Stop Telling Me I'm Too Fit To Be Body Positive

It's as if women are supposed to be confident about their bodies, but not ALL women and not TOO confident.
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I've got to be honest, I'm really disappointed.

I've been a body image advocate for over 10 years and worked in the fitness industry for even longer, and it's become impossible to keep up with the expectations put on women these days when it comes to loving our bodies. I'm not talking about the pressures we've always felt to look the way society decided that we should look — I'm talking about how we are now being judged on HOW and WHEN we should love our own bodies, by other women, and I'm pretty pissed about it.

For what seems like forever, women have had to deal with the media and marketers telling us what it meant to be beautiful and how being beautiful was pretty much the only thing worth being. As a result, so many of us battle severe body image issues and eating disorders. However, recently, I have noticed a big divide between the body acceptance community and the fitness community. As an active member of both, I believe that we need to do a much better job of supporting each other than we have been. In a society that is constantly telling women what they can't do, we need to stop thinking that we have to choose sides when it comes to our body image. It's time to appreciate our similarities and respect our differences.

The good news:

When I created my body image workshops for kids and started sharing my "self-worth should not be measured in pounds" philosophy, I felt like a bit of a lone wolf. Amazingly, over the last few years, so many incredible women have emerged with similar messages and have created fantastic organizations with the goal of inspiring women of all shapes and sizes to be proud of their bodies and unique beauty. The internet has made it possible for so many powerful voices to be heard. More and more, we're seeing pictures of women baring their curves on social media and saying, "This is ME and I LOVE my body!" Statistics show that by the time a girl is 18 years old, she's seen 250,000 messages from the media telling her how she's supposed to look, and that's damaging. The fact that we're seeing more "plus sized" women all over our laptop screens is a damn good thing!

I find myself being criticized by both communities. And it sucks.

The not-so-good news:

As I write this, I know that I'm probably going to upset some people, but here I go...

I've noticed through my own experience and in talking with other women, that when women who don't look stereotypically fit share pictures of themselves, they're celebrated and encouraged; but when women who are lean and toned do the same, they can be accused of being vain or working against the body acceptance movement.

To clarify, I'm NOT talking about #Fitspo. I'm not talking about pictures and quotes shared by workout fanatics who try to pass off their unhealthy obsession with working out as "inspirational" and "motivational." I don't believe that "pain is weakness leaving your body" or that "rest is for the weak." That's bullshit and I don't support it.

What I'm talking about is the fact that as a fitness instructor and body image advocate, I find myself being criticized by both communities. And it sucks.

I started hating my body when I was 17 years old. I abused it with food, both starving myself of it and binging on it. I've spent more years criticizing it than being proud of it. When that finally changed, I created a program to help kids grow up with healthy body image and self-esteem and have fought hard to be a positive influence in the body image community.

However, I am also a person who has battled some serious health issues and, as a result, enjoys feeling strong and fit.

Despite the work I do as an advocate for healthy body image, I have been criticized for posting pictures on social media of my body when it's lean and toned. The criticism is that as a body image advocate, I shouldn't look stereotypically fit because it sends the wrong message. Apparently, I am only allowed to be comfortable in my body if my body is acceptable to THEM.

I've been judged by fitness folks, too. I once did a TV interview about fitness when I was a little softer and rounder and was criticized by some viewers for being too "fat" to talk about fitness. Idiots.

The message being sent is if you want to speak about fitness, you have to look like a fitness model — and if you want to speak about body image, you can't.

It's as if women are supposed to be confident about their bodies, but not ALL women and not TOO confident.

The other day, a mom and an athlete who I know had to recently delete her Instagram account because of the backlash she'd received from people accusing her of "showing off" her body by posting bikini pictures. I have to wonder... if she was overweight and posted the same pictures, would they still be angry or would they cheer her on?

It's as if women are supposed to be confident about their bodies, but not ALL women and not TOO confident.

We used to say "real women have curves" until we realized that ALL women are real. Some have curves, some don't, some have big butts, some have small butts, some have big breasts, some have small breasts, some have one breast, some have no breasts and some have fake breasts. But we're all real women and how we choose to celebrate our bodies is up to each of us as individuals.

Whether a woman wants to wear a full-length cover-up to the beach or post pictures of her bare ass on Instagram, she should be feel supported, or at the very least, not judged.

Listen up!

Your body is yours. Feel free to use it however you choose, all I ask is that you love it and enjoy the hell out of it!

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