We are a culture that is obsessed with bodies. They're plastered on magazines, billboards and websites to sell just about everything. Celebrities and models don bikinis and lingerie on the covers of women's and men's magazines alike. And even though most of us are savvy enough to know that these images do not reflect reality (they involve professional make-up and lighting, subtle camera angles, and of course, digital photo editing), they still shape our ideas about what a woman's body should look like. (You know, fit—but not too muscular—smooth and cellulite-free, and perfectly even in skin tone.)
But the unadulterated images affect us, too. When gossip magazines plaster unflattering photos of celebrities, telling you who has gained weight, who has the "worst bikini body" and who has cellulite (shocking!), we get the message: Look more like the perfect, albeit unrealistic, images and less like these shockingly imperfect (normal) bodies.
If you ever find yourself picking apart your own appearance or comparing your body shape, size, texture or tone to another person's ("Do I look bigger/smaller/better/worse than her?"), it's not hard to figure out why.
No wonder so many of us have poor body image and self-esteem. I am not immune to these images and cultural ideals; I've struggled with accepting my own body for my entire adult life. Why? Because I look much closer to the "worst" bikini bodies than I do the "best" ones, and that automatically makes me feel bad about myself.
I don't have a body like Jillian Michaels or a fitness model and probably never will. Moreover, I have the all-too-common but often dreaded cellulite on my thighs and booty that "plagues" 90% of women. I fall near the top of the "healthy" range according to my BMI and body fat percentage, and I feel OK about staying there. To me, it's not worth doing MORE exercise and eating FEWER calories just to drop a few pounds when I'm already healthy and fit. Yet I'm bombarded with comments from YouTube viewers calling me "fat" on a regular basis. Seriously?
I guess I can understand. We're quick to judge others based on how they look. Most people wouldn't want to hire an overweight personal trainer. "What does he or she know?" you'd think. And most people want to look more like the "idealistic" (aka unrealistic) images they see instead of an improved version of themselves. So when they see me, well, I guess they think I don't look good enough for them. But what more can I do? Spinning, running, sprints, strength training, Pilates—I do it all, usually 6 days a week for an hour or more. My body is what it is. My cellulite is here to stay, and it certainly doesn't mean that I’m "fat," lazy, unattractive or incompetent when it comes to fitness.
Not every woman is—or should be—a size 2, and nearly all women (and a small percentage of men) have cellulite, too. It's so normal and common, but you wouldn't know it because you seldom see it. When was the last time you picked up a magazine and saw cellulite (besides on the "shocking" photos that expose celebs as normal human beings)? I searched high and low for a photo for this blog and THIS is the best one I could find that actually "showed" cellulite--pathetic! Do we even know what a real body looks like? Real skin that isn't airbrushed? A normal woman? I'm starting to think that we have no idea. We don't see anything real anymore, and that is hurting us, setting us up for failure. The fact that we feel ashamed of our bodies or cellulite just goes to show how unrealistic our standards are. People like you and me are embarrassed to wear bathing suits and shorts, afraid others will see us for what we truly are: normal, imperfect people. But what's wrong with that?
I think it's time that we start embracing what we have and who we are instead of always wishing we were different. And I'm starting by rocking my bathing suit this summer. And my new shorts. And just wait, you may very see me sporting workout shorts in my future fitness videos, because I'm done hiding my legs for fear of what a few mean-spirited people might say. I'm done being embarrassed of being a normal, healthy woman. Let the naysayers say what they will—I'm not doing it for them. I'm doing it for me. Cellulite sisters unite!
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