In shape, my shape

Women’s Health are currently running a body positivity campaign. It’s all about acknowledging that health comes in all shapes and sizes and that for any one person those shapes and sizes may change over the years. The #inshapemyshape campaign involves women posting pictures of themselves holding postcards (available in this month’s Women’s Health) bearing slogans that they feel they resonate with the most.

So I thought I’d take this opportunity to share my body positive journey…

If you ask me why I go to the gym, I’ll tell you it’s because I want to get stronger. I want to be able to deadlift 100kg, bench 50kg (interim goal, long term goal is bodyweight but I’m keeping that number to myself!) and, well, just the ability to squat would be good. Tight hip flexors and ankles matched with long femurs makes squatting difficult, but I am doing what I can in terms of mobility! I can’t make my femurs shorter…

So while my main goal is strength, I’d be lying if I said I had no interest at all in the aesthetic benefits of exercise. Of course I’d like to lose some weight and have visible muscle tone. My relationship with my body image is rocky, I’d say. I go through phases of ‘oh my God, my size 12 jeans feel tight on the thighs, how can I be getting bigger?!’ And of course, it’s possible that the extra size on my thighs is muscle… But what if it’s not? At the start of the year I was weighing myself weekly and checking my body fat % on the machine at the gym, but I felt that I had the potential to develop an unhealthy relationship with the numbers on the scales… So I stopped.

Then there will be other days where I wake up and inspect myself in the mirror and think ‘yes, I don’t look too bad. I’m okay with this’. The best times are when I’ve just walked out of the gym after hitting a PB on a lift. The endorphins are soaring and I feel incredible that I’m making progress. That my body is capable of incredible things. That no matter what it looks like, I’m building a machine that is both strong and healthy.

I don’t remember when body image became such a thing?! I remember thinking I’d put weight on at uni, but I don’t remember feeling self conscious about it. In my early 20s I lost a lot of weight, and the office environment I worked in at the time was full of women praising me for my decreasing size. When actually, looking back, I think I looked unhealthy. It’s only been since turning 30 that my metabolism has slowed down and weight has crept on. Suddenly, I’m no longer naturally slim; I have to work quite hard to exercise and eat well to NOT pile on weight. What I’d really like, is to be happy in my body because it’s healthy. Because I look after it and feed it well.

Going to the gym does make me feel happier in my body and better about my appearance, but I’m still working on that confidence. I’d like to feel confident about it more often than I don’t… So I acknowledge that I’m not perfect, and I’m working on being okay with that. I guess I’ve been conditioned over the years, as much as I hate to admit it, into thinking that to be thinner is to be better. So I guess this is as much a mental journey as it is a physical one…

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