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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

Two Years Strong

Two years24 months104 weeks670 days16,080 hours964,800 minutes57,888,000 seconds

I have madly and passionately loved for CrossFit for two years.

Two years. A blink in time in the grand scheme of life. Oh, how life can feel static in two years. I still live in the same city, I am still a student, I am still an ice cream addict, I still worship my dog, I still can’t go more than three days without talking to my mom. But oh, how life can change in two years; how life has changed in two years.

I completed my first “foundations” class at CrossFit Bloomington on November 5, 2012, according to my yellow workout notebook. My max, one rep dead lift was 135 pounds. Today, it’s 235 pounds (soon to be tested and hopefully destroyed!). I can literally lift 100 more pounds off of the ground today than I could two years ago. I am by no means the strongest woman at my gym, but I am the strongest me that I have ever been.

I didn’t realize how desperately I needed a life change until I was about 6 months into working out. My self-actualization came during the summer of 2013: Newly single and totally lost. I vividly remember the workout that I did the day after: The Broken Filthy Fifty. Ironic, I know. It was upwards of 95 degrees in this unairconditioned warehouse after working 9-5 at my internship cubicle, and I was about to do 20-15-10-5 reps of: Box jumps, kettlebell swings, walking lunges, knees to elbows, push press (35 pounds), back extensions, wall ball shots (14 pounds), burpees, and double unders, for time.

I don’t remember what time I finished in… I could barely breathe. All I know is that between the heat and the emotions, I was on the verge of tears the entire time. But I finished. I wiped my face, washed my hands, and had officially sweat out everything left inside of me. And it was time to rebuild from there.

CrossFit was my constant, it was my rock. When I talk about the spiritual awakening I went through, it was the Broken Filthy Fifty that signaled the beginning of it. Physically, emotionally, socially, intellectually. You name it, I changed. Some more significant than others, but all noticeably enough for me to appreciate and realize that I am now a more confident, independent, strong woman than I ever was before. I was building my self-worth. “Beauty in Strength”, as many of my friends know, is my mantra now, and it will continue to move me forward.

Today, I’m generally a happier person. HOW?! You ask! For those who don’t know me, happy is my neutral; happy is my normal. But these days, it is more genuine than ever. I love the way that I look. I weigh five more pounds than I did when I started, have lost a pant size, and have gained some serious self-confidence. I value myself more and the things that I am both good and bad at. I understand that life is always challenging, but if I could back squat 180 pounds 10 times in a row last week, I can probably make it through my first semester of graduate school.

I can’t forget to give credit where credit is due during this two year CrossFitiversary:

CrossFit Bloomington, you made this all possible. Thank you for teaching me the basis for everything I needed to know, and sparking this insane fire inside of me. Thank you.

CrossFit Deerfield, thank you for taking me in these past two summers and giving me a community of extremely talented and passionate trainers and athletes. Thank you.

Stonebreaker Athletics, I love you. Thank you for loving me right back in all of my silliness, and for letting me do what I love (almost) every day. Thank you.

Carl and Q, you raised me! You are major role models and have influenced the person that I am and continue to become. Thank you for constantly challenging me, even when I don’t want to use 95 pounds for my cleans during the workout because I’m too tired. For your high fives, and your constructive criticisms, for laughing at me and with me, and constant belief in my abilities these past two years. Thank you.

I was thinking about this post today and what I should write when reflecting back on my two years. This blog has been, since the beginning, dedicated to my complete obsession with this sport and how it has changed me. The first few posts were a little rough, and I will openly admit it! I was new to the blogging world and wasn’t writing it for anyone but myself. But now, these posts have found their purpose: To not only reflect on the adventures that I take my body through, but to hopefully inspire other people to find something they’re passionate about– literally anything– and let it completely consume them, mind body and soul, and build them up, and prove to themselves that they can always be better than who they were yesterday. This is what I have let CrossFit do for me, and I wish its magic upon every person in this wonderful world.

Happy two year CrossFitiversary to me, now go do something great today!

Sending self love,

Maggie