This post has been humming in my head for some time now, and I’ve reached the point where I’m not sure there will ever be the right words to get my thoughts straight. This is a start though, and I’ll likely come back to expand on this post in the future.
I wanted to touch on the issue of striving to be lean.
In my Instagram adventures I follow and come across a lot of competitive athletes. Many of these people are bikini pros, physique/body builders/etc, who train and eat for a stage look. The ones who do it “right” are aware that the way their bodies look for show day is not a look that can be kept all year long. Naturally after the show these people start to consume more food, take a rest period, and focus on different training regimes.
The problem is that “regular people” (ie. non competitors like myself), see others getting prepped for a show and think “THAT’S what fit looks like.” Hard abs, tight glutes, very defined muscles, and leaner than a boneless chicken breast. And when someone you’ve watched make the journey to show day gets on stage looking like a million dollars, and they don’t even place in the top 5 of the show, it’s like “What!?! But they are so FIT!” All that work to be looked at by a group of strangers who decide nope, that’s not the look we want to see. Then you look at yourself and think “If they aren’t good enough, surely this body is simply gross.”
And that’s where I see people putting all their worth. In being lean/thin, having a bigger behind, or only eating a certain way. It’s as if happiness won’t come until you can see your abs, reach a certain number on the scale, or by only eating certain foods and restricting the stuff you love the most.
*Spoiler Alert* If someone has abs it doesn’t mean they’re happy!!
Don’t get me wrong, I love watching people get ready for their shows! The determination in and out of the gym is FIERCE! It’s not something I even consider doing because I am aware of the work that goes into one single day on stage, and I know that mentally I couldn’t handle getting my “fluff” back after getting so so so lean for the show.
I just feel like if you’re not competing, you need to understand that your worth doesn’t depend on how lean you are. If you are striving so hard just to see some abdominal definition, and in order to do so you have a list of foods longer than a roll of toilet paper that you have to stay away from for fear they will keep you from that goal…it’s ridiculous.
And I’m saying this from my own experience of NEVER being satisfied with my body.
A few years ago I was a cardio queen, limiting foods, barely ever went out for dinner (it had to be a SUPER special occasion for me to go to a restaurant) and putting all of my focus on my physique. Even though my body fat was low, my level of happiness wasn’t increasing. My hormones were completely out of whack, my diet was boring, and it was clear I was working against myself. I needed a break!
You don’t have to have an all or nothing attitude when it comes to fitness. But you do need to know your worth lies in your sanity and overall happiness, not in the popularity of looking a certain way. Although I’m a few pounds heavier now (roughly 8 pounds difference between the photos above) and I don’t have strong ab definition, I can let loose and enjoy some drinks/food with friends, and not worry about what affect that will have on my physique.
It’s not always easy to give your body what it wants, but once you step back and show it some respect, things will get better. I now have a more flexible approach to eating, fuel myself with lots of healthy stuff and sprinkle in my favorite treats here and there. I’m not training for the stage, I’m training for longevity, consistency, strength, and happiness. If I don’t like something I don’t eat it, and if I don’t enjoy a workout, I know it’s time for rest. I lift heavy weights, run long distances, and fuel my body to perform.
Because to me, happiness should come first.
I would really love your feedback on this issue. Is this something you struggle with or have struggled with? Do you compete or have plans to? What has your experience been?