I’ve always been an active person. My childhood memories consist primarily of hospital visits for my millions of surgeries as a child and tutus, leotards and ballet shoes. My studio hours for dance coupled with a high metabolism ensured that I never worried about my body size. My parents always used positive language when discussing my physical features. I was borderline overly confident with my body image – not common for someone who’s also physically disabled.
When I came home from SA, I fell head over heels in love with a guy who was a personal trainer. It was embarrassing how crazy we were about each other – Jerry McGuire had NOTHING on the way that he and I “completed” each other. Gross. We were that couple. He had a lot of great things about him: he was funny, outgoing, friendly and easygoing. He had this face that he would make every time I would talk about Uphold and I nearly had to wipe away his drool – he encouraged me in my passions and really believed in me. He could do no wrong in my eyes until one day, he hugged me said “Babe, you pretty much have the perfect body.”
Those are the words that every woman wants to hear. To hear those words from someone I loved, paired with the fact that he had a piece of paper that said he was “certified” to know what “the perfect body” is sent me to the moon. I was a walking “heart in the eyes” emoticon…for about ten seconds when he followed that up with a pat on my side and said “We just gotta get you some chiseled obliques.”
I was in insane shape when he said that. I am a health nut. Day to day I eat extremely healthy because I genuinely wanted to have as much energy in me as I can so that I could help as many children as possible. The combination of my strict diet, gym-obsession and 21 year old metabolism had me in the best shape of my life. In no way were my obliques “not chiseled.” I was absolutely fine. I should have known that this was actually a much bigger reflection of who he was than my need for additional side planks, but I didn’t. I became obsessed with my obliques.
The little confident, spunky, courageous go-getter that I’d always been disappeared and immersed herself in a life of protein powders and workout supplements, two workouts a day, and carb restricted diets. I wasn’t training for a photo shoot, I wasn’t training for a competition, I was training to meet some idyllic idea in his mind about what perfect obliques were shaped like. My lifestyle and what I could do to hang out with friends changed drastically.
If you were to ask me now how to get “chiseled obliques” I could tell you. I got myself to a point where my obliques would make Victoria’s Secret Models jealous. However, I won’t tell you. In my journey for obliques that could cut steel, I became ugly on the inside as I tried to become “pretty enough” on the outside. No matter how many sit ups I did, miles I ran, or carbs I cut I never felt good enough. My muscles were strong, but my heart and confidence (which are far more valuable) were not.
If you come to me now I will ask you this: Why do you want chiseled obliques? There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be in good shape--I want to be in good shape. I feel better, I have more energy, I’m more confident, and my clothes fit better. These are all good things. However, when the change in language switches from being fit and healthy to spot specific correction there’s usually an underlying reason that people are after that. So here are my top ways to ensure you’re getting after it in the gym for the right reasons:
1. Take into account who told you to get into better shape.
I took the snotty opinions of someone to heart that I honestly should have just parted ways with when he also told me: “Initially I was really hesitant to date you because I didn’t want other people to think your arm was weird. I even told my parents and they said that was understandable.” Statements like these point out the truth: those that make them are actually incredibly insecure about themselves and can’t actually be happy and/or keep their mouths shut when around people that are. I mean seriously who says that?! Shut up. Seriously. He couldn't even tell me "you're not quite making the cut" without saying it passive aggressively and trying to disguise it as a compliment. Eish.
2. Accurately assess your current state of health.
I wasn’t out of shape, he even admitted that, yet because I wasn’t meeting his fantasy version of what perfectly shaped abdominal muscles looked like, I changed the way I lived my life. If I had taken the time to accurately assess myself and say “Hey Kelsey, you eat more vegetables than a rabbit, you eat healthy protein, you drink loads of water, you don’t eat sugar, and you exercise 4-5 times a week – you’re doing really well” I could have avoided my slip up into becoming a gym-obsessed ass. I went to the gym on Thanksgiving morning and worked off 1,500 calories just so that I wouldn’t lose an ab over the holidays. Yeah, I got that low. Sure, his comment was a complete douche thing to say, but it was my fault and my responsibility for allowing it to get to me. Take responsibility over what you allow yourself to listen to and think.
3. Focus on being healthy, not hot.
If you want to get into better shape because you want to run a marathon, want more energy, or want to be healthier in general then go for it. Physical fitness has helped me push through SO much in my day to day life. My fellow yogis and gym buddies are just an extended arm of my Chipotle support group that get me through the difficult day to day struggles of life. If you’re eating healthy simple meals and staying active don’t stress yourself out. It is actually so not worth it. I finally enjoy getting shredded out of my mind again. My rule is two workouts per week that push me much farther than usual and three per week that maintain my current level of fitness and two rest days. Could I do more? Yeah, totally, but I’d much rather be healthy internally and externally.
I’m obsessed with personal growth and development, and I justified this by saying it was good for me. It wasn’t. Personal growth and development ends up with you being a better version of yourself so that you can help others more. I changed who I was for someone who wasn’t me! Changing for someone that’s not you will warp your perception of reality and trick you into thinking that bagels are the devil and that the “lake of fire” is actually a tub of cream cheese from Panera. It tricks you into thinking that protein powder is more important than occasionally eating pizza with people that you love. It twists your heart into thinking that muscular definition is more important than genuine compassion. Not true. Loving others is always the ultimate goal, and if our life’s direction isn’t taking us there, we can’t actually justify what we’re doing as “healthy.” With the time I now save notstressing about my appearance I’m able to spend extra time with friends, work on Uphold more, and go on the occasional date with men that like me for my brain, aren’t overly critical about my abdominals and usually have South African accents...which let's face it, are pretty hot.