We Don’t Use The “F” Word In Our House

Full disclosure, before you think I’ve gone and become a tame mom, I still have moments of F-bombing.  I tend to do it under my breath these days, but the truth is, profanities still happen around here.  I have two kids, can you blame me?!

There was a word that was much more common in my daily vocabulary and I am doing my best to erase it ever since I became a mom.

I grew up as a competitive figure skater.  Like other sports and activities where lean bodies are ideal, as I moved up the ranks, this type of body and weight were encouraged.  Whether coaches and judges came right out and told you to lose weight, or gentle nudges were given, it was very obvious that this body was essential for success in the sport.

I spent a lot of time watching other skaters and comparing my body.  I sized myself up in the mirror at ballet.  I was athletic.  I had muscles.  This left me looking much larger than other girls with skinny little legs.

You hear people telling you that “muscle weighs more than fat” but when you hop on the scale and hear that other girls weigh “X” amount of pounds, you start to feel overweight.  Numbers run through your head and you compare yourself to others.

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The notion of diets came into my life at an early age.  Other girls were discussing them, family members were on various diets, and weight was at the forefront of my mind.  I even had a coach point out to me when I was 12 that I was developing because I was getting “fat” in my armpits.  At the time, I was tiny, but regardless it should have never even been discussed and was very inappropriate.

I spent all of my teenage years and much of my early adulthood obsessed with my weight, exercise, and foods that I should/shouldn’t eat.  While I was fortunate to never have an eating disorder, I definitely had a very unhealthy relationship with food, exercise, and body image.

Friends in high school were annoyed by my constant whining that I was “fat.”  I was always looking for someone to tell me that I wasn’t.  Even if I didn’t believe them, I needed that reassurance.

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I may not be able to protect my girls from the pressures that awaits them in the outside world.  But I am going to do my part by showing them a healthy relationship with my body.  My weight might fluctuate. I may not feel my best at times, but I will certainly never utter the “fat” word in our house or anywhere else.  I will enjoy my food and encourage our family to enjoy a variety of healthy foods.  We will also enjoy every delicious and tasty bite we get to discover along the way.  Food is not meant to cause guilt and exercise is not meant to be punishment for what we eat.  Sweat is NOT your fat crying.  It is the awesome bi-product of moving your muscles.

I will also do the best I possibly can to not criticize myself.  This can be difficult, but young impressionable children do not need to see a role model or anyone else feeling dissatisfied with their bodies.  Confidence can carry a person a very long way and I truly believe we can pass this attitude on not only to our children, but also to the people we surround ourselves with in our lives.

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I have many female clients who refuse to use mirrors to correct their form or to ensure they are properly doing exercises because they do not want to see their reflection.  I cannot tell you how much this saddens me.  These amazing women are wonderful people.  We should somehow be far past this discomfort with seeing our image.  There is much more to ourselves besides a number on a scale.  Beauty goes far beyond pounds or pant sizes.

Learning to love ourselves isn’t always easy, and there are years of adolescence and puberty to wreak havoc on young minds.  Being body positive is a great way to set an example for young girls and boys. Even better, this positive attitude shares the love with yourself.

Regardless of whether you have children of your own, try to take a moment of pause before you criticize yourself or use the “f” word.  Consider what it does to your own confidence and to the people around you.  It is very likely that you are loved by many people and we often forget that when we put ourselves down, it hurts their feelings and confidence too.  Let’s work together to raise a new generation of body confident children and to lift ourselves up at the same time.

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How do you like to set an example for others?  Share your confidence building ideas!

 

 

You Are The Key To Their Body Image

The other day I paid a long overdue visit to the dermatologist.  As a runner who absorbs sun like it is going out of style, it is important to not only take care of your skin but also to get it checked out from time to time.  Luckily for me, one of my childhood friends is an awesome dermatologist in the Chicagoland area.  Thanks Jessica at The Derm!

While I was filling out paper work in the waiting room they had a TV showing various segments from the news where their doctors have appeared.  I heard a quote that really stuck with me and made me tune in to hear more.  “Our body image has a direct impact on our children’s body image.”  While she was discussing how children come to her to fix “flaws,” this resonated deeply with me on a different level.

As a former competitive figure skater, body image was always at the forefront of my mind.  I was constantly worried about being lean and was encouraged by coaches and judges to maintain that “physique.”  One can only imagine how this can easily become an obsession.  I was always concerned with being “fat” and worked out mostly just to stay lean.  What an awful way to look at yourself.  I didn’t value my body as an athlete and the power it provided me.

I hate the years I wasted worrying about how I looked.  I can’t even begin to recall the countless times I would see a past picture of myself and think that I looked good then and assume that I was bigger now.  And I know that I was not alone with this thinking.  I have gone on many group runs with women of all ages and they all tell me that they felt this way at some point in their lives.

I am so incredibly grateful for everything that running has provided me.  Instead of fueling the fire of that obsession to be thin, I began to really appreciate the power my body had.  I ate healthy to continue to improve in my sport. But I also enjoyed my post long run feasts.  I throw caution to the wind at times and enjoy a slice of pizza (or the whole thing), or a delicious dessert just for the heck of it.  And I love that my night before a long run dinner involves burgers and fries!

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As a mother of a young girl, I want her to grow up as strong and confident as she possibly can.  I know that there will be moments when she feels weak and I can’t protect her from the difficulties of life.  But one thing I can do, is be the most positive example of a healthy body image I possibly can.  I know that I will be her role model as well as her source of embarrassment and annoyance.  And I can handle all of that.

Her strength begins with me loving myself.  I have learned a lot over the years.  There is no ideal perfect body.  Toe the line at any race and you will see that.  I have watched the woman in a sports bra with six pack abs take off and assumed she was the one to beat, only to cruise past her in the first mile.  I’ve watched powerful legs fly by me and leave me in their dust.

As a mother runner, I want my child to know that I run because I enjoy it and it makes me feel strong and happy.  I like myself for who I am and know that our bodies are constantly changing.  I plan to make a concerted effort to not discuss my “flaws” or comment if I am feeling off.  Even now, while my baby might not understand what I am saying, I work at avoiding that negative self-talk.  I strive to be healthy and the best runner, mother and coach I possibly can be.

Our vacation was a test at this confidence.  While I might not feel like I am back to my pre-baby level of fitness, I wore my old swim suits and swam with my family in the pool and the ocean.  I want her to see pictures of us and never question why mom didn’t get in the pool or spent her time covered up.  And you know what?  I feel good about that.  It is freeing and we had a great time.

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This pic melts my heart and I wouldn’t have missed it for the world!  Our little girl LOVES swimming.

There is beauty and power all around us.  I truly believe we are the first line in our children’s confidence both inside and out.

I absolutely love this post and encourage you to check it out:  How To Talk To Your Daughter About Her Body

What are your goals as a parent or role model?

 

Love It. You Earned It.

And just like that another Monday has come upon us.  I’m not sure about you guys but this past weekend was a whirlwind that went by way too fast!  Saturday morning I started the weekend off by teaching a small group training class.  I love a good morning workout.  Then I took off with one of my Team Momentum runners to help him knock out on his last long run before the Dallas Marathon.  I absolutely love a weekend long run.

Then my husband and I spent the rest of the day at a family wedding.  What is not to love about weddings?  Food, wine, dancing, celebrating a newly married couple……I love it all.  Except I can’t dance.  But it is always a great excuse to throw on a fun dress and attempt to wear heels.

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Lately I have been trying out all sorts of new strength training workouts.  With all of the classes I am teaching and the extra personal training I do, I want to get lots of workouts in and see just what these workouts do for your body.  Well, I am pleased to say that they seem to work well.

At the reception on Saturday I caught a glimpse of me in a mirror and noticed that I have recently attained some new found arm muscles.  I am often my toughest critic when it comes to my body so it was nice to have a moment where I could have a few nice thoughts to share with myself.  Earlier that day I had noticed some fun statuses in the Pathetic Runners Group on Facebook.  Several female runners were throwing on high heels and taking pictures of their calves.  It was a celebration of their running muscles.

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I have always wanted to have skinny little legs.  But the years of figure skating, hours upon hours of strength training, and my running have just created fit muscular legs.  It is a real pain in the “you know what” when I buy jeans.  Trying pulling skinny jeans over the bulk of these calves!  But the truth is, all of my dedication to running and training has built these “forces.”

While enjoying a drink at the bar with my husband’s cousin she asked me to show her my calves.  I was half embarrassed and half amused.  But imagine my surprise when she started oohing and ahhing over my legs.  As much as I groan about how big those muscles are, she was impressed by them.  And the truth is she isn’t the first.

So why do I spend so much time beating myself up about those muscular legs?  Why do we in general constantly critique our bodies?  Don’t we have enough to stress about?  Odds are that if you are reading this blog you are a runner, are trying to become a runner, or enjoy some sort of active lifestyle.  That means you likely spend a good part of your day doing things to help improve your body inside and out.  I also know that it goes beyond just women.  Men spend just as much time criticizing their bodies and putting in endless hours working to get themselves fit.

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We work hard to get these muscles.  Many people can only wish they could run or get outside and be active.  Perhaps we can take a moment every once in awhile and just appreciate those muscles we have spent so much time working on. Those jeans are a pain for me to find not because of my love for cookies (although that doesn’t help) but instead because I log hundreds of miles and spend hours squatting and lunging.

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I went on a mission the other day to find gingerbread. And if you look closely that is a tub of icing on the counter that I HAD to add.

 

Give yourself a break and show yourself some love.  Throw some heels on and take a few moments to admire those runner legs you earned.

Love That Skin You Are In

A few weeks ago I met an athlete I had been working with at the end of the race and she was celebrating a major PR.  As we chatted she talked about how proud of herself she was and how she really felt like she was in the best shape of her life.  Then she mentioned that she hadn’t lost any weight yet, sigh, but she was still feeling good.  I was agreeing with her about how incredibly in shape she was at the time.  But later when I thought about it and my husband and I were chatting he agreed that she was looking very fit and that she definitely looked like her body had transformed.  It was such a nice discussion that I had to text her later that evening and tell her because hey, I would want to know if people had noticed my hard work paying off.

It reminded me at the time of how different runners can look and how it isn’t always about being that model image of the elite marathoner you see on the cover of magazines.  I had mentioned to my husband that I wanted to do a blog post about our bodies but we both agreed that it might be too touchy of a subject.  But lately I have seen a ton of posts and articles so I figured what the heck, let’s go for it.

For many of you that know my story, I was a competitive figure skater for nearly 12 years.  Part of the figure skating world is very focused on bodies and maintaining that tiny figure.  Of course much of that has to do with being able to throw yourself up into the air and rotate 3 times before lightly landing on one foot and gliding away.  But there is certainly an “image” that is strived for.  I spent a long time working towards being that tiny little image and it wasn’t always healthy.  I’ve always had big muscular legs and I hated going to ballet classes and comparing my legs in the mirror to the girls around me.  But you know what?  I didn’t realize at the time that I was often the only girl in that room medaling at competitions or landing triple jumps.  Those were my power forces.

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Fast forward to the past few years and I started taking yoga classes.  One day a teacher stopped me before class and thanked me for coming.  She said I was doing a great job as a new student but had one recommendation.  She would love to see me more focused in class and not looking around in the mirror.  I was caught!  I was still comparing myself in the mirror to all those other legs in the room.

A few years ago I was at my first marathon and I stood at the start line admiring all of the other runners.  We are a beautiful bunch and we wear some fun stuff!  I saw a woman around my age in a little pair of shorts with gorgeously toned legs and a tiny sports bra.  She had a six pack of abs that I would die for.  I just knew she was the one to beat!  When the gun went off we set about at our 8 minute per mile pace and two miles in we flew past that woman.  I was slightly surprised.  Near the end as I finished with a Boston qualifying time I crossed the line near a girl I had chatted with a few times on the course.  Like me she had nice big thighs.  She wasn’t rocking a six pack and by running standards probably could have lost a few pounds.  But let me tell you, that girl could run!

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If there was ever a lesson to be learned at that race it was, “Never judge a book by it’s cover.”  Runners come in all shapes and sizes and so do muscles.  I started running in the hopes that those big skater muscles would lean out but in fact they just got firmer.  My big old calves have actually had women in Harlem come up behind me and start stroking my legs.  No joke!  And while I might want them to shrink a bit, others seem to love those things.  And those bad boys (or girls) gave me some killer race times.  That girl that I ran with was one fierce runner and many women would killed to have her body and those muscles.

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The key here is to be happy with the body you are running in.  You have worked hard for it.  Running isn’t easy but the payoff is muscle and somehow it comes in all sorts of different shapes and sizes.  But you earned that muscle and that is important to remember.

I often step on the scale at doctor’s appointments and watch nurse’s as they look at my weight in surprise.  Yeah, yeah, I don’t weigh what I look like.  I even recently had one ignorant physician look at the scale and tell my that by the scale’s standards I could be as much as 10 pounds over weight.  I left angry, not hurt or upset with my body, but angry with that person.  Had I not come to terms with and learned to love my body I would have been very hurt by his words and really believed what he said.  But the truth is, I run hard, I run a lot, I eat healthy (and a lot) and unless I go the unhealthy route or stop eating any of those fun foods that I love so much, those 10 pounds aren’t coming off of me in a healthy fashion.

A friend of mind recently went to Athleta to get a pair or pants and when she mentioned to the sales person that she didn’t like how her legs looked in the pants the sales girl reminded her that those legs are what power her through runs.  My friend wasn’t looking for that response, and I understand that.  But honestly, we have to remember that those legs POWER us through those runs and our bodies push us through those workouts.  We can always strive to be healthier and happier people but it is time to love the skin we are in as well as everyone else around us.

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Enough With The Comparing

The other night I was out with a group of friends and we were chatting about another friend of ours who is marathon training right now and how she is looking pretty darn awesome.  It is so cool to see her progress.  We are all proud of her for the hard work she is putting in and the awesome side effects that come with training….like those killer calves.

As we continued to chat someone mentioned that they just didn’t think that running was in the cards for them.  That is totally fine.  There are a ton of other activities you can do.  Honestly, there are many days when running doesn’t feel in the cards for me.  But as the conversation continued it delved into the frustrations of losing weight or getting back to a certain weight we used to be at.

Someone mentioned the difficulties of losing weight after having a baby.  There are a lot of pressures out there to get back to where you were before the baby arrived.  It doesn’t help when you see celebrities touting their quick weight loss back to a size 0 in a matter of weeks.  The reality is, that isn’t how it works for most people and those afternoon milkshake cravings don’t just suddenly disappear.  It can be frustrating to look in the mirror and compare your progress to that celebrity who has a trainer and their job is to get fit for the next big role.

Last weekend we were on a long group training run and traveling at a pretty good clip.  A very fit and fast athlete passed us and someone mentioned that it discourages them to get passed by another runner.  I mentioned that it was important to remember that the other runner probably wasn’t running 12 miles that morning and that we all need to focus on our own personal paces and goals.

And then  yesterday one of my favorite bloggers, Lauren from Run Salt Run  posted about what I found to be a very annoying experience.  She is just getting back from an extremely frustrating injury and has finally been able to log some mileage.  I think we all know that awesome feeling of those first few runs after an injury.  After posting her stats from a recent run on Instagram someone commented and said that her 8 minute miles were slow…..

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Excuse me…. what what what?!  First of all I think most of us would agree that an 8 minute mile is pretty commendable.  Let’s not forget that I am working with many athletes as they train for their first marathon and they would give anything to run just one 8 minute mile.  Truth is, they will probably train all summer and fall and still come a few minutes short of that pace per mile!

But what is with all of this comparing?  It really isn’t fair to anyone.

Most runners wouldn’t judge another runner like this.  Honestly, if you told an elite runner you were training and doing 8 minute miles they would probably give you a high five and tell you to keep it up.  The reality is that running is hard, whether you run 6 minute miles or 13 minute miles.  A true runner recognizes the difficulty of their sport and can acknowledge the accomplishments of those who cross the finish line way before them just as much as those who finish near the very end.  This sport seriously sucks at times.  It hurts, it makes us smell pretty awful, our bodies do weird things…..and it happens at every speed!

Everyone’s bodies are different.  Everyone’s endurance is different.  Perhaps your friend lost 5 pounds in a week, but that doesn’t mean your month long struggle isn’t just as incredible.

A few months ago I met a gentleman who has a nueuromuscular disease.  Despite the impact this has had on his life, on a daily basis, he is working towards trekking up Mt. Everest later this year.  I had the opportunity to chat with him and I mentioned how incredible this journey sounded.  I told him I didn’t think I could ever do something like that.  His response has stuck with me for months, “Sarah we all have our struggles.  They are all different, but we all have our struggles.  I could never run a marathon and I commend you for doing that.”

Those are words that we should all keep in mind.  We all have our struggles.  Whether it is a few pounds, a debilitating disease, trying to run a few miles each day; whatever it might be.  It is important to remember that each struggle, regardless of how small it may seem to you, is a big step for someone.  Take a moment and celebrate your progress.  Be proud of each accomplishment you make.  Celebrate YOU.  And then take a moment to step back and celebrate the progress of those around you.  Recognize that we all have our struggles and whether or not you can see what that other person is struggling to achieve, it is there somewhere.

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And for goodness sakes, please stop comparing yourself and your progress to that of everyone else around you!

Give Yourself Some Credit

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One of the main reasons I started this blog was to create a positive space to discuss running, fitness, healthy living and healthy body image.

For years as a competitive figure skater the thoughts of weight, body size and food consumption were the center of my universe. I looked at every girl in ballet classes or on the ice and constantly compared their bodies to mine. I ate healthy meals and later felt guilt for perhaps eating just too much. I remember laying in bed at night and praying for control over my eating and to have a more fit body. The sad part is that like most everyone else, when I look back at pictures from then I had a great body. Good grief was I hard on myself!

It is a horrible cycle. I never felt I was quite good enough and my legs were the center of my concern. I saw other girls with much thinner and less muscular legs and yearned for that. I never sat back and considered that my level of athleticism was far more advanced than many of those girls with what I saw as much skinnier legs. I never gave those legs the credit they deserved for allowing me to complete triple jumps.

Over the years these thoughts have faded as I have found confidence in myself and my running. But I would be lying if I didn’t tell you I seriously had hoped running would bring me those thin runner’s legs!

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I have to say that I am really proud of myself and I have made great strides recently. I took nearly a month off from running due to injury and I ate well and didn’t freak out too terribly much about my weight.

There was minimal gain and I did feel a bit heavier but I kept my mouth shut and didn’t whine about it for the most part. It was still there though in the back of my mind.

And then Monday night came. As we are preparing to head back to Chicago I was helping the girl who sublet us her apartment find a new renter. The first woman who showed was petite and cute and I immediately noticed her tiny legs in skinny jeans. I will admit it, there was some envy.

As I was admiring her she blurted out, “I just have to tell you that your legs are amazing. They are just beautiful.”

I was shocked and thrilled!

The next person who came by walked in and took a seat and immediately said, “You are so toned!” Sometimes I love how blunt New Yorkers are (although usually not, because it typically doesn’t involve compliments!)

You can imagine my pleasure and surprise by all of this. It was like someone was celebrating Pay Sarah An Awesome Compliment Day. And I gotta say I love that day!

It also made me sit back and think. Perhaps those things I nitpick about myself aren’t quite as I see them. If others see these things shouldn’t I take the time to appreciate them too? After all it’s all that darn time I spend running and working out that got me here.

For as much as I wished my legs were different, that person I was admiring was feeling the same way about me. It is just as important to remember that we all have our own inner struggles and dislikes. Keep that in mind the next time you want to complain about something you aren’t loving at the moment. Odds are there is someone who would love to be in your shoes and they may even be the very person you are complaining to.

The same thing happens with my hair. It is a curly (aka frizzy) mess. I look at girls with naturally straight hair and am a tad bit jealous. The other day my curls were doing their own wacky thing and I joked about it. The person next to me said she had always wanted curly hair but hers was stick straight. I laughed because I said that was what I had always dreamed of and even considered paying to have my hair do just that.

(As a side note I thought it would be fun to cut my hair before my husband and I went to Aruba this past spring. I didn’t take into account the humidity and when we got there my hair went in every direction and was too short to pull back. Anyone remember Monica from Friends when they went to the Caribbean?!)

It is funny how the grass is always greener on the other side. Perhaps this is a good lesson that we need to step back and see how beautiful and awesome we all individually are.

Take a moment and appreciate the amazing you. Remember that there are always people who would love to be in your situation. Find some time today and look for the awesome in you!

On the flip side, keeping in mind how awesome it feels to receive a compliment. If you see something you like in someone else tell them. Whether they are a friend, a relative, or a complete stranger I guarantee it will make their day. Take some time today and find someone to share a random compliment with.

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If You Don’t Have Something Nice to Say…

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Try harder!

The other night I went to my weekly running group and joined two girls I hadn’t run with before on a speedy six mile route.  They are younger than me, super sweet, and honestly pretty beautiful.

We were chatting about running, eating and our bodies.  I mentioned that I ran a marathon for the first time this past summer and timed it perfectly a month before my wedding as an added way to get fit before the nuptials.  Then I confessed that I ate well, ran hard and didn’t lose any weight.  They sighed and said they had just been talking about how despite running more mileage, they don’t lose weight and are constantly hungry.

I then mentioned that despite that, when I got our wedding pictures back I was pleased to see that I looked pretty good.  One of the girls exclaimed, “That happens to me all the time.  I think I need to lose weight and then I see a picture from a few weeks ago and think about how cute I looked then.”  She paused for a moment and then said, “Why do we do that to ourselves?  We are all so beautiful.  We work so hard to be kind to others, but why can’t we be like that to our own self?!”

Ding Ding Ding (that was the light bulb in my head flashing on).  I work with young children every day and I spend all my time teaching them how to treat others as we want to be treated.  But wait a second, why aren’t we treating ourselves as we want to be treated.

The other Golden Rule.

The other Golden Rule.

The fact is, I ate well, I trained hard and I am a fit, happy woman.  I must have been doing something right, I qualified for Boston and walked away still smiling.

So today I have a challenge for anyone who reads this.  Take a second or a minute, or however long it takes to find it and say one nice thing about yourself.  I am going to make the challenge harder too, I know you are all great people on the inside.  Make yourself find one thing you really like about your outer self.  If you are feeling brave, go ahead and leave a comment about it.

I will start.  My name is Sarah.  I was a professional figure skater for most of my life.  Figure skating builds some pretty serious calf and quad muscles.  I always complain about how I wish my legs would thin out, but I like that my legs are fit, strong, and muscular.  They have taken me to some awesome places and for that I am grateful.

Now it is up to you.  Show yourself some love.  If you don’t leave a comment, say it to yourself.  Even better, spend your run today talking to yourself about as many awesome things about you as possible.