I’ve been wanting to write about this subject for a long time. I just wasn’t sure how to approach it. I mean, body positivity can be a sensitive subject for people. Regardless, I think it’s important to share my truth. And the truth is this - I’ve struggled with it at times, I know friends and family members who have struggled with it at times, and I now have clients who struggle with it at times. Plus, and here’s what makes it real for me, I now have two daughters who I’m determined to make sure love themselves exactly how God made them. Can I get an “Amen!”?
So, for what’s it worth, here’s my two cents on body positivity, where I’ve struggled at times, AND what I’ve learned over the years to bring me where I am today.
I probably struggled with body positivity twice in my life. High school and post children. I think we can all agree that high school is awkward for everyone…. right? Oh wait, was that just me? Well, to tell you the truth I felt out of place A LOT in high school. I played sports, which is good, because I was happy there. And even though I had confidence in myself I was always comparing my body to that of the other girls in school; wishing my body were a little more like theirs. It probably didn’t help that I had, what I now see, was some poor nutrition habits, and I had watched my mom “diet” on and off for years. I never liked the fact that she was always on some diet and drinking slim-fast for breakfast. Knowing what I know now, it definitely played a role on me subconsciously. I mean, if your mom seems unhappy with herself, it’s going to have an impact. I don’t say these things to slam my mother, she was just doing what everyone else was doing in those days. Regardless, it played a role in how I loved my body.
Body positivity was the hardest after children. As much as I appreciated my body giving birth to these amazingly beautiful little creatures, I also felt completely out of control, and like my body was no longer mine. I nursed my first daughter for almost a year. Which was a phenomenal bonding experience, especially since I had gone back to work, however, I also felt, I don’t know, like I just wanted my body to myself again. Plus, you know how women tell you they lose all this weight from nursing….not the case for me. I was holding on to weight just to produce milk. I struggled to get back to “pre-baby” weight…and I didn’t. Then came daughter number two, and it all repeated. Except this time, I couldn’t make enough milk to nurse her for too long, and I was flat out exhausted ALL THE TIME. I felt tired, out of shape, and I didn’t like my body AT ALL. Nothing was like it was…and it never would be again. To top it off, I just stopped taking care of myself for a while….I’m grateful for an understanding husband. I’m even more grateful I dug myself out from that mentality.
I tell you all these things because some think that as a fitness instructor and nutrition coach I’ve probably never experienced struggle with body positivity. That’s just not the case. In fact, I think my struggle is what makes me a good coach. I’ve been there. I understand.
It’s okay to love yourself and still desire to be better.
As with all my blogs, I want to leave you with some practical take-a-ways. So, here’s what I’ve learned and here’s what worked for me:
My daughters are my accountability. They are watching me, listening to me, and they will subconsciously or not, imitate me at some point in their lives. For that reason alone, they will never hear me complain about my body in any way, I will never say anything negative about my body, they will never see me look in the mirror with an unpleasant attitude, and when other women around them make remarks, I will never chime in. They will see me admire strength and feel beautiful whether I’m dolled up for date night or in yoga pants and a messy bun. If I want them to love their own bodies, I will love my own. It’s that simple. The more I do it. The more I believe it as truth.
Not even one of us is perfect, and our differences are beautiful. Over my years, I’ve come to realize that even the super models have flaws, that not one of us is “perfect”, and that perfection is an idea created my marketers to sell product. I’d rather be happy and enjoy myself than worry too much about what other people are thinking. It’s also come to my attention that usually, people are more worried about themselves than me anyway. I now come as I am. Take it or leave it. I’m not here to impress. I’m here to live, serve, and share my gifts with the world. There is freedom in this realization. And in freedom there is happiness. In that happiness you will find body positivity. There you will find more freedom.
It’s okay to love my body, and myself, and still desire to be better and do better. Body positivity doesn’t mean accepting status quo. Let me explain. It’s okay to love yourself, but then still take care of yourself. In fact, LOVING YOURSELF IS TAKING CARE OF YOURSELF. My flaws are marks of a life well-lived. But that doesn’t mean I sit back, relax, and kick up my heals. No, I desire to be my best. So, I’ll feed my body the best that I can, and I’ll develop strength the best that I can. I will work on myself mentally, physically, and emotionally the best that I can. I will do it daily. My challenges, failures, and successes will ultimately help me love myself even more.
I no longer have time for that mental occupation. I’ve got a lot going on in my life, as I’m sure you do too. Body negativity would just take up more room in a brain that is in a constant search for tranquility. Honestly, think about it. How much time do we spend worried about our bodies, when we could use that mental space for something more positive? Like hugging our children, or loving our husbands, planning a much-needed vacation or even taking a nap! I will no longer allow body negativity to rob me of living.
Social media is overrated. I no longer follow any page that makes me feel bad about myself. It doesn’t matter who it is. Plus, I limit my time on social sites altogether. It’s too easy to get sucked into the comparison game. So, I just don’t play. And I know what you’re thinking, “But Christina, you post every day!” Yes, that’s true. But here’s the thing, I only FOLLOW positivity. There’s a difference.
My body is different than it was 20 years ago. In some ways I’d say it’s stronger. In other ways I’d say it’s happier. But no matter how it changes through the years, I will choose to love it. I choose to love me. Loving myself means challenging myself, accepting myself, appreciating myself, and being myself unapologetically.
Do you struggle or have you struggled with body positivity? How do you implement more positivity into your life? What makes you feel good?