What is the optimal body? Is there a perfect body? We all know there isn’t an answer to these questions and yet we strive for perfection each day. We either look in the mirror each morning and recognize our imperfections or even worse avoid the mirror all together for fear of what it might shine back. Beauty and health magazines tell us how we should look and what we should strive for. I hear so many women tell me what is wrong about their bodies and how they are working out to fix it. Exercising can help achieve changes but will never do it all. Recently, in conversations these traits that I had thought were mostly associated with women I learned have infiltrated men’s lives as much as women’s.
For years it seemed that the Kate Moss skinny model was the ideal according to the magazines. In recent years campaigns like “strong is the new skinny” have taken it’s place. Although this message aims to highlight an athletic healthy lifestyle the women pictured are the 1% and really are just like the Kate Moss photos. These photos show bodies of tall, strong women with about 5% body fat. The average woman carries about 20-25% body fat. So how is the picture of the woman ripped with a six pack that much different from the anorexic model. In many ways very but in others very much the same. Both push women to attempting to obtain unrealistic goals. Men’s magazines show bodies that look as if they are sculpted out of marble. Commercials like that of David Beckham during the Superbowl have us striving for the unattainable. These hyper athletic images are not attainable to most and can make many feel just as inadequate as the Kate Moss photos.
I will NEVER look like Kerri Walsh or Misty May. Sure I can strive to be the fittest I can be but I am 5’4″ and will never have the long lanky body. It’s just not in my genes. I spent years looking at women like these two and longing for their bodies. I was born with my family genes, which left me with short legs, a long torso and huge quads and calves. In my younger years I was never comfortable in just a bikini, it was always the bikini top and board shorts. All along I was a pretty athletic female, hiding behind the shorts lacking the confidence to show off what I had.
Then a few years ago I made an important decision, I got rid of the beauty, fashion and health magazines and in May 2011 got rid of television. I made a conscious decision to take these things out of my life. As I trained more and watched my body reshape itself I learned to love it. I learned to love those things like my strong calves and strong quads. I found they were my strengths when it came to hiking up mountains and on the trail I didn’t need the long legs. I learned to work with what I had instead of worrying about the physical traits I could never have. Because guess what, I’m 5’4″ and weigh 135lbs (had to find a scale to weigh myself since I don’t own one). So stop stressing about your weigh I don’t. The funny thing was when I stopped stressing more people complimented me on how great I was looking. It seemed all the years I worried and strived for unattainable goals all I had to do was just be myself.
I do still look in the mirror and see multiple things I continuously want to improve upon. We all do! But the important thing I have stopped doing is feeling like I need to cover up what I have. Do many have better bodies than I do? Sure! Good for them, they worked hard. But I have worked hard for what I have and am pretty happy with it. I don’t need to look like Kate Moss, Kerri Walsh, or any of the fitness models in the “Strong is the New Skinny” promotions because that’s not me.
Steps to Loving Your Body
- Get Rid of Health & Beauty Magazines- Stop striving for airbrushed perfection. It doesn’t exist.
- Get Rid of Your Television or Stop Watching It- Honestly, most of the stuff advertised you don’t need and won’t make you happier.
- Ditch the Scale- Measure your successes or failures in how clothing fits. Remember muscle weighs more than fat. I have lost two pant sizes in the last year and remained the same weight.
- Look In The Mirror -Take a good look in the mirror, we all have a part of our body that is awesome. Maybe it’s just a toe, but find the good because we all have something and build off of it. I love my calves now they get me up mountains!
- Acceptance – The final step is acceptance, take a look at yourself and your body composition. I will never be a basketball player but I can run up mountains and duck under obstacles. Find your strengths and find those activities that compliment it.
Finally, instead of pandering to the masses and killing ourselves to achieve the unattainable take that time to make someone of the next generation see the good in themselves. If you are around children engage the one in the corner feeling down about themselves especially teenage girls and boys. Take the time to get to know yourself, get to know your strengths and your weaknesses and build upon them. You just might find yourself loving you more than ever.