Real talk: Despite being a dietitian who focuses on intuitive eating and body acceptance, I still struggle with my own body image issues. I think there’s a myth out there that we (professionals) have to have everything 100% figured out if we’re going to work with other people on the same issues. I’d argue that my own issues have benefited me in my work. They’re actually part of the reason I’m so passionate about body positivity with my nutrition coaching clients. We’ve become accustomed to the messages from the media about what a “perfect” or “healthy” body is supposed to look like. Often it’s an unrealistic ideal that doesn’t tell the whole story.
With my clients, I talk a lot about learning to love food (all food), but also about why it’s important to learn to love yourself and your body. I’m talking about accepting and loving your body right now. Exactly as it is. Because hating yourself into a smaller/bigger/different shape or size doesn’t work. My RD pal Kylie has a great post on why hating yourself doesn’t make you thin, just like loving yourself doesn’t make you fat. Read it!
The reality is we don’t have all that much control over what our bodies look like. Genetics play a huge role in determining body shape and size, so it’s not as simple as calories in, calories out. Sure, we can try to force our bodies into an idealized body shape through restrictive eating, overexercising or some combination of the two. But where does that get us? With poor body images and disordered thinking and eating behaviors.
It’s interesting to note that body image issues are not limited to just those in larger bodies. In fact, people with smaller figures can struggle just as much. So can athletes, it turns out. People living in a whole range of body shapes and sizes fall victim to negative self-talk. Check out this recent Instagram post from Brooke Ence, a CrossFit Games athlete:
would you believe me if I told you that I almost canceled this shoot because at the time I didn’t feel confident enough about my physique? Looking back on photos I can now see how ridiculous I was. Haha Truth is, I work really hard to keep my thoughts on a short leash when it comes to my self image etc. Growing up, I got a lot of grief about my strong physique from the boys ( they were flirting right 😉) and in dance I had a long list of dance companies I could never dance for and a short list of companies that would accept my body type. Let’s just say, I didn’t exactly see my strong physique as the gift that it is until a couple years ago. Even then,I still had to remind myself that it was ok to look strong. I am inspiring women to accept themselves today, love who they are and not be afraid to show the world all their amazing qualities. Don’t wait til you’re looking back on old photos to realize it, life is so much more fun when you’re happy 😊. #mindfulness #bulletproofmind #itmakesence #bevulnerable #bedaring Magazine: @sweatrxmag Photographer: @dave_laus Hair/makeup: @twochicksandsomelipstick Styling: @milayudinadesign
Brooke’s body is often a topic of conversation in the CrossFit world and I think it would surprise many people to learn that she too struggles with body acceptance. She works out a ton and is strong as heck, but having that physique does not define her. I love her vulnerability and the reminder that whatever your body type (strong, thin, big, small), it should be appreciated and loved for its capabilities.
For me and my clients (and perhaps YOU), the goal is to focus on what our bodies are capable of as opposed to what it looks like. To the moms out there, that might be growing a small human. It might mean being able to stand in front of a group of people and give presentations. It might mean running your first (or fifteenth) marathon. Let’s start by thanking our bodies for being the vessel by which we experience the joys of life.
Now I’m no Brooke Ence, but looking at this photo I feel proud of MY strong body. In the past, the first thing I would have picked out is the skin rolling over the squeeze of that weight belt. In the video version of this squat I could focus on the jiggle in my butt and legs. I’d be lying if I said these things are completely out of my mind, but today I look at this photo and think DAYUM! Homegirl is squatting 200 pounds, which is a 35 pound PR! I’m proud of the body that I see here and more importantly of the person in the photo. The girl who is dedicated and hardworking and always looking to improve. I’m strong and capable and it has nothing to do with the size or shape of my physical being.
Speaking of loving our bodies for what they can DO instead of what they look like, tonight kicks off the 2017 CrossFit Open. For non-crossfitters, the Open is an annual 5-week online competition that ranks the “average Joe” against the top athletes. It’s a fun way to test your skills and see improvement year to year. The workouts definitely get more difficult as the years progress, but there are scaled divisions and absolutely anyone can take part! The first WOD is announced tonight and I’m excited to see what my strong body is capable of this year. Stay tuned!
As a wrap up, if you find yourself struggling with body image issues (CrossFit induced or not), you are not alone! If you’re looking for some body positive messaging and resources, here are some of my faves:
The Food Psych Podcast by Christy Harrison
Body Kindness by Rebecca Scritchfield