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October 6, 2016

Do Sexy Modeling Photos Inspire People to Get Fit?



It was 2006, and the Myspace days were in full swing.

I’d just started competing and “fitness modeling,” though I don’t know if it’s actually professional modeling when you diet down for a show and then pay someone to take your photo????. But anyway … I was engaged in my first social media experience, and it was all about showing as many photos as possible of yourself–in show shape–the subtle brag disguised as “self promotion.”

Being that we were all navigating social media for the first time, you didn’t dare show anything but your very best, your perfected-for-publishing photos and all the great things that were happening in your life. “Authenticity” and “vulnerability” were unheard of, especially as a new online trainer and competitor who was always looking to get published, get tear sheets, land covers and get “discovered” by some random supplement company for a sponsorship. Lol.

To not be “in shape” was unmentionable.

But the ironic thing was that there were plenty of times I was not “in shape.”

And in those times, I retreated inside myself. Shame, guilt and unworthiness were my world. I wasn’t living up to what was expected of me, I wasn’t “reaching my potential”–besides I’d been 10% body fat before, there was no excuse to not be again–and so I lived in a state of incongruence that perpetuated an already crippling feeling of insecurity.

And that negative feedback loop worsened to the point that 4 years later, I’d dug myself so deep into an unworthiness hole that I felt all I had to offer anyone was my physique. I was literally sitting at home with a masters degree in clinical nutrition and crying because I didn’t have a six-pack anymore and how would anyone listen to anything I had to say? 

Sad to even think about, and certainly a little embarrassing to write here. But it’s the truth.


Remembering this time in my life brings back a lot of questions: why did I feel unworthy? Why did I feel like my only contribution was a rockin’ body? Why did I discount all the other ways I could help people? What was my justification for always feeling like I needed to be leaner, leaner, LEANER?

And what I came up with is: I justified this never-ending need for leanness by saying, “My lean, fit body acts as an inspiration to others.”

Ugh. Gross.

But it was the truth of how I felt at the time and the justification I used to perpetuate my body obsession and painful insecurity. And I still see models and influencers today saying things like, “Your own example of discipline is the inspiration others need.”

Is it?

Does me posing in a provocative way in a tiny bikini with a sexy smirk on my face … inspire people?

I don’t know that it does. Considering that 90% of my “fans” on Myspace were dudes (not my target audience for my business), chances are good that it wasn’t attracting the kind of potential reader/customer I wanted. And it definitely didn’t inspire my in-person clients at the time, who were mostly in their 40s and 50s and just wanted their clothes to fit and to be able to carry their groceries all in one trip.

It might have “inspired” women in their teens and early 20s by playing on their sense of inadequacy: “See, others are doing it, why can’t you, you undisciplined, weak, inadequate slob?”

That’s certainly how I felt when combing the pages of Oxygen magazine. Smiling faces, six-pack abs and strict meal plans outlined, all with the subtle inference of, “See, it’s not that hard. Just eat this stuff and do this workout and poof, you’ll look just like them! Just be compliant! What’s wrong with you?”

Anyone who has ever dieted knows that the what-to-do is not rocket science, and any coach that claims to have a superior eating plan or special workout program, IMO, is just an egomaniac. Because coaching isn’t about telling people what to eat or what workout to do, it’s about coaching another person to success. Results are about implementation, not information. Which is a skill.

And to think that having a rockin’ body sufficed to help my clients get results is simply absurd. It was a copout, a way to justify my self-absorption, obsession and insecurity.

Looking back, I regret not showing the whole story. I regret playing on the insecurities of others (and mostly my own!) to “inspire” people. I regret not showing the dark side of dieting and obsessive focus on my body.

BUT I am grateful for the journey and I am certainly grateful for the turnaround now.

In retrospect, I appreciate having had the full experience. I appreciate the insecurity and self-absorption and obsessiveness, because without it, I wouldn’t be as solid on my purpose and passion now. Which is actually helping others, not through my enviable physique lol, but through things that matter–like empathy, education, humanity and patience.

Being in show shape wasn’t for my clients’ benefit. They just wanted to get results, they didn’t need me to be shredded for that. Getting results isn’t about showcasing the perfect diet and exercise routine as an example every second. My clients needed accessibility. A human. And they needed the guidance, understanding, accountability and THE SKILLS of a good coach.

And your body fat percentage says little about your ability to COACH others to success.

Telling people what to do isn’t a skill. Writing a meal plan isn’t a skill. Attaining “the perfect body” isn’t really a skill. I know many women who are lean and “ripped,” but are painfully insecure, self-righteous, inaccessible and suck at coaching.

The issue isn’t having to be 12% body fat, it’s thinking that you need to be in order to be worthy enough to help others. What a waste!

What is a skill is coaching others to success. Period.

And that, to me, is a combination of empathy, expertise, understanding, humanity, education, patience and consistency.

Don’t sell yourself short. You only have to be one step ahead of the person you are trying to help, and you don’t have to be perfect to be effective.

Your ability to feel worthy enough is one simple choice away.

You are ready and capable if you decide you are. Stop stalling and start taking action, wherever you are. Sexy photos and “competition shape” is fine, but it’s not necessary (and I would even argue it takes away from your ability to help others because you are so obsessed with your own body!).

Not sharing your expertise, your story or a unique insight that could help someone because you feel not-good-enough is the real shame.

Hiding away your many talents out of fear of worthiness, in my mind, is selfish ;)

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