It's the time of year where many people make resolutions for change. This year, the only resolution that I wanted to make for myself was increased self appreciation. Sometimes the shortest way to a happy life is wanting what you have instead of having what you want. Self acceptance, inside and out, imperfections and all, is part of overall wellness. We are all, intrinsically, OK. Sure, we have unique talents, interests, weakness and imperfections, but that's part of the beauty of humanity.
It's my ability to assume goodness in others, regardless of size, shape, or fitness level that makes me a compassionate and capable personal trainer. I meet clients where they're at, respectfully. I listen to their goals and provide feedback on how to make them measurable / accountable, and how they will map the road to success. My mission in fitness is to make everyone feel welcome in my class. And that's what I've been doing for 22 years.
I teach a fantastic group exercise class. Don't take my word for it. Look at my attendance record at every club where I teach, and look at the retention of my group-ex members and personal training clients. Or look at my endorsements on professional fitness sites... When you're good, you tell others; when you're great, others speak for you; others speak for me.
Here's the kicker, the elephant in the room, the dirty little secret. I'm 20-25 pounds overweight.
Let me tell you this....
When I dance, nobody gives a damn about how much I weigh!
No matter what's been going on in my life, I've been able to carve out a place of joy for my fitness classes and clients and put my heart into them. People have told me that the joy I express when I teach is palpable, contagious.
Back to my weight....
My battle with my weight is tied to depression and stress, and they started in late 2003 and early 2004 when my mom was dying. Working 60+ hour weeks, very little gym time, running up and down I-5 corridor to the hospital and back, screaming toddler in tow, stopping at the Centralia Burgerville more often than not. While I would change what I ate, I wouldn't change the time I spent with my mom, may she rest in peace. The bad habits I gained during her demise added 25 pounds to my weight. I'll highlight my other scars, but I won't detail them. Let's just say that between 2004 and 2011, there were 5 family deaths, a boatload of issues with secondary infertility (not to mention weight gain with every round of IVF), major job turmoil, and a dramatic and stressful birth. Everyone has crosses to bear, and I'm not saying mine are more or less than anyone else's. But I survived mine by making poor food choices. Grief, depression, stress, food.
No matter what has gone on in my personal life, I've kept teaching fitness. It's an oasis to dance, to sing, to feel shared rhythm with others. Sometimes, it was my sanity, the very best part of my day. And as I said before, when I dance, nobody gives a damn how much I weigh. I teach from my eyes, from my smile, from my hands. My weight hasn't affected my ability to teach, to dance, to train. I've created and earned more amazing opportunities for myself while weighing in excess of 150 pounds than under.
That's not to say it's been all roses and unicorns...
1) Three people in the last 8 years have declined to hire me, and though they didn't say it, I'm sure the issue was that it was weight, age, or both. If you look at the demographics of who got hired, they were all young, attractive-looking, thin, and most of them had less experience than me.
2) There was that gorgeous physical specimen who looked at me like rotting meat when we were partnered together at a convention last year for a Rip Training seminar. He sized me up and he judged me wrongly. I won a medal in that session of over 100 people, and the presenter said, "This girl, now this girl kicks ass!" Triumph, but still the sting of being the last girl picked, and looked at like a person of little worth.
3) FYI, if you don't see legs sticking out from her crotch, do not ask a woman if she is pregnant. Period. Enough said.
Defensiveness, rationale, excuses...
So here's this instructor who's good at what she does, but she's chunky. Does this make her a bad instructor? No. Does this make her a bad example to her clients? Yes and no. You could argue that I'm a poor example because I'm not within a healthy weight range (I'm overweight, but not obese). You could judge me on appearance alone and say that I shouldn't be in front of people acting like I know fitness. You could say that there's a standard of fitness that professionals ought to uphold and anything less is hypocrisy. There are lots of appearance and example-based reasons why you could argue that I don't have a place in the fitness industry, and I've probably heard most of them. Here are a few reasons, excuses, defensive utterings about why I think I offer a good example to my clients.
1) I understand where they're coming from. My struggles are the same as many of their struggles. While I don't advertise my issues to my clients, my weight is visible and I can't hide it; sometimes it spurs discussions that are teachable moments for them. There is no contempt or judgment from me towards my clients, and people can feel that. There are people who have told me they came to me because they were intimidated by uber-fit trainers and they liked how I treated my clients.
2) Struggles aside, I'm a great example of someone who doesn't give up. Not quitting the gym or the job that I love. Fighting depression instead of sinking under it. Going to the gym as an imperfect person, yet standing in front of the room with an earnest smile.
3) And, always, if someone doesn't like me, I was taught to accept that. I probably wouldn't like them, either! So to the people who didn't hire me, so what? To the rotten meat guy, so what? My strengths exceed my weaknesses.
Whether they're excuses, rationale, defensiveness, or self-protective armor, I've worn my reasons for years.
And now it's time to get rid of some of them, not so I'm easier to hire, to avoid being last pick at fitness conventions, or to look better in a staff shirt. For my own health.
My. Own. Health.
Losing the weight is a very small part of what I'm doing. There's a bigger picture that includes healing some scars and shedding some old beliefs. But in the short term, this chunky little instructor is trying to lose 20 to 25 pounds, and keep it off. I believe the only way to truly be successful at the latter is to deal with the issues that made me overweight in the first place. Nutritious low calorie meal replacements are just one piece of it all.