Things My Trainer Never Told Me: Chapter One
Warning: Shameless confession that I probably shouldn’t say but am going to anyway: part of why I became a personal trainer was because I hated the fitness industry. Well, ok, hate is a strong word. But I...ahem...strongly disliked it enough to know that when I became a trainer, I wanted to do it differently.
The following is a series of thoughts your trainer would never tell you but that you absolutely NEED to hear.
Things My Trainer Never Told Me:
Insider Secrets on the Fitness Industry
A Short Series
That ripped fitness celebrity you follow might be one of the unhealthiest people you know.
Let me explain.
I worked at multiple health centers before starting my own business, and my coworkers were some of the most physically fit people I've ever known.
They were walking greek gods, with 6% body fat and perfectly sculpted muscles in allllll the right places.
But they were also some of the most miserable people I’d ever met. It didn’t matter how perfect they looked; their focus was always on what they needed to improve.
They were so nit-picky about their bodies that it robbed them of their joy and contentment.
I don’t know about you, but I sure as heck have never, ever done that before--nit-picked myself into misery. You either, right?
Riiiiiight. *insert group eye roll*
Listen, I get it. Too many times in my not-so-healthy past, shopping trips ended with me sitting in a fitting room, wearing only shame and defeat and crying with my head in my hands. Sitting in my misery, I’d contemplate moving in permanently because I was too ugly or too fat or too WHATEVER to show my face in public ever again. Those memories feel distant now, but impossible to forget.
And thus we are brought to our first secret-the-fitness-industry-doesn’t-want-you-to-know:
What you see in the mirror will never change, unless you do.
And I’m not talking about your actual reflection, I’m talking about your perception of it.
Contrary to popular belief, your body image doesn't finally improve when you have zero jiggle during jumping jacks or a perfectly round tush and flat midsection. In fact, if you don’t start practicing seeing your beauty right now, you’ll never be able to see it, regardless of how fit you get.
I don’t care if you have perfect abs that glisten in the sun as you jog in slow-mo on camera, or if you’re on day 253 of the Keto diet (with no cheat days.) If you look in the mirror and have unkind things to say to yourself or you obsess over parts of your body, you are still not healthy.
For too long, the fitness industry has tried to convince you that abs will make you like yourself more. And it’s just not true.
Seeing ourselves as beautiful is NOT something that happens overnight when we finally shed those last 15 lbs, straighten that frizzy hair, or tone up the backs of our arms (Lord Jesus send your angels for the batwings; I waved at my neighbor this morning and they’re still flapping.)
You don't just wake up one morning and finally feel comfortable in your skin. It comes with practice. It’s a habit you form, a truth you cultivate, a treasure you hunt for and believe in.
That doesn't mean don't get in shape! It just means don't wait until you're in shape to love yourself. In fact, get in shape because you love yourself.
Any other motivator will be a never-ending rollercoaster of yo-yo diets and quick-fix 30-day boot camps, ping-ponging between self-hatred and self-obsession. It’s exhausting and you are worth so much more than that.
So start hunting for the beauty that’s been there all along. You aren’t a bag of trash, "you’re a room of treasures", as Annie F. Downs would say.
How do we actually do it--hunt for our beauty when all we find in the mirror are flaws?
Here are some ways to practice finding your beauty that have helped me:
Nothing is more attractive than authenticity. We’re drawn to it. So stop trying to fit some weird mold of who you think you should be. Instead, find out who you are when you are most yourself, and then be her all the time, unapologetically. That is real, magnetic beauty.
If you never doubted your beauty or worth, how would you stand, walk, and talk? How would you dress? Give it a try. You might realize your natural stride and stance was stunning all along, you just needed to find it and let it out. Confidence is incredibly becoming. Choose confidence even when you don’t feel it. This can feel funny at first, almost like you are faking it. But remember finding your beauty is a choice, not something we leave to chance for "one day" when we’re finally where we want to be physically. Let your body language and speech reflect that choice.
Do NOT, for one instant, believe that when you compare yourself to women on screens (TV, Insta, FB), you are comparing yourself to actual humans. Did you know that fitness models or instructors will often hardly eat anything right before a shoot so that they have an insanely low (and unhealthy) body fat percentage? This way they look extra fit...for 24 hours. None of them walk around in their day-to-day life looking the way they lead you to believe they do. So STOP COMPARING YOURSELF TO NON-EXISTENT HUMANS. It’s the reason body shaming is so common - these quick, drastic body fat cuts celebrities do for filming or photo shoots leave us with impossible standards. So when the one brave soul doesn’t do this, and God-forbid we see a fraction of movement in her belly as she dances on stage, the whole world explodes with media coverage of her belly (most recent example is the lovely lady-Gaga-is-actually-human scandal). UGH. Give me a BREAK. If our standard of beauty is based on a woman that doesn’t exist IRL, how will we ever feel beautiful? (Spoiler: we won’t.)
When someone gives you a compliment, let it rest. Don’t hot-potato the words away as if they were going to burn your skin. They won’t. Choose to believe them even if you’d rather respond with self-criticism or deflection. I am guilty of this. We all are. We feel so uncomfortable with someone acknowledging our beauty - because what if isn’t true or they're just being nice but don’t mean it - that we immediately feel the need to hot-potato it out of our hands, and turn the attention away from us. Next time, take them at their word, just say, “Thanks!” and let it rest with you.
Remember that we sink or grow to the level of the people we surround ourselves with. Make sure the people closest to you, who you spend the most time with, are people who build you up, not tear you down. This is crucial. Sisters, let’s remind one another of the beauty we see in each other. Every single one of us--even the ones you think are most confident--can feel a little unsure of ourselves in any given moment. So let’s throw around encouragement and life-giving words like it’s our job. And if your friends tear you down regularly, you’ll speak the same way to yourself. It’s okay to break-up with that kind of talk... and those kinds of friends.
Have a small handful of things you love about yourself on standby (maybe your kind heart, your cute pinky toe, or your delightful curves). Pull out these positive affirmations and speak them over yourself as often as you need to, especially when you start hearing the nit-picking start. Speak truth to yourself, even when you don’t believe it. Say it on repeat until it drowns out the lies tearing you down. Sticky notes and phone lock screens are great for this.
There are so many creative ways to do this and we're just scratching the surface, but we can start practicing now!
“Beauty begins the moment you decide to be yourself.”
- Coco Chanel
If you think of ways I haven’t listed, I’d love to hear from you! How do you find your beauty when the temptation to focus on flaws is so ingrained in us?
Tune In Next Week for Chapter Two of “Things My Trainer Never Told Me: “My Diet Plan For Clients Includes French Fries, Wine, and Chocolate”.
And If scripture is your jam, here are some sweet things God has to say about your beauty...when the criticism tries to consume you, remember you are considered "altogether beautiful" (as in every inch of you) by the One who calls you His Darling.
You are altogether beautiful, my darling; there is no flaw in you.
Song of Solomon 4:7
She is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her. Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. Her ways are pleasant ways, and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her; those who hold her fast will be blessed.
Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.
Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. 4 Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.
1 Peter 3:3-4
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day
2 Cor 4:16