Growing up, my impression of women’s fitness looked a lot like a slender, sinewy woman eating salads for every meal and doing cardio until she passed out. As a chubby, asthmatic kid who liked bread a little too much, this wasn’t me. I didn’t grow up to be that kind of woman either, so I steered clear of gyms. That is, until I discovered the magical world of lifting and became a gym person.
The idea of striving to be strong, not skinny, appealed to me much more. I began to see that much of the women’s fitness industry is founded on keeping women unhappy with themselves, so it can continue to profit off of our discontent. I’m no fitness guru, but I know a few things now that I wish I would’ve known earlier. If you’re also disillusioned with the fitness mindset, or just need some reminders to take care of yourself along your fitness journey, then read on.
If You Don’t Enjoy It, Don’t Do It
As I skip through the double doors of my gym and scan my membership card, I sometimes stop to wonder how I could go from detesting the thought of going to the gym to looking forward to each workout. The answer is that before I started lifting I was forcing myself to do things I hated.
There is no one right way to be active. Some people love running, some love dancing, and some love weight training. Do whatever makes you happy. Banish the idea that working out is something you have to do or a spoonful of cough syrup you just need to gulp down. There may be a workout regimen or diet that gets you to your ideal body quicker, but if you detest sticking with the program, the odds of burning out and giving up altogether become much more likely.
Sometimes I skip the 15-20 minutes of cardio I do before I lift because I don’t feel like it, but who cares? I’m still in the gym, I’m still making progress, and most of all, I’m not making my gym time a chore. Start incorporating joy into your workout routine and it’ll be much easier to maintain a consistent, healthy approach to getting fit, mentally and physically.
Stop Eating like a Rabbit
I can’t tell you how many posts I’ve seen detailing the amount of time you’d need to work out to burn the calories you ate after a big holiday like Halloween or Thanksgiving. Not only is this a stupidly harmful mentality, but it also suggests that calorie intake is an inherently bad thing.
Calories give us the energy we need to do anything. They’re total superheroes, and all we do is diss them. Plus, if you’re working out regularly, that means you need to intake enough calories to power your workouts. Just like restricting yourself to a workout you dread, restricting yourself to foods you hate isn’t sustainable. Allow yourself to eat that Ben & Jerry’s after a long day of studying. Go out to eat with your friends. Enjoy all the delicious baked goods that come with the holiday season. Don’t make indulgence a habit, but use the extra calories here or there to fuel your fitness goals.
Stop eating like you’re not a grown person who needs energy to grind, gain, and conquer. You deserve to eat the foods you love and not shame yourself for it.
Don’t Let Anyone Else Tell You How You Should Look
I love my curves. I love my pillowy thighs. I love my broad shoulders and sturdy calves that tights can’t always fit over. I also love big, muscular arms, and that’s one of the things I’m working toward right now. Huge biceps aren’t the pinnacle of femininity, but I’m not worried about looking soft or waif-like. I want to look like an enhanced me.
At every stage of your fitness journey, people are going to tell you what’s wrong with how you look. To someone, you’ll always be too skinny, too fat, too bulky, too round, too tall, and the list goes on.
Forget them. Your fitness journey is about nourishing and training your body to help you lead your best life, and only you get a say in what that means. If you want a rounder booty, get those squats. If you want to be stronger, get acquainted with the free weights section. If you want more range of motion, experiment with stretches and yoga positions. You don’t owe anyone else your body, and that goes for your wellness plan.
As we prepare to enter a new year, I hope that everyone can have these realizations and more as they explore what it means to be happy and healthy. Let’s enter the year with kindness in our hearts, both for others and for ourselves.
What are your health goals for the new year? Share with us on social media by tagging @cfashionista.
Opening image by Stephanie