Yesterday I was working out at the gym where I’m also a personal trainer, when I overheard a conversation between two of my male co-workers. One of them made the observation that whenever he sees women working out on their own, all they ever seem to want to do is lower body work. Or as he put it “butt exercises”. I, of course, was quick to chime in with:
"Not me! I do other stuff too!"
I thought about this for a few seconds more, then I added:
“Of COURSE we do. It’s what society wants us to do. As women, that’s what’s expected of us. Having a round, perky booty is trendy right now. It’s socially acceptable. It’s what we feel we need to do to be “liked”. (Both in real life AND on social media.)
"Whoa, $hit just got deep."
Yeah it did. I hate to be the person to rain on the parade of peach emojis, but it’s something I want more people to start to consider. Especially when it comes to having an aesthetic goal. Not a day goes by at work that I don’t hear someone make mention of:
- Their “goal weight”.
- Trying to get “toned”.
- Wanting to get rid of “this” (insert “problem” body part).
- The fact that they feel like they can’t wear a bikini, sports bra, tank top, or some other article of clothing.
- How “bad” they are for eating XXX food.
My thoughts on this?
"OF COURSE YOU FEEL THAT WAY!"
This might come as a surprise to some. Especially because I claim to be a body positive fitness professional. The truth is, if I had more time (and was more witty) in the moments I heard these things, I’d go on a rant about how weight loss is not inherently good, or how much I hate the idea of “bikini season”, or the fact that you’re a grown adult and can wear and eat whatever you want. (That’s what my blog is for, right?) 😉
I don’t often go there, because I don’t necessarily want “$hit to get deep” every time I go to the gym. The other truth is, I empathize with my clients, students, family and friends who wish they could change their bodies. I hear you. I see you. To be honest, I sometimes still have flickers of those feelings too.
We live in a society that respects and rewards you when you look a certain way.
Right now that look is thin, with visible muscle definition, and bonus points if you have a nice butt. It unfortunately also usually means white, young, straight, cisgender, and able bodied. It’s easy to see why so many of us are chasing after that ideal. At the end of the day, I think all most people want is to be seen, heard, respected, and liked. Because of this we’re often willing to do whatever it may take to achieve that.
So no, I don’t exactly blame you for having a aesthetic goal or wanting to change your body. AND before you go all-in with pursuing it, here are a few questions you might want to ask yourself.
- How do you think you’d feel if you accomplished this goal? Are there any other ways in life you might achieve that same feeling? What are they?
- If your goal is related to a specific number (weight, clothing size, BMI, body fat percentage) where did you come up with this number? Based on how you naturally exist in the world, how realistic is it for you?
- What would you have to change about the way you live your life to accomplish this goal? Would those behaviors be health promoting and sustainable?
- What is your reason for wanting to pursue this goal? Is it about truly about health? If so, is making an aesthetic change the best way to go about improving your whole health?
- Who are you doing it for? If it’s “for yourself”, dig a little deeper. Who else (people, corporations, industries) are benefitting from this change you are trying to make?
- What are your beliefs about weight, health, and fitness? Can you think of any examples of people who are breaking stereotypes in these areas?
- Why do you feel like you aren’t already able to wear a specific type of clothing, eat a certain food, or do something you really want to do? Who or what made you think and feel that way?
- Are there influences in your life (real life relationships, media, or societal) that are making you feel pressured to change? How would things be different if you didn’t have these influences?
- Have you ever accomplished a goal like this in the past? What did you have to do to get there? How did you actually feel?
- Is there anything in your life you might be avoiding or procrastinating by pursuing this goal? What won’t you have time to focus on when you are working towards this?
I’m not going to tell you the right answers to these questions.
The right answer is going to be a bit different for every person. I DO think they are worth asking though. No, it’s not necessarily the fun or sexy choice. Sometimes it’s uncomfortable or results in very “deep” realizations. But given the alternative, which is to blindly accept current beauty standards and perceptions of what it means to be fit and healthy, we owe it to ourselves to at least consider this stuff.
What if we didn’t actually need a dramatic before/after to feel comfortable with ourselves?
Lately I’ve been coming back to this idea again and again. When it comes to aesthetic goals, there are no guarantees. Even the most meticulous meal plans and training programs don’t always yield the results you might expect. (I’ve been there before and I know you probably have been too!) And even if you DO manage to achieve the results you were looking for, it doesn’t always feel the way you imagined it might. Right?
Do you want to find joyful movement and comfort in your body, as it is today?
Learn more about body positivity here.