I’ve always battled with my body image. In my mind, there was always this person I wanted to be. She was the epitome of perfection. Beautiful, thin and so stylish. I constantly berated myself for not being her, even when I wasn’t actively trying to do anything about my exterior. I lost myself in a pattern of self-loathing, crash dieting, gimmicks and tricks. Exhausted from the cycle, I stumbled upon the kind of inspiration that changed everything.
The scale and I are finally starting to get along. Well, more like I’ve stopped caring about what it says. That wasn’t always the case. For years I let that number rule me. I let it tell me that I wasn’t good enough on some days and that I better not get fat on others. Never once did the scale tell me I was doing great or on the right track. Instead, it always gave me something to be disappointed about.
I’ve done some radical things to lose weight. I’ve ridden the yo-yo between strict discipline and “fuck it.” At one point I realized it had to be a lifestyle, but was pretty sure that the lifestyle had to be miserable. I wondered why it seemed so effortless for others. After trying what seemed like everything, I found myself at a loss.
And then, it hit me: Fitness.
I know that seems obvious, but I never thought of fitness for what it was. All I saw was exercising and of course dieting. But exercising and fitness are actually pretty different. I started following fitness accounts on Twitter, which led me to reading articles on fitness and then eventually following “fitspos” on Instagram. While there was a ton of beautiful, fit women on the social platform, there weren’t any I could identify with. Most of them had that look I’d always wanted, but found to be unattainable.
And Then I Discovered Ashley Horner
Ashley is the ultimate badass rebel of the fitness world. She doesn’t look like the kind of chick who starves herself, or runs for an eternity on the treadmill. Her body is athletic, something I can finally identify with. She looks like the kind of woman who can flip over a car one minute and then toss on a dress and heels the next, completely owning her femininity. What I love about her even more than her look is her genuine kindness. She is a source of inspiration for thousands of women and she doesn’t take that responsibility lightly.
She encourages women to be strong, to test and surpass their limits and most of all, to find beauty in their strength.
My mindset began to shift as I thought about everything I had overcome mentally and emotionally over the course of my life. I am one strong chick. What would happen if I started to wear my strength on the outside? What would happen if instead of restricting myself, I ate to fuel myself and my workouts? What would happen if I focused more on challenges and being strong than the number on the scale? What if my strength told me I could, when the scale always told me that I could never?
There is a freeing feeling when things start to click. I have always worked to be the best possible version of myself on the inside and I thought I was trying to accomplish that on the outside as well. But all I was really doing was finding different ways to not be good enough. I didn’t realize that what I wanted to accomplish on the outside needed to start from within.
The Lies You Are Told
Carbs Are Bad for You
They really aren’t. Carbs help to fuel your workouts, not to mention eating low carb or no carb diets can actually slow your metabolism.
Eating Fat Will Make You Fat
False. You actually need fats to burn fat, keep your hormones in balance and they help you to absorb esse
Lifting Weights Will Make You Look Manly/Bulky
It is actually really difficult to get big as a female. You have to try excessively hard to get big if that’s what you want. Lifting weights actually creates that “toned” look everyone keeps talking about.
You Need to Watch Your Weight
Watch your weight do what? If you aren’t obese your actual weight means very little. I weigh 5 pounds more than I did last year, only this year I’m considerably leaner.
Muscle Weighs More than Fat
At least people are trying with this one, though it always makes me crazy to hear it. A pound of muscle and a pound of fat weigh exactly the same. Muscle is denser than fat, so having more muscle and less fat makes you look smaller—no matter your weight.
Cardio Is the Best Way to Get Fit
Cardio is fine. If cardio is your thing—go for it. But lifting weights also burn calories and builds muscle. The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn.
How to Start Finding the Beauty in Your Strength
I’m all about mental and emotional challenges, but it wasn’t until last year when I ran a Spartan race that I realized how amazing a physical challenge could make me feel, both mentally and physically. This year I plan to run a Tough Mudder, to take it to another level.
Stumbling upon Ashley gave me an opportunity to admire someone who may be in incredible shape, but still constantly challenges herself. She’s not just some gym bunny, running like a hamster on a treadmill, she’s an athlete. She sees an obstacle and tears it down. She sees a challenge and takes it on with a smile.
When you challenge yourself physically, you start to be able to do things you never before thought you could do. The small and large accomplishments will give you a boost and you’ll start to challenge yourself even more.
Numbers that Matter
Rather than worrying about what the scale says, start concerning yourself with the numbers that coincide with your accomplishments. Did you make better time on your run today than you did last week? Or did you run further this time? Are you able to lift heavier weight or complete more reps?
Even if the improvement is small, it’s something worth noting. The better you get at something the more accomplished you’ll feel.
Strength is Beauty
The scars you have, on the outside as well as on the inside, are a part of you. You’ve battled, scratched and clawed through some seemingly impossible moments. Some things have left you damaged in some type of way, but you’re here. You’re still standing and the mere fact that you’ve endured– makes you beautiful. Your strength on the inside can be worn on the outside as a reflection of all the hard work you’ve put in. So why not start trying to find the beauty in your strength?
Image Credit: Shutterstock
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