The “ideal body” is imprinted in social media and on everyone’s brains. The “ideal fitness body” looks remarkably similar except with the cut lines of muscle in every visible area of exposed skin and what looks like 0% body fat.
These ideas, although often acknowledged as unrealistic, can not only put undue pressure on people to look a certain way but it also allows some people to cast judgement on others who don’t fit this ideal.
I guess you could call me a “fitness professional” but that would imply that I get paid for what I do. I own a small fitness studio, Turn & Burn Fitness, and we have been open for just over 2 years. It has been a long and short journey in so many ways. It feels like yesterday when I was trying to get the building permits and the walls painted so that we could open the doors to instruct our first classes. But over these past 2 years, we have built this amazing community of instructors, front desk people and most importantly members and participants. To say it feels like a family sounds cheesy but in this case, it’s entirely true. We build each other up, we check on each other when a class or two is missed, we hang out outside of classes and the studio. We support each other in the classes but also in life. I LOVE my studio but not the physical building (although I do love what I watched being built literally from the ground up), it’s the people, the spirit, the love inside our space.
Occasionally, I leave my studio and will attend events with other “fitness professionals” or like minded individuals. I used to be a social animal and love these types of things. As I have gotten older and farther along in my journey, I have become more selective on where I spend my time and efforts. Meeting with other studio owners and people in the field can be enlightening and uplifting but too often, I leave the space feeling judged and looked down upon. I have introduced myself as a “fitness instructor” or a “studio owner” and have received the once over with the resulting look of disbelief or even the “YOU are?” comment. It has made me sad and made me angry. Angry at the person for taking one glance at me and maybe my less-than-ideal body (in their eyes) and making that judgement that I was somehow less than someone else with that coveted 0% body fat. I was also mad at myself for allowing her to make me feel that way when her opinion didn’t really matter in my life. But most of all, the whole experience made me sad. Sad that this is how someone who was in the “fitness profession” would treat another human being, in the field or otherwise. If she (and others) are treating me like this, how are they treating other individuals walking through the doors of their facilities or into their classes?
We all are coming together from a different place and although we may all have met at this “fitness” meeting, we have no idea the road that we each have traveled to get there. This young woman who is likely half my age doesn’t know that I have birthed two amazing young boys. She doesn’t know that I have had 2 hip replacements. She doesn’t know that I survived lymphoma and not long ago, fought for my life through rigorous chemotherapy and radiation treatments. She took one look at me and my “less than ideal” body and made a sweeping judgement that I wasn’t as “fit” as I should be to be playing the role of “fitness professional”. I wanted to tell her that this body, MY body, has made it through so many medical and emotional traumas that I lost count. Do I need to lose 20 pounds? Probably. Do I love to eat? Absolutely. But am I strong physically and emotionally? 100%. Can I teach a fitness class just as effectively as someone who is 3 sizes smaller than me? I like to think so. Why do we all want to or have to fit a certain mold of what a “fit” person should look like?
I look around at the people in my fitness studio; instructors, members, participants, myself. We all have different body types, different strengths and weaknesses. It doesn’t make anyone better than another nor does it give anyone the right to judge someone else. “Fit” comes in many forms and sizes. We are each on our own journey towards our goals. We don’t always know or understand the events that led others up to this point and we may never. But it’s not our role to make a judgement of how far they have come or to wonder why they haven’t come further. Think about how much better it would be if we just accepted people right where they are and hand-in-hand, continued to move forward.