Fitness Pros Have Bad Body Image Days, Too. Here’s How They Cope

by Brittany Risher
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Fitness Pros Have Bad Body Image Days, Too. Here’s How They Cope

You may think your favorite fitness instructor never struggles with body image. You look at them and see someone strong, flexible, funny — in one word “badass ”— how could they ever worry about “arm flab” or a “belly”?

News flash: They’re human, too. Chances are, they have good body image days and bad body image days, just like you.

“Even those of us who have worked really hard on improving our relationships with our bodies still have days where we don’t love what we see in the mirror,” says Molly Galbraith, co-founder of Girls Gone Strong. “That said, those days are fewer and farther between all the time, and the result of the negative self-talk is less severe. In fact, these days, when I look in the mirror and see cellulite on my legs I think, ‘Hmm … there’s more cellulite on my legs than there was before. That’s interesting.’ And I pretty much just move on with my day. I don’t let it mean anything about me or my self-worth. However, it’s taken years of work to get to this place.”

Here, Galbraith, a certified strength and conditioning specialist, and four other fitness instructors of all backgrounds share what they do when they look in the mirror and hear their inner critic start to nag:

“I SWEAT IT OUT”

“There is something about sweat to me that’s like shedding a layer, physically and emotionally. On days when I want to really release, I’ll put on a load of layers and go for a long run. Running makes me feel free. I also do boxing for confidence and yoga to open up and remember to be forgiving to myself.”

– Liv Young, founder of Box + Flow

“I GET TO THE HEART”

“Body image is always about something deeper, something that needs your attention. I ask myself questions to get to the heart of what’s really causing my fear/shame/anxiety: What am I feeling right now that I don’t want to feel? Or: What am I avoiding? Or: What needs my attention? It might be anxiety about a meeting at work, or fear that my relationship is in danger or dread about people judging me at an upcoming event. Then I tend to that, and the body criticizing will naturally lose its power. When I face the real stuff underneath, I can feel my self-criticism about my body fades.”

Jessi Kneeland, personal trainer and certified life coach


READ MORE > HOW TO USE PAIN AND DISCOMFORT TO YOUR ADVANTAGE


“I SHIFT MY FOCUS”

“When I find myself being critical about my physical appearance, I take a moment to reflect on all of the incredible things that my body is capable of, and everything that it allows me to do and experience each and every day. It is through this awareness and realization that I am able to shift my perspective and truly celebrate and appreciate my body exactly as it is. Because when you stop and think about it, the human body is pretty amazing.”

Jessica Matthews, yoga educator and professor of kinesiology and integrative wellness at Point Loma Nazarene University

“I CONNECT WITH OTHERS”

“When I’m struggling with my own mind, I get out of it. I call a best friend, meet someone who I find comforting for a tea or take a walk and lock eyes with a stranger — it could be a child or even an animal. This helps me realize that nobody is as harsh a critic as I am and to stop being a dick.”

Lauren Taus, yoga instructor

“I CHANGE MY MANTRA”

“I tune in to how I’m thinking about speaking about myself, and then I choose something different. For example, instead of, ‘That cellulite is so gross!’ I think something like ‘This is what my legs look like today.’ Over time you’ll notice that your gaze of yourself is softening and your relationship with your body is shifting from negative to more positive. I also expose myself to a wide variety of body shapes, sizes and ability levels to expand my definition of beauty. As activist Erin Brown says, ‘The trouble isn’t in valuing beauty. It’s in defining it in a context so narrow that we can’t possibly achieve it.’ Expand your definition to include yourself.”

– Galbraith

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  • Jeremy Kring

    As a trainer I live by the mantra and encourage others to be comfortable in your own skin by accepting that you will always be a work in progress. Once I hit a goal I set another… goals arent destinations they’re road markers along the journey.

  • Gnostic

    Embrace the truth! I liked the idea of shifting focus toward a more balanced appreciation of where you are in the world. Like “without this amazing body I would be nothing”, or “there are people in all states of disrepair and I’m not the worst”. However; some people have a positive body image and are in need of fixing things… This is just as much of a problem. It allows people to ignore being unhealthy, or it makes people less motivated to change. Like Arnold Schwarzenegger says about bodybuilding: “you have to expose your weaknesses in order to fix them”. Embrace the truth in an unbiased way. You will be better for it!