February 22, 2015 | Posted in:Life Coaching, Mental Health, Personal

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Perfection Isn't Perfect: Confronting Body Image in Fitness and Beyond. Photography by David Shields

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.


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