A conversation with my dad this weekend inspired the following thought trail. While Shredding in my parents living room, my dad walked through and asked me why I wasn’t out running. Part of him was kidding as it was hot and windy, but he was also serious. An avid runner, I’ve endured various weather conditions to get in mileage for the week. I shared that I put running on hold for the month of June to focus on 30 Day Shred. His response, what are you shredding? I respond me jumping jack to respond, fat. He guaffed and walked off while mumbling about something like well how is that possible if you don’t have any?
Later, we discussed weight loss. My dad is a constant “I need to lose 10lbs” type. But when you ask him what he is doing he will commonly answer with such things as I would rather be fat than work out for 2 hours a day or diets don’t work. To which I respond with, you are correct they don’t because diets don’t teach people lifestyle changes or help them deal with the emotions/stress that cause overeating or derail someone from making a diet into a successful life style. It is not because they are lazy, unmotivated, or even confident. It’s often that we have emotional responses that lead towards relationships with food or we sabotage our own progress because we aren’t ready to believe.
It’s a tough mental struggle to overcome. I know because while I’ve learned mostly how to deal with my own struggles, I still very much struggle with the belief of deserving it. It isn’t that I have low confidence. I am pretty capable, I know that I’m smart. I know I’m funny. But as easy as it is to write out what you like, it’s easier to be critical. Partly because we are taught that in order to improve we need to identify the areas of improvement or weaknesses. It’s easy to say not today because you like the comfort that ice cream gives you. It can be hard to make changes into unknown territory. It’s hard when you have people saying but you look great to me. It’s not their choice, it’s yours.
Today I read an article about photoshopping and magazines. Which was then followed by an article about why “fitness inspiration pictures/ads” on Pinterest are bad. I don’t recall what blog it was but it’s pretty standard rhetoric. Photoshopping is bad because it sets an non attainable standard and sells us on products to improve ourselves to impossible ideals. I agree with most of the principles the article outlined. I don’t think it’s right to photoshop a models past point of recognition. Another article was about fitness related pictures on Pinterest. Fitness pictures that feature an inspiration tag while over six pack abs or a hip bone jutting out set a message of shame and guilt if that is not your body. It is similar to “thinspiration” blogs or posts. I understand the theory or argument. What I don’t agree with is that it makes you feel guilty and upset because you can’t get “that body”. Who says that my purpose in pinning it is to feel inspired because of the picture. I’m pretty sure I can read, maybe I like the message. Maybe I like that it gives me a purpose. I don’t understand why we are allowed to aspire towards successful careers, raising healthy children and other aspirational dreams but to say I want a better body means I hate myself and don’t like my body as is? Wanting better doesn’t mean that you hate yourself or even feel shame towards it. It’s about confidence and knowing that what you aim for is within reach. The other issue I had, which a friend of mine pointed out, is that it doesn’t take into consideration what someone’s body type or shape naturally is. Her hip bones naturally jut out, it’s how her body is and it’s not intentional. Which maybe is why she would identify with the picture. It really bothers me when other women or articles assume that I’m not smart enough to figure out something as simple as body types. I’m fully aware that no matter how many lunges I do, I will not have long lean legs like a 6ft model. It bothers me when I want more and am told by an article that I should just settle because the only possible reason I could want that is to please a man.
It infuriates me that the same articles meant to make me feel better or okay, are making me feel worse because I want more for myself. I want six pack abs. I want to be confident naked. I want the war with my body to be at a truce. I want for the media to be fair. I think we have various positive role models in various sizes and body types and we are smart enough to recognize ads and the products they sell. What I dislike is when someone tells me that I’m not smart enough to recognize what I want. Maybe I do want to be the center of attention. Maybe I do want to be and feel confident. Maybe I want to feel pretty. Maybe I do want to sweat through 30 days straight of Jillian to see a tape measure line move a little lower. But in the end, will I suddenly feel less because it didn’t go into a low enough number? No, because I know how much it tests me to do it. I know the strength both mentally and physically that goes into working out. And that confidence I get from sweating through that 23 minutes of pure hell, makes me know that life can throw anything at me. I can handle it.That’s what I loved most about accomplishing the mountain of a marathon. If I can get through 26.2 miles, I can do anything I set my mind too. When an article, a self proclaimed feminist articles tells me that my fitness goals are shallow because it’s about weight or body, it really undermines the motivation and purpose.
I really wish these various articles would point out that it’s okay to want more for yourself, as long as you recognize why you are doing it. If you educate yourself about fitness, nutrition, and recognize your motivations, and you still want more for yourself, it’s okay. Instead of telling me that what I want is wrong, send a message of empowerment. Instead of telling me that the media is evil and it’s causing me to have low self esteem because as a woman I can’t handle seeing another skinny woman, tell me what companies are doing right. Send a message of true support, that you are loved no matter what, even if that means that you want to give up Cheetos in the quest for six pack abs.