An open letter to my wonderful clients:
Recently I had the pleasure of attending a live presentation by Molly Galbraith, Founder and Woman in Charge at Girls Gone Strong, Inc. When I heard she would be presenting locally I booked immediately. I’ve learned so much from GGS over the past few years and didn’t want to miss out on the opportunity to meet Molly and learn from her personally.
I came away from the event, hosted by Vigor Ground Fitness & Performance in Renton, Washington, enlightened, inspired, and impelled to act.
The most notable takeaways for me were an expanded understanding of the definition of body image, compelling examples of the wide reaching and often destructive influence of the media on women, and actions that I can take as a coach to better serve my clients.
BODY IMAGE DEFINED
The Merriam-Webster medical definition of body image is, “a subjective picture of one's own physical appearance established both by self-observation and by noting the reactions of others.” The National Eating Disorders Association goes a bit further and brings into the definition our ‘beliefs and feelings about our physical appearance and how we move.’ In general, we typically limit our definition of body image to the physical appearance.
Girls Gone Strong offers an expanded definition:
In addition to how we think and feel about our physical appearance, body image has to do with how safe, comfortable, strong, capable, resilient and autonomous we feel in and about our bodies.
Do we feel comfortable just as we are, or do we live in fear of being hurt, shamed, confronted, or marginalized as we move through our day-to-day routine?
Do we feel strong and capable, or do we shy away from our abilities out of fear of going against cultural preferences (ie: “women my age shouldn’t look like that”)?
Do we feel resilient and able to cope with health concerns, or are we bogged down by chronic pain and illness?
Do we have ownership and autonomy over our bodies, or are the decisions about who and what we are allowed to be made by someone else?
As you can see, these variables can deeply affect our sense of self. As a coach, this gives me greater insight into what might be important to my clients beyond weight loss and fitness.
Next, we discussed the role of the media.
THE MEDIA AND BODY IMAGE
A selection of apparel ads found in popular magazines was shown featuring women in provocative, sexually explicit and vulnerable positions wearing next to nothing, designed to sell...well, we weren’t really sure what they were selling.
Men on the other hand showed up on magazine covers well dressed, fully clothed, and looking distinguished. The women were young, caucasian, and rail thin. The men were of various ages and ethnic backgrounds. Everyone was rich. The icing on the cake was the cover of a popular magazine aimed at young girls between 10 and 14, with the headline, “Are You Sending Him the Right Signals?” To which Molly replied, “The right signals for what? That I’m sexually available to you at 14?!”
Yeah, let that sink in for a minute.
As a mom of a nine year old girl, I was sick.
Despite our best efforts to filter them out, these images are everywhere. The magazines we flip through while we sit under the dryer at the salon. The ads and targeted content that pop up in our social streams. Billboards, commercials, junk mail...even when we try, we can’t get away from it. It’s in the air we breathe. And, so is the conversation.
Our words matter.
When we get together socially do we talk about our goals and successes, or do we commiserate on how much we hate our bodies and need to diet? Is the conversation always about food, weight, and physical appearance, or do we make an effort to talk about other things? The way we speak with one another as adult women can either reinforce or break down harmful norms. Our daughters, sisters, spouses and friends are listening.
Given this cultural climate, It’s no wonder that by the time we are in our thirties, forties, and beyond we are fully programmed to believe that women’s bodies should look a certain way, that’s it’s ok to freely criticize other people’s bodies (and our own), and that we should be embarrassed and ashamed if we don’t measure up to the world’s narrow definition of a “fit woman.”
Needless to say, the meeting left a deep impression on me and solidified my commitment to helping women over forty end the war with themselves, ditch the dieter’s mentality, build lifelong healthy eating habits, and create a life they love.
Ending on a high note, we spent considerable time as a group talking about what we as health and fitness professionals can do to better serve our clients and communities.
My Top 3 Commitments to You, My Clients:
I will not assume your goals for you. Whatever your goals are for your health and wellness, I will listen carefully and help you pursue them safely. As your goals evolve and change during our time together, I will support you to the best of my ability.
I will not tolerate, encourage or participate in body shaming or use shame based motivators. (ie: I will never do a “Get Bikini Ready Cleanse”)
I will be transparent and share my own struggles and challenges with healthy eating, fitness, and self-love.
In return, I invite you to:
Challenge your own beliefs about your body and what’s possible for your life. Life is too short to miss out doing what we love because we are worried about how we will look.
Practice having conversations that don’t revolve around appearance, dieting, or failure. Instead, consider talking about your values, interests, and hope for the future.
Catch yourself in the act. When you notice your self-talk turning to the things about yourself that don’t like, stop and re-frame. Can you speak kindly about yourself as you are today while you work on the things you’d like to change? Let’s talk about this if you need help.
It’s empowering to examine our own biases against different body types and realize that these biases affect how we see both others and ourselves. Understanding the influences and origin of these biases can help us overturn them.
It’s up to us to change the conversation in our homes, our social circles, at work, with our kids, and in within ourselves.
We are in this together.
Thank you for reading. Please share this message with a friend who needs it.
Thank you @lukahocevar and your team at Vigor for hosting this memorable event.
If you would like a free consultation to discuss your health and fitness goals and get practical advice that you can use immediately, request a no-obligation appointment HERE.
About the Author: Hillari Herrador
Hillari Herrador, NASM CPT, FNS, is the owner of HH Coaching Services, LLC, a private, boutique consulting service for busy women over forty. She believes passionately in the power of nutrition, movement and mindset to transform lives. Her mission is to help everyday women feel inspired to raise the bar and create healthy, active, balanced lifestyles that they love.
It’s never too late to change your life.