Wednesday, January 11, 2017

How do we love ourselves? My thoughts on body shaming and the body positive movements.

As I have begun a new business venture of Personal Fitness and Nutrition coaching I find myself swimming in a sea of work out plans, new circuits, muscle group info, and healthy recipes. It's great, and I can't complain! Recently I acquired a new client that is looking to build muscle mass, while staying relatively trim but powerful. He says he wants to look like a Calvin Klein model.

This is totally something I'm used to. I mean, don't we all have images in our mind of what we want to look like? I certainly do. As long as these goals are realistic and healthy I think it's great to have a mental (or physical) image of something to work toward. My new client is naturally thin and tall, and might I add quite handsome- so while I can't get him a modeling contract- I can help with his goals of eating and exercising in a way that will build muscles without too much bulk. His goal of looking like a CK ad is doable, but only because he is naturally predisposed to this body type. 

my current motivating image- look at her awesome muscles!!

For most women, myself included, wanting to look like a Victoria Secret model would not be realistic goal. It takes a very specific body type to be that skinny and still be healthy, and I'm in business of helping people to be healthy. Sure, often times I am helping people lose weight, but I am careful to try and educate and instill healthy eating and exercise practice when I am dealing with clients, and even family and friends. 

I take a pretty polarizing position when it comes to positive body image issues. I am a HUGE proponent of loving yourself and seeing the beauty of who you are on the inside and outside. I think our bodies are gifts from God, and that we are all meant to look different and be shaped differently from one another. I also think that we shouldn't look to magazines, billboards, and media to show us what our bodies are supposed to look like because it will foster in us unrealistic expectations and a sense of defeat. Men and women who surround themselves with images of models, actors, and even some fitness instructors run the risk of seriously damaging their mental and physical health. When we are not in the right place mentally, specifically when we are unable to find satisfaction with who we are and the body that has been given to us it puts us in a dangerous position. It is a fast and slippery slope from dieting and exercising to eating disorders. 

That being said (and here is the part where I piss some people off) being overweight leads to obesity and obese people, (just like people who suffer from eating disorders on the opposite end of the spectrum) are not healthy. I think there needs to be a clearer and more defined version of the "love yourself just as you are" and "you are beautiful no matter what" and "you don't need to change" agenda. All of those statements are true, and I believe all of them. I think a 300 lb person can be just as beautiful as a 90 lb person and everywhere in between, I think true beauty and worth lies within and that just by existing we are all "worth it". I don't ever think we need to change to please someone else or to try and fit a mold. However, that doesn't mean that if you are obese that you don't need to change. That doesn't mean if you are anorexic that you don't need to change. You do. You need to change your game plan. You need to change your nutrition and diet habits, you need to change your exercise habits. You may need to change medications, or change doctors, regardless- there needs to be a change. To me, part of loving yourself means wanting to live the highest quality of life possible for the longest amount of time. 

Being overweight, especially qualifying as obese affects diminishes every aspect of a persons health. All body systems function at less than ideal levels when under the stress of too much weight. Individuals who are obese are at increased risk for a multitude of life threatening illness and diseases, including but not limited to: heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, stroke, sleep apnea, osteoarthritis, mental illness, and infertility. Being dangerously underweight puts you at risk for osteoporosis, cardiac arrest, insomnia, infertility, mental illness, kidney damage, and liver damage to name a few. 

In 2014 a woman named Carolyn Hall wrote an article about the doubts she had regarding the Fat Acceptance Movement, and she has a lot of valid points. She also made so many people angry she wrote a follow-up article, which is also super interesting. We share a lot of the same thoughts on the subject, but I think there is a healthy (no pun intended) medium. So where is the middle ground? I don't see why we can't put an end to body shaming and profess individual worth while still acknowledging that in some situations change is necessary. While a person who is obese may need to make changes and lose weight in order to be healthier, or a person who is underweight may need to gain weight to be healthier- NO ONE has the right to belittle that individual or make them feel like they are not absolutely beautiful. Whether you are underweight, average, or obese- black, white, or purple- if anyone tells you that you matter less than someone else, that you couldn't possibly be happy as you are, or that you're not beautiful- I'm here to tell you that they are WRONG. Anyone who intentionally makes you feel that way is not beautiful on the inside and needs to do some changing themselves. 

You may not be a religious person, but I believe that we were all created by a loving Heavenly Father and as such He loves each of us more immensely that we could ever comprehend, and He loves each of us exactly the same. Currently I am working on a body image and self-love project for women. If you are interested in being a part of that please reach out to me, as I would love all of the participation I can get! In the meantime here are some links to information on current Body Positive movements. xoxo- Layne

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