Body Image

Last week, I was taking pictures of myself in my sports bra and shorts in my bathroom mirror. Then, I was trying to find the right filter to show some sort of definition in my abs. Haha! As I was desperately trying to create an impressive “after” photo for Instagram, my 7-year old daughter looked over my shoulder and asked, “Mom, why are you taking photos of your stomach? You’re weird.”

With a chuckle, I told her I was taking progress photos of my fitness and trying to get my abs back. She replied, “But, why do you need to take photos? Don’t you know you’re already strong?” Awww, bless her little heart.

I then tried to explain to her that taking photos throughout my fitness will help me to compare how far I have come, and I’ll be able to really see the difference each month as I progress. She then asked me, “Well, what are you trying to look like?”

It was that question that stopped me dead in my tracks.

“Well, what are you trying to LOOK like?”

Those words stabbed me in the heart, and flooded me with memories of diet fads, self-hate, and wanting to look like the models in magazines. I was also horrified in that moment as a mother, because I realized I was doing exactly to my daughter what I learned from society growing up - We have to LOOK a certain way.

Bullsh**.

I’ve come too far personally to make the same mistakes and put my girls on the same destructive path of negative body images.

I put my camera phone down, hugged my daughter, and then tried to retract. I told her that she just helped me realize that I was falling into an old habit, and the problem within the health & fitness industry is that we make it too much about aesthetics. “Transformation Tuesdays” are always photos of before and after, with the after being skinnier, more tone, more defined and chiseled, and supposedly more happy. We’ve equated thinness and muscles with health & fitness, and even worse, with happiness and success.

The REAL transformations happens within us, though. Dealing with our inner demons. Our trauma. Our bullsh** stories we keep telling ourselves. Our insecurities and doubts. Our thought patterns and habits. Our relationship with ourselves.

Unfortunately, we can’t SEE the transformation on the inside. It’s a feeling. An attitude. A behavior, and it usually is noted with comments like, “You just seem like a weights been lifted off your shoulders. You look the same, but there’s just something different about you.”

Understandably so, we use our body to show our transformation. Everyone can see us go from flab to FAB and praise us. It’s an easy and aesthetically pleasing post to share with the world. We all love a great before and after photo, especially me! And, I love it even more when I get to share my own before and after photo. Yes, I have an ego just like everyone else!

But… my daughter made me realize what posting my half-naked body on Instagram would have done - Continue to perpetuate the beliefs that health & fitness is about aesthetics, and as a woman we are supposed to be a certain size, shape, and weight in order to be attractive and good enough. That we should workout in order to look sexy.

For too long, I worked out to look good. It’s exhausting, sometimes even unsafe, and downright destructive. Admittedly, though, I do still want to look good. We are human, and we all have an ego. It doesn’t make us bad people. My goal, though, is to stay focused on the right things, like my physical performance in the workouts, progress in my lifts, and choices in my thought patterns.

When we focus on the right things, like quality in movements and performance, proper nutrition, healthier habits, and better thought patterns, the aesthetics will naturally take care of themselves.

In response to my daughter’s question when she asked what I was trying to look like, I told her, “Well, honey, it actually doesn’t matter. I’m not going to post that picture of me, because my abs are not what makes me important, nor do they show anyone what I can do as a person. I don’t want to look like anything other than the best version of myself. So, as long as I am making healthy and positive choices each day, however my body reflects those choices will be beautiful.”

My daughter thought about my response for a moment and then said, “Well, I always think you’re beautiful, mommy, because you’re my mom and you’re pretty great at it.”

If you ever need a confidence boost, talk to my 7-year old! ;-)

In fact, we need to think more like a 7-year old, and less like our broken, old ways!

Kara PurvesComment