The power of a compliment

You never know what a compliment might do!

I will keep this short. I received two powerful compliments in the last two days – during a time of heightened insecurity and self doubt. The first – a compliment from a coworker about how amazing my arms look. The second – a compliment from an older, physically fit gentleman at the gym where I teach and train. He mentioned to the gym owner and staff while pointing at me – “You don’t see a lot of women who can do the full straight leg raises like she was doing. It’s very impressive!

I replied, “Thank you, I train hard and appreciate the compliment.” He said a little more about it, but I was too busy thinking positive thoughts to hear him!

I have been known to be significantly self conscious about my appearance. There was a period when I received a lot of comments like, “Oh, you workout?” Really, I do not look like I workout? That frustrated me – I worked out so hard and yet it was unnoticeable. I was told that only the naive and ignorant would look at me and not know that I workout. But – it has happened a lot!

I have this issue when it comes to my torso. Despite the fact that I can physically perform exercises that most women cannot – I feel that my physical appearance does not display this. How come I do not have washboard abs – like some women I know who are not able to do half of what I can. I sometimes allow myself to become defeated by my physical display of imperfection.

So with this man’s comment – he noticed something that I had felt was unnoticed and unnoticeable. He showed me an error in my thinking.  He validated all of my hard work! And all he had to do was verbalize a compliment – something many people may have thought but never thought to say. And now….all I want to do is go to the gym and do more hanging leg raises.

How can you compliment others today?

We cannot choose our imperfections

As those who follow my blog may know, I am overly concerned with my torso. I am concerned with the imperfect appearance. And more than that, I am concerned with the pain and impaired quality of movement associated with my rotated rib cage (I do not think I have mentioned this before). I have overactive muscles throughout the right side of my body that pull on everything, making me uneven. I do self myofascial release, active release technique (ART), I poke and prod my psoas and sarratus on a regular basis…

Last night, I was gently massaging my sarratus. My wonderful roommate began to comment that my imperfection makes me ME – assuming I was analyzing the imperfection of my torso. I explained that I was massaging. And I said, “If I have to have an imperfection I would rather have cellulite on my butt.” Would it not be awesome if we could choose? Now, I am sure that those with cellulite on their butts would likely choose something else, but that is besides the point. The point: we cannot choose.

No spot reduction

And just as we cannot choose our imperfection, we cannot choose to perfect an area of our body. It is unfortunate, but there is no such thing as spot reduction. I regularly have individuals ask me what they can do about thighs or tummies – the honest answer is workout. More importantly, a program of fat loss workouts. (Quiz: Are group fitness classes designed for fat loss?) Can you emphasis an area for toning and muscle building? Yes. But we have ZERO control over where fat sits on our bodies. Annoying? I believe so.

It is genetics

As I thought more about how each of us is imperfect in a different way, I got to thinking about the role of genetics on our physical structure. “My calves are awesome and I rarely work them; whereas, my torso is my ‘weak point’ and I work it nearly every day.” This is the truth. It seems counter-intuitive. It is incredibly frustrating. But it is what it is. Some of my friends have never had tummy area troubles. I have never had leg, thigh, or butt woes. We can thank our mothers for this, and grandmothers – it is in our genes.

NOTE: Do not mistake this for a genetic explanation for overweight or obesity. Genes control how easy or difficult it may be to lose. Genes influence where on your body you hold fat, muscle, etc. Genes influence hormones – which effect our weights. But genes do not make someone overweight.

I do have nice legs – truly always have. While I do work hard to maintain them, I have never focused on my calves (like I have my torso and biceps – my weak points). Maybe it is because I am 99.9% German. Maybe it is because I come from a long ancestral line of farmers – who needed the strong legs for bailing hay and working all day. Regardless – it is out of my control. Does it feel to you like I am talking myself into believing it?

Acceptance – the hard part

So, how do I come to terms with the fact that I may not have the flat stomach that I desire, but I have the great legs that others may desire? We all have something – true or perceived – and this is real. I know the science. I know that there is very little I can do. But I still fight the acceptance. I still cannot find satisfaction.

The bottomline

Our imperfections make us beautiful. Our imperfections make us individuals – lovable for precisely who we are.

We do not get to choose our imperfection – but we can choose to embrace them. I am working on this, are you?

Do you embrace your imperfections?

Defining: MY ideal body


I was perusing Facebook this morning. Lately, it seems like God is speaking to me through the news feed. He knows what has been weighing heavily on my mind. I have been trying to clearly define my  goal: I WILL be in the best shape of my life for my 30th birthday (May). I have been using images to define my goals – thus far all images of muscular woman performing some physical feat. Taking a look at the chart below, it hits me that all the images I am drawn towards look like the 10-12% body fat. Wow!…Wow! And I ask myself, which images do I think are the most attractive?

image collageThe last I tested, I was approximately 20% body fat. And the few times I have checked in below that, I didn’t FEEL well. The generally accepted ‘normal’ body fat percentage for a woman in her thirties in 23-27%. And I have been unknowingly setting my goal for 12%….is this realistic? Is this hazardous? What is the benefit? Looking at the above images, I would currently compare myself most closely to the 20-22%. Am I happy with my body? To tell you the truth, I am far from satisfied! To my defense – what woman have you met who truly is 100% satisfied with her body?

For years, I’ve battled disordered eating behaviors and exercise addiction. I even had a boyfriend end a relationship because I was ‘too obsessed with what I ate and going to the gym.’ He said it was too much pressure for him and he felt he needed to live up to the same standards. Mind you – we met at the gym. I didn’t read between the lines at the time – what I heard was that I was too much for him to handle. The reality is that I had an incredibly healthy relationship with food at that time. I often wish I could go back in time and mimic that relationship for current implementation. The real issue was my body dissatisfaction and the overall effect it had on my life and our relationship.

The cycle of undereating, overeating, and episodic binges has taken a toll – physically and emotionally. The period of overtraining has left me with injuries that I will spend my entire life fighting to overcome. I’ve been a guinea pig for insanely difficult workouts. I have tested numerous meal plans – and those most closely resembling a a bodybuilding diet (and that necessary to achieve my perceived ideal body) made me miserable. I’ve tried enough ‘diets’ to know when my mind and body are at optimal performance. A system of chosen deprivation (e.g., eliminating all carbohydrates or dairy) is not ideal for my daily functioning.

So as I continue to define my goal – I find myself DEFINING MY IDEAL BODY. I have to ask myself if that’s what I’m really striving for. What is it I’m really trying to achieve? I know what I would need to do to reach 10% body fat. The workouts don’t scare me and they in fact excite me. But the diet is another story and the diet is 90% of achieving my ideal body. So….is that truly my ideal body? Is that my goal? And what is wrong with my current appearance? My body fat is within healthy range, sometimes dipping to slightly below. And there are risks to low body fat just as there are risks to high body fat (e.g., osteoporosis, amenorrhea).

As of this morning, I’ve decided that I will step away from all vanity aspects of this goal. I WILL be in the best shape of my life for my 30th birthday! But this will be purely achievement based. And this is going to be FUN and REWARDing!

Treat your body kindly – 1 Corinthians 12:12-27 (New International Version)


What is real? A bit about body image

photoI am sitting on the couch, looking down at my pants. These pants are years old. I have had conversations with friends about how much we love our out-dated Old Navy yoga pants. The pants once black are now more of a charcoal gray. I look and see the excess material – they are baggy! I’m getting ready to go workout, and I’m wearing a pair of yoga shorts (oddly enough Old Navy) beneath the pants. And…they are baggy. Just yesterday I was feeling large, considering what it would take for me to be less of a ‘big girl.’

Don’t get me wrong, I know that I am not fat or overweight. But I am a big girl – large structural build and significant muscle mass. This often bothers my psyche. Today’s media flaunts rail-thin women – no fat and no muscle. It’s no wonder the female body image is so distorted. Fashion is designed for the thin woman – no butt nor hips nor shoulders. Some clothing is designed for a bust. But an athletic girl like me….it’s no wonder I spend most of my time in sweats! I can’t find clothing to flatter this figure. Further, it’s no wonder I feel big!

Looking down on my pants today was a bit of a reality check. What is real? While I have been feeling big, tangible evidence shows that this is not true! My pants are too baggy! If I could still read the inside tag, I know it would read M for medium. That’s not big! I know friends and acquaintances have been saying I look thin and like I’ve lost weight (I lose during times of stress!). What they see is real, isn’t it? My own view is distorted – after years of looking at the mirror do I see what is real and true today? Or do I see the me I saw 5 years ago, last year, or last month? Have images of the past been permanently burned into my retina, replacing what is real and right in front of me today?

Or…am I comparing myself to the models in the fitness magazines? Those women get touched up. I know this, but knowing and believing are two very different things. This is a constant battle!

Do you see the REAL you? I often think that others see the real me more than I do – physically, emotionally, AND spiritually. I believe that they see the real me more than I like to admit… My challenge to you today is to ask yourself this questions – and please be honest!

1. How do I see myself?

2. How do others see me? (hint: use real-life experiences and statements to draw this picture!)

3. What is REAL?

Those RED Shoes

I’m drawn to shoes. My mother tells a story about how she lost me in a department store when I was a toddler. Where did a store associate find me? The shoe department. I guess I was destined to be a shoe lover. And I am mesmerized by red shoes

Oooh la la…my latest pair!

Red shoes make me feel feminine, pretty, and a little risque. I think that wearing red shoes gives the perception of confidence. The right heel on the shoe says don’t mess with me. Christmas Eve 2011 I attended church service with a family I hold near and dear to my heart…charcoal gray wool skirt, red sweater, and metallic red Nine West pumps. The reaction to the shoes from the entire family when I walked in the door was pleasant and positive. I felt good!! Over a pair of shoes? Granted…everyone was used to seeing me in sneakers at the gym, so…

When I’m having a bad day, I like to curl my hair and put on my red shoes. For the girl who dresses for the gym 90% of the time, this can throw people for a loop. But I like to feel pretty. And don’t most women desire beauty? When I put on my red shoes, it almost as if I’m empowered. I’m unstoppable. I know, an object doesn’t have that kind of power, but I have given it that power and I am okay with that. And I often remind myself of 1 Peter 3:3-4:

Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.

This does not mean it’s wrong for me to wear my red shoes. The verse was written to warn women not to follow the customs of some women who spent hours working on themselves. God would rather see women work on inner beauty, which I do every day. Do you? This is the kind of beauty that lasts forever, regardless of whether I have my red shoes on.

P.S. I wouldn’t say that I collect red shoes…I don’t buy every pair that I see. But I sure do have quite the selection. I’m still on the search for the right pair of ballet-type flats.