Nah, not the biblical kind but the last few weeks I’ve had quite the personal revelation happen. So much so, that this is the blog I always wanted to write but never thought it would ever actually happen.
Regular readers of Kirby’s Personal Training and Fitness blog and, more specifically, the No More Mrs Fatty McFat sections will know all too well about my own constant up/down journey with weight, self esteem and self image. I even named the negative voice in my head, Pandora, to enable me to remember that that voice isn’t who I really am, she’s just a part of me that I sometimes forget to keep in check.
Yet, something has changed recently and very much for the better.
A few weeks ago I attended a friend’s engagement party. After spending the whole day taking my time getting ready and going all out in the pampering stakes (I honestly can’t recall the last time I did that without attending a spa day), I realised I genuinely felt the best me I had felt in a LONG time. The best part about that feeling is, it hasn’t gone and though I know I will likely have low days (who doesn’t), I can honestly say so far those low days that have happened haven’t been about my appearance or my body.
I can’t put my finger on what was different and can’t say it’s been any specific thing that made me think ‘hey this is my skin and I am comfortable with it’ but something has most definitely changed.
This, this is huge!
We live in a society where we are bombarded with images of perfection, unattainable perfection. Every magazine cover, both Women and Mens, are emblazoned with photoshopped pictures of lean, slender, muscularly defined models or celebrities selling us an unachievable image and fitness magazines often are just as bad. Headlines on these magazines are filled with lines basically telling us we are not good enough.
Lose weight for a better sex life. Get a Beach body. 6-pack Abs – right now. It’s relentless. How on earth are we meant to function when everything around us is saying we just aren’t enough? Well, newsflash, you are more than enough. Can you improve your health? Maybe. Does that number on scale define you as a person? HELL NO. Do you feel comfortable in your clothes? No? Why? What needs to change and will committing to the eating programme and training regime that you need to do to get 6 pack abs and that muscle definition in 6 months to 8 months make you feel good about you? Unless you’re going to compete in a body building/bikini competition the answer is probably, no.
YOU ARE ENOUGH. Let me say that again with added emphasis YOU ARE ENOUGH! We are enough and we need to stop beating ourselves up all the damned time.
This picture was taken in October 2013. I still thought I was fat. I looked in the mirror every day and saw fat around my stomach, I thought my muscles needed more ‘tone’. I was still learning my job as a PT and I thought I wasn’t enough. I look back at that picture, a full 18lbs heavier now than then, and think ‘you utter tit, you were in the shape of your life if a little skinny’, but that was the mindset that I had allowed to purvey my everyday thinking. I had to do more, lift more, be more, be stronger, be thinner, be prettier, be the best at everything and I compared myself to everyone around me. What a complete arsehole.
I’ve spent the last ten years being photographed in all sorts of settings; studio shoots, on stage, with fans of the band, in my studio for work, on a pole…it’s been relentless and every time I compared myself to other photos of me, and other people. There was a lot of self criticising and for way too long. Was I looking fat on stage; was I pulling a less than flattering face (more often that comes back as yes because I’d be mid song so ummmm yeah!); did I have stomach rolls; did I look fat on the pole; did I look fat next to my band mates? This constant comparing of yourself to others is NOT a good thing and it never helps self esteem. People think because you perform on stage you have masses of self confidence… sorry to burst that bubble…that’s not quite true. For the vast majority of us, we perform on stage because we need the adoration, adulation and confirmation of the crowd that we are enough.
But these last few months I’ve noticed a change in how I view myself. Is it because I’ve stepped down from performing? I don’t think so but not having that constant stress from running the band has helped somewhat. I also believe that losing the power in my legs last October has made me really sit back and think about what’s important to me and the main thing, my health.
I posted this video a few days ago. I am swinging a 32kg Kettlebell (I know, cool right?). I noticed that in the hike of the swing, my stomach pops over the waist band of my leggings (and people complained about Lady Gaga’s minuscule belly at the Super Bowl last weekend….get a life folks!). About 6 months ago I would have ditched that video because of that natural occurrence. I mean, you try bending over in lycra and NOT have a fold appear? Who cares about that fold? If you do, ask why is my body fat important enough for you to consider it offensive? What does that actually say about you? The important thing in this video is that I AM SWINGING A 32KG KETTLEBELL and with fairly decent form (it can be improved for I am always learning). I feel the strongest I have felt in an awfully long time.
No longer do I get up in the morning and sulk passed the mirror, hoping I don’t catch a glimpse of myself and think ‘oh god, you look fat today. who would train with you, you lump?’ as has often happened in the past. This morning, I stopped and looked at my skin, it’s looking great post ditching all the Free From products. Yes, I’m carrying a little more body fat than I would like but it will go if I decide to be diligent about it. My skin is my skin. My body is my body. And my body is strong. I clean/press/squat/swing and snatch double 16kg kettlebells with relative ease and on a good day I can press/swing and clean double 20s. I deadlift over my bodyweight. I cycle 17km to and from my studio most days of the week. My body is amazing. It holds me upside down on a pole. I can perform a freestanding handstand and hold it for a few seconds. I think nothing of walking or running around my local forest 5-20km at a time if the mood takes me. I am healthy and I am strong and my body is beautiful in it’s complexity.
For anyone who has a negative body image as I have had for the last…20 years if not longer, this is huge. And my goodness it is SO liberating. I am only ever in competition with myself. Can I be stronger next week than this week? Yes I can, and not just in physical strength but more often than not it’s mental strength that is the crux. There is nothing more astonishing than recognising your own physical and mental strength and seeing it increase day upon day. Yes, I get low days, usually about the business or because some days I feel difficult to be loved…that’s normal, we all feel low about things every so often but they are much less about how I look or feel about myself now. The trick is to recognise it and focus on something that brings joy and let that snowball. It does help. I’m obviously not talking about clinical depression here – that requires more expert attention than simple mindset exercises can offer and would encourage anyone who thinks they can’t cope with those feelings and lows to seek proper medical advice and support.
Finally I’ve also accepted that recent adage of haters gonna hate. There are people out there who will always find something to criticise you for. They will look at my muscular frame and think ‘she’s fat, why would I train with her?’ and that’s OK, they’ll get this breakthrough at some point, that my physique isn’t theirs, that they are a different shape to me and to the person stood next to them, that they won’t have the shape JLo or Beyonce has because they aren’t JLo or Beyonce and that my shape is nothing to do with them. I’ve lost over 6 stone in weight. I’m not bothered what they think anymore, they’ll get it eventually and I’ll cheer them when they do and will happily train them to become the best versions of them they can be.
My shape is my shape, and I have stopped apologising for it. I’ll never be a Liz Hurley or a Gal Gadot (I can’t wait to see her in the Wonder Woman movie in June – just saying) and that’s OK. I am me, and I am pretty damned awesome, fearless and an all round badass. It’s just taken me until I’m 41 to realise it.