I grew up as a child who was chubbier than most of her peers. My earliest memories of inadequacy began in 2nd grade when our class had to weigh themselves, I weighed considerably more than the other girls (and boys) in my class. The feelings of inadequacy continued into upper elementary where friends would make comments like “Well, you are just bigger than I am.” I know these friends were genuinely just speaking the truth, but I can still visualize exactly where I was standing when the comments were made.
As I transitioned into Junior High, I felt as awkward as well all do. So much change, with no real assurance of what my body would and was supposed to become. Then, I lost weight and was thin for the first couple years of high school, but eventually gained weight back. I began college at a size 10/12, around 175 pounds. At first, the motivation to lose weight was strong, but eventually the extra pizza in the cafeteria combined with late night Taco Bell runs and not working out at all had me packing on pounds. I ended my freshman year at a size 12/14 and closer to 190 pounds. Freshman 15 is real y’all. Through my sophomore year and the beginning of my junior year, my weight came back closer to 175 pounds, but losing any more than that was a struggle. Deep down, I felt inadequate. I knew that the skinnier girls had it easier. People noticed them, bought their meals, grinned at them approvingly. I kept thinking to myself, “I just want to be skinny… if I could only be a skinny girl, then I would be happy.”
Before I go on, I find it interesting that my earliest feelings of inadequacy stemmed completely from peer related situations. Home was always a safe place. I was always beautiful at home, never shamed, always enough. But the external expectations of the world around still got to me as I was developing my view of self. Deep down, I truly believed I would be enough to myself and the people around me if I was skinny. (I hate the expectations imposed on us by media.)
Did I get skinny? I did.
My senior year of college I discovered Jillian Michaels’ DVDs. I realized I was not really working out before I met Jillian. I started counting calories.
Jillian + distance running + food diary = epic weight loss.
For the next 3 years I stayed skinny. I loved being skinny.
Then, something happened. I wasn’t content anymore. I wanted to be strong.
I discovered weight lifting. I wanted to look strong instead of being skinny (a great goal for all women, in my opinion). I largely gave up cardio and stuck with heavy weight lifting and loved it. My body gained tone, muscles looked strong, and my booty was looking great (squats do wonders, ladies).
Summer of 2015, my husband went through a job transition, and we lost the free gym membership we had been given. With me working 60 hour weeks, living an hour round trip away from the gym, I had to give up lifting. It didn’t make sense to pay for a gym membership it would be difficult to use. I turned back to my Jillian Michaels DVDs and sprint interval training and enjoyed the change of pace. I knew I would lose muscle mass (and I have), but I have also leaned out and still look strong but in a less intense way.
Here Comes the Body Shaming
I had a “How did I get here?” moment a couple months ago when I put a Jillian Michaels DVD in that I used in college. In college, I thought Jillian was ripped and hardcore. I wanted her body. When I put the DVD in my first thought was, “Jillian and her girls could stand to lose a couple pounds and put on some more muscle.”
In that moment, I became so angry. How can I possibly now be body shaming a woman that I idolized a few years ago?
I realized that all the body building women and fitness experts I follow on Instagram were causing my view of health to become distorted. I was feeding the body shaming mentality running rampant in our culture. The amazing ladies I follow on Instagram weren’t doing this; I had given into the lie. That lie: “You are not enough and will never be enough.”
Media constantly tells us women are either too fat, too skinny, need more curves, need less curves, and so on. I realized (and still am realizing), that body shaming sucks and has to go.
How Am I Defeating Body Shaming?
- I don’t get to body shame myself.
I recently told a friend, “If you were to ask me what my ideal body would be, I couldn’t tell you. I think people are too skinny, too muscular, too soft, or too rock hard. I can’t pick a body I would want.” I don’t get to live my life like this.
- I have to love me.
Some seasons of life I’ll have a rockin’ booty because I get to the gym and do squats. In other seasons of life, I’ll be covered in baby vomit and wishing I could sleep instead of work out. Both versions of me are beautiful.
- Realize that health is the most important.
If you are eating the right foods and exercising to the best of your ability, go you. Health should always be more important than any number on a scale.
- Healthy can look different for everyone.
Some people love having ripped muscles, others love being a skinny runner, others love being slender with lean muscles, while other people love having curves and don’t care about muscle tone. Healthy wins no matter what it looks like.
- Healthy people aren’t the problem.
Fitness ladies I follow on social media aren’t the problem. They love health and want us all to be healthy. The problem is when all of those people become my standard (I can’t be 5 different people), and I compare myself and others to those women.
- I don’t get to body shame anyone.
It’s not right to body shame the overweight person.
It’s not right to body shame the skinny girl you think should be stronger.
It’s not right to body shame the strong woman because you think her muscles are too manly.
Guess what y’all?
This is a journey. I still feel inadequate many days. I wish my arms were stronger, legs were leaner, and that I looked a little more ripped.
But guess what else?
I don’t get to body shame myself at any point. If I truly don’t like something, I can work to fix it. But if I truly don’t know how to be content, I need to start there first.