I remember growing up and feeling GINORMOUS next to most of the other girls I knew.
Every publication showed girls and women exactly the same way: tall, thin, no curves, no muscles, and probably a size 2 or smaller. There weren’t many messages or pictures of strong, curvy, or athletic females.
I don’t exactly know how or why but it seemed to be an accepted fact by both males and females around me that if a girl weighed more than 120 pounds TOPS and wore larger than a size 6 you were akin to the gargantuan proportions of an elephant! Most of my growing up years, particularly high school and college, I lived in shame of my “numbers.”
At my smallest in high school, I distinctly remember weighing 128 pounds and wearing a size 8. And I distinctly remember feeling that I was fat and that I was abnormally large.
How I perceived my body permeated an unhealthy percentage of my thoughts: from how I entered a room, to what seat I picked, to how I actually sat on a chair. I wanted to be small and, looking back, I unconsciously did lots of things to hide and shrink.
So let’s fast forward to my adult years…
I think I moved away from *trying* to be small, to silent and resigned acceptance that I would never be small. And it was this resignation that allowed me to put on weight steadily over the course of about 10 years. Looking back I think I adopted a defeatist attitude–I was NEVER going to fit the parameters of attractive or small so why effing bother?!?
My mindset had ZERO to do with health or strength or longevity… it only had to do with aesthetics, and a very narrow definition of aesthetics at that!
I own that my mindset was unhealthy. I own that my self-confidence boils down to what I think of me and no one can change that but me. I own that no one force fed me and made me gain weight. I own that our culture and society did not make me fat, I did that all on my own.
The facts were this (and to a large degree still are):
- Media shows a narrow cross-section of females
- Our culture reveres when women are small…smaller than men in particular.
- Our culture reveres women who are waifish, not muscular.
- Women’s clothes are not made for curves and muscles.
- Our culture believes fat/big/overweight are all very, very, very bad things…it means you are lazy and lack self-control or are somehow less.
These facts affected my mindset and perception of life for a very long time. I’m still learning and digging my way out of this toxic view I held for years!! In fact, I lost 70 pounds, got strong, got healthy, and reprogrammed key aspects of my mindset and yet….was still feeling like my body wasn’t “appropriate.” And, man, if that didn’t simply disappoint the hell out of me! STILL holding onto that crapass feeling of needing to be smaller/different/less after having made so many positive changes!!
Something needed to change! And, it slowly is…
In the last 18-24 months I’ve been steadily working on this whole mindset thing…this whole lovin’ whatcha got thing. I’m making progress…and progress feels good!
How did I do that? What did I change?
Let me break it down for you:
1. I found/supported women and businesses on social media who were different than the typical message out there. I began to follow women who talked about strength, mindset, body positivity, supporting other women, and whose fitness message was not just about weight loss and getting the dream body for a bikini.
This took me awhile and much of my discovery was largely by chance. But chance has proven to be a perfect thing for me! I’ve discovered some powerful messages from strong, successful, vivacious, smart women….who, incidentally and thankfully, aren’t teeny tiny and who are frickin’ strong–mind, body, and spirit!! Jen Sinkler, Jen Vogelgesang Blake, Molly Galbraith, Neghar Fonooni, Jill Coleman, Erin Brown. You want messages of health and strength and authenticity THESE are the women to follow!
2. I found/supported women on social media who weren’t perpetually showing me their abs or their ass.
I was (am!) sick to death of all the trainers out there that are ALWAYS in a sport bra telling you how to get that six pack. I was (am!) sick to death of all the images from fit pros showing off their latest flexes with their ass and abs and big boobs. These women I just mentioned in #1 above…they don’t do that!! Yes, you will find the occasional shot of them in swimming suits or in a sports bra, but THE MAJORITY of their pictures of themselves are like you and me! They are wearing their t-shirts, their baseball caps, and their sweaty gear at the gym. They are REAL!!
3. I began supporting publications and businesses who weren’t telling me I needed to get myself bikini ready, beach body ready, or some other manner of lose-weight-for-this-event-to-look-your-best-ever crap.
Have you noticed most of the mainstream fitness publications and fitness programs out there are full of cover models and spokespeople that have the same look. Shorty shorts, sports bras, tall (for women 5’6″ or taller), proportioned with hips as wide or narrower than the shoulders, large breasts, ab definition, flexed poses, sexy looks on their faces, or smiling with perfect white teeth with not a hair out of place nor a drop of sweat.
If you haven’t paid any attention, start looking!! Most of your household name trainers and home DVD workout celebs look exactly as I just described.
I have discontinued buying SHAPE, SELF, Fitness Magazine, and Women’s Health. I don’t buy workouts from Jillian Michaels, BeachBody, Denise Austin, or Natalie Jill. Why?? Not because the workouts themselves aren’t any good, but because I want to give my money to programming that is about MORE than what my body looks like and programming that showcases bodies of all different types.
4. I am searching out professional avenues that showcase what I’m looking for in the fitness world.
There are a couple of big fitness conferences I always get info for: Empower and IDEA. In fact, I attended the Empower conference in Chicago in 2014 and it was a fantastic experience…I learned a ton of stuff and had a great time. However, with my personal shift in focus I’m rethinking this piece of my fitness life, too.
Do I really want to continue to give money to these organizations who market primarily in the way I’ve just talked about: one look, one body, one way to be fit? The majority of the glossy ads I get for these conferences contain images of “successful” fit pros…who all have the same exact look I outlined in #3.
They simply aren’t a real and authentic representation of what the fit pro community looks like…or at the very least what I would rather it look like!
I’ve started digging for some alternative professional resources and found some things that are more representative of what I believe in. I’ll be investing there going forward!
Just as there has been a movement in recent years to “vote with your food dollars” I’d like to institute a movement of “vote with your fitness dollars.”
If seeing different body types, different programming, and different marketing is important to you, vote for those things by supporting, following, liking, buying, and sharing them! Stop giving your attention and money to the same old same old! I know where my fitness dollar votes are going in the future! Do you??
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