As someone who has worked in the fitness industry for over 15years, is a mum of two and has lived through my own years of disordered eating I know that we must do better.
I count myself as lucky. I didn’t have any real ‘body awareness’ or body image issues until I was in my early 20’s. I’m forever thankful when I hear stories of eating disorders and body image stress happening for many in their early teens, some much younger. The size of my body and my, self-worth were not tied together until much later.
They did eventually become intertwined. I started working with a PT in a big box gym and I set goals to ‘get leaner’ and ‘lose weight’. I don’t remember if that’s what I asked for, but that’s what I was delivered, along with instructions on how to reduce my food intake, eat half the sandwich and choose no-fat options. I complied. I got smaller. I was praised. My already fragile self-worth was now directly related to the size of my body. The smaller the better and the more valuable I became.
It’s taken me years to reach a place where I don’t obsess about food and constantly think about what is going into my mouth vs energy spent and the way my stomach looks in the mirror, but I am (mostly) at peace. It’s work and I can catch myself, but I know now that I am worth so much more than my body.
I cringe at the assumptions I made for the women I trained, often Mothers, before I knew what I know now. I too assumed that their reason to train was to become smaller. The words and language I used to set their goals played on their weakness and had the potential to reinforce that if they were smaller, somehow, they would be more valuable as a woman.
No more will I reinforce the messed-up rubbish that women are fed about their body image that leads them to believe that if they are smaller, they are more valuable. No more will I fuel the fire that says mothers should strive ‘to get their pre-baby body back’ or ‘lose the baby weight’. No more will I validate her feeling that if only she lost those last few kilos her relationship would be fixed, or her partner would love her more.
The essence of positive body image is hard. Should we strive to be positive about our body or is acceptance enough? I know it is different for everyone. I also believe a woman has the right to do whatever she wants with her body, but, as an industry (fitness), it is our job to never make assumptions about our clients and to ensure that the goals we are helping her to set are coming from a healthy mindset rather than one of insecurity or lack of self-worth.
We must start showing women that she is worth more than her body AND that her own view of her body image can come from a place of love and acceptance…..even if it takes time.
Jen Dugard is the founder and creator of MumSafe™️ – the go-to website for mums to connect with Personal Trainers that are certified, experienced and partner with Women’s Health Physiotherapists so that you know you are in very safe hands. Mumsafe Trainers believe in removing the “get your pre-baby body back” language from the vocabulary they use with their mum-clients.