My original body judgment/shaming post is still one of the most popular hits on my blog. I didn't think I needed a follow-up piece to it, because I had shared the majority of how I felt about it in that post. But more things happen, and unfortunate problems like these in our society don't just tend to disappear altogether. So, rather than assuming that things will change, I want to help CHAMPION this change. After all, problems don't change until we change them, right?
First, a little background story of what inspired this post:
Back in July, I was preparing for my StrongFirst (SFG) certification-- a highly competitive, prestigious international certification of kettlebells and strength. Just to give you an idea, it has a 25-30% failure rate, mostly due to the infamous 5 minute snatch test (100 repetitions in 5 minutes!). This certification had weight classes to determine how heavy of a kettlebell you'd be using for the tests.
Right when I had signed up, I had decided that I wanted to be in the lowest weight class because
A) I was easily several pounds lighter than the cutoff weight, pre-surgery
B) Because of my hip surgery, I wanted to minimize the stress of the weeks of training and the intense weekend of the certification on my hip that was only going to be 14 months out from hip surgery.
As I started to train for this certification, I loved how strong I was getting. Naturally, I was also getting fitter and leaner, with all the conditioning. But about 8 weeks before the certification, I decided I was going to do a small water weight cut to make weigh-ins for two reasons:
1) I loved how strong I felt. I also didn't want to risk losing too much muscle (it's hard to maintain muscle with fat loss sometimes, especially around how small I was getting) as I needed to be at my absolute strongest for the certification.
2) I realized that I was rather happy at my weight- even if it meant I was heavier and noticeably less lean than I was pre-surgery. That realization alone was a huge victory for me, as I didn't used to always feel so comfortable at heavier weights, coming from a past of disordered eating- so why risk that healthy mindset?
The day before the weigh-ins, I was at the very peak of my water-weight loss**.
I was at a training gym waiting for one of my clients, when a former colleague of mine that I sporadically see and speak to walked up to me. He remarked on how fantastic and lean I was looking.
This made me raise an eyebrow. I was extremely water/carb-depleted, not looking healthy- rather gaunt in the face, actually...and I even sent my sister a photo earlier that day of myself, saying "yikes." Because I personally didn't feel like that was a healthy look for me at that point. Even though I had been leaner and lighter than that before, that had been due to months of steady progress- in contrast, this current look was not achieved through sustainable methods. I had no desire to maintain that leanness. I just felt like crap.
>>> Also, I have never posted pictures of myself like this. But I'm doing it now because of the reasons at the very end of this article. And honestly, who gives a cr*p. These were taken right as I began the water cut.
I didn't think much of it though, and moved on with my day. Fast-forward to about less than 2 months ago. Same person walks up to me and says, "Hey. How's everything going? You were looking great before your certification! You're looking...(pause)... healthier now." Cue, my facial expression of "you did not just say that to me" + no verbal response. Scared little man scampers off.
What makes this even more unfortunate is that this body shaming came from a fellow coach, someone who has the honor and responsibility of coaching others on their journeys to health. It's coaches like these that can give personal trainers a bad name, their clients into poor state of mind, and it saddens me.
Did he know that I had been experiencing an awful chronic flare-up of my thyroid for the entirety of autumn? That I had went up about 10 pounds and back down and back up again all in a matter of a month with zero change in diet/exercise? That it took me all of my effort just to make it to work that day for my clients? Does it matter? NO. Why?
Because NO ONE has a right to judge you and your body.
I am neither a spectacle at the zoo to make superficial comments about, nor something to be remarked on.
No one is.
Side note: now I feel really bad for zoo animals :(
Whenever a body-positive fitness coach creates a post similar to this, there are those trolls on the internet that exclaim, "but you signed up for this! You're a fitness professional! You should be the fittest people ever!"
Good point there sir, but I'll take you down using your own argument. Just because I am a fitness professional, that does not require me to have a 6-pack, think ice cream is the devil, and only eat my meals out of tupperware. My ability to coach, teach, encourage, inspire others does not depend on my level of body fat. Having a 6-pack will not help me teach you a perfect deadlift or to bench 300 pounds. My ability to perform squats and deadlifts at 1.5x/2x my bodyweight, respectively, my extensive education, my experience, my watchful eye, my professionalism, my cueing, my encouragement, my demonstrations do. By the way, a 6-pack has nothing to do with your fitness level. Just your body fat, k thanks.
This was not my first (or will be my last) encounter with body judgment/shaming. But I find it extremely sad that both men and women alike find it okay to remark on each others bodies in a judgmental way-- even well-intended, you may not realize that it can be detrimental to someone that is already suffering.
Had this incident happened years ago when I was less secure and going through the height of my eating disorder, that kind of comment would have crippled me and made me restrict for a week. I'm grateful to not be in that place anymore, but not everyone is there quite yet. And it's not like I'm made of steel either- but I'm thankful that I am now at peace enough with myself so that a number on the scale/size, or a comment no longer defines me and my worth.
On the flip side of the coin, Facebook and Instagram comments of "skinny minnie!" and "SO SKINNY!" "#goals" can be just as bad as telling someone that they've gained weight. What may have been intended as a compliment, tends to perpetuate the notion that a certain body type deems value.
I remember when I was an unhealthy 95 pounds as a skater, I ran into a fellow competitor at nationals when I managed to take myself down to 93 pounds, and she exclaimed how great I looked and how she wanted to take a few more off. I remember feeling washed aglow with her compliment, feeling like I had accomplished something great- and it urged me to keep up the willpower...of not eating.
I'm 93 pounds in this picture to the right. You can't see it too much in this picture, but you could see some of the bones in my chest. Yet to some outsiders at a quick glance, I just looked like a really petite girl- I am only 5'1" after all. What you can't see from this photo on the outside, is a girl inside full of insecurities, self-loathing, and an eating disorder that started to take over her life.
This kind of stuff is everywhere. I was at a restaurant a few weeks ago when there was a group of flippantly callous men who were snickering about a heavier-set girl a few tables over, wearing workout clothes and eating a burger. My heart felt crushed for that girl. They have no idea if she just hit the gym and this was her simply having her one "treat" of a meal for the week- or if she is struggling with the whole getting healthier thing. It's not easy for everyone, you know. We should be encouraging and supporting- not judging and dismissing. We could all use a little more compassion. Less judgment.
You have no idea what someone else is going through. Their struggles, their pain.
A person is more than their outside appearance- we all have our issues that we struggle with.
>> Those selfies above? I posted those because this: I have looked like that or leaner, feeling much healthier and more vibrant than I did at the time of those photos. I've also been heavier than that and felt even fitter. Those pictures don't look like anything crazy- just some definition and not anything close to classified as dangerously low in body fat. But this was achieved through meticulous macronutrient tracking and abstaining from a lot in life that I don't care to abstain from in my everyday. That was done for a purpose, a goal. And I did not feel great at the time, as anyone who has competed in anything with making weight will understand. So, I mean it when I say, let's not judge from the outside. Your version of fit could be someone else's version of out of shape, and vice versa.
**DISCLAIMER: as a fitness and nutrition-certified professional, I did this in a healthy, controlled manner- proof being how quickly I bounced back from water loss with a safe rehydration protocol and return to normalcy. THIS IS NOT FOR EVERYONE, please consult a professional before attempting.