Tag Archives: Body Image

The Controversy Over Fit Moms

Whether you love ’em or love to hate ’em, there’s little doubt that a big splash has been made in the blogosphere and on social media by self-professed “fit moms.” The cliche image of a fit mom is that of a woman stripped down to her sports bra, wearing tight-fitting spandex, working out while her little ones run around her, sit on top of her, and tag-along as she does her errands and chores. Why the fuss over these healthy mamas? What is it about them that’s so alluring, intimidating and inspiring all at once?

 

Here’s the truth about “fit moms”…they’re NORMAL. Yes, I promise. They are.

They’re normal women who are trying their best, through controversial posts and all, to inspire other women to improve their health. And even though their posts might look picture *perfect* their lives most certainly are not, and neither are their bodies, regardless of the glam poses they strike while they flash their six-packs. Every mom, dare I say every WOMAN, is imperfect, even when striving to appear the opposite way.

There are thousands of Instagram celebrities who strut their hot stuff while manipulating their body angles to look their best, deleting all the flawed and REAL trial runs before selecting the most flattering video or picture for a post. This is all phony, it’s true. BUT, I will also say that *most* of these women (although certainly not all) are trying to figure out how to inspire others. The problem is that not every woman is positively influenced by these images.

As a fitness professional, even I can feel intimidated and shamed by these posts when I’m having a bad day. Or even a good one. I can feel self-conscious, wondering if I should be working out harder even though I have vowed not to overdo it on exercise during years of my life where childbearing and a healthy balance for my body are essential. But then I take a step back and ask myself what these feelings say about ME instead of “THEM.”

 

 

The thing is…in our society, and particularly in all forms of media, image is glorified. Obviously. But when I ask myself who I am without my image, and without the typical titles of wife, mom, daughter, fitness professional, writer, UVA and Georgetown graduate, and lover of interior design, I come up with something more authentic. When I strip away the materialistic, the aesthetics, and the titles, I’m so much more. And so are you.

I’m a spiritual being. I’m positive energy. I’m a woman who pours out her heart to strangers because it seems better to connect than disconnect. I’m a listening ear because I believe everyone has a story to tell. I’m a believer in God, even when there are a thousand reasons to doubt and buy into all the lies this world tells me about who I am and who I should be. I’m a hopeless romantic because I believe wholeheartedly in love itself rising above all things. I’m a constant giver-to-others who has been learning to return some of that love to herself….by reminding myself who I am, not relying on the world to do it for me.

 

 

When we only look at the surface of fit mom posts we see the following…

Amy Updike

A fit mom who competes in beauty/fitness pro competitions, baring her sculpted, bikini-clad body before judges to be pitted against other ripped and lean women.

When we look deeper and listen we see…

A woman who desired to live a healthy lifestyle through fitness competitions and who was faced with feelings of stress when she began competing with “deflated” boobs post-breastfeeding her first child. Amy explains that her chest wasn’t just flat but wrinkled too, making it impossible to “push up” anything in her bikini competitions. Amy states that she actually liked her athletic-looking body (flat chest and all) and enjoyed the freedom of lifting weights without her chest in the way, but felt pressured by her competitions to take action. She decided to get implants and underwent multiple surgeries that caused complications and ongoing pain. Amy finally decided to “explant” and tell her network about the news. Amy explains in a video confessional that she knew the implants were for shallow reasons but she thought it would make her feel a little better about herself. See…even people who win bikini competitions can be self-conscious at times.

Sia Cooper

A mom of two whose Instagram following is gigantic and who is sought-after for endorsements. Sia’s beach life and abs are swoon-worthy but there’s more to the story…

When we look deeper and listen we see…

Sia is a woman who has overcome a tough childhood and a mother telling her that she was never good or pretty enough. She is a woman who has suffered from body dysmorphia, depression and gender disappointment. She is a woman of grit who is trying to prop up others through honesty and humility. And yes, maybe a little oversharing, but when you have 630K+ followers…that’s what they demand. So they can’t complain! Plus, oversharing the bare truth is where we find meaning and empathy.

Maria Kang

Mom of three boys, Maria was slammed for posing for a picture in a sports bra alongside her sons as babies/toddlers (3 yrs, 2 yrs, 8 months), with a caption over the photo saying “What’s Your Excuse?” To some people, the photo appears intimidating and arrogant, until you learn more…

When we look deeper and listen we see…

Maria has suffered from depression and bulimia, and was filled with fear when she was unemployed, lacking health insurance and pregnant with her first child out of wedlock. She experienced all the feelings you would imagine for a woman in this position, but as she started pushing forward and hoping a little harder, her fear gave way to perseverance. And a self-created mini empire for fitness fanatics. 

 

 

You see…just like Maria Kang’s burning question, “What’s Your Excuse?” all of these fit moms are confessing to be filled with the same excuses, fears and challenges as the rest of us are, yet they find a way to harness their self-doubt and become proactive for their health. None of them has a perfect life or perfect body. Heck, I’m sure many of them battle old demons regarding their body images, but they still try. They still try to find “healthy” in the middle of their snot-smeared, toddler-tantrum, sunrise-to-sunset days.

When I ask myself if I’m a “fit mom” I guess the answer is yes. I may not have a million followers…or even feel entirely comfortable with social media, to be honest…but I’m proactive about taking care of my health, in and out of the gym. So yea, in addition to being a fitness professional, I’m also a fit mom, a tired mom, a reaching-for-a-glass-of-red mom, a bath-time-singing mom, a trying-hard-to-work-hard mom, and a NORMAL mom. Just like ALL of us. Toned abs or not. And the sooner we lift each other up, instead of size each other up, the faster we all rise.

 

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

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Are You Dissatisfied?

A woman vocalizes her physical insecurities to her best friend, “I just hate wearing strapless dresses to formal functions. Everyone can see my arms jiggle when I dance. Ugh, I feel so gross. I need to lose weight.”

Her friend responds, “Are you kidding me? You’re gorgeous. I would kill for your arms. At least you don’t have a gross belly pooch like me. I’m disgusting. I look like I’m still pregnant.”

Does this interaction sound familiar? We would never say the belittling things about our friend’s body that she is saying about her own but we are quick to slander ourselves. Is this a healthy pattern that uplifts both women? I would argue, emphatically, NO.

80% of American women, obese and non-obese, are dissatisfied with their bodies. That’s a significant percentage. Do you fall into this category?

Perhaps one of the reasons so many women are unhappy with their physiques is because American society emphasizes models that are 23% thinner than the average woman. If we see this as the prototype for beauty then we will put unnatural pressure on ourselves to conform to it. This saddens me because I see more and more women feeling like failures unless they get down to a model-thin dress size. Do you still use your athletic prowess from high school as your benchmark for fitness? Do you think of your wedding weight, that you spent months working hard to achieve, as your ideal weight? Do you compare your thighs, arms, or abs to women featured by Sports Illustrated, Vogue or Victoria’s Secret? While it’s always important to have goals to aspire to, we must be careful not to sacrifice our mental health in the process.

Self Magazine partnered with UNC at Chapel Hill and found that 65% of women between the ages of 25-45 have disordered eating behaviors and 10% have a diagnosable eating disorder. The staggering 75% of women, who mentally struggle with food, are not differentiated by racial or ethnic lines.

Glamour Magazine conducted a study to assess women’s mental health and found that their readers had, on average, 13 negative body thoughts a day. This means that women are thinking negatively about their body once almost every waking hour of the day! Whoa! Scary stuff? It certainly scares me.

Please don’t start thinking that you’re a bad person or a failure because you have negative thoughts. They are natural to have sometimes, just like occasional emotional eating is a part of a healthy, normal eating pattern (yes, it’s true!). The problem comes when we begin to fixate on these negative patterns. Thoughts can become habitual just like biting your nails, overeating, cigarette smoking, and procrastination. I like to explain positive versus negative thinking to clients by talking about hiking trails. Odd, I know, but just wait…

WW Image, Two Hiking Trails

Pretend you’re hiking in the woods and the path splits into two new routes. One route has a wide dirt path that is free of branches and overhanging foliage. The other path is barely visible underneath weeds, fallen branches and rocks. The choice of which path to take is obvious, right? Well, this is kind of how your brain looks at positive versus negative thinking. If you think negatively all the time, negative thinking actually gets reinforced and easier. It becomes the wide open, friendly path that your brain prefers to take. The same is true for positive thinking. The old phrase “smile until you mean it” has some merit because you are reinforcing your brain to comply with the way you want to feel. To summarize, if you constantly remind yourself of the things you don’t like about your body, you will feel worse and worse with one negative thought followed by the next.

So, how do we change?

Positive thinking starts with knowing that positivity is not a state of mind that just happens, it’s a choice. Henry Ford’s famous quote; “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right,” is on point. This is exactly why Wellnesswinz’s tagline is “Start believing you can.” This lesson was drilled into me when I was en route to an ashram in India for yoga teacher training. The cab driver was asking me whether or not I was going to become an excellent yoga instructor and I responded “I hope so.” He scolded me like a young schoolgirl: “No. You know so.” I was humbled.

A positive and vibrant life, full of self-confidence, is what you deserve. Whether you’re trying to accomplish a healthy fitness goal, take the mental burden of negative body thoughts off your shoulders, or tackle the impossible, start believing you can and then suddenly, you will.

Yours in health & wellness,

Maggie

 

References:

http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2012/01/most-models-meet-criteria-for-anorexia-size-6-is-plus-size-magazine/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-c-jameson/be-careful-of-your-though_b_5214689.html

http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2012/06/02/why-do-women-hate-their-bodies/

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/04/080422202514.htm

http://www.today.com/id/41669051/ns/today-today_health/t/hate-your-body-most-do-least-once-day/#.VFPOfvnF_w8