Give Yourself Some Credit

As many of you know, I run a small outdoor group-fitness class a couple of mornings per week here in Boston (If you’re local, come join us! Click HERE for more info). This is my first summer doing this, and I must say that I absolutely love it. I can’t think of anything else besides November Project that has ever had me excited to get up at 5:15 am on a regular basis, but this has done it. I’m so happy I decided to go ahead and pursue this thing that I’ve been thinking about and talking about for so long — and I’m glad it’s working out so well! My post today is inspired by my class, but not in the way that you might think. You see, today’s post is not necessarily inspired by the kick ass women who show up on Tuesday and Thursday mornings ready to sweat with me (and they are all truly kick-ass women, trust me!). No, today’s post is inspired by a few words that almost all of them, without fail, have said to me when they show up on their first day:

“I’m really out of shape” … or some form of this phase.

It’s as if they think that they’re being judged before they’ve started, and they have to preemptively let me know not to expect too much from them.

But you know what? I do expect a lot from them. I expect them to try, I expect them to be positive, and I expect them to push through whatever it is they’re dealing with that day to treat their body’s with the love and respect it deserves. Even if it’s only 45 minutes out of their day, that is their time. And I know for some it is their only time in the day, as many are mothers of young children, some with extremely demanding careers.

I expect them to do their very best at whatever it is I’m asking them to do, even if they don’t do it perfectly. I expect them to treat themselves with respect, acknowledging that they chose to get up and be there at 6:30 am, and that shows some true motivation. I expect them to love the place that they are in with their body, and to know that we work out to help ourselves, not to beat ourselves up.

 What do I not expect? I don’t expect people to come and breeze through the workouts, because what’s the point in that? I don’t expect everyone to do everything with a smile on their face, I just want them to smile when it’s over, knowing that they just did something good for themselves.

The thing is though, I think that as women, we do this to ourselves a lot. At work we might say “This might be a dumb idea but…”, or “You probably already thought of this but…”. When this happens in the in the office, preemptively striking down your own ideas decreases the efficacy of whatever your following statement is, and I’d wager that it also tends to decrease your belief in your own ideas. So wouldn’t the same hold true for your workouts?

I’m a firm believer that attitude is half the battle when it comes to challenging workouts. When you show up and the first words out of your mouth are about how out of shape you are, you’re already digging yourself a little hole that you have to climb back out of before you even begin your warm up. The truth is, I don’t care how in shape or out of shape someone is before coming to my class, because that does not matter in that moment. What does matter is that they are there, that they got themselves out of bed before 6 am to be there, and that they have made the commitment to do something good for themselves that day. Those are the things that matter, not how quickly they can run a mile.

 So instead of “I’m in really bad shape”, next time someone new shows up, I would love to hear them say “I haven’t been doing as much as I would like, but I’m really proud of myself that I made it here this morning”. Because I am proud of them, every single day that they show up. I’m proud of them whether they can do 1 push up or 25 push ups. I’m proud of them whether they can finish 8 rounds of our circuit or only 2. I’m proud of them for taking some time for themselves, working as hard as they can and striving each class to do what’s best for their bodies on that particular day.

And when it comes down to it, life is not about being the most “in shape”. We don’t get gold stars or points on a leader board in real life for being the fastest or the strongest. But when we consciously make strides to take care of our bodies and to nurture our souls with positivity and encouragement, instead of tearing ourselves down with doubt, that is when we win. In shape or not, what matters is this moment and what you’re doing to make your future better.

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My Name Is Stephanie and I Have Beyonce Knees

Almost every girl I know has a part of their body that they don’t like, or at least a part of their body that they consistently wish would change. For some it’s a constant desire to have smaller thighs, perhaps a flatter stomach or perkier back side.

As for me, the one thing that always tormented me growing up was not one of these obvious choices. In fact, when you hear it, you may laugh, because it really does seem pretty funny.

My knees.

Sure, I always wanted smaller thighs when I was younger, and there was a while when I wondered if my butt would ever be considered “normal”. But these things I learned to embrace and love, and I have grown to find them beautiful over time. And then there are my knees.

Knees, you ask? Who even looks at knees? Well, I’ll tell you. An insecure little girl with mildly chubby legs, and genetics that have given her mildly chubby knees. I’m not kidding you when I say that I spent a good part of my youth looking at the knees of my classmates, wondering why I didn’t have bony little kneecaps instead of the marshmallow fluff that seemed to settle around my legs.

You see, I may have been a little chubby at times, but I was never “fat” growing up. I was the same size as a lot of my friends, but still, they had pointy little knees and I had what I thought looked like pincushions. (I know this makes me sound like a crazy person, but stay with me here.)

It wasn’t until the end of high school/beginning of college that I began to find some peace with my little pudgy knees. Enter: Destiny’s Child. Now, what does a late 90s girl band have to do with my chubby little knees?

Two words: Queen Bey.

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[Image Source]

It was around this time that I started watching Destiny’s Child videos (remember when videos were cool?), and realized that this beautiful woman, this amazing goddess called Beyonce Knowles had “fat” knees too. Here she was, reminding all of us that we weren’t ready for her jelly, yet she wasn’t perfect. She wasn’t the image of long, thin legs that everyone at the time said was perfect.  Yet she was, and still is, revered as one of the most beautiful women on this planet. And whether you agree with that or not (but I mean, lets be real, there’s really no question there), it’s pretty apparent that that is the perception. Beyonce, although not model-thin, is beautiful.

It was at that very moment that my knees stopped being fat. Instead, they became my Beyonce knees. I kid you not when I say it was the first time that I realized that legs that looked like mine could be considered beautiful. That knees don’t have to be bony and knobby, and that a little extra cushioning on your legs is not a curse after all. Because Beyonce had fat* knees too. And Beyonce was is a goddess.

Now I’m in my 30’s, and you know what? I still have Beyonce knees. No matter how thin I’ve gotten over the years, and more recently how muscular, the shape and appearance of my knees has not changed. Yes, my legs have changed over time, but I still do not have, and will never have, “skinny” bony knees. The simple fact of this is because it’s all about genetics, and that’s just how my legs were made.

Some people have longer, thinner legs. Some people have shorter, muscular legs. Some people have naturally well defined calf muscles and some people have match sticks for legs. The shape of your body, for the most part, is determined by genetics. Sure, you can manipulate it somewhat with diet and weight training, but for the most part, your body type and shape sticks with you for life. I will never have long thin legs, but I will always have a relatively small waist, just as long as I keep my health and body composition in check. It’s just the way I’m built.

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My Beyonce knees in all their glory. 

I have friends who have naturally slender legs (and skinny knees of course), who gain weight mostly around their midsection. Again, it’s just the way they’re built, and that’s not something we can change.

So if a flaw is something that is inherent to us, something that we can’t change, is it really a flaw? Or is it just part of who we are as humans, part of what makes us so beautiful and interesting as creatures? Next time you find yourself criticizing something in the mirror, take a second and turn those thoughts into something positive. I don’t have “fat knees”, I have Beyonce Knees. And they are fierce, because Queen Bey would have it no other way**.

Beyonce

[Image Source]

Stop picking apart your body when most of it is determined by genetics. Stop looking at the tiny bit of flesh you have on your upper arms and wishing it away; stop looking at your upper thighs and wishing a visible gap between them. You were built a certain way, and you can manipulate it, but you can’t totally change it (without going to drastic and often unsafe measures).

Because once we find peace with ourselves, that’s when the real change begins to happen. Once you can learn to appreciate your body for what it is and what it does instead of dwelling on every perceived flaw, that’s when you can truly see the beauty in yourself. I could go around my entire life hating my legs, hating my knees, constantly trying new diet schemes and exercise plans to get the bony knees I wanted as a kid. But instead, I have learned to embrace and appreciate my legs for what they are.

If you’re constantly chasing something that can never possibly happen (such as the “perfect” body), how can you expect to be happy, I mean truly happy, ever? I feel like women are on a constant hunt for perfect body parts when they have everything they need already, within themselves. Look in the mirror and find a way to love what you see, even if you see some things that you want to improve.

Because as the Queen herself would say: You are fierce, and you are flawless. 

*In the .0000000000001% chance that Beyonce would actually read this, I just want to be clear that I mean absolutely no insult by saying that she has “fat” knees. Thick knees. Is that a thing? Ok then. You know what I mean.

**I also want to add in that I’m exponentially disappointed by the recent allegations that Bey photoshopped some pictures of her on a yacht to give herself a thigh gap (although, I think the knees were left untouched, so there’s that). Maybe she does need to read this post after all.

I Like Myself and That’s Okay

I get the feeling that as a woman, I’m not supposed to like myself.

As a female, I am bombarded with images on a daily basis that show me how I can be better/skinner/prettier/insert-feminine-adjective-here. Every time I turn on the TV, scroll through Facebook, or even while doing some much needed internet shopping, I see countless images of products that are supposed to make me appear slimmer, younger, less wrinkly. (God forbid, I have crows feet at 32 years old).

Every spring, images are thrust into my face describing how I too can get my “bikini body” back after the winter months, or that so-and-so has the perfect plan for a “summer slim down”.

Every time I cruise around on the internet, my page clicks are chased by ads promising the newest weight loss supplement or workout class that will give me “long and lean” muscles, just the way I’m supposed to want my body to look. Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook are filled with images of sexed up women with rock hard abs, glistening with oil (I mean, really, oil up before your next workout and tell me how good your grip is), telling me that I just need to work harder, have no excuses, and I too will look like them.

Sexy-Fitspo

But the thing is, I don’t want to look like them. I actually like myself, believe it or not. I don’t need a special diet plan, a miracle supplement, or even Photoshop to appreciate my body.  I don’t need a “fitspo” image to tell me that I don’t work hard enough. I don’t need some marketing guru to tell me what I need to become their ideal of a perfect female.

I think I’m fortunate though, that I don’t need those things. A lot of women, when slapped across the face with these images, believe that they need these things to become the best version of themselves. Women aren’t supposed to like themselves, because if we all did, there would be a lot of people out there who stopped making money. The more you hate yourself and every part of your body, the more money these people make under the guise of helping you “improve”. Really, they’re just feeding on your negative feelings about yourself, and providing you with reasons to keep having these negative feelings.

For instance, just the other day I was scrolling through my Groupon email, I came across this image of an “Arm slimming compression garment”. Essentially, these are Spanx for your arms.

arm sleeves

SPANX FOR YOUR ARMS.

I’m just going to let that sink in a little bit before I move on.

At first I laughed, because the picture is downright ridiculous. Then I let the thought settle into my brain, and realized it’s much more sad than it is funny. As women, we’re constantly provided ways that we can make ourselves “better”, although better to whom, is the question. Would it make me feel better about myself to wear compression sleeves to make my arms appear slimmer? First of all, I question their effectiveness, but more importantly, the answer is no. And I’m pretty sure the discomfort that I would feel from my brachial artery being compressed would far outweigh any “slimming” effect from the garment.

This is marketed to tell me that my arms aren’t good enough, that I shouldn’t like them, but that I could like them if only I bought something to make them appear slimmer. The whole concept is just ridiculous when you spell it out like that, doesn’t it?

Yes, I do wear make up and do my hair (occasionally), and generally try to look presentable when out in public. I’m not saying that all women should be unshaved, un-groomed and makeup free, but there is a line there. I do not wear a mask of makeup to make myself appear to be what society wants me to be, I wear a little bit of makeup because I think it plays up my eyes a little bit. And you know what? I like my eyes. And it’s okay to say that.

love yourself

I am not saying that I’m anywhere near ideal or perfect, but since when in life are we all supposed to be striving for perfection? As women, I think we’re expected to constantly put ourselves down, to agree that we hate our thighs when one of our fellow femmes complains about hers. But you know what? I like my thighs too.

Imagine that — a woman who likes her thighs. Yes, I have cellulite, no I don’t have a thigh gap, but I still like my thighs. They are mine, and they are powerful, and I appreciate them. So ladies, it’s okay to like yourself, believe it or not. It’s okay to talk about yourself in a positive light, and it’s okay to not give in to the latest marketing scheme that’s trying to tell you that this is NOT okay.

And you know what? It’s also okay if you aren’t quite there today–  it takes time to truly like yourself, especially if you’ve spent years doing just the opposite. As long as you are committed to treating your body with positivity and compassion, in time you will come around to appreciate all that your body does, even though it’s not perfect. In time, you too will come to like yourself. At some point, when another female who isn’t quite there yet will complain to you about X body part of hers. And you will smile warmly, and say “You know what? I actually like my “X”. It may not be perfect, but it’s mine”.

And maybe in that moment, you’ll inspire another woman to like herself too.

Because liking yourself is okay. It doesn’t mean that you’re self-centered or narcissistic  and it doesn’t mean that you think you’re better than those around you.

Liking yourself simply means that you accept your body and your self for what you are. Even during those times that you’re working to improve or change yourself, you’re doing it out of love and acceptance for your body, rather than hate.

I’m not perfect — I am currently working at getting stronger and faster. But I like myself, and that’s okay. That doesn’t mean that I’m complacent, or lazy, or not working towards goals. It just means that the change that I’m working towards comes from a place of positivity.

I don’t work to better myself because I hate myself, I work to better myself because I like myself, and I know that I deserve to be the best version of me that I can be.  And that is more than okay, that is the best of both worlds. Progress plus positivity? It’s a powerful combination.

Readers: Tell me something that you like about yourself in the comments — and get more comfortable telling others too. The more that women start to like ourselves, the less silly things like “compression arm sleeves” will be made and marketed at us! 

The Biggest Lie In Women’s Fitness

As a blogger, I am extremely fortunate to be contacted by many fitness studios, brands, and other things fitness related to try out their products, classes, etc. I normally love these offers, and even when something is not necessarily in my wheelhouse, I’ll usually give it a try, unless it’s something that I do not feel comfortable supporting on my blog.

However, recently I was contacted by a new fitness studio about giving one of their classes a try. I’m not going to specify here, because I’m not here to make any enemies, I just want to get my point across. Anyway, this particular studio described their class to me in the email. And I’ll admit, they had me for most of it. I was just about to click “Reply” and write, “I’d love to try it out!” when one of the last lines of the email stood out like a sore thumb.

Our classes help to create lean, elongated muscles, they said.

Wait, what?

 I’m open to trying different types of fitness classes. I’m not so stuck in the weight room that I can’t see the rest of the fitness world out there. But when you flat out lie in your marketing to women about your product, that’s where I draw the line. There is no class or fitness routine that will elongate your muscles — that is actually physically impossible.

If your class is something that gets women off their couch and gets them moving and having a good time, that’s wonderful, and I’m all for it. But it’s these lies that get to me and make me question your product. Why are we perpetuating the myth that women should work out to create “lean, elongated” muscles? Why are we not teaching women the truth, that if they want to appear more defined, they must build muscle and lose body fat. And if they want those muscles to appear longer than they already are, than the only option there is, quite frankly, to get new parents.

It’s this lie that keeps women paying for these fantasy fitness classes, even when they’re not developing the ballerina’s body they’ve always dreamed of. Scientifically speaking, the length of ones muscles is determined strictly by genetics, and cannot be changed over time into a longer, leaner form.  Do you know why ballerinas have the long, thin bodies that they do? Genetics. Trust me, years of plie squats will never turn my legs into dancers legs, and I know that because it’s pure science. Some woman who is promised “long, lean” muscles who dreams of that dancer’s body? She may believe that that can be achieved by certain classes because she does get an awfully good burn by doing endless reps of leg raises. But what happens when she never achieves this look — has she failed, because she can not recreate her genes into a thin dancer’s body? Of course not, but she may not know that.

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[Source] Sorry, but this body type is NOT possible unless you were born with it. 

I recently had a conversation with a local fitness instructor who told me that most of the women that come to her classes only want to do body weight exercises, because those are what they think are going to give them the body that they want. Should this instructor continue giving her clients what they want, even though those desires are built upon the “long and lean” myth of women’s fitness? It’s a tough call, especially when you consider that because there are plenty of classes out there pushing this myth, going against the grain could potentially cause this instructor to lose paying clients.

So I guess the question is, are fitness studios just savvy marketers for using the key words that women want to hear — lean, long, sculpt, and tone? I, for one, believe that it’s not smart, but deceptive, and there is a huge disservice being done here. Women’s fitness should not be built upon lies, it should be built upon positivity, motivation, and reality. Women need to know that they will not develop a long, lean dancer’s body just by going to certain types of classes, just as they won’t turn into hulked out body builders by going to other types of classes.

Women need to be taught that the Tracy Anderson’s of the world are frauds, and that their legs will not become too big from spin class, nor will they become bulky from lifting heavier than 5 lbs.

This all being said, I just want to be clear here. There are many types of classes out there that are so far outside of what I normally do for fitness. This doesn’t mean that they’re bad, or that they’re not worthwhile, there are just certain things that I feel are more beneficial and more fun for me. When something comes across my inbox, I’m not usually one to poo-poo it just because it’s different, or because it’s not my go-to fitness method — I’m certainly not of the mindset that everyone out there has to be following the same routine in order to be fit. Heck, I’ll try a Zumba class if it’s offered to me, mostly because I just want to dance! It’s the lies and the wrong information that I have a problem with — feeding into women’s fitness myths through shady marketing is not the way to help women become healthier.

Buzz words aside, women deserve realistic expectations of how their bodies can change and what their bodies can do. There have been some amazing campaigns lately, such as the Like A Girl from Always, I Will What I Want from Under Armour, Be More Human from Reebok, and my personal favorite, This Girl Can. These are the types of marketing campaigns that truly show us what women’s bodies are capable of, and that show us that there is so much more to fitness than creating impossibly elongated muscles. Luckily, I think these are the future of women’s fitness, we just need to get more fitness studios to realize that there is so much more to a quality workout than creating a slim aesthetic.

Readers: Are you more attracted to classes that promise a long, lean look? What is it about a fitness class that attracts you to it? If you don’t really do classes, what types of fitness marketing appeal to you more– Aesthetic or performance based? 

Don’t Worry, You Won’t Look Like Me

Recently, someone commented on this picture of me:

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Showing off the guns AND the bum! 

Their comment was something along the lines of “This picture makes me NOT want to lift. So unflattering”

Now, let’s take a second to think about the picture itself.

I had posted it at the end of this blog post. The whole point of the post was talking about a killer spin class I had taken, and then had followed up the next morning by doing an insane stadium workout with a 15 lb kettle bell in my backpack. To say I felt like a total beast that day would be an understatement.

When I asked someone to take that picture of me following my stadium workout, I knew that I looked like hell. I knew that I looked like, well, like I had just run stadiums with a weighted backpack on. I knew I had a red face and sweaty hair, and to be honest, I really didn’t care.

But when I saw the picture that a very kind stranger took for me, I’ll be completely honest and say that the first thing I noticed was that it wasn’t flattering.

My arms looked big.

But after half a second of that stupid thought, a much more important thought came to my mind. Who CARES what I look like in that very sweaty moment. My arms look big? My arms look STRONG! I had just crushed an awesome workout, and I was proud of what my body had accomplished. To me, that is what that picture shows. Pride in myself and in my capabilities. Pride in my strength and my endurance. Pride in being me.

But let’s go back to the picture and the commenter.

What is that picture, exactly? It’s a very small moment in time. In fact, it’s a screen capture of one shutter click. One fraction of a second. If I had moved my arms one inch up or down, would it be more flattering? If I had held my arms in a different position, and let my booty pop just a little bit, would it be more flattering?

Maybe, but that wasn’t the point.

The point of that picture wasn’t for me to look sexy. It wasn’t to show all my Instagram followers how cut and lean I looked first thing in the morning (I don’t). It wasn’t to show that world that I think I’m perfect.

It was to have proof that I kicked ass that day. 

It was to show myself that I made it through one hell of a workout at a time when I wasn’t sure I’d be physically capable of finishing. 

It was to remember the feeling of exhilaration I had while finishing those stadium stairs knowing that I had put every last ounce of energy I had into that workout. 

It was to show myself that I can, I did, and I will do it again.

I don’t know about you, but when I look at that picture I can see in my face how happy I was at that very moment. I actually love that picture, even though it’s not the most flattering fitness photo I have of myself, and I love showing it off because of the emotion that I think is conveyed. If that makes you not want to lift, than that’s your prerogative, but I’m sorry I just don’t get it.

The thing is, trusty commenter (and I mean this with the most respect), you will not ever look like me, and that I can promise you. Lifting weights will not make you look like that picture. Heck, most days I don’t even look like that picture.

But that picture is about so much more than that singular moment in time. If I took one look at that picture and deleted it because it was “unflattering”, somewhere down the line I would forget about that day. I would forget what my legs felt like on those last few stairs, and I would forget my pride in that very moment. Flattering picture or not, I’d rather remember moments like this rather than just the ones where I looked my best.

Because truthfully, in the times that I look my best, I’m probably not training hard enough. 

Yes, sometimes there will be unflattering pictures of you, but if you can find the workout that makes you so gosh darn proud of yourself that you don’t care? That’s what it’s all about.

Fitness is power. And whether you want to “look like me” or not is no concern of mine, but what you should want is that hunger, that pride, that inner strength. That is worth more than any picture could ever be. 

Training Myself To Wear Shorts

I have always hated shorts. At my smallest, at my leanest, at my largest: shorts have always been my worst enemy. Because of my body type, I carry more weight around my thighs, hips, and butt, no matter what size I am, so it’s always been an area of high scrutiny for me — not an area I’ve wanted to highlight. It’s rare to find pictures of me in shorts, even working out I prefer leggings and crops. There is something about having fabric stop mid-thigh that has always terrified me, has always made me feel as though my legs are about ten sizes bigger than they actually are. It’s actually kind of funny, and I can’t quite figure out why I’m 100% more comfortable with fabric clinging to my every curve (as in leggings), than I am in shorts. It makes no sense, I know.

It started at a young age, back in elementary school when a girl told me my butt jiggled when I walked. It continued on as I gained a little weight during the first couple years of college and my self esteem really took a hit. It became even worse when, one summer day in my early 20’s, I was walking down the street in Boston in one of my only pair of shorts, when a man walked toward me yelling “Cell- U- Liiiiiiiite!”.

Yes. That actually happened.

None of these things traumatized me (although what the hell was that guy thinking?), but they all added to my ever present fear of shorts and how they might accentuate my “trouble areas”. Luckily when I was growing up, girls weren’t wearing the super short shorts that are everywhere now (God, that makes me sound old), so it wasn’t too much of an issue. I could wear longer shorts and no one would think twice about it. Now, when I go shopping to get one or two pair, because sometimes it’s so hot it’s just necessary to have less fabric, I find it impossible to find anything longer than a 5″ inseam. And that feels super short for me.

To put it in perspective, this isn’t just about a skewed self perception. Because the reality is, most shorts just don’t fit people with my body type. I have a small waist, some serious glutes, and some equally serious quads. Shorts that are loose enough on my thighs always fall off at at the waist, and if they fit my waist, I can’t even pull them up over these quad monsters.

It’s a conundrum.

Now, I will admit, that I do wear shorts more nowadays than I used to, mostly because over the past few years I have finally grown fairly comfortable in my own body. Lifting has helped me with this big time, and has helped me to really appreciate my legs and their shape, because I know that their shape helps me to be as strong as I am. However, as much as I appreciate what these legs and glutes can do, I still don’t always love how they look.

Enter my running shorts.

I have a pair of running shorts that were given to me as a gift, and I love them. I love them when they’re sitting in my “workout-clothes” drawer, however, because they’re kinda short (you know, like normal running shorts are), they rarely make it out. They’re super cute and comfortable, but when I put them on, I feel like I’m wearing underwear. I promise that’s not actually the case, and I’ll show you a picture below to prove it.

Anyway, I decided one day last week that I’ve had enough of being afraid of my shorts, and I really just need to get over it. I may not have the perfect legs, and I probably never will, but that doesn’t mean that my legs are so offensive that they should never see the light of day! So I took those shorts out, put them on, and walked around town all day in them. Leg jiggle be damned.

ShortsThe shorts in question. It’s funny, because when I look at them now, objectively, I can see that they’re not that short. And my legs certainly aren’t offensive. But this is NOT what I saw when I was walking around that day. 

I’m not going to tell you that I had this beautiful moment where I was all “OMGeeee I Love my legs so much, the world is a beautiful place!” Nope. I was uncomfortable. When I went for a walk in the morning, I felt like everyone I passed was wondering why I was wearing such short shorts. I kept looking down at my legs, expecting to see what, I’m not sure. But all I saw was a pair of pretty normal, muscular, quadzilla (in the words of Neghar Fonooni) legs.  I did get a little bit more comfortable as I walked around that afternoon, but not to the point where I felt as though I was totally at peace with those silly little shorts.

But that’s ok, and that will come. These legs do some pretty amazing things, and I just need to keep that in mind on those days when I feel like they don’t deserve a pair of shorts. Because hell, sometimes it’s just too damn hot, and nothing else is gonna cut it. Amiright? 

I guess my point is this: I am in pretty darn good shape, I am strong, I eat pretty healthfully,  and I take care of myself pretty well. But I’m not perfect, and I’m still learning how to show those parts of myself that are the least perfect. Just because I write a blog doesn’t mean that I love my body all the time– and it’s ok if you have reservations about certain parts of yourself too. We’re all learning to be ok with our perceived flaws, I guess the best thing is to remind yourself that those perceived flaws are much bigger in your own mind than in the minds of others.

So I will keep wearing my shorts. I will keep reminding myself that it’s okay to wear these shorts, and any other pair that I want to wear. I’ll keep working on feeling good in them, on being comfortable and owning these legs that carry me around every day. They are the only pair I’ve got after all, so I might as well learn to love them!

Readers: Do you have a certain article or type of clothing that you’re not comfortable with? Do you have trouble finding shorts that fit? How do you get over your own body fears and own what you’ve got? 

Body Image: What Can We Learn From A Five Year Old?

This past weekend, I drove up to Maine for my nieces’ cheerleading competition. Despite the torture exhileration of being in a room with hundreds of screaming children (screaming in unison, is that worse?), both of my nieces did a wonderful job and I was so happy that I was able to see them compete.

But besides seeing them both out on that floor, beaming with delight as they went through their routines, there was one other thing that really stuck with me after the day was over. When my younger niece, who is 5, was finished with her teams performance, she came back into the crowd to hang out with us in the stands. At this point, she had taken off half of her cheerleading uniform and was just running around in her little “boy shorts”, or hot pants, as I was calling them. And the beautiful thing about it was, she had no qualms about running around in her tiny little shorts — she was just having fun with her friends, and frankly was more concerned with getting some of her sister’s candy than covering up her thighs.

That got me thinking about girls in general, and how most of us feel about our thighs. You couldn’t pay me to walk around in a crowded auditorium in tiny little hot pants, but this little five year old didn’t even give it a second thought. I wondered to myself if I would have felt comfortable doing that at her age, and the truth is, I just can’t remember back that far. But I can remember being about 10 and being embarrassed of my “thunder thighs” and jiggly butt, so what gives? At what age do little girls go from loving themselves to hating themselves, and why does it happen? Will my niece grow up to be a woman who is proud of her body, or in a few years will she end up like most of us, cowering behind cover-ups, hoping that nobody sees her cellulite or stretch marks?

And if little girls can run around without a second thought to what their legs look like in their short shorts, why is it that we, as most adult women, can’t do the same? When do we lose that ability to focus on life instead of a skewed body image?

If I could protect her from falling into the self-hate rabbit hole that many women end up in, I would. The problem is, I don’t have any idea how to do that. With all of social media, the infiltration of what girls “should” look like, I don’t have any idea how to keep the current generation of young girls from falling into the body-hate trap.

Now, true, they probably shouldn’t spend their entire adolescence in tiny hot pants, because that sends a different message after a certain age, and that’s another story all together.  But to teach them to be completely unashamed of their body is a different, and important task. I think that as grown women who have contact with young girls, we have a duty to teach them to love their bodies, their beautiful uniqueness, and how to show them off unabashedly when it’s appropriate to do so.

We must teach them that when they’re teenagers and on the beach with their friends, there is no need to cover up their thighs and belly just because they may look a little bit different from their peers, or their belly may not be quite as flat as it was before they hit puberty. We need to teach them to focus on what’s really important — friends, family and enjoying life — and not what their stomach may look like when they sit in their bathing suit.

It would be a truly amazing thing if when little girls grew older, they did so without developing a keen hatred for their bodily imperfections or self perceived flaws.  What if little girls never lost that mentality of their five year old self when it came to body insecurity? What if they could grow up and continue treating their body as what makes them uniquely wonderful, and not what makes them agonizingly different?

Today, try to live a little bit like the five year old version of yourself. Wear those proverbial hot pants, and wear them with pride (but unless you work at Hooters, you probably shouldn’t actually wear hot pants to work). When we allow ourselves to forget how our thighs look or how our upper arms look, we are able to focus our attention more on the things that really matter. I know we all think that we know better as we grow older, but sometimes I think we really need to step back and realize that maybe the kiddos can teach us a thing or two.