Just as persistent as the mentally grating, physically and emotionally exhausting (and often mind-bogglingly exasperating) politics that cannot be avoided no matter how hard we try, is the overwhelmingly constant and redundant message that we are flawed, are not good enough the way we are, and need to be fixed. If we want to be more desirable, popular, successful, rich, and the list goes on, we need to repair what society deems to be wrong with us. Even Lady Gaga, who absolutely highlighted a painfully boring first half of this year's Super Bowl, was chastised for having a very minute and very normal amount of skin on her extremely athletic and lean midsection. I mean seriously, Lady Fucking Gaga. What is wrong with society? Really?
Many people spend their entire lives battling to restore their self worth (or build it in the first place) and try to fix so-called deficiencies that aren't even deficiencies in the first place. As a result of the constant pressure and shaming, countless people, especially women, are taking drastic steps to change their appearance, or in some cases, their behaviours and mannerisms. In most instances, this boils down to making themselves less, and often involves doing endless amounts of painfully boring cardio, following the latest extreme detox, cleanse, or diet, or taking up next soul-zapping exercise regimen that promises to banish ugly cellulite, melt away unsightly fat, shrink your thighs or stomach, or tone up your jiggly arms. Heck, it might even involve crushing your organs and skeleton, and wearing a waist trainer. The list goes on…and on. Sadly, newer, even more extreme, and wallet emptying gimmicks seemingly pop up on a daily basis. It never ends.
Because a plethora of people have become so beaten down, metaphorically speaking, and bombarded with never-ending messages that they are flawed, undesirable, deficient, and broken, they lose sight of reality and are no longer able to differentiate between fact and fiction, common sense and complete and utter bullshit. Can I ever relate to this as I spent many years trying to fix my so-called imperfections, and I adopted many counterproductive, mentally and physically exhausting, and downright fucked up behaviours that ruled my life. Hindsight is easy as I can now see just how self defeating and irrational my mindset was, but it's tough to view the world, and yourself clearly, when you are trapped in a cyclone of negativity, and are being inundated with one demeaning message after another.
On social media, many self proclaimed gurus, ''celebrity trainers,'' or Instagram fitpros, are consistently spreading their premeditated message that unless you possess a body type that is deemed perfect in their eyes, or in the eyes of society, it is imperfect and in dire need of fixing. These money hungry, and often painfully narcissistic charlatans, make it crystal clear that the only solution to your ''problems’’ is to buy their insanely priced products or services. What I failed to mention is that many of these ''coaches’’ possess little to no knowledge, a lot of their marketing and ''educating'' involves littering the internet with blatantly photoshopped and altered photos, very ill-advised workout videos where the form epitomizes exactly what not to do, or the latest cleanse, detox, diet, or BS workout routine that promises immediate results. Other gurus have latched onto extremely naïve celebrity clients and use their clients celebrity status to market themselves. In fact, one of the most notorious celebrity trainers, who preaches the message that women should never lift weights that weigh more than 3-5 lbs or else they will become bulky and masculine, and spreads other incredibly false and scientifically unfound information, is the bees knees in Hollywood and in the celebrity world. It's laughable, but very unfortunate as she has an incredibly large platform to spread her insulting and ill-advised views on how women should look, work out, and eat.
Sadly, many fitness coaches are no better. Rather than educating and empowering their clients, and giving them the tools that will help them thrive in all aspects of their lives, including when they are not in the gym, these ''coaches'' strive to make their clients as reliant on their products, services, and presence, as possible. This typifies exactly what a fitness coach should not embody. A coach is someone who educates, empowers, leads, inspires, and does everything in their power to build you up, and help you improve all aspects of your health and well-being. Any coach who tells you that you are flawed and need to fix yourself is someone who you should steer very clear of.
While I am finally in a very good place in my life, and have developed a very healthy and positive relationship with my body and who I am, it wasn't always this way. For many years, I felt like I was downright flawed, and did everything in my power to fix, or at least control my ''deficiencies,'' so nobody else would see them. This, prevented me from living my life to the fullest, and from growing, both personally and professionally. Physically, I never felt like I was good enough. Instead of appreciating and embracing what a gift the ability to work out and be physically active is, I used my workouts to fix, or at least control my appearance. I definitely did not use my workouts and lifestyle to make myself feel healthy, happy, strong, fit, confident, empowered, and vibrant. Sadly, I did the exact opposite, and it took a major toll on my mental and physical health, and negatively impacted all aspects of my life.
Despite the fact that I had always been a very gifted multi-sport athlete, and my body had allowed me to thrive in all of the sports I played competitively, and the many others I played for fun, I could not see past my ''flaws.'' While my powerful arms helped me excel at baseball (hardball in a boys league) and I even made the little league all star team that competed to earn a spot in the Little League World Series, I despised my arms and thought they were too big. I also thrived at ice hockey, once again with boys, and I was even selected to the all-star team in a tournament that included 36 teams, but my shoulders were too big and soft. Even though I had been playing high level soccer for many years, my legs were too skinny and bony. And I could not stop fixating on the scar on my one calf that took 30 stitches to close, an injury I sustained when I was in grade 7 and spent my days rollerblading in the skateboard bowl and performing crazy tricks that I had no business doing. Despite my athletic background, I was my own worst critic, and had such harsh and irrational views of my body.
Ironically enough, while I devoted so much time and effort towards controlling my appearance through my workouts and eating, I was in the worst shape of my life, both in terms of my overall strength and fitness level, and also my body composition. Everything I did back then is absolutely everything I am vehemently against now, and I am very vocal about my views. I was your typical cardio queen who spent endless amounts of time doing steady-state cardio, and would not stop until I burned an X number of calories. I did very limited strength training, and when I did, it was incredibly ineffective as I did not select exercises or a resistance that were conducive to increasing my overall strength and muscular development. Funny enough, back in the day, the only exercise where I actually challenged myself was the seated calf raise machine, something I no longer use, and my calves look identical whether I train them or not. I avoided all of the fundamental movements, but I did lots of calf raises. Thinking back to this is making me roll my eyes, and hard. As for my nutrition, it was all about extreme calorie control, deprivation, rules and rigidity, and I definitely had never-ending obsessive thoughts about foods I could not have, or at least should not have. I was miserable.
After dealing with 5+ years of severe body issues that were the aftermath of a bad car accident I had been in but walked away without an apparent injury, my entire mindset changed, and I realized what a precious gift I had been wasting. After persisting for these physically, mentally, and financially exhausting years, and not stopping until I found out why I was dealing with a constant and endless array of symptoms that would not get better, I learned how mentally strong I am, and how I am worthy just the way I am. This was absolutely empowering and life changing. Now, my entire mentality is about making myself more, and in all aspects of my life.
This is extremely relevant to us as coaches, as we can absolutely help shape the lives, behaviours, and mindsets of our clients. We hold a tremendous amount of power, and cannot take these responsibilities lightly. I certainly know I don't. Our words and actions are incredibly impactful and can help our clients develop a positive body image, a strong sense of self worth, a healthy mindset, and healthy habits that will help them thrive in all aspects of their lives, or our words and actions can have the polar opposite effect.
Due to my past struggles, I have developed a tremendous amount of empathy, experience, and have a large number of tools in my arsenal. We are not flawed, nor do we need to accept or embrace our so-called imperfections. There is absolutely nothing wrong with us. We are uniquely wonderful just the way we are, and we should strive to become the healthiest, happiest, and most fulfilled version of ourself. This is a lifelong journey, and one that often evolves. If more people adopted this mindset, and yes, it will take a lot of work (especially mentally), the predatory diet companies, charlatan coaches, and Insta-stars, would no longer have a platform to spread their venomous message, and would have become irrelevant years ago! Worthiness doesn't have any prerequisites. You are worthy just the way you are.