Gratuitous.

Conceited.

Self-obsessed.

Vain.

Narcissistic.

Slut.  

Whore.

Stupid.

Bitch.

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I see these words splashed across Instagram pages constantly. I’ve talked about this before, randomly here and there but I think it’s time I put my thoughts into a full, stand-alone post. This post has been brewing for a while. Honestly, it’s something that I’ve been sitting on for over a month now, unsure as to if I would post it or not. Why? Well, I know that I’m going to get backlash for this. I know some folks are going to read it on the defensive, and claim that I’m promoting one body type or another. In an effort to get in from of this, let me make something very VERY painfully clear:

I do not believe that any woman should look any one way. I do not believe that healthy looks the same on everyone. I do not believe that each person has identical goals, nor should they. I believe in wellness and a healthy lifestyle, whatever that means and whatever form that takes. I think it’s wrong to shame someone for how they look, no matter how they look. Skinny, curvy, jacked, whatever it looks like on you. They’re all OK. They’re all just fine. And you entitled to be proud of it. 

From where I’m standing, we seem to have entered a period where we’re told, on one hand, to be proud of our bodies and to love ourselves, but to keep it to a certain level because if you love yourself too much (or look a certain way when you do it), you’ve gone to far and are now an asshole. It’s the Goldilocks dilemma but now it’s about our self-image. The funny thing? Women are the ones at the front of the line with their fingers pointed and their keyboards ready to take a girl DOWN. We cry for ‘girl power’ yet we’re often the first ones with the pitch fork ready to start the lynch mob.

Recently, a much beloved Paleo face dropped some lbs and started flashing some abs. I didn’t think much of it. Then I started noticing something. Many who loved them before, started talking about how, “Now that she’s famous, she’s so full of herself. All she does is post pictures of her abs.”.  Another started focusing efforts on fat loss through real food and she too, got the ‘that shouldn’t be your goal’, ‘you shouldn’t be promoting that’, whiplash. Women of CrossFit post pictures and videos of themselves in the gym, working out, often in sport bras and booty shorts and get the same type of hate. It got me thinking.

Accepting and loving your body, regardless of if it fits into the ‘norms’ of what society deems as beautiful. This is a great movement.

However, I have noticed….well, realized….something as this movement pushes forward. It seems to me, that loving your body, being proud of it, is something to be praised and admired…

….unless you fit into that ‘socially accepted idea of beauty.’

It’s almost like, we want you to love yourself, to be proud of your body…unless you ‘fit the mold’….then you should really stop. No one needs to see that. 

 

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If someone looks athletic, lean, fit. It’s safe to assume they’re putting in a lot of hard work both in the gym and on their plate, with their lifestyle. Yet we for some reason decide that only those whom society puts outside that ‘box’ are permitted to be proud of it. I mean, when you criticize someone who ‘always puts up videos of herself half-naked doing workouts’, it’s safe to assume that in order to get those videos all the time, they need to be working out…like, a lot. SO maybe they’re not just ‘lucky’. MAYBE they had to work really fucking hard for that body you’re so offended by. 

This isn’t to say that someone who doesn’t look ‘athletic, lean, and fit’ isn’t also putting in a ton of work. Don’t get distracted from the point by my examples. What I’m saying is that just because someone IS lean or fit, doesn’t mean that their miserable and starving themselves to try and cram into societies mold of a woman. Likewise, just because someone has a little extra curve to them doesn’t mean they’re unhappy and slamming pints of ice cream every night. Happiness and health manifest physically differently in everyone.

Perhaps, I think, this comes from the idea that if you look a certain way, you’re free of struggle. You don’t know self-hate. You don’t have insecurities. Therefore, posting that picture is not done out of pride, or maybe even an act of conquering a fear. 

It must simply be vanity. There is no other explanation. 

How we do know that the women we view as sporting ideal bodies aren’t scared as they click that ‘post’ button, showing the world their bellies? We don’t. How do we know that they haven’t struggled with body image their whole lives, and posting these vulnerable pics is a huge step that makes them feel empowered? We don’t.  Maybe for them, it’s a small victory.

In a time where 91% of women are unhappy with their bodies (according to Amplify Your Voice) and we can assume that 144 million of the 156 million in America don’t have the exact same body, why are we still assuming that only one body type struggles with self image and self love?

Why are we still judging each other instead of lifting each other up?

Why is it, that in a time where we scream for equality and stomp our feminist boots, that women are still consistently the first ones to type ‘slut’, ‘whore’ or ‘ugly’?

It seems to me that we’ve gone down this path of, “You’re only allowed to love yourself, to show your body off, if it doesn’t already fit into what I think is the social norm of the desired form and if it doesn’t make me feel insecure.” (Which, quite frankly, is bullshit. “No one can make you feel inferior without your permission”, right? I digress.)

Just like health comes in many different shapes and sizes, so does pride. So do insecurities. When did self-deprication become synonymous with humility?

Loving your body is fucking HARD. For many of us, it’s a constant struggle. You don’t just wake up one day like “I fucking love everything about myself! I’m AMAZING! Cellulite and all!”. You never know what someone is dealing with. You may be looking at someone who you think has the ‘perfect body’…and she may absolutely hate it.

Why have we decided that ladies deserve our support….but only to a point.

Why do we, as women, keep falling into this trap that continues to put us against each other? ALWAYS us vs them. 

When will we just woman up and get each others backs?

When say, an overweight woman posts pictures of herself in a sports bra doing yoga, she’s heralded for being brave. She’s described as being in ‘cute or sexy yoga gear’. She’s called beautiful, inspiring. She IS all of those things. She’s a badass. On the flip side, if a girl posts videos of herself working out in the same sports bra, except this time she’s got a perky ass and a few abs poking through, she must be doing it for attention. She’s described as being ‘half-naked’. It’s gratuitous. Because she’s a whore. The truth is: She is none of those things. She’s also a badass.

Somehow, in our efforts to promote self love no matter what, we’ve seemingly made it OK to make fun of those who we feel ‘don’t know the struggle’. We’ve decided you should be proud of your body, but only if it’s “outside the social norm of beauty”. Flat stomach? Round, perky backside? You’d better keep that shit to yourself. If we’re really going to sit here and pat ourselves on the backs for telling women to celebrate their bodies, cellulite and all, does that not also include the cellulite-less among us? Or is celebration solely for those we deem allowed to participate?

Now, I know what you’re getting ready to say:

“Seriously? You’re defending skinny people?! They have no idea what it’s like.” Well, Let me tell you a little story.

I’m not overweight. I never have been. Sure, I gained 20 lbs at college, but I don’t know what it feels like to have to ask for a seat belt extension on a plane. Or not be able to fit in a roller coaster seat. I don’t know that feeling and I don’t claim to understand what that’s like.

I do know what it feels like to sit in a bathroom in a bikini and cry while your boyfriend waits outside for you for 15 minutes because you feel so horrible about what you’re looking at. I know what it feels like to keep the towel on the whole time, covering your stomach, because you’re ashamed of what you look like. This isn’t some story from when I was a 15 year old kid. This is the story of a 27 year old woman, not even two years ago.

I also know what it’s like to have that moment where you don’t care about what other people think any more. So you do a workout on a 95 degree day in your hot pants and a sports bra and you realize that no one gives a shit what you look like. That no one is judging you. That it was all in your head. And that you feel like a fucking super hero because of what you’re doing, not what you’re wearing. It’s a liberating moment. I love seeing it in other girls at the gym. One who never wore shorts, shows up one day ROCKING them because frankly, it’s too fucking hot for pants. Suddenly, she sees no one is mocking her, or judging her. Instead, everyone is telling her great she looks and how awesome she did in the workout. Those shorts made many more appearances and it looked like 500 lbs were lifted off of her shoulders.

I also know the fear, before posting a picture in a bikini for the WORLD to see, that the people in your community will call you a slut, or a narcissist because of it. People who don’t know that this moment of hitting “share”, was 25 years in the making. That it was terrifying. And empowering. And a moment of self-acceptance. A moment that took courage. A moment of letting go of all the bullshit before that had you studying every picture looking for flaws. 

My journey with body image and self-acceptance has been long one, that’s certainly not over. You can read more about it here. People LOVE to say “Fit-shaming isn’t a thing. They have nothing to be ashamed of. That’s like the homecoming queen complaining about being made fun of. It doesn’t happen. If it does, she can handle it.”

Just because someone doesn’t LOOK like what you think they need to look like to understand what it means to struggle with body image, doesn’t mean they don’t have shit of their own.

It often seems to be women who go on the attack. I don’t know, maybe it’s just in our DNA to try to rip each other down. It’s like we are all about supporting someone, until we perceive them as ‘surpassing’ us, or ‘leaving our group’. Then we turn. And we’re vicious. 

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I get it. I used to feel that way, too. I’d see the women of CrossFit who maybe don’t compete at high levels, but have tons of fans, post pictures with bare mid drifts, or booty shorts, or bikinis, or hell…even naked. I used to think the same negative shit. I’d unfollow them. I’d talk shit about them. I realized this when I found myself unfollowing some of those ladies on Instagram. “I’m so sick of her posting all these bikini pics,”, “All she does is post pictures of herself in booty shorts doing workouts.”. Here I was, promoting ladies loving their bodies for what they can do…and now, just because these particular women fit this idea of beauty, I decided they were narcissistic and gratuitous. Yet, if these women were say, overweight, I would probably praise them for their badassery.  Over time, though, I realized that it was my own insecurity talking. I can’t sit here and tell women to love their bodies, to be proud of the muscles that lifting has given them, and then simultaneously lambast the women who show them off. 

This idea of ‘fit-shaming’ doesn’t stop there. How many of you who have switched to paleo, or real food, or whatever you want to call it, or started working out, find that those around you feel perfectly comfortable making fun of you for it? To your face? In a really mean way?

Last year, a girl at our gym told me that her family was constantly making fun of her for her muscles. Telling her it wasn’t attractive. That she didn’t look feminine. Laughing at her because she picked the salad and chicken over the pasta. If she got mad? Well, she was just being overly-sensitive. She’s in shape, so she doesn’t have feelings, right? My head immediately went to, “I wonder what would’ve happened if you had turned to your family member who was mocking you, who happens to be overweight, and made similar jokes about what they chose to put on their plate.” Probably nothing good. Because that’s mean. Because that’s unacceptable behavior. Why do we understand that, yet think it’s OK to make fun of the other end of the spectrum?

I’ve had other women say right tot my face that, “Well, your muscles look fine on you but I don’t like that look.”, or “You used to be so thin and feminine. This is too much.” Honestly, I’m not even ripped! That’s beside the point though – the point is this:  WHY IS THIS OK TO FUCKING SAY TO SOMEONE?!  

We’re all guilty of it. Look around. Split screens of sexy women who eat butter next to a very thin model with the tag line, “I’ll take the butter.” or “I’d rather have an ass than be a stick”.  A comic of some being slapped saying they like thigh gaps with, ‘NO! We like thick thighs!’ A CrossFit women next to a marathon runner, “Strong is the new sexy”. In our effort to promote good health and move away from “we all need to be skinny”, we’ve started just straight up saying that thin is ugly. But that’s ok. Because it’s ok to make fun of thin people because they have no problems in the world. They’re lucky, right? They don’t have feelings.

I was in a donut shop (yes, a gluten free donut shop…but a donut shop). A women walked in. Tall and very thin. The person I was with turned to the cashier and said, ‘She could use a donut’. They chuckled and we all moved on. Later that day, I said to this person, “You know, if that had been an overweight woman and you had said, ‘she probably should’t have a donut’, no one would’ve laughed and you would have sounded like a huge asshole.’.” They replied,”I know. I thought that the moment I said it. I shouldn’t have said that.”

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Someone puts up a youtube video with (albeit tasteless) jokes about being overweight. NATION WIDE OUTRAGE. There’s a hit song on every radio station that sings, “I’m bringing booty back, so go tell them skinny bitches that”. Nothing. Skinny bitches. Make fun of the skinny bitches all you want in your effort to promote self-acceptance. Why? What is with our incessant need to shit on other people? Strong is the new skinny. Real women have curves. Skinny is gross. I’d rather have muscles. As that song goes, “Boys like a little more booty to hold at night.”. It seems in our quest to promote self love for all, we’ve decided it’s perfectly OK to step on those who already fit this idea of what we think is socially accepted beauty in order to climb the mountain.

Let’s make one thing clear: The point of this is not to say one group has it harder than the other. That’s not what I’m getting at. My point is that we need to stop trying to claw each other down and instead, work to bring each other up. No matter what someones appearance. But I really mean no matter what someone’s appearance. I mean celebrating everybody and every body. EVERY BODY.

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Another problem that comes from this is that women are ashamed to say when fat loss is a goal. They’re embarrassed to admit that maybe they’d like to drop a few inches. Why are we ashamed of this? Well, because we’re supposed to love ourselves no matter what, and they clearly just don’t love themselves enough. Having a fat loss or aesthetic goal has become this thing that is WRONG. You’re petty, and silly, and vain. Paleo blogger? You’d better not say you’re trying to lose some of those lbs…GTFO of here. We’re not about looks, we’re about health, bitch.

I’m here to tell you something.

It’s ok to want to lose some fat.

It’s ok to want to put your bikini on this summer and feel fucking awesome (whatever that means to you).

It’s ok to want to see a little more definition in your arms, or legs, or belly.

It’s ok if none of those things appeal to you at all and you’re perfectly happy where you are.

Whatever your goals are,

It’s OK!

Just remember, getting your body to look a certain way, or seeing a certain number on the scale is not going to bring happiness, or control, or make you feel complete. THAT has to come first. If you don’t like your body now, or appreciate it now, you won’t when it changes. The idea that when we get to a weight, or look, or whatever, is directly related to how happy we’ll be with ourselves is a myth. A dangerous one, at that.

When I tell the story about how I finally felt good enough to workout in a sports bra and tiny shorts, it wasn’t because my body was something off of a women’s health magazine. I didn’t have a six pack, a flat stomach. I didn’t have defined hamstrings or a glorious set of glutes that passed the ‘barbell test’. What I did have, was a new pride of my body and comfort in my skin that came from how I felt. It came from eating more nourishing foods. From sleeping more. From being hydrated. From being able to do these workouts that formerly, I would’ve thought were impossible.

It wasn’t how my body looked that made me ok with taking my shirt off. It was how I felt in that body. 

My body changes. I gain a little, lose a little. Most days I feel pretty good about it. Some days I don’t. The thing is, my body doesn’t look any different on the days I feel great or the days I feel gross. Truly. What’s different is my mindset. 

So here’s my plea to you. My call to action, if you will:

Let’s stop shitting on each other. Fat, skinny, muscles, thin, runner, lifter, abs, beer-belly, whatever the fuck you are. Let’s start actually practicing what we preach and celebrate EVERYBODY in the skin they’re in.  Just like you don’t want someone to assume that an overweight person is lazy, don’t assume that one with her bare mid-section is a slut. This is a call to action to support each other for REAL. To stop putting others down in order to lift ourselves up.

No matter what they look like.

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