Body Image vs Usefulness

It’s good for your mindset to see things out of context every once in a while. Today while driving to work I saw a man running alongside the road. He seemed to be working really hard, lumbering, really. (He could have been a super hero bounding along!) As I got closer I realized that Oops! it’s a woman. A very, very muscular woman. I immediately thought to myself “Wow! She’s a power lifter – or a bodybuilder trying to lean out or…?” And I drove on.

And then it occurred to me how horrible she looked running. And she couldn’t have been out running for enjoyment, because that did NOT look fun…and then I felt guilty for thinking bad things about a stranger who spent so much time building an incredible set of muscles! All I could think about was how bad and out of place she looked running. But here’s the thing, her intention was obviously not to build her body for running. Why was I even judging her on running? Have you ever seen a skinny person in the gym? Long lean muscles, not very bulky… they step up to a big weight and  lift. But it’s anything but elegant. There’s no power or rawness. You’re probably hoping they don’t hurt themselves. But perhaps the person I just described has built themselves a runner’s body. They didn’t build their body to be amazing at lifting heavy things. Why am I judging them on what they built their body for? Well, of course, why am I judging at all is a better question.

But this isn’t about what other people think it’s about what YOU think about YOU and why YOU are working out.

I have clients ask me all the time how do I lose weight between my thighs? How do I lose weight in my tummy? How do I make my butt look bigger? How do I make my butt look smaller? I want to look more like “THIS” (shows picture of someone much taller/younger/shorter/photoshopped… )Etc. etc.

Aside from talking weight training and asking about nutrition or diet, I tell my clients the most important question is “What do you want to use your body for?”  What are you building? Do you want to be able to run and jump and play with your children – your grandchildren? Do you want to be able to work a construction job? Are you planning on competing in any specific sport? Do you have a sport that you love so much you want to condition your body for that? Why are you building your body at all? Then I suggest the most CRAZY notion: …what if you let that dictate what your body looks like?

train fight

What if we moved away from pure aesthetics, random social norms, and over-marketed over-Photoshop models’ bodies and focused on the usefulness of our own body? What if we didn’t judge ourselves based on our thigh gap – or lack there of.  Or in comparison to someone we think is fatter or skinnier… ?

I am not talking about the new “Love your fat self” trend.  Now, don’t get all offended.  YES!  Love yourself! Whether or not you are healthy.  But you don’t need to love what is UNHEALTHY about you in order to love yourself.  You don’t even have to hate it.  You can just decide “I want to change this unhealthy thing about my body.” (or not) simple. factual.  no judgement. But we don’t need a movement telling people it’s ok and beautiful to be unhealthy weight wise.  It’s ok to be you.  Regardless. Please, let’s stop celebrating the ‘curves’.  Start celebrating YOU.

A new friend told me this story today. “I used to belong to a private Facebook group about loving your curves… Or something like that. I thought, ‘Yes I can get into that.’  And so I try to love my curvy size 16 body and then I tried to love my curvy size 18 body. And then I noticed that my size 18 ‘s were getting snug. That’s when I decided that this thinking was not helping me!”

Here’s what I think: it’s absolutely important to love yourself. Your self has a body, so it stands to reason loving your body is a part of loving yourself. I know, rocket science. So why is this so hard?

I think we’re too fixated on providing solutions. Mainly quick, sound-byte type solutions. Who can’t get behind “loving me as I am”?? Seriously, if you can’t you are actually either a bad person or sick or obsessed…just generally unhealthy. You all know what I am talking about. People are afraid to say “fat is unhealthy”. It’s not ‘shaming’ people. It’s science. I will not take the time to list the ways being fat is unhealthy for you. Google it.

Am I ashamed of or think less of people who have excess body fat? Nope. I kinda don’t care. I mean, if I truly believe that YOU have the power to change you in ways that you want…I have less personal investment. I don’t need to involve my ‘action-activating’ emotions in how you choose to live you life. (Aside from being a little sad, but I don’t dwell) I hope, tho….I hope you will ‘get it’ and find your way to a body that is useful to you for a really long time.

And this leads us to my ideology around fitness. My goal has always been to help people change their lives (in ways they want). When I’m approached by a client who wants less hips, less thigh gap, less arm fat – my first question is ‘why?’ (YOU have to understand your motivation…even if it changes) My second question is “What do you want to use your body for?” Me? I want to be able to lift a human if they need it, I want to be able to not die from falling off a cliff (Cliffhanger movie) I.e. Lift my own body weight. I want to run with my grandkids and I want to box/kickboxing as long as I can (and that means my sides are going to be thick – no skinny waist for this girl!) But, that’s my answer. So I need to train slow twitch muscles for strength, fast twitch for speed and agility, core for overall strength and balance as well as cardiovascular endurance… Now it doesn’t matter so much what the scale says, what size I am wearing and whether or not I have a thigh gap! I continually look to improve what I have (my body) for the uses I have chosen. (Do I want a skinny waist MORE than I want to box? Do I want a thigh gap more than I want the energy I will lost by brining my body fat to an unhealthy low to shed as much fat as possible?)

Your turn. What do YOU want to use your body for?

Let’s train for that.

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