Why being Healthy and Fit is a Lifestyle…and Why we Need to Stop Comparing our Bodies to those on the TV and in Magazines
by She Flies With Her Own Wings
It’s a Lifestyle
It’s no secret that body image has consumed the mind of many people: teens, girls, women, and even men.
There’s a lot of pressure to be ‘skinny’, ‘thin’, ‘fit’, whichever term you prefer. I never paid much attention to my body growing up. I was an athlete and played 3 sports year round. I was active, so I didn’t pay much attention to what I was eating, and it didn’t occur to me that I should be checking to see what my thighs, butt, and waist was doing.
After I graduated, I went to college and began competing in the Miss America Organization. Now before I even get to pageants, I want to talk about just being in college in general. I grew up in a small town and then went to the University of Oregon – where everyone runs. Literally. Well almost. As a college freshman I started to pay much more attention to my body, and since I wasn’t playing competitive sports anymore, I quickly learned that I couldn’t just eat whatever I want and continue to be healthy.
Then I entered pageant land, which many people criticize and say that the swimsuit portion is demeaning to women. It definitely made me look at my body more closely…after all, I was going to be walking across a stage in swimsuit, and heels, in front of an audience, being judged. That’s just uncomfortable and scary. My first few years I hated that portion of competition and walked self-consiously across stage, hoping to be off as soon as possible. I then attempted a few of those crazy, unrealistic diets/cleanses that some of the other girls were doing. I failed. I’m sorry but my body and brain just couldn’t function on 500 calories a day or only lemon water. As they shouldn’t. I’d make it through one day and then give up and stuff my face. I was so focused on being ‘skinny’ in a bikini, and would get so discouraged because I couldn’t do any of these diets. (For this very reason I understand why people don’t like the swimsuit portion). However, two years ago I decided/realized that it wasn’t about being ‘skinny’ it was about being healthy and ‘fit’; it was about being confident in my body. And it was a lot more than just walking across a stage in 30 seconds in a bikini.
I found some healthy recipes that I love. Eating healthy made me feel a lot better internally, and created some confidence just in that itself. I started to spend more time in the gym and took up running – it was about finding workouts that I enjoyed and mixing it up. From Zumba, to weight lifting, cycling, and to training for my first half marathon. I had to find things that worked for me, and that I also enjoyed. Which is going to be different for everyone, so it’s important to find what works for you.
It didn’t happen over night, and it wasn’t a ‘easy quick fix’. It really did become a lifestyle. The important thing about a lifestyle is that it’s something you can maintain. I couldn’t last 2 days on 500 calories, and it sure as hell wasn’t going to be something I could maintain as a lifestyle.
I also found that it made me a lot happier, it made me a lot more confident – so I didn’t have to try to pretend to be confident for those 30 seconds. As an independent person, I found that being healthy and fit allowed me to do a lot more things on my own, it granted me freedom, gave me opportunities, and that is what ultimately creates confidence and is empowering.
Being healthy and fit means that I am able to carry my own luggage and lift things on my own without having to wait for someone else to do it for me.
Being healthy and fit allows me to hike that mountain, go for that long bike ride, or complete a half marathon.
Being healthy and fit has helped me meet more people; weather that’s at the gym, in a workout class, or at a race.
Being healthy and fit means that I’m less likely to get sick or injured. Which means less time at home or in the doctors office.
Being healthy and fit makes me a happier person. A good sweat session and release of endorphins helps me de-stress and puts me in a better mood.
Being healthy and fit has made the outdoors less scary. Nature is great and I no longer feel like I can’t take something on. Well maybe a bear.
Being healthy and fit makes me feel beautiful and confident, which makes me look beautiful and confident.
One thing I hate about watching Miss America/Miss USA is hearing people say “I just wish they had ‘normal’ bodies” or “that girl at least has an ‘average’ body”. This also applies to the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show and other similar events/shows. I’m sorry, but if they’re bodies were ‘normal’ or ‘average’, they wouldn’t be there. They’re training for an event, or it’s their job. They’re an exception.
We don’t watch a profession sporting event and say “I wish they played more like ‘normal’ people”. That’s why they’re in the WNBA/NBA/MLB/NFL etc. Because they’re better than ‘normal’ and ‘average’. This doesn’t mean that we didn’t have the potential to do the same, more often that not it’s because those people made it a priority, they worked harder than most to become better than ‘average’ and ‘normal’.
When I competed at Miss Oregon this past year, I was in the best shape of my life, and I likely won’t ever be quite that ‘thin’ and ‘fit’ again. That’s because I was training and preparing for an event, I was getting ready to compete. I didn’t want to have an ‘average’ body up on stage, I didn’t want to just look ‘normal’ – I wanted to be as physically fit as I could. I was working out 6-7 days a week, sometimes doing daily doubles, and I was eating a very clean, restricted diet. This isn’t something I’m going to maintain completely as a lifestyle (unless I were to be a VS Angle, because then it would be my job and I would be getting paid for it). Realistically I’m not going to have the time to workout that much anymore, and although I may still be eating healthy, I’m definitely not going to say no to the piece of cake anymore. But that’s something about living a healthy lifestyle…when I’m healthy and fit, I don’t have to feel guilty about eating the occasional piece of cake or having dessert.
While it’s important to live a healthy and fit lifestyle, it’s also important not to compare our bodies to those who are training and preparing for something, or whose job it is to be as physically fit as possible. Or even those in magazines.
Choose to be healthy and fit – not because society tells us it’s important to be ‘skinny’, but for all of the other benefits!