Photography by David Shields
Perfection Isn’t Perfect
As a fitness professional, it’s hard for me to show photos of my body when I feel like it’s not perfect. But perfection isn’t perfect.
I love being a model and I love being fit, but there’s no doubt that I’ve been affected by our body-culture just like everyone else has. The truth is, your body is beautiful at every size and every shape. Yet, saying that is so much easier than believing it.
In my blog post titled Embrace Your Face, I talk about how our mental image of the human face (and body) is skewed.
“You receive most of your ” visual” input from tv, internet and magazines. You see more different faces via technology than in person, walking around. So, your mental registry of what people look like is skewed to what you’ve seen in the digital world and not in the real world. You need to reeducate yourself and reset your mental encyclopedia of human faces. Spend time looking at faces of real people and not faces of models.”
I cannot stay in fitness-model-magazine-cover shape for every moment of my entire life. Why? Because it’s damn hard. It takes a lot of hard work, discipline and time. I don’t always have it in me. I’m not weak. It’s normal.
Confronting Body Image in Fitness Modeling and Beyond
The pictures we see in magazines are snapshots, single moments in time. Models prepare for those photo shoots for weeks, sometimes months. The difference between a fitness athlete’s off-season body and in-season body can be astronomical (granted it shouldn’t be). When you look at a picture of a fitness model, you don’t know a lot of what goes on behind the scenes. Some models maintain their physiques legitimately, calmly, healthily and happily. Many do not. All use tricks of the trade to enhance their appearance for the camera.
Most models practice water cycling before shoots, dehydrating themselves to enhance the look of their muscles. Sticking to low calorie diets means they sometimes isolate themselves from social situations that would create temptation and derail goals. Even worse, some models use banned substances to gain muscle and/or lose weight. And, at the end of it all, they have the benefit of retouching.
Yet those snapshots are immortalized in our minds – they have become a permanent standard that we hold ourselves too instead of a beautiful picture to appreciate. And they are beautiful. But they are not meant to diminish the beauty of other bodies, in other states and reflecting other priorities. We do that ourselves, within our own minds and our own culture. We do it by failing to present other examples of beautiful, different but just as worthy.
Breaking The Cycle
In the photo on this page, my priority was fertility. We were intent on having our second child and hadn’t been successful. My low body fat was a potential problem, although we weren’t sure if that was the root. I consciously chose to gain some fat. A few weeks later, a photographer asked me to come in for a fitness shoot (where he took the photo you’re seeing). I almost didn’t do it because I was too self conscious about my body. All my insecurities were coming out. Then I remembered a line from that blog post: “You need to reeducate yourself and reset your mental encyclopedia of human faces. Spend time looking at faces of real people and not faces of models.” You need to reeducate yourself and reset your mental encyclopedia of human bodies. Spend time looking at bodies of real people and not bodies of models. Don’t forget your own beauty because you are too busy remembering someone else’s. And so I did the shoot. And I thought it was beautiful. I thought my body was beautiful. And then I started sharing it with others, and they thought it was beautiful too. The simple act of sharing an “imperfect” snapshot in time helped me to ground myself and become stronger in my love for myself.
Be proud of your body, no matter what state it’s in. Perfection isn’t perfect.
I’ve been hearing a lot of complaints, lately, from wives who are trying to clean up their eating but are meeting resistance from their husbands. Changing your lifestyle is hard enough when it’s just you – here are some tips on making the transition easier When Your Spouse Won’t Eat Healthy.
When Your Spouse Won’t Eat Healthy…
1. Be firm, but don’t be disrespectful or critical.
Tell your spouse why eating healthy is important to you and the reasons you’re motivated to serve nourishing food, but be respectful of your spouse’s feelings. Acknowledge how they feel and repeat it back to them without judgement (IE You feel like it’s important for you to be able to relax by eating something sweet after work.) Don’t call them names, insult their character or be derogatory in any way. Even if you don’t like their eating behavior, don’t say anything unless you have something nice to say. Try leaving them a friendly note if face-to-face conversations just aren’t working.
2. Don’t nag.
You’ve told your spouse you want to eat healthy once. Maybe you’ve said it twice. Don’t tell your spouse again. That’s called nagging and it won’t further your argument. Readiness to change is very individual – sometimes the more you push someone to change the less likely they are to do so. If your spouse chooses not to adopt your eating strategy then it’s time to start working around them instead of with them. Perhaps prepare a separate meal for yourself, for now, and focus on being a positive role model..
3. Don’t talk AT your spouse – talk WITH them and work together.
Make a list of vegetables, grains and meats together and decide what you can both agree on. Similarly, tell your spouse that you want him or her to eat better and ASK them how to make that happen. Make a list of possible solutions and cross off items that aren’t mutually acceptable until you have a list you can work with.
4. Get help!
We all think more highly of our diets than we should. Secure an impartial third party to evaluate your diet and your partner’s diet. Perhaps hearing it from someone else will help – plus, it takes the pressure off of you.
5. Swap favors.
Is your spouse really stubborn? Bribery can be a funny way to get them to explore new food options.
“Honey, if you eat all your vegetables tonight I will vacuum your car for you tomorrow.”
6. Start small.
Is your spouse a french-fry nut? Don’t throw them into quinoa right away. Slowly modify their favorite foods until they’re eating something totally different. First, try white potatoes roasted with oil, herbs and a spare amount of salt. Eventually begin integrating other starches that are more “vegetable-y.” For example, you might want to introduce sweet potatoes, then roasted butternut squash fries, then roasted carrot fries.
7. Serve a large bowl of salad or a big vegetable side dish at every meal.
That way you and your children can have a healthy meal rich with vegetables, even if your spouse chooses not to.
8. Don’t make a big deal about new foods.
Are you serving a meatless dish like black bean chili? Don’t make a big deal about the fact that it’s meatless. Cutting down on carbs or butter? Don’t announce that something’s missing! In fact, don’t say anything except “We’re having Chili for dinner tonight.” Some spouses won’t even notice that you’re changing up meal time, so don’t ruin the magic by giving the trick away yourself!
9. Get good at cooking!
Nobody wants to eat food that tastes bad, whether it’s healthy or not. Make an effort to find the best, healthiest recipes that taste good to your family by looking at cookbooks, blogs, pinterest and magazines like Eating Well and Cooking Light. It takes a lot of practice and experimentation before you begin to hit your stride as a “healthy cook.” Remember, practice makes perfect! Note that some people’s tastes are essentially “ruined” from eating so much processed food. In my experience, it takes time for a person to enjoy the taste of whole food when they’re used to processed or unhealthy food.
10. Find support elsewhere.
It would be so much easier if your spouse could be your pillar of support as you embark on a new lifestyle. However, if your spouse just isn’t that person then you need to create a social support system outside of that – this might mean finding a group of friends who are focused on healthy living, too, or hiring a nutrition coach who will be your cheerleader on your journey. Having a support system can make the difference between attaining your goals or reverting to your old ways.
I hope you enjoy the process of learning to see yourself as beautiful. This post is very personal and a departure from what I usually write.
I have a big nose.
I have a big nose.
I have a big nose.
For years, I’d see pictures of myself and I’d only think “I have a big nose.”
“I have a big nose” took a downward slide to “I’m not pretty.” One day, “I’m not pretty” took a downward slide to “I’m ugly.”
For years, my mental script was completely opposite. As a young teenager, I thought I was beautiful. I loved my long hair, my big eyes, my strong features. My body was strong and healthy from hours of dance classes every week. To me, I was perfection.
One day, that changed for me. I started competing in scholarship pageants when I was 17 (Note: Let me say here and now that this post is not about pageants and, overall, I had a great experience doing pageantry… and I would do it all over again!). After a few years, I learned via an online message board that someone thought I’m not traditionally pretty. Someone else responded with a nastier comment – that I needed a nose job.
I was shocked and hurt, to say the least. I began to look at models on magazine covers and noticed that I didn’t look like them. “They all have small noses,” I thought. Then, I saw an episode of extreme makeover. Remember that show from years ago? The one where they give people one million gazillion plastic surgery operations plus a clothing make over? I remember somebody on the show saying that a “receding chin” was undesirable. Well, I have a “receding chin” – meaning that the tip of my chin sits a little behind my nose. And the thoughts kept coming. I don’t look like them. I’m not pretty like them. I’d entertain thoughts of getting a nose job or a chin implant… just a little off the tip, I thought.
And those thoughts stuck with me for years. When a boyfriend told me I was pretty, I didn’t believe them. No matter how beautiful my husband made me feel, I’d still have doubts. Although I was the right height and proportions for runway modeling, I shied away from it because I thought I couldn’t possibly have the right look. I constantly sought words of affirmation to make up for it, fishing for complements.
One day, the tides changed. Someone told me I would be a perfect high fashion model. I was shocked. I asked him “Nick, aren’t my eyes too big? Isn’t my nose too big? I don’t think my face is right.” He told me “Nobody’s face is just right- that’s why they’re interesting to look at. You learn your angles, you learn your make up – you’d be perfect.”
I couldn’t believe it. This one person’s comment began to change the way I felt about myself. For the first time, I began to wonder why I was letting other people’s opinions throw me around like a ping pong ball. I wasn’t a ping pong ball in any other area of my life, but I was letting my self love be squashed and raised with just a few words. I spent years figuring out what to do about it… struggling against negative thought patterns and the persistence of my meanness to myself.
Learning To See Yourself As Beautiful
1. Recognize that your thoughts are choices. Thus, you can choose to change them.
The first step to a healthier outlook is to take control. Although you may not know it yet, you’re in charge of your thoughts. You can change the way you think about yourself, your body, your face… about anything.
2. Don’t Do It Alone: Work with a good therapist, counselor or life coach.
Changing years of thought patterns is hard. Make it easier on yourself by asking for help. A therapist, counselor or life coach can help you make an action plan instead of simply wishing for change. They provide accountability – in other words, you have someone to answer to when you’re not doing “your work.” They’re also familiar with concrete, evidence-based tools that help change your thought patterns and your self-love.
3. Take care of yourself.
I believe beauty is a natural gift that’s been given to all humans. However, no one is beautiful when they don’t take care of themselves (by the way, it has nothing to do with body weight). If you’re eating bad food, your hair and skin are going to be gross. If you don’t eat right, it will show in your eyes, your skin, your body. If you only wear sweatpants and never put on nice clothes – or at least nice sweatpants – then you’re going to feel like a blob. There were many years that I didn’t take care of myself. I ate chocolate chip cookies for dinner, drank too much (hello post college years) and rarely ate veggies. It should’ve been no surprise that I didn’t look well, no matter how much I tried. Beauty happens from the inside out, both physically and mentally.
4. Find people you think are beautiful who LOOK LIKE YOU. You receive most of your ” visual” input from tv, internet and magazines. You see more different faces via technology than in person, walking around. So, your mental registry of what people look like is skewed to what you’ve seen in the digital world and not in the real world. You need to reeducate yourself and reset your mental encyclopedia of human faces. Spend time looking at faces of real people and not faces of models.
Remember that doppelganger day that happened on facebook? The one where you found a picture of a celebrity that looked like you and make it your profile picture? That was really educational for me. I realized that I think women who look like me are beautiful. Once more I was exposed to women who looked like me the more my thought process was reversed. One of my favorite examples is Gwyneth Paltrow – I caught a glimpse of her profile during one of the “Iron Man” movies – she’s got an above average schnowzer, like me, and I happen to think she’s one of the most beautiful women in the world.
5. Realize that the only complement you’ll accept is a complement from yourself. That’s the first step in learning to see yourself as beautiful. Until you give yourself permission to feel and be beautiful, you won’t be. It’s wonderful to have higher goals and to desire change, but you have to love who you are now at the same time that you strive to better yourself. There are tons of self-love and affirmation exercises that can help you change your thought patterns from positive ones to negative ones. This is a large part of how I got into doing life coaching. I’m working on a workbook for my web site to help guide people through this – especially people who can’t afford working with a life coach, themselves. If you can’t work with a life coach or a counselor then seek out books, videos or workshops. Actively look for materials – don’t wait for them to come to you.
6. Give yourself the same benefits as the supermodels. I think it’s great for women to see the glammed up version of themselves…. to see how different they look when they have the benefits of professional make up, professional hair services and great lighting… To see how great they look when they get to choose the 10 best photos of themselves out of thousands of outtakes. Perhaps this is unfeminist, but I think having a personal modeling experience brings a dose of reality to your thoughts when you take a look at other models/magazine covers etc. If you’ve been in front of the camera then you know that a lot of what you see is smoke, mirrors, hard work and luck. For me, being a model has been healthy for my spirit. It’s become a celebration of my beauty and artistry instead of a chance to tear myself (or others) down.
7. Realize that your children are going to look like you. So you need to deal with this, now – the last thing your child needs is to think “mommy thinks she’s ugly. I look like mommy. I must be ugly.”
I can’t say that I always think positively about myself. I have a brief moment of doubt every time I don’t get a modeling job I’ve applied for. Then, I snap to reality. I don’t think I”m beautiful anymore, I KNOW it. If a photographer or an artist doesn’t like the way I look and doesn’t want me to model for them then that’s their problem. They’re the ones living in a skewed, biased universe – not me. I may not be their idea of the perfect beauty, but I AM somebody‘s idea of a perfect beauty. And that’s enough for me. I am learning to see myself as beautiful.
Want to follow my journey as a fashion and fitness model? Visit http://www.facebook.com/LaurenSaglimbeneFitnessModel/
What do you do When Diets Don’t Work? Try the Kale and Brownie Diet. This might be a game changer!
I can’t claim complete credit for this miraculous weight loss technique – the idea was first had by a brilliant yoga teacher whom I believe would like to remain nameless.
Eating right is hard. I’ve struggled with emotional and physiological food addiction for years. Although I’m thin, fit and a health coach I am still far from where I would like to be. That’s one of the things that makes me a great guide – I’ve been there, done that and bought the t-shirt. So what do you do when diets don’t work?
When Diets Don’t Work
As Jill Coleman of JillFit would say, “To get lean, stop thinking about fat loss as a protocol. Think about it as an education in YOU. ” I love these words from Jill’s blog and I try to live by them.
As a coach, it’s part of my job to recognize patterns of human behavior and help my clients avoid them. It’s also my job to take a hard look at the person I am working with and make a program specifically for them, not for Cindy across the street or Jack down the hall.
I can look at some clients and say “stop eating dairy, stop eating grains, stop eating refined foods,” give them a high five and send them off knowing that they will have no problem complying. Every person isn’t capable of instant compliance, though. We all struggle with our own personal demons. We all have weaknesses that affect our ability to make change in our life. As a life and nutrition coach, my job is to simplify simplify simplify until my clients have absolutely no doubt that they can achieve what I am asking of them. Sometimes that means the first step is a very little step.
With that being said, remember this:
It’s easier to give and harder to take away. It’s easier to start and harder to stop.
This is the founding principle of the brownie and kale diet.
The reasons we do “Bad” to our bodies are deep seeded issues that we must give attention to for our entire lives. We’ll all experience peaks and valleys in our fitness for eternity – the goal is to make the peaks and valleys level off with each other.
It’s also really hard to stop doing “bad” when you haven’t learned anything “good” to replace it with.
So, the simplest and easiest first step is to focus on giving yourself good things instead of taking away bad things. Then see how it goes after that. That’s all you can do when diets don’t work.
Hence the brownie and kale diet.
Let’s say my fake client Candace comes to me eating a dozen brownies per day. We keep it simple. I ask her to change one thing per week. The easiest first step might not be to stop eating the cookies – it’s to ask her to start doing something good for herself.
As that mystery yoga teacher said “hold a donut in one hand and green smoothie in another. Alternate a bite of the brownie and a sip of the green smoothie. Repeat.” Sometimes getting started is the hardest part. Putting something good into you body is a catalyst for change. Eventually, you’ll move begin eliminating the crap (like cookies and brownies) in your diet and move on to another diet that’s more wholesome.
Are you having trouble eating “clean” in the New Year? Do you feel like every diet you’ve tried has failed you?
Try to the brownie and kale diet. I think you’ll like it.
PS – In case you were confused, I don’t actually advocate eating kale and brownies to lose weight.