It’s finally here. A post that I have been thinking about, dreaming about, talking about, and stressing about for the better part of a year, and it’s coinciding with an amazing challenge that I’ve been wanting to run for at least 6 months now.
A blog post on cellulite. Yes, cellulite.
And a Love Your Body Challenge.
Umm… cellulite and loving your body? Are you lost yet? Bear with me for just a second and it will all make sense.
You see, ever since I posted my article, Its Hard Out Here For A Fit Chick, my life has been totally different. I recognized that what I am most passionate about is helping women discover what their best body looks and feels like with minimal time and effort.
But most importantly, I’ve discovered that I want to help them have grace and compassion towards their bodies.
That, plus a few of the other soul-baring posts that I’ve written, plus this amazing blog post by Amber of Go Kaleo all about cellulite, is what initially made me want to write this blog post.
Then all those pesky web designer issues got in the way, and postponed things a bit.
Then, I saw an amazing post from my girl Jen Sinkler, where she posted a picture of herself, and her cellulite, in all of it’s glory right smack dab on her Thrive As The Fittest Facebook page (you’ll see her post below).
In her post, she referenced another amazing woman, Lauren Fleshman and her post, Let’s Keep It Real About Our Bodies, where she posted pictures of her looking incredibly fit, and then, well, less fit, and discussed how those pictures were taken within the same week. Eek! This woman basically wrote the blog post I’d been wanting to write for almost a year. And she did it really, really well.
Kudos to Lauren.
But just because it has been “done before” doesn’t mean I can’t take a stab at it too,right?
I’ve been desperately wanting to do this for a long time, and not just with my pictures. It’s been my dream and my goal to get other female fitness professionals to join me in this crazy adventure, in hopes that we are even stronger in numbers.
And you know what? They did join me. In droves. And I am so, so happy to share their amazing stories with you.
But first, before I do, let me explain something. The purpose of this post is five-fold:
1. To help you see that you are NOT alone. There’s comfort in community and feeling like other people have dealt with what you’re dealing with, and have been through the same struggles you have.
2. To take away the shame of having an “imperfect” body. I mean seriously, what the heck does a perfect body look like anyway? Cellulite, stretch marks, birthmarks, scars, moles, wrinkles… these are a part of every single one of us, and they make us unique, and they help us tell our story. There is no reason to hide them anymore.
3. To help you see that even very fit, and very lean women have cellulite, or belly rolls, or loose skin, and that lighting and camera angles make a huge difference. We always looks at ourselves in the worst lighting in the most awkward positions, and compare ourselves to a fitness model who has a crew of 15 including a professional photographer and lighting director. Get real! We are comparing our “behind the scenes” to her “highlight reel.”
4. To help you see yourself clearly. This point is honestly one that I didn’t expect when I first had this idea. In fact, I didn’t even realize that it would be a topic within this post until Mrs. Marianne Kane Fass pointed it out, and it’s the most poignant lesson of them all. All week these women texted me or emailed me pictures of themselves saying,
“Is this enough cellulite?”
“Does this belly roll look big enough?”
“Can you see my stretch marks well enough from this angle?”
When all of these women stepped back for a moment and tried to see these “horrific” things about their bodies, when they tried to capture these monstrous “flaws” that kept them out of bathing suits and shorts for years, when they looked at themselves through the eyes of a stranger, wondering if their “flaws” would look bad enough to YOU, the reader… they could hardly find them at all.
5. To help you recognize that you look amazing. As you’ll notice, many of these women hardly have a dimple to their name, and yet they have each struggled with body image and loving their body at some point in time. They’ve been way too hard on themselves, and I know you’ll think the same when you see them, too. They look amazing! Have you ever considered that maybe, just maybe, YOU are being too hard on yourself, and YOU look amazing too? =)
I hope you get these 5 lessons from all of the wonderful women in this post, and stick around for Day 1 of the Love Your Body Challenge at the very bottom!
Without further ado…
I remember shopping for shorts in high school, making sure they didn’t reveal even the first pit in the backs of my legs. I felt mortified, carefully dressing around this visual for years.
That was 30 pounds ago.
That’s right, like 90 percent of women, I have cellulite, and I have since I was just a little scrap. I was fit then, I’m fit again now (and a hell of a lot stronger, too), but now, I dare wear short shorts (cue Nair jingle). And often.
What changed, besides my clothes? My attitude about what I “should” look like, and the realization that we are air-brushing ourselves into a corner, with regard to societal expectations of what we should look like.
There is no should, and the sooner we start dressing the part, the better.
Along the same vein, I was pleased to read about professional runner Lauren Fleshman’s #keepingitreal campaign. (Get up to speed here, if you haven’t.)
Her suggestion is that we start peppering our own social media feeds with less-than-flattering photos of ourselves, in the spirit of not just body acceptance, but body *embracement.*
The challenge she laid down: “Everyone keeps saying how powerful social media is. Let’s use it to redefine beauty. Post an unflattering photo of your body on Facebook or Twitter and spread the word. Add the hashtag #keepingitreal.”
So, in the spirit of self-love, I posted this side-by-side shot of myself to my Facebook page, Thrive as the Fittest, on Valentine’s Day.
These two photos were taken the same day, during the same shoot for my apparel line. The light coming through the skylight was a little softer in the one on the left, AND it didn’t feature the backs of my legs, complete with my cellulite on blast. And right before the launch of my ebook on conditioning, Lift Weights Faster, on March 18, no less.
Would it hurt sales, I wondered?
But then, hot on the heels of that thought, a resounding “F*** IT.” Because my responsibility as a woman who works in the fitness industry to demonstrate that you can be fit and pitted, drowned out any reservations.
I’m strong, I feel healthy and vibrant, my life is rich and full of love, laughter and friendship, and I have a job that I’m passionate about.
Puts those itty-bitty pits in perspective, doesn’t it?
I remember “training” for the biggest photo shoot I’ve ever done back in 2011.
The amount of pressure and guilt I experienced during that time was ridiculous. I remember dreading the experience of measuring my body fat – getting pinched and prodded. The worst part is, that was the best shape I’ve ever been in, and
most of the enjoyment of being in that body was drained because I was mainly motivated by not feeling good enough.
I was up against a deadline – hoping to be good enough by the time it came to be in front of the camera.
I look back at those pictures now and really appreciate that body. I’m a few pounds heavier and a little bit softer now, but I feel so damn good in my body because I fully accept her. I dig my cellulite, I love my curves, and I swear I am more attractive as a human because of all these things.
It feels nice to not hide anymore. The two pics you see here are from that photo shoot. I’d never posted the one on the right anywhere because the angle made all the difference between nice booty/thigh shot and jiggly booty/thigh shot.
Largely inspired by Jen Sinkler’s post and Molly inviting me to share here, today I say, “What the hell!”
All of it is mine, the muscles, the meat and the cellulite.
Home is not a place, my body is my home and it’s my choice to love and respect her always.
As far back as I can remember I had always been self-conscious about my butt and today it is one of my favorite assets ~ pardon the pun ; )
After having my 1st baby in 2001, my body image was completely shaken. Gaining 50 pounds really did a number on my self-esteem and my lower body.
Long story short – divorce, discovery of self, dating, discovery of passion and getting married…it finally all came together for me.
I was more than a number on a scale and the size of my jeans.
I finally understood that my body was something I could love right then, as is, with no changes needed. Yes, I could get stronger, leaner or make various improvements, but I was still me and no changes were needed for me to finally love my body. I began to respect my body and embrace everything that makes it unique.
In 2007, after three years of personal training I launched an online fitness program for moms. I found myself coaching dozens of women who were putting off their happiness until they could fix all their problem areas. This obsession with achieving a perfect, flawless body was a challenge to address and overcome.
Breakthroughs began to happen as I opened up and shared my own personal ups and downs, which included photos and some hard core, super honest videos.
One video in particular demonstrates that while my body fits the appearance of being lean, I still have areas that are “as is” and no matter how much work I put into transforming, these parts are what make me, Me!
One area in particular, my butt! It jiggles, it has dimples and a dog bite from a mean old cocker spaniel and I joke about the multiple folds as smileys, but my butt is strong, curvy and can rock some skinny jeans! This is why I love my butt!
Sharing what makes my body real, and that no matter what fitness goals I achieve, there will always be parts of my body that keep me unique, and quite frankly, grounded and humble, is so cool.
My body is constantly transforming, and yet my body is amazing AS IS.
I know I have arrived at the body I want, not because of what I look like, but because of how I feel about myself.
I love this quote by Steve Maraboli,
“There is nothing more rare, nor more beautiful, than a woman being herself; comfortable in her perfect imperfection. To me, that is the true essence of beauty.”
Be unapologetically YOU!
As a young female in the fitness industry I often wondered why there weren’t more women on the local Perform Better fitness circuit. The male presenters were intelligent and passionate about teaching and sharing their fitness knowledge, however it was NEVER about the way that they looked.
Females in the spot light were the likes of Jillian Michaels /Tracy Anderson; covered in makeup, while sporting just a bra and booty shorts. It was as if their good looks and killer body alone made them a “good trainer.” So I decided that if I couldn’t get noticed for my brains alone then maybe a killer body would do the trick.
Here I am with a killer bod, attained and just plain MISERABLE. At this point in time I was a mediocre coach with no work/ life balance. No photoshop or editing just extreme discipline. (photo: Jay Sullivan)
Then you see me 3 years later, and I am happier then ever! I am STRONG and VIBRANT. I am the coach I want to be. I may not rock a 6 pack but that’s ok with me! (Photo Jess McDougall Creative)
Guess what? I HAVE STRETCH MARKS.
I have been told on numerous occasions that I am WIDE and needed to wear a girdle in order to ever have a waist.
These things do not DEFINE me.
There is a shift happening ladies. As females in the fitness industry we are embracing ALL of ourselves! The sooner we can embody a, “progress not perfection,” attitude towards our bodies the happier we can be!
My top 2 takeaways on body acceptance:
1) Exercise and food should be pleasures that COMPLEMENT your life, not take it over.
2) Everyone’s body is unique and different and everyone is beautiful, ESPECIALLY YOU. The sooner you realize this the better life is! =)
Danny – J
I know when I got into the fitness industry my biggest goal was to, “get on the cover of Oxygen!”
I wanted to be a fitness model, to have an awesome physique and exude confidence and smiles!
Interestingly enough, I remember my very first fitness competition, and I was going to be able to meet a few IFBB “pros.”
I was startled to see that they did NOT look like their pictures in person. The two that I met were puffy, a good 15+ lbs. heavier than pictured and not at all glamorous without the make-up.
I started doing shoots myself and suddenly, I wouldn’t even ALLOW any bad angle of a picture get posted online.
I had control over my image and I did NOT want people to see the “average” me, they only got to see the, “amazing, fit, tan, and smiling me!”I wouldn’t even post a bad selfie!!
Ironically, this is also what sickened me about the whole industry as I knew it was a facade. I knew I had cellulite on my bum and I knew my pasty, pasty, skin did NOT look all that flawless without a tan and great light. Even though I do have a few pounds on me in the booty picture, what a difference a tan and arching your back makes!
Don’t ever compare your average day with someones great day!!
Being immersed in the fitness industry, it is a slippery slope not to get too wrapped up in how my bod looks. Instagram and Facebook is nothing but a plethora of ab and ass shots these days, but I’m proud to deviate from that nonsense, and far prefer to share pics and posts about what a body is capable of doing if you put your mind to it – along with plenty of bloopers and failures, because that is real life.
So, cellulite? Who cares.
A couple of years ago, I was at my family’s house in Ontario sitting lakeside with friends and family. I had shorts and a tank top on. I stood up and started to walk inside to the house when my uncle said to me, “How does such a fit girl like you still have dimples on the backs of her legs?”
UM. WHAT THE EFF DID YOU JUST SAY? Pretty sure I had a couple choice words almost leave my mouth.
Here’s the thing. A couple years ago that comment would have (and did) upset me. It made me want to cover my dimply legs. It made not want to wear shorts in case someone else might notice.
I realize that this man did not in any way mean to make me feel uncomfortable or self-conscious, but that he was probably just generally surprised and interested to see that strong women with muscle have cellulite too. That women who are fit and even lean, have cellulite because that’s just how this science stuff works.
So my gals, if you too have some dimples on the backs of your legs, or anywhere else on your body for that matter, know that it’s perfectly fine and good. If someone has made a comment that has left you embarrassed, uncomfortable or feeling “less than,” take it as their ignorance to knowing what women’s bodies are really made of.
We are the only ones that can decide how we feel when we look in the mirror and, I’m telling you, embracing all of you a little more each day feels damn good.
When Molly asked if I was interested in contributing to her article, I JUMPED at the chance because, “I HAVE CELLULITE!”
Only now I had to prove it! Easy, right?
What if I told you that I took several dozen photos in my most unflattering poses and…ZERO cellulite to speak of? That’s right, the day it was finally going to be seen by everybody, it decided to hide – from my eyes.
I have spent most of my adult life comparing my body to others and hiding my legs. It’s good to feel normal, and it’s good not to feel alone in having body issues, but what struck me today was how upside down my approach to these photos was, and what an amazing thing happened as a result!
You see, normally, I am fearing imperfection, seeking “perfection” and seeing only flaws; today,
I went in seeking those flaws and expecting imperfections and I saw only beauty.
My cellulite has always looked worse to me. It didn’t matter who else had it worse than me, I always found a way to shame myself more. I’d usually say, “Yes, but I also have THIS too!” (and point to another flaw).
As I dried my hair in preparation for the “flaw” photo, I asked myself, “At what point do you feel beautiful and ready to face the world?” Certainly not when I am wearing shorts or without my make-up. I feel exposed and bare; unsafe and open to criticism – people might see me for what I really am: imperfect!
Look, it’s not like I don’t know I’m not perfect. I mean, I am quite comfortable sharing my inner struggles with my readers on my blog, but there is always this horror when you see your body as it really is: a shell. What is meant to make it shine is your character and confidence. It doesn’t happen the other way round. But you can’t see your beauty until you accept you own worth, just as you *are*
So, here is one photo which made my heart skip a few beats when I saw it online (I did a photo shoot for someone else’s website and they clearly didn’t care that my leg is rather rough looking lol). And the second photo is me, today, trying to recapture the evil shadows that revealed my “flaw.”
But don’t focus on my outer shadows, or your own… the only shadows that need made alight are the dark places in my mind that tell me I am ugly, sub-standard, and unworthy.
“I’ve never had anywhere near a perfect body, but for the past 10 years or so, I’ve had a pretty good one. That’s when I made a few dietary changes, and got into heavy strength training, resulting in losing about 25 pounds. Thankfully I never had a very negative impression of my body, but it wasn’t until recently that I learned to really love it – fatty inner thighs and all.
It wasn’t a specific change that happened that allowed me to start loving my body, but rather a realization that I really had found a perfect balance: I had a body that I could look at and smile; It was fit enough that I could enjoy high level athletic performance; and I could maintain this without an overly restrictive approach to nutrition (I eat well most of the time but I also drink wine and beer, eat chips sometimes, and when I eat pizza, I eat way more than would be considered “a serving”). So that was it – I had everything I wanted out of my body – how could I not love it?
When Molly asked me to contribute to this blog post, It actually made me realize how happy and comfortable I am in my body. I couldn’t even get a good picture of my cellulite!
I then remembered how my stomach looks like when I sit down. I have a flat stomach when I’m standing up, but because of how I’ve dealt with stress in the past and the lifestyle I used to live, it will be a while before my stomach looks “perfect…” but I think I look good naked, and I don’t care if it looks like that when I sit down.
In high school I stayed inside for two whole summers because I hated the way my body looked. My body went through a huge change when I moved to the U.S. from Guatemala. I wasn’t used to having curves, and I thought I would be skin and bones for the rest of my life.
It saddens me knowing that I spent 8 years hating my body and the way I looked, but it feels so good to know that I love the way it looks now.
I don’t think it’s any secret that I’ve struggled with body image for a long, long time. I’ve written about it, spoken about it, and presented on it, and now, here we are.
I kept wondering what pictures I wanted to include for my contribution, and then I remember it’s my blog and I can include as many as I want!
I have so many “perceived imperfections,” from my belly when I sit down, to my booty full of cellulite, to my stretch marks and loose skin, to my incredibly small eyes and sleepy face when I first wake up. So I’ve decided to share them all, and like I said in the introduction, after looking at them through the eyes of a stranger, I’ve decided that they actually aren’t that bad after all. =)
So… there you have it.
11 of your favorite fitness pros, stripped down half naked, sharing their vulnerabilities and insecurities with you. Remember, it’s not about how YOU think they look. They have each struggled with hating their body at some point. It may seem crazy to us, but they’ve struggled with it just the same, but they are all on their own journey to not just body acceptance, but body embracement.
And you can be too!
So… about this 28 Day Love Your Body Challenge… What’s the deal?
First, before you get started, grab a notebook (or create a document) so that you can have all of your completed assignments in one place.
Before you begin the Challenge, I’d like you to take a moment and rank how you feel about a few things on a scale from 1-10, 1 being the worst, 10 being the best. Make sure these are written down in your notebook/document.
1. How do you feel when you think about how your body looks?
(1 = absolutely terrible, 10 = freaking awesome)
2. How often do you think about things you’d like to change on your body?
(1 = constantly, 10 = never)
3. How often do you look in the mirror and think, “I look really awesome!”
(1 = never, 10 = always)
4. How confident do you feel when you’re in a swimsuit?
(1 = not confident at all, 10 = extremely confident)
5. How confident do you feel about your body during intimate moments?
(1 = not confident at all, 10 = extremely confident)
6. How often do you catch yourself saying/thinking negative things about your body?
(1 = constantly, 10 = never)
7. How often do you catch yourself saying negative things about your body to other people?
(1 = constantly, 10 = never)
8. How well do you receive compliments from others?
(1 = not well, 10 = really well)
9. How often do you have feelings of shame in regards to your body?
(1 = constantly, 10 = never)
10. If I told you that you could drastically change your perception of your body in 28 days, would you believe me?
(1 = absolutely not, 10 = no doubt about it)
Instructions: After ranking yourself in each category, add up your total score and hang on to these numbers. We will re-visit these questions again in 28 days so that you can see tangible and quantitative improvements.
Each day you’re going to check back to my website to see the challenge for the day. And each day there will be a reason to love your body, a mantra associated with that reason, and a small assignment/action step to cement that reason. And the posts will be short, so they should take less than 5 minutes to read, and the action step should take less than 5 minutes.
Keep in mind, some mantras and reasons will resonate with you more than others. If you find one that works, stick with it. Don’t feel like you have to use a new one if a different one is working. And if the first few don’t resonate with you? Don’t worry! We have 28 days of this, so you’re bound to find something that sticks with you.
There’s no official registration or sign-up or anything, so I recommend you find yourself an accountability partner and do the challenge together. It will be fun, and you’re more likely to stay on track. And you’re always welcome to comment on the post of the day to find community with other women also doing the challenge. And, if you’re feeling inspired by this post, feel free to join me (and others) by sending your “less-than-flattering” photos to: firstname.lastname@example.org
and I’ll post them in my #LoveYourBodyChallenge album on Facebook.
Let’s get started!
Reason # 1 to Love Your Body:
1. Because it’s yours.
Sounds kinda silly, right? But seriously — think about other things that are yours: your house, your car, your favorite pair of shoes or your puppy. Think about how well you treat so many other things in your life that are yours.
Even crazier? Those things are finite. They are replaceable (ok, maybe not *your* puppy, but you get my drift). How ridiculous does it sound that we spend more time and energy taking care of our finite and replaceable possessions than we do our own body, mind, heart, and soul?
Mantra: ”My body is my home. It’s the ONLY place I have to live. I will treat it with the care and respect it deserves.”
Repeat this (to yourself or out loud) 10 times right now, 10 times during your action step, and 10 times before bed.
Action Step: Do one really nice thing to take care of yourself today. Maybe it’s a bubble bath, maybe it’s deep conditioner in your hair, or maybe it’s a few minutes in the steam room at the gym, whatever. Just do it, and while you are doing it, repeat your mantra to yourself 10 times. When you’re done with that, then just simply enjoy what you’re doing.
No work, no kids, no emails. Try to experience what you’re doing with all of your senses, and clear your mind.
That’s it for today!
So here’s your checklist:
1. Make sure you’ve signed up for my newsletter so you can get links to the new challenge every morning!
2. Make sure you’ve filled out the 10 questions listed above so you have your “starting point.”
3. Say your mantra 10 times immediately, during your action step, and before bed.
4. Complete your action step, however small it is.
5. Check in with your accountability partner if you have one.
6. Check back tomorrow for more.
7. (optional) Spread the word and share your experiences on Facebook and Twitter with the #LoveYourBodyChallenge hashtag. If you’re on Twitter, and that’s simply too long, use #LYBC. This will enable more women to find the challenge, and you’ll be helping to change lives!
See you tomorrow!
FIND DAY 2 HERE