Many of my personal Facebook friends may have noticed that I’ve significantly changed A LOT in the past couple years. For years, I use to share a lot of pictures and posts that supported what our media and society want us to believe- that woman have to look a certain way, and that “Strong is the New Skinny”. I use to post photos of fitness models –often the photos would not include their faces, just body parts – particularly their abs or glutes – and sometimes they would be posing in unnatural stances, asking to be admired for their “hard work”. I now look at it and think how disembodied this is! I also was like one of those models, showing off in front of the camera all the hours of commitment to weights, cardio and dieting I put myself through. Don’t get me wrong, I was very proud of my dedication to the gym and diet, but for me, looking back, I didn’t feel like this was serving the world in the way that I want to now.
Now I’m not intending to knock anyone down. Rather, my intention of writing this post is to share my own personal experience of how emotionally, mentally and spiritually dangerous it can be when we get so caught up in a certain toxic belief – that is, the toxic belief of “I need to look a certain way in order to be and feel good enough”.
My Facebook newsfeed was consumed with fitness pages, so of course 90% of the posts I saw were of fitness models. Having these photos appear on my Facebook wall was like a double edge sword: on one hand I was inspired and admired their physiques, but on the other hand, I constantly was criticizing my own body for not measuring up. I never felt like I was good enough because I wasn’t lean enough (like them), my waist wasn’t long enough (like theirs), my abs wouldn’t pop out enough (like theirs), my arms weren’t defined enough (like theirs), my hipbones wouldn’t stick out at all (like theirs), and the list goes on. Then I generalized this when I was out in the real world, surrounded by the public.
It came to a point in which my relationship with food and my body image became all consuming, so much so that I thought it was grounding for me to stay focused on what I ate and my physique progress during some really difficult and stressful personal life events that I experienced. Looking back, I realize how out of balance I was! I often put my relationship with food and body image before my own personal relationships. This was a real wake up call.
As I started to question and challenge my own beliefs about food and body image, which reflect a collective issue, I began to find freedom within myself. I put myself on a “media diet”, in which I unsubscribed from the majority of Facebook fitness pages I had been a member of, and I put away fitness and gossip magazines. I no longer wanted to give power to my inner critic, since she really wasn’t serving me well. I started to replace these fitness pages with Facebook pages that uplifted me, spoke to my inner beauty, and empowered me as a woman who is more than just what I look like on the outside. This did wonders for me! I created a new reality for myself inside and out.
I began to let go of needing to look a certain way. I started to experiment with mentally approaching workouts differently – rather than bodybuild, I would just move for pleasure. This moved me away from the lifting heavy weights for awhile, and more into softer forms of exercise- belly dancing, hula hooping and yoga to name a few. Now, don’t get me wrong, I still do very much love lifting heavy weights, but I needed to go through my own process of finding balance. For me this meant moving away from the hard, masculine type of workouts, and embracing the soft, feminine forms of movement. I needed to embrace my own femininity – something that is so feared and looked down upon in our masculinized society because feminine represents softness (bodyfat), curves, roundness, emotional, and embodied. Our society praises those who exude masculine qualities: hard, tough, rational, logical, linear, and unemotional.
I probably have more bodyfat than ever before, I am probably about four sizes bigger than my prebaby body…and I feel that I am exactly right where I need to be right now. This extra bodyweight is a gift to help me love myself even more, no matter what shape or size I am- and it has. I own my extra weight, I accept and embrace myself just as I am. I’ve let go of living in the contracted place where I was not giving my gift to the world, and now…I’ve expanded my waistline, but I’m also living in a more expansive place within, and from this place, everything is truly grounding. How do I know this? Because I no longer have a war going on inside myself.
Although my body looks less “fit” than before (and therefore, less “ideal” to society), I know I am still very healthy. I am physically strong and have great cardio endurance. I still make exercise a priority, but how I approach it now is for the mindset of balance and health, rather than to “look like a fitness model”. I now do more “hard-core workouts” again, but it is from a balanced mindset. I can now look at fitness magazines again, but my approach to reading them is different now. I don’t hear my inner critic voice anymore (ok, ok, I confess, maybe 1% of the time, I am human after all!). 😉 I can admire the physiques I see and my own shape. My main focus when I look at fitness magazines now is for the suggested workout programs rather than on just the physiques, and I couldn’t care less about trying out the “diets” now!
I have personal friends who are fitness athletes/models in which I am proud of and admire them for their dedication. Some of these friends struggle with their body image and food in various degrees, and some of them do not- they live in a mind-body balanced way. We are all different individuals and we all have different reasons for why we exercise and do what we do. Our stories and reasons –both positive and negative- are not to be judged, but to be shared so that we can learn from each others’ experiences and to uplift each other. I still admire these friends and acquaintances on Facebook when they post photos of their physiques, but I now don’t have the self-judgement accompanying me. It’s so much nicer 🙂
What would it look like for you if you went on a media diet? How would that impact how you see yourself? 🙂