Body positivity is big - bold and ‘on point’ right now (***please note my use of such words is a little facetious at times yes- as I like to throw in a some ‘tongue in cheekiness’ when I write in the world of fitness and health)
We are all strong- empowered woman committed to loving our bodies ALL of the time- accept the wobbles- the flaws- the folds and the rolls- yes ?!
Well in some cases I would argue no - things in life are maybe not always that easy -
So I write to give a little extra ‘layer’ to the world of body love. **** Please know that I am not slating body positivity in any which way at all- I see the empowerment- I see the point and I embrace the idea that women should learn to love their bodies and themselves a little more.
I have another view which maybe raises the question
- is it a simple case of learning to love your body - OR should we just embrace - accept and understand the ‘changes’ that occur in our bodies, a little more, instead of showing off our (supposed) flaws or 'good bits' to the world? And in which case- and in accepting that change- can we demonstrate that we are confident with every aspect of shape- size and inconsistency that our body will bring?
There is no doubt that as we grow (I mean age- and in terms of our maturity- confidence and understanding/perspective of the world)- our views on our bodies and their role (* purpose not where your stomach sits) will alter. Add on the old societal trends of whats ‘in’ and again we will see a changing pattern in what we perceive is the best version of you
Skinny was once cool- now we are all meant to look strong (I’ve been known to often use the #strongisthenewskinny hashtag myself… …though I also question how comfortable I am with this)- Am I now saying that my somewhat skinny friends look bad- or are not ‘en trend’ -
No and nor do I want to portray that message.
Attending the Girl Gains event at the weekend - it was wonderful to see how many females are embracing the idea of body positivity- the message of ‘not trusting everything you see on social media’ was also well portrayed.
Unfortunately this ‘message’ of body positivity doesn't always fit well with social media being a business. This I guess is where the difficulty and the incongruence sits. For those using social media as a business tool (ie to draw attraction)- lets face it -accounts-profiles and pictures HAVE to be filtered - the market is saturated and filled with perfect looking fit-famm’ers- healthy eaters and the like- we must try at least to stand out and ‘look our best’. I have fallen foul of this myself sometimes - I hold my hands up I will often filter a photo to bring out the best look of me - but I like to think I know where I draw the line and I inevitably (with a fairly analytical brain)- reflect ALOT about what message my posts are trying to portray.
One question I will always ask is how ‘ego led’ my message is- if the answer is an overriding YES I ditch it- - If - however, I feel I have a motivational -influential - but most of all PRACTICAL message to share then sometimes I’ll allow a little ego to slip through the net- but I like to monitor this closely- this my friends is why you will never see me giving an ‘ass shot’ - and yes I do like my own ass but I don’t really think it holds much purpose in inspiring others.
Those who use social media to ‘seek’ advice/motivation and encouragement however are those who become entangled in a world of ‘falsehoods’. Images that (as the Girl-Gains explained on Saturday night) are always the ‘best version-snap shot’ of how that person wants you to see them are posted around with such ferocity -that now it seems everyone is a health and fitness guru of some sort simply because they can use an iPhone camera well in a gym (usually the ones who are willing to keep showing their asses).
So the message I would encourage and motivate people to consider as an addition to the body positivity spin, is to research the issue of CHANGE within the body and what this means in practical terms. Loving your body is tough when you don’t understand why it is behaving in a certain way, and all too often social media fit chicks dont explain the 'why and how' they just show you a (very filtered) 'what'.
So perhaps if we encourage people not only to simply ‘love their bad bits’ -but lets look at the changes and the specifics behind why your body behaves in a certain way- as a more helpful or additional approach?
CHANGE- is an absolute a) inevitability and b) consistent inconsistency - so that means it will happen every day- every week- every month- ESPECIALLY if you are a female with hormones pumping through our feminine physique. It will not always look the same. It will however always happen.
I am going to use the ‘gym selfie’ as an example to explore this point. (Now we all know everyone loves a gym selfie)- While our hair and make up may look like a dogs dinner- that is not our concern- no no- its the PUMP that we want everyone to see. Everyone knows when we leave the gym, feeling like we ‘look- ripped- toned- or in bro speak ‘swole’ -as a product of our hard efforts- THAT is the time we want to share our shot. As quick as Jack flash we see the ‘bicep pump- the ab shot’ on instagram - leaving the ‘I don’t love my body yet, client’, feeling (I take an educated guess here)- somewhat more insecure about how they look. Yes such images can motivate but more often than not they are ego led and we need to remember that.
How motivational is me showing ‘ an overweight or anxiety riddled self conscious client’ how ripped I ‘can look’ in the gym- ? conversely if I later show a small amount of cellulite to 'balance this out'-
As a Trainer - and even as a human being - what message am I trying to convey?
So exploring the idea of change- lets look scientifically at my body in this image (and NOTE- the body of every fitfam-gym goers instagram selfies and why they look the way they do).
The Post Work out Pic
Occurs after training. When we ‘workout’ we become more vascular looking (so veins stick out more) - This basically is due to the fact that the veins work super hard to carry blood to tissues and muscles-
An increase blood flow to muscle tissue can lead to an almost ‘swolllen’ appearance to try and accommodate the extra fluid. Hence the body builder term ‘swole’
This does not mean the body will stay with this appearance all of the time.
Add on a little ‘flex’ (you will see a slight flex in my arms- I could have gone the whole hog but I was too ashamed) …shorted angles will allow a greater tensed swole appearance, and voila you will see a nice looking little pump.
Add a little extra light - a filter and a camera angle and I could turn myself into another human being- but I won't.
THIS is not how I look or walk around in real life! Yes I have muscle but it certainly isn't flexed at all times.
Now I am by no stretch of the imagination the best example of this - but I encourage you to think about this when you see gym selfies-
And then we have
The ‘MORNING’ Flat abs shot
-You process water overnight. You will lose water through processes such as respiration and through functions such as pumping blood, the work of your internal organs, and even through sweating and urination. Physician Margaret Polaneczky notes on her website that 80 percent of your morning weight loss is because you've lost water weight -- not including urine.
Hence FLAT ab central!!! So you will see why the instagrammers are hard at the ab shot- first thing in the morning!
Again knowing that the change above is normal- will allow you to be realistic about any weight ‘you think’ you may have gained in a day if you notice big fluctuations, and how flat the next girls abs are.
You will very rarely see a ‘pre menstrual ab shot at the end of a day on instagram’!
The water weight issue, for many women can have a huge impact on apparent weight gain - sometimes showing pounds of fluid retention during the latter part of the female cycle. This is all down to the hormone estrogen which peaks and encourages water retention, before your period is due. Eating certain foods can help this (ie those with high levels of magnesium + potassium) or some can make it worse (ie very salty foods).
Being aware of this CHANGE is a significant step to knowing how the body works.
I could go on with examples of the truths behind social media and how I don’t think we are ‘quite there yet’ with showing everyone what lies the ‘other-side’ of the selfies. But the discussion has at least begun.
I know I am happy with my physique, with some good muscular ‘tone’ (using that word so people can relate)- but I also know I will inevitably have days when I feel yucky - may be carrying a few water pounds or even times when I feel I no longer like my hamstrings (for the record this is only when I try on jeans). But I know WHY my body is the shape it is. I understand the changes I have made to it and the changes that will likely come. I also know that my body is only part of 'who I am'. This is for me, the real message of empowerment.
So am I slating my own industry? - (and myself at times- for that matter!?- NO- I know how hard it is for bodies to change - I know that work must be done for an outcome- but I also equally realise how much of an unrealistic step ‘loving your body’ for many people may seem. I feel strongly we must question and explore these issues at a deeper level.
This is not to say you shouldn't seek to get to the body positivity approach, and some of the messages out there right now (GirlGains example) are fantastic for starting the ball rolling.
But for me-
The journey to self acceptance, is not always just knowing what your flaws are and simply loving them but actually gaining ‘knowledge’ about how they have occurred.
Knowledge means power and understanding.
Learn to embrace change by understanding why the body behaves in the way it does.
Understand more than what you see on social media.
Once you do, you can stand loud and proud that you may not always love your body but you at least understand why it behaves in the way it does.