First, let me say that I love me some social media. The use of it can truly “make or break” the growth of your business and online presence. It’s such a powerful source of influence. However, it can also make or break your self image and personal expectations when it comes to your health, fitness, and wellness goals.
“We live in a culture where eating disorders thrive because of the messages we’re exposed to,” said Claire Mysko, head of youth outreach for the National Eating Disorders Association, or NEDA. “Social media heightens that exposure.”
Social media, she said, amplifies behaviors associated with eating disorders — obsessions, comparisons and competition — Images of spindly legs, concave stomachs and jutting ribs emerge on various sites by searching hashtags like #thinspogram #thighgap or #bonespo. The disturbing photos are often accompanied by even more shocking “thinspirational” messages — “Pretty girls don’t eat,” “Skip dinner, be thinner” and “You have to exercise for a week to work off the thigh fat from a single Snickers” (usatoday.com)
During #Selflove month this past February, I had to unfollow a few fitness professionals and figure competitors because I found myself constantly comparing myself to them. I was not prepping to be on stage, I was taking a break from obsessing over every morsel that passed my lips, and was focused on getting stronger for the CrossFit Open and Regionals. It was hard for me to separate myself and my goals from the ones that were coming across my Instagram feed. Today, I continue to follow people who “keep it real” in what they post. Brooke Stacey, Jill Coleman, Jen Sinkler, Neghar Fonooni, and my boo Jessica Clark are a few of my favorites.
It’s What They Do For a Living
It’s also important to keep in mind that most of the fitness models and figure competitors that have the physiques we could only dream of work hard and maintain their physique for a living. My clients don’t pay me to spend hours working on myself; they pay me to help them reach their goals. And most likely, you do not get paid to be in tip top shape 24/7 either, so give yourself a break if what you see in the mirror doesn’t resemble the pictures in the magazines, Instagram or on Facebook fan pages.
On the same note, the most recent episode of The Real Housewives of New York featured one of the cast members, Kristen Taekman a former model, auditioning for a fitness video. In the episode she jokes about not ever doing the kinds of workouts shown in the exercise DVD; she said she sometimes does Pilates and walks her son to school. Yet, she got the job to film the DVD because her body looks slim and trim (see below). Meanwhile, housewives and women around the nation are doing the exercise videos in their living rooms thinking, “If she got her body doing this, I can too…..” Try to remember that some of the people in your videos at home or demoing lunges holding 10 pound dumbbells in the magazine most likely didn’t get their bodies from just those exercises. It really sets people up for unrealistic expectations. I mean, I did TaeBo every day for a year when I was 17 and I never looked like Billy Blanks ;)….but seriously….STOP IT.
Be Kinder to Yourself
Last week I shared on the Compete Every Day blog, the struggle of being our worst critic and that it isn’t necessarily a terrible attribute because I believe it helps keeps us in check for the most part. However, there’s a fine line that exists in being critical and being grateful and appreciative for who we are, our unique qualities and attributes and everything in between. A few months ago, some of the Pump & Shred coaches and I did a photo shoot and had a blast! The pictures turned out great, yet some of the other coaches (and myself, I must admit) were surprisingly not happy with them. Without putting words into their mouths, I believe it’s most likely because we are comparing ourselves to our peak physiques – and pictures from previous photo shoots.
Case in point:
While I should be pleased with both of these pictures – placed side be side, I let the comparison of two different periods in my life be the thief of gratitude and appreciation. The picture on the left, I was a few days out from a figure competition, about 12 weeks into full-on prep mode about 132 pounds, less than 13% body fat).
The picture on the right is me in real life. No crazy workout schedule, no fat burners, not eating every meal out of tupperware; about 148 pounds, ~ 18% body fat)
OF COURSE I AM GOING TO LOOK DIFFERENT!! To expect to maintain my physique on the left an entire year later is ludicrous; yet I allowed myself to feel disappointed and not want to share the pictures from my latest shoot…DAFUQ!?
I love this quote from Mandy Ingber on The Daily Love; “The question remains: How to become accepting of this body? This life is a moment in time. The body is in constant change and flux. There is no perfection, except for in the unfolding. The body is unfolding and falling right into place.”
And I especially love the Prayer For Freedom shared in the Four Agreements:
“Today, help us to be like you are, to love life, to be life, to be love. Help us to love the way you love, with no conditions, no expectations, no obligations, without any judgement. Help us to love and accept ourselves without any judgement, because when we judge ourselves, we find ourselves guilty and we need to be punished.
Help us to love everything you create unconditionally, especially other human beings, especially those who live around us—all our relatives and people whom we try so hard to love. Because when we reject them, we reject ourselves, and when we reject ourselves, we reject You.
I love you just the way you are, and because I am your creation, I love myself just the way I am” – Don Miguel Ruiz.
Just remember while social media can be a wonderful tool and an amazing source of motivation and inspiration, you are only seeing a small percentage of people’s lives. We all get to choose what we share with others for the most part – and not everyone is keepin it real. Don’t beat yourself up because you don’t look like someone else. Newsflash: YOU NEVER WILL. You are unique; there is no one else in the world exactly like you. Own it, be thankful for that fact, and move along.