Take a second glance: Images of female athletes

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Howard Schatz’s images of female athletes have re-emerged and gone viral. The images – intending to display the varying array of body types – are bothersome to me. Perhaps because of my own insecurities. But also because I know the way that our minds work: we compare.

Check out both images and the Huffington Post article here.

Let me lead you through a second glance.

I am an athlete

No, I do not train for a sport, but I am an athlete – training for life. I immediately scanned the sports – looking for those athletes that I could most relate with and I compared my body to theirs. I am often asked if I am a swimmer – so I scanned for the swimmers and compared my shoulders, my legs, and my torso to theirs. Nope, I do not look like them. While I am not in ‘ peak physical condition’ as the disclaimer says these athletes are, I cannot help but compare. That is what we do! We compare. We judge (we know we shouldn’t but we do). And we ultimately beat ourselves up. I train so hard, and dang!

Now, I did not beat myself up. I could see the flaws in the images…so it made it easy for me to keep from traveling down that dangerous slope of negative self-talk and self-criticism.

I will share one significant flaw – hopefully to keep you from seeing this as a true representation and to prevent you from allowing yourself to compare and spiral into a dangerous place of despair.

The images are not to scale

Unfortunately – and I noticed this almost immediately – the photos are not to scale. The images are presented in a manner that inherently leads us to compare the athletes to one another. Yet, the 5’5″ golfer stands taller than the 5’8.5″ bodybuilder.

It is a trick!

Minor? Maybe. But tricky, tricky, tricky!

That is just one example, if you look at the heights of these athletes, that screams of the deception.

The bottomline

The intentions are good. And yes, the bodies of athletes vary significantly. All human bodies vary significantly. But I feel that the presentation is flawed and deceiving.

I have heard several clients and friends talking about this ‘artwork.’ Some are disappointed by the lack of clothing. Some are truly amazed by the differences.

Me? I am disappointed and bothered.

What do YOU think and feel about these images?

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Lean body – getting the results you want

I have been transparent about my battles with negative self-perceptions and body-image. These negative thought patterns go in spurts. I started writing this post late at night – unable to sleep and staring into the dark – wondering what it would be like to be ripped, hard, and lean. How would life be different?

What did I come up with? It would be different in no significant nor substantive way!

Media’s role

But wow. Facebook likes to think it knows what we will “like.” For me, it always recommends systems, supplements, and proteins that promise a lean body. I am active in many health and fitness social media networks and groups – so I get it. But they got me all wrong – and they are pushing the wrong buttons.

Triggered thoughts

I began to think, what if I just try it for a bit and see what is different. Will I have that ripped appearance that I want so badly but won’t starve myself to obtain? Will I remain the same? Will I bloat up?

How I would LOVE a lean body like the one advertised in the image. But at what cost?

I know what it takes

For someone with my genetics, it takes more to achieve the extremely lean look than it does for others. I have mentioned before, during times at my most lean, I felt sickly and exhausted. I couldn’t function! Would it be different if I filled my body with chemicals and manufactured ‘energy’?

The bottomline

And my mind goes on and on – all because of the hundreds of hard, lean bodies I see advertised on Facebook and other social media sites each day. I would delete my social media accounts, but it is a way for me to educate the community and cultivate new relationships and clients.

What messages do these ads send us? Don’t we have enough to deal with?

Follow me on Facebook: Better by Becca – where I rarely – if ever – post lean body pictures. There are plenty of other ways to motivate, inspire, and empower women.

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The power of size 11 jeans

I only own one pair of non-athletic shorts.

No, this is not me!

I wear a lot of skirts and dresses. They are more comfortable and I enjoy the femininity – to offset the masculinity of my athletic build.

There is another reason that I only have one pair of shorts: They are size 11.

I refuse to buy more double digit sized articles of clothing.

It is just a number

I know, many woman would be thrilled to fit into a size 11 pant. But one look at me – I do NOT look like a size 11. Some would say I am a skinny-minny (inaccurate) but most have guessed me to be a size 6.

I wish I was a size 6 – – –

As a society, we have assigned a value to these numbers.  They signify beauty. They signify worth. Or the opposite – unattractiveness and unworthiness.

Again, just a number

There is more to this story. I have dresses in my closet – ranging from size 4 to size 12. It depends on the designer. It depends on whether it is “junior’s” or “woman’s”. It depends on whether it is sleeved or sleeveless.

I have workout clothes – ranging from sizes small to large. The same factors exist.

The bottomline

I know this. I know that clothing sizes – particularly for women – are arbitrary and just numbers. But they still get to me – just as they get to most women.

Having to try on the double digit shorts keeps me from shopping for them – let alone purchasing them.

But all-in-all, I love my body and I would not want for it to be smaller – and fit into size 6 shorts. But somewhere along the line, society brainwashed that number into my head – – – Even above, I wrote that I do not look like a size 11. What DOES size 11 look like? Again with the brainwashing!

The truth is, it does not matter. Based on the fact that I have such varying sizes, I assume other women do, too. So, numbers shnumbers, I am done with them and I am taking the power back!

P.S. I am not going to buy another pair of shorts. They just are not comfortable and that is all that matters!

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Progress pictures – A good idea?

My answer: it depends. Progress pictures will be good for some individuals and bad for others. It is a question that I have been asking for myself recently – is it good for me – therefore I have been giving the concept a great deal of thought.

I know some individuals who take daily progress pictures. I know that if I took pictures everyday, I would become depressed by the lack of change from one day to the next (or perceived change in the negative direction). I would become overly concerned with my appearance (which is already borderline considering my concern with appearing as if I am someone  who works out). I think that an individual’s mental health, stability, maturity, and so forth have a significant influence on whether or not he/she can healthfully take progress pictures and use them for motivation and/or self improvement.

From a coach and trainer perspective, I encourage clients to take progress pictures every 4 weeks. This is often enough to be a reasonable amount of time to wait. It is long enough to see visual change – in some cases. And this schedule does not create a risk for obsession or unhealthy habit of picture taking. Why do I warn against progress pictures becoming an obsession? Do we need another way and reason to judge our own bodies and appearances?

So yes, I do take progress pictures

I take personal progress pictures. I do this on no specific schedule, just when I think about it. Lately, I have been overall pleased with what I see. Can you say the same? For a short time, I was experiencing anxiety over the imperfections I saw in these pictures. During this time, I was also taking daily progress pictures. I reduced the frequency of my pictures. AND I changed my thinking – seeking the positive aspects of each picture. I am becoming much more lean. When I put pictures from October and today side-by-side the difference is amazing to me. I am down 12-15 pounds, I do not weigh myself often enough to really know, and the difference in my definition is wonderful!

Method for measuring progress

I measure my progress with my physical fitness assessment – performed every 3 months – and progress pictures. I use pictures as part of measuring my progress for numerous reasons. One reason being that I avoid scales and weight goals. I have a history of never being satisfied with my weight. Once I reach the goal, I am continually decreasing my desired weight. This is unnecessary and even detrimental to my efforts.

An important note is that I can wear the same clothes – though they wear differently today than they did then it is not noticeable enough to me. I do not weigh myself. Clothes are not a good measure for me. I need a measure! I need these images to motivate me to keep my diet on track and stay lean. The primary change in recent months has been in eating habits – and slipping into old ways and still fitting into my clothes – that is risky business!

The phantom fat

What I see in the mirror is not real. I see more fat in the mirror than the pictures show. What a relief! I have discussed the realities of phantom fat – despite my awareness of this psychological enigma, it still sneaks up on me! What we see of ourselves is distorted – and this has been highly publicized recently with the Dove Real Beauty Sketches.

There is complex science and psychology behind the differences in how we view ourselves in the mirror versus in pictures – and each one of us has varying discrepancies. These discrepancies are the result of our personal thoughts and feelings. What we see in the mirror is a reflection of what we feel (the Beauty Sketches sort of support this phenomenon, as it is a result of the image we see of ourselves and we most often see ourselves in mirrors).

The bottomline

I am me. You are you. What works for me will not always work for you. And what works for you will not always work for me!

There is no right or wrong, good or bad. Each of us is an individual – making each of our experiences individual. I know others who take daily pictures and thrive. I have learned that daily pictures are detrimental for me. Most times, we need to experiment and learn through trial and error what will work.

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?

I am NOT an athlete – Or am I?

It is hard for some individuals to believe, but I am not all that athletic. I look like at athlete, I can lift weights and train like an athlete, but I rarely perform like an athlete. This past weekend, I went cross country skiing for the first time since – well, since who knows when. I am terrible! My coordination is limited, my movements are impaired. I move slowly. Nothing about the activity feels comfortable. I am not drawn to sports that require true athleticism.

Looks can be deceiving

During my career in corporate America, my employer sponsored numerous team building activities – kickball tournaments, blind volleyball, etc. Coworkers were often quick to ask me to join a team – I would shake my head, “no, no, I am noooo good!” Believing this to be impossible, they would encourage me to join. I would agree, clarifying that I hoped they did not expect to win. More often than not, these individuals believed that I was being sarcastic or humble. But they always learned the hard way – watching me underperform and fail to meet their expectations. Later they would say things like, “but you are so athletic, how can you be so bad?”

Minimal experience

While I am a natural athlete – in a sense – I have to have experience and exposure and I need to practice. I have had minimal direct exposure to most sports and activities. I was always picked last in gym class and rarely given an opportunity to play – was the fat girl! I became really good at watching! I watched my brothers play many sports – but I did not play myself.

Several years back I joined an indoor volleyball league. The first few weeks were hilarious – I often ducked from the ball (I blame my brothers who often threw balls at me when I was a  child and this instilled a fear of balls). But it was not long before I was quite good at volleyball and moving around the sand court like a champ.

What is an athlete?

What makes someone an athlete? Natural ability? Excellence? Discipline? Genetics? Someone who partakes in sports? According to the dictionary, an athlete is:

a person who is trained or skilled in exercises, sports, or games requiring physical strength, agility, or stamina

With this definition in mind, am I or am I not an athlete? I am trained and skilled in exercises requiring physical strength, agility, and stamina. I believe that makes me an athlete!

The bottomline photo (14)

I have been telling myself for years that I am not an athlete. LIES! I am a life athlete – training for life. I’m just generally terrible and inexperienced at sports.

Are you an athlete?

An honest battle with body image

I have to be honest. It is irrational, but I have body image issues. As I mentioned in my post on Phantom Fat, I do not always see an accurate image in my reflection – it is sometimes replaced with what it used to be. More often than not, I simply just see the imperfections. As a fitness professional, I hold myself to a high standard – I must be fit, healthy, and essentially perfect. And despite my inspiring level of fitness and athleticism, I beat myself up for my imperfections. I know many of us are guilty of this. And I find that the more I focus on my fitness, the more I am obsessed with attaining the perfect body and the more frustrated I become with what God has given me to work with. So, I need to reign in my thoughts and refocus on my achievement goals.

I was very careful with my 2013 goal selections – focusing on physical achievements over physical appearances. I become frustrated because my appearance does not always display what I feel my fitness is – for example my lack of 6-pack abs. I am probably most insecure about my torso – and genetics, not my strength or effort – are at fault. I would generally advise against placing blame on your genes, but they do control our bodies structure and nutritional needs to a certain degree. My torso, with my rotated rib cage and protruding left side is a sore sight to my eyes. Can I fix that? It is skeletal, it is structural – it is kind of what it is! I also carry my ‘fat’ in my tummy – this is part genetics (my father will tell you that my mother always had a little tummy, too) and part stress. I will need to become EXTREMELY lean before you will see my rectus abdominus. You can, however, see my transverse abdominus and of that I am quite proud. But I desire those 6-pack abs! This is what we are taught to work towards!

6-pack abs = strong core?

Think again. When I get in this dark place of body image, I need to remind myself of the TRUTH. A 6-pack is not representative of a strong core. A 6-pack will not help me with my heavy bag crunches (and I have decided that I can probably do the crunches – I do not have access to a heavy bag and am training with a roman chair).

Core strength and stability is commonly misunderstood. Typically, the core is associated with the abdominal muscles groups and stability is associated with isometric or static strength or the appearance of the 6-pack. The main core muscles include the transverse abdominus, the internal and external obliques, the quadratus lumborum, and the diaphragm – rectus abdominus is a secondary. These muscles work together to protect the contents of the abdominal cavity and provide support to the spine and pelvis during movement. Most individuals – and trainers – miss training the transverse abdominus. Why? Lack of education and awareness. So I will tell you now – get your rotational exercises into your workouts.

Battling with body image

I do not question my strength. I do not question my physical ability. I DO question my physical appearance. I do not ‘measure up’ to the fitness models that I am bombarded with day in and day out. How do I expect to inspire and motivate? I have to remind myself that I am REAL. Fitness models rarely eat – this is a known fact. Competitors and models spend HOURS in the gym each day – while I only workout ONE hour. Lastly,they take supplements and other things that I do not want to think about. I’m natural. I eat real food and take the normal daily supplements.

I am caught up in a weird place. I am not happy with my body as it is. But I do not want to go through the harmful behaviors required to obtain that ‘perfect fitness body.’ I ask myself, if I do 100 situps per day for a month, adding gradual progressions, will I see the results I desire? Actually – been there and done that and the answer is no. What if I ________? Ideas galore, but they are all crazy – literally.

So what needs to change? Something needs to change. It is my mind.

The bottomline

A negative body image is far too common in our culture. I compare myself with others – why can other woman (particularly frustrating when it is women who are less fit than I am) have flat stomachs and I cannot? Well, God made me this way – and that is the truth, not an excuse. The following is an excerpt from a post by Nicole Hawkins, PhD on www.centerforchange.com:

Seven Ways to Overcome Negative Body Image

1. Fight “Fatism”
Work on accepting people of all sizes and shapes. This will help you appreciate your own body. It may be useful to create a list of people who you admire that do not have “perfect” bodies; does their appearance affect how you feel about them? It is also important to remember that society’s standards have changed significantly over the last 50 years. The women that were considered the “ideal beauties” in the 1940’s and 1950’s like Marilyn Monroe (size 14) and Mae West were full-bodied and truly beautiful women, but they would be considered “overweight” by today’s standards.

2. Fight the Diet Downfall
Ninety percent of all women have dieted at some point in their life, and at any one point in time, 50% of women are dieting. Women are two times more likely to diet than men. To dieters’ dismay, 98% of all dieters gain the weight back in five years. Studies also show that 20-25% of dieters progress to a partial or full-blown eating disorder. Women are foolish if they believe that dieting will make them feel better about themselves. Dieting only helps you lose your self-esteem and energy. Dieting also creates mood swings and feelings of hopelessness. If you feel pressure to lose weight, talk to a friend or loved one or seek professional help.

3. Accept Genetics
It is critical to remember that many aspects of your body cannot be changed. Genetics does play a role in your body and at least 25% to 70% of your body is determined by your genes. While there are many aspects of our bodies we cannot change, you can change or modify your beliefs and attitudes which influence the way you feel about yourself. Change starts with you, it is internal and it starts with self-respect and a positive attitude. It is import to focus on health and not size.

4. Understand that Emotions are Skin Deep
It is important to discover the emotions and feelings that underlie your negative body image. The statement “I feel fat” is never really about fat, even if you are overweight. Each time a woman looks at herself in the mirror and says “Gross, I’m fat and disgusting,” she is really saying “There is something wrong with me or with what I’m feeling.” When we do not know how to deal with our feelings we turn to our bodies and blame our bodies for our feelings. Every time you say “I’m fat” you are betraying your body, and you are betraying and ignoring your underlying feelings. Remember that “fat” is never a feeling, it’s avoidance of feelings. Learn to discover your emotions and feelings and realize that focusing on your body is only distracting you from what is “really” bothering you.

5. Question Messages Portrayed in the Media
The media sends powerful messages to girls and women about the acceptability (or unacceptability) of their bodies. Young girls are thought to compare themselves to women portrayed as successful in the media, assessing how closely they match up to the “ideal” body form. Unfortunately, the majority of girls and women (96%) do not match up to the models and actresses presented in the media. The average model is 5’10” and weighs 110 pounds, whereas the average women is 5’4″ and weighs 142 pounds. This is the largest discrepancy that has ever existed between women and the cultural ideal. This discrepancy leads many women and girls to feel inadequate and negative about their bodies. It is important to realize that only 4% of women genetically have the “ideal” body currently presented in the media and the other 96% of women feel they must go to extreme measures to attempt to reach this unobtainable image. Many of the images presented in the media have been computer enhanced and airbrushed. The models’ hips and waists have often been slimmed and their breasts enlarged through computer photo manipulation. Many of the women presented in the media suffer from an eating disorder or have adopted disordered eating behaviors to maintain such low body weights. It is important to start to question images in the media and question why women should feel compelled to “live up” to these unrealistic standards of beauty and thinness.

6. Recognize the Influence of Body Misperception
Women are prone to more negative feelings about their bodies than men. In general, women are more psychologically invested in their physical appearance. Your body image is central to how you feel about yourself. Research reveals that as much as 1/4 of your self-esteem is the result of how positive or negative your body image is. Unfortunately, many women with eating disorders have a larger percentage of their esteem invested in their bodies. Women with eating disorders often exhibit unequivocal body image misperception, in which they misperceive the size of part, or the entire body. Hence they are “blind” to their own figures. This distortion is real and it is not due to “fat,” but to the eating disorder illness. It is important to recognize this misperception and attribute it to the eating disorder. When you feel fat, remind yourself that you misperceive your shape. Judge your size according the opinions of trusted others until you can trust your new and more accurate self-perceptions.

7. Befriend Your Body
It is important to combat negative body image because it can lead to depression, shyness, social anxiety and self-consciousness in intimate relationships. Negative body imagecan also lead to an eating disorder. It is time that women stop judging their bodies harshly and learn to appreciate their inner being, soul, and spirit. A women’s body is a biological masterpiece; women can menstruate, ovulate and create life. Start to recognize you do not have to compare yourself to other women or women in the media. Begin to challenge images presented in the media and realize that your worth does not depend on how closely you fit these unrealistic images.

Some reality of “Phantom Fat”

Perceptions are not always reality. The truth is, I am led to believe that our immediate perceptions are rarely reality – especially our self-perceptions. We do know it is easier to see flaws and concerns from the outside – for example when scrutinizing others’ relationships. How is it that we can wear rose-colored glasses for our relationships, but see ourselves so negatively? A phenomenon that I am sure I will never quite understand.

As a woman who has gone from overweight to athletically fit, I know the struggle of lagging self-perception. If you’ve ever lost a decent amount of weight or significantly altered your appearance, you know what I am talking about. You look in the mirror and you see the “fat girl” you used to be. Then you see a picture of yourself as you are today and you say to yourself, “that cannot be me!”  You might even take that picture over to the mirror and look between the two, baffled. In the end, you walk away from this experience believing that the ‘fat girl’ you saw in the mirror is what is real: An unfortunate and inaccurate self-perception. woman-mirror

Psychology experts have coined this “Phantom Fat” syndrome – likening it to that of the psychological phantom limb theories of pain. If you’ve had it and lost it, you see the fat as still there! It takes time for the mind to catch up to the physical body in this realm – and some individuals need the guidance of a psychologist to address body image concerns if they linger. Those who have lost significant amounts of weight and have excess skin or cellulite are at greater risk of the “Phantom Fat” phenomenon, as the body is often still perceived as far from perfect. Another contributing factor to “Phantom Fat” may be the constant fear of weight regain that so many of us hold onto.

Think back to a romantic relationship that had been scrutinized by others but you perceived to be perfect – after the relationship ended and those rose-colored glasses came off, didn’t you in retrospect see what others saw and realize that you were in a better circumstance out of that relationship? Just as it takes time to grieve the loss of a relationship and get to the stage of acceptance, we often need to grieve the loss of fat. It takes time. Sometimes we wonder if it is worth all the hurt and the pain (e.i., sweat and hunger pains!). The longer the relationship the longer the ‘recovery’ period? The longer you perceived yourself as a “fat girl” the longer it may take recover as see yourself as you really are today.

So I ask this: What is your relationship with your body? This is the most intimate relationship you will ever be in! Your journey may be long – but just like recovering from a heart break – it is SOOOO worth it!

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?