I read an interesting article today on "Skinny Privilege" and "Fat Shame". I'll try and find the link and put it below in the comments. It spoke about how larger women in America are shamed for their bodies by society AND have the internal body image issues of hating their bodies, while skinny women, although sometimes insecure, only have to deal with the latter issue, because the standard of beauty in America is to be thin.
I'm sorry...but how is this still even a thing? How are we still feeling victimized by our bodies? How are we still allowing society guidelines to govern our worth? How are curvy ladies looking at skinny chicks saying "You don't understand!" and skinny chicks are still insistent upon shouting "yes I do! See?! I HAVE CELLULITE TOO!".
Woah. We all need a nap. Who here loves their body? Like- LOVES their body? Wouldn't change a hair on their head. Wouldn't wish for longer, thicker hair, or sleeker thighs that don't touch, or more muscular thighs that DO touch, or more defined arms, or less bulky arms, or a flatter tummy, or curvier hips, or larger breasts that fill out a shirt, or smaller breasts that don't hurt when going for a run? Who here looks in the mirror and says, "Day-um. God (and me+spray tan+highlights+makeup+well-fitting, stylish clothes+a deeply embedded sense of self esteem/egomania) have done an A-M-A-Z-I-N-G job". Anyone?
Yeah, didn't think so.
There was a time I used to push myself to go to the gym. Before an iphone or an ipod with pictures existed, I would load up on Glamour or Cosmopolitan magazines and find the body I envied most to display on the elliptical as I pedaled towards my "dream body"- the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. The flat abs, perfectly designed curvy hips and not-too-big-not-too-small-never-saggy chest, the long, sinewy, just-defined-but-not-bulky arms and legs. It didn't matter what my body looked like as it was "under construction" because I was headed for Barbieville...and it would feel SO good when I got there. I would be rewarded when I arrived with bountiful self-love and short shorts and bra tops. Ah...it would be bliss.
And then I went on Biggest Loser. And (as I found out after FINALLY collecting my medical records this week) I actually got down to 26% body fat! WHAT?! That's considered fitness-level body fat for a woman. But I didn't feel "fit". Because despite being 113 lbs lighter than when I started, none of what I ordered was on my table in front of me. I didn't look like Barbie. To me, I looked like I always had...just smaller. I didn't recognize an ounce of my own progress because what I saw standing naked in the mirror was not the girl on the cover of Cosmopolitan that I had aimed for. It was still just me.
The problem in our society is not that we are fat and that's unacceptable, or that we are thin, and that IS acceptable. The bigger issue is that we are trained to believe that being simply OURSELVES is not enough. If we're thin, we want someone else's fill-in-the-blank (hair, eyelashes, lips, hips, boobs, etc). If we're fat, we want someone else's everything. What's the deal? How is it so bad being ourselves?
Here's the thing: When we're growing up, we're taught what we're supposed to look like, and what we're supposed to act like...but we're never told what we should FEEL like. We're taught to work hard, but because it's the right thing to do... NOT because it feels SO good to succeed. We're taught to play sports or be active, but it's often because it's good for socialization's sake, or because we're supposed to, not because of the incredible feeling of accomplishment, and the high of physical activity. We act and look a certain way, because that has standards; a blueprint we've watched adults follow for generations, and something we can adhere to. But feeling is sticky, and hard to explain, so as adults, we don't bother trying, and as children, we never learn the overwhelming value how we FEEL about ourselves, our bodies, and our choices, should have in our lives.
I FEEL strong when I lift weights or do something physically challenging. I FEEL sexy when a man honors and cares for my body (or when I do!). I FEEL important when I get dressed up and make an effort to look nice. I FEEL included when I'm easily able to do things like go on long walks or hikes, travel, kayak, or something else that requires me being physically fit. I FEEL beautiful when, magazines aside, I look in the mirror and realize, flawed as it is, my body is a road map of every choice I've made in the past and all the choices I'm making now. And I FEEL privileged and proud when I realize my legs or arms are firmer, or my body is sore from being challenged. I FEEL gorgeous and accomplished when I am lying in a pool of sweat, half covered in chalk, with runny mascara, and bruises. GORGEOUS.
And you know what? When I feel all of those amazing things- the other stuff just doesn't matter. The flat abs, and long, flowy hair and perfectly curved hips-- they're just not as important. Does it mean I'm immune to wanting them EVER? Absolutely not. But when I shift the emphasis away from them, I fall in love with where I am, and where I- MYSELF- am driving my body to. Because, I wouldn't in a billion years wish for flat abs and perfect breasts if it meant NOT experiencing the feelings I already am experiencing-- imperfections and all.
America- our bodies are not the problem. Our bodies are strong, and capable of doing ANYTHING we ask of them. And you know what? Society is not the problem. Judgement of others is not the problem. The problem is our own distribution of love. We're worshiping the abs of one person, the quads of another, and have NOTHING LEFT TO GIVE OURSELVES.
It sounds so trite to preach the "love yourself before you can expect anyone else to" message, but it's so true. At my lightest- 26% fitness-level body fat- I couldn't look at myself in the mirror. There are probably less pictures of me then, than at any other point in my life (minus the whole being-on-tv thing). I can't say I was a big fan of mine at my heaviest, either. But what I've come/am coming to realize is that my value in myself has nothing to do with what I look like or what I weigh. It has EVERYTHING to do with how I think about myself, and, in accordance, how I treat myself.
Working out used to be something I shamed myself into: "Get to the gym or be fat forever and die alone". Woah. I wish I were kidding.
Now, when I go workout, my inner dialogue goes something like, "Woohoo. We're going to the gym and TODAY is going to be the day you're going to master double unders. You're such a bad ass". My coach jokes that despite my (very verbal) hatred for running, I smile when I run (I mean, not all the time...but often). It's because now, when I run, I say "Woah... ok. This actually feels BETTER than it used to." or, worse case scario, "Ok- you've done 2 laps... 2 more and this will be done and that's incredible and you're such a rock star".
Today I woke up 2 lbs heavier than I was yesterday (yeah, I weigh myself everyday, and yes, I know it's water weight, blah, blah, blah), and something like that could have, and would have before, sent me for a serious shame spiral. But ironically, I've been catching myself *strutting* the whole day, thinking how awesome I am.
I don't know how I transitioned to a healthier place, so I can't write a guide book. But I can tell you what I have had to avoid, and will always avoid:
Lastly, can we all agree none of this matters? Let me rephrase: None of this matters to anyone worth it mattering to. Sure, are their snotty 13 year old girls on the beach that have never seen cellulite that are going to "fat shame" you? Yes. There ALWAYS will be. But their day will come. And who cares about them anyway? There is no smart, accomplished, sexy, strong, driven, ambitious person on this earth that is worth your time that would allow your body shape or size to play a determining factor in how they treat you or if they will allow you into their lives. That's 8th grade crap, and adults who are happy with themselves are too busy working towards their own goals to belittle you for not fitting into some ridiculous, abstract, ever-changing standard.
Find people that hold you to a standard of feeling, AND seek it out for themselves. Stop talking to girl friends who want to wear a size 2 and start talking to girlfriends who want to run a marathon, or hike a mountain or do a crossfit competition. A size 2 isn't a real thing. It's not a feeling. I've been my "perfect size" and you know what I felt? NOTHING. I've also been an imperfect size and felt awesome, accomplished, beautiful and hot. Stop talking to men (or women) who are only interested in you when you're skinny (or whatever) and start talking to men who think you're awesome for the work you do, the ideas you have, and the confidence you exude. You become who you are most often with, so choose wisely...and then, when you're alone, get to know YOURSELF and fall the eff in love. At the beginning and end of our lives, it's ultimately you and you alone. People and relationships are the colors of our world, for sure, but we create the lines and spaces in which they fill. If you don't find a reason to fall in love with you, as you are, as you've been, and as you will be, you will be spending the rest of your life- UNTIL YOU DIE- waiting for someone to do for you what only you can do for yourself.
So skinny privilege, fat shame....who. cares? The only person that owes it to you, to LOVE you, is YOU. So, get on that. You're pretty awesome, after all. ;)
Warning: I'm about to do it. Be "that" crossfitter. The Kool Aid drinker. The "Zumba doesn't count as exercise" person.
This is going to be about crossfit (for me), but it's more about life...and the lessons I've learned through almost a year of challenging myself physically, emotionally and mentally via Crossfit, and the incredible relationships I've built. For you it might even be (*shudder*) Zumba, or spin, or whatever, but here it goes:
1- Commit. Commit, or don't do it at all.
Crossfit has taught me commitment on both small and large scales. Let's go big first, because that's obvious. The only valid excuse I've EVER heard about why someone won't even give Crossfit a try is that it's expensive. It is, when you compare it to a traditional gym membership. Even if you recognize that it's a STEAL in comparison to 5-6 day a week personal training, it doesn't necessarily mean that you can cough up $150-$200 a month. So, if you decide you're going to Crossfit, and make that investment month in and month out, you better be committed. If you're not going to show up- even when you're sore, even when you're tired, even when you're busy, sick, etc- or you're going to go off the grid with your nutrition on a regular basis- you might as well take the money for your membership, Nanos, and Lulus and throw it down the drain. Crossfit demands that you show up and make it count to get your money's worth.
On a smaller scale- Have you ever seen an Olympic weight lifter look like they were phoning it in for a clean and jerk? Have you ever seen someone successfully PR a snatch when they were "just not feeling it"? No? That's because it's impossible. Every day, with every lift and torturous burpee, Crossfit reminds you that you either need to get your head in the game, or you need to get your head in the game. There's no alternative. There's no "kinda". Even with scaled, you scale to what you're capable of, and then you attack it with all that you have. Because if you don't, you're using time to progress, as time to just exist. And existing is free- you can do it anytime. Don't use gym time to not give a shit.
Life lesson: Commit. Show up where you're supposed to show up, when you're supposed to show up, HOW you're supposed to show up. If you think you're fooling anyone (most of all yourself) by half-assing your way through your life, career, relationships, etc, you're not. And if you can't help it- you're not happy and you just HAVE to phone it in- it's time to reconsider whatever's left you feeling that way and make a new plan that you can be passionate about.
2- Get a Good Teacher
Before Crossfit, I'd like to think I knew a lot about working out. I had spent a year training under Jillian Michaels. I had always been active. But, my knowledge had a beginning and an end point. No one knows everything. Most people actually know very a frighteningly small amount about their bodies and how to use them, exercise them, or change them. We all need help. The best coaches I've had are also those who are the best students- they thirst for knowledge. They seek it out. They listen. They learn. They mess up and they re-calibrate and learn from their mistakes. The best coaches do not yell commands- they explain technique, they internalize goals, they invest in you. My coach knows the nuances of my strengths, weaknesses and personalities- almost embarrassingly so. He knows when I shoot him an evil glance that he should laugh at me, but maybe shouldn't do that to the girl I'm working alongside. He knows when to remind me of my "why". He knows that he will have to remind me 400 billion times to rotate my shoulders the right way whenever I have a bar over my head. And beyond knowing me, he knows his stuff. He knows how body mechanics work. He knows the role nutrition plays in athletes and normal people. He just knows stuff. It's reassuring. It's inspiring. And it allows me to focus on my training and intensity, rather than wondering if the person I'm allowing to lead me knows what the heck he's talking about.
Life Lesson: You don't know everything. Surround yourself with people that know more than you and allow them to show you. There's a time and place to be a leader, a teacher, and there are more times than not to be a student. When that time comes, be a good one, and learn something.
3- You're going to fail.
This is the greatest thing I've learned in the last 10 months of Crossfitting. In the past 10 months, I've been to 2 weddings, I've been on 3 vacations, I've celebrated countless birthdays, parties and just-because events where I missed workouts. I've gone off the grid with my food on more occasions than I'd like to admit (at least once a month!) and have not had a month go by where I haven't indulged in ice cream. I've seen my scale go up and down and up again. Not by much, but by enough to temporarily freak me out. I've gone for a 200 lb front squat (twice) and have dropped the bar. Same thing with a 133 lb clean and jerk. On more than one occasion, the clock of a time cap has beaten my abilities. And you know what all that means? Nothing. It means I've woken up the next day to try again. I haven't beaten myself up over my affair with Ben and Jerry's. I haven't shamed myself into never going for a 200 lb front squat again. No. I mess up, and I don't judge myself for it. In fact, I don't judge myself for what I do RIGHT, either....What I judge myself for, and praise myself for, is my ability to try again. Do better, streamline efforts, try harder. Because even though the scale has jumped around, I've still lost 50 lbs in 10 months. And even though I *still* haven't hit 200 lbs with my front squat, I've PR'ed my original front squat in January 2013 by 85 lbs, and ultimately (soon), I WILL get to my goal body weight and I WILL hit the physical milestones I'm aiming for. It just won't be a straight line from point A to point B. And it will require the decision to constantly get up and try, try again.
Life Lesson: Failure is your friend, and it isn't something to be ashamed of. If you're not failing at something, you're just not aiming high enough. You should be failing every, single day. EVERY. DAY. Otherwise you're staying still.
4- There's no such thing as "overnight success"
I get so aggravated when I see posts of people who started Crossfit 5 months ago, lost half their body weight, and are back squatting double their original body weight. I mean, good for them, but those people are anomalies. They're the exception to the rule. The rule, is that good stuff takes time. You don't build your body overnight. You don't improve your weaknesses overnight. You don't go from never picking up a barbell to having perfect form overnight. The weight loss industry is a multi-billion dollar industry for a reason: Everyone wants a quick fix. No one is immune to the fantasy of Biggest Loser style weight loss (hellloooo), or Rich Froning level results. But "Biggest Loser" is a tv show, not a diet. Contestants are separated from everything (temptation, especially) for months, and worked out 5-7 hours a day to get those results (which are not necessarily healthy). Rich Froning is PAID to be a Crossfit athlete. He doesn't just show up for a 1 hour WOD and look and perform like that. He's said in interviews before that competitions (Crossfit Games included) are like "rest days" in comparison to what he does on a daily basis. The majority of us have jobs, families, and lives that we balance with Crossfit...and that's ok. Your results will show up after days and days and weeks and weeks of commitment, and only then. If you get there sooner, consider yourself lucky....the exception to the rule.
Life lesson: You want something? Good. Start working for it and never stop. Almost never will the effort NOT pay off in some way shape or form. And if it doesn't, then you get to say with 100% conviction that you literally did everything you could. Look around at your friends that you consider successful in any area of their life. They don't get there by magic or luck (most of the time). They get there by doing what the majority of us talk about doing, but never put to action. Put action behind your convictions and know that if it's important to you, it's not a "months" long project: It's a forever kinda thing. Want to be in love? Fall in love EVERY day for the rest of your life. Want to have a killer body? Commit to working out and eating right EVERY day for the rest of your life. Want a flourishing career? Consistently challenge yourself, perform and accept responsibility EVERY day for the rest of your life. Big things will happen, but it'll be slow. The time's gonna pass anyway, so you might as well get comfortable being uncomfortable while you bust your butt day in and day out so you have something to show for it at the end.
5- It's all about the people
Humans are pack animals. We're tribal. Even loners and introverts need some form of socialization, interaction and all-out love. If you're going to do all of the above- commit, learn, fail, succeed- you're going to want to do it around people. Why? Because, in relation to Crossfit, some days, the people are the only reason I go. A LOT of days, the people are the only reason I succeed. If I'm tired or sore or <insert excuse here> but I know so-and-so will be happy to see me, or vice versa, I'll show up. And almost inevitably, if I show up, I'm going to give my all. The showing up is almost always the hardest part. If your "tribe" is waiting for you, it makes it the easiest part. On days when you show up on your own, but can't seem to light your fire, your "tribe" inspires you to keep going. Like a good coach, they know when to push you forward (and how), and they know when to encourage and support you. I don't know that I've ever met one human that excelled (I'm talking above and beyond their own expectations) long-term without the help and support of others. You'll start for yourself. You'll keep going for results. You'll stay for the people.
Life lesson: See the bold above. That goes for any and everything in your life.
As always, if you're in Nashville and interested in becoming a member of the "tribe" I am THRILLED to belong to, and train under the coach I am HONORED to learn from, visit www.nashvillebarbell.com
There's an article circulating around facebook, that I actually really love. It's about the things trainers want to tell their personal training clients. Give it a read here.
I love this because I've been a trainer. After Biggest Loser, I spent 3 years building a personal training business and worked with over 60 clients of varying weights, body shapes, experiences, levels of understanding, etc. I can't tell you how many of these thoughts and conversations I've had over and over and over again with my previous clients.
But here's the thing: I've also been a client- and often times a challenging client at that (ask my coaches, past and present!). And there are some things a LOT of trainers do NOT understand about clients that are probably as important as the things that WE do not understand about them.
So, if you're a trainer- ESPECIALLY one that may not have struggled with your weight, here are some things that might come in handy:
1.) Just stop telling me you get it.
The short answer is- no. No, you don't. Maybe you've lost a lot of weight yourself (when I was a trainer, I had lost 113 lbs in 8 months- no easy feat!), or maybe you've never had to worry about putting weight on. Whatever. The reality of it is, is you do. not. know. what. it's. like. Your clients are all different- different body types, different tolerances, different backgrounds, different personal lives. What might be easy for one of your clients to do (say, exercising 45 minutes a day, every day), might be a near impossible goal for a single mother of 2 that works full time and just barely manages to squeeze in 3 sessions a week. Understand that your clients' circumstances go far beyond what you see in the gym. That doesn't mean we don't want, or hear, your advice. It just means sometimes it's not always "follow-able". And a good trainer (like ones I've had) know how to adjust their input to make it work for each individual's overall life.
2.) Just stop talking about how I should eat perfectly, and start talking about how to eat realistically
Every single trainer I've ever had kill me in the gym, I've also seen eat pizza, drink beer, or have birthday cake. Stop acting like you don't. Because, the reality of it is, as a trainer, you become our "gym parents" and this bizarre phenomenon happens- your habits become the expectation of what our habits should be. If we see you occasionally indulging, and not harping on yourself regularly for making little decisions- that, let's be honest- won't make or break our training, THAT is what instills GOOD habits in your clients. It's been proven over and over and over and over again that diets that promote deprivation or the abolishing of certain foods work temporarily and ultimately boomerang to bite clients in the you-know-what. Most of your clients that have long term struggles with weight have long-term emotionally unhealthy habits with food. If we feel like we're constantly disappointing you by eating birthday cake, because it's something you would "never" do, or something you would "never" suggest, we will fail. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but ultimately. We need to be told, and shown, that it's not about "eating healthy" or not; it's about eating like a normal, reasonable human being: Learn what's best for you, do the best you can, when you can, and when you can't, let it go, wake up the next morning and train hard and eat right. The end.
3.) Just stop saying things like "You can beat your metabolism!" or "A calorie is a calorie" or that "so and so lost 60 lbs in 3 months!"
Let's get something straight. Metabolic conditions are a real thing. There are people in the world who really do struggle, at a cellular, biological level. AND there are people, who after years of unhealthy yo-yo dieting, have damaged their metabolisms unintentionally. If you're summing up every client that's overweight as being an "excuse maker", you're painting everyone with the same brush, and it's just not true. There are people who struggle with weight from childhood, developing so many hungry fat cells (that by the way, are never LOST, but rather are simply deflated) that it's in their muscle memory to gain weight. There are people who have a sluggish thyroid, or an elevated response to cortisol, or a hormone imbalance. There are pre-diabetics/diabetics who have an insulin response to any carbohydrate that enters their body that their non-diabetic counterpart would have no reaction to whatsoever. If you're not looking at the biological, anatomical equation of things, and brainstorming new ways to combat the individual client's reaction to food and exercise, you're guilty of exactly what you're accusing your clients of: Laziness. Sure, you'll get the dud client that blames a bad metabolism and then sneak eats a dozen Krispy Kremes, but if we've handed you our food journals and are giving you our all, it might be time to consider a deeper cause.
4.) Just stop acting like you know absolutely everything about exercise
You know what the best exercise is? The one we'll do consistently, intensely, and passionately. Unless you're a spin instructing, zumba teaching, crossfit loving, kickbox boxing, marathon running, hip hop dancin' fool, you don't have a stronghold on all the exercise knowledge in the world. Post Biggest-Loser, I was a big advocate for just killing yourself on a treadmill because I'd seen results, and knew it worked. Now, I would sooner die than recommend that. We love what we know because we know it fits us. But that doesn't mean it will fit EVERYONE in the long or short term. A client is not a proprietary person you have ownership over. In a healthy, fun coaching relationship, a client is someone you are partnering with to help them become healthy. Your job is not to run them in the ground with what you know works for you and a handful of other people. Your job is to figure out what works for them, then holding them accountable, and re-evaluating when that stops working. That means if a client goes to a spin class before their session with you, they're not cheating on you. They're trying on a new pair of shoes. The fact that they share it with you means they trust you and want to share their journey with you. Don't be offended. If they're overtraining, it will show in their results and THAT'S the time to pull on the reigns- not when someone's looking for new ways to push or better themselves.
5.) Just stop telling me not to worry about what I'll look like when I'm done
Blah blah blah. We all know that working out and eating healthy is about being the best version of yourself. But if we're being honest, the best version of myself, in my mind, wears a size 8 and can rock the hell out of a pair of skinny jeans. Is it everything? No. But by you belittling at least a PIECE of my "why", it doesn't encourage me to show up, and makes me feel like you just don't get it. Make our time together about what's important to ME, not to you. That doesn't mean throwing in, "Come on! Work for those size 8 jeans!' between every rep (I would probably punch you), but it means understanding that sometimes working out isn't just about how fast or strong we are. And that doesn't make us shallow or NOT a badass- it makes us human. We can be badass, fast, strong AND hot. And who wouldn't want to be?
6.) Just stop acting like little achievements aren't a big deal
I told you my goals, and I'm psyched that you're working to get me there. But, along the way, some magical shit is going to happen. Magic that either I will or won't recognize. So, when I do recognize it, via an instagram photo of my first palm rip, or a video of my first "whatever", stop calling it bragging and start recognizing that even if it's happenstance to you, and everybody else, it's a big deal to me. My clean-induced bruises, or callused palms, although maybe not the ideal, are my badges of honor for pushing myself beyond what I used to be capable of. There's nothing wrong with recognition, as long as it doesn't circumvent or replace action. So let me bask in my little, magical, "I never thought I would get here or do this" moment, and stop assuming it's not a HUGE deal or major motivator in my training. I won't get cocky- I'll just get excited and use it as fuel for my next big push.
7.) Just stop caring that I don't like exercise
I used to hate exercise. Like, last night at 5:20 pm in the midst of my 5th set of burpees. You know why? Because it's hard. Physically, it sucked. Emotionally and mentally, it hurt because I couldn't do, without great effort, what other people seemed to do easily. I love exercise now because when I'm not doing it, I forget how much I hate it when I am. It still sucks (S.U.C.K.S) when I see I'm going to have to run. Or do burpees. Bleck. But I show up because I know after that 20 minute workout, I'm going to love exercising again. I will shoot my coach a dozen sideways looks and swear like a sailor during my workout. Probably to the point of his frustration. But I show up over and over and over again. As long as your client's showing up, they like exercise, whether they know it or not, and part of your job is to tolerate their personality type, which can, occasionally, come with complaining. Not everyone has the capacity to uphold their mental and emotional stamina while pushing themselves physically. Either deal with the fact that it just ain't that easy for everyone, or, of course, just fire your client. You're not in the business of changing personality types. You're in the business of changing bodies.
8) Just stop underestimating your role
I hate to tell you, but you matter. A lot. How many people do we let see us look like drowned rats on a daily basis? How many people do we think about when debating whether to pass on the gratuitous cupcake? How many people do we look to for approval when we do something that may be little, but is significant to us? You matter. That means how you treat us, our concerns, and all of the above, matters. Probably more than you want it to. Because that means you don't get the cop out of saying "Just don't". It means, if you're a great coach, you don't say "Stop saying or doing that" you say, "WHY are you saying that? WHY are you doing that?". No, you shouldn't need to play therapist, but you have to have the capacity to recognize when we're flailing, or succeeding, or making bad or good decisions, and react accordingly. Because we're invested in you (financially, emotionally and physically), and if you don't feel the same, you're wasting our time.
9.) Just stop telling us to stop
Because we've all got our "things" that we're good and bad at, and for some of us, the exercise and eating right thing isn't as easy as it might be for you, or one of your success story clients. Understand that if I'm showing up, and working hard every day, I'm dedicated. Even if it means I complain, stray off course, take a random zumba class, or post pictures of my calluses.