Aesthetic Goals and Body Image: a Happy Middle Ground
This is the time of year when all the new years resolutions start coming out, and as a trainer I am required to say something inspiring about getting fit in the new year.
But the slew of posts like these make me cringe. So here's my best attempt at articulating my honest aesthetic goals after having a baby and moving into the new year (although it's really just a coincidence that the new year falls on this stage of my postpartum journey). I am not where I want to be. I am carrying a few kilos of body fat that I didn't have before, and I don't like it. I don't hate it either. I feel pretty neutral about it. It just is. It's an honest observation. But I would still PREFER to be carrying less body fat, and I will LIKE my body (rather than just being OK with it) when I get rid of that extra bit of fat and gain some muscle. That's not very fashionable to say, but it's genuinely how I feel. And I think it's a happy middle ground that no-one's talking about. Additionally, I don't particularly like being weaker - not being able to participate in sports and activities that I love. I miss Jiu Jitsu and CrossFit and doing pullups and running and climbing - and I look forward to doing them again in 2019. The body positive movement tells us we need to LOVE our bodies no matter what their size. I don't understand why. It's kind of throwing the baby out with the bathwater. In order to NOT HATE we do not necessarily have to LOVE. I don't HATE humus, gerbils or zumba, but I don't LOVE them either. Despite the growing body positive movement, I don't honestly believe that it resonates with many women. Most women I know seem to hate their bodies - but at the moment we only have 2 choices - love and accept your body no matter your size, or beat yourself into submission with extreme diets and impossible workout regimes - neither of which are very appealing options. While I appreciate where this body positive sentiment comes from, I think it kind of misses the point. So I want to offer a third option, a middle way. How about being OK with wherever you're at, not hating yourself, but working hard to get to wherever you want to go. It is possible to accept your body the way it is NOW while making efforts to change it. I don't think those two things have to be mutually exclusive. So I will be working hard to get as strong AF and ripped after having Charlie - As untrendy as it may be, I will be unapologetic about getting back in the gym, building some muscle and losing these last few kilos of pregnancy fat. In order to do that I will be combining my gym efforts with good old fashioned calorie counting, because being in a caloric deficit is the ONLY way to lose fat. I am more than my body. I am a wife, a mother, a friend a businesswoman. I am also just me, I have my own relationship with myself, my own values and purpose. I have a deep sense of worth that extends far beyond my own physical appearance. But I still want to look good. That's not very fashionable to say, is it? But isn't that how most of us feel? To say otherwise is to bypass our own ACTUAL feelings and desires (which is what the body-positive stuff seems to do). And not that I want to look like some photo-shopped fitness model, but the best version of me. I want to be slim and "toned" as much as a hate that made-up word. The amazing thing about our bodies is with the right effort we can shape them, like chipping away at a sculpture. I love that I can do that, that I can shape-shift, mold and metamorphose through diet and exercise. When you realize that this is possible and understand the rules that govern fat loss and body composition (because they do exist), it feels liberating and exciting, not scary and hopeless and disempowering. I will however, be continuing to live by the 80/20 principle. I will not subscribe to extreme diets, fads, detoxes, cleanses or any doctrine that severely restricts food. I will be eating a varied diet of gluten, sugar, dairy, meat, chicken (and of course veg and fruit and all that stuff). I'll be encouraging you to do the same. JUST SAY NO to keto, paleo, Whole30, vegan diets, "sugar detoxes", "clean eating", juice fasts... unless you particularly ENJOY eating that way. It will only work if you are consistently in a caloric deficit And I won't be sorry for having aesthetic goals in 2019. I won't beat myself up for not looking a certain way after having a baby either. I will accept and celebrate my body however it looks, but enjoy working towards whatever goal I set for myself (Ninja Warrior, here I come!)