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.

Screen Shot 2015-09-17 at 3.42.38 PM Screen Shot 2015-09-17 at 3.42.46 PM Screen Shot 2015-09-17 at 3.42.52 PM Screen Shot 2015-09-17 at 3.42.58 PM

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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Try to look on the bright side–friends, pinterest, and being hurt

One of the things I love about fitness is that it brings us together with people we might not have otherwise met. Last year at CrossFit, I met my friend Katie, who has been through many miles and Clif bars with me since. Even though we met at the gym, we realized that we are both the kind of person who wants to run to and from the CrossFit workout and who thinks the seat of a bicycle is a fine spot to spend a Saturday. Katie is always giving me someone to chase and her first Ironman this year kept me believing in my first half Ironman–and her advice got me through a lot of the things I am not sure I would have thought of along the way!

Now, a little cranky with my slow comeback from my back injury last month (I dropped a barbell on my back–the side, down low–which has affected my leg if I try to run, then my back when I did a little too much yoga, maybe, and now is giving me pins and needles at school when I sit for long stretches, and is generally keeping me from being as active as I normally am), Katie has proven to have a little life coach in her too. I didn’t ask her if I could share the text she sent me last night to cheer me up, but she is generally one of the most encouraging folks I know, so the world needs this and I’m sure she’ll understand:

“I think your injury might be getting you down. So I decided to make you a list of benefits of being injured. I’m sure you’ll consider yourself lucky after reading it.:

1) A perfect manicure lasting two weeks!
2) Hair that looks great 2 and maybe even 3 days after a wash
3) Callus free hands (see above perfect manicure)
4) Less time spent doing laundry!!
5) A chance to wear your ‘real clothes’ not just your latest lulu’s.
6) Less time showering and training = more time to spend with people you love!

And the best part of all…building up the desire and drive to train your way through the winter into next season!”

It was too good not to share, and it definitely got me out of my little pity party. Of course I still want to be training, but I remember again that the reason I train is not because my worth depends on it–but because it makes me feel good! Right now, it doesn’t. So it’s time to rest. It’s simple, even if it’s not easy.

Beyond Katie’s sweet text message, I also have been turning to pinterest during my breaks that might otherwise have been filled with workouts. Here are some of the fruits of my labour, specific to injuries and staying positive. I’ll leave out the ones of chocolately peanut buttery goodies or outfits that also seem to lure me in!

gym cute injury

truth lion injury

bulldog adorable

setback

positive pants

I will never be happy for an injury, but at least I can take Katie’s advice and try to find my positive pants every day! Yay for the interwebs, but more importantly, yay for friends.

What helps you get through injuries?
How do you stay positive when you’re feeling down about something?

Turning to Dr. Google: On sane self-diagnosis

I have a (kind of bad) habit of self-diagnosing on google. Lately, my searches have included things related to my back injury (from dropping a barbell on it in August), to the (likely associated) IT band pain I’ve been having when I try to run, to exercise-induced asthma and bronchitis, to obsessive compulsive disorder. There’s something in me that wants to find an answer.

doctor google

I can remember vividly the kind of comfort I felt when I came across websites about the Female Athlete Triad. According to good old Wikipedia, this is “a syndrome in which eating disorders (or low energy availability), amenhorrhoea/oligomenorrhoa, and decreased bone mineral density (osteoporosis and osteopenia) are present. …[T]his condition is seen in females participating in sports that emphasize leanness or low body weight.” At the time, I was not having a period, I was pretty light, and I had received DEXA results that said my bones were not where they should be for a girl my age. I fit the bill—and I was so glad to have something outside of me.

It’s not my fault.

That’s the thought that I had.

There’s nothing wrong with seeking comfort from knowing that it’s not your fault, but with things like my eating disorder–where it remains tough to know what was biology and what was going on with my own choices—I think it’s worth noting that not being at fault and not being able to help it are very different.

With this week’s searches, I think I was looking for relief. From the guilt of worrying that I’m being a pansy with my leg pain, or that I’m too anxious—from things that I bring onto myself. I want it to be outside of me, even though at the end of the day, the problem doesn’t go away with the addition of a label. When I realized I had that Female Athlete Triad, it wasn’t like there was a pill to make it disappear. In the end, the shifts happened when I tackled what I could with the support of others. It required taking responsibility, which can be hard when we’re convinced that we aren’t at fault.

That self-diagnosis represents a relief.

It’s not our fault.

We have a condition, outside of us.

Does this mean that the responsibility is removed?

 

So, if I have a certain condition, I try to think, What caused it in the first place? What can I do to fix it? With the triad example, it was my eating disorder. And with my eating disorder, there were a lot of factors—many of which were up to me to choose differently around. Later, I turned to “adrenal fatigue” to make myself feel better for running myself into the ground. Solution? Take the stress off of my body, little by little–whether the condition existed or not. Basically: Slow. Down. Via different choices.

Knowing this, I still get sucked into the interwebs when I’m not feeling great about something going on with my body. I hope that if you’re a googler like me, you can notice what you’re after when you start turning to Dr. Google to make you feel better. My leg hurts when I run—knowing the name given to the pain I’m experiencing is less important than taking a break and coming back to it with a game plan to run pain free. I’m noticing some weird coping tendencies and some extra anxiety—whether or not this is clinical matters a whole lot less than dealing with what’s driving me to them. Etc. etc. etc.

All of this being said, I don’t want to discount the way that knowing that we aren’t entirely at fault when it comes to our health is not a bad thing. Back to that eating disorder—knowing that I had power but was not to blame was what let me take charge and decide to recover—and kept me going when the going got tough. I say we use our labels to make informed choices, not to let us off the hook or as some strange form of comfort that stops us from taking the best care of ourselves.

ek care

Do you self-diagnose on google?
Do you feel better knowing that you “have” something?

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? 

 

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? 

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.

Unconditional Acceptance: Believing We’re “Enough”

I’m sick. Yesterday, the couch was my best friend. I alternated episodes of Girls with periods of writing where I felt like my fingers couldn’t keep up with the ideas coming out of my head. I’ll call that a win for my thesis, but I beat myself up yesterday: I feel like I was on top of the world on Wednesday — I wrote, I ran, I taught a spin class, and I did some yoga on my own — and a big ol’ failure on Thursday, confined to my couch.

This is the fourth time I’ve been under the weather and needing to take antibiotics in the past year. Everything has been minor, and for that I am grateful, but I’ve noticed that when I’m sick, I can get realllllly antsy about “not doing anything.” Whether that “anything” is the workout I was going to do, or writing a paper, or cleaning the toilets, or folding my laundry, or writing a blog…there’s something around not being productive that makes me feel like I’m not doing enough.

“Enough.”

When I got to thinking about this, I noticed a pattern. I used to drive myself crazy on my rest days, and while I’ve gotten a lot better at taking a darn break, I do still find myself having a lot of “fat” days on the days that I don’t work out. What the heck is going on? A rest day is a way to take care of our bodies—to give them the time to heal and come back stronger. I know that!

But I think along the way in my body acceptance journey, I’ve started placing more and more emphasis on being proud of what my body can do. And while I love and celebrate how amazingly capable our bodies are, I think I’m ready for another leg on my journey.

Right now, I feel entitled to a sort of conditional confidence when it comes to my body. The kind of acceptance that’s okay on the days where I might be chubby, but I ran 10km so I must be okay. Or when my clothes don’t fit, but I’m back squat more weight than ever. Or when I don’t like the way my body looks, but I’m training for a half ironman so I’m a boss.

That kind of confidence, with its conditions and requirements, is fleeting. The days when I’m on the couch because I got sidelined by a kidney infection, for instance, it’s nowhere to be found. What is? The gremlins. You know the ones. They say “you’re not good enough” and try to convince you that you’re worthless.

What am I realizing? That I don’t think that the solution to loving our bodies can lie solely in appreciating what they’re capable of. I think it needs to come down to unconditional acceptance. Without that kind of acceptance that doesn’t rely on what we do or don’t do, we’re doomed to questioning whether or not we’ve done enough to “deserve” to feel good about ourselves. Without a sense of worthiness and confidence that we retain regardless of where our back squat is at our what our 10km pace is, or how much muscle we have, we are doomed to keep on searching for more ways to prove that we’re good enough.

The pursuit of “enough” leaves us exhausted. Living from a place of “enough,” however, I think leaves us inspired.

One of my favourite life coaches out there is Christie Inge, because she talks about how we are all inherently worthy (she calls herself an “Inherent Worth Warrior”). I always hear her voice reminding me that I’m inherently worthy when I start to think about all this stuff. Brene Brown talks about worthiness too–and the way that people “hustle” for it, unsuccessfully. She’s got good news: “There are no prerequisites for worthiness.” Amen!

christie inge

So where did we learn that we’re not enough unless we prove it? I think it’s a combination of places. Maybe it was our families—something like getting rewarded for doing things “right” and being taught that we were bad if we did something wrong. But more importantly–and harder to see–we live in a world where people think they earn everything. Those abs? She must have earned them.

...I beg to differ.

…I beg to differ.

The grandest myth I can think of is that people who are successful are entirely responsible for it—I’m all for determining your destiny, but we’re born into conditions that are entirely outside of our control. In this context, we feel like our bodies, for instance, are direct representations of the “work” we put in, even though some people are born with six packs and others with thighs that will touch forever.

So in relation to our bodies, we assume that enough effort and work will give us those bodies we can feel proud of earning. But I know people who work their butts off and still don’t look like magazine models. It’s widespread and “normal” to feel like you don’t measure up, and people realize they’re pursuing something largely out of reach. But they don’t stop trying, or question what the feeling of not being good enough does to their lives.

This “not good enough” epidemic is convenient for the people who want to sell us the solutions to our issues. If our bodies are never good enough, never “healthy” enough, never beautiful enough—of course we’ll keep on top of our body projects, buying the diet books, paying the gurus, and trying to find worthiness outside of ourselves.

But, what if our worth didn’t depend on what we do? What if we were all born worthy? What if this journey of self-acceptance isn’t about proving to ourselves that we deserve our own love, but unlearning all the messages that told us otherwise?

Repeat after me:

  • I am enough.
  • I am good enough.
  • I am pretty enough.
  • I am healthy enough.
  • I am smart enough.
  • I am happy enough.
  • I am ______________ enough.

…unconditionally. Regardless of what I do or don’t do.

Living from a place of worthiness or enoughness doesn’t mean that we don’t take care of ourselves. It doesn’t mean that we can’t still read self-help books, or buy makeup.

As Geneen Roth, one of my favourite writers on self-acceptance and the journey towards loving and accepting your body and yourself says:

“When you believe without knowing you believe that you are damaged at your core, you also believe that you need to hide that damage for anyone to love you. You walk around ashamed of being yourself. You try hard to make up for the way you look, walk, feel. Decisions are agonizing because if you, the person who makes the decision, is damaged, then how can you trust what you decide? You doubt your own impulses so you become masterful at looking outside yourself for comfort. You become an expert at finding experts and programs, at striving and trying hard and then harder to change yourself, but this process only reaffirms what you already believe about yourself — that your needs and choices cannot be trusted, and left to your own devices you are out of control. … You are not a mistake. You are not a problem to be solved. But you won’t discover this until you are willing to stop banging your head against the wall of shaming and caging and fearing yourself.”

Living from a place of worthiness is about the acceptance we all wish we had. It is about waking up in the morning without feeling like we have to prove ourselves. It is about looking at ourselves as something besides a series of problems to be addressed, things to be fixed. It means freedom and a whole new way of being in the world.

Living from a place of worthiness is about loving ourselves unconditionally.

And from that place of knowing that we deserve love no matter what happens, we can live our lives not out of fear but out of desire.

Where does “not being good enough” hold you back?
What would you give up if you believed you already were good enough?

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