OK, let’s be honest. It’s hard out here for any woman, regardless of her level of “fitness.”

I was talking with my Life Coach recently, yes, I hired a Life Coach (blog post coming soon, of course), and she was asking me questions like,

“Molly… what is your main goal?”

“Where do you see your niche in the fitness industry?”

“What do you want to be known for?”

“What is your specialty going to be?”

Ugh!  You mean I have to choose?  But..but..but!  I love heavy lifting, and I love nutrition, and I love corrective exercise, and I love helping general population clients look better and feel better, and I love working with women with PCOS and Hashimoto’s and helping them feel better…

How will I ever decide?

Well, after some long, hard thinking… I came to the following conclusion:

I want to use all of my knowledge and interests (heavy lifting, nutrition, corrective exercise, etc.) to provide women with the best nutrition and training information possible, in a simple and easy to apply way.  But most of all,

I want to help women give themselves GRACE and COMPASSION when it comes to their bodies, and help them discover and accept what their best body looks like, without having to kill themselves to get it.

You see, if anyone knows anything about struggling with body image, it’s me.

I can remember being 7 years old and doing competitive gymnastics and thinking I was fat.

 

Yep.  Positively HUGE, right?

Yep. Positively HUGE, right?

 

I can remember being 13 and trying on cheerleading uniforms and being embarrassed that I was the biggest girl on the team (at 5’8” and 130 lbs.)

Yep.  Ginormous beast here too, right?

Yep. Ginormous beast here too, right?

 

I can remember going through sorority rush and feeling like I was bigger than all of the other girls rushing, and the “good sororities” might not want me.

Yes. That’s me and my friend wearing ONE pair of pants. Why not, right?
Just for reference, I was probably at my heaviest in this picture.

 

(And why would I want to be friends with people who might not “want me” because of my weight?  Good question.  But that’s a full blog post in itself, but you can get a taste of it here.)

I’ve struggled with weight and body image for as long as I can remember.  At just over 5’10” and being the second SHORTEST girl on my Mom’s side of the family, I never had any hope of being petite, which is fine.  But young girls are already self-conscious enough about their bodies when they have an “average” build, much less when they tower over everyone else.

But enough about my distant past.  As many of you may know if you read my blog or read/listen to interviews with me, I decided almost 10 years ago, in the beginning of 2004 that I wanted to change my life and “get in shape.”

 

My "before" photos that I had my roommate take with a disposable camera. =)

This is what 185 and a horrible spray tan looked like in 2004.

 

I was ~185 lbs, and at the time I estimated my body fat to be around 34% (more on body fat estimations in another future blog post…so much to write!)  Over the last 10 years I’ve competed in figure competitions and dabbled in powerlifting.  I’ve trained for strength and hypertrophy, and I’ve trained for fat loss. My weight has been as low as 152 lbs. when I did my first figure competition in 2006, and my weight has gotten as high as 183.5 lbs. in the last year after dealing with my Father’s unexpected death, the breakup of a 6 year relationship, moving houses, and moving gyms.

The Lows: (L) 152 in 2006 before my first figure competition. (R) 154 in my 3rd competition in 2008.

The Lows: (L) 152 in 2006 before my first figure competition. (R) 154 in my 3rd competition in 2008.

 

The Highs. (L) My before photos in 2004 at 185 lbs. (R) Photos from several months ago at 183.5.  What a difference some muscle mass makes, huh?

The Highs. (L) My before photos in 2004 at 185 lbs. (R) Photos from several months ago at 183.5.
What a difference some muscle mass makes, huh?

 

And of course, I’d be remiss not to mention that I am always dealing with my Hashimoto’s (autoimmune hypothyroidism), PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome), and adrenal dysfunction issues, and figuring out how to be my healthiest.  Each of those conditions by themselves can contribute to weight gain and excess body fat, so having the trifecta has not made it a very easy road.

 

So why am I telling you all of this?  Several reasons:

  1. Because it sucks!
  2. Because I have a feeling that you have struggled with weight and body image.
  3. Because I have a feeling that you are really hard on yourself in regards to how your body should look and perform.
  4. Because you have probably been through really stressful situations where you couldn’t make good nutrition and hard training a priority.
  5. Because you have probably had times in your fitness journey when you got very lean pretty easily, and then found it difficult to maintain over a long period of time.
  6. Because you probably look at women in the fitness industry and see our pictures on our websites and think we have it all figured out all the time and covet our bodies. (hint: most of us only put up pictures where we look our absolute BEST!)
  7. Because you have probably felt like the people around you were judging your body, and how you look, and how you eat, and talking about you behind your back if you don’t look like you do at your leanest all the time.
  8. Because you probably wonder why your friends can eat whatever they want for 2 weeks and only gain 2 lbs. and you eat what you want for 2 days and gain 7 lbs.
  9. Because you have probably dieted and tried to get leaner at some point, only to see no progress and wonder, “What the heck is going on?”
  10. Because some days you probably feel like saying, “Screw it!” and giving up and going back to your old habits, since what you’re doing doesn’t seem to be working anyway.
  11. Because you probably have days where you wish you could just eat whatever your heart desired without wondering what the macronutrients in a dish are and wondering if you should wait until post-workout to eat it.
  12. Because you probably want to go on vacation without worrying if you should pack food, or if they have healthy restaurants near your hotel, or stressing about how much weight you might gain while you’re gone.

 

And the list goes on and on and on, because it’s HARD out here for a fit chick!

And it can be even harder when you’re in the industry in some form or fashion.  We endure so much extra scrutiny from our peers, our clients, our friends, and our family.   Sure, if you’re a trainer, you should be  reasonably lean (that definition will vary from person to person) and you should definitely train on a regular basis.  But just because you don’t have veins in your lower abs 365 days a year (or EVER, for that matter) doesn’t mean you’re not competent and can’t help your clients with their fat loss goals.  I’ve had so many women in the industry tell me that they feel horribly about themselves if they aren’t walking around shredded all the time, because that’s what they feel is expected of them, and that’s often verbalized TO them.  I know I have received the following comments when my weight fluctuated back up after a competition:

“Wow!  What happened to you?”

“Sooo… are you, uh, still doing the whole working out thing?”

“Oh my gosh!  I almost didn’t recognize you!”

“Why don’t you look the way you used to in your YouTube videos?  You were much leaner then.”

 

Blah blah blah

This was a progress picture from around a year ago.  Just for reference I was around 172 here.  And at this point in time, I was getting negative comments about my weight and body fat levels.

 

I just want you to know that you’re not alone.  In the industry or not, I train/work with/counsel women from all over the world about nutrition, training, body image, self-image, and much more.  I hear their stories and their struggles.  I celebrate their victories, and help them learn from their defeats.  I laugh with them, I cry with them, and I talk them off the ledge when they’re ready to jump.  So why am I qualified to do these things?

Because I AM one of them.

Most days, I do pretty well.  For the most part, I’ve learned to love my body regardless of how much body fat I am carrying at any given moment.  (And yes, I know that some people will argue that even at my biggest, I still looked good, but it’s not about how *they* feel about my body, it’s about how *I* feel about my body =) ).  And you can love your body while still wanting it to look differently.  There’s no hypocrisy there.  It’s the same as loving yourself even if you’re not exactly where you want to be in your life at this given moment.

In fact, I am currently working with a nutrition coach (John Meadows) trying to lean out a bit more in order to get where I am more comfortable, because EVERYONE needs a coach.  Even a coach. ;-D

And while I general do pretty well, I still have the occasional basket-case moment.  We all do.  Yes, even my most beautiful and fit friends in the fitness industry, even the ones who tell you that the scale is not the best measure of progress, even the ones who talk about the weight on the bar being more important than the weight on the scale… yeah they have meltdowns too.

In fact, back in November when I was hanging with Alli McKee and Neghar Fonooni (my co-founders in Girls Gone Strong) we went to the gym for a workout.  My back was bothering me that day and I wasn’t able to do much except my rehab work.  I was just 8 weeks past my big breakup, and I hadn’t stepped on a scale in that time, and I decided to weigh myself.  I stepped on the scale and I was 180 lbs. and the heaviest I had been in almost 10 years (since I decided to get in shape in 2004).

So obviously I just took a deep breath, realized that everything would be fine, and reminded myself that this was a different scale, I wasn’t fasted, and I was fully clothed, so it was no big deal, right?

WRONG.

I started sobbing in the middle of Alli’s gym and felt like a complete and total loser who didn’t even feel worthy to be a part of something called Girls Gone Strong.

Yep.  That’s pretty much what happened.  And yep.  Neghar and Alli had to talk me off the ledge.  Just like I do for other women all the time.

Yep.  This picture is from the very trip where the girls talked me off the ledge.

Yep. This picture is from the very trip where the girls talked me off the ledge. Love them.

 

So that’s what I want you to realize.  None of us have it all figured out.  Some of us are farther along in our self-acceptance journey than others, but we are all in it together.  In the meantime, let’s can the trash talk about our own bodies AND each other’s bodies.  (Yes, I hear it all the time.  Women trashing on other women, and I’ve been guilty of it as well, when I was unhappy with myself).

We have a finite amount of time on this planet, don’t we want to spend as little of it as possible surrounded by negativity?

So how do you do this?  How do you begin accepting and loving your body exactly as it is, while continuing to set goals and work towards them?  Stay tuned for Part 2 where I’ll give you my top 5 ways to acquire and maintain a healthy relationship with your body.

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