Like most women who discover strength training for the first time, my perceptions and expectations of my body have changed dramatically since I started CrossFit 2 years ago. I’ve never really been overweight, but I’ve never been an athlete (my athletic background mostly consists of aggressive show choir choreography) and I gained some weight after college that I wasn’t terribly comfortable with. I wanted to look like a 5’3-tall version of a Victoria’s Secret Model–long, thin, graceful, and yet somehow still vaguely athletic. I used to think that you achieved these things by eating canned tuna and raw spinach and going on hour-long runs twice a day, which was a problem, because I hate running, can’t stand raw spinach, and the only way I’ll eat tuna is if it’s equal parts mayonnaise. So, needless to say, I didn’t get very far.
But then I found CrossFit and weightlifting, and my Pinterest-board images of lithe women holding dancer’s pose with one hand and a water bottle full of detoxifying lemon-ginger water in the other hand were replaced with gifs of Camille doing muscle ups and Diane Fu hang-snatching, and I learned, most importantly, that there is no one-size-fits all approach to fitness and health. So I put my scale away, and I haven’t looked back.
Or at least, that’s what I tell myself.
But the truth is that I still care what I look like, and while I no longer have an “ideal” body type, sometimes I look in the mirror and can’t help but think that I put in way too much damn work to still be this squishy. But on the other hand, I am constantly hearing that I should care more about what my body can DO than how it LOOKS, and so I shouldn’t worry about putting on weight in the pursuit of performance.
However, I’m pretty sure that the squish that I’m talking about has nothing to do with my back squat and everything to do with the nachos I had for breakfast yesterday morning. And while a lot of people I know have been embracing the “Eat to Perform” or “Eat Big Lift Big” mentality lately, I just can’t get on board. I tried Eat to Perform and constantly found myself having to coach myself through big meals, which felt almost as unhealthy as depriving myself of food. The result has been an awkward combination of clean eating and extremely un-clean eating that has, in all honestly, gone beyond “experimenting with my diet” and now leans more towards just being lazy.
But more than anything, as I got more and more sucked into the Eat to Perform message forums, I started feeling like unless I was a bikini or fitness competitor, it was no longer ok for me to say that I want to lean out. In fact, I’ve sort of been feeling like being vocal about my aesthetic goals somehow will give off the impression that I’m not that serious about my strength and fitness goals.
I don’t know how I’ve managed to swing this far on the other side of the pendulum, because I’m pretty sure that most athletes would agree with me that there’s nothing wrong with wanting to get rid of body fat. But somehow I’ve gotten to the point where I’m almost embarrassed to talk about aesthetic goals, because I feel like I should be a better role model for embodying the concept that it doesn’t matter how you look, as long as you’re healthy.
So, just for the record: I want to look like an athlete, and that, to me, means having visible muscles and a flat stomach. I have strength and performance goals, but I also have aesthetic goals, and that doesn’t make me less serious about my fitness. I have a feeling that almost nobody who’s reading this would argue that point, but for some reason, that is the mindset I’ve gotten myself in… so now I guess it’s time to get myself out of it.