“I wish I had her thighs…” ” Look at those abs, I want abs like hers.” “How do I get my butt to look like that?”
How many times have you heard or said those same exact words? I know I’m guilty of saying them. It doesn’t help when we are shopping for a new swimsuit or a bra and look up at the images around us of flawless, gorgeous models. They’re modeling the same bra you are trying on, only it doesn’t look quite the same on you as it does on the model…
Or how about when we are waiting in the grocery store checkout line and we are surrounded by magazines telling us how we don’t compare or how we need to look better then we are. “Be bikini ready.” “Lose 10 pounds in just 2 weeks.” “The secret to looking like a fitness model.” “Find out how so and so lost her baby weight so quickly.” It goes on and on and on.
It’s nothing new that we have been living in a society that has been bombarding us with messages to look perfect, letting us know that we’re not good enough, and that we just don’t hold-up to celebrity or royalty standards. Heck, even they don’t hold up to that standard!
I have worked in the fitness industry for many years now. I’m around women a lot. I hear the way they speak about themselves, the way they compare themselves to others around them or to that lady on the cover of the magazine they are holding in their desperate little hands. I too have been one of those ladies…
Before I knew better, I was one of those girls you would see at the gym taking three classes back to back. Running countless miles on the treadmill. Buying the latest fitness magazines and picking up the newest copy of Jillian Michaels diet/exercise book. Cutting out pictures of perfect, beautiful fitness models and taping those images to my food journals. I would cut my calories to the range that the current diet guru told me too, and sometimes even less…
I remember one time cutting my calories to 1100 a day (thinking that if I cut back a little more than what the book said, I would lose more). I would go for a 5 mile run and then off to take an exercise class. I ridiculed myself for being hungry, and actually thought something was wrong with me because eating 1100 calories a day didn’t seem to be enough to fill me up. At this point I was 124 pounds at 5’9. In my mind, my body didn’t look good enough, it didn’t look like the pictures of the ladies taped to my food journal…
I found myself in the room at a plastic surgeons office. I wanted to have a “Mommy Make-Over.” Tummy tuck, and breast implants. The doctor told me there was nothing to tuck, just need to remove the extra loose skin, and he could fix me up with a good size C cup breast implants. Sold! I made the appointment. A month before the surgery, I started to have anxiety. “What are you doing Jennifer, is this really worth going into debt over?” “Think of what you could do with that money.” “What if something goes wrong in surgery?” Needless to say, I cancelled that appointment and used the money to put my kids in private school. (Please note, me sharing this with you isn’t to put judgement on anyone who has had cosmetic surgery. I think if it makes you happy and frees you to feel more confident in your own skin, then do it!! I just wasn’t convinced it would make ME happy. I don’t think it would have stopped the voice in my head telling me I wasn’t good enough.)
I would like to tell you that was the end of me putting myself down, and that it stopped the insanity going on in my head. It was the beginning to a better self-image but it was far from over. I had to re-educate myself on food and nutrition. I read a lot of books and even took some classes. I started “training” my body for exercise and stopped just “working out.” I learned to fuel my body and enjoy food, all food and of course eat more. I stopped food journaling and cutting out pictures of fitness models and I stopped trying to look like them.
Later I started CrossFitting. It was very humbling. I thought I was in great shape. After all, I taught pilates, and Spinning, I coached boot camp classes and trained people to run and lift weights,(well dumbbells anyway). I had my ass handed to me every day I showed up to CrossFit. I used to get in my car and cry wondering why I was so weak. Here come those voices again. Why can’t I lift like those girls? Why can’t I do a pull-up or double unders?! I almost quit, but I didn’t. I kept it up, eventually I got those double unders and pull-ups and I am lifting a bit heavier than I used to. I still have a long way to go, but I’m ok with that. You see, I realize it’s just exercise. I’m not going to the CrossFit games, and I’m not an elite athlete. I’m just a person who wants to improve my quality of health, and yes, I want look good naked.
If you’re a reader of my blog or a friend of mine, you know that I like a good challenge. Yes, I like to challenge myself with a competition or even a sugar detox or a nutrition challenge of some sort. However, it now comes from a healthy place. I now do it for the challenge or even for the experiment, not to look like a fitness model or what have you. I do it to better my health.
Last summer I was challenged to write a letter to myself. At first I thought it was lame, and rolled my eyes at the project. However, this is the very thing that changed my perspective of myself and how I viewed my body. I would like to share this very personal letter with you today:
I just wanted to let you know that I love you! I know I am hard on you. I judge you and compare you to others. Sometimes I question you and doubt your capabilities, but deep down this is what I really think: You are a person full of love, you are giving of your time, and energy. You are self-motivated and don’t give up easily. You have faith, your love for God and wanting to seek Him in more depth is a thirst that pushes you in this life to want more, live more, love more. Don’t ever let go of seeking Him. You know that He is right beside you, behind you, and in front of you, Pulling you closer to him, even during the times you don’t feel His presence.
You went from a young naïve little girl to being a strong, passionate woman almost overnight. Your devotion to your husband and boys is something to be admired. Your passion to teach, inspire and help others with their weight loss and fitness goals is a gift that keeps on giving. Be thankful for this gift.
At times I am very critical about the way you look and I am sorry for this. I have focused on your saggy belly and thighs that touch and sometimes jiggle. I have called you old and I get angry with your bodies appearance. This is wrong. There is no “perfect” body, even if science and modern day medicine is trying to make the “perfect body” out of some women. Stay true to the body and imperfections God gave you. They in themselves have beauty. After all your stretch marks and saggy skin came with a story. A story of two beautiful boys.
Stay true to yourself, stay focused, stay strong and determined. Most of all stay Jennifer.
So this is the final story of the Love Your Body Campaign. Why did I start this campaign? I did it because I wanted other women to know that they’re not alone. We all have something we don’t like about our bodies and would like to change, but perhaps instead of not liking it, we learn to love it. We learn to accept it and appreciate it.
I often wonder what the world would look like if the cover of magazines were replaced with women of all different shapes and sizes who were not photo shopped, who had a little cellulite, a scar, loose skin. What if we saw models sitting down with a little roll on their tummy? Or their thighs touching? What if the ladies on television were muscular, rounder, had wrinkles and gray hair? Would it be so bad? I think not. I think we might breathe a sigh of relief… And say, “Oh thank God, I’m normal!” Or perhaps their “normal.”
I hope the stories you have read over the past 3 weeks have moved you or inspired you in some way. I personally want to thank all of these ladies for letting their guard down, and putting their heart out there by sharing their story with all of you. I also want to thank our very talented photographer Robin Lerner for volunteering her time to take these beautiful un-photo shopped pictures of these gorgeous ladies. This campaign has brought us all closer together and the amount of positive feedback has been so encouraging! It tells me, that we as a society are ready for a change. This campaign doesn’t end here. It continues with you. Own your body, love your body for all that it’s capable of doing and all the flaws and imperfections that come with it.
If you have a story to share please do! I would like to continue this campaign by sharing a story once a week along with a picture. It’s not limited only to women, if you’re a man with a story to tell, we would love to hear from you! Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like me to post your story. Also, check out our facebook page like us and follow along or follow us on Instagram (The.Perfectly.Imperfect.Life). Until next time, be true to yourself and just be you, and I’ll be just be me Jenn B.