It's taken me ten years of rollercoaster ups and downs to hell and back, and I'm sure I'll encounter more challenges in the road ahead of me when it comes to this, but after feeling prisoner in my own body for so long, I finally, finally feel free.
Liberated, from the chains I allowed to be put on myself and from the chains I put on myself too.
Maybe it is that thing that the older and wiser say, that as you get older, you basically stop giving so much of a damn about what judgements people want to have about you.
Or maybe it's because after being put through rounds of body shaming/judgment, the usual beauty battles that women especially face, battling an eating disorder, recovering from hip surgery, dealing with finicky autoimmune issues, being motivated for the wrong reasons, I finally learned to truly appreciate the beauty of my body.
And then doing the even tougher thing after the realization: putting it to practice.
Enough of my personal diatribe. Why am I writing this article?
Well, as I mentioned in this interview with my friend Joscelyn, I got inspired by overhearing a fellow trainer who was prepping for a photoshoot, and she sounded so miserable, talking about how she was cutting carbs and water weight for this shoot.
Then I wondered, why on earth do we do this? Why would I purposely lean out to look a certain way that I certainly don’t look in my everyday life, just to take photos that then make other women feel pressure to achieve this lean “photo-ready” body in their everyday lives?
It’s false advertising, and it’s not helping our cause here.
Another fitness trend that has really been irritating me lately is the before/after progress shot. While it's an important measurement tool for the technical aspect of things, and I utilize it with my clients, I think it's grown into an entirely new animal on social media. It's all focused on the happiness in the after, and so many of the captions talk about embarrassment over their "before" photos and how unhappy they were. It displays happiness contingent upon leanness or achieving new levels of muscle and fitness. It's damaging fitspo, in a new form. Like any other powerfully influential thing in the world, its influences can be used for bad or for good, but lately I see it trending towards negativity.
So. I did this and another photoshoot, to represent the NOW shot. Not the BEFORE or the AFTER.
And guess what? I ate fish tacos, happily took part in sharing a bread & cheese board, and drank wine, all in the week before it. I also ate really healthily overall, because that's just my life and what I enjoy. Even just two years ago, that situation would have me spinning my wheels of anxiety at what bloat would appear on camera, but now I feel proud to have reached this point of appreciation I have for my body. I’m not the leanest I’ve ever been, or the heaviest.
And I truly don’t care, because this is ME, now.
I am pretty damn athletic and strong. I love being active. I love sharing ice cream with my boyfriend. I love uninhibitedly trying new foods on travels. I love lifting some heavy a** weight. I love eating healthy, nourishing foods the majority of the time because my body likes that. I feel healthier, both physically and mentally than I have in awhile.
Right now, life for me isn’t about how skinny or lean I am. And my body right now shows exactly that, and it feels SO honest; I want to do myself the justice of standing in my truth and encouraging others to do the same. Your happiness and confidence should not be conditional upon you reaching your “ideal look.” You can love your body and work on it at the same time- we are all works in progress, and that’s a beautiful thing.
I see this everyday. Friends on Facebook who dare not post a photo of them until they have the flat tummies and lost the weight they deem necessary to bare their bodies to the world in a photo. It's always so obvious when someone who never posts photos of themselves, then suddenly because they lost 10 pounds, they feel like they're now allowed to showcase their bodies to the public.
This makes me sad. Because I definitely used to feel this way. Clearly, as I never have done belly-baring photos before, and I'm generally a pretty modest dresser.
At one point, I was far leaner than I am in these photos, yet I still felt like I didn't look enough like a "trainer" or "fitness role model" to walk around flaunting my body. Even if people commented on my muscle definition because I was lean, I was still fixating on the tiniest bit of skin (what I thought was flab) hanging over my sports bra or my thighs that have been madly in love with each other since I was 12 and refuse to part (damn, I want that kind of commitment).
So, I want to start this initiative of inspiring people to #EmbraceYourNow.
Celebrating where you are in your journey (the Bachelor has totally ruined this word), and the process of learning to appreciate all the things you are. We should truly own our reality, and ask ourselves why is it that we want the goals we say we want. You may find that you can't come up with an substantive answer. So why give the power to make us feel inadequate, to something you don't actually really want?
But aren't you just encouraging people to settle and not want more for themselves when it comes to their health goals?
Oh absolutely not. This is not about settling. It's about loving where you are. Knowing that if you want more, you go for more, but the motivating force is not that you are not enough as you are right now. You can love yourself while trying to improve and change at the same time.
Life is too short to be spent hating your current state of mind, body, and health.
It's too short to not feel good and do the nourishing things that make you feel good.
What does nourishment mean? It means eating awesomely wholesome foods that support your body to run efficiently and healthily, to keep you strong and from getting sick. It means running outdoors or hiking on a gorgeous day, because your body is awesome and able. It means eating a freshly baked baguette when you are in Paris for the first time. It means sharing an ice cream cone with a boy you might really like. It means that epic wine and homemade pasta night with your girlfriends.
Nourishment isn't always just about vitamins, it's about nourishing the body, mind, and soul. What feeds you, in all those areas.
Are you saying there's something wrong with prepping for a photoshoot or are you shaming those people who do and train for aesthetic?
Absolutely not. To me, there is a very big difference between training for aesthetic as a sport (bodybuilding, bikini competitions) or as a profession (fitness model, aesthetic-based industry) and training to look like this 24/7 for no reason other than to overcome insecurity.
Hey, if you want to go all out and lean down to look super athletically awesome and fit for a photoshoot, by all means, I applaud you! You should absolutely explore how cool it is to have the ability to transform your body- it really can be a work of art.
But this article is not written for those people. It's written for the everyday guy or girl that feels that their worth lies in 5 less pounds, in an "after" photo, in a size 0 jean, and ab definition (don't get me wrong, I love when I can see my abs, it's cool, but I don't need my tombstone to read "Minna Lee. Nice abs.")