photo (8)

 

In part 1 of this article (my most popular article to date), I discussed my struggles with body fat levels, body image, and the scrutiny that comes along with being a fitness professional.

The response to that article was like nothing I could have imagined.  The entire day I was flooded with emails, messages, texts, stories, and comments.  I think I cried 5 different times that day.  I was so touched that so many women (and men) opened up and shared a piece of themselves with me and my readers.  Man it feels good to not be alone!  There’s something perversely comforting about knowing that other people struggle, too.

With the explosion of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and other social media sites, we all know more about one another’s lives than we ever have.  At least, we *think* we know.  But let’s get serious.

We all put up posts that are carefully crafted and well-thought-out, (well, at least most of us do ;-) ), and they shape the exact image of how we want our friends and followers to see us.

 

Oh.  I didn't see you there. I just happened to be standing here with my hands positioned like this and smiling.  This is how I always look.  I swear.  Oh, is that the wind blowing through my perfectly positioned hair?  I didn't even notice.

Oh. I didn’t see you there. I just happened to be standing here with my hands positioned like this and smiling. This is how I always look. I swear.
Oh, wait.  Is that the wind blowing through my perfectly positioned hair? I didn’t even notice.

 

There’s not anything wrong with being thoughtful about what you post.  In fact, I encourage you to be thoughtful about what you put on the internet!

But it’s easy to see everyone’s beautiful bodies, job promotions, gorgeous children, huge houses, and exciting vacation pictures, and feel like you’re the only one with bills, debt, a struggling personal relationship, a 5 year old you’re still trying to potty train, and cellulite on the backs of your thighs.  (Pssst: you’re not the only one.)

So yes, in this age of carefully-crafted-over-sharing, it’s easy to feel down about yourself.  And whether you are a fitness professional, a weekend warrior, someone who has never stepped foot in a gym, or somewhere in between, it’s even easier to feel down about your body. Trust me.  I know this firsthand.

So how do we go about changing the relationship we have with our bodies?

How do we begin to nurture and love ourselves from the inside out?

How do we find the grace and compassion that’s so vital to happy and healthy relationships with ourselves and with one another?

 

It's hard to cultivate healthy relationships and give others grace and compassion if you can't give yourself grace and compassion first.

Grace and compassion are vital components of happy and healthy relationships.

 

I’m not claiming to have all the answers, because I don’t.  But I think I can give you 7 things that have helped me on my journey towards self-acceptance.  Notice I said, “towards.”  I’m not there yet.  In fact, I may never fully get there.  But the way I see it, constantly striving towards it, is my only option if I want to live a happy and fulfilled life.

I also have to give props to my girl Sirena Bernal.  She and I did a serendipitously-timed podcast with Damian Brown on Tuesday night all about how beliefs shape our bodies.  One of the questions was, “What are your top 5 tips for having a healthy relationship with your body?”  I already had my 5, and had been planning on sharing them here.  Then I got to hear Sirena’s top 5, and I instantly felt compelled to “borrow” a couple of hers because they were SO good.

You can listen to the podcast here (and please do.  It’s very cool).  The asterisks (*) are next to the one’s that I borrowed from the brilliant Ms. Bernal (paraphrased, of course.  I took her general ideas and put a bit of my own spin on them).

Without further ado, 7 tips to help you on your journey towards self-acceptance:

 

1. Don’t listen to critics (yourself included).

Over the last few months so many women have confided in me regarding how horribly they feel about themselves and their bodies, and how paranoid they are that everyone is talking about them behind their backs.  I have two things to point out here:

  1. It’s highly unlikely than anyone thinks about you nearly as much as you think they do.  I can promise you most people are more worried about themselves than they are about you.  It’s just human nature.
  2. In my experience, when people spend their time saying nasty things about other people, it always stems from a place of anger, self-hatred, insecurity, sadness, or any combination of those things.  I never see genuinely happy people spend their precious time speaking poorly about others.  If they talk, let them talk.  You have better things to spend your time on.

Now… what to do about the worst shit-talker of all?  (That’s YOU, by the way).

It’s been said time and time again, we are our own worst critics.  In fact, if you take a minute to actually stop and recognize the dialogue that’s going on inside your head each day, multiple times a day, I’d be willing to bet that you would be horrified.

We say things to ourselves that we would NEVER, EVER say to anyone else, and we (hopefully) wouldn’t let anyone else say them to us.  Next time you catch yourself having a nasty inner dialogue I want you to stop and think.  Would you say those things to your daughter?  Your niece?  Your mother?  Your best friend?  I think not.  Treat yourself with the same respect.  You deserve it

 

be nice or leave

Yep. This.

 

2. Take care of your body, your mind, and your spirit.

Yes, they all three matter equally.  Not convinced?  I have a couple of questions for you:

How well does your brain function and how happy do you feel when you’re in pain or you’re extremely sick?  You feel foggy headed and crummy, right? Your body affects your mind and your spirit.

How does your body feel and how do you feel emotionally when your mind is racing a million miles a minute and you have a ton of stuff you’re trying to remember?  Your heart races, your adrenaline pumps, and you feel really stressed out and anxious, right?  Your mind affects your body and spirit.

How does your body feel and how does your mind function when something tragic or emotionally draining happens?  Your body feels exhausted, and your mind feels foggy and exhausted too, right?  Your spirit affects your body and your mind.

It’s all connected.  And considering that you only have one, I’d recommend you take good care of it. =)

Take care of your body through intelligent exercise, sound nutrition, adequate sleep, and moderate sunshine.

Take care of your mind with positive self-talk, good stress management techniques, and giving yourself time to meditate and relax.

Take care of your spirit through engaging in activities you enjoy, positive interactions with friends and family, and spending quiet time reflecting on your gratitude.

 

3. See food as fuel and nourishment, but don’t be afraid to enjoy it.

Yes, it’s important to eat foods to fuel your body, fuel your workouts, and keep you healthy.  But food is also meant to be comforting and enjoyable.  Think about it.  For many of us, our first experience with food was nursing with our Mothers.  Even if you were bottle-fed, you were still probably being held and rocked and nurtured.  No wonder many of us search for comfort from eating.  It’s ingrained in us from birth!

That being said, pay close attention to how certain foods make you feel.  I know that ice cream and gluten-free cupcakes, and french fries taste delicious.  But they also make me exhausted and a little sick to my stomach.  Occasionally, that’s totally worth it to me.  But most of the time it’s not.  So most of the time, I eat food that gives me energy and makes me feel great.

If you find that you turn to food too often for comfort, love, acceptance, or self-soothing, it’s probably worth seeking counseling.  I’ve been in therapy for over 4 years now and I absolutely love it (not for food issues, but other issues).  We all have our own demons to deal with, right?

For most of us, there is an intersection of health, performance, aesthetics, and an enjoyable lifestyle. A “sweet spot,” if you will.  It’s when we try to go too far in any one direction that one or more of those other areas will suffer.  If you have an extreme goal like a high-level powerlifting competition or physique competition, then that’s fine.  You are choosing to focus more specifically on one of those things.  But if your main goal is simple to feel good and look good, balance is key.

 

4. *Embrace your uniqueness. 

I absolutely love these quotes,

Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.”  – Dr. Suess

Keep in mind that your body is your own, it’s unique, and it will move and feel differently than anyone else’s.” – Sirena Bernal

You must find your own sweet spot where health, performance, aesthetics, and an enjoyable lifestyle come together.  And remember that it probably won’t look like anyone else’s, and that’s OK.  You are beautifully and wonderfully made.  Don’t deprive the world of getting to experience all that you, just YOU, have to offer.  Because it’s awesome.

 

Be yourself.  However, umm, strange that self is.  It's awesome because it's YOU.

Be yourself. However, umm, strange that self is. It’s awesome because it’s YOU.

 

5. *Don’t be afraid to experiment.

Experiment with your nutrition, your training, your sleep, your stress management and recovery techniques… just experiment!

Personally I have done everything from 6 meals a day to intermittent fasting, a ketogenic diet to high carb/low fat diet.  I’ve eaten 1,400 calories a day, and I’ve eaten 3,400 calories a day.  I’ve done body part splits, and I’ve trained full body 3-4 days a week. I even took 6 full weeks off from lower body weight training, and only did sprints.  I’ve trained as often as 10-12 times a week, and I’ve trained as little as one to two days a week.  The point is, I’ve done a lot of things.  And I’ve learned a LOT about my body in the process.  I encourage you to do the same. (and if you want to read about ALL of it… and I mean all 4,000+ words of it… you can.  Here and here).

Keep in mind however, that when it comes to your body, you are chasing a moving target.  What I mean by that is, your circumstances are always changing.  When you’re 34 with two kids and a high stress job, your body will likely not respond to nutrition and training the same way it did when you were a 21 year old college student with very little stress.  Just because something “used to work,” doesn’t mean that it will always work.

Change one variable at a time.  Observe the results.  Adjust your program accordingly, if necessary. Repeat.

 

6. Set performance and strength goals, but don’t be afraid to set aesthetic goals, as well.

It’s really popular in the fitness industry right now to talk about setting performance and strength goals.  And I think that’s awesome.  In fact, I recommend it often myself.

That being said, there’s nothing wrong with setting aesthetic goals as well!  “Looking good naked” is a huge motivator for so many of us.  We want to feel like we are attractive to our significant others.  We want to feel confident and comfortable in our own skin, and that’s great!  Heck, it’s what got me in the gym in the first place almost 10 years ago!

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.  There are seasons for everything.  Seasons to put a lot of time and effort into training.  Seasons to go into maintenance mode and not stress so much about your training.  Seasons to be lean.  Seasons to be strong.  Seasons to train like an athlete.

Almost every fitness professional I know regularly changes their training goals.  Don’t get me wrong, you don’t want to change your goals every couple of weeks or you will never get anywhere.  But setting and working towards different goals throughout the months and years will do several things: it will prevent boredom, it will ensure continual progress, and it will keep you well-rounded and healthy.

Maybe you take 12-16 weeks to focus on pure strength and getting your squat and deadlift numbers up.  Then maybe you take another 12-16 weeks to focus on weak or lagging body parts with a more concentrated hypertrophy program.  Then maybe life gets super busy and you decide just to train twice a week and maintain for a while, and when life gets back to normal, then you can do a concentrated fat loss protocol if you want.

I know that for me, when my body was struggling to respond to fat loss training, switching gears to focus on strength helped keep me sane because instead of consistently struggling to reach my goals (fat loss), I was hitting PR’s left and right and feeling awesome!

 

Maybe you want to spend a month or two getting awesome at Turkish Getups.  That's totally cool.

Maybe you want to spend a month or two getting awesome at Turkish Getups. That’s totally cool.

 

The point is, focusing on strength and performance is awesome (it’s my favorite focus), but changing your training goals to reflect where you are in your life, and how much time you have to devote to your training is vital to ensure that you can stay committed over the long haul.

 

7. Train because you love your body, not because you hate your body.

You had to know this one was coming, right?  If you’ve read my blogs or follow Girls Gone Strong, you know this is my personal mantra.

So often we work out or we train because we dislike something about ourselves. How many of us have turned around and looked at our backsides in the mirror and groaned, “Ugh!  I have GOT to get my ass to the gym.  It’s so flabby and gross!”

Or we pull up our shirts and pinch our belly fat and think, “Eww.  This is disgusting.  I’m going to work out every day this week and make this go away.”

We are in the gym training because we HATE something about ourselves.

Why don’t you train because you LOVE yourself?

Why don’t you train because it’s a way to nurture and honor your body (the only one you have, remember?)

Why don’t you train because you are able and capable?

Why don’t you train because you want to stay healthy and feel good for as long as possible?

Why don’t you train so that you can be around for a long time for your kids, your grandkids, and your spouse?

Several months ago I was at a friend’s house visiting as she recovered from surgery.  I was positively exhausted and did not feel like working out.  When I was about to leave to head to the gym, I let out a whiny groan, rolled my eyes and said, “I do NOT want to go to the gym today.”

My friend looked at me and smiled weakly, with gauze covering the incisions on her throat and whispered, “I’d give ANYTHING to go to the gym today.”

Damn.

I’ve also watched my Gama struggle the past few weeks as she recovers from a stroke.  She would do anything to have the ability to control the left side of her body right now.  She is making progress, but she’s not there yet.

When I was helping take care of her this past weekend and watching her struggle, I was reminded of one of my favorite Neghar Fonooni quotes,

Movement is a privilege.  Do it every day.  As often as you can.

Umm…yes.  Just.  So.  Much.  Yes.

 

Movement is a privilege...

Movement is a privilege…

 

Well friends… that’s all I’ve got for you today.

There are 7 tips here, and remember, they may not all apply to you, and that’s OK.  Find the ones you identify with and actually devote some time and energy to changing your relationship with yourself and your body.  When you do this, you’ll radiate positive energy, lift other people up, and leave the world a better place than you found it.

Make it a priority to do this for yourself.  Trust me when I say…

You’re totally worth it.

 

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29 Responses to It’s Hard Out Here for a Fit Chick (Part 2)

  1. Mike Salazar says:

    Awesome awesome gorgeous vibrant emotional painful uplifting stuff you’re sharing with us. Keep taking care of yourself and others. You’re ridiculously good at it.

  2. Melissa H. says:

    Thank you. That’s it, that’s all…thank you. :)

  3. Jamie Robertson says:

    Wow! Another great post! As a fitness professional you have put all of our struggles in to words so well. I going to share with all my clients and friends. Keep it up!

  4. Erin Stimac says:

    Another great post Molly!! Your point about comparing ourselves with others and feeling bad about ourselves reminded me of one of my favorite quotes: “The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our ‘behind the scenes’ with everyone else’s ‘highlight reel’.” It’s so true. We all need a little more self acceptance and compassion. Thanks for being so honest. :)

  5. Alice Beck says:

    Another great post! Thank you! I am grateful and relate soooo much!

  6. Kendra says:

    A friend posted this on a facebook group I’m part of (Fitness Conversations), and I have LOOOOVVVVVEED both of these posts of yours. I ate both of them up like a yummy stew on a cold day. You come across as strong, comforting, knowledgeable, wise, and also vulnerable in the very best of ways. Thanks for sharing your story so openly and honestly with us and the world wide interwebz–it’s a difficult and rare thing to share like that, and thanks for filling me with good feelings and strategies for the future. Happy I have another great blog to read. Happy Weekend! :)

  7. Alissa says:

    Molly I LOVED this post – even more than your previous post and that was hard to top! This quote right here —> “You must find your own sweet spot where health, performance, aesthetics, and an enjoyable lifestyle come together. And remember that it probably won’t look like anyone else’s, and that’s OK.” I think I will have to write this on my bulletin board because its something I’ve been pondering a lot lately. I’m pretty lean, I enjoy running, I enjoy lifting weights, I enjoy being able to eat pizza and drink wine once in while. Part of me want to dial it all in, really strictly and go from pretty lean to really lean, and part of me is thinks it’s not really worth it, that I’m lean enough and I want to enjoy my life. But then there are all the outside pressures that make it hard to decide what I want. Thank you for putting into words what I’ve been thinking all along. By the way, check out my blog if you get a chance. Your candidness in your last post was the inspiration for what I have written lately.

  8. Em says:

    This is a great article! I’ve just stumbled across your blog by accident, but I love how it’s focused on a POSITIVE outlook. I have only recently begun to think about exercise/eating well in the way you talk about, and I have to say I LOVE doing something for ME :) It’s much more motivational than dwelling on negatives. Thanks for being an encouraging, honest, POSITIVE voice out there! :)

  9. Rose says:

    Thanks, as a 34 yr old with two kids and a high stress job, I needed to read this today, I put so much pressure on myself to do it all and whenever one of the areas (work/family/self) suffers I really should go easier on myself and focus on finding that sweet spot.

  10. dana says:

    Just Beautiful!

  11. Love this so much. As a fitness professional, I totally struggle with all of this. I had a client ask my husband if I was pregnant a few months ago when I was feeling really bloated. It’s amazing how much people are watching you once you start putting yourself out there. (Although I do agree that most people are way to worried about themselves to really care about you…) :)

    I also tell people all of the time that training and movement is a privilege. Anytime I don’t feel like training I remind myself that I am lucky my body can train, that I have the time (make the time!), that I know what to do and that I have tools that help make it easier.

    Amen to all of this, Molly!

  12. Kate says:

    Thanks for sharing this…I struggle so much with body image, but not all because of the media, but a great deal because of an abusive parent when I was a kid/teen. This is encouraging and I might have to steal some ideas of wisdom from you in hopes they will help me feel better about me. I have made big improvements on self esteem, but still have down days!

  13. Barb D says:

    Wow, part 2 was even better than part 1. I shared this one with a good friend that also liked part 1. I plan to memorize this entire post! Thanks for writing it! :)

  14. ada says:

    Thank you for both part 1 and 2. What a motivating message. It’s so sane and makes so much sense, but it totally needed to be written down and shared!

  15. Shannon says:

    Your posts are always so incredible. In response to Neghar’s quote, “Movement is a privilege,” I think I’ve found my new mantra. I was paralyzed as a kid (I had a thing; I got better), I swam in college and then had 3 major shoulder surgeries that basically left my upper body with the strength of an 85 year old woman. I’ve battled back from that and am feeling stronger than ever. Can I do 50# single arm bench? No, and I might not ever be able to, but I’m accepting that that’s my body. I can, however, do the most perfectly formed RDLs in the gym and can beast out hip thrusts with more than what my body weighs for reps.

    Will I ever be a size 2? Not a chance. I have these magical things called hip bones that physically will never be that small. Who cares, I’ve got a booty like a boss and legs for days. Your body and movement is a gift. Take advantage of it. Accept what you can and cannot do. Embrace your abilities and work with what your mama gave you!

  16. Sara says:

    Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Finally someone is talking about the reality of the fitness industry- it isn’t all so “cut and dry” is it??

  17. Chrissie says:

    I absolutely love this! I needed this and will refer to it often!

  18. Stephanie says:

    Another amazing post, Molly! I have been having a hard time personally lately — life stress + an injury + gym being closed for renovations has left me in this weird health/training limbo. I’ve been training around my injury as much as I can, but it’s sometimes difficult without my gym, especially when taking an injury into account. Taking my training down a notch (well, more like 1000 notches) because of all this has left me feeling totally vulnerable and completely crappy. This was exactly what I needed to read today, and I’m actually tearing up a little bit because it felt like you were talking directly to me (as cliche as that sounds). I guess what I’m trying to say is, thank you for voicing what so many people need to hear, and thank you for doing it while being such a strong, kick ass woman :)

    • Nancy Brennan says:

      I totally understand! I am recovering from an injury and am working out at a fraction of what I was doing! I feel so badly about it! These posts were great, it is nice to know that I am not a total loser! I am my own worst critic and I have to force myself to look in the mirror and like what I see. I am going to look at myself in a more positive light, starting now.Thank you all for your insights!

  19. Cindy says:

    Molly thank you so much for being open and sharing your struggles so that we all don’t feel alone in that! Many of us in fitness lose perspective easily and I am reminded how grateful I am to do the things I do. Keep moving forward, we are there with you!

  20. Cameo says:

    Thank you for these articles! I love the message you are putting forth. Really solid advice! Love it.

  21. L says:

    I just about burst into tears reading this and your last post.

    I have struggled with my body for as long as I can remember, I had an eating disorder throughout the majority of my teenage years and early 20s and I have only ever trained because I hated myself- Infact I have spent the last 8 months trying to diet/train not go out atall ignoring my friends, didnt particpate in christmas or new years as I felt I didnt deserve too- its all very depressing.

    As horrible as it is to go through I always think its nice to see that other people go through it and that you are not alone.

    I think its great that you (and others) are putting this free information and uplifitng stories/support out there. :D

    <3 your site.

  22. Kevin Deweese says:

    These are great articles Molly. You are onto something big here, keep it up.

  23. Daniela says:

    As usual you’ve rocked it out… a topic most would never discuss and you’ve owned it…

    Thanks for the truth and the vulnerability!
    D

  24. JJ says:

    ‘Train because you love your body’. This has given me a unique perspective. Thank you!

  25. TT says:

    Thanks so much for all your blogs Molly, this one has really struck a chord! Movement is a privelage but we all take it for granted and health also for that matter. Thanks so much for the reminder :). I will remember this when i don’t fancy training.
    You’re looking fit, keep it up, you’re an inspiration to the rest of us.

    T

  26. I can totally identify with all of these tips! I need them printed and taped to the front of everything I see until it sinks in :)
    I absolutely love how you said that you should train because you love yourself.
    And I love that you said you should change your goals according to your life now. I all-to-often give myself a guilt trip for not following through with a goal after months and months of going at it…but after months and months, I need to CHANGE the goal and motivation! Thank you!!
    PS the intro is SO true. As a blogger, I know I am SUPER careful about the image of myself I write. And I often look at other blogger’s “lives” and get jealous…yet I should know that they’re doing the same thing I do!

  27. Julie says:

    I needed this. Thank you :-)
    The haters are everywhere. A woman passed me in the mall the other day, looked me up and down, huffed loud enough for me to hear, rolled her eyes and stalked by me. DAMN! Pure hate for someone she has never met. We really need to stop hating on each other and for no reason other than we look different from one another.

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