hey! this is round one of a round-table discussion on body image that will go up on the blog and my channel. last night, i posted a video about why i want to open up this discussion and things like that. today, here on the blog, i open up this discussion with two of my friends. being on the other side of the planet made this discussion more of a "here's a set of questions, answer them for me", but you'll get the point. i am really excited about how this started. sit back relax and enjoy.
Intro yourself, your background, all the lovely things:
Kate: My name is Kate Moore and I own GetFit615 in Nashville, TN. We’re a small HIIT gym that’s come a long way in the past two years (almost!) My “professional background” is actually in the Music Business. I have a Music Business degree from Belmont University that I used for a few years right after college until I decided that I didn’t actually want to be in the Music Business. Long story short, opportunity called and I ran with it! I opened up GetFit615 in October of 2014 and I haven’t looked back since!
My life background started in ballet classes at age three. I grew up with a petite mother who’s body type doesn’t match my own and she weighs herself every day and stays within a 5 pound range on the scale. I grew up on low-fat and no-sugar, diet coke, sugar free sweetener and southern cooking (it was a very confusing place). I went to an all-girls high school where body shame ran rampant. I grew up trying to lose weight. That seemed to be my goal in everything I did - lose weight.
Erin: My name is Erin Lisemby and I’m a registered dietitian in Nashville. I’m passionate about mindfulness, finding joy in every day, and all things related to food. I love moving my body and challenging it to see what it is capable of by doing a variety of workout practices. Lately, I’ve been focused on being more environmentally friendly in all areas of life, including becoming a vegetarian and shopping more consciously.
Me: My name is Amos and I'm the clinical director for a NGO in Phnom Penh, Cambodia at the moment. I have a background of working with adolescent males in the juvenile justice system, and with adolescent girls (nationally and internationally) who have experienced human trafficking and sexual exploitation.
I grew up with very poor body image that has followed me into my 30s. I love working out and trying new athletic things; since I was never really allowed to be an athlete as a kid. I tended to lean towards the arts, because I was talented and encouraged to do those things. I didn't become "overweight" until I was in my early teens and it was then that started the spiral I've been on now.
What do you think of when you hear the words "body image”?
Kate: Problems. When I think of the phrase body image, it always ends with problems. Body image problems.
I think of young girls with body image problems and it makes my heart hurt. It is just SUCH a limiting problem to have. There were days in the summer as a teenager where I’d wear a sweatshirt all day long so you couldn’t see what my body looked like underneath. I’d read magazines that told me to “walk off the weight.” Or did you know, blueberries burn belly fat?! Great, bring me all the blueberries. Or the grapefruit diet. Or the calorie counting. Or the step counting… Having body image problems all of my life as literally kept me from living life to the fullest. That is so heartbreaking to think about.
Erin: Due to my professional background, when I hear the words “body image” I immediately think about nutrition and one’s own perception on their body’s value. I think about negative body image being a perception that one’s body is not good enough, whether too big, too small, too muscular, not toned enough, disproportioned, etc. And I think of how one feeds their body in response to the negative perception. The belief of having little value leads to fueling the body with food that also has little value, full of empty calories and nutrients that can cause harm, like high amounts of sugar and saturated fat. Instead of choosing food based on what is best for the body, the choice is made based on the current emotional state, level of stress, or habit. I think about positive body image as being a perception that one’s body is valuable, that it may look exactly like or be in the state that one desires but it is strong, it is the vehicle one uses to do the things they enjoy most in life, it is unique, and it is capable of carrying one into a long life. The response to this perception is feeding the body foods that are also high in value and are beneficial to the body’s health. These food choices are made based on the knowledge of what one’s body needs, mindfulness over changing emotions/feelings, and what truly adds joy instead of what covers negative emotion. Yes, that means chocolate.
Me: I didn't really know that how you felt about your body was called "body image" until I was in college. I had always attributed it to your self-esteem, which it is but, I had always felt like it was separate. When I think about the phrase "body image", nothing good comes to mind. It's never been modeled for me in a positive way, your body has always been a place of improvement, not a place of happiness and satisfaction. I agree with you, Kate, I think of problems.
How has your view of body image changed over the years?
Kate: Oh man! It’s done a complete 180 for me! We are NOT our bodies - our bodies are this wonderful vessel where our souls reside.
Also, being in the fitness world, I hear a lot of people who talk about paying more attention to growth and change in your body instead of what it looks like - but I’d like to add another option here: be grateful for what your body allows you to do. That looks different for everyone. An artist, for instance, needs to keep his or her body healthy so that they can continue making art and doing what they love - an injury or consistent pain would keep them from creating. A construction worker needs to keep his or her body limber to steer clear of injury so they can continue working and building. A nurse needs to keep a strong core and legs in order to be prepared for the daily strains of caring for the ill and injured. We don’t actually all NEED to know or care what our maximum deadlift is.
I have a friend who always sees the very best in people and I’ve always admired that in her. It’s really beautiful to see her connect with someone. And I feel like I am more that way now - I get to see someone for who they are instead of project my body shame on to them. It’s really wonderful.
Erin: 5 years ago, when I began studying nutrition, my view of body image was highly distorted. Growing up, I never learned about health and did not understand to view my body, weight, food choices, etc. in a healthy manner. I based my opinions about my own body on comments from others (especially males) and by comparing my body to the bodies I saw on tv and in magazines. I was always too short, my thighs were always too big, and I always considered myself to be the “bigger one” on my cheerleading squad and softball team. In college, I gained weight my first year and began to develop an even more negative body image. I worked out too much, and fueled my body with junk food to cover my depression and stress. When nutrition came into the picture, I began counting calories and forcing myself to under eat in order to reach a net intake of 0 calories every day. At the time, I thought I was being “healthy,” but I now know I had an eating disorder and was damaging my body, while never placing value on it. It was never good enough. The more I learned in my courses, my more I realized how unhealthy my eating and workout habits were, and what the long-term effects of the choices I made would be if I didn’t change. I can’t exactly pinpoint a moment where things changed, but it was a slow process of being intentional about challenging every thought I had about my body and countering it with a positive thought to add value. I began feeding my body the nutrients it needed, and stopped counting the calories. I became more mindful and listened to my body telling me what it needed, which did result in weight loss and increased progress in my workouts. Now, I’m at a place where I may have goals about my weight or fitness level, but I love my body and I am thankful for what it is able to do. My health is my priority, not my jean size or body fat percentage. Looking back, I think the key was establishing a health emotional relationship with myself, investing in the things/people that bring me joy and weeding out everything/everyone that brings me stress or negativity. This is a constant process and takes a daily commitment, but is well worth it.
Me: Whew, man. My body image has hit the bottom and it's on it's way back up. I struggle every day, every single day. A lot of what bothers me is that people can't see the results, and I can't always see the results, of all the work that I've done. So sometimes I feel like I have to convince other people that I do what I do. A lot of that is because I have extra skin from losing weight, that doesn't go away. I go back and forth with how I feel about my body. I'm starting to think of things that my body can do and think of those things. I am super pumped when I up my max at the gym. I like knowing that I am strong. I like when my coach adds extra height to a box for step-ups or when he catches me slacking and pushes me forward. I like knowing that I can do it and that other people see that strength in me. Not that I'm searching for compliments or for praise, but it's nice to know that I'm not the only one who knows I can do something. Having people outside of my brain that reinforces a skill, makes me change how I feel about my own body.
When do you feel most proud of yourself?
Kate: I feel really proud of myself when I make someone feel like they belong. I’ve spent a lot of time in my life feeling like I don’t belong and feeling like I wasn’t welcome. I used to even feel like I didn’t belong in my own skin! When, even for a moment, I create space for someone to feel seen and welcome, that’s when I feel the most proud.
I feel really proud of the gym because I feel like it’s that space for a lot of people - it’s that space for many people who are super strong and good at working out, and it’s also that space for some people that have never worked out in their whole lives.
Erin: I feel most proud of myself when I succeed at something I was scared to try in the first place, pushing myself out of my comfort zone. Sometimes this looks like meeting a new person at church (I’m introverted, so that’s big), or attempting a headstand and nailing it, or mastering a veggie burger recipe.
Me: I am really proud of myself when I make someone laugh, when I'm part of a client's success, when my team and I have worked together to make something happen. I'm also really proud when I'm able to do something I never thought I would be able to do, either in the gym or in life. I'm also proud that I can provide a safe place for people to feel like they can express themselves freely and not feel judged.
What is something you need to eliminate from your life to make you feel better?
Kate: Comparison - I don’t want to compare myself to anyone. It never makes me feel happier. And it also isn’t the way that I want to think about who/what ever it is that I’m comparing myself to. It always comes from a negative space and it’s never grounded in authenticity.
Erin: There are many things I have eliminated from my life over the years to make it better, but the biggest one is anything that prompts negative thoughts/emotions about myself or others. The latest: The Bachelor/Bachelorette. I fought it big time, but I know it’s not for me when I talk negatively to judge people I do not even know, and when I begin thinking “why am I not good enough to be chosen by a man?” Neither of those aligns with my values, so it doesn’t belong in my life. I use that mental exercise with most things that I either allow to stay or remove from my life.
Me: Fear. I need to eliminate fear. The fear of what someone is going to thing, the fear that I will fail, the fear that I'm not enough just as me.
In what ways do you take care of your body and keep it healthy?
Kate: I listen to her a lot! My body and I are always communicating with each other about something. This week, I’ve been sleeping like 10 hours per night because it is just what I need! I drink a lot of water. I practice yoga, I exercise regularly, I eat my vegetables. I like cooking at home too.
A few months ago, I didn’t workout for 5 weeks. I got sick and I just took a break. My body really needed that.
I never step on a scale.
Erin: I care for my body in many ways. Nutrition is huge for me. I eat balanced meals, prioritize what/when I eat so that I never under eat or settle for foods with no value. I work out consistently, adding in practices that involve strength, cardio & flexibility. Probably one of the best things I do for my mental health is giving myself “me-time” to re-energize and rest, so that I don’t become stressed, anxious, or overwhelmed with constant interaction (introverted, remember?). This may be a night home to clean, watching a movie or series on Netflix, time at the park, walking through my favorite Nashville neighborhoods, going to the Farmer’s Market, etc.
Me: There's a lot of answers to that question. Of course, the obvious, I try to balance my sleep/exercise/food. I work out 4-6 days a week, I eat well, and I try to sleep 8 hours a night. I also take care of myself by doing things I want to do. I find myself getting caught up in making other people happy, by stretching myself too thin. I decided that I wanted to make my life mine, so I spend a lot of time doing the things I want to do. I do a lot of things by myself, because I like to experience things in my time. I read a lot and watch documentaries. I spend time with my friends. I also see a therapist (when I'm in the States), to just talk things out.
What do you think others notice about you when they look at you?
Kate: I’m pretty happy! I think people think of me as being really confident and happy. And, for the most part I am!
One time someone told me that I am “effervescent.” I love that!
Erin: When others look at me, my hope is that they see joy and happiness from my smile. Some may see the shape of my body (positively or negatively) or my beauty (positively or negatively), but it’s really not something I think about often.
Me: Hahaha, well, I know that I often look like I'm angry or sad. It's just my face, I'm usually really happy and satisfied. I'm working on how I present myself to the world. I'm always thinking about something, so my face often reflects that.
What has your body helped you do in the last few days?
Kate: I was babysitting a friend’s huge lab puppy. He was supposed to bring her to me along with all of her puppy gear but he didn’t have time….. so I went to his house and got it. I got her, I got her food and I got her giant crate into my car. I got home, I took her and her food inside. Then it was time for this giant crate. I live up a flight of stairs and this thing is awkward and huge and it hurt my hands! I gave myself this little pep talk: “You got this Kate. You’re strong. You’re capable. And you’re a badass. 1.2.3…” I hoisted this thing up on to my shoulder and carried it like a total boss up the stairs and into an my house. I really wish someone had been there to videotape it and turn it into a single girl meme! I was really proud of myself and more importantly, I was so grateful that I could handle it because there wasn’t anyone there to help me!
Erin: In the last few days, my body helped me master my headstand! Yoga is a practice I enjoy, but inversions have always been my weak spot due to fear of falling and looking silly. But, I finally built up the courage to try and my body came through!
Me: Wow, over the last few days my body has gone through a lot! Last Saturday, we had a powerlifting meet to test our new maxes at the gym. I surprised myself with what I was able to move. Over the last week, we've had some of the toughest workouts I have ever had to do and I felt like a total badass when I walked out of the gym.
What do you need to feel strong?
Kate: That's a great question! I feel the strongest when I feel capable. I feel strong when I try something new. I feel strong when I go outside of my comfort zone.
I also really need enough sleep.
Erin: To feel strong, I need a challenge. I walk the line of positive and negative dissatisfaction with my fitness level. I always believe my body can be a little stronger and do a little more, so the challenge reminds me how strong my body truly is.
Me: I agree with the both of you, I feel strong when I try something new. Even if I don't "succeed", I feel good when I try. I'm a try-er. There are do-ers and then there's me. I'm a try-er. I'll give it a shot, I may not always land gracefully, but I will give it a shot.
What brings you the most joy?
Kate: So many things! I love my gym - I love being here (I’m here right now!), I love spending time with the students, I love my co-workers, I love writing blog posts and sharing my story with people. I love learning other people’s stories. I love it when people who come to the gym hang out outside of the gym or start dating or become roomies!! I love taking my dog on hikes. I love talking to friends about life and vulnerability.
I really love people - It brings me a lot of joy when I really get to connect with someone. I think that’s why the gym brings me so much joy. GetFit615 is such a safe space for so many people and I’m really honored to be considered the creator of that. And while the gym wouldn’t be the same without me, it really wouldn’t be the same without every other person that comes here too.
Erin: What brings me the most joy? This is a tough question for me because instead of my mind being blank, it is overloaded with possible answers. Something I’ve worked hard for and happy to struggle with. However, I’d say the one thing that brings the most joy is authentic, deep relationships. I’ve always had a hard time opening up and truly sharing the deeper parts of my life with others, so having a few relationships that are deep and continually going deeper is something that adds so much value to my life.
Me: Well, I find joy in little things in my life. I feel joy when I see the girls I work with accomplish something, or try something new. I feel joy when I have conversations with my friends. I feel joy when I watch stand-up comedy and laugh so hard that I cry. I feel joy when I am at the gym and do something I didn't think I could do.
Thank you so much, ladies, for sending me your answers and being willing to participate in this. I am looking forward to how this moves forward!
Until next time!