Where to start with Body Image? For most women, this topic has taken up a lot of brain space over the years. I will share my journey with my body image and how far I’ve come. I LOVE helping women (men too) feel better about their bodies!
I first learned to hate my body from my mother. She had the best of intentions and I love her to death. But, she complained about her body – lots. She is beautiful, even in her late 60s she is 5’10 with great posture and muscle tone, slim, long legs, basically a supermodel. I am built differently than my mother, at one inch shorter than she is, I probably have 20+ lbs on her, significantly more fat and muscle and I have a booty. She gave me the helpful advice of “always workout your shoulders a lot because bigger shoulders will make your bum look smaller” … Nothing will make my bum look smaller. I can barely buy jeans for my waist-to-hip ratio! Between what I saw in the media, my beautiful slim mother who thought she was fat, and a few other helpful things she told me I knew I was fat by the time I was 16.
I remember going off to work at a summer camp all summer… I discovered bread baskets while I was there and gained 10 lbs over the 2 months at camp. When I came home my whole family teased me and called it the “camp tawingo tummy”, I felt ashamed of my body and the weight I had gained. When I look back – I was an athletic 5’9, 125 lbs. I gained 10 lbs – putting me up to only 135, I was still very healthy and lean, my body was still changing but I was SO aware that everyone could see every pound I gained.
Fast forward two more years, at 18 I was at 155 lbs (my current very healthy weight) and felt like I was massive. This is when I started working out (with not consistency), counting calories and trying to remove all fat from my diet. My relationship with exercise and food-related 100% to how my body looked. From this point on my weight went up and down, my gym habits went from extreme to non-existent, and every calorie was counted. This wasn’t a healthy place to be. I wasted SO MUCH ENERGY hating my body – I look back at old pictures and wish the younger me would recognize the beauty and strength I had, youthful skin, less tired eyes, and a perfectly healthy body that just needed to be LOVED!
Don’t get me wrong – I loved the way exercise made me feel and I always loved the sense of pride and strength I gained from my workouts, I learned more and more about nutrition and packed my diet full of delicious vegetables, my relationship with food and exercise was not all bad. However, I felt insane amounts of guilt if I skipped a workout, gained a pound, or enjoyed a treat meal that knocked my daily calories over the ridiculously low limit I had set for myself. Slowly after I became a personal trainer and yoga teacher I decided it was time to tackle the way I thought about my body – after all – how can I teach others to love and respect their bodies if I can’t lead the way.
For me, step 1 was realizing that it was okay to like (or even love) my body. This was hard work! I had learned that you were supposed to hate and criticize yourself. I finally adopted this philosophy: you’re not allowed to say bad things about your body, if you catch yourself doing it, replace whatever you said with something positive. The rule is: if you wouldn’t say it to someone else, you can’t say it to yourself. Next, accept the fact that with life’s ebbs and flows your ability to exercise and eat well will ebb and flow too. No one is “perfect” all the time perfect isn’t sustainable (or any fun!). Give yourself grace during the challenging times in your life, and take advantage of those years that seem easy to keep it all up.
I used to be all or nothing all the time, eat perfectly for weeks, eat a treat, go on a sugar binge because I had just “ruined everything” with the treat so I might as well keep going and start again Monday (I know this sounds familiar to many of you…). Sugar is my drug of choice and when I finally stopped making the goal to never eat sugar again for the rest of my life and instead permitted myself to enjoy 1-2 treats per week without guilt, things changed. With hard work, I changed my mindset on how I enjoyed food and treats. I also finally realized that CALORIES AREN’T BAD. We need them to survive! I learned to enjoy and appreciate my food and now I see FOOD AS FUEL TO CRUSH MY WORKOUTS and get through my very busy/long days with energy to spare. And guess what? When I do enjoy a treat or two I have no guilt and just go back to my normal routine, it’s so good to be free of guilt and shame around food.
Along this journey I changed my mindset on exercise as well, I finally learned:
EXERCISE IS NOT A PUNISHMENT FOR WHAT YOU ATE – IT IS A CELEBRATION OF WHAT YOUR BODY CAN DO! My relationship with exercise finally changed and it became a reward, my “me time” because I finally realized that I deserved to feel great. That I healthily deserved to age so that I can do anything I want when I am older. My parents are living the life in their retirement years because they have stayed fit their whole lives – I deserve to have that too!
As I practiced and taught this mindset to my clients I changed how I felt about myself and watched my clients feel better in their skin too, as women we are constantly bombarded with messaging about how we need to look, my industry loves to tell women to get ready for bikini season -as we owe it to the world to look good- how about we owe it to ourselves to feel great and be healthy?
Blog by Coach Kate Laird.