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? 

No Diet Day–Should it be every day?

This will be a short post because I’m already a bit late for my afternoon run — it’s a speed sesh so maybe being hurried to get there will start the workout on the right foot? I didn’t want today to go by without putting a post out though, as it’s International No Diet Day.

no diet

In honour of that, maybe check out this article by Health at Every Size advocate Linda Bacon over at the NEDIC website.  She advocates for learning to trust our bodies, which goes in line with the kind of intuitive eating and self-acceptance/love approach that I myself get behind. I especially like the part where she hits the nail on the head when it comes to the element of control that dieting so alluringly offers:

“As long as things go well, the dieter can maintain control. But if anything gets in the way or changes, she can’t. The reason is clear: Dieters don’t rely on the normal signals of fullness to regulate their eating, so there are no brakes in place.”

…I know that when I have gotten sucked into restriction, or obsessing over/tracking my every meal, judging it, etc., there’s been a sense of control and power that I have–and it felt good. It’s nice to feel like you are totally in charge. And what thinking we need to get really strict about our food does all the time is convince us that we are otherwise out of control monsters who will binge at the first chance.

And unfortunately, after restriction, that’s what happens. I still have foods that were formerly “forbidden” that I have to remind myself–it’s OKAY–or else I end up overeating them to the point of feeling like crap. My experience tells me that I am not in fact a madwoman around food, but the more I think that I eat too much or eat the wrong things, the more likely I am to go ahead and go “off the rails.”

My hope is that some day, it won’t be the exception or the one day of the year where we don’t diet–but that we’ll learn to feed and take care of ourselves in a way that doesn’t require us to feel like failures or to give all of our energy to controlling ourselves.

two diets

 

Remember: we are not crazies. The diet industry likes us to think that, so that we keep paying them for programs. And trackers. And diet coaches. And unless these products and people teach us long term habits that make it so we don’t require them, I’m weary. Our bodies are on our side!

There’s my two cents!
What do you think about ditching diets?
Do you make a point to avoid diet talk / dieting / buying diet books, or do you just go with it?
Does controlling your food work with you? Tracking? Monitoring? 
Have you given up on diets? What have you found?
What keeps you dieting? 

Owning it: Athletics as (a) source of self-esteem–and why we need to take a darn compliment

Lately, I’ve noticed a(n unfortunate) tendency for some of the most badass women—the strongest ones at CrossFit or the fastest or most experienced ones on the bike—to play a game of downplaying their achievements. They ask “Who, little old me?” when someone tells them that they’re great or assure people that really it wasn’t such a great job or that someone or something outside them was the reason for their success.

This makes me sad.

I know I’ve returned a compliment with the kind of downplaying I’m talking about. But this is an issue I’m working on. Ever since I had the experience of a friend telling me she was going to be “slow” and then proceeding to be much faster than me in a running situation, I’ve tried to watch how I talk about my own performances or abilities—whether I think they’re good or bad. I’m sure that my friend was innocently trying to appear humble—not to make me feel bad—but it certainly made me think about times when I’ve maybe done the same thing to other people.

This is cute, but be careful whose accomplishments you downplay.

This is cute, but be careful whose accomplishments you downplay.

I know some people who can’t just take a compliment are after reassurance and want to be told a little bit more how great they are. That’s fine. I want to talk about the times where it’s more about not being able to own up to how great we are.

My fellow blogger and cycling friend Sam and I had little bit of a chat about this issue as we watched a club race together last week. Our coach (a man) worked with two ladies to do really well in the race together. It was a men’s race. The gal who won absolutely impresses me with her talent and dedication, but I can remember the first time I met her being met with the kind of downplaying that I’m getting at. Sam pointed me towards “Self-Deprecation and the Female Cyclist,” which is certainly worth a read if you feel like you hold yourself back or downplay your athletic accomplishments and want a reminder to stop that right now.

Maybe for some of us, this comes down to perfectionism—or that ever-looming sense that we aren’t good enough coming back again. We focus so much on what we aren’t or on where we fall short that it’s hard for us to appreciate the things that are really worth celebrating in ourselves. You just ran a great race? Yeah, but it wasn’t as fast as my PB. You just did your first CrossFit competition? Yeah, but it wasn’t Rx.

But it was still badass.

It was still worth being proud of.

It was definitely worth celebrating.

While you’re at it, stop adding the word “just” to things. You didn’t “just” do a 10km when someone else did a marathon. You didn’t “just” go to the gym twice this week when you meant to go four times. Those things count for something.

I’m torn on whether or not I think celebrating our abilities is unquestionably the best way to build our confidence. I certainly don’t think that our only source of empowerment should come from our abilities.  But I do know that pretending that these things don’t make us feel good or don’t contribute to our sense of self-esteem would mean we’d miss out on a whole lot of potential. Maybe the answer is that we can’t base all of our self-worth and confidence on what we’re capable of (so that when we aren’t so capable, we don’t suck), but this kind of appreciation can be a valuable part of what fills up our confidence buckets.

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Anyways, I don’t think that it’s fair to expect anyone—man or woman—to be confident all the time. But it’s my hope that we can think about the way that brushing off compliments or trying to convince people that we’re really not all that good is a habit worth getting out of.

What do you think?
What have you done lately that’s worth being proud of?
Where do you downplay your accomplishments, and what’s up with that?

For feminism or for health? Why the scale sucks either way…

Today, Tracy wrote a great post about her relationship with “weight loss.” As I was reading it, I couldn’t help but think, wouldn’t it be easier if we just stopped weighing ourselves? She seems to be on the same wavelength as me a lot, and she touched on this at the end of the post. Personally, I’ve tossed out my scale in defiance of my obsession with it during the earliest stages of my recovery. But since then, I have found myself weighing myself again on and off. As of late, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m not really benefitting from knowing the number—so the scale’s gone again.

I would like to think that there will be a time when I could weigh myself and not use it as a tool to drive myself crazy. I am not there right now. Even now, without the scale around for daily weighings, thesporadic ones get to me. When I’ve brought the scale back into my world—either via being weighed by someone else like a doctor, or a coach—it stirs up a lot of emotion. I can feel elated if I’m lighter, but at the same time beat myself up for feeling good about losing weight since I know that weight loss is not the be-all end-all, my habits are. I can feel like a failure if I’ve gained weight, which is coupled with a reminder that weight isn’t everything. Either way, I don’t step off the thing ever feeling any happier for having done it.don't step on it.

For so long, my own focus was on weight and losing weight at all costs. I’d, like many people, gotten weight and health linked up in a way that didn’t let me see when I crossed lines and compromised my health for the sake of weight loss. As my choices became more and more extreme, I was successful at weight loss—but at the expense of my health and my happiness. It was a step by step process down this slippery slope into my eating disorder. Eating less became undereating consistently. Exercising more became overexercising on the regular. Eating better became synonymous with eating things with less calories, fat, or carbs—whatever the villain of the day in my mind was.

I know from a health perspective: weight should be the outcome or the by-product, not the focus. It’s not always “right” or perhaps a better way of putting this is that it’s not always an accurate reflection of whether or not we’ve done the “right” things. I might have eaten whole foods from great sources in appropriate quantities and have done a great job of taking care of myself, but if I just drank a bottle of water and have not gone to the washroom yet, I’ll weigh more. Do I abandon my healthy habits because they’re not “working”?

It is easier to sell weight loss than it is to sell long-term health. “Build healthy self-care habits in 3 years” doesn’t seem like it would fit on a cover of Shape quite as well as the “10 days to a flat tummy” headlines that do. People use weight loss as a goal all the time and even as personal trainers and fitness instructors we encourage folks to set SMART goals with specifics in terms of how much weight they’ll lose. I think it’s more important to think about what we will actually need to DO. You don’t wake up and just lose weight by a conscious choice. You do wake up and every day decide that you’re going to work out, or that you’re going to eat vegetables with your lunch, or that you’re going to write in a diary instead of eating a pint of ice cream when you’re stressed. Maybe it’s the allure of wanting to lose 10 pounds and be done with it, whereas deciding to build a healthy relationship with food or healthy eating habits instead would require you to keep on working on that goal for the rest of your life (I think we forget that habits get easier the more we do them).

From a health perspective, I think getting rid of the scale is a good choice for me. That’s my choice. It doesn’t have a lot to do with my status as a feminist or not, which is what Tracy was sort of talking about in her post. But do we have to get rid of our scales if we want to be feminists? Do we also have to get rid of our hair-brushes and makeup? I really don’t know the answer to this or where to draw a line or if there is a line of what makes something feminist or not. If weighing yourself feels good to you, fine. It feels like crap to me. I wouldn’t argue that women should stop wearing makeup if it makes them feel good, perhaps I shouldn’t argue that women need to stop weighing themselves altogether or wanting to be skinny. I just know that there are other people out there who feel compelled to keep weighing themselves and keep pursuing weight loss, and I think the issue becomes when we feel like there isn’t the option to get off the hamster wheel.

Like I said, I don’t know what the answer is here. But I do think I think arguing about it only keeps us all focused on something trivial instead of on the issues that we can all agree on. Think of the progress we might make if we weren’t so busy beating each other up for being truly feminist or not. It’s like when you stop to think about what kind of energy women might have if they didn’t have to focus on their bodies so darn much, or if they didn’t have to focus on whether or not they should be focusing on them, or…you see where I’m going with this.

So for now, I’ll be staying away from the scale, and I’ll be encouraging anyone else who is feeling crazy over it to do the same. Just like I learned in my recovery, the scale is not an accurate reflection of who you are, or how you’re doing, or of your self worth.

losing weight not your purpose

bodies: health for living vs. living for health

Bodies. We all have one, therefore we all have a relationship to the one that’s ours. Why is it that some people seem to get along with theirs while others are constantly battling theirs? Why is it that some people don’t mind that they hate their bodies while some people want to get to a place of body love?

I spend too much a lot of time thinking about my body and how it looks, or thinking about how I shouldn’t be thinking about it and how it looks. You get the picture. I know that I’m not alone here—from conversations about how many calories this friend is eating to how many workouts a week this friend is doing to the new program that this friend’s trying to the new body image book that this friend is recommending, at least in my circle of friends, there is plenty of concern with our bodies.

In my last post, I talked about wanting to make my health a priority, but shifting my perspective on it all. Physical health should be like a table leg, one thing that, along with others (emotional health, psychological health, etc.), supports me and my life. A full life requires health, but it isn’t simply being healthy. This is the difference between wanting to be healthy in order to live (health for living) vs. making our lives about being as healthy as possible (living for health).

In the past, I’ve been sucked into a world where health is the absolute be-all end-all. But isn’t health supposed to be what allows us to get out there and live? It’s like the spin class superstar who’s super fit but never takes it to the road; or the indoor rock climber who never touches a real rock; or the swimmer who never dives into the ocean. It’s sad, right? A waste? If we have a healthy body, we might as well use it to live a life.

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Some day, every single one of our bodies will just be done—we can’t get away from that. Lots of people are scared to get older. I don’t like to think about the fact that we are all headed to the same place and can’t avoid it, but when I do I remember that I’ve got a limited number of days to spend on this earth. No matter how much effort I put into preserving my body, the eventual end is going to come. So why waste all the effort and energy I have trying to stave off something that I’ll never be able to? Why not focus on how I want to feel at the end of the journey—on what I want to do, who I want to be, the kind of life I want to live? And not so much on the appearance of the body I do it in?

I think it’s normal for us to feel like we are at war with our bodies. We see “ideal” bodies all over the place, and we don’t match up. Then we see blogs like mine and articles and books and coaching programs to help us love our bodies. I think these things are valuable. But I don’t think that we need them forever. In healing from my eating disorder, it’s been absolutely essential to get back to a healthy place with my relationship with myself. But I’ve noted something along the way: my relationships with other people are pretty darn important and deserve my attention too. While I was busy hating myself, then learning to love myself, I let some of my friendships and family relationships suffer. We only have so much energy.

We worry about our bodies, and we worry about worrying about our bodies. We try to fix our bodies, and we try to fix our relationships with our bodies. Both of these things are seemingly in our control. Tackling something like the last 10lbs or our negative self-talk lets us feel like we are in the driver’s seat of a life that we live in what can be a pretty scary world.

We think that if we can fix our bodies, or the way we think about them, we might find happiness. Forever. But we live in a world where bad things will still happen. People will die. Friends will hurt us. We will lose our jobs. Stock markets will crash. Even if we have a six pack. Even if we embrace our cellulite. It’s a dangerous notion to think that we should be happy all the time. Brene Brown talks about embracing all the emotions that come with living and says that if we “numb the dark, we numb the light.” We try to avoid the “bad” emotions but we end up limiting our ability to feel all emotions—even the “good” ones. No matter how strong we make our bodies, we cannot protect ourselves from the “bad” in the world. It is a heck of a lot easier to tackle the fat on our thighs OR the thoughts we have about the fat on our thighs than to deal with things and feelings that really challenge us and come from things outside of our control. I think this keeps us locked into our body struggles. It might be uncomfortable to hate your body, but it’s comfortably uncomfortable and in your own control. It might be uncomfortable to project our stress onto our bodies; but it’s comfortably uncomfortable, predictable and arguably less challenging than addressing what’s really going on in our lives.

numb brene brown

There will always be a reason to dislike our bodies, and there will always be the option of fixating on the physical vessel we’ve got to live our lives. But there will also always be the opportunity to let it go and to focus on the lives we are living. I, for one, don’t want my being to be dedicated to the shell that I’ve been given to make a life with. Remember, at the end of this thing that we call life, what we want to be able to say about the way we lived. Our bodies have been given to us—they are a gift—we can make the most of them but remember that they were given to us to make the most of life. 

onel ife

CrossFit and body love: why I’m not so sure it’s that easy

As of late, I’ve been spending a lot of time working on my thesis. Part of what I’m doing is a media analysis of CrossFit, and I’m interested in gender and bodies and fitness and all those good things. If you’re into CrossFit and are into the whole social media / online community, you might be familiar with Tabata Times, which has a whole “Women’s Only” section dedicated to women’s concerns. In most of the articles, there is a common theme of loving and accepting our bodies that comes up. Many of them talk about how CrossFit, and focusing on performance, has helped them accept and appreciate their bodies—all good things.

I knew going into my thesis that it might be a challenge to focus on something that stirs up so many thoughts and hits close to home. Whether it’s triathlon or CrossFit or any other sport that helps me to think about what my body can do instead of how it looks while I’m doing it, I can certainly relate to the feelings of appreciation and gratitude that come from taking the focus off of looks and weight. But something that I’ve noticed with these articles celebrating body acceptance is that it’s a very specific kind of body acceptance—one that is still small, albeit muscular, and one that is still very concerned about being attractive. While I agree that strong can sure as hell be sexy for a woman, I don’t think that means that skinny has to be gross. Or that being sexy is what our approach to exercise should really be all about.

What would it be like to exercise for a reason that’s got nothing to do with how our bodies look? We have this grand idea that if we start CrossFit we’ll look like a CrossFitter, or that if we start running, we’ll look like a runner. But CrossFit boxes celebrate the fact that they’re filled with all shapes and sizes. And go to any marathon and watch the people crossing the finish line and you’ll see that there are finishers who occupy a range of body sizes and types.

I love the message that we can learn to love our bodies if we focus on what they can do. But I don’t love the way it leaves me feeling if I think, well hey, I did CrossFit, but I still want my thighs to be smaller, or, It’s okay for her to love her body because she weighs 66kg (arguably not “big” by any means)…so something must be wrong with me and I need to fix it: more CrossFit, more books about body image, more articles about how CrossFit saved someone from their body woes. I’m starting to see a bit of a lose-lose situation here: I feel required to have the “ideal” body and then since I know that “ideal” bodies are not attainable/sustainable, I feel drawn to these articles that make me feel like the problem is actually the way I look at my body. But then, since those “ideals” aren’t going anywhere (even if they’re shifting), I am back where I started—unable to accept my un-“ideal” body and feeling worse for not even being able to meet the standard of body love.

I love that stronger women are beautiful these days, but I hate that we are so concerned with what exercise does for how we look. I love that people are letting go of the obsession of running on the treadmill for hours on end, but I hate that people are replacing it with two-a-day CrossFit workouts. I love that people are realizing that they don’t have to eat like a bird to be “healthy,” but I hate that they think that they need to “go Paleo” or restrict themselves in equally as cray cray ways to do it instead. I love that we are no longer narrowly defining beauty as thin, but I hate that we are just replacing it with a (thin) woman with biceps and quads.

When I really feel my best, I don’t worry about what other people are doing. This is where I worry that given that some of this “confidence” that comes from having a “CrossFit body,” whatever that means, is at the expense of bringing down other people (or “the old me” that these articles often refer to who spent time running and dieting and trying to be skinny). What happens if CrossFit—and the body that goes along with it—is taken away from us? What if the kind of body love these articles talk about is just as elusive as the ideal body?

Maybe it’s just about acceptance, and maybe that acceptance is unconditional; whether you do CrossFit or not, whether you’re skinny or fat, whether you’re tall or short–you don’t “earn” a body that’s worthy of your own acceptance.

you-yourself-as-much-as-anybody-in-the-entire-universe-deserve-your-love-and-affection-38

I think it’s time to define the relationship that we want to have with our bodies, and then do our best to remember that even though other people will tell us how we ought to take care of ourselves, how we ought to think about our bodies, and how we ought to look, we’re just talking about the vessels that take us through our day-to-day lives. It’s not really how they look or anything about them that makes our lives meaningful. Don’t get me wrong, I intend to take care of my body so that I have a place to live for a long time, and a place that feels good to live in, but we can’t escape the fact that our bodies will do things that we don’t want them to do. We get older, our bodies deteriorate, we get wrinkles, we gain weight, we get stretch marks, we get sick. Our bodies aren’t meant to be perfect, and I don’t intend to waste all the energy I have trying to make mine so. We need to focus on our health, yes, but I would argue that our health is what allows us to live our lives, not the sole purpose of our lives.

judgement and pacemakers: checking myself

Hello from Florida! A few days ago I was flying down the side of a mountain in Vermont (I successfully learned how to have fun skiing in Vermont) and today I was biking in shorts and a short-sleeve jersey. I am pretty glad to be a grad student right now.

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My bike, in pieces.

My bike, in pieces.

For the record, my bike was sitting still. But 95km in January is pretty cool...

For the record, my bike was sitting still. But 95km in January is pretty cool…

On the news a few days ago, there was a little piece about a “pacemaker for the stomach.” You can read about it here on the Wall Street Journal’s website, but to my understanding it’s basically a device that goes into the abdomen and affects the nerve signals that are responsible for feelings of hunger and fullness. The details are not what’s important, but my reaction to it, which was initially to think that I would rather people “actually” lose the weight themselves instead of using what I sort of think is a band-aid.

But I’m not so sure.

As we were driving home from Vermont and my boyfriend mowed down on what he called a “freedom donut” (because everything in Amurrica = freedom ________), I realized that I haven’t eaten a donut in a really long time. Or French fries. Or pizza. And yeah, I don’t eat perfectly—I love me some chocolate. But I definitely pay attention to what I eat and exercise on a regular basis and still have weight on my mind—and on my thighs.

So maybe part of my resistance to weight loss surgeries or pills or quick fixes or whatever is that it frustrates me, since I am trying to “earn” my own. Of course, there’s the fears I have about compromising health and focusing on numbers at all costs, but I think it’s mostly my ideas about our bodies and “earning” them, working hard enough at it, trying…

Some women I know struggle to keep weight on. I know that some people “have it easier” when it comes to maintaining a thinner body. There are friends of mine who can eat froyo all the livelong day and who never exercise but who seem to look like they spend plenty of time at the gym. Those people don’t “earn” their bodies, either.

I think we want to believe that we absolutely earn our bodies—that we get what we put in and people get what they deserve when it comes to this stuff and to most things in our lives. And while I believe that we have a whole heck of a lot of power over our own lives, I’m not naïve enough to believe that I merit everything I have or am. I was born into a certain life and a certain body and a certain family and city and life and as much as I think I work hard, I know that there are people who started from a deficit compared to me and have had to work harder just to get even to where I am. This applies to our bodies too.

Just like there are people who are predisposed to have an easier time getting lean or getting into shape, there are people who are predisposed to have a tougher time. It’s up to each one of us to decide what we do with the bodies we are given them. I know that I want to take the best care I can of mine and I have to set the boundaries for myself and define what makes me “healthy” versus what might border on focusing too much on how I look (at the expense of health). So knowing that, I’m going to let a bit of the judgment go–anything I’m feeling towards those “cheaters” or the ones taking the “easy” route is really about myself. The more I can appreciate the body I do have and even appreciate that my “struggles” with weight have taught me so much about myself and about health, the easier that will be!

What do you think about “shortcuts?” 

 

coming clean: weight loss versus body love

Today on her blog, Sam tackled the “Do I want to lose weight?” question. As someone who takes a stand for Health and Every Size, I think it was brave of her to talk so openly about where she’s at and it was a perfect inspiration to go into the topic a bit myself.

Not too long ago, I had a big cry when I realized that I was scared to admit that I want to lose weight. I thought for sure that meant that I was a hypocrite of some sort. But I realized that wanting to lose weight is fine, as long as it doesn’t come from an unhealthy place. I’ve always thought that a healthy weight is the weight that comes out of the healthiest habits, and when I get real with myself, I’ve realized that some of my habits are not so healthy.

Even though in the past I know that I’ve been sucked into thinking that weight loss would some how solve all my problems, I’m at a place now where I feel confident about whether or not I’m taking care of myself or hurting myself when it comes to what I’m after. I’ve worked on—and will continue to plug away at—lots of my issues and know that five or ten or even twenty pounds is not what stands between us and happiness.

I even realized that not talking about this would be doing a disservice to anyone who follows my blog. I’ve always been open about things and I know that there are other people out there feeling like body love failures in the same way I am.speak

It’s just as shitty to beat ourselves up for not loving our bodies as it is for weighing too much. If we aren’t feeling comfy and happy with our bodies—or maybe more importantly, with our habits—I say give ourselves permission to work on them and to be open about the struggles. I know that there’s a lot of talk about the way that CrossFit, for instance, can help us to really appreciate our bodies and what they can do. This usually comes with a point about how it doesn’t matter what the number on the scale or the size in our jeans reads any more—but what if it does? Where does that leave the girl who doesn’t want the quads that won’t fit in normal jeans or the shoulders that make wearing a blazer next to impossible? Where does that leave the girl who doesn’t want to go to the beach because she just can’t get used to the body she has?

That girl is me. One of my the most powerful questions we can ask ourselves is, how’s that working for you? When I ask myself that in relation to trying to love my body/eating and training the way I am, I have to be honest: I’m frustrated and I’m looking for change this year.

To end things, I want to make it clear that I don’t think we should abandon our body love pursuits. Of course loving ourselves is a great thing! But self-love doesn’t happen overnight and it does not mean that we cannot want to change ourselves, to improve ourselves, or to be somewhere different than we are. Loving our bodies does not have to mean giving up on the pursuit of a healthy or even healthy looking body, but for some people it might. We can define what we want our relationships with our bodies to look like and then work on making that our reality. Maybe it doesn’t mean eating cake all the time, having cellulite, and being okay with it. Maybe it doesn’t mean eating clean, working out, and weighing ourselves. Maybe it means somewhere in between, where we take care of ourselves and put in a little work.

For me, I’ve started to make some little adjustments in my healthy, happy definition—with my weight as one of the things that fits into that health picture. I am working with a dietitian again, trying my best to tackle my health habits one at a time. I’ve joined in on the healthy weight challenge (no extremes allowed) that some of my fellow cyclists are doing this spring. I’m open to shifting my training and realizing that I need to do what makes me happy, not what I think I should be doing. And I’m being open about this in hopes that other people who have maybe gone through the same thing have some insight to offer.

 

Have you ever felt like wanting to lose weight made you a sell out to the body love crowd?

Where do you do things for your health out of “should”?

What do you think defines a healthy, happy weight? Relationship with your body?

 

 

“strong is the new skinny” revisited

I’ve blogged before about how I think “strong is the new skinny” has replaced one (unrealistic for many people) ideal—skinny–with a new one—strong—and how this isn’t really a solution for changing the way women think about their bodies. Especially if we assume that “strong” involves looking like the magazine covers and women who tell us that this is the new way to shape our bodies, going into a gym and trying to make our bodies look strong and match that new ideal is not so different from going into the gym and trying to make them look thin and toned.

Or is it?

As time has gone on, I’ve started to wonder if the “strong is the new skinny” message might not be at least partially a win for women (and the men who admire them). I’ve come to realize that just like a personal training client who comes in wanting to lose weight but then starts to fall in love with exercising and eating real food because of the way it makes them feel, women who start off trying to build a strong-looking body will (hopefully) end up in a situation where they can amaze themselves with their bodies and can build physical strength–both big wins I’ve had in my march towards loving my own body. Whether or not they are lean and mean and look like the images of strength that are typically associated with the motto, women getting stronger is, in my opinion, a good thing.

I’d be lying if I said that part of what drew me to CrossFit way back (prebok days) when wasn’t hoping that I would look a little more like one of those “strong” girls. In the process, I realized that regardless of what happens with my body, there are successes and strengths that come from working out in a way that focuses more on what I can do than on how I look because of it—I’m not perfect, but I certainly have an appreciation for what I’m capable of that I didn’t have before. At the risk of missing out on an opportunity to get into a kind of working out that just might leave women feeling like badasses and leave them physically and mentally stronger, I think we need to be careful not to dismiss “strong is the new skinny” as another way that someone is trying to trick us into driving ourselves batty chasing a new ideal. Maybe “strong” is a better ideal to go after because it can carry meaning beyond just an appearance or even beyond the physical—something skinny could never do. Am I strong enough to carry that weight? Am I mentally strong enough to talk myself into doing it? Am I strong enough to appreciate and maybe even love my body despite it’s cellulite, it’s flab, it’s whatever I think is “wrong” with it? 

Having strength as a goal, aesthetically and physically and mentally, has been empowering for me. Instead of focusing on what’s wrong with my body or what I needed to get rid of (as was the case when I just wanted to be thinner), it’s been a great opportunity to think about what I want to create and cultivate. Even if many of us are working out because we want to look a certain way, I think that the pursuit of that “ideal” might as well have positive side effects. My experience of trying to look skinny was undoubtedly unhealthy; my experience of wanting to look strong has been quite the opposite. Aiming for something instead of trying to fix something is probably the most powerful switch I’ve made in terms of my own health–and while I might not think that all of the things that go along with “strong is the new skinny” are necessarily in line with that I think the switch to focusing on strength is all about, I hope the women who are in it for the aesthetic reason and end up frustrated at not looking like an Oxygen magazine model are strong enough to see that they still rock.

deadlift

What’s your take on “Strong is the new skinny”?
Do you work out mainly for aesthetic reasons?
What else do you get from working out? 

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?