As a personal trainer I always felt I had to set an example for my clients and that I had to constantly strive for physical self-improvement. I subscribed to every fitspo (fitness inspiration) Instagram account and my feed was virtually filled with ripped bodied girls filling my head with the idea that a strong body was a superior body. That on top of the fact that I was basically spending my entire day in front a mirror at the gym made for a pretty acute awareness of my body and it’s every move.
Previously, I had never considered myself to be an athletic person. Growing up I was naturally skinny, and the majority of my physical activity came from playing outside, cops and robbers style, climbing trees and the obligatory swimming lessons (hello childhood!).
Basically, I never thought too much about my body beyond how it served me in my day-to-day goings about.
My family also had a pretty healthy outlook on body image. My mom didn’t mind being naked around me as a child and I have no real recollection of her talking negatively about her body. I remember her doing aerobics in front of the TV in the mornings and me joining in with her, trying to keep up. I know she was always trying to eat healthy, whatever that meant at the time, I think it was Fit For Life or something. But ultimately, I don’t think I absorbed any body issues from her.
All-in-all I feel incredibly privileged to have grown up this way and I acknowledge that a lot of people aren’t as fortunate to make it to their teen years without a serious hate-on for their bodies.
When I began personal training I was not a girl, not yet a woman. I was in my early twenties and my hips hadn’t fully come in and my butt was pretty pancaked. Lets just say I wasn’t “curvy-soft” in anyway. However, as you may have noticed the world is pretty ass-obsessed at the moment. So of course- I had to get me some glutes!
Then something miraculous happened. At the same time as I was lifting heavy weights to gain muscle, I gained fat around my hips and thighs! Can you believe it!? Me, a thin young thing gaining fat!? No way.
Yes way! Duh…
But it was still incredibly shocking and came with a load of mind-fuckery. None of my jeans fit anymore, people were noticing my “changing body” and it was WEIRD!
As I was trying to gain a more feminine curvy shape, one was just dumped right on me. But unfortunately, I wasn’t sure if I felt it was the “right” body. We are all so obsessed with right and wrong in this culture and I definitely soaked this attitude right up. I would look in the mirror examining every aspect of my newness, finding each and every imperfection that I had to work on. This included fair amounts of stretch marks and the oh-so-dreaded cellulite.
So I doubled up on my self-improvement regime. But the improvements I was making were small and didn’t even compare to the mental energy I was spending thinking about my body SO DAMN MUCH.
Not only was I thinking about my own body so much, I was thinking about everyone else’s bodies. I was a walking body analyst: “This person could improve here and here. I like this person’s body here, but not here. I want to have those glutes, those arms, those abs and then I’ll be where I want.”
It didn’t help that I was surrounded by other trainers and my clients constantly talking about their bodies and their goals. Essentially, I spent most of my waking life thinking about the physical form, and not actually BEING in my body.
Sure working out feels good and makes you feel parts of your body that you normally wouldn’t; however, it creates a HUGE divide between mind and body when you are objectifying yourself so much.
So what happened? I crashed. I couldn’t handle the intensity of it all. It was ultimately too much negativity, and too much self-loathing fueling the so-called self-improvement. It started to exhaust me and I didn’t feel the energy to be creative in my workouts or with my clients. I felt so one-dimensional.
Then I stopped working out and stopped training.
I can’t say exactly how long I went without working out because I was still sporadically active. I’d go for a bike ride, a lane swim, and hit a gym workout once a week or every two. Whatever I was feeling inspired to do at the time and only out of the true desire to move and not to meet a goal.
A lot of this was fueled by my desire to be softer all around: softer in my love for other people, and softer in my approach to myself. It just sort of made sense to allow myself to experience softness in my body as well.
Around the same time I also started exploring what femininity meant to me. This is a whole other blog post on its own but it’s a HUGE subject that a lot of us spend absolutely no time thinking about.
For me, femininity has a lot to do with being IN your body. Listening to your body and your intuition. I believe the body can tell us so much if we just learn to listen to it and it’s hard to do that if you’re only focused on changing it and not loving it in the process. It’s not about being hard or soft or big or small.
Those posts about “real-women” always infuriate me because there is NO SUCH THING. We are all as real as we let ourselves be and it’s not for anyone else to decide.
What I’m trying to hammer home is that there is no “right-way” to have a body, or be a body. I think we spend way too much energy thinking about it.
There are fat-shamers and something called the fat-acceptance movement, there are the skinny-shamers and the muscled elite. There are people who balk at a female with muscles saying she isn’t worthy of being called a woman anymore and there are people saying strong women are sexy.
All you really have to ask is, is it any of your business to judge someone else’s body? Is it really any of your business what anyone else thinks of your body?
I know that last part isn’t very easy, but your only job is to work on loving yourself more. And that’s what being a personal trainer taught me about my body-it needs more love.
It needs more sensual self-connection, more breast-massages (see amazing instructional video by my awesome friend Liz DiAlto), more intimacy.
Stand in front of the mirror naked. Touch your body (I’m not being sexy here), look yourself in the eye. Maybe it will be uncomfortable at first but if you do it often enough, things will change.
I mean it’s not socially acceptable to stare at any one else for that long and in that much detail other than yourself- so why not take advantage!
You are a miraculous human-being. You are one of the most wondrous creatures ever created and an absolutely mind-blowing machine. You deserve to be revered; you deserve to hold a sense of awe about yourself. Most of all, you deserve respect. From yourself.
So stop reading the diet books and all the other quick-tip crapola and start approaching your body from a place of gentle, loving, nurturing care and I GUARANTEE things will change for you. And hell – maybe if you let go, your body will respond.