Beauty and the Box!
Some musings on how CrossFit has helped two of our members with body image.
When I began CrossFit in 2010, the following statements were true:
1) I thought I was reasonably fit (HA!)
2) I had come to terms with being a size 12 and having a less than 30” leg length (cheers parents!)
It was a very surreal day when I discovered that my fashion/life/personal idol Jennifer Aniston and I had incredibly different body shapes. I had suddenly found the root of the dreadful feeling I had whenever I tried on clothes. I would realise that they fitted in all the wrong places before breaking out in a full sweat trying to get them off again. Going shopping was a horrible experience and I spent the vast majority of my teenage years and well into my twenties in surfer-cut jeans, t-shirts and racerback wife-beaters. The clothes I picked up off the rail were made for a different person – someone with a different lifestyle and shape to me. The second part in my quest to feel “pretty-alright” about myself happened when I realised… I really like food. I have issues with portions, my eyes are considerably bigger than my stomach, or my metabolism for that matter. This may come from always being told to finish everything on my plate when I was younger. Having identified that it wasn’t necessarily the type of food I was eating (except at weekends… when ice-cream should run in fear of me) but the amount that was the issue, I set to work and developed a series of strategies to lead me to the ultimate goal of “Feeling-pretty-OK-about-myself-most-of-the-time.”
1) Surround yourself with positive people and vibes and concentrate on being happy, whatever that may mean to you. It might be changing your job, learning a new skill or doing that thing you’ve always wanted to do. I’m sure that happiness is directly related to your body’s tendency to store fat – stressed out people make better fat-storage devices than happy people.
2) Figure out whether you want to address the TYPE of food you eat, how MUCH you eat, or WHEN/WHY you’re eating. These are the only things you can change in a diet, anyone that says different is trying to sell you something. I would also suggest you change one thing at a time otherwise you’ll be stressed out… see point 1.
3) Rather than weight/dress size goals, set goals in your activities. Swim further, lift more, cycle to work at least 3 times a week… then be happy with the results these actions have on you.
4) Learn how many things you can balance at once. I know that there are three things I have to juggle: my work, training and nutrition. If I try and do all three I become a wretched stressed out human being and my relationships suffer. As such, when work and training are going well I let my diet slacken off a little, when I can’t make it to the gym as much as I would like I make sure I’m eating right and stay away from the biscuit tin.
5) Find some positive role models that work for you. I now know that the curves of Scarlett Johansson are more where my wardrobe needs to be than perhaps the Jennifer Aniston of old. Also, Camille LeBlanc-Bazinet and I are the same height and weight… she can also lift the world but at least there’s hope!
6) Begin. Tell at least one person what you are going to do/change/achieve. Hopefully this person will be happy for you when you achieve it, if they aren’t, get rid of them because they are a crappy friend and probably not helping you with point 1.
Since starting CrossFit, I have dropped two dress sizes AND put on 5kg of muscle and sometimes manage to leave the house thinking “yeah… I’m totally rocking this body of mine.” I don’t think its our job as CrossFit women to say that muscles are sexier or that looking one way is better than another. Being healthy and fit is the most important factor. If you want to express your fitness and your lust for life in marathon running, Zumba or rollerskating in a tu-tu singing the theme-song from the lion king… that’s fine! You will be active, hopefully happy, and one step towards feeling a positive impact upon your gorgeous body. You grew your body, you made it yourself, and you can improve or damage it in anyway you see fit. I have learned that all women can be sexy, whether they are skinny/strong/curvy/whatever because you know what… CONFIDENCE is always sexy!
Why I love CrossFit Cambridgeshire’s mirror-free, body-friendly environment.
Obviously I’m writing from a girl’s point of view, but I’m sure parts of this can apply to men as well.
Body image is an issue just under the surface for many girls. Growing up there is so much pressure to look stereotypically beautiful, with a perfectly tanned, skinny body. This ideal often comes from the media, giving us false and often impossible aims. We also put pressure on ourselves to look this way, and it can manifest itself in many negative ways – food issues or over-exercising for example. I have certainly felt this way over the last ten years or so, since my mid-teens, and it is only very recently that I have begun to accept that my body might – might – just be beautiful, even though I’m not petite, have enormous hair, and a bottom that could reasonably serve two people!
Often, if we aren’t comparing ourselves to others we are criticizing our bodies, when we should be celebrating them and what they can do. It is also easy to think that if we aren’t perfect on the outside we are somehow imperfect on the inside. CrossFit Cambridgeshire has helped me change this thought pattern, as people have liked me for who I am, not the way I look. It has changed my body too. CrossFit doesn’t make you bulky – it takes a lot of work to get serious muscles – but it can change your shape, giving you traps, quads and a booty you can bounce a coin off. Getting used to the idea that my body isn’t unattractive has been an enormous struggle, but training at CFC has taught me two things. Firstly, that my body can do things I never thought possible, and secondly that who I am is not the way I look. This is because at the box, perfect as a concept doesn’t exist, and beauty comes in all shapes and sizes – often red-faced, puffing on the floor in a haze of sweat and chalk!
The coaches (and members) at the box look you in the eye when you walk in, and treat absolutely everyone as though they are equally important, which they are. Women are not judged by the attractiveness of their bodies here, they are applauded for their abilities and their hard work. Everyone has different strengths and weaknesses, and there are no favourites – everyone brings something different to the community. Despite the fact that it is such a physical environment women (and men) are seen for their achievements, however big or small. You are seen for your personality, your enthusiasm and your ability to fight through a struggle. You become your score on the board not the size on your clothes label. This may sound a bit competitive, but the competition is with only yourself. Don’t get me wrong, there are great looking bodies at the box, but they are great because of what they can do, how hard they work and every girl and guy in their own way is beautiful.