My Take on Body Positive

Yes, yes. I know.

I’ve missed updates. In my defense, I did sit down last week to roll updates together, and I even had topics picked out to talk about. But the words just wouldn’t come, regardless of how many times I attempted it. I get so aggravated when I can’t say what I want to say in a way that sounds like me (as opposed to sounding forced or scripted) that I’d rather risk chastisement than right a shit entry.

So, I’m catching back up.

Weight- 154-155lbs, consistently. To me, this is a confirmation and a win, all things considered. After the first dramatic drop in weight, I had a feeling it would get more difficult to lose and maintain. To see a loss of about a pound a week is healthy and consistent with sustainable loss (although I am still minding my manners to meet goal, of course, but also to help my body adjust to the weight instead of fighting to climb back). If I’m super honest, I’m glad to see this because I’ve missed training days off and on for fibro, class Christmas parties, errand days with Darrin, etc. I’ve also been giving myself room in my diet for things I want to have without punishing myself. In my initial post, I mentioned it’s always possible to drop weight faster with stricter measures. However, I want to build habits I will realistically stick with after I meet goal. Am I gonna police myself and punish myself for every off-diet indulgence I have? Heeeeelllllllls nah. 

Chest- 34.5″ This is a drop of about half an inch. I don’t expect to see much happen here, really, and I think the loss in this area has more to do with things tightening back up. I may see another half inch or so as my back also tightens up.

Biceps- 12.25″ Another small drop, again just from things tightening back up. Almost to goal here based on measurements taken at my preferred capability. While I’m nowhere close to what I know I can do with upper body strength, getting close to the measurement is nice.

Waist- 28. somewherebetween25and5″ Little progress here. Frankly, my waist measurements don’t quite match up with the struggle to lose weight in what is commonly referred to as “the pooch.”. That, too, is shrinking- albeit slowly- and I’m happy to see a smoother figure all around. 

Hips- 36.5″ No change.

Thighs- 22″ Slowly working our way downward. I have successfully been able to work some plyo back in, but it does make my foot stiff and my heel achy at the end of the day. I expect this to be the case for a while, so we’re going to carry carefully on here, using yoga to work it out and try to regain the range of motion comfortably necessary to round out the plyo I need to see this number move a little faster. I intend to try running next week in preparation for which I have upped my elliptical time to between 45min and 1hr under 20lbs of weighted vest. For now, I’m just happy to see strategically choreographed burpees make their way back into my routine, along with jump squats, high knees, and stepup-box jump hybrids. 

–> This puts me down about 7lbs and 6in down at the start of Week 4 and looking a great deal more like “myself.” With the first three weeks of Phase 1 complete, it’s time to change up the training regimen! I will now be adding self-programmed work underneath heavier weight in my garage dojo. New weeks look like this-

Sunday- Yoga or active rest

Monday- Weighted elliptical; HIIT upper body

Tuesday- Run (if tolerated); Garage lower body

Wednesday- Weighted elliptical; HIIT core

Thursday- Run (if tolerated); HIIT lower body

Friday- Weighted elliptical; Garage upper body

Saturday- Ruck- or trail- based work (HIIT total body as substitute)

In switching things up just a little, I accomplish a number of small goals. The first and most important is avoiding boredom. While the HIIT workouts I use through BodyRock are always different and challenging, they’re still HIIT. I’m still moving around in the same space with relatively similar weight, accomplishing as much as I can before the “beep.” With the return of my comfort and motivation comes the return of my creativity. So back into the garage I go, which will also help me acclimate to the cold and build tolerance. I will see an increase of weighted movements and return to barbell and pullup movements, which are becoming sorely missed, and I’ll get to play with the chalkboard I painted on the wall (Valentine’s Day present to myself in 2015) that serves both as a “get your mind right” moment while writing the workout, as well as just being fun with colors-

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Wins all around!

 

On to today’s topic.

Yesterday, after a day of running errands and doing chores, I checked off my work out and logged my caloric intake, exhausted. I scrolled through Facebook, legs propped up on Darrin’s. There was a video, produced by “retired” Instagram models, which compared the images they actually posted to the original versions, and as I watched it, I felt overwhelmingly sad. “Society is rough on women,” I sighed to Darrin, who nodded at me with sympathy, but really didn’t have much he could comment about beyond that. I watched several more Body Positive inspired videos- as I have done fairly often over the last few years that life difficulty has required a more lax approach to fitness- expecting to feel bolstered in some way, especially as I attempt to lovingly work my body back into shape…but it didn’t happen.

 

Body Positive has done a brilliant job in uncovering the lies that have circulated for ages, most of which are responsible for a rise in anorexia, bulimia, and body dysmorphia. Today, the images we are fed as “fitspo” or “goals” are all heavily doctored (I cannot deal with the face that muscle definition is now being contoured on to models with makeup…or has been for however long), aided by good lighting, strategic posing, more make up, and rigorous or restrictive dieting. Back as far as the 40’s, pinup drawings were modified versions of the original models, slapped on posters and sent out to troops. Further back, there were corsets, for goodness’ sake.

The topic could go on forever. Women’s bodies have been under scrutiny from the dawn of time- this we all know. And regardless of whatever scapegoat you like to use- “men are dogs,” “porn gives unrealistic expectations that hypersexualize men and affect their interactions with women,” “women are competitive,” “women feel the need to mate-compete based on perceived male expectations,” “false science has circulated preferred female measurements that instinctually elicit male response,” “advertising sells an image of a life made more perfect by assimilating to a certain image,” “social media’s highlight reel effect is causing psychological malformations of aesthetic expectations,” etc.- the pressure on women comes from both sexes, immediately following puberty, and haunts women well into mature adulthood. (While I personally agree with several of the scape goats listed above, that’s a topic for another time.)

So now we have these movements that are encouraging society to shatter the image of what women should look like by embracing what we do look like. And I’m 100% behind that, especially as a woman who has a shape that will never, ever, resemble the average “fitspo” model. Even at my fittest and trimmest, my weight and measurements often fall at the max end in the range of what is considered “healthy” for my height. Isn’t that ludicrous? Women come in every shape under the sun, in every height, weight, color, etc. This is all so normal and so natural that this discussion should be completely unnecessary, but it isn’t.

Hats off to Body Positive for putting the humanity back in what we had, societally, made nothing but imagery. Women are people, and just as you would not assume that any person, animal, or object is in totality what it looks like, neither is a woman adequately summarized by her body- a structure over which she only has so much control and is otherwise much more importantly a vehicle for her soul than something to look at.

However.

Some make the observation that aspects of Body Positive also normalize obesity and unhealthy weight/diet practices. There are myriad jokes about skipping exercise or general adulting for tacos (and, for the record, I completely relate and, on some days, entirely agree that it is a great decision), as well as powerful ad campaigns for “thicker” women and the acceptance of what was once termed the “big, beautiful woman.” Arguments are being made that no one should be shamed into a diet or fitness regimen if, in fact, their interest is Netflix and pizza, and there are further arguments that mental health strains due to beauty standards are so detrimental that it is almost emotional abuse for some to be subjected to such regimens, lest they endure judgment. After all, there’s beauty in diversity, right?

Well, sure there is.

But knowingly jeopardizing health isn’t beautiful or wise.

What I mean by that is that it doesn’t take thirty minutes of Google-ing to realize the strain unchecked obesity (which is not just being generically over weight, but over weight to the point of legitimate health danger) puts on the body is not something we should be positive about. From pressure on the bones and joints to issues with muscle, ligament, and tendon weakness, it is a literal hazard to the necessary movements of human life. If it’s already hard to move, purposefully moving to the point of discomfort- and not nearly as much as “fitspo” would have us believe is effortless- is not at all palatable.  These dangers and understandable frustrations can discourage exercise, which just creates a sick cycle, once entrenched.

And as that cycle continues, internal issues arise. Metabolism starts to fail, which makes us feel like it’s necessary to eat to stay awake. Another cycle. Reflux, strain on the digestive organs (did you know your kidneys impact your blood pressure?), strain on the heart (because increased heart rate makes you uncomfortable in a way that encourages more exercise for increased heart rate, right? Another cycle)…on and on and on. Once a person gets stuck underneath that much weight, it can be such a difficult and imposing thing to escape from when either medical concern or general interests inspire it.

But normalizing that state by advocating for its beauty doesn’t help women escape the health dangers they are facing.

And the escape is so much more than the freedom from ever present body scrutiny in the name of beauty.

The escape is a matter of life and death. Literally.

 

So now, as much as I want to be body positive about the way I’ve been over the last few years while I was trying to keep my ship afloat, I also can’t ignore some of the normalizations that came with fully embracing the manufactured version of Body Positive that is also prevalent. No, I was never obese. I was actually just barely into what is considered “over-weight,” and as I mentioned before, I border on that in a healthy state anyway. But I was forgiving emotional eating, a lack of activity, and reverse scrutiny (feeling negatively toward those more fit than I have been based on the perception that my lack of fitness was a cause for judgment) under the guise of “acceptance” for my own body. Had I continued on this way, I imagine it could have been significantly worse.

Which explains where I suddenly got hung up last night.

It has now dawned on me that Body Positive, like so many well-intentioned movements, is so broad a thing that it can be wielded to detriment. Yes, all bodies in their present form are beautiful in their own way and house even more worthy and beautiful souls, which should always be the focus. Yes, beauty is also so much more than the way we look. And, yes, we should seek to decentralize the rubric for beauty.

But we should also expand Body Positive to include messages about the importance of treating our bodies well and having a positive approach to health.

By this I mean that exercising and eating well (most of the time) should focus more around the health benefits than around the aesthetic benefits. When we present forms of fitness (which, as we’ve discussed before, can include all kinds of approaches per personal preference) and nutritional planning, it should be as a means to love your body, to enrich its capabilities, and to prepare it to take you wherever you may want to go. The byproduct of this is positive physical change, in some cases. But that change, if it occurs, is going to look different on each person because each person is uniquely constructed.

So it’s positive for each individual body.

I don’t necessarily feel like this message has been entirely left out, or, worse, villainized, by Body Positive proponents. On the contrary, figure heads like Iskra Lawrence and Ashley Graham are often seen posting videos in the gym or advocating for healthy practices. I just think it should be a much clearer and louder aspect of the movement on the whole. Our bodies are beautiful and unique and different…and so they should be treated well in order to lead lives that are beautiful and unique and different. Just as we seek to bring dimension to the way women’s bodies are viewed and appreciated across all of society, we must be multi-dimensional in the way we approach that mission statement amongst ourselves.

Because when beauty starts to include self-care, self-respect, and self-motivation, it starts to become something we can identify as individual to self. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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