Regarding the title, Body Image and Health, you'll probably wonder what I'm doing in the picture above? I'm pulling up my pants. They are low-rise and therefore sitting in them without a belt, means that I have to adjust them before I sit down for a photo opp. Body image is a topic that everybody can relate to, everybody in a different way though. For me personally it came as a big surprise when my 15 year old lanky frame suddenly started developing curves. There were areas that took a little while longer, but not my hips and bottom. Suddenly what felt like overnight, I had a butt. And I didn't like it.
In today's society we are fed pictures of Victoria's Secret models strutting their stuff down the runway looking curvy to us, however they are really only curvy in relation to their otherwise very slim frame. Fashion models are preferably androgynous with narrow shoulders and no hips. So it is now wonder that we women strive to maintain a slim frame from the moment our body changes in adolescence. We own skinny jeans and keep them "in case we will fit into them again", we are joyous at the thought of wearing a size 4 (which is manufactured to make us feel smaller), we compare, we follow trends, we play with colours and shapes and we work out to get slimmer.
As a professional athlete I was huge by society's standards, I had broad shoulders, strong legs (one leg was so much bigger from fencing than the other, that I had to buy jeans one size up), I had big guns and I had a runner's butt. My body was my job, I was eternally grateful for all it could take, it was my tool, and I was incredibly proud of what it stood for: strength in swimming, steadfastness in shooting, a deep seat on horseback, explosiveness in the fencing and a graceful stride in the running. When I quit competing, my body placed fat on top of my muscles, courtesy of me continuing to eat like I was training 25 hours a week. And somehow at the time I didn't notice.
I look back at those photos now (no, I won't share them) I cringe slightly at how unaware I was, not just of how I looked but how unhealthy I was. I had left a very controlled lifestyle for the first time and I was consuming a lot more than was necessary or good for me.
And then a beautiful thing happened: because I was so unaware of my heavier frame I didn't do anything about it. I started eating less as my body recognized my lower output, I incorporated some exercise into my life again and my body naturally "shrunk" back to my healthy size (mind you, over the course of almost 2 years!). I have been at my size and weight for 8 years now and as people who know me will attest, I eat a lot and then some.
Working with people now, my priority is not teaching them how to lose weight quickly and I personally don't measure success by watching people shrink. What makes me happiest is seeing both men and women embrace strength, develop skills, grace in situations in which they were convinced they would never be, change their perception of food and gratification and most importantly make movement an integral part of their lives. If there is an obsession that I support then it's feeling the urge to move to experience health in body and mind.
I embrace my body and my butt now. I'm a woman so I have fat days, bloated days, feeling ugly days, sad days and envious days. But overall whenever I do, I try to think back to the pride I used to feel over a healthy body that allowed me to do so much. I dare you to think of a night out in which all you did was have fun and thought of nothing else. Not your outfit, not who you wanted to impress, or what anyone else was wearing... Right there, that's the feeling that exudes a quiet confidence that is so irresistible...
Stay tuned for the letter C tomorrow! And make sure to hop on over to my Facebook page for the rest of the alphabet.