“Labels are for filing. Labels are for clothing. Labels are not for people.”
A few weeks ago, I got sucked in to watching videos about young women who are anorexic. ;( I know, why would I let this happen, you are asking yourself. Not a great topic to talk about, is it? All I wanted to do was watch the trailer of this new dance documentary. I did watch the trailer but then I scrolled down to take a look at other suggested videos and what popped up? YouTube videos of young women and their eating disorders. It didn’t surprise me since eating disorders and dance unfortunately go hand in hand. Now, as someone who never, ever tried to starve herself or make herself throw up, I do understand the torment these girls are going through because I had the same feelings about my body as they do about their bodies. Anorexia or bulimia or any other eating disorder is about control. And food is the one thing that we all have control over. We can choose to eat or not to eat. Many young women fall into between the two extremes: bulimia and anorexia. I was one of those young women. I could not throw up my food. That was disgusting. And as much as I tried, I really could not NOT eat. I just loved food too much. So I ended up having a terrible, hurtful relationship with food and a distorted trans-fixation on my body that was unhealthy. I ate but I cried afterwards because I would feel so guilty for eating. I would feel ashamed at what I ate, how much I ate, how often I ate. I felt embarrassed by my body. No one should have to go through this. It took many, many years to learn to accept myself and form a healthier relationship with food. Even at 38, there are still days when I question myself and look at myself with a critical eye. But these days are few and far in between.
After watching these videos, I started thinking about my younger self, how unhappy I made myself during college because of how I thought I looked compared to my friends or other girls I would see on campus and in my dance classes. When I moved to NYC after graduation, I decided to keep a journal. I wanted to document my time in NYC. I was 21 years old. I was “okay” with how I looked but I was certainly far from happy. The very first thing I did when I moved into my place was call around to make appointments to check out the local gyms. It was imperative that I find a gym. I know what you must be thinking. You are probably thinking that I wanted to be skinny. That I wanted to look like the models in the magazines or on the runway. Actually, this could not be further from the truth. I wanted to look like an athlete. I wanted defined, muscular arms and legs. I don’t think I really cared about wanting to be strong but I certainly wanted to look strong. I cut out pictures of women’s arms and legs and pasted these pictures in my journal to remind me of my goals.
I wanted these legs. These are the legs of an Olympic swimmer.
I wanted these arms. These are the arms of a professional basketball player.
I have NEVER, EVER had an issue with lifting weights. I NEVER thought that weights would make me “bulky.” ON the contrary, I wanted to lift weights because I knew this was how you built muscle, that this was how you built a good body. When I was in college, I took a weight training class for my physical education credits. One of my good friends, Aaron, took the class with me. Aaron had awesomely huge quads, and he absolutely loved the fact that I was in to weight training. He was the one who pushed me one day to see how much weight I could do on the leg extension machine. I did the entire weight stack with him screaming “Awesome!” (My father did not think it was so awesome when I told him about my accomplishment in the weight room and simply said “You could hurt yourself.”) Granted, this was 20 years ago, and I was doing your typical body building program, using machines and doing lots and lots and lots of cardio. I loved to exercise. I loved to sweat. I still do. 😉 But I could not understand why I still looked the same after all the work I did in the gym. Obviously, as I would discover years later, it was due to the lack of REAL strength training (too many hours logged on machines), too much treadmill and not enough protein and too much processed foods. You can read about my horrible eating lifestyle here.
So why do women subject themselves to such extreme lifestyles? Why do we starve ourselves? Why do we binge? Why do we obsess about every little thing that goes into our mouths, comes out of our mouths? Eat this. Don’t eat that. Fruit is bad for you. Fruit is full of vitamins. Only eat vegetables. Only eat organic meats. Had a rough weekend of eating good food and drinking wine? Fast. Go liquid for a couple days. DON’T EAT. Because whatever you ate over the weekend, well, really, you shouldn’t have. And then there is exercise. Run. Don’t run. Lift weights. Lifting weights will make you big and bulky. Do Yoga. Do Pilates. Yoga is the devil. Just walk. Don’t pick up more than 3 lbs. Anything over 3lbs will destroy your physique. Do barre classes. Develop those long, lean muscles that you will never get if you are 5’4″ tall and have short legs. But go ahead. Work that barre! Get those long, lean muscles. *Face palm.*
Times really have not changed that much. The same shit I was reading about 10 years ago, I am still reading about 10 years later. Look ladies, it comes down to a few things. First MOVE. Then move more. Find something you enjoy and do it. Of course I am a HUGE advocate of strength training because, well, it works. Do I have to deadlift 250lbs? No, of course you don’t have to deadlift 250 lbs….although that is pretty kick ass and I think we should all shoot for that goal….and you don’t have to squat your bodyweight to make changes and get stronger…..although, again, a very awesome goal to work towards because, well, why not? Getting stronger means different things to different people and my goal is to make people functionally sound. My women are already strong to begin with….I just help them to make them realize how much stronger they can be. 😉 I work with plenty of women who have never touched a barbell and have still made some serious changes in their appearance and have gotten a helluva lot stronger in their daily lives. In the end it simply takes effort and consistency and time and patience. My women lose inches. They get stronger. They move better. They feel better. More importantly, they’re happier and they’re healthier.
It may be hard to be you sometimes. I know. I still have to work on this. There are days when I feel like crap about myself and there are days when I am on top of the world. Those days outnumber my “bad” days. Ultimately, I am pretty darn happy with what I have been able to achieve over the last 5 years. No, everyday is not perfect. And quite honestly, no one really expects me to be perfect except me. And no one expects you to be perfect except YOU. So knock it off, go lift some weight and eat some good food. Rinse and repeat. 😉