On Saturday I had the opportunity to see the film "Embrace" with some of the Chuckwalla CrossFit ladies. This film follows body image activist Taryn Brumfitt's crusade as she explores the global issue of body loathing, inspiring us to change the way we feel about ourselves and think about our bodies.
There are a lot of thought provoking concepts that can be pulled out of the movie. A lot that applied to me personally & professionally, applied to how I view the women (or men!) around me, and applied to how I want to raise my child(ren). I want to share with you 2 of the practical things I got out of the film, because body image positivity starts with me; it starts with you. Let's create a circle of change at Chuckwalla CrossFit.
1) “We live in a world where women are objectified and sexualised in advertising campaigns or on television on a daily basis,” says Brumfitt. We are left drowning in a sea of media. If I'm comparing myself to [the perfect body] that doesn't even exist, how can I possibly feel good? Models go to extreme measures to stay that size, are usually miserable, and the photos of them are still edited! Maybe we have forgotten what the "average" body looks like.
Application: If there is a social media account, TV show, commercial, etc that contributes to body shame, criticism, and false ideas of body image, whether blatantly or subtly - then I don't need that in my life. Unfollow. Instead, I will choose to surround myself with positivity! A few of my favorites are: The Body Image Movement , Get Mom Strong, Girls Gone Strong, and Healthy Habits Happy Moms (Balance 365). And surround yourself with other men & women who lift each other UP.
PS: I seriously love Healthy Habits Happy Moms!! Go follow them!!
2) This body of mine is a not an ornament, it's a vehicle to my dreams. Love and appreciate my body for what it can do. Find that place of acceptance and affection, not criticism. My body is the only one I have.
Application: Turn "I hate my thighs," into "What have my thighs done for me today?" Find value beyond my appearance or performance. Look at the things my body can do, feel, contribute and accomplish. When I learn to value my body, I can give it the care it actually needs. (More on that at the end!)
As a CrossFit coach I have often wrestled with this concept of body image both professionally and personally. I often wonder what it should look like for me to be a voice in the fitness industry without promoting body shaming. How do I respond to my clients who talk negatively about their body and want me to give them tools to change [what they don't like about] their body? What do I say to clients who obsess over the numbers on the scale and chase after the idea that "If you're thin you're happy?" How do I help them learn to value their body and to speak higher of themselves? How do I justify reasonable health & fitness goals for myself or my clients? If I'm embracing my body does that mean I don't need to eat well or exercise? After mulling over some of these thoughts and discussing these concepts with a few people, I came to the conclusion that body image, exercise and nutrition meet in a balanced harmony when we VALUE our body. If we loathe our body, we will pursue diets and exercise routines that are mostly unsuccessful & usually soul draining. We will be on an unsatisfiable quest for the "perfect body," which usually causes more physical, emotional, and mental damage that it causes good changes. If we can come to a place where we value the body we have, then we will actually want to take care of it in the way it needs! We will find a way of eating that leaves it feeling nourished and a way of exercise that highlights its strength, without the burdensome load of unrealistic expectations. Body image should probably be the starting place to achieve our health & fitness goals. I don't think there is a "one-size-fits-all" equation for finding value in your body and balancing nutrition and fitness, because everyone is different and you have to find what works for you. I want to be part of the discussion, part of the circle of change, and always be learning better ways to value my body and to encourage those around me to do the same. That is what we want at Chuckwalla CrossFit as well, and we plan to continue the discussion with some clinically trained professionals over the next couple months. Stay tuned.
One last thought:
I realize that learning to value (embrace) your body is not always an easy process and it is not usually a "one-and-done" process. Your body is continually changing and we are continually learning to embrace the changes. There can also be a lot more physical and emotional trauma than one blog post or movie can overcome. But I hope you realize that you are valuable and you are worth it, right now, just exactly the way you are. I hope you realize you are not alone and you don't need to face this alone. I hope that you begin the process to take small steps in a positive direction. We are here to walk through this together, one step at a time.
I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Your works are wonderful, I know that full well.