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Body Positivity vs. Body Shaming: The Fine Line, When We Cross It, And How Not To

“Strong is the new skinny” began as a movement for body acceptance. The naive media consumer in me wants to believe it started with the best of intentions. Greater body type diversity in the media by praising women who have visible muscular definition has fundamentally changed the fitness industry and the way that women understand how their body is meant to look. And while the sentiment behind it is nice, the implications that come from widespread acceptance of this mentality can be, and are quickly becoming, detrimental. It is no secret that being physically strong has its advantages, but to replace one standard with another ultimately still places one type on a pedestal, leaving all others as inadequate. This isn’t a body positive way of thinking.

The images that represent the media’s version of strong women are in themselves limiting. Featuring models who are lean as hell and wearing basically nothing, we’re given even more requirements to meet in order to be considered beautiful. These women ARE beautiful, but become the unreachable expectation. Such a beauty standard is just as difficult to achieve as being skinny, and gives us all just another reason to believe that we just aren’t good enough.

No one wants to be called a body shamer. It’s not a flattering look. But when we consider one way of being as inherently better than another (strong vs. skinny), we are still shaming. Supporting one, very narrow body type does not bode very well for the self love community. 

If we aren’t critically thinking about what exactly the media is telling us, it’s easy to get caught up in just another campaign. So I challenge you to be a critical consumer and challenge what’s being put in front of you.

Real beauty is cultivated from taking care of yourself: mind, body & spirit. Eating real foods that nourish your body, maintaining health (in whatever way or at whatever weight that means for you) so that you can move through your day with ease and joy, engaging with people and activities that make you happy. Beauty is not created from lifting weights, and health looks different on every single body.

I am a CrossFit athlete. I live and breathe for strength, function, and the beauty of having muscle. There is no doubt about the importance of being strong for my sport, and the strength I have cultivated in the gym has infiltrated every piece of my strength outside of the gym. I have the phrase “Beauty in Strength” tattooed on my ribs. Not for the reminder that having muscle is sexy and cool, but to acknowledge the emotional, spiritual, mental, AND physical strength I’ve developed over the last 4.5 years. As an ode to the sport, yes, but also as an ode me growing into my truest, happiest, most beautiful self, in my best and healthiest body. From insecure college woman to CrossFitter, the changes I’ve seen in myself are astounding and have, in part, been created from the physical strength I’ve gained. But that doesn’t mean that my body is inherently better than anyone else’s.

Having defined muscle IS beautiful, but so is being every other which way.

Sending self love,

Maggie

 

 

 

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24

As my 24th year on this earth comes to a close, I look back on the past year and honestly think only one thing: I thought I had grown during grad school, but boy was I wrong. Hey grads, get ready. Put your big kid pants on. Life outside of school is literally the weirdest, happiest and saddest experience you could ever imagine.

In the past year I’ve graduated from grad school, left my safe haven city, moved to a brand new city, lived alone, started a new job, had a significant injury, adopted a cat, joined a new gym, quit that first job, lived unemployed, traveled, cried, fought, laughed, struggled, read, wrote, watched a lot of HGTV, cooked, refinished wood floors, bought a mattress… basically 24 was absolutely terrifying.

I knew that graduating after 6 years bottled up in a little utopia town was going to be a hard thing to stomach, but I didn’t realize how incredibly hard the transition was going to be. This social butterfly, moving to a new city to be with her boyfriend, taking on the world as a young, capable, 23-year-old. The world at her fingertips. Doesn’t seem like it would be all that bad.

I started a job that I knew instantly wasn’t for me, but besides my very closest friends and family, tried so desperately to hide it. As a millennial, you hear all of these terrible things about how millennials are at work (and generally at life) and try SO HARD not to be “like that”. Not to be the spoiled, selfish, quit-when-it’s-too-hard kid living off your parents’ money, wasting away with two degrees and no effort to use them. A failure.

Quitting a job is one of the most shameful things I have ever experienced. Brené Brown tells us that “shame is lethal”, and I agree with her. It is honestly counterproductive. But how do you convince yourself to stop feeling that way when you are knee deep in it? I didn’t get fired, I was dreadfully unhappy, and I made the big girl decision to try and make a positive change. But I felt more like a big, fat, awful failure than I ever had in my entire life.

I still struggle with feelings of shame, even though every single decision I’ve made in the last year has been my own. What will people think of me? There are people who have been nothing but supportive so why should anyone else be anything different? If they aren’t supportive, why should I consider their opinions important to me in any way? After all, as everyone’s favorite poet told us,

“Those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind”.

I’m worried about the shame I’ll feel from the assumption that others are looking down on me. You wonder why I’ve waited this long to publicize the fact that I’m struggling? The fact that I quit a job and still don’t have a new full-time job? That I’ve been rejected from more positions than I can count and have even turned down the only opportunities that have presented themselves? That I’ve been a moody, drawn back, glass-half-empty friend, girlfriend, sister, daughter? That I’m almost 25 with two degrees and I still don’t have my shit together?

Want to know how long it took me to get over that shame? Oh, I’m still not. Gallons of tears and hundreds of hours of soul searching and processing (and thank God for my parents and their patient, patient hearts) have brought me to where I think I’m about to break even. Some days I really do feel optimistic. Like I’m doing the right thing. Like these few months of feeling lost and overwhelmed is coming to its peak and soon I’ll be riding a sweet, snowy sled down towards the end. Other days, I’m consumed with this feeling that I’m just floating, unattached and useless. Wasting away with this deep-seeded desire to feel needed and purposeful.

Lucky for me, the gym is where I get that feeling. (You knew it was coming, didn’t you?)

I am now spoiled rotten with the ability to throw myself into the gym, something I so desperately wanted when I was working full-time. When you’re unhappy, you want to do things that make you happy; thus, the gym. My sanity. How lucky I am that I found something that has been so incredibly important and helpful through this process. It’s hard to imagine any scenario in which I feel MORE purposeful than when I am using my own body to put a barbell over my head. It is one of the most powerful, empowering feelings I can imagine. Not to mention the lessons I learn every day when I’m in there about perseverance, hard work & trusting myself.

To quote myself (how Millennial of me):

“Sometimes CrossFit doesn’t have hidden life lessons, and then sometimes it does and they’re really more blatantly obvious than hidden. Work Hard. Trust yourself. Have faith. Find beauty in your strength. Struggle is guaranteed, failure is immanent. But, above all, just be patient, because it’s the only way you’re going to get the bar over your head and I promise you it’s the only way you’re going to get better.”

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(I have thought from the very beginning that crossfitters should put it on their resume. If you can show up every day to better yourself at your own will, work as a teammate and individual, do things that scare the crap out of you, take and follow direction, bring energy to the room, aren’t afraid to make mistakes, are capable of finishing work in a set amount of time or even before that time cap… you deserve the job. Period.)

This thing is a process, and it is not easy. It is something I can’t even really put into words. There are plenty of articles out there that try to explain it to us, articulate the emotions that we can’t quite understand. But honestly, those articles and even this blog post won’t do you any justice until you experience it for yourself.

Now as 25 approaches, I have moved once again, still full-time jobless, spending my savings on rent and food, but trying to feel more hopeful than I did when I first left Bloomington a year ago. I’m not working a job I dislike, I won’t go hungry (thanks, again, to my perfect mom and dad), I have a roof over my head, and even some part-time stuff going on.

Some days I feel okay. Other days I drive to Meijer and spend $4 on a pint of Arctic Zero ice cream that I should be saving to spend on real food, and forget about my shit out tomorrow. Some people call it balance, I just call it being 24.

Here’s to 25.

Maggie

With Calloused Hands…

I love a lot of things about CrossFit. (I blog about it, so I better). I see it as a metaphor for a lot of other aspects of my life, as I’ve mentioned in plenty of other posts.

A recent CrossFit Inc. video posted on Facebook caught my attention this afternoon. It’s a compellation of top athletes and regular box-goers like me, all with one thing in common: they’re all women. And bad ass women at that. The 3+ minute video is set to a somewhat poetic, lyrical narrative about how strength knows no gender.

In thousands of chalk-filled gyms women are killing the preconceived conceptions of their own frailty, and with calloused hands rewriting the stories of expectations.

Y’all know I could preach this ’till kingdom come. To be strong is no longer a man’s game. To be frail, timid and weak is an outdated version of gender identity. To promote anything else would be more than foolish. Quite honestly, I think to promote anything else would mean you’re pretty dumb.

CrossFit gyms (at least those that I’ve been a part of) do a pretty awesome job at promoting this kind of mentality. And this is where it starts. Can you hear me? This is where the change can start.

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Getting to hang out with two of the coolest women I know (well, don’t really know): Olympian Mattie Rogers (above) and Box Owner Jen Agnew (below)!

 

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Videos like this make me really happy. They make me proud of what I do and what I believe in. Of course, videos like this also show the flaws in a sport like CrossFit and a media team that only sees white, hypersexualized females as the women that represent us. We are not all like this. But, I think we have to start somewhere. And this is an awesome start.

Sending self love,

Maggie

When the Season of Eating is Over and You’re Left With…

Business casual. After three weeks of living in leggings and pajama pants on what is the last and longest Winter Break of my young life, the last thing I wanted to remember was business casual. The thought of buttoning a pair of pants around my waist, belly spilling over the top and booty feeling just a little too -licious… No thank you.

Like everyone else, I indulged myself in the best the holiday season had to offer and consciously refused to put on a pair of pants that buttoned (I, in fact, bought elastic waist band jeggings from Gap in order to avoid it).

Now, back to the normalities of school and work, business casual has once again reared its sometimes ugly but sometimes trendy head, meaning buttonable pants are once again a staple in my wardrobe. Meaning that this morning they were a struggle to actually button.

Cue the self-loathing.

Yesterday, I snatched 120 pounds. No, I didn’t get it on video, but trust me, the entire city of Bloomington could hear and feel my excitement as I pranced around the gym giving high fives. I’ve been working for that 120 pound snatch since April.

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The very first time I snatched 100 pounds, almost one year ago!

Here I am, infinitely proud of what this incredible body has accomplished, and then 15 hours later I’m loathing it for not fitting comfortably into a pair of pants. It is truly incredible to me how quickly my own mind can change about the exact same body.

I read an article this morning titled, Burpees and Blush: It’s Okay to be Fierce and Feminine. The first paragraph reads:

A revolution is bubbling under the veneer of traditional female beauty. Women are celebrating what their bodies can DO, rather than what they look like. It’s easy to get sucked into the body comparison game – we’ve all had moments where we feel inadequate. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

You’re right! It doesn’t have to be that way. There is SO MUCH beauty in strength. I believe it so much I have it tattooed on my body. Tattooed!

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See? There it is.

Look at yourself, Maggie. Your body, in its struggle-to-button-your-pants, snatching-120-pounds glory, is absolutely incredible. The things that it achieves and allows you to do are so much more important and impactful than a day or a week of tight pants.

Fill your new year with gratitude and thanks for you and all that your body lets you do.

Sending self love,

Maggie