Last week I received the usual Wednesday morning email from Lululemon. I noticed the model’s body right off the bat, a body that will always be foreign to most us. I was struck by just how out of touch we are with what women who exercise look like and the way women who represent fit and healthy living are portrayed. The woman I am speaking of, and you all know whom I’m talking about (and so many of my blog posts have talked about before). She is thin, all her muscles are visible under her taut, tan skin, she often has long, flowing, beachy-waved blonde hair, she has a broad, white-toothed grin across her wrinkle-less face, she can bend in all directions and her thighs definitely don’t touch. She’s basically a living, breathing version of a Barbie doll, and that’s supposed to be our fitness role model. What_ the_ fuck.
Oh hey, you know what?! My thighs touch. I don’t have six pack abs and I’m certainly not blonde. Here’s the clincher, I am supposed to be that women. I am a fitness professional. It’s not only my job, but it’s my life. And yet, I am very few of things listed above. I am not one dimensional. I am constantly reminded that society wants me to be something I am not. I am reminded daily that I should be plastic and not real. And I am angry about it. I am angry so many of the women I teach hate themselves. I am angry and sad that so many live in comparison of the pictures they see.
I have several mantras I repeat to myself on a very frequent basis (this helps with the insanity). One of them is to breathe, just breathe. Breathe when it’s easy, breathe when it’s difficult; Breathe! Another is that I am satisfied with who and what I am. It’s ok that I am not what I see in the media. I am perfect, right here and right now. These words keep me present and aware that I am different and that difference is awesome.
You don’t have to be thin to exercise. You don’t have to be wearing the latest and greatest to go to a class or the gym. You don’t have to be anything other than you. You are perfect. You are are unique. You have muscles that may be tight. You are flexible in some places and rigid and stiff in others. You can do some moves but maybe not all . You exercise because you love to not ‘cause you have to. You are not convinced that visible ab muscles are a sign that one is in good shape. You KNOW that thigh gaps are insane. Inhale, exhale and then let it the fuck go.
One of the biggest problems that exists in the health and fitness world is the absolute and singular vision of what fit men and women are supposed to look like. Men are expected to large, beefy giants. Their bodies defined by being heavy set and bulky with very little fat and an absurd amount of unpliable muscle (read: inflexible to the point of injury). Women, on the other hand, are portrayed the exact opposite: lithe, small and almost invisible. I have a lot of feelings about this first type of woman. She is so far from what so many of us could ever look like. She is unable and incapable. She is a relic of a time gone by.
She represents the type of woman I don’t want to be.
She tells me that I need to go through extreme deprivation, I should not, nor can I ever enjoy food. To be her, I would have to sacrifice my limited free time to push through grueling and intense cardio sessions. I would have
to stop being me and become something that doesn’t love or feel or experience fluctuation. This is not what life is all about. This is not what having a solid and healthy body image is. We are not static, we are not immobile. We are in constant change and movement. She is not.
So why strive towards such ridiculousness?
Because we are told that this is what we are supposed to be. We are sold images of bodies with thighs and hip ratios that in other parts of the world represent starvation and oppression. We are then sold the idea that if we can’t or don’t meet this criteria we are wrong and bad. We should be ashamed and that we are failures. I see this all time in my profession. Women, gorgeous, curvy, healthy women who hate what they are and only see happiness in a fantasy future version of themselves. They are angry about a 6 pound weight gain, angry that when they look in the mirror the image is not slight and invisible. If you think I don’t understand and that I don’t experience this from time to time, you are wrong, so wrong. I feel the eyes of the women in my classes on me when I am bloated, I notice them noticing that I am heavier than I have been. I field their questions about weight loss, I tell them it doesn’t matter, I tell them they’re perfect exactly as they are. They never believe me and I don’t blame them. As long as our media continues to feed us a singular, sick and distorted image we can never change, either physically and mentally.
There is room in this story for you and your unique shape and style. There is a place in society for women to be as they are with (perceived) flaws and all. There is a spot in time and history for women to stand up and say I don’t want to look like what you want me to look like. We can change this. We can make it so that media changes the images they are selling us. We can change the voice in our head. Find yourself, find movement that suits your lifestyle and then start singing it praises. Get on the highest mountain top you can find and shout out loud how awesome you are how great you feel. Your confidence and exuberance will turn others on and then collectively as a community of brilliant and strong women we can incite change.
This is why I created the method I teach. It allows my body to not only work hard and gain muscle, but also maintain flexibility. It makes feel as good as I look. I don’t wanna spend hours a day in the gym. I wanna workout, get sweaty and then do whatever else my heart desires. I want to know that my workout compliments my lifestyle, being able to run sprints with ease, carry heavy grocery bags all on my own, and not need help with anything that’s physically taxing. My method gives you the look of a capable and self-reliant, grown-ass woman, because that’s what it’s all about. Being independent, being able to be the best you possible. It doesn’t matter what you weigh. It doesn’t matter what you’re wearing. What matters is you loving you loving you.
And now repeat after me, BREATHE.