I hear a lot of comments about appearances; some about my own, some about others, some about themselves.
It’s a funny thing because I believe our bodies are just our shells. They are the instruments we are given for our souls to live in. Some of us use them to dress them up, keep them up all night dancing and getting wasted. Others choose to use them to get simply from A to B every day and then back to A.
And then there are those of us that use these shells to do a sport or adult PE. Our bodies become a by-product of what we do, adapting to become what it needs to do to get that job done, with whichever environment you have chosen.
If that’s getting wasted, your body will adapt to being able to stay up late/through the night. It might however, become tired, skinny fat and ill a lot.
If you choose to just get from A to B, you might find you put on weight and your body will feel unfit.
Then, with sport, your body becomes the instrument it needs to get good at that activity.
For me, that is weight-training and CrossFit. My legs have become big to handle squats, cleans, snatches and pushing and pulling anything heavy. My arms and shoulders are bigger than those in a fashion magazine, enabling me to pull weights off the floor, catch weights over head, pull myself up onto a rig and pull up, down and over.
Working in the fitness industry you hear a lot of chatter about people’s appearances. Some of it is directed at their own bodies, some of it is directed towards others. I find it quite difficult to hear anyone putting themselves down. We all do it, we all have bad days, but when it is a constant self-loathing, I just wish there was a magic pill I could give them to make them like what they see and feel comfortable in their own skin… and that is what I love about fitness.
“Fitness” can change a person’s lifestyle and also their perception of themselves. Not because they are losing weight as such, but because it gives people a “can do” attitude: Hitting a personal best in a lift, working through a long workout that seems impossible, or simply getting through a class which they’ve been too afraid to attend for six months. It sounds dead cheesy, but if you accomplish something that scares the crap out of you, no matter how small, it gives you a new perspective on day-to-day obstacles, changing your mindset away from what your body looks like to rather, what your body can do.
Different strokes for different folks
The other day I was running. Granted, I look like a troll when I run, but I was still surprised when some guy, who was in his car parked up on the side road, decides to shout out of his window
"Urgh, gross! You look disgusting!"
To me, this was funny. I know I'm not everyone's cup of tea. I know I don't look like the norm, big legs thumping along and trying to use my ‘muscly’ arms to pump me along faster, and probably even less so when trotting along with a purple face, cursing about how much running sucks. In my opinion, it makes for a funny story that someone thinks I look disgusting. “Disgusting” has never been a word I have used to describe myself, nor am I aware of anyone using it to describe to me previously, so it made me chuckle. My other half was annoyed I didn't go to his car and set the record straight, but that would have added another 30 seconds to my running time and I was already about 1 minute over. Plus, stomping over to his car and telling him "actually, I'll have you know I look amazing" wouldn't really accomplish much.
I like the way I look. I am proud of what my body can do.
Have I always felt this way about myself? No. It has been a journey. There have been some serious ups and downs.
Finding a sport that doesn’t concentrate on appearance and concentrates on performance has been my saving grace and I count my lucky stars. Through this sport I have found a partner who is the most supporting and complimentary person. Blessed.
I don’t require a stranger’s approval of my appearance.
Come with me if you want to lift
I've heard people say things like "urgh, her legs are gross" and I’ve had people enquire for PT and tell me they love my stomach but don't want to get big legs. Others have called me bulky, masculine and "big" whilst doing an Arnold Schwarzenegger pose.
Not all the comments I receive are negative. Or rather, they’re not all meant to be. In Asda I have had a cashier call me "hench" and then tell me her NEPHEW too would like to be hench, before asking me how I do it. Brilliant. I told her to book some PT sessions for her nephew and get him lifting weights.
My other half and I left chuckling: I felt like ‘hench’ was not a word I’d like to call myself, but he felt left out wanting to be called the hench one! The cashier didn't mean what she said in a cruel way, she just didn't know what she was saying could be offensive.
It’s not just comments I receive either. I've been given free cups of tea in Starbucks because my arms are "amazing", the woman threading my eyebrows asked if she could touch them as she was so impressed, a guy asked me if he could "poke an ab" (he was about 80 years old and the answer was most definitely a ‘no’) and I’ve had really nice messages about being inspirational to other woman, even people's daughters.
Your body is an instrument and it’s time to play!
When I see clients, gym members or friends and hear them talk down about themselves or grab a bit of their leg/bum/stomach and ask me how they can get rid of it, I often give them a blank look because I'm thinking they should worry more about the workout they’ve got ahead , or how healthy they are. Your body is an instrument - use it. Sure, there are things you can do to help with your health like eating nourishing food, drinking less alcohol and more water, and getting more sleep, but I give this advice and I get a blank look… “What? No secret potion you can give me which will provide this quick fix?”
For a lot of people, these insecurities stem way back to when they began to put on some weight. A lot of people carry these negative thoughts even when they hit their body composition goals.
Inspiration is all around you
My mum is AMAZING! An incredibly strong woman who brought me and my brothers up to be confident and proud of ourselves. I wish she had done it through sport rather than forcing us to go to a Saturday drama, singing and dance school (maybe then I would be able to catch a ball) but all the same, it worked. My brothers and I have all accomplished a lot and work really hard at what we do.
My mum now comes to the gym and she gives each workout her all. She swears, gets dizzy, moans that she feels sick, but if I ever ask her if she needs a sit down she just ignores me and cracks on. Absolutely inspiring and brilliant fun to PT.
When I was growing up, though, she used to moan about this bit of her body, and that bit, and she used to talk about how she hated her legs etc. I grew up with exactly the same insecurities, but I haven't let them hang over my head. Yes, I have genetically big legs, and the more I train, the bigger they get! I also have a genetically flat stomach, which as soon as I eat well, shrinks. On top of that, my legs are strong, get me from A to B and enable my training. Now, when my mum complains about cellulite or her “chubby knees” I just remind her how beautiful her figure is and that some people don’t even have legs. That soon quietens down any negative talk.
Becoming self assured and confident starts with you and the actions you put in place.
Confidence shouldn’t come from a magazine, an article, a bloke/women, or even from this blog.
The reason I like the campaign "like a girl", despite the fact it was started by a sanitary towel company ha ha, is because it puts a new spin on what like a girl means. It isn’t about women posing, that “thigh gap” (man, that one makes me mad) or “how to get a bum like Jennifer Lopez”. It’s putting a new meaning to “you throw like a girl” or you are “being a big girl”.
On my Instagram, I use it for every heavy lift, every PB dance, and every fail, because that's who I am. I accomplish things and then I fall flat on my arse... And I'm a girl.
Lift, Laugh, Love
I train because I enjoy it, I work in fitness because I want others to be healthy and feel good about themselves, I work in nutrition because I want people to develop better eating habits and have a positive lifestyle. None of it is done to get approval, or to have a guy wolf whistle at me rather than call me disgusting, or even have anyone walk into the gym and ask for certain body parts. Sure, it's flattering when someone says you're looking well but that doesn't make my day/week/year.
I don't feel like, as a woman, I need approval for wanting to lift weights or workout. I have found something that makes me feel good, manages my grumpy days, and teaches me things about myself on a weekly basis. I don't try to be a certain weight, look a certain way, or pose in a mirror. I thought last year that was down to finding CrossFit. Partly it was - no mirrors in the gym and the CrossFit women are a little bigger and so strong. Now I’ve come to think about it, I actually think it's because my focus has changed from wanting to be under 65kg (I don't know why that weight, it's that random number again), or to be a size 8, to actually wanting to have a bodyweight snatch, be able to do a muscle up and getting through a workout without wanting to give up and leave (still working on that last one).
My other half describes me as a diva when I train and possibly that is true. When I train I let my overly confident persona come out to get me through it... I release my Sasha (if you like Beyoncé you'll get the reference - ha).
The thing is, that persona is with me everyday. It allows me to disregard “the norm” and to not to care about how a person “should” look. Rather than flick through a magazine and pick out what bit of what girl or boy you want to look like, find an activity that makes you feel that way about yourself and do something that makes you proud of you.
Welcome to The Body Blog where you'll find fitness and food inspiration to help you work towards a healthier, happier lifestyle.