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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

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I’m So Glad We Live In A World Where There are Octobers

In nearly a month, I run 13.1 miles for the second time in my entire life. Something I put on my New Year’s Resolution bucket list on January 1st, something I didn’t think I would actually do considering the idea of running anything farther than 400 meters during a WOD made me want to fall over. Well, here I am, in the midst of my half marathon training, and it just so happens today’s run was my first run of the month of October.

Yesterday I ventured out for my 8 mile run, the farthest I’ve gone since last year’s race. Running 8 miles is a small milestone when you’re in the midst of half marathon training, but it was a nearly perfect day for a run: overcast with a small breeze, October leaves on the trees and a few already covering the trail I ran along, the only thing missing was a pumpkin spice candle running alongside me holding a mug of hot chocolate wearing a scarf and riding boots. Yes, I, like so many others, love October and its crisp air, refreshing change of scenery, and ideas of sharing a fire with someone you love after a day of apple picking. But, I love October for another reason, too. I love October because it gives me a chance to bring attention to something that is incredibly near and dear to my heart, Breast Cancer Awareness month.

I ran last year’s half marathon to be able to scratch it off of my bucket list, but also to raise money for a cause near and dear to my heart. This year, I’m doing it again!

The rockstar group of half marathoners from last year!

Last year I was able to raise an incredible $1500 for my sorority sisters’ funding of the NFL Pink Ribbon Project , as well as Dr. Hari Nakshatri of the IU School of Medicine and his research of clinical testing of women with no history of breast cancer in their family.

This year, I have chosen to donate my funds to the Young Survival Coalition , a nonprofit organization that works with survivors, caregivers and the medical, research, advocacy and legislative communities to increase the quality and quantity of life for women diagnosed with breast cancer ages 40 and under.

I’ve also chosen a lofty goal, inspired by your generosity last year, to fundraise another $1500 this year! I might be crazy, but if you don’t shoot for the moon you’re never gonna get there!

Check out my GoFundMe account to read a little bit more about my story!

Happy Fall!

Maggie

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Let’s Call It An Identity Crisis

Close your eyes. Let’s imagine for a little while.

Imagine that you are in transition. Imagine that you have spent the entirety of your young adult life between the same two towns, one of which you grew up in. Now imagine you are leaving both of those places for a brand new one. Imagine that you have no family or close friends nearby (okay, your boyfriend is on the other side of the city). Imagine that you graduate, move out of your favorite city and away from your favorite ice cream place and move into brand new territory and a brand new, one bedroom apartment, all within 24 hours. Imagine that you are starting your first full-time job two weeks after your move to this new place.

Now imagine the details. Imagine that this place you are leaving holds six years of incredible memories and every kind of growing up an 18-23 year old could do. Imagine that you found multiple families while you were in this place. Imagine that one of those places is a gym, and this gym is where you grew into yourself and found beauty in your own strength and the strength of those around you. Imagine that this gym took a chance on you and hired you. Imagine that this job is the first job that you never waited until the last possible second to arrive and always and eagerly spent more time there than was ever necessary. You remembered almost every person’s name after the very first introduction.

Now imagine leaving that place, and imagine that place closing its doors for good. Imagine the feelings of relief that you won’t physically be there when it happens, but also of overwhelming sadness knowing that neither you nor anyone else will be able to experience that kind of happiness inside those four walls again.

Now imagine you’ve come to terms with the changes (or so you’ve convinced yourself), and that you find a new gym in your new town. Imagine that you are incredibly nervous but incredibly excited because this new gym means that something is the same. It means that everything you built in your old gym just moved an hour and a half north and can be transplanted right onto their barbells and pull up bars. It means that you all speak the same language, and that kilos and pounds and power cleans and kettle bell swings are all the same as they were before. It means that you get to create a new community and family.

It means familiarity and identity.

Now imagine that you turn 24. On your 24th birthday you visit a doctor who tells you that you have an injury (a pinched nerve in your neck to be exact). On that same day you find out that you can no longer pick up a barbell or hang from a pull up bar until you are pain free. He says it will take 2-3 months to be that person again. He says it could have been worse. He says if you take care of it and do your exercises you will be back and maybe even better than before.

Cue the identity crisis.

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A picture from the workout that literally broke the camel’s back (er… pinched the nerve)

A few months ago I declared my identity as an athlete and challenged you all to claim your own identities, and do so proudly. I am an athlete. I am a CrossFitter, I am a weightlifter.

In the midst of all of the change and the transition and newness, CrossFit was my constant. I joined a gym almost immediately upon moving because I knew the faster I started, the faster it would become my safe place and my community; where everyone speaks the same, loud, metal-and-rubber language. But with this injury, now even my safe place isn’t all that familiar.

I know it’s only 2-3 months. I know that being injured is a humbling experience, that I will grow and probably be even better than I was when I’m healed. I know that it could have been so much worse. I know, I know I know. But right now, I KNOW that it just plain sucks.

Once I take my spoon out of the ice cream pint I’ll see that there is a lot of beauty in the strength to find the positive in this. And I know I’ll find the positive in this. Happy Mags will turn her frown upside down and smile and laugh through the modifications over the next two months. Everything will be okay. But I think being sad is okay too, just for a little while.

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

 

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“Former Child Athlete”

I didn’t think I’d ever be considered an “athlete” again after I stopped playing soccer in high school. An athlete, to me, was someone who played competitively. An athlete was someone who had been playing for years. Who spent Sunday mornings at games and Sunday afternoons with her feet soaking in a foot-sized pedicure tub because her shoes rubbed her toes in all the wrong ways. An athlete was good enough to play in college, and to be looked at by others and considered an athlete by their standards. An athlete was someone who could say “we/I/you won/lost”.

As a “former child athlete”, I had dreams of playing soccer on the US Women’s Olympic team. And in my off season? Be a Broadway star, of course. Hey, anything’s possible when you’re 7! But as I got older, those dreams changed and my priorities changed, and I realized I’d never be the athlete (or time manager) I needed to be to achieve that goal.

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Think you can find me? And who is that awesome dad on the right?! (P.S. He’s mine!)

 

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Missing a few teeth but still playing T-ball like a champ.

I decided to dedicate my high school days to singing and acting, and affectionately look back on those years as some of the best memories of my life. But with that choice, I lost my identity as an athlete, and instead became a theater kid, something I still cherish and boast to this day.

Then college came and my active theater kid years were behind me. In front were the years of just trying to figure out who I was and how to get around on my own (literally how to navigate the one-way streets in Bloomington).

Nearly 3 and a half years ago I walked into my first CrossFit gym as a former-child-athlete-with-a-whole-lot-of-body-image-issues turned current-college-student-with-a-whole-new-set-of-body-image-issues. Starting out, I never even considered myself a CrossFitter: I couldn’t power clean, I couldn’t do an unassisted pull up, and good lord I did not (do not) look like Stacie Tovar or  CLB.

For the first few years I was pretty dedicated to this new sport. I’ll even brag that I still have never gone more than a week without touching a barbell since I started. Somewhere within those first two years I started to understand that I was a CrossFitter, something I should’ve seen from the very beginning. But still, I never saw myself an athlete, just someone who did/does CrossFit.

I’m not sure when the switch flipped. Maybe it was hearing gym owners and trainers referring to their members as athletes, and then starting to train myself. Becoming a trainer was like realizing my peripheral vision. I had never really watched others workout, I hadn’t seen their struggles and successes, let alone offered guiding words and assistance to make those break throughs. But it was through these training sessions that I viewed the members in the gym as athletes, and it basically happened instantaneously. A no-brainer.

So then, by the transitive property, doesn’t this mean I’m an athlete too? Merriam-Webster tells me that an athlete is someone who is trained in or good at sports. How are you defining good? I think showing up to the gym is pretty good to begin with.

This past year I have finally realized that yes, I am an athlete. I actually identify so strongly with this word that I love being at the gym. I feel at home there. I feel at peace there… And it’s not just because of the endorphins. Training there is never work- it is so much of who I am that it is just another facet of how I survive and thrive.

I was an athlete the day that I walked into the gym in November 2013, I just didn’t realize it until recently. And think of the greatness I might have already reached if I had changed my mindset to that of someone who DID, not just someone who could.

As someone who is always searching for a practical, real-life way to apply concepts to my world, here is the transferability for you: If you say you are, you are. Believe it and defend it and live your life like it.

Sending self love,

Maggie

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Why I’m Not Really Planning for the Future

I am addicted to my email calendar. Online calendars have changed my life: they have calmed me, routined me, steadied me, at times they’ve stressed me. I know where I’m going and at what time I’m going there at almost every point of the day even 15 minutes before I have to be there thanks to my iPhone.

Thanks to my new RPStrength templates, I now know exactly when I get to eat during the day and what I get to eat at each of those times. Right at waking; 3-5 hrs after that; 1-3 hrs before training; during training; 40 minutes after training; 2-4 hrs after that right before bed.

I am a full time student. I work three, part-time jobs that total over 40 hours a week. I am in a long distance relationship with someone who is worth making an hour drive there and back twice a week. I workout at least 60 minutes a day. I also like to be horizontal, against a pillow, with all of my lights off by 10:00pm. I’m not saying I’m superwoman, but sometimes I feel like it! All of the schedulers out there can understand that this can give you a calming, “I’ve got my shit under control” feeling that pretty much makes you feel like you just might have the extra 25th hour in the day that Beyoncé has.

So now, in a life filled with overcommitments and complete dependency on an iPhone to tell me where I need to be at all times, you’re telling me I need to plan for my future? I’m supposed to figure out what I’m going to be doing in five years?

I know what you’re going to say. Planning for your future is the only way to ensure that you get to where you want to go; to see the people that you want to see; to live the life that you want to live! Planning  for your future is the only way to fulfill your goals, to surpass your goals.

Well, I’m going to disagree with you for a second.

I know I could be taking this to the extreme- no one expects me to know what I’m doing at 1:30pm on February 10th, 2023. But I’ve just accepted a new, full-time position in a field that I never expected to work in, I’ve almost found a place to live in this brand new city, and I’ll be leaving my 6 year safety net of limestone and college students in less than 4 months. Tack these onto my current, daily routine, and right now, the only thing I’m trying to plan for is not having a complete meltdown that my life is about to change more significantly than it ever has in my almost 24 years on this earth.

So, future planners, no. I am not planning for my future right now. I don’t know where I’ll be living. I don’t know where I’ll be working.  I don’t know what I’ll be doing in 5 years.

Does this mean that I don’t have goals? Absolutely not. I have big goals. I have goals that have wrapped around the sun and dug themselves so deep into the parts of my brain that I didn’t know existed.

Does this mean that I’ll never plan for the future? Absolutely not. In 5 years I may actually have my shit together and have the rest of my life figured out.

Does this mean that right now I’m just breathing, and being, and following my iPhone calendar, and getting into bed by 10:00, and eating enough chocolate to make myself smile? Does this mean I’m actively trying to see what I want to see, do what I want to do, be who I want to be right now? Absolutely.

I am certain my future will happen whether I have planned it or not. I am also certain that if I plan my future, it won’t end up happening the way that I’ve planned it. As so many wise people have said before and will continue to say, life is what happens when you make plans. (Because 24 hours ago I completed my first draft of this blog post and it got deleted from my phone’s WordPress app before I could post it.– life is what happens when you make plans, am I right?)

So the next time the future scares you, take a step, a breath, and refocus on the right now: What you’re doing well, or what you can change in this very moment. So much looking ahead can make us so unaware of looking directly in front of us.

Sending self love,

Maggie