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?

Health as an enigma: why I think we all need to define what “health” is really about

My sister recently bought a house in Windsor, which is just far enough away by car to require a podcast en route. Last time I drove down, I listened to one from “Office Hours” (a favourite of my nerdy side!) where they interviewed Ellen Berrey about her book, The Enigma of Diversity: The Language of Race and the Limits of Racial Justice. I am not particularly well-versed in this area, but she did speak the language of sociology and as she talked about the way that the word “diversity is a hallowed American value, widely shared and honored,” I couldn’t help but think of my own work and the way that the concept of health has come to be taken for granted as universally worth pursuing, without critically considering even the definition of it. Her discussion about the way that the idealization of diversity can actually obscure real inequalities again got me thinking about the way that we idealize health—and particularly the appearance of it. Very rarely do we sit down and define what “healthy” really means to us.

healthy

I couldn’t help but think of some of the people I’ve met who will do extreme things in the name of health—cutting out all carbs, going on extreme diets, running themselves ragged, spending tons of money to lose weight, etc. I see it all the time in my personal life but also as a personal trainer and a professional in the world of health and fitness. Unfortunately, I often see this turn into a slippery slope. My own experience with taking the pursuit of thinness in the name of health too far and straying into disordered eating territory is just one example of the way that trying to be “healthy” can actually compromise that which we’re after in the first place.

Why is this important? In a world where we see all kinds of images offered up as “healthy” (search that hashtag on instagram, for starters), it is more important than ever to be careful not to unquestioningly assume that “health” is defined in a way that fits with us or that serves us. When I was underweight, the natural association between losing weight and getting healthy proved false—just one example of how “health” is not a one-size-fits-all concept. Consider this: with “health” held as an unquestionably worthy pursuit, the association between a thinner body and a healthier body can drive people to do things that are perhaps unhealthy (going on starvation diets, taking diet pills, etc. come to mind), albeit in the name of health. In my humble opinion, I say we get honest about it: it’s not about your health if it’s driving you insane mentally or compromising your quality of life in the process. If we talk about it as being about our health, we’re contributing to that “enigma.”

You eat whole foods and you have a happy relationship with your body, you move it in ways that feel good, but if you don’t look like the images of health offered up in the media, are you actually unhealthy? If you’re, dare I say it, “overweight” by some chart’s standards, are you shit out of luck when it comes to embodying a healthy subjectivity? I don’t think so, but I do think we need to talk about this stuff more (hence this blog). When the images we see of health are all of a narrow range of body types, and when the fitness models on the cover of fitness magazines engage in arguably unhealthy pursuits (cutting out water for photo shoots, engaging in restrictive dieting, etc.), then it’s easy to get confused—so take it easy on yourself. I don’t see the magazines and marketing gurus out there likely opening up the images of fit bodies to encompass all of those that really can be considered fit any time soon, but I do see blogs, social media, etc. as avenues for us to start to open up the definition of “health” to be more realistic and more based on what’s right for each and every one of us. I did just that on this blog not too long ago, and I have been doing my best to come back to that when I get down on myself or my body.

Cheers to blogging!

Do you consider yourself “healthy”?
Have you ever taken the time to define what “healthy” means to you?
What are the parameters you set for yourself when it comes to being “healthy”?

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? 

 

Photoshopping, Instagram, and Playing Nice When it Comes to Bodies

This morning, as I was going about my normal caffeination process and getting lost on the interwebs, this article about a woman who photoshopped her body into what commenters on her instagram account suggested would make for a perfect body came my way.

I like the video portion of the process, where we see each of the steps from normal body to “perfect” in action:

The responses to her photoshopped photo on Instagram might be the most upsetting part of all this—some people thought she still wasn’t good enough, others applauded her for losing weight or for having a great body—albeit one totally faked.

Screen Shot 2015-04-22 at 9.29.50 AM

“Photoshopping and body image — all of that — is such a big problem that a lot of girls deal with because magazine covers are Photoshopped, and even people on Instagram Photoshop their photos,” she told People. “You really don’t know what’s real and what’s not anymore.”

And reminding me of my post on Monday about being in this health and fitness industry, I think Ho’s message in the end of it is one worth sharing:

“I realize now that I am not just an instructor at a gym, but that I am a role model and leader in the fitness industry. It is my responsibility to do whatever I can to help people get healthier while feeling confident and happy in their body,” she told Forbes.

The video gets at the way in which it seems ridiculous to force one single woman to do this to herself. But for some reason, we accept it every day. The fact that day after day, we strive to “fix” our imperfections, telling ourselves we’re just not good enough, makes me as sad as this video did. We judge one another and we judge ourselves, and it’s maybe even sadder the way that we think it’s despicable to do it to someone else, but do it to ourselves nonetheless.

I hope that today, thinking about this all, we can be a little kinder to each other—and to ourselves. Our bodies are beautiful, and health can take a whole lot of different shapes. Let’s celebrate them and celebrate what we do and who we are!

e kind

Did you see this video?
What do you think about the idea of “photoshopping” on instagram? Are filters and selfie sticks the same as this?

Fit: What Living Healthy Looks Like

As someone who dabbles in fitness instructing, personal training, life coaching, and more generally considers herself a wellness professional, I’ve had people tell me that I am a great leader. Whether it’s because I blog about my feelings or because I can kick their butts in a spin class, I try not to take the fact that I am lucky to have the chance to influence people on a regular basis for granted.

Sometimes, these compliments can come at strange times—in the changeroom while you’re half naked or when you’re out at the mall shopping with your friends (how do they recognize you without the sweat and spandex anyway?).

Sometimes, they can make you feel better about something you were actually self conscious about (like using the same Britney Spears remix sporadically for the last 7 years of teaching).

And sometimes, they can make you think about the kind of leader you’re being.

I had one of those experiences not too long ago when one of my (favourite) participants from one of my fitness classes told me that she appreciated that the instructors at our gym looked like regular people.

The gremlin in my head immediately shouted at me that having a regular body is a bad thing—that I’m not trying hard enough or that I’m not good enough to work in this field.

In my trainee (and friend)’s defense, she meant it as a huge compliment and actually applauded everything I stand for: a holistic and sane approach to health that is not based on looking a certain way.

orking out

I can attribute my doubts to a lot of things, including a little bit of my own insecurity but also an issue with the fitness industry. I started to remember the way that a friend of mine assured me that he wouldn’t hire someone to help him with his athletic goals who was carrying a bit of extra weight at the time, or the fitness professional who won’t take photos for their website until they’ve leaned down, or the passionate fitness instructee who won’t take the plunge to instructor because they don’t think they match the bill.

While I understand that we live in an appearance-oriented culture and I don’t think that this is something that needs to—or that necessarily can—change, I also think that clarifying what we mean when we’re talking about “health” is important. Too often I think people work backwards and decide on how to eat, or train, or live based on the “ideal” body that they think they should be striving towards.

This can lead us to get caught up in the way the things we do in the name of health are supposed to make us look and if they don’t actually transform our bodies in the way we were hoping, we might not carry with the habits and go back to formerly unhealthy ones. What a loss!

I’d like to see more people talking about things in exactly the opposite way—what happens to our bodies when we do healthy things for the sake of being healthier, rather than looking a certain way?

I know that there are people who can have a six pack and look like a cover model without compromising their health—but I know far more that abuse they bodies and minds in the pursuit of that (short-lived) ideal. I also know that there are plenty of people who are blessed with certain body types that then let them “get away with” (although I think in terms of health you can’t hide from things that are not good from you, even if they don’t show up as fat on your body or immediate health concerns) things. Perhaps I am so conscious of all of this because in an extreme sense, I’ve seen what the pursuit of the ideal (at the time, thin) body can do when I had my eating disorder.

I like to think that in adopting healthier habits and always trying to take a little better care of myself that health—my happiest weight, balanced hormones, overall general well being, etc.—will follow. It is a big shift when you start to think about what you’re actually doing—but it’s also an empowering one. We can control our habits, and while I think we like to think that we can totally control the way our bodies look, I think that’s partially something people use to convince people to buy their products, try harder, and blame themselves if it doesn’t work out. It might be harder to take responsibility and address our habits, but it’s also extremely powerful.

ew are

So are there fitness professionals who represent balance? I think yes, and I include myself amongst them. Molly Galbraith wrote a post about this years ago that has stuck with me. She talks about the body acceptance element and how as a fitness professional she has struggled with it, and that’s where her power is:

“In the industry or not, I train/work with/counsel women from all over the world about nutrition, training, body image, self-image, and much more.  I hear their stories and their struggles.  I celebrate their victories, and help them learn from their defeats.  I laugh with them, I cry with them, and I talk them off the ledge when they’re ready to jump.  So why am I qualified to do these things?

Because I AM one of them.“

Similar to Molly, I think that my own journey to a health and happy place is what makes me trustworthy, inspirational, and “qualified” to do what I do. I try to model the kind of health and fitness that is sustainable and realistic and that feels good—and if that means that I have a “regular” body, then regular I’ll be!

rea

I just hope that I can contribute to a world where it’s not something that people need to comment on that someone has a body that looks like a “normal” healthy person who is in the health and fitness industry. I know there are lots of us out there. I know that whether or not someone has 12% or 24% or 32% or whatever % body fat, a person can be a leader who inspires others to take healthier steps in their lives. I know that “health” is more than an appearance.

How do you define health?
Does your definition of health feel like something you could sustain in your life? 

Meritocracy and our bodies

-we do not get what we put in

-we are not all one and the same

-it’s a lot easier to judge someone based on their habits – so and so has a great body so they’re doing it right, so and so doesn’t fit my ideal body bill so they must not be trying hard enough or know what the heck they’re doing.

FYI there are lots of people walking around out there with “ideal” bodies who have taken unhealthy steps in order to look that way. It’s our fixation on what we think ideal looks like—and the way that focusing on the outcome instead of on the habit—that I have to remind myself is wrong.

#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

CrossFit, empowerment, and thinking critically about the way we talk about CrossFit women

Good morning Monday!

First grad school conference presentation: check.

There I am!

There I am!

I had fun presenting what I’ve been working on as of late and what I hope to continue to work on as I figure out what exactly my thesis will be all about. Here’s the gist of my abstract from the weekend:

“CrossFit, which calls itself “the sport of fitness,” has grown from a single website to a fitness empire with over 7000 gyms around the world, leveraging specific narratives appealing to ideologies promoting individual responsibility for health to establish itself quickly even in a crowded consumer fitness industry. What are the narratives CrossFit uses to promote itself and to establish itself as a leader in the crowded consumer fitness industry? How do these fit in with the dominant discourses in contemporary neoliberal society?

These questions are explored using a Critical Discourse Analysis of a Canadian CrossFit magazine, SweatRX. Drawing on discourses of feminine liberation and emphasizing a focus on performance over aesthetics, the representations of the feminine body in SweatRX promote an alternative form of bodily control that is paradoxically oppressive. By constructing the CrossFitting female body as a site of control and offering up identities based on consumption, a potentially empowering and emancipatory practice is commodified into a method for self management and participation in the fitness marketplace. In the context of contemporary neoliberal society, these narratives can remain unquestioned and reproduce dominant cultural ideologies concerning the moral significance of taking individual responsibility for one’s health, diverting attention away from broader social and cultural factors that constrain health. This is an important extension on research demonstrating the shift towards health as an individual’s responsibility and contributes to a growing body of work examining this shift.”

If you’re not a sociocultural nerd, you probably got “blah, blah, blah” from all of that. So here’s what I said:

“For years, women’s participation in physical activity has been widespread. The embodiment of the ideal “fit” woman, however, has changed over the years. CrossFit is a relatively new player in the fitness marketplace and as such, the “strong is the new skinny” and the muscular body type constructed as the ideal CrossFit female contrasts with the previously skinny, then skinny and toned, feminine ideal. Physical activity can be a place of liberation and empowerment for women, but in the past the commodification as well as the focus on the aesthetic benefits of activities have transformed opportunities for empowerment into sites of control. However, labelling any activity as purely emancipatory or empowering will only further limit the opportunity afforded by an activity. My goal was thus not to promote or condemn CrossFit but to examine the ways in which one selected CrossFit media, SweatRX, a Canadian magazine about the sport, represents the female CrossFitter.

I found several themes, some of which maintain the status quo and others which suggest transformation. Firstly, the female CrossFitter as part of a movement with the aim of empowerment and social progress. This is liberating on the surface but simplistic: suggesting that taking up an exercise program is the same as addressing issues constraining women and constraining health turns social progress into something marketable and commodifiable. Secondly, the female CrossFitter as superior (what I call the “Zumba is for dumbasses” theme in my own head) where bulky is redefined as the ideal and any woman who doesn’t strive for a strong physicality is marked as inferior. Then, a sustained focus on aesthetics (training like a beast but looking like a beauty, etc.). A paradoxical call to resist the media and consumer fitness industries in the midst of the promotion of the consumption of CrossFit and its associated products and culture (one article told readers to resist the media “asphyxiating your subconscious, compelling you to be an obedient American consumer”). A reiteration of women’s social roles (as naturally different from men’s)–i.e. CrossFit as the route to help a woman be a better mother, more capable of “tackling dirty laundry.”

It’s not all bad, though. There is a focus on performance, which is where I think there’s hope. Consider the lack of mirrors in a CrossFit gym. I think saying that just because some of the media’s messages might be problematic, CrossFit is problematic, would rob women of a chance to take up an activity where they can focus on what their bodies are capable of–instead of how they look.”

After my presentation, a girl asked me what I would change if I was the editor of the magazine. What’s tricky is being friends with people who write for this magazine, fans of people who appear in there, and a freelance writer myself. I know that when I write an article I’m not trying to “normalize gender asymmetries that limit women’s opportunities” etc. etc. I’ve met the editor of the magazine at a trade show (at least at the time–she was also an editor for a yoga magazine). If I was in the hot seat–because I think as an editor you carry a lot of responsibility–I would change the subtle things. I would keep talking about body image but I wouldn’t make it a woman’s problem uniquely. I would watch for the subtle things: using women models to show scaled versions of workouts, showing photos of female CrossFitters in gowns and things instead of in their element (or at least including profiles of males in the same way).

Screen Shot 2014-03-17 at 10.35.14 AM

While I’m critical of the magazine–it’s a critical discourse analysis, remember–I think it’s hopeful. I think women reading it are able to see possibilities for them to experience things outside what has traditionally been considered acceptable for women. I think CrossFit is the perfect platform for us to work on these things given just how much potential there is in the sport. Ditto for triathlon, for running, for whatever gives us a chance to get away from how an activity will make our bodies look to how it feels, what it does for our health and well-being, who it makes us.

Now that I’ve tried to sum up a lot of pages in the amount of words I assume will be just enough to leave you informed but not make you give up on this post, back to my weekend recap ;)!

14.4: check.

open 14.4

My thoughts when I saw this workout?

grumpy cat

Last year, I cried during the open WOD with toes to bar because I got a TON of no reps. This year, I didn’t have much faith in my ability to get through 50 of them, even though I knew I’d have ample time to try (I love rowing and finished those calories in about 3:15). Luckily, my coaches had some strategy and faith in my ability and I surprised myself by getting through the darn things with enough time to dive into the wall balls. I think I had more no reps on wall balls (I blame my surprise and awe at the fact that I did more toes to bar during the workout than I’ve done in 2014) than I had on the toes to bar. I ended up with a score of 140, which was fine and dandy with me!

I think the Open has been a good experience this year because I’ve surprised myself more than once with where I’m doing well. I’m doing it in an environment where everyone is good enough so long as you’re trying your best. I’m seeing that I am stronger and fitter in lots of ways than last year, even if some things (like burpees) feel a heck of a lot harder this time.

Now that I’ve written you my life story and committed the CrossFit crime of incessantly talking about CrossFit, I think I should at least mention the love your body stuff over at Molly’s blog that I’m keeping up with. Yesterday was about feeling sexy–and I feel like my chat on her post earlier in the week does that one justice--and today is a good one, discussing the ways in which our body carries our life story. My favourite part of the post is when Molly talks about thinking ahead to your 80 year old self and looking back on the story of you and your body. Like she says, at the end of our life, I don’t think wanting our thighs to be smaller is going to be part of that letter. I hope that my letter looks back on a life of using my body to do the things that scare me, challenge me, excite me, and fill me up.

crossssfit

 

Happy Monday!

CrossFitters, CrossFit haters, exercisers, writers, personal trainers, coaches: I’d love to hear your take on my thoughts on the magazine analysis and on how we can contribute to a message out there that emphasizes all the good in CrossFit without getting sucked into the bad part of health and fitness writing…thoughts? 

bad habits: what are you ready to leave behind in 2014?

In keeping with the New Year’s theme here, I figure that January is a fine and dandy time to take stock of where we’re at with our healthy living activities. One of my tasks for the month involves taking an honest look at what I’m doing in terms of health and fitness to see where and how I can continue to move forward this year.

My process has involved making a list of the habits that I’m ready to leave behind. What are things you do, on a regular basis, that don’t serve your healthiest, happiest self?

It’s not a particularly easy question to answer, but I think a lot of us are pretty good at beating ourselves up so we can answer it fairly easily. That being said, if you’re having trouble, ask yourself what do I justify? If you need to come up with excuses to get away with something, it just might be something that’s not really in your best interest.  

stop holding yourself back

The next step, of course, is to focus on what you want to create instead. What will you be replacing those things you’re letting go of with? What would you like to focus on cultivating in your life instead?

When it comes to health and fitness, it’s so easy focus on what we’re doing wrong. So often we think about what we need to give up or stop doing and can forget that when we make a habit “wrong” without having a replacement in mind, we’re left with a behaviour that seems all the more impossible to give up (I know I for one want what I “can’t” or “shouldn’t” have). That doesn’t mean that it’s complicated to fix this, though. If you decide to give up your afternoon chocolate bar or morning latte, it’s as easy as deciding on a healthier replacement—think swapping the chocolate bar for an apple and some almonds or that latte with a cup of tea or a green smoothie.

change

This year, I listed my “bad” habits on a piece of paper. They included drinking more coffee than water on a regular basis, skipping snacks/calling spoonfuls of peanut butter a balanced snack, relying on pre-made meals from the fancy grocery store, and letting myself get too hungry on a regular basis. From there, I made a list of what I want to replace them with: drinking a big glass of water before every meal and drinking all the tea in my cupboard before I buy more coffee, planning a snack with a fruit or veggie in it into my day, keeping easy protein sources (chickpeas, anyone?) on hand, and buying meat that I feel good about to prepare on the weekend so I’m ready to go for the week. Next, I took that piece of paper with the bad habits on it and tore it into a bunch of pieces and threw it away.

Symbolic of me, no? Goodbye old (yucky) habits, hello new (happy) habits.

anchor

What are you ready to stop doing?
What kinds of healthy habits are you going to cultivate this year? 

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? 

 

Chocolate, authenticity, and living out loud

So, I just dug into some Reese’s cups. It’s 10 o clock, I already had some dark chocolate after my Pork Palace party earlier, and I can honestly say I’m not hungry.

So what’s up?

There’s a post in me and it’s one that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately.

I think a value that I missed when I made my original list is AUTHENTICITY. Whether it’s in terms of relationships, my message to the world, or whatever, I am all for being real. I interpret the “no filter” as some of my friends put it as part of this and I really think things are easier when we are as real as possible.

I don’t think I’ve been all that real with myself and I’ve been holding back.

My whole point with this blog is this: Happy and healthy go together.

My whole point with this post is this: I don’t feel all that healthy.

I feel like a hypocrite. It’s hard not to be frustrated with yourself when you aren’t living up to what you want to or what you know is right for you.

So here goes.

In short, if a client came to me as their trainer or instructor and asked me if I thought their exercise regime was balanced and they showed me what I’ve been doing, I’d have to be honest: straight up no way. I’m not going to launch into a big definition of fitness here, but it’s not about just being able to run marathons or looking jacked (though those are fine and dandy and come with the territory–maybe). I like linking to other people who have summarized already the things I’m trying to get across so for this one, check out Ben’s post on what fitness is (he refers to Crossfit’s definition)–or just know that it’s holistic and encompasses:

1. Cardiovascular/Cardio Respiratory Endurance

2. Stamina

3. Strength

4. Flexibility

5. Power

6. Speed

7. Coordination

8. Accuracy

9. Agility

10. Balance

…how many of those do I REALLY work on? Yoga helps with balance and flexibility. My spinning, cycling, running, and swimming help with stamina and endurance. But…I am not agile because I don’t ever think about it. I don’t really work on mobility, even though I know I should. Unless someone’s chasing me, there’s not much speed in my life. Accuracy and agility and coordination and all those sports-like aspects only come into play if I’m trying to kick your butt on the tennis court–and that doesn’t happen near enough.

Ditto for diet. I’m not sure what the “perfect diet” is — but I believe this: food should be real. Recognizeable ingredients. Something you can picture in nature. You should eat it sitting down, relaxed, and before you’re hangry. Life should include some foods just for the hell of it, but most of the things you put in your body on a daily basis should help you move towards a healthier state.

On top of this, I’m not really valuing sleep.

I don’t think what I’ve just said is revolutionary. Lots of bloggers decide to use their blogs as a way to stay accountable–Tina’s awesome blog started out as a way for her to keep herself on track. I’m thinking of this in the same way. After the presentation on blogging that I went to at the Canfitpro conference, I realized there are as many blogs out there as there are people who could possibly want to read them. And I also realized something: I’m not using this blog to win people, customers, friends, admirers, or readers. I could write all of the things I do here in my diary, but I like to share them because I know that there are other people who can relate. If who those people are changes over time, I have to be okay with that.

I think we often judge ourselves more than we should. I hear voices saying “Cheryl, why are you trying to eat less grains? Isn’t that ED coming back into your head?” When I know for a fact that ED is no longer controlling me and when I know that if I gave up bread for a week and then craved toast, I could and would eat it if I wanted to. I know that I’m the one in charge.

…so what’s the hold up?

Change is scary.

I want to change my exercise approach — and I am but it’s a bit slow. I deserve to not only be healthy in those couple of aspects but in all of them. I want to eat more real food and worry less about the other junk that seems to be filling me up a little more than I’d like. I want to eat by design — at least to see if it makes me healthier, which is the goal now. I want to focus on the great things that I’m doing instead of worrying about the little things — I’m doing a much better job of putting things into perspective and on sticking to the mantra “if it’s not a hell yes, it’s a hell no” but I still catch myself catastrophizing and being a yes woman on occasion.

…since I’ve redefined healthy and happy to be harmonious and one and the same and all that jazz, I know that I can and will do this. There’s no failing when your goal is being your best — if that makes any sense.

Again, change is scary. But scarier still is sabotaging myself. Sure, eating some chocolate isn’t the end of the world. But when it makes me feel like a hypocrite and then drags me down? That sucks. No, if I stay the way I am, I won’t be a bad person. But this nagging feeling that I’m not trying my hardest or giving myself permission to be as awesome as I’m meant to be is bringing me down and I’m sick of it. It’s not really about making the changes on the surface–it’s about the changes inside and the shifts that are necessary for anything to really change:

  • Instead of thinking change is scary — Isn’t it cool how we can always try something new?
  • Instead of worrying that I’m going to fail — Isn’t it awesome that we can learn by doing and take mistakes as lessons?
  • Instead of thinking that I’m going to be judged — Isn’t it great that I can be a leader for a whole new group of people?
  • Instead of thinking of this change as risky — Isn’t it awesome that I have the freedom to do whatever I want?
  • Instead of being ashamed that I’ve been holding myself back — Isn’t it empowering to live out loud and to share this whole journey?

Gosh, I hope this is making sense in some way. I promise that more practical stuff will come out of me some time soon. The 30 day challenge I mentioned before should be a kick in the butt to get organized and regular with that accountability stuff — and it’s coming up quick. Things are going to settle down soon enough after a whirlwind summer (I think I’m craving some routine and stability even though I’ve loved living free for the last little bit). Life is good.