Love Yourself, Love Your Body

Danielle - schoolSpending the last few months reading about the paths that have been traveled, the progress people have made, the challenges our members have overcome have made me think about my own personal journey.  I’ve never really been one to share my own story, particularly because I never really thought that I had all that much to celebrate.  Nothing quantifiable by a number on the scale or measurements anyway. 

Some events of the past few weeks have really made me reflect on how I see myself…unfortunately it became really obvious to me that I struggle with my confidence, or lack thereof.  This is a photo of me in primary school – You see I was the girl who no one wanted to be friends with; I was made fun of because I was heavier than most people my age, I was always the person who was ‘it’ when playing chase as I couldn’t run and to add this I was an extremely anxious child growing up.  I spent most of my primary school years being bullied  and isolated by my ‘friends’ because it wasn’t cool to hang out with the ‘fat kid’.  Even the first few years of high school were a challenge just simply trying to fit in.   I was eventually lucky enough to click with a beautiful group of girls who are still my friends today.

Although I eventually overcame the traumas of primary school, it has become obvious that these events have left a greater impact on me than I had realised. 15 years down the track, what I went through as a young girl growing up still affects how I feel about myself today.

When people decide that you are a less than favourable human being based on your physical appearance, it leaves a mark that stays with you long after the tears dry up and the butterflies in your tummy settle.  For as long as I can remember I have always been conscious of my body and my weight.  As a teenager my weight yo-yoed; much like many of you who are reading this I would lose, then gain, then lose and gain again.

Since joining Terrific Fitness as a client and even more so as a staff member, I developed a much better appreciation of how a healthy body should feel and the importance of doing things that make our bodies happy.  This was a far cry from the physical and emotional stress I put myself through in the years before I found TF.  Unfortunately the way I felt about my health did not translate to how I felt about my appearance. 

These are some photos of me from 2010 – 2011; sadly for much of the time that I have been training with Terrific Fitness, this was the body that I was striving to have again. It wasn’t until showing some beautiful friends these photos, I was told that I looked really unhealthy.  This made me realise that the body in these photos were the body of a woman who was incredibly anxious, had no self-worth, confidence or self-esteem, trained herself down to the ground, watched every morsel of food that she put in her mouth, was always cold and hungry, was extremely moody and unhappy, always got sick and didn’t get her period.  The saddest part was that this woman was still unhappy with how she looked and believed that even at her thinnest, she still could have lost a few more kilos.

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In striving to reach this goal since joining TF, I would walk away from each of my measurements feeling like I was a failure because I didn’t see the centimetres drop the way I did four years ago.  I was starting to get frustrated by the transformation stories I was reading on my Facebook feeds about so many people who went Paleo/HCLF/Primal/Keto etc, and the weight just fell off. Why was my weight not shifting? I felt that somewhere along the way my efforts were falling short of what they needed to be in order to see change; maybe I wasn’t pushing myself hard enough during classes, maybe I wasn’t going to the gym often enough, maybe my weights weren’t heavy enough or I wasn’t doing enough repetitions.

This caused me to start resenting exercise; a few months ago I found myself at the gym doing my usual 6am morning workout.  It was when I was staring at my reflection in the mirror, ready to squat with a 45 kilogram barbell on my back and being on the verge of tears that I realised that I could no longer keep this routine up.  I was angry with what I saw; the person who looked back at me was not getting reward for effort and did no longer wanted to be spending her mornings at the gym – she wanted to be in bed asleep! I hated every single second of being there and I found myself cursing the shape of my legs. The same legs that have carried me around for the past 25 years, and the same legs that will hopefully carry me around for the next 100.  However I cursed them because no matter how hard I tried, nothing was working – they would not change.

This year I set myself a goal – that when my thighs would finally lean up I would go out and buy a pair of jeans. Nothing extraordinary and in the big scheme of things, very insignificant.  But it was important to me. All my life I have refused to wear jeans because I believed that you needed to look a certain way or be a certain shape to wear them.  Do they not make size 14 jeans? Are there laws against people who have curves to wear jeans – I’m not a shallow person however I had successfully managed to delude myself into thinking you needed to look a certain way in order to be accepted – the exact attitude of a shallow person.

After a conversation with my beautiful friend and one of my rocks in life I had an epiphany – why the hell was I stopping myself? What was I waiting for? I was chasing something that was not attainable and then beating myself up because I could not get there.  The following week I went out and bought jeans – two pairs in fact.  It turns out what that it wasn’t going on below my waist that was stopping me from wearing them – but more so what was going on between my ears. The image that I had in my head of how I thought I should look was no longer a realistic goal and I have spent far too much energy being disappointed that I couldn’t reach this.   The fact that we are constantly bombarded with images of celebrities and models who ‘seemingly’ have the perfect body and need to somehow find flattering things to wear when the majority of fashion today is poorly designed does not help the situation.

Over the weekend I attended the Women’s Health and Fitness conference where I heard Tarryn Brumfitt speak about her quest to redefine and rewrite the ideals of beauty. Tarryn began ‘Body Image Movement’: an organisation which aims to facilitate positive body image amongst women.  Her story is incredible so I encourage you to read more about her and the great work that she is doing at Body Image Movement. Tarryn caused a stir on Social Media over 12 months ago when she posted a non-traditional before and after photo. Her before photo was a picture of her on stage when she competed in a figure competition; her after photo was of her naked self in her friends’ bathroom which showed that her body had clearly changed since she competed. Her message – that we should love and embrace our bodies during all stages of our lives.

The message that I got from this was instead of being unhappy that my body hasn’t ‘changed’ all that much despite the 2 boxing classes, 1 circuit class, 1 core class and 1 PT session coupled with a very healthy diet, the fact that I am capable of participating in 2 boxing classes, 1 circuit class, 1 core class and 1 PT session every week and I was supporting my activity with healthy food was something I CAN and SHOULD be proud of. I recently received a compliment from a friend of mine about how much effort I put into my training; I was extremely flattered and incredibly grateful that she pointed something out that for so long I have failed to see and acknowledge.

I don’t need to look very far to understand how important it is not to take our physical capabilities for granted.  My dear uncle suffers from Multiple Sclerosis; a good day for him is a day that he doesn’t fall over and injure himself.

The truth is the shape of my legs, how flat my tummy is or whether I have a 6 pack does not define me as a person. 

The number on the scales can never tell you how strong you are, measure your kindness or indicate how special and loved you are by your friends and family. Inability to shift weight does not make you a bad person just like having the perfect body does not make you a good person

Sometimes it’s not only about the weight or centimetre loss; if it was, then my results over the past few years wouldn’t much to crow about.  Sometimes people are too consumed by these numbers (and yes I have also been guilty of this)  Don’t get me wrong – these are wonderful indicators of how you are going and there is nothing more rewarding than reaping the benefits of your hard work.   But it’s the bigger picture that is more important.

For some people the changes in the appearance of their bodies may not accurately reflect the work and effort that they put in; but the changes that happen on the inside do. This does not mean they should feel any less proud of their own journeys, or the challenges they have overcome just because it isn’t quantified by centimetres or kilos. Performing a push up with perfect technique, completing two circuit classes per week, making sure you always prepare nutritious meals for yourself or doing something kind for someone else are things that are just as inspiring and worthy to be proud of.

Exercise because you love it and it makes you feel strong, energised and healthy – don’t let the motivation that drives you be dissatisfaction with your body. If it is then chances are you still won’t be happy when you eventually do get the body you want.

Eat for health, be more concerned with the weight you put on the bar and less with the weight on your scales, and remember that real and everlasting beauty comes from within – just make sure your eyes are open so you can appreciate it.

I am grateful that the past few weeks and months have opened my eyes to what healthy is…I never thought I’d see the day where my ‘skinny’ photos would in fact be my ‘before’ shots – but they are; they represent a time before I knew what it really felt like to be healthy from the inside out.

Don’t get me wrong; I still have goals that I will set out to achieve – this will never change.  What will change is that I am now setting myself these goals for the right reasons. And I am happy that I can finally say that I am no longer ashamed of my legs, I am proud them; they have carried me every single day of my life and those things are damn strong. 🙂

#terrificfitness #unleashthebestversionofyou #ihaveembraced

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 This is me – proudly showing off my size 13 jeans