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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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Turning Pounds to Kilos

You heard me! This CrossFitter turned into a Weightlifter this weekend for my very first weightlifting meet.

I am so proud of myself. As a 63kg lifter (or 138.6lb for those, like me, who still have a very limited ability to multiply by 2.2), I made a 122kg total (my highest snatch + clean & jerk) and made 3/6 lifts. Would it have been awesome to go 4/6? For sure! Would it have been even more awesome if I had PR’d my snatch? Duh! How about if I didn’t smash my chin on the barbell on its way up for my first jerk? You betcha!! But I was just there to dip my toes in the weightlifting water, and now that I’ve done it I think I’m addicted to the high.

When describing my experience afterwards and explaining just what the heck happens at a weightlifting meet, I had more than one person bring up the fact that they didn’t think I looked like I weighed 138.6 pounds. They also justified my weight for me by telling me that it was “probably all muscle”.

Well, yeah. A lot of it is muscle. But some of it is bones, some more of it is fat, some of it is my organs, and a lot of it is other things I don’t know how to pronounce. But I didn’t need you to tell me that. I knew it already, because, well, it’s my body.

138.6. Am I supposed to feel uncomfortable with that number?

I weighed in at 63kg on the dot– Literally 63.0kg. And the fact that I did it without really giving up my nightly dose of sun nut butter and the occasional sweet potato binge? Yeah, I’m even more confident in that 138.6 pounds.

CrossFit and weightlifting don’t put a value on the number on the scale. Sure, weightlifting classifies you into weight classes, but that’s done so that your lifts are only competing against others with a similar body weight as you. The women who win the 75kg weight class and the women who win the 63kg weight class are equally respected and regarded as the best, regardless of the number on the scale. Just add it to the running list of reasons why I love these sports: women and men are valued and rewarded for the way that their bodies move and the things that they can accomplish, not how aesthetically pleasing they look while they do them.

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After failing my first two snatch attempts, I finally hit that pesky 54kg

I was 138.6 pounds on Saturday morning at 7am. Tomorrow, I’m probably going to hover around 141, maybe even tip the scale at 142 by the time I go to sleep. Guess what? I still fit into my pants. Guess what else? I’m probably a little bit stronger at 142 than I am at 138.6. What’s more? I love myself at 138.6 just as much as I love myself at 142, and probably just as much as I would love myself at 135.

I don’t blame these people for trying to reassure me. The world tells all of us from the very beginning that women should always be dissatisfied with the number on the scale. But I’m not dissatisfied, I’m actually really freaking proud.

Sending self love,

Maggie

 

When being passionate is actually enough

This morning I realized that these past few months of grad school have made me fall back in love with myself.

Fall back in love with yourself? I thought you preach self-love and self-worth and all of the “love yourself right now in this moment in this very instant of life”. Well, I do! And I do love myself on most days, as righteously and intensely as I deserve to be loved! But some days- and we all have these days- it’s harder to love ourselves as fiercely as we did the day before, or will the day after. They’re caused by things like eating too many bags of popcorn the night before (I see you, Rem, and I am with you); sleeping in past your alarm and nearly missing a meeting; struggles with friends and family; a self-doubt that you actually might not be all that great at what you do; an even bigger self-doubt that you’ll find a job by May (I see you, every grad school on the planet, and I am with you); an even bigger self-doubt that you’ll like the job you find in May.

Let me rewind a bit- grad school has been hard. Intellectually, professionally, personally, emotionally, physically. It has forced me to not only prioritize, but learn to prioritize myself first. Luckily, you can find a very simple formula to prioritize yourself first: listen to yourself. 

For me, prioritizing myself includes being in bed by 9:00 with my fuzzy pillows and online puzzle, spending time cooking and eating generally yummy food paired with at least one handful of chocolate chips once a day, calling my mom, boyfriend, or best friend in tears every once in a while just because it feels good. Prioritizing myself also means spending an hour with a barbell in my hands and sweat all over my face, and then helping other people do the same.

When I’m challenged, it can feel like an easy fix to put other priorities before myself. These challenges have made me question who I am and if what I’m doing is not only good enough for myself, but good enough for the people around me.

In this moment, I’m telling you (me) something: Do it because you want to.

Last night I read a blog post that’s been making its way around Facebook titled, “Screw Finding Your Passion” by Mark Manson. This is the first time I’ve read any of Manson’s work, but good Lord will I be returning to his blog in the very near future. Read the post, I will not do it’s in-your-face-honesty justice by summarizing it for you, but he’s essentially (actually, he’s literally) calling bullshit on anyone who says they don’t have something they’re passionate about.

“I call bullshit. You already found your passion, you’re just ignoring it. Seriously, you’re awake 16 hours a day, what the fuck do you do with your time? You’re doing something, obviously. You’re talking about something. There’s some topic or activity or idea that dominates a significant amount of your free time, your conversations, your web browsing, and it dominates them without you consciously pursuing it or looking for it.”

See? Actual calling of bullshit.

Here are two of my favorite paragraphs:

“Because here’s another point that might make a few people salty: If you have to look for what you’re passionate about, then you’re probably not passionate about it at all.

If you’re passionate about something, it will already feel like such an ingrained part of your life that you will have to be reminded by people that it’s not normal, that other people aren’t like that.”

Sound familiar? Resonate with you at all? Goodness I sure hope so. I am urging you, right now, if you don’t think you have this passion in your life, open your eyes!!

How does this connect to falling back in love with me? I don’t have to look for what I’m passionate about. I know it. I think it’s pretty bad ass that I’m passionate enough about CrossFit and generally being a healthyand happy person to spend 3+ hours a night after work and class to not only let myself do it, but also help others do it. And I love every second of it.

Don’t limit your success because someone told you that you shouldn’t pursue it. Hell, don’t limit your success because YOU told yourself that you shouldn’t pursue it. Remember when every adult in your life ever growing up told you that being unique and and individual is good? Be yourself, prioritize yourself, and in that self you’ll (re)discover that passion.

Be the truest form of you, in whatever way that true form manifests itself today. You are doing exactly what you need to be doing.

You are good. You are smart. You are kind.

You are deserving of a cozy, princess bed that makes you want to fall asleep at 9pm (I see you, grandmas, and I am with you).

You are deserving of self-love.

You HAVE the passion, you just have to open your eyes to all the incredible things you do and see it.

You are deserving enough to pursue the passion.

Also, WATCH THIS—All of the self-love and self-worth!

Let it flow this morning!

Sending self love,

Maggie

Judgment Day

Judgment Day: Also known as working out at the Rec Center.

I am writing this while walking on the Curve Treadmill, looking up every few minutes to make sure my sweat isn’t visible on my shirt in the mirror in front of me. I am writing this while watching the woman wearing color coordinated Nike shoes, socks, spandex shorts, sports bra, and cut off tank top who just walked to the drinking fountain. While I’m watching the beefy beefcake who’s wearing a baseball hat and drowning his stationary bike in sweat. I’m judging myself and I’m judging them. I don’t like it.

Why is it that I can preach self-love, self-worth and pride, and yet I walk into this space and all of a sudden I am a self-loathing, judgmental, green monster? I am the person that I hate, that I have worked so hard not to be.

How do I change my mentality, and how do we change the ever-so-obvious self-consciousness that seeps from the padding of the leg press machine and rusts the barbells of these spaces?

Is it because this isn’t “my gym”? I take no ownership over what happens here, over who works out here. I don’t know these people, they don’t know me. Why should I have any thoughts about them at all, and why should I think that anyone in this room is thinking anything about me? Because they are. Because I am. Because it’s the culture of the space.

When did a space that is dedicated to self-betterment and strength in every sense of the word become a space that is dedicated to self consciousness and finding weaknesses in others?

Last week, Rec Sports put on their annual Celebrate EveryBODY Week, a campaign I wholeheartedly love for the obvious reasons. Why can’t every week be Celebrate EveryBODY Week? More importantly, why do we need to have a designated week to celebrate it? Is that how deep rooted into this culture we have grown?

I don’t have the answers, I’m just aware that there are questions.

Milwaukee, WI knows what's up.

Milwaukee knows what’s up.

Awareness is the key to change. Be aware of your thoughts: thoughts about yourself, thoughts you have about those around you. Challenge yourself. Why do I think that? Challenge the space you’re in. Challenge its culture. Challenge creates change. Change can create confidence– and confidence rules.

Do good things today. Lift heavy weights today. Go confidently today!

Sending self love,

Maggie