Posted In Body Image
(Note from Molly: I am so excited to have another amazing guest blog on my website this week, this time from my girl Neghar Fonooni, Co-Founder of Girls Gone Strong. Neghar and I met in 2011 and became fast friends. I mean, let’s be honest. We both love lifting, food, and empowering women to love their bodies. Not necessarily in that order of course, but you get my point.
I even got to hang out with Neghar and her awesome hubby John this past weekend in Vegas for my 30th birthday!
Point being… I absolutely adore this girl, and I am SO excited that she is sharing her story of self-love and body embracement on my website today. Check it out!)
This is a story about a journey of strength and love, one with a happy ending, although I truly believe it’s not over. Every day I grow and am always expanding with grace and self-acceptance. My journey is not identical to yours, as that is yours alone. But we are all on a journey, aren’t we? A journey to learn to love and accept our bodies, all while enduring the pursuit of improvement.
Whether that improvement is physical, spiritual, emotional, or professional, it’s ultimately a desire to get better. Today I can comfortably say that I am enough. What I do every day is what I’m capable of doing, and my body is beautiful at every stage of its flow. I know now that I can get better, I can grow and cultivate a higher expression of myself, without hating the state I’m currently in. Today I know this, but that wasn’t always the case. My initial desire to improve came from a very dark and lonely place.
It 2009, and it was a powerful turning point.
I was a single mom running my own business, feeling overworked and under recovered. Allowing myself to stay in a verbally and physically abusive relationship, I had yet to truly dig deep and face my demons. Through the words of others and the nasty voice in my head, I allowed myself to believe I wasn’t good enough. I wasn’t skinny enough. I wasn’t successful enough. I wasn’t strong or accomplished enough. I just wasn’t enough.
Because I believed I wasn’t enough, my intentions for my body came from a place of abject fear and self-loathing. My entire sense of self-worth as a woman and as a trainer revolved around my physique!
At the time, I weighed in at roughly 120 pounds and 12% body fat. I was ripped out of my mind, and also ACTUALLY out of my mind. I counted every last calorie and worked out for about 2 hours a day. Because I lacked confidence I only felt good about myself when I was lean. I weighed myself every single day and allowed that number to dictate how I felt about myself.
The phrase “I can’t eat that” escaped my lips so many times, that my friends stopped inviting me to happy hours and social engagements. They said they didn’t want to “mess up my diet.” It hurt to hear that, but in truth they were only doing what I taught them to do—removing temptations unless it was “cheat day.” I constantly spoke negatively about my body (to myself and to others), chastising myself for every nutritional “failure,” and partaking in a vicious cycle of binge, berate, restrict, repeat.
So yes, I was lean. I was shredded, actually. And I was absolutely effing miserable.
Now, I’m not saying that lean people are unhappy, or that being in shape isn’t a worthy endeavor. I know plenty of women who are in great shape and live a balanced happy, life (I’m one of them now!). What I am saying is that why you exercise and eat well is just as important-if not more so-than how you do it.
When I was in my dark place, I thought, if I work harder and get leaner, then I’ll be happier. If I can make my body more aesthetically appealing, then I will love myself. If I stay 12% bodyfat, then my boyfriend won’t cheat on me. If I can look like a figure competitor, then I’ll never be unhappy with myself. I went so far down the if/then rabbit hole that I’m often astonished that I was able to climb out.
As it turned out, none of that could be further from the truth.
Inevitably, I fell apart, because what I was pursuing wasn’t fulfilling. I didn’t love who I was, and no amount of leanness would change that. What I would eventually discover is that true contentment comes from a place of self-love and compassion. Lifting and eating nutritiously are only sustainable if you do it because you love your body, not because you hate it. When you know, with the utmost certainty, that you are enough right now-not 10 pounds from now-only then can you begin your journey to the highest expression of you. Only then will fitness enrich your life, as opposed to detract from it.
It’s because I fell apart that I was finally able to realize this. I hit rock bottom, and I began to look for a way out. I read books by Brene Brown and Byron Katie, learned about positive psychology and spent a lot of time journaling. I did some serious soul searching, and figured out how to love myself because of what’s in my heart, not what I saw in the mirror. And as a result, I gained a little weight, put on a bit of body fat, and learned to live a truly wholehearted life that didn’t hinge on what the scale said.
Furthermore I learned that what I saw in the mirror wasn’t necessarily what everyone else saw. I saw jiggle and pudge, and my husband (who deserves a lot of credit for his role in this journey) saw strength, sexiness, and beauty. I spent so many years attaching my body to my sense of self-worth, that it took a lot of compassion to eventually embrace cellulite and stretch marks.
Today I love my body. Today I nurture my body. I eat mindfully, train intuitively, and live joyfully. It took a lot of work and self-reflection, but I can honestly say that I embrace myself exactly the way that I am right now. My body changes constantly, but the only way for me to care for it is to also care for my heart and soul. After all, fitness isn’t just about what’s on the outside.
At times, the journey was dark and lonely. After years of self-discovery, I finally I have the courage to own that, and am blessed to be able to help women all over the world discover and cultivate their radiance. I faced ugly demons, developed strategies, adapted to change, and emerged a more radiant version of myself than I ever thought possible. All by starting with one thought:
I am enough.
People often ask me how I got to where I am, and the truth is, that’s where it begins. You have to think it, believe it, and practice it. You have to remind yourself every day, write it down, develop a mantra, and practice self-love so often it becomes a habit.
I have cellulite. Eff it. So what.
Does that mean I’m not worthy of wearing a bikini?
Does that mean I shouldn’t love myself or that I should ignore all of the amazing things about my body? To hell with that—I’m too busy living vibrantly. I lift 3x a week, practice yoga daily, and can regularly be seen paddle boarding on the water. I eat to nourish my body and soul, but I don’t deny my taste buds either. I don’t count calories or restrict myself, and I never binge to the point of discomfort or shame.
There’s no anxiety around food, or fear that I won’t look good enough in my bikini. I know, in this moment, that I am enough. I know it like I know the sun rises in the East and the tides flow with the moon. I know how to live in a way that enhances my body as well as my mind and my heart and I practice it every single day.
Today, I weigh roughly 135 pounds and about 18% body fat. I’m strong as hell and can nail some pretty cool yoga poses. Am I as lean I as used to be? No, of course not. But do I really need to be? Not at all. And if I really decide that I want to be leaner, I can do that now without the guilt, shame, and self-loathing. I can do it with love, and simply by tightening up my nutrition a little more, prioritizing fat loss.
But to be honest, I love my life the way it is. I play sports, have adventures, ride my bike with my son, taste everything with moderation, drink wine a few times a week, and never say no to hanging out with girlfriends for fear of “messing up my diet.” I’m absurdly happy, and not because I achieved some arbitrary number on the scale—because I learned the truth about what it means to completely accept and honor myself. I eat to please my palate and my physique, I indulge when I choose to, and I approach my workouts with a sense of joy and adventure. I never feel deprived. I never talk down to my body. I never feel shameful for lack of perfection.
Like anything else, learning how to live a wholehearted life of acceptance, balance, and moderation takes practice. I spend a lot of time in deep reflection, learning how to be compassionate and cultivating a vibrant life. It’s a perpetual process, but I promise that you can have it all, and you can have it without berating yourself or depriving yourself. You can be strong and vibrant without spending hours at the gym. You can lose fat without counting every last calorie. You can live authentically, and in tune with your body, rather than constantly fighting against it. You can love your body, at every stage of it’s transformation, and you can approach your journey with zeal and grace.
It all starts with one thought:
You are enough.
Think it. Feel it. Believe it. Write it down. Spend 10 minutes each day journaling about the wonderful things in your life and detailing what you love about yourself. Look in the mirror and say, “I love you because you are an EFFING BADASS.” Because you are. You really and truly are.
(Note from Molly: When it comes to striking a balance between being extremely healthy, ridiculously fit, and enjoying the hell out of life… no one does it better than Neghar Fonooni. And you know what’s amazing? Because of the overwhelming demand from women seeking her expertise to help them live a happier, healthier, and more balanced life, she has out everything she knows about cultivating your best life into her program, Lean & Lovely.
Lean & Lovely is not just your run-of-the-mill training program (come on! You KNOW I wouldn’t recommend something bogus like that!) Instead, it’s a manual chock-full of strategies that will help you live your most vibrant life, through intelligent training, nutritional freedom, mindset tips, and more!
If you’re interested in learning exactly how Neghar has trained herself and her clients to get the results they want while loving their lives, you should read more about Lean & Lovely here.)