Growing up, these are the women I aspired to look like.
It killed me that my body didn't look their bodies. And as a young girl, I didn't understand what it meant to live a healthy lifestyle. So I did what girls who desperately wanted to be skinny did, I crash dieted, used diet pills, and built an unhealthy relationship to my body image. All in the pursuit of a flat stomach.
Fast forward a decade, a 75 pound weight gain and subsequent weight loss, and here I am today.
Former president of the I f*cking hate running club, a 3 hour 41 minute marathoner, and a US size 8-10. The closest thing I have to a flat stomach is what I call Loch Ness Monster abs; abs that appear in a few photos and are no where to be found in real life. And I love my Loch Ness Monster abs because I work my ass off for the strong body that I have today. The big difference is that I'm not motivated to lose weight or try to hit a number on a scale, I'm motivated by impossible goals to redefine what I'm capable of.
Today, I don't feel embarrassed by my belly rolls, love handles, stretch marks and cellulite. You see, running taught me the flat stomach secret that changed my life.
That I don't have to have a flat stomach to be strong and healthy.
HEALTHY. A word we rarely see the health and fitness industry promote despite the fact that it's literally what the health and fitness industry is built on. But health doesn't sell. A healthy lifestyle that takes months to adopt isn't as exciting as "Lose 20 Pounds in 4 Weeks" or "Miley Cyrus' Flat Stomach Secret".
Ladies, when are we going to start speaking out against the idea that a flat stomach is something we should spend our days aspiring towards?
I don't care what the number on the scale says or what size you are, the only thing you should be working towards is the strongest, healthiest, and most confident version of yourself possible. You don't need a six pack to be strong as hell. Strength doesn't look a certain way, it feels a certain way.
My favorite part about the body positivity movement is that it puts an emphasis on embracing and loving the body you have. Because if there is one thing I've learned from losing over 75 pounds, it's that you'll never be happy unless you learn to really love where you're at today.
But loving the skin your in is just step 1 of the process. Step 2 is doing everything you can to put your strongest foot forward.
That means setting eating healthy foods that fuel your body and setting goals to redefine your limits. Like running a 5K, half marathon, a triathlon, or finding a dance class that you love kicking your ass in. Working out shouldn't be something you do to lose weight or look a certain way. Is it shitty to get started? Sure is! But if you can stick with it for a few weeks or months, the strength you'll build will help you realize that you don't need a flat stomach to feel proud and empowered by your body.
The best kind of confidence comes from knowing that you can do really hard things. That you're doing everything you can to work towards a stronger tomorrow.
We'll never see the health and fitness industry change the way they talk about women's bodies unless we tell them to. All my life I've been told what strength looked like and it never looked like me. I may not have a flat stomach, but today I know what strength looks and feels like. And it's what I see when I look in the mirror.
Enough with the flat stomachs. Enough with this idea that unless you're a sample size, you're not fit.
Sure, it's one tweet. But Shape Magazine has been empowering women of all different body types with their #LoveMyShape body confidence campaign. So what the hell happened? Maybe it was one overworked social media manager who didn't think twice about a late night scheduled tweet. But it's frustrating to see a publication who has been doing so much good promote flat stomachs.
I refuse to stand by and let another generation of girls be led to believe that their worth is tied to their weight or dress size. What about you?