The day I discovered a stretch mark on my body was the day I gave up wearing shorts. For years.
I was in high school at the time, which is another way of saying I was incredibly insecure, still growing into my body, and wondering if my parents were really out to ruin my life.
Ah, what a wonderful time it was.
From the age of 10 all the way through 26, I busted my butt in workouts trying to achieve what I thought was the perfect, fit body: Thick muscular thighs, sculpted shoulders, leanness, and a booty that screamed “I can squat heavier than you!”
Stretch marks and cellulite were not part of my vision for this strong and healthy body, and I tried to hide it as best I could well into adulthood.
Body image and body confidence are subjects I think about regularly but don’t write much about. However, I recently took to Instagram with a few musings that seemed to click with people:
Tell me this: What does FIT look like? What does a "perfect body" look like? • 10 years ago I would've told you it was lean, muscular, athletic, etc. That's what I thought a healthy and fit body was, and I beat myself up trying to achieve it. Reality though: there is no such thing as perfect, only our perception of it. • Thick thighs that touch, stomach rolls when we sit, traps that pop, and puny arms when we aren't flexing…all that is already PERFECT. A ripped body isn't more fit than a slender, ballerina's body or a weightlifter's athletic build or a runner's bod. • They're ALL fit. ALL healthy. ALL capable. • If you want to up your health game, lose the weight, change your eating habits, and look better you have to UPDATE your beliefs about what a great body is, or what "fit" looks like. It's NOT all the same. • This is MY body when I sit hunched over to love on my dog. And it's athletic, strong, capable, AND loves 🍦and 🍸🍸 • Upgrade your beliefs and upgrade your life, yo. 📸: @heavy_athletics
Our perception of “fit”, “strong”, “healthy” is simply that. A perception. Which means that it can change any time, too.
How to let go of body image issues
As a fitness professional, I am not immune to negative thoughts about my body. Sometimes I wonder where my abs went, and other times I think that maybe it’s time to add more muscles. Not too long ago, I jokingly said to a friend “I don’t even look like I lift!” while filming exercise demos for a new program.
Imagine that! A fitness professional and barbell aficionado who thinks she isn’t thick enough to teach people about getting healthy AF! What an absurd thought!It’s okay to not love our bodies 24/7. We’re human. But to live your entire life attached to the idea that there is only one way to look is a great disservice to you and the people around you.
How exhausting is it to look in the mirror and hate what you see every day? How frustrating is it to miss out on certain experiences just because your so-called flaw might be exposed? How ridiculous is it to give up a piece of clothing (I gave up SHORTS for crying out loud!) because you think a certain body part of yours is unworthy?
What. A. Waste.
If you think fitness is just about which exercises to do, then you’re missing the point. Exercise is merely our belief systems in action. Fitness is how we choose to embody those belief systems through our philosophy, habits, and behaviors. We must consistently work on our mindset as much as we do on our bodies so that we don’t fall for the body image trap.
No doubt, body image issues will creep up. Here’s how to mindfully elevate your body confidence and quit hating on your body.
1.) Upgrade your beliefs around fit and healthy
We all carry a belief system about what healthy is. Maybe it’s loving salads. Maybe it’s doing yoga poses on the beach, or perhaps it’s looking like a bodybuilder year round. These are all versions of healthy, not the definition of it.
Update your perspective around what fit and healthy looks like now, and do so without any judgement or comparison. Focus on the feeling rather than the look of it, such as:
- A body that can do push-ups with ease
- Feels strong in the weight room
- Wakes up full of energy every day
- Can crush the souls of 10,000 men
The point is….the whole idea that a fit body can only be small, toned, slender, not too muscular, not too heavy, or flawless is incredibly outdated. And you’re not some circa 1999 shit. UPDATE your belief system and watch your whole life change.
2.) Reframe the way you enter your new workout or diet plan
What if we entered a new workout program or diet plan with as much excitement and enthusiasm as a child learning how to walk? Have you seen their faces?! They smile, giggle, and look so damn proud of themselves trying to take their first steps.
That’s because they’re invested in the process, not the outcome. Plus, they’re babies; they’re not jaded yet. If you’re not really jiving with my metaphor, consider my two clients:
Client A: Starts off really uncomfortable but is excited to try new things. Over time, she starts feeling how much easier things get, sees her body slowly transform, and therefore, never misses a session. She’s so excited about what she’s learning that little things like lat pull-downs and front squats excite her.
Client B: Starts off uncomfortable and dreads how slow or tough an exercise feels. With time, she improves slightly, but she misses training sessions, cheats reps, and prefers to avoid any intensity. She’ll do the work, but she dreads it and spends more energy looking for reasons to skip workouts than simply going through with it.
Which client do you think has improved her body confidence? The one who has found a way to enjoy the workout or the one who’d rather eat broken glass than sweat?
Look I get it. Starting something new isn’t always fun. But walking into a new routine with anxiety, fear, and attachment to the outcome (“I have to lose these 10lbs by my wedding or else!”) is usually a recipe for disaster. These are the people that struggle the most and have a hard time making a training plan or diet stick. So what can you do? Reframe why you’re doing this. Get excited about the process, and take it one day at a time!
Your mindset is just your personal perception, and you always have the choice to change it.
3.) Connect with the right resources
It’s nice to think that successful people do it all on their own but the reality is, it takes a lot of people and resources to make someone successful…at anything, including achieving any level of health and fitness.
If you’re struggling with your own fitness or don’t feel good in your body yet, it’s time to call up reinforcements. Here are just a few ideas (many of which are free):
- Podcasts around health, fitness, nutrition, and mindset
- Vlogs or YouTube videos
- Supportive online communities like The Barbell Pilates Club on Facebook
- Online fitness or health courses/program like Pilates FloWOD
- Blog content like the ones here
- Training studios or group fitness classes
- Personal trainers / Coaches
- Online coaches
- Significant others who support and hold you accountable
The resources I’ve listed here educate and empower you to learn and improve on your own. This is not the same as following someone on social media whose body or exercises you really like. A person that motivates is not the same as someone who empowers you to do better. Find resources that elevate your perceptions, beliefs, and knowledge.
Every few years my version of what “fit” changes. In my running days it was lean, powerful legs that could carry me long distances fast. When I switched to weightlifting, I just wanted to figure out how to squat, clean and snatch (still working on that last one!). When I trained for powerlifting, I was focused on getting as strong as possible and needed my body to get thick and muscular.
Holding on to the same vision of what healthy or fit looks like for years and years does nothing but hold you prisoner to unrealistic standards. You are an evolving human being with different interests and priorities. Your training style should evolve with those changes, and as a result so will your perception of what fit and healthy looks like.
I’m not saying body image issues will go away completely. They never do, but they get quieter over time. Stay flexible with your perceptions and allow it to change with you. Keep focusing on strengthening your mindset and upgrading your stories and the rest gets easier and easier to do.
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