I was inspired to write this blog post by this and by this.
What those wonderful posts made me realize was something I had only a hazy awareness of until now:
I rarely get photos taken with my belly showing. I don't wear midriff-flaunting shirts, I don't wear a sports bra in the gym. I just about always keep it all under wraps.
I am lucky enough to have as friends some of the greatest people in the fitness industry. And many of them have phenomenal, flawless, lean and tight six-pack abdominals. I've seen them, I've admired them, I've envied them. No matter how low my body fat gets, how straight I stand, or how much I suck it in-- this is simply not a state of physicality I am able to achieve. I think I might have had a two-pack once, but I looked emaciated, and I did not like being that thin.
But here's the thing: I'm strong (not as strong as I'd like to be, but certainly stronger than the average bear). I'm flexible. I'm extremely healthy and vibrant. My body fat hovers between 14% and 16%, and I feel great. I have very few hangups about my appearance...
Except for that belly.
I catch myself analyzing it in the mirror sometimes. In someone as small as I am, even a little bit of bloat looks huge, and in the eyes of my worst critic (me), that hugeness doubles. I cast a critical eye and announce, "I've gained weight." And then I get annoyed with myself, because I'm doing exactly what I tell people not to do. If I mention this insecurity of mine to anyone, they look at me like I'm nuts, and they retort, "Are you kidding me? Have you seen MY belly?" And we have a ridiculous insecurity swordfight, followed by a "WHAT?? You look fine!! Look at how bloated I am!!" And so the cycle progresses.
But I get it. We're surrounded by images of flat bellies in magazines and on television. It's hard to be imperfect in this world, even though all of us are. And all I really have to do is go visit one of my abdominally blessed friends to feel juuuust a little physically inferior.
One time, I was at a hotel for a conference with one such friend. And I noticed her walk up to the mirror and check out her own abs. But not with a proud eye-- with a critical one. And she said to me, "They don't look like this all the time. It depends what I eat, or how I slept, or what I drank." And then she went back to glaring at her reflection, analyzing her perfect (to me) 6 pack abs.
When I opened my studio in September, I bought some acrylic mirrors online. When they showed up, they were much thinner than I'd realized, and they warped when I put them up. People complained about them. But I decided to keep them, because what they do is make people aware of their form in their lifts without focusing on their insecurities about their bodies. And now my clients seem to like my funhouse mirrors. "If I stand over here, my right leg looks huge! *giggle*"
I guess we've all got it in us, to take our beautiful, healthy bodies, however they may present themselves, and nitpick about them until we're convinced we're just a hair away from being Jabba the Hut doubles. We compare ourselves to others, no matter how unrealistic that is, and we judge ourselves by media and our peers. It's sad, and it's unfortunate. And I'm just as guilty as the rest.
So how about this Valentine's Day, we all learn to love our bodies just as they are, without comparing them to anyone else's? That's not to say don't strive to improve on your health, strength, or anything else. Just love who you are at this very minute, however you look in the mirror. Don't make perfection your goal, and don't make anyone else's body your goal. Make being the best you you can be your goal.
So I am accepting Lauren Fleshman's challenge, and I'm posting my belly right here on my blog. I love this challenge, and I think it is extremely important to us as a society to realize that we are beautiful just as we are.
Happy Valentine's Day to you all.
Questions? Comments? Post 'em here!