones make me feel good. I missed riding bikes with friends. I think I needed a break after my half ironman in July, and I didn’t take it – I went right back into it and raced (not so hotly) at Bluewater two weeks later. Maybe some higher power dropped this barbell on my back like he was trying to hit “pause” for me—the button just needed a pretty hefty push, apparently!

slow down

For now, I’m focusing on being grateful when I feel good and being patient when I don’t. I know in the past, I was compulsive about exercise and would have lost my marbles—for the first two weeks, I did less moving than I had in a normal week during training for my half, and I had to work as a personal trainer and watch my clients all killin’ it on a daily basis!

Now I’m feeling a little lost. I had plans to run a big trail run in mid-October, but running hurts the most right now. I thought about training for my Olympic Weightlifting debut, but I’m obviously a little discouraged there. I think for the first time, I’m going to give myself a break from trying to peak for anything in particular. Sure I have goals—10 chin-ups, anyone? (I’m at six)—and some events that I would like to do—bike rides in the fall are my favourite—but it might be nice to just “work out” for a little in the meantime instead of always feeling like I should be training my face off. I’ve written before about how exercise should improve the quality of our lives and how health ought to be a platform for us to live our best lives from, not the sole focus of our lives—and remembering that has gotten me through all of this! I am however glad to be able to bike myself to school, which started today (yahoo!).

biking to school

I write this because it’s part of a long journey from not being able to take a rest day on vacation without losing my mind or bingeing to realizing that I can rest—and should rest! I’ve seen that my appetite matches my activity level, that I don’t immediately get out of shape or look like a different person if I take some time off, and that I can release stress in other ways. I’ve had some time to think about what I want to do with myself and my body and to start considering what will make me feel like I’ve spent my time, energy, and money on the best options. I have realized how lucky I am to still be able to do things and that this too shall pass (as always). It could have been so much worse. I am not fragile, and I will come back stronger. I’m looking forward to my next comeback, whatever it’s back to…

setback

Have you had an injury that took you out of commission for a little?
Did you learn anything from being injured?
What are you focusing on this fall?
What do you like to do besides train?

Bulky but Still Beautiful: Representations of Healthy Femininity in the CrossFit Narrative

The end of summer has come, and the quiet blog is testament to how much of a whirlwind it’s been. Between my half Ironman debut, defending my thesis, and starting a new gig at Hybrid Fitness Centre, I’ve had a pretty amazing summer, I’d say. I’ll leave the part about how I dropped a barbell on myself (a wakeup call, perhaps?) out of it and just say that while I’m sad to see summer come to what feels like a quick close, I’m excited for what fall has in store: teacher’s college, working at the gym, and gearing up for some updates to my services–coaching stuff–that I’m anxious to share with you all soon!

But in the meantime, I’m going to share my thesis. The link is live, and so far I’ve had 52 downloads according to the email that came my way earlier this week! I’d like to see the fruits of my labour over two years of my life read by a few more sets of eyes, so if you’re interested in sociology, health, the body, body image, CrossFit, femininity, etc. then do me a favour and take a looksie–it’s available through Western for download.

Here’s my abstract to whet your appetite:

“Positioned in the area of feminist cultural studies, this thesis examines representations of femininity, fitness, and health in four key publications related to the fitness programs offered by the CrossFit™ Corporation. A critical discourse-analytical methodology is used to deconstruct notions of fit femininity in the CrossFit narrative. I argue that themes on femininity reflect contemporary healthist ideologies that promote concerns for health as an individual, moral responsibility, and normalize entrenched notions of the female body as a project to be managed. Drawing on the language of feminine empowerment, the CrossFit narrative constructs the ideal female body as one with increased muscularity and functional abilities, while also offering up a singular feminine ideal that reproduces ideological views sustaining unequal gender relations. An overarching dominant theme of the CrossFit narrative stipulating a need for constant improvement, anchors a discursive effect promoting continual consumption and self-monitoring of, and for, health.

Keywords: CrossFit, Gender, Femininity, Critical Discourse Analysis, Consumerism, Healthism”

…enjoy! I’d love to hear some of your feedback in the comments. I may be done this Masters, but I hope that this is just starting the discussion.

some sort of idea

Do you have any thoughts on CrossFit media?
Have you ever done a CDA? 
Have you written a thesis? 

 

Body Positivity Tuesday: Be Picky

It’s time for another tip from the body acceptance arsenal. This week is about putting on blinders when it comes to things that don’t serve you on your health and happiness journey…

Week 3: Limit your digital exposure to things that make you feel bad about your body.

As a blogger, I’m obviously biased towards social media’s potential to be a positive force in our lives. But I’m fully aware how the literally unlimited exposure available to us via the internet and social media to the kinds of content and pictures that can make us feel inadequate can wreak havoc on our abilities to feel good about ourselves. The internet is also a place where people can present things that aren’t even real—as real as they appear. A big step back during my eating disorder recovery was letting go of the blogs I was following who took part in the “What I Ate Wednesday” madness. I realized that part of giving up the obsession with whether or not what I ate was good or normal or too much or too little or whatever was to stop comparing myself to others, especially those who took the effort to document their every bite on the internet.

The remedy? Examine what you expose yourself to on social media. If you’re constantly bombarded with photos to which you compare yourself, or with people promoting all kinds of extreme diets, or with anything that leaves you feeling worse off, get rid of it. We have to be the gatekeepers of what we allow into our lives, and given the way in which we are constantly connected these days, social media is a big part of this puzzle.

respect

Is there anything you’re letting go of after reading this post? 

magazine covers: should they inspire, or should they just sell magazines?

To answer the question in the title of this post, I think magazines, ideally, can do both.

The reason behind this post is all of the hubbub that Camille Leblanc-Bazinet’s latest magazine cover, this one on the box, a CrossFit magazine, has caused.

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Camille has been on the cover of lots of magazines, CrossFit and more mainstream.

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Her popularity makes sense: she’s Canada’s sweetheart, she’s beautiful, and she won the CrossFit Games this year.

She’s also been photographed in some pretty racy ways (this is one from SweatRX).

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So, when people were getting angry on the interwebs about her bikini model-esque cover, I thought maybe there was a little overreacting going on. My reaction? I would rather see her doing something than just standing there. There was a lot of talk about the poor photoshopping that went on and plenty of outrage over the whole process, but maybe I’ve just come to accept that magazines will photoshop even the women I look at and think of as pictures of strength and fitness.

I haven’t read most of the posts out there, but I think what’s missing is a recognition that she posed for this photo. With that racy one from SweatRX in her portfolio, I don’t think it’s that much of a surprise that Camille is using her sexiness to sell herself. Girl power? Or playing into a bigger problem? That depends on how you think a magazine should sell itself. Camille’s mentioned before (in magazine articles) that CrossFit can help shift body image:

“Now that Leblanc-Bazinet is a pro in the weight room, she holds her head just as high. “If I gain two pounds but I can lift 100 more pounds on my bar, I’m like, ‘Hell yeah,'” she says. “I only want to be fitter, stronger, faster, and healthier, and that’s given me tons of confidence.”

Amen to that, I say.

A few months ago, Annie Thorisdottir was on the cover of Vogue. She was pictured in ways that are different from what we would typically see of CrossFit athletes in their element, but there wasn’t so much outrage (at least that I’m aware of).

annie vogue

Maybe the difference was the magazine? Do we expect our CrossFit magazines to resist the urge to sell magazines using sex appeal or making the athletes who grace their covers into cover models?

To me, this just reiterates a point about how we don’t want to just replace one ideal with another. There is something different than saying “strong is the new sexy” and then leaving “sexy” as this objectified, half naked person who is just standing there. The thing with the cover of Camille is: she is much more than that, and while she looks good standing there, she doesn’t have to just stand there. I love the women of CrossFit because of what they can do. I love that their bodies come in different shapes and sizes and degrees of ripped. I appreciate photos of them the most when they remind me that their bodies look that way thanks to their doing and that their bodies are capable of doing amazing things. I read the magazines because I appreciate a break from the typical “tone your tush by Tuesday” articles that fill up lots of general health and fitness magazines.

So the box, if you’re listening, I’m not mad that you did this “to” Camille (let’s hold her at least a little responsible, folks). But you should know: I like the photos of her in action a lot more. My boyfriend doesn’t seem to mind one or the other, but I think he’d like to see more of Lauren Fisher. We’ll both buy your magazine. I have an old photo from your magazine of Camille tacked to my vision board. She’s snatching, and I put it there because I am sure that some day soon my snatch is going to look just like hers.  

Those active photos are the ones I want to see. They’re the ones that make me want to go do CrossFit. They’re the ones that remind me that it’s okay to work out for something besides the pursuit of looking sexy. I like CrossFit magazines because they’re about the sport more often than they are about losing weight or looking a certain way. Reading Shape and Self, when I let myself get sucked into it (usually because there’s a recipe I want to eat somewhere in there or they’re talking about CrossFit or triathlon or something else I care about), leave me with the sense that exercise is really about changing the way my body looks. I think women especially are sick of, when it comes to fitness and health, seeing ourselves as objects or looking at our bodies as things to be “perfected,” whatever that ever-changing definition of “perfected” is. I like that CrossFit gives me a space where it’s a heck of a lot easier to get away from that obsession. Here’s hoping that this isn’t a trend. I, for one, think it’s pretty silly to put the fittest woman in the world in a bikini and ask her to stand there.

What do you think of the cover?
Do you do CrossFit? What for?

#storiesnotselfies: Women’s Empowerment Series and a weekend well spent

I’ve not been my regular blogging self lately for a variety of reasons, but I know when something is worth blogging about, and this weekend included one of those things. Besides overdue reunions with busy friends, bouldering (aka falling on … Continue reading

Miss Indiana nailed it, but we’re missing the point

There is a long list of things I don’t watch on television, one of them being the Miss America Pageant. I do, however, watch my facebook news feed and Today Show clips and yesterday, all the talk about one of the contestants, Miss Indiana, and her “normal” body, caught my eye.

If you haven’t seen the news, headlines like “Miss Indiana Mekayla Diehl: ‘I didn’t go to extremes’ for my body” (Fox News) or “Miss Indiana Mekayla Diehl ‘Blown Away’ by Being Called ‘Normal’” (ABC News). Afterwards, Miss Indiana has been talking about how she chose to maintain her healthy lifestyle rather than starve herself or go to extremes to get ready for the swimsuit portion of the competition. She says that the response from the world of social media, where people have applauded her for her “normal” body, has been positively overwhelming.

But along with the praise for her body also came questions over just how “normal” her body is. The Los Angeles Times included a chart of what an actual “normal” woman would look like and compared that to Miss Indiana’s proportions.  They include her BMI (18) and her height and conclude,” A bag of bones she is not, but she is far from average.”

source: jezebel

source: jezebel

There are a couple of reasons why I don’t think all of this is all good. I am all for people talking about body image and for expanding the range of bodies we think are beautiful. But all of this talk about Miss Indiana’s body versus the “normal” body of a woman does something that I think is problematic: it normalizes talking about how acceptable another woman’s body is. Sure, we can say that it’s okay because if she is unacceptable it’s not because she’s too big, but I don’t think it is. Today, though, it’s normal to print and talk about how much someone weighs. It’s also normal to critique their bodies, and this kind of discussion needs to come with a little bit of caution.

I don’t see men’s magazines discussing Miss Indiana’s body. These women are all beauties–they wouldn’t be on that stage if they weren’t. I don’t think it’s as normal for men to dissect and critique each others’ bodies to decide publicly if they’re acceptable. Maybe this is because women know that they’ve spent a long time being told to look a way that is unrealistic for them. But what we need to do isn’t to come up with a new realistic ideal for all women to aim for. Jezebel’s “Miss Indiana’s ‘Normal’ Body is Nowhere Near Normal” makes a point about this reflecting women’s obsession with matching some norm, saying, “…[P]ublic response to Diehl exposes something else about the way that the media has warped people’s ideas of how women should or do look. It reveals how badly we want to see ourselves reflected in society’s ideal, and how much we’re willing to ignore reality in order to seek that identification.”

The more we discuss her body and whether it’s “normal” enough for us to feel happy, the more we normalize this kind of dissection of how other women look and the less we question whether or not we should all be trying to look the same.  We don’t take the time, then, to consider the effects of the pageant itself when we get sucked into discussing whether or not the winner is too thin or now that she isn’t quite as thin, not not thin enough.What if we just didn’t watch it in the first place?

I’ve talked about this before–in relation to “strong is the new skinny:” We will never win when we shift what’s normal without discussing why we think we should all be “normal.” When we talk about her not being average, do we want her to be average? Isn’t the majority of the population, if you believe the statistics, inactive and unhealthy?

Regardless, when we try to make one body type that we unquestioningly assume is healthy (whether or not it is) the new normal, we aren’t fixing things. We are looking at one body type and saying all the others are wrong. We aren’t thinking about all the things that go into having a healthy body and a healthy life:

  • Does that “normal” woman love her body?
  • Does that normal woman move it in ways that make it feel good and function well?
  • Does that normal woman eat enough real food?
  • Does that normal woman get enough sleep?

To that end, Miss Indiana seems to be nailing it. She’s active. She talks about liking her body. Those are two big important parts of living a healthy life, in my opinion.

But this is really about us.

  • Do we love our bodies?
  • Do we move in ways that make us feel good and function well?
  • Do we eat enough real food?
  • Do we get enough sleep?

It’s a lot easier to complain about things outside of us and big that we probably can’t control than it is to address what we can: how we relate to and how we take care of our own bodies. If we can learn to love our bodies, we don’t need to worry about matching an ideal, because we will be our own ideal.

I’m at the point where if I was going to bother wishing I had someone else’s body, I’d be wishing it was one of someone who does something that awes me: how about a pro cyclist or maybe a top CrossFit athlete? And then, rather than feeling bad about not matching up, what would happen if I used those women as examples of what’s possible and started to work on doing the things that would make me more capable like them? I’m still striving, but it seems to me to be in a much healthier direction.

We don’t need “normal” beauty pageant competitors—we need to see that our bodies are normal and are all that we can really control. If we are healthy and taking care of ourselves, we need to rest assured that that makes our bodies good enough, whether or not people on the interwebs agree.

take care

What did you think about the Miss Indiana news and discussion?
Do you watch beauty pageants?
What kind of body do you strive for? One that looks a certain way, or one that does certain things? 

 

a yoga class, a realization, and coming back to what matters

continue

The theme for today.

Today I took a study break to have lunch with two of my friends (who I miss and wish I saw on a more regular basis, FTR). We got to gossiping and when I mentioned an admittedly petty frustration I’m having with a blog I would probably be better off avoiding reading follow—the blogger sometimes says one thing and then does another.

My friend (lovingly) pointed out something about which I am sure there’s a cliché out there about, but I’ll just spit it out: I think I am so irked by this blogger because I can be guilty of the same thing. The things that bother us or that we judge in other people being the things that we are in some way self conscious of about or in ourselves and as dedicated as I am to loving my body, getting off the diet train, and redefining and owning what healthy and happy mean to me, I still slip up.

For a number of reasons (a list I’ll keep to myself), this month feels extra stressful. Old habits die hard and I’m finding myself looking for ways to feel like I’m in control of my world and comfort in the old ways I used to “take care” of myself using food. At yoga tonight, I found myself looking in the mirror and thinking about how much I wished my “belly” wasn’t there.

Maybe it was the instructor’s emphasis on focusing on our core (I sometimes joke that I was born without abs because my core feels non-existant), but at any rate, I found myself fixating on my abs (or lack thereof). Shame on that and shame on what happened next, but I couldn’t get my mind off of that thought for the majority of class. That being said, there’s something powerful about being stuck in a room half naked when all you want to do is get out (or being “stuck” in any situation, really), and by the end of it all I’d sorted out my thoughts.

My (condensed) thought process looked like this: It’s not fair that I spend so much time exercising and/or thinking about training and/or what I’m going to eat or not eat but I still look like this. à I could stop working out so much. à I don’t think that’s the answer…I like the workouts I do now. à I could give up ____________ (coffee, peanut butter, the occasional grain (oatmeal, rice cakes) I’ve been eating again lately. à For every restriction, there’s an equal and opposite binge. And I’m sick of yo-yoing. à Then what is the answer? à Losing weight? à You’ve been there and done that. à What’s really wrong here?

Hmmph.

Needless to say, this isn’t an internal dialogue I feel like having anymore

So what is the answer?

It’s cheesy (but that’s kind of my style), but the yoga instructor said something midclass that sparked some new thoughts in my mind. After a particularly challenging series of postures, she asked us to replace thoughts of “that was hard” with an appreciation for the fact that every time we challenge our bodies and feel the sensations that go along with that, we’re getting stronger.

Well, I’d certainly call overcoming my dose of body shame a challenge—and shifting the focus to look at it as an opportunity to get stronger relieved some of the negativity I was feeling about “still” struggling with it.

I (re)realized a few things. There’s nothing wrong with my body. If I lose 20lbs, my life will be essentially the same. I will still be stressed about my assignments. I will still get lonely and miss my family. I will still question whether or not I am on the right track or if I should have went to journalism school. I will still have bills that I wonder how I’ll ever pay without my parents’ help. I will still feel self conscious when I’m naked. I will still argue with my mother over the same old things. People I know will still get sick and die before they should.

In short, regardless of what my body looks like or how much I weigh, life will still have its ups and downs. Downs and ups. All that can happen if I take the emphasis off of the shape of my body and keep on the path towards focusing on acceptance is finding more space to love the ups. It’s tough to appreciate all that’s awesome if you’re caught up on what’s bringing you down: I have assignments that challenge me. I have a family to miss. I always know that I can get into journalism school if I need to. I have my parents’ support while I figure out how to pay my own bills. I have a healthy body that carries me through life. My mother and I are close enough that we can argue about things. I am blessed to have a big circle of friends filled with people who have impacted me.

I’ve realized this and I’ve said it before, but what needs to change isn’t the size of my body—it’s my beliefs and my attitude about the size of my body. It’s the actions that I’m taking that aren’t really serving me, regardless of their bearing on my weight (using dieting as a coping mechanism, emotionally eating/distracting myself from my feelings, taking on too much at once, wearing stress like a badge of honour, etc. come to mind). These things might not be as easy to change as what I eat or how much I exercise, but they are the real issues. Losing weight for the sake of losing weight would be like grabbing a bandaid; making lasting change with these things it’s taken me so long to own up to (and maybe losing weight as a side effect of sorting them out–or not) gets at the real issues.

cheesy

Yoga is often like a touchstone for me and today, it really brought me back to what’s important. I found compassion for myself and my struggles and an appreciation for the ongoing process I’m working on. I found a way to get back to appreciating what’s good in my life and a bit more acceptance for where I’m at right now. l gave up some of the self judgment (and noticed some of the judgment I feel towards that other blogger slipping away) and took my focus onto what really matters to me. Rather than hating myself for being in that thought process, I realized that I’m loving (in the love-hate sense of the word) the opportunity to get stronger in what I stand for: finding the sweet spot where happy and healthy are at the max.

pretty!

Have you gone through a process of learning to love/accept your body? Were there ups and downs?
Do you find yoga helps you come back to your intentions? How do you centre yourself?
Do you think losing weight improves your life in grandiose ways? 

think about it: fat shaming? i’m not so sure

From the Today Show to my facebook news feed, I can’t ignore this image:

maria kang

Even though the ad’s been around for about a year, it’s causing a storm now. It’s being called fat shaming and Maria Kang, the trainer in the ad, is getting a whole lot of attention around the interwebs.

Fat shaming? I disagree.

I think that asking “What’s your excuse?” (For not having a six pack? For not being half naked? I can’t even be sure what she’s asking me about) to the general population—women who don’t simultaneously earn their paycheques and sculpt their six packs like someone whose job might be looking this way—is misguided. It’s not realistic for most people, no matter what the fitness magazines tell us. The vast majority of personal trainers want us to want this kind of body. Sure, trainers and fitness instructors exist who sell health and who don’t focus on aesthetics (I count myself among them), but I think it’s safe to say that people wanting rock hard bodies is a good thing for business if you’re a personal trainer. To sell something, something has to be lacking or not good enough. In this case, it’s our bodies or where we spend our time and energy.

Do I think this is the worst ad ever? Not really. I also don’t think it’s very effective advertising. Like I said, I don’t consider this fat shaming, but I didn’t like the way it made me feel. I know I don’t respond very well to being shamed—I’d rather be encouraged (something Molly Galbraith suggests in her take on this ad). Sure, I think Kang looks good, but she doesn’t make me think that I, too, can have kids and a six pack if I work harder. Quite the contrary, actually.

As a woman, I know I’m supposed to look like Kang—and if I don’t look like her, I’m supposed to want to. The thing is—and I don’t think I’m alone here—if we don’t look that way, it doesn’t mean that we’re making excuses. In fact, most women I know who don’t have perfect bodies are the ones busting their butts in pursuit of them. Times when my body has been the furthest from this ideal are the same times when I’ve been dieting my butt off and hitting the gym religiously—far from making excuses for myself.

I’ve blogged before about my frustration with working hard and not fitting the image I think I should. Not looking the way you think you should or the way you want to is hard. I sometimes wonder if it would be easier to feel chubby—if I’d be okay with it—if I just ate what I wanted and didn’t dedicate years of my life to dieting and then to giving up dieting or if being able to eat a cupcake wasn’t something I thought was worth blogging about, etc.—but that’s not the case for me. Whether or not I have a six pack, I spend a lot of time thinking about and working on my health. I work out—a lot. I am conscious (perhaps too conscious) of what I eat. So I for one, with my measly 2 abdominal muscles and soft lower belly, was insulted by the ad suggesting I’m making excuses.

So again, do I think the ad is fat shaming? No. But do I think it’s empowering or motivating?  Also no.

How did this ad make you feel? Do you think it’s fat shaming?
What message would you like to hear from personal trainers? 

 

think about it: what’s more important than loving your body

Last week, I found my way to an article on The Huffington Post called “Why Love Your Body Campaigns Aren’t Working.”  Isabel Foxen Duke (she’s a coach) wrote the thing and I think she raised a really important point:

“…instead of simply shifting the global paradigm of beauty, we need to start exploring why those paradigms are meaningful to begin with, and challenge the validity of those beliefs.”

Amen to that.

If we want people to start loving their bodies, I don’t think we need to look at the bodies themselves. We need to look at the BELIEF systems around our bodies and particularly around weight. This needs to go on at an individual level and a societal level.

Individually, not using your weight or how your body looks as a source of self worth is a pretty big step, but big steps go hand in hand with a revolution. Imagine being able to look at your body as a gift–whatever it looks like–because it lets you live the awesome life you’re too busy enjoying to get distracted by anxiety over whether or not your cellulite is showing. That would feel pretty good, don’t you think?

So would getting weighed at the doctor and taking the number as just information—not a reflection of your self worth. Or buying the size of pants that fit you, regardless of whether they’re an XS or an XL–and wearing them with confidence.

I have a couple questions I think might help lead to what I’m getting at here.

  • What if your weight was like height and you couldn’t change it?
  • How would you talk to yourself?
  • Shop for clothes?
  • Eat?
  • Exercise?

Answering these questions while thinking about weight in a new way—as something we don’t need to worry about affecting directly—starts to hint at all that’s possible if we make that shift in perspective.  If you start focusing on your actions and on what you can control and let weight be the by product, you have the freedom (and the responsibility) to do what’s really good for you. So, what’s possible if you change what you’re making weight mean?

I’d suggest this: make a list of the things you think your weight (or if you’ve already realized that it’s not your weight but the obsession with it that holds you back, then the focus on weight) is stopping you from doing. Look at that list critically and ask yourself, is there any reason why someone with your body shouldn’t have those things? My guess is that the answer you’ll come up with is no. Skinny people are CEOs. Fat people are CEOs. Skinny people fall in love. Fat people fall in love. Skinny people can go to the beach. Fat people can go to the beach. Etc. etc. Like the article I linked to suggested, there’s a learning process here and when we go through it we can start to look at our bodies in a new light:

“Eventually my relationship with my body did start to change… when I finally realized I can get the guy, the job, the cute clothes in the window right now, regardless of my weight. Women with “non-traditional body types” are not disabled from creating what they want in the world, we’re just taught that they are.”

This leads me to my next point. We need a change in how we look at our bodies as a society.  We need to start valuing, displaying, and appreciating all body sizes and shapes. It’s not that we’ll never have a “skinny” person on the cover of a magazine and I don’t think we need to come up with requirements for how big or how small a person needs to be to be a model. I think we need diversity. I think we need to look at “Strong is the New Skinny” type campaigns with a critical eye and take them for what they are—a new method to get women to drive themselves batty chasing after another unrealistic ideal. Like I’ve said before on this topic, if we want to move forward, we don’t need a new skinny, we need to stop worrying about fitting into ideals (skinny, strong, curvy, whatever the flavor of the day is) that don’t serve us.

So, to answer my question, what’s more important than loving your body? Loving yourself, of course, and loving the way you live your life.  Another quote from Foxen Duke:

“When our belief systems around weight change — that is, when we challenge the “meaning” we give to weight or body shape — our bodies naturally become our allies in achievement, rather than an obstacle to overcome.”

Think about it: our bodies are the instruments that let us live our lives! If we love our lives, doesn’t it make sense that we would love our bodies? And if we love our bodies, wouldn’t we take exquisite care of them?

take care

 

What do you think your current body is holding you back from?