I’ve been thinking about writing this blog for quite a while. I’ve been struggling with this issue since I was a teenager. I know I am not alone.
This blog won’t give you the latest weight loss secret, nor will it give you a really incredible workout. As a matter of fact, it won’t give you any answers. My hope is that it starts a conversation that needs to happen.
It’s time for me to get honest with myself and it’s time for me to get honest with others.
I need to hear about other people out there who struggle with the same issues as I do. I know I am not alone. I see it in others, I see it in my clients, I see it all over social media and I see it in my family.
My issue is my love/hate affair with my body. I can’t even tell you when or why this started. All I know is that I have fought with my body image and my weight since I started junior high school. I have no idea whether or not I was actually overweight, but that does not even matter. I thought I was overweight and thus began decades of self-loathing, countless diets and a trip to a 28 day eating disorder clinic.
At 20 years old and after the birth of my first son, my goal was to weigh in the double digits. Imagine my elation when I tipped the scales at 99 pounds. I was on top of the world. That number meant that I was finally a success and that I was attractive.
Of course it didn’t last long. Before I knew it, I ballooned to a whopping 119 pounds. I felt like a failure. Suddenly I went from feeling attractive to feeling like a monster. I was buying a size 20 in clothes to hide my hideous body.
I only wore clothes that hid my massive frame. It was then that I sought help and entered treatment for my eating disorder. I never considered myself anorexic nor bulimic, I went because I was a straight up binge eater and my weight was out of control. Again I only weighed 119 pounds.
One of the things we had to do was exercise. I felt so hideous that my workout clothes consisted of my huge potato sack skirt that reached the floor and a huge over-sized shirt. After all, I didn’t want anyone to see how big I was.
I spent 28 days in treatment and left the same as when I went in.
Over the past decades, I have gained and lost 20 pounds.
My biggest weight loss successes came when I was competing in bodybuilding. Those were the days. Some how I managed to stay with a strict diet for 12 weeks. I ate by the clock every 2-3 hours. My meals consisted of boiled chicken, rice, cold sweet potatoes and broccoli. It wasn’t good, but it was what I ate. Food was not longer enjoyable. I even traveled to Las Vegas on vacation for a week with my cooler full of food.
On the day of my contests, my body fat was approximately, 18% and yet I still had a wad of fat on the back of my legs. I guess I should mention that I am of Hispanic, Italian descent. We have some meaty thighs! God, how I hate them.
It took about 3-4 weeks after each contest to gain back 20 pounds. I had no idea how to transition back to normal eating. I went from a ripped, lean size 0, back to what I felt was a fat, over weight woman.
The next few years, I gained and lost 15-20 pounds through various diets and exercise plans.
Now I sit here writing this, ashamed. I am 51 years old and I’m still struggling with weight and body image.
As fitness professional, I know better. But, first and foremost, I am a woman. I am woman who has struggled with her weight, self-image, self-esteem and body image for 40 years.
Trust me, I have done every diet out there. I have done Paleo, I have done the Whole30, I have gone off sugar, I have gone off carbs, I have detoxed, I have done Precision Nutrition, I have eaten low fat, high fat, low protein, high protein, I have kept food journals. I have counted calories and I have measured my food. I have done tons of cardio, I have lifted heavy weights…I have done it all.
I still go through the same emotions and behaviors. I lose around 7-10 pounds. I feel great. I feel attractive. I feel successful. I go shopping and buy cute clothes and wear them with pride. Then I gain the weight back. My self-esteem, body image and confidence go to hell. I go back to my baggy clothes.
So, is there a point in life and I am asking anyone who is reading this blog, in which you stop the madness and just accept who you are, accept and love your body and quit torturing yourself? Or do you continue the self-destructive mental and physical abuse?
At 51 years old, I’m tired of fighting this. I’m tired of hating and fighting with my body. I want to enjoy my life and I want to just enjoy food. Damnit, I want to eat cake and not feel like a loser and not feel judged and not feel guilty.
I know I am not alone. I have clients who have been coming to me for years who pretty much do the same. We have transformation contests with pretty amazing results. After the contest is over, they end up where they started. I have clients who, after coming for years look pretty much the same. They work hard, their health has improved tremendously, but they are still overweight. Is that so bad?
As fitness professionals, we post before and after pictures of our best client’s transformations. However, when I see group pictures of clients working out, there are some who are over weight and obese and I know those clients have been coming to those classes for a very long time. It happens in gyms, in boot camps, in Kettlebell classes and in Crossfit.
Now I know that other fitness professionals will judge me because I am fitness professional and I should look the part. What is the part? Many of my new clients, when asked what their goals are, say they want arms like mine.
One of the things I am guilty of that just adds fuel to my already low self-esteem fire is that I compare myself to other women on Facebook who are leaner and stronger. I know those are part of the issues I need to work on.
I don’t know the answers. I don’t know what to tell my clients who struggle with the same issues. When is it time to quit the madness?
One thing that really helps me is to understand different body types. We are all different. I will never be a skinny girl even though I have tried. My brothers and my oldest son struggle to put on weight. They are tall and thin with nice long legs. My sisters and I are short with short, muscular legs. No matter how hard I try and how lean I get, I will not have tall, lean legs. I know I can have a lean upper body, but my legs will always be and look heavier.
One of the things that help me, is the website that has pictures of some of the world’s most elite athletes. You will see they have completely different body types depending on their sport. None of them are the same.
I am not writing this blog to get pity and I am certainly not writing it to get any more advice.
If you are one of those who have never struggled with weight, or if you are one of those who have fought the weight loss battle and won, without having to fight the demons of self-loathing and constant failures, then you will never be able to wrap your head around this. As fitness professionals however, we need to understand that for some of your clients that struggle with this, we have to understand and we have to be able to help them.
Another diet, another food journal and harder workouts will not take care of the underlying emotional issues surrounding this issue.
So what are we to do?
Is quitting the madness and focusing on health instead of losing weight so bad? Do we support and affirm their efforts on improving their health or are we focused on their weight loss?
Do we refer them out for help, for counseling?
I go to counseling and have been on anti-depressants since I was a teenager. Many of our clients have never been and maybe it’s time. Do we do them a disservice by not addressing this issue?
I ask you to please share this blog in the hopes that it helps someone and starts a conversation that I think needs to happen. I really put myself out there and I would like to think I didn’t do this in vain.
Laurel Blackburn is an RKC Team Leader and owner of Boot Camp Fitness and Training and Tallahassee Kettlebells. Look for Laurel at www.bootcampstogo.com or www.tallahasseekettlebells.com.
At 51, she is out to prove that age is just a number. Her goal is to motivate and inspire people everywhere, both young and old that strength, flexibility and mobility can get better with age. Follow her adventures on her blog: www.SuperStrongNana.com.