Was thinking yesterday about my evolution in the fitness industry and the place to which I have come. And I have to say after years and years of ups and downs (in weight and emotions), I feel more balanced and comfortable in my skin than I have ever been. I talk to a lot of women who are at various places along the spectrum of body confidence and self-esteem. Some show visible anxiety at the mere mention of their body while others love every inch, curves and all. I think it is important to acknowledge where you are, but then try not to judge it. At least for me that is important because I have really struggled in the past with being “in shape” or “out of shape” or embarrassed to be seen or what will happen if I show up to a modeling job and I don’t look like what they expect, etc. Now more than ever, I feel like my perspective is balanced and I am finally at a little bit of a “so what?” if I show up to a job and I am not the right “look.” Fine. I can still have self-worth, though, can’t I?
To give you a quick history of where we’ve been, after my first show I did my first photo shoot with talented photographer and my now good friend, Lisa Brewer. I got some amazing shots and I went to an open call at Directions USA (one of the top modeling agencies in the southeast) and landed a modeling contract. I felt on top of the world. But I was also in an all-or-nothing space with training and diet. I was either cutting all carbs and doing 2 hours of cardio a day to get “in shape” or I was going out, boozing and chowing on bread & cheese. Not only could I not grasp the concept of moderation, I simply could not practice it at that time. The deprivation and then binging cycle was on-going. From what I have heard from many competitors and even regular women, it was nothing close to some of their stories (I never had an eating disorder in the typical sense…if anything it was more of an exercise obsession). BUT, it was enough that I never felt comfortable in my skin, I was always up or down and I was constantly self-conscious.
A few months later, I worked my first booth at the Arnold Classic with Champion Nutrition, and a few months after that I landed my first of 4 covers. I was “officially” part of the bodybuilding community and while it was fun and exciting, there was a constant pressure (from myself and perceived from the industry) to be in “show shape” constantly, look the part and not get fat. And though I was never even what would be considered overweight (and Jade thinks I am ridiculous for ever saying I was “out of shape,”) for me, I was not comfortable in my skin–clothes were tight, I struggled to say no to sweets and I was obsessed with food: what am I going to have for my next meal? Is it cooked? Is it too much carb? How many hours has it been? When am I going to get my cardio in? But I want Reeses Pieces? lol And on and on. Much of it at the time was internalized, putting on a brave face for clients and friends. And at the time I didn’t even feel all that stressed, I just chalked it up to, this is how it is.
Over time I grew more and more nervous about getting called for a modeling job. What if I show up and they tell me I am not lean/small enough? (not that they would even say that, it would be more like, “we decided to go in another direction” ) I found myself nervous every time I got a call from my agency. Luckily for me, I have never had that scenario happen, but the fear was always there.
The switch really came for me after I decided to stop competing. I was successful early in my career in figure because I was able to be completely focused on the process–ask Jade–I was completely and utterly focused on the show, myself, my body, my placing. Good for my competition potential, not so good for my head. But as I did more and more shows, I found I was unable to focus as much, I couldn’t keep my diet as tight as it needed to be and I never came in as lean as I wanted. When I finally made a conscious switch into the fitness business world and away from using strictly my body as my CV, I started to exhale a bit. I really credit Jade with helping me to see my potential. He always got frustrated when I solely focused on my physique. He would say, you are so much more than that–what about your intellect, your education, your interpersonal skills, your beautiful face?? lol! And he was right, if I wasn’t in “show shape” I was unable to see any of that as useful or having any value. Sad to say now, but I was caught up in a situation where my self-worth was completely tied to my body fat %. Embarrassing to admit, but true.
But over time I was able to see value in other things, like coaching my clients and helping them to not make the mistakes I made (though I truly believe every competitor has their own unique journey through this stuff), or writing for fitness magazines or building my business to reach more people than just my immediate circle. I came to the realization that a bangin’ body can only inspire at the very superficial level. It is the person inside the body than can really reach people and inspire them to their greatest achievements, whether those are physical or not. Yea, a ripped physique is motivating, but it only goes so far. Connecting on the intellectual level, understanding the emotional process and admitting that yea, I mess up sometimes and I am not always perfect, THAT is what matters. There is nothing inspiring about perfection. There is no where to go from there, no lesson to learn, no growth to be had. It is in the falling and getting back up that the growth lies. I will take falling and getting back up a hundred times over never falling in the first place.
The point of all this is to say that yesterday, as I was thinking about where am I now and where I came from, I do realize that compared to probably 90% of those in the fitness and bodybuilding industry, I am not all that “hardcore” anymore. I don’t go for veins in my abs and I don’t need to see separation in my quads to know that I am fit, lean and worthy. (And for some people that is the goal and certainly if they are a competitor, that is different, and that’s just fine too, I just now know that it is not for me). I take a much more moderate approach to nutrition and training. I realize that I can be satisfied with where I am, but still strive for more. Being comfortable in my skin doesn’t mean I give up, just say screw it and eat whatever I want. I still eat clean, train regularly and have a flat stomach. But it doesn’t define me. I don’t want to feel overly deprived and I don’t want to feel like I give in to every craving I have. For me, balance has been the key to sustained happiness and not obsessing, and if that means I am not in “show shape” then that’s just fine with me
Would love to hear where you are on the body esteem spectrum…how comfortable in your own skin are you? Where do you want to go? What steps are you taking to get there? email@example.com And as always, thank you for reading oxox Jill