This morning I got to work and loaded the elevator, which has a full-length window on one side that (if I’m alone in the elevator) I generally use as a mirror. I’m wearing a dress that is awkwardly stretchy around the middle–the kind that turns even the slightest belly pooch into a 2nd trimester pregnancy. So I got on the elevator and as the door slid shut, I turned to the side to give myself one last once-over before walking into the office. But my eyes passed over my stomach and landed on my arms. “Dang!” I thought, “Are those triceps?!”
A funny thing has happened since I started CrossFit: I have stopped worrying about being skinny. I thought that CrossFit would help my body image by making me look the way I’d always wanted to look, but I am realizing for the first time that “body image” is a state of mind that exists no matter how you look. I know that I post on here about losing inches and pounds, and I measure those things because they provide a concrete way to track the physical changes in my body. But I am realizing more and more that my size or weight is not an accurate way to gauge my physical fitness. This may seem obvious, but it has been sort of an epiphany for me.
When I was in high school and college, I wanted to be skinny. Not fit, but skinny. I wanted to fit into a size zero and I wanted arms that were practically the same width from my wrist to my shoulder. Luckily I love food too much for those things to have been a reality, but my “ideal” body was that of a Victoria’s Secret model, not an athlete.
But the more I learn about CrossFit and the more I witness people breaking through their physical boundaries, I am slowly realizing that there is no “ideal” body. The 1st and 2nd place women at The CrossFit Games had totally different body types, separated by 3-4 inches in height and nearly 20 lbs in body weight. Even in our small gym, there is a huge variation in body types. The BF, for example, is tall and lanky, which means he will never be able to lift as much as a stockier guy could, but he will outrun and out-jump them every time. The newest coach at our gym, Christina, is barely over 5 feet tall with a petite build, but can do an insane amount of muscle-ups because her strength-to-weight ratio is so high. Others at our gym might be plus-sized, but they are able to lift hundreds of pounds more than I can. What matters is that you use your body to its fullest extent, and if you treat your body well, then you will probably end up looking pretty healthy.
The realization that the size of my waist and the weight on the scale are about the least important indicators for my health and fitness is freeing. I don’t have to go into the “why” of my previous idealization of the supermodel physique… massmediabillboardsmagazines blah blah blah. But I am suddenly very aware of the fact that I have spent most of my life trying to attain a certain look instead of just treating my body well. I am also suddenly aware that most people will not ever recognize the difference.