As a fitness professional I try to be an advocate for positive body image and for turning the tide on how women feel about and view our bodies. I strive to be a champion for helping women feel better in our own skin and changing the tone of voice that we speak to ourselves in. I want to use my knowledge of fitness and nutrition to help others learn how good it feels to be healthy and to make positive changes in their lives.
I have a dirty secret though. I have no idea what I am talking about. None! I’m still trying to figure it all out myself. That means I’m going to get it wrong sometimes and I don’t have all the answers. I’m going to say the wrong thing and offend someone. It happens! The only thing I know for sure is that I have struggled with body image issues for most of my life and I know so many other women in the same boat. I want to do better for myself and for all of them and for our children. That means I’m going to keep talking about it as I figure it out. That means I’ll get it wrong sometimes along the way, and that’s ok.
Fitness, weight loss, nutrition and body image are a very tricky combination of topics because of the way they are so intertwined and the way that everyone brings their own experiences and insecurities to the conversation. We all want to be healthy, strong and comfortable in our own skin. We want to do it for ourselves and not because of ideals forced on us from society about how we should look. We WANT to do it for the right reasons but at the same time we still put unrealistic expectations on ourselves. We still have a warped view of what it means to be healthy and fit. We still catch ourselves subconsciously sizing ourselves up against some version of “perfection” portrayed in movies or social media.
This is the second part of my dirty secret. No one has any idea what they are talking about when it comes to this stuff. It’s not just me. We are ALL still trying to figure it out. We’re trying to re-write the manual on how women view and treat their bodies, and that’s going to take time, patience and cooperation.
Here is a top 10 list I have compiled as I try to solve this body image riddle. These are not perfect but it’s a good place to start. Do a little self-reflection as you read through this list. How are you doing in these departments? Do you agree or disagree? Which areas do you struggle most?
- We have to get better at being kind to ourselves. Don’t say anything to yourself that you wouldn’t say to a friend. We are horrible at picking ourselves apart and spending too much time focused on the things that we think we’re doing wrong or that need to be fixed.
- We have to stop obsessing over the scale and turning to yo-yo diet/quick fixes. The number on the scale does not define us and quick fixes are not going to make us feel better about ourselves.
- Exercise, eat well and get healthy because of how it makes you FEEL, not how it makes you look. Celebrate your body and take care of it. It’s the only one you get!
- At the same time, it is still ok to care about how you look. This is where things get tricky. Is it still acceptable to want to look good and feel comfortable in your clothes or a bathing suit? I say yes!
- When you start to feel healthy, you will start to look healthy, and then it becomes an amazing cycle. That’s when you know you’ve hit the point of making a true lifestyle change.
- If you want to wear a bikini to the pool…wear a bikini to the pool. If you don’t want to wear a bikini to the pool…don’t wear a bikini to the pool. You do you! It always amazes me how this topic can whip people into a frenzy.
- Fit does not look the same on everyone. It is not a number or a size or a six-pack.
- Do and wear what makes you feel comfortable, and don’t worry about what other people think.
- We are all so much stronger than we give ourselves credit for, and we all deserve to be healthy and happy. We all owe it to ourselves to work towards becoming the best version of ourselves.
- BE NICE to other women. Seriously, go find a woman and say something nice to her! We could use a lot more of that because we are all struggling with these issues. Strong women build each other up.
Today I challenge you to stand in front of the mirror and really think about this list. Don’t look at your reflection and pick out all of the things that you don’t like or want to change. Instead look at all of the things that make you unique and beautiful. Think about how you talk to yourself and whether you need to change your tone of voice. Think about whether you really need to make some changes to improve your health. If you do, be kind to yourself. Are your goals realistic or are you aiming for some airbrushed picture in a magazine that is completely unattainable? Keep in mind that we are all supposed to look different. That is how we were designed! If you are seeking perfection than you will never truly be satisfied.
Health and fitness is a deeply personal journey. That makes it ridiculous to compare your journey to someone else’s. We all have a different starting point and a different ending point. All you can do is your best, and you have to do it for you. I’m on my own journey, and I’ll keep sharing and messing up right along with you as I work towards figuring all of this out. It’s not east for any of us!
Hadley Sorensen is a health and fitness coach who lives in Virginia with her husband and 3 boys. She is an avid reader, runner and fitness instructor who has a passion for helping others learn to enjoy exercise. Hadley uses one-on-one coaching as well as virtual accountability groups to provide support and motivation to her clients. Her guiding philosophy is that it’s never too late to take charge of your health and improve your level of fitness. Find her on Facebook @HadleySorensenFitness