At a doctor’s appointment in my early 20s, I asked what a healthy weight goal would be because I was once again in the midst of trying to lose weight. The doctor said, “Anywhere is better than where you are right now.” I remember it so vividly because it angered me, yet simultaneously validated my desire to be smaller. I weighed around 175 pounds at the time. He added, “You could get to 140. You’d be pretty thin.” At 5’10”, I had weighed anywhere from 160 to 190 since my teens…140 wasn’t a weight I had seen in many years. I don't think that doctor had my health in mind when he mentioned that number.
We are taught at a young age (intentional or not) that appearance is how you judge yourself and other women. It becomes a nasty habit. Critical thoughts about yourself upon gazing in the mirror. Critical thoughts about other women while out in public or watching television. Out of insecurities created by ridiculous standards, we learn to be harsh towards ourselves and one another.
When I started taking group classes at the Y and then Jazzercise, I met amazing women of all shapes, sizes, and ages. I witnessed true beauty in effort and movement and kindness and humor and just BEING. The combination of seeing this beauty in others and gaining confidence by strengthening and challenging my body helped me let go of some of my insecurities. I still don’t always like what I see in the mirror. But when I think about it, really think about it…the critical thoughts are unwarranted. I don’t deserve them. Neither do you.
You mention your cellulite or batwings or poochy belly or jiggly bum. I see a woman who has a strong body full of potential not only because of physical activity but because of LIFE.
You encourage and inspire me. I want to encourage and inspire you. I want to be your instructor or your trainer but not just because you want to fit into a specific size or see a certain number on the scale…but because your body and your mind and your heart are SO MUCH better for it. Beautifully healthy, strong, confident and able to take on all the wonderful things AND all the mess that life has coming your way.
You are beautiful. Own it.
We've seen a surge in body positivity and body acceptance in all forms of media. #bodypositive has over five million posts on Instagram. More brands are featuring women of varying sizes and shapes. Yet, the underlying message remains, especially in relation to the fitness industry, that to be considered fit/healthy, you must look a certain way. Most fitness programs aimed at women are linked to aesthetics. Get that beach body. Work for the perfect round butt. Develop goddess quads. Get rid of belly fat and sculpt your abs.
I don't have six pack abs and I don't want them. But I feel like I'm expected to.
Fitness goes beyond appearance. We know this. Yet, aesthetics is what large portions of the fitness industry use to drive sales. The hard, shiny bodies and exposed toned torsos are what is equated to being healthy and fit. It is what we are supposed to strive towards.
Let's say no. Leading a physically active lifestyle and engaging in a purposeful exercise program is about MORE IMPORTANT THINGS.
We exercise because:
Many other amazing mental, emotional, and physical benefits aren't listed here. Once I started exercising because of the way it makes me feel and the health benefits rather than chasing after specific body part shapes, I found it much easier to get moving. I stopped making as many excuses to skip planned exercise. As a result, my body did change and I ended up with some of those specific body part shapes after all.
So go for a walk. Dance. Lift weights. Do yoga. Move your body. Do it for yourself - not because you are trying to change to fit some sort of “ideal”. Create goals that work for you and your body. Your fitness journey will be much more pleasant if you do!