When was the last time you did this? When was the last time you looked at yourself in the mirror and was like, “I love everything about myself.”
Heck when was the last time that you looked in the mirror and didn’t instantly start focusing on all the things you would like to change?
Probably never or at least not very recently I’m guessing.
And that is just sad.
So often as adults all we focus on are the things about ourselves that we want to change – the things about ourselves that we don’t like.
When did we lose the courage to say, “I love myself?”
Because, honestly, I don’t believe it isn’t that we don’t see our good points. We do recognize our good points, we just don’t focus on them because we are afraid that everyone else sees our flaws and will think that we are cocky or full of ourselves or delusional if we say we love something about ourselves.
When in reality, we focus way more on our flaws than ANYONE else out there does.
We are our own harshest critics. And I firmly believe that.
We set our own limits. We push ourselves down.
We can say that magazines present unrealistic body images. We can can say society presents unrealistic standards.
And yes, those societal standards do seep into our brains as we age so that we can’t, with the same abandon as Jessica, say we love ourselves.
But despite what society tells you, I guarantee that there are traits that aren’t deemed beautiful or wonderful by society that you love about yourself. Yet, because society doesn’t value them, you are too afraid to admit your beauty out loud.
YOU hold yourself back.
When will it stop?
When will you muster the courage to admit that you love yourself? Flaws and all.
When will you stop picking and pushing and start enjoying and celebrating?
When will you stop setting boundaries and limits and instead look at the world and yourself for all that you have to offer?
Society isn’t going to change. Magazines. TV. Ads. Aren’t going to change….
Until we do.
So start creating change by changing your opinion of yourself. Tomorrow, look in that mirror and focus on what you LOVE not what you’d change…
And if you happen to do a little dance while looking in that mirror…well that is fine too!
No one’s judging except you.
So the other night Jodie and I got pictures from our 10k race.
I actually said to Ryan when we got them, “Well those weren’t very attractive angles are they?”
Ryan shook his head at me and said, “You never really like photos of yourself.”
I started to make excuses saying that I did usually like photos of myself just not certain angles because certain angles highlighted my flaws.
But as I made the excuses, I realized they weren’t completely true. I usually SEARCHED for flaws in photos. I tore apart every photo of myself searching for any bulge or wrinkle instead of just looking at a photo and saying, “I look good.”
Which, honestly, is kind of weird since I’m usually not negative about how I look…I’m actually usually pretty confident and happy.
Ryan then said to me, “I wish you could just see yourself the way I see you.”
Ouch..That comment hurt and struck a nerve.
My only response was, “I see myself accurately.”
But now, I wasn’t so sure.
Why couldn’t I just look at a photo and be happy with how I looked? Why did I even find flaws in photos that other people complimented me on?
Later that night, Jodie brought up the photos of us at the race. She wasn’t happy with them either, which made me sad since she looks great!
I told her that I didn’t like the photos either and that I thought I looked bad in them too. I told her that I did believe they were just from a bad angle.
She wasn’t appeased and said she didn’t like other photos from the day as well.
When I said, “I think we females just NEVER like photos of ourselves.”
Another female client then chimed in as we discussed not liking ourselves in photos.
She said I should watch the new Dove viral ad and later that night she texted me the video.
If you haven’t seen it, please take a second now to watch it. It struck a note with me and I hope it also enlightens you.
We, women, are especially guilty of focusing on our physical flaws instead of celebrating all of the great things about our bodies.
We need to stop.
Why do we hone in on the one spot that we don’t like, no matter how small, until it is all we can see when we look at a photo? Why do we ignore all the beauty and instead seek out that one supposedly negative and ugly spot?!?
Why can’t we all see our own beauty?
I see beauty in all of the women around, but it doesn’t fully matter because they, themselves don’t see it. I even tell other women the are crazy when they criticize themselves for certain things.
I will say things like, “Only you see that. I don’t even know what you are talking about. You look great!”
And I mean it.
But then when it comes to applying that mentality to myself…I just don’t do it.
Ryan said, “I wish you could see you the way I see you.”
Dove said, “You are more beautiful than you think.”
Ladies, let’s start listening. Let’s start recognizing our own beauty.
Because guess what, WE ARE ALL MORE BEAUTIFUL THEN WE GIVE OURSELVES CREDIT FOR!
When most people come into the gym, they come in because they want to feel better, but also because they want to lose weight.
I usually ask them how much they want to lose and why they want to lose that amount. Most of the time the weight people want to be is the lightest there were at some point in their life.
I then ask them about the type of workout program and diet program they were following.
Many times people will tell me that they were just trying to eat well. Most of the time men will tell me that they were active and lifting and just sort of fell off which is why they gained the weight. Most of the time women will tell me that they had been running while eating well and then fell off the wagon for some reason or another.
When I hear this, I usually believe that the men will be more likely to hit their target goal than the women.
Because I believe that in our current culture women become cardio queens and calorie restriction junkies to lose weight because thin is all they care about while most men don’t just want to lose the weight to be skinny. Guys actually generally have the opposite pressure on them – they should be strong and muscular.
Whether or not having either standard is right, is a discussion for another time. The point is that both standards exist and that both genders generally go about reaching their fitness goals in different ways.
Which leads me to usually state to women, “You know that you can’t just focus on that number on the scale right? With the addition of weights into your program, you may not lose all the weight that you want, BUT you may actually look slimmer and fit into that ______ that you want to wear even better!”
I then usually turn their focus to circumference measurements and body fat measurements. AND I usually only do these once a month…at most every two weeks.
BUT I definitely try to avoid the scale obsession.
While it would be great if we could all just focus on how we FEEL and how we PERFORM, wanting to look good is the reason why most people head to the gym.
So while you can check the scale, you can’t let it be the be all and end all. You’ve got to use some other measures.
And if you are going for aesthetic changes, circumference measurements and body fat tests can be great.
If you are dong circumference measurements, you need to make sure to measure the same spot each and every time. Here is a link that tells you WHERE to take measurements so that your measurements are consistent so you can actually track progress.
For body fat testing, there are a few ways to do it. Whichever way you do it, you will want to use this scale to find out what your body fat means. Please don’t set your goal for essential. Even the bodybuilders who reach that point DON’T maintain it for very long. At the essential level is where you get into health ISSUES.
And depending on the tool you use, there is some room for error, especially with tools like these handheld “electronic” measures or the scales that supposedly measure body fat. These tools are very dependent on hydration status so can be easily effected by how hydrated you are that day and whether or not you just worked out. If you use these tools, try to keep when you measure as consistent as possible.
Calipers are great too, but make sure you measure the same spot and really read up on how to use them. It is best to actually have a trainer who is experienced use them on you or at least teach you to use them.
The best body fat test is the dunk test or the bod pod. Both are more expensive, BUT if you really have an aesthetic change as your goal, why not use the most accurate measurement? Do one when you begin and then one every 90 days! It will definitely keep you from becoming obsessed each week with the measurement! (And you could still use circumference measurements just to see where you are at.)
Anyway, try to experiment with these other two measures of “weight loss.” I mean shoot, you can even use pictures as a measuring tool. You can see changes when you compare pictures even if you become used to seeing yourself every day in the mirror. And if you see changes that you like, who cares what the scale says?
Along the way to looking the way you want, if you can throw in some performance measurements, you may just find that after a while you become less and less worried about exactly how your weight loss progress is going and more and more focused on working hard and sticking to your program.
And guess what?!? When you start focusing on performance, you may actually more easily look the way you want to look! You won’t be obsessed with each fluctuation of that scale!
So try to take the emphasis off the weight you see on the scale. I know it’s not easy, but it really causes more pain than anything else!
When Nutrition Analyst & Farm-to-School Coordinator Asta Garmon asked me to do an interview about women and the stigma of women who lift heavy, I really got to thinking about my experiences.
It amazed me when it really dawned on me that I’ve gotten more crap from women about lifting heavy and being bulky than I have from men.
Yea I’ve gotten the occasional comment from men about whether or not I’m worried about being bulky. But really most of the trouble comes from men when I then try to give them advice about how to lift better or when they find out how competitive and driven I am (which is honestly a blog for another day).
BUT the true perpetrators are women!
Women are the ones that perpetuate the lie.
Yes…They perpetuate it by saying things like, “I don’t want to lift heavy because I don’t want to get bulky!”
But more importantly, they perpetuate it by telling women, who lift heavy, but look feminine, “Oh wow…Your arm is so…muscular.” (They say this in a way that makes it an insult NOT a compliment.)
YEP! The worst crime is committed when women say to women who have worked hard to look amazing and toned, “You look so…buff/muscular/jacked.”
They say it in a way that HINTS that these words really aren’t a good thing. They even use those specific words because they know that most women associate those words with masculinity.
Most likely these women give these backhanded compliments because they have some insecurity themselves or because they are jealous.
And honestly, you can’t really do anything about what or how other people say things. You will run into women like that. There may even be a woman or two like that in your friend group…You may even call them your “frenemy”…you know them…you love them…and yet…
But anyway, while I would love to change those comments, I can’t. There will always be people out there that will use any social stigma to put someone else down.
BUT what I can do is change the way we, women, interpret those comments.
When comments like those are made to us, we can choose to do one of two things.
We can choose to become self-conscious and bothered by the comment. We can stop lifting and then tell anyone who asks us about heavy lifting that “we don’t lift heavy because it makes us bulky.” We can be afraid that we did, in fact, become bulky from the lifting. We can then perpetuate the stigma that lifting heavy makes women bulky.
OR we can choose to ignore the comment and know that we do in fact look AMAZING and that those women have their own issues. We can break the stigma and help other women find the strength and beauty that heavy lifting can bring!
I choose to do the second.
I wasn’t born with self-confidence. I fought a long uphill battle to get it – the fake it till you make it battle. (And sometimes I’m still faking it, but no one knows the difference!)
As strange as it sounds, what you have to do to be more confident is to pretend to be confident. To act like you are confident even when you aren’t.
So when you get an underhanded comment hinting that your weight training has made you masculine or bulky, when you know you aren’t and have even had compliments about how great you look, what should you do?
You should smile and say, “Thank you! I’ve been working out super hard and lifting heavy! It just makes you feel so good! You should come with me some time.”
That’s what I say every time.
And guess what!?!
I instantly feel better and completely erase the negativity of their comment from my mind. I may still remember it enough to shake my head at them, but I’ve taken all of the venom out of the comment.
I played the part of a confident individual, which in effect, basically made me confident.
And on top of that, they will never have any clue that their comment may have made me even a teensy bit insecure. (If it even does!)
PLUS, every time you respond that way, you start to destroy the lie that women will get bulky if they lift heavy. You won’t be giving credit to their comment AND you may even convince them to become a woman who lifts heavy!
So while it may not be easy, the key to changing the stigma is by believing that in fact you AREN’T bulky or masculine even though you lift weights. The key is believing that you are healthy and strong and beautiful because you do!
You can’t change the other person, but you can change your reaction.
Let’s start there and maybe then we will silence the haters!
Sometimes I am completely and utterly irrational.
There are freaking random things that can make me feel completely confident or completely depressed about how I look.
My clothes might fit well and I may look no different than I did the day before, but sometimes even just KNOWING that I ate badly the day before can make me “believe” I look bad.
There are a bazillion different things that can do it to you.
It could be a change in weight on the scale. It could be a pair of pants you haven’t worn in a while fitting differently. It could be some random little comment about one of your body parts that does it!
It could even just be your MOOD that day that determines how “fat” or “thin” you look that day.
Actually I would say mood is a huge determining factor.
Let’s face it, if you have a negative outlook or are down on yourself for something…anything…you are probably going judge yourself with that negative attitude.
If you are in a good mood, a bad meal the night before probably won’t bother you. If you are in a good mood, a little fluctuation on the scale probably will just make you think “water weight.” Tight pants….hey you haven’t worn them since you washed them!
Anyway, the point is that your attitude toward life is going to affect how you interpret things.
Try to remember that!
Try to remember all of the hard work you’ve put in to look and feel good. Don’t let one day of feeling down on how you look spiral into a “I don’t look good anyway so I’m going to binge eat and not workout” cycle.
Remember that things really aren’t going to change day-to-day – it is all about consistency over time.
And on those days when you do feel down on yourself, re-dedicate yourself to your goals.
Remind yourself of all your hard work. Remind yourself of all your progress.
Focus on the positive instead of honing in on that one body part you always seem to feel insecure about!
Anyone else ever have those days where you just have a negative body image even though you’ve been working out hard and eating well?
So I’ve discussed this before with the Olympics starting shortly, but what truly is the “perfect” body?
Mainstream society tells women they should be thin and not even have that much muscle. If you base the “perfect” body off of high fashion, you should be rail thin and tall.
If you base the “perfect” body off of fitness models, you should be down to almost only essential body fat and be proportionally muscled.
If you base the “perfect” body off of a 100 different things, you will find that each one has a different ideal. Some ideals, however, are more acceptable than others.
Generally speaking, women who are big with muscle are not considered to have the “perfect” body – they are considered to be “masculine.”
Shoot sometimes even if women AREN’T BIG but can lift heavy weights are deemed to be unfeminine.
But says who?
I actually love the response that British Olympic lifter Zoe Smith had when she was told by people that she was “unfeminine” or a lesbian just because she can out lift many men.
The obvious choice of slander when talking about female weightlifting is ‘how unfeminine, girls shouldn’t be strong or have muscles, this is wrong.’ And maybe they’re right… in the Victorian era. To think people still think like this is laughable, we’re in 2012!
Actually the whole documentary about her and two other female competitors from Britain is awesome!
The “perfect” body for those three women in the documentary is a body that allows them to lift the most weight in their weight class!
The same goes for Cheryl Haworth.
Cheryl Haworth is 5’8″ and 300lbs and a top Olympic weightlifter. By mainstream standards her body isn’t considered “perfect.”
But if you were 5’8″ and 300lbs and America’s top Olympic weightlifter, would you really think your body wasn’t “perfect?”
I think generally our image of the “perfect” body is to focused on aesthetics. We never stop to think about how maybe our big butt or muscled arms (that society may tell us aren’t perfect) help us move and perform as well as we do!
I would much rather have a body that can run and lift and do any activity that I ask it to do than fit a standard of beauty that mainstream society has defined.
I would rather have biceps the size of the average man’s than sacrifice one ounce of my strength!
I’m glad to know that I’m not alone.
What the documentary about Zoe Smith and two other British weightlifters called “Girl Power: Going for Gold.”
Also, watch the documentary Strong! about Olympic Weightlifter Cheryl Haworth.
STRONG! explores the contradiction of a body that is at once celebrated within the confines of her sport and shunned by mainstream culture. Through Haworth’s journey of strength, vulnerability, loneliness, and individuation, we learn not only about the sport of lifting weight, but also the state of being weighty: the material, psychological, and social consequences and possibilities of a having a body that doesn’t fit.
I think Strong! is a must see. TV showings of the documentary started on Tuesday (July 24th). Here is the website if you liked to find a showing in your area!
Can we please start focusing on how strong and capable our bodies are instead of how skinny we can become?
Can we please stop thinking of muscles and strength as masculine qualities?
So I’ve been reading the “Body Image Warrior Week” posts over at Fit and Feminist. They are great and they got me to really thinking about dieting and body image.
Usually negative body image and dieting go hand in hand. But dieting doesn’t solve negative body image.
If you can’t accept your body as it is now, you won’t accept it even if you find a diet that makes you look exactly the way you always wanted to. No matter how “good” you look, if you have a negative self-image, you will always be able to find some flaw.
So stop looking for the flaws. Stop thinking that if you just find the right diet you will be able to lose enough weight or fat to correct them. Stop thinking that dieting is the solution.
You can’t change the body you were given.
A healthy diet will make you look good, but you already have to be content. No matter how great the transformation in your body, a diet won’t create a positive self-image.
BUT, if you find a diet that will make you healthier, that will make you feel better, you will find a diet that makes your body look the best that it can!
That is why I’ve been so gung-ho about the Man Bicep diet. I found something that has made me healthier and feel better with the added bonus that my abs show.
My body may not be what someone else considers to be perfect, but guess what?…I like how I look! (Although I’m still weirded out when I log in and see like 50 bazillion pictures of myself EVERYWHERE, but it’s proof right!?! haha)
Is that cocky? No. Is it confident? Yes. Am I happy? Most definitely.
But I’m not only happy with my body because I feel it “looks good.” I’m happy with my body because I like that I can lift more weight than is necessary. I like that I can sprint and paddle board and even occasionally eat till I have a food baby and can only roll around in pain and moan.
I love my body’s strength and feeling of health. Yes it has flaws, but there isn’t a person out there who doesn’t see a flaw no matter how “perfect” someone else thinks their body is.
And while I feel better and healthier when my abs are showing, I’m just as happy in my own skin when Chinese food and ice cream have hidden them (Ok so not quite as happy, but that is mainly because I usually feel pretty ill from the bad food binge-ing!)
So stop looking for the flaws in your body and realize how wonderful it is.
And I’m not undermining the importance of committing to a healthy lifestyle. I’m just saying a diet won’t correct a negative body image.
A healthy diet, however, does have a big pay-off – one bigger than 6 pack abs…You will feel freaking healthy and good!
The results of a survey published by FITNESS Magazine and Yahoo! revealed that “57% of women polled think they look fat naked and 81% of adults have a body part they hate.”
These results don’t surprise me – we all know that most people aren’t content with their bodies.
I mean come on…don’t people in the diet and fitness industry sort of bank on the fact that we all want to improve some part of our body? (Uhm we most definitely do! Of course I wish that most people just wanted to get stronger or feel fitter rather than change their bodies but that is a conversation for another time.)
But anyway, I find it sort of sad that 81% of adults have a body part they hate. And what I find even more upsetting is that women, in general, are less happy with their bodies than men.
What is wrong with us women?
Is it the media? Is it men? Is it other women? Why are we so insecure?
Why do we focus on the one body part we hate instead of focusing on the other 99% of our bodies that we love?
Boy do I wish I had an answer…
All I can say is when I eat well and lift heavy weights, I’m pretty darn happy with my body even if it isn’t perfect in someone else’s eyes.
Maybe that’s it…maybe we women focus too much on everyone else and not enough on ourselves.
I mean do you really think you look fat or do you just “think” that you do because you are worried some other woman/man/thing thinks you look fat?
What is beautiful?
Seriously is there really one universal definition?
I DON’T THINK SO!
Working in a gym, where you constantly hear people commenting on other people’s bodies, you begin to realize that everyone really does have a different definition of what is beautiful. (Especially men and women.)
It seems that every male trainer at the gym loves women with big butts, yet most women are working out to try to firm, tone and shrink their rears.
Even women differ in their opinions of what is feminine beauty. Just think about what female movie stars you think are the MOST attractive. I guarantee not everyone agrees with you!
I mean part of the reason I was so motivated to start this blog was because women are afraid to lift weights because they don’t want to look bulky or overly muscled! Many women don’t find muscle attractive!
The numerous articles about famous actresses, singers and such with muscle who are ridiculed are proof of the fact that women (and men) don’t find muscled women attractive…like the articles about Cameron Diaz. Personally, I don’t think she is too muscled (maybe on the skinny side…but not too muscled).
Anyway, the point is no one has the exact same view of what is beautiful.
So what are we really all striving toward?
Shouldn’t we all just be seeking to make our bodies the best that they can be naturally while still being able to enjoy our life?
I mean…aren’t we women much harsher in our criticisms of our own bodies than anyone else is? We seem to obsess over every little flaw – every eyebrow hair that is out-of-place (ok maybe the eyebrow hair thing is just me…)
But what are we obsessing for?
No one is perfect. And there will also be people who find you beautiful as is or that think you need a bigger/smaller waist/butt/arm…anything.
Beauty is such a fluid thing with so many definitions…so why can’t we just be happy and content with the fact that we do everything we can while still living our lives to the fullest?!
Why can’t we all just be happy with the bodies we have and know that they are each beautiful in their own ways!?!
What do you consider to be the perfect body? One with six-pack abs? A bubble butt? Being so strong you can lift a car? Maybe all of the above?
The perfect body means so many different things. Some people want to look shredded – lean muscles and six-pack abs. Some people don’t care what they look like but want to be able to lift 3 times their body weight. Some people just want to have a body that can run and play with their grandkids.
I really started thinking about what it means to have “the perfect body” when I was looking through ESPN the Magazine’s Body Issue. I looked through it once with Ryan and then with Candy. Both times we looked at each of the athletes and discussed which bodies we liked or wanted. We all had slightly different opinions about which bodies were our favorites.
But that got me to thinking…All of these bodies are, in fact, perfect. All of the athletes’ bodies in the magazine are perfect in that they made each of them highly successful in their sport. It reminded me that “perfection” can mean so many different things.
It also reminded me of a situation in college. It was my freshman year, and I was introduced to lifting by a new strength and conditioning coach at Boston University. The girls on my team had been used to getting away with murder and slacking on their weights. But this new coach wasn’t going to have it.
She pushed us to lift heavy. We did heavy front squats and heavy bench. We worked on hang cleans, deadlifts and pull ups.
And the girls didn’t like it.
They were afraid they were going to look manly. Or have huge traps. They were afraid they wouldn’t look feminine. (Really they were afraid of working hard!!)
Of course this was a load of bull crap and our trainer told us so (our trainer was actually a very pretty blond who lifted heavy weights and still looked very feminine). But the girls wouldn’t listen. They were more worried about their bodies looking “perfect” by society’s standards than their bodies being “perfect” for their sport.
This I didn’t understand. First off…I felt that my body would look perfect if I lifted. Secondly…if you really want to be a twig with no muscle, you have the rest of your life to accomplish this. Right now you are on scholarship to play TENNIS; therefore, your body should be made PERFECT FOR TENNIS!
But they didn’t see it that way. Their body wasn’t perfect if it didn’t look a certain way, which in my opinion kept them from reaching their full potential in tennis.
Which raises a question for me…do I have conflicting images of what I want my perfect body to be? On the one hand, I want to develop six-pack abs while on the other hand I want to be able to lift enough to win a powerlifting competition…Usually the two don’t go hand in hand. I’ve actually even been told numerous times by Brian that I can’t worry about gaining weight while we are training. But at the same time…I don’t want to gain unnecessary fat.
Can I really accomplish both? Can I not gain fat while gaining strength? Can I even lower my body fat percentage while adding strength and muscle? There are people out there who say, “no you can’t” while there are others out there who claim to have done just that.
We will see who is right!