As a fitness professional, my work is centered on a culture that is mostly obsessed with “physical perfection” and youth. Look through any fitness publication or on just about any fitness professionals website and you will find pictures of young, really lean people with washboard abs, ample breasts spilling out of their cropped workout bras, tiny waists, and really shiny, tight bodies.
While I am very happy with the way that I look, working in a profession that touts these images regularly can be a bit of a downer.
For a long time, I would look at these photos and compare myself and say, “I can never compete with that. That will never be me.”
To some people, looking at my photos, this may seem like a surprisingly bad attitude. To me, it has always simply been a realistic one.
The good part about this comparing phase that I went through? I started to flip the cards and say, “this is how I am different. This is what sets me apart from the rest of the people who do what I do, but send out the same exact alienating images and messages over and again.”
If I feel alienated by these photos, imagine how other people might feel?
As a woman approaching forty, and who has given birth to four children, I am in remarkable shape and I am only getting stronger. I have gotten to the point where I love and appreciate my body almost all the time. My small breasts, which got even smaller after breastfeeding four children. My ample hips and butt, which have gotten incredibly strong and firm over the last year and a half (Thank you, deadlifts). My healthy level of body fat that is just a part of my body type. I now appreciate the soft, curvy shape it brings to my body and I no longer obsess over calories just to try and screw with nature. She does, after all, always get the last word.
The one area that I think I still look at often, and maybe wish I could “fix”, is my belly. My skin was not forgiving after being stretched and filled with babies for thirty-six months of my life. I forget until I think about it in numbers, that I actually spent three years of my life with a new life growing inside of me.
Three years. That is pretty remarkable.
I almost forget how hard and unpleasant pregnancy was for me.
But then I look at the wrinkled, slightly sagging skin on my low belly, even on my now otherwise lean and muscular frame, and for a moment the same dialogue replays. “If only I could get rid of this skin. I work so hard and the effort will never fully show with this left over baby belly in my way.”
I know there are options and procedures to have it done. To get rid of it and to bring forth that “perfect body” that will otherwise forever elude me.
But what is a perfect body? And who gets to make me feel inadequate or unsightly, even, just because no one chooses to show images of other women like me who are real, beautiful, and strong, and who have lived a life of strength? Women whose bodies have lived right along with them?
Who got to decide that REAL wasn’t beautiful?
Well, I guess nobody did. For a while, I just forgot to listen to the one voice that really mattered. Mine.
So, if you ever see one of my photos, or one of my videos and you think maybe I look a little too thick around the middle for someone who’s supposed to be a fitness professional? That’s because I chose I’d rather be thick (and strong) in the middle, than thick in the head.
The way I am right now is just fine.
To read more from Jeannine and to check out this week’s Real [Fit] Life progression series: Lunges, and to watch her newest how-to videos, go here.