“Even the models we see in magazines wish they could look like their own images.” ―Cheri K. Erdman
I’ve always been pretty thin: big boobs, tiny waist, kinda flat butt. I used to be much curvier for sure– higher body fat percentage, no muscle– but I’ve been blessed with a naturally hourglass figure.
Since embracing strength training, my body has completely changed. I have much more muscle definition, and much less fat. (Sadly, a good amount of that fat came from my boobs, but that’s a topic for another post.) I’d say I now look “athletic.” One of the biggest differences between my body pre-strength-training and my body now is… my new, big, glorious butt. I liked being soft, and I liked how I looked before, but I am very, VERY proud of my new bum. As I was starting to lift weights and see results, I always dreamed of a nice round butt. In fact, when I first started to lose a little fat from my boobs and hips, I thought: noooo! I’d never wanted to look like Gwenyth Paltrow: I had something more along the lines of Salma Hayek or Sofia Vergara in mind.
But while my booty-obsession certainly plays into my exercise selection and priority, I mostly work out for self-affirmation. I want to work hard for the sake of working hard, so 3-5 days per week I prove to myself through my workouts that I’m very powerful and impressive. It’s become almost meditation-like for me: I look in the mirror as I pick up something REALLY HEAVY, and I think about how awesome it is that I’m strong enough do it. Sometimes during a really heavy lift or a really fast sprint I have fantasies of everyone in the room (or city…or planet!) turning to watch me and going “Wow! She’s SOO strong/fast! That’s VERY impressive!!” It sounds ridiculous, I know… but it feels good, and it helps me succeed.
In terms of my personal motivation to train, chasing that feeling is usually enough. (Well, that plus the physical/mental energy boost that follows.) Don’t get me wrong, I don’t always dominate. Sometimes there are days or weeks when I decide all I can muster up is about 75%. But then there are also glorious day when I’m able to give 105%, and I blow through personal records and wonder at the infinite magic of human strength.
So as you can see, most of my goal-setting is based around strength and performance levels. But there have been times (beyond my ever-present butt-dreams) that I’ve experimented with purely aesthetic goals too, and those have been extremely valuable to me in terms of body appreciation. I experimented a few years ago with eating a very clean diet and increasing the volume of my overall training, and I lost weight. Not like a crazy ton of weight, (I still looked pretty normal) but I weighted a good 15lbs less than I do right now. I looked fit, lean, athletic, and at times just skinny. I looked great in my workout gear but felt self conscious in my normal clothes. I’m just over 5’3”, so rather than feeling long and elegant, I felt thin and small. I’d always been “curvy” (keep in mind, I’m using these terms relatively only to me), and had gotten used to taking up a certain amount of space. I didn’t really like feeling small.
THIS IS ME THEN: At my brother’s wedding weekend, at my lowest weight of about 112lbs.
After the wedding, my experiment was over. I naturally started putting the weight back on by relaxing my healthy-diet and training restrictions a bit. I really liked the re-gaining process, and I found that I felt better and better as my curves starting coming back. I was lifting 2-3x/week, with no extra cardio, and I eventually let all diet-consciousness go, just to see how far I could take it.
Below is a photo from about a year later, 15lbs curvier than the previous year, and it was at this point that I came to a realization:
I love being curvy. I love and support all healthy and happy bodies, and I completely understand women who want to be leaner, but I really love curves on a woman. I’ve always admired Scarlett Johansson, Eva Mendes, and Penelope Cruz’s bodies. I love a little roundness and softness, and I feel my personal best (and most feminine and sexy) when I have some fat on me.
This was my Halloween costume 2 years ago at my heaviest weight: 127 pounds. I had put some fat back on along with the muscle I gained from strength training. I loved the costume, and I felt great in my body.
Then I decided to launch this website. Which meant getting professional photos taken. Which meant I decided to get a little leaner again. This time though I did a better job of maintaining my muscle mass while I lost a bit of fat. I had been working hard on my butt all year, and was finally seeing it get big and round. I was afraid that if I got too lean, it would disappear, so I erred on the side of less-lean, even though I thought more muscle definition would probably look good in photos. Luckily on photoshoot day I felt like I still had some junk in the trunk. And I loved how they turned out.
Now here’s the thing… I follow a lot of other women in the fitness industry, and the vast majority of them come from a background of either fitness modeling or physique competitions, like bikini or figure competitions. Most of them are (or have been) seriously shredded. When I thought about trying to get super lean for my photos, it was for the idea in my head that looking like that would prove to everyone: Hey, I know what I’m talking about. But since my mission with Remodel Fitness is to show that you can be a slammin’ hottie while living a non-restricted life, I’m glad I decided against it. It would have gone against my mission and my morals to deprive myself into looking like the “fitness industry standard.”
By the way, most people will typically agree with me that a firm, round butt is nice. But my preference for a little more fat on my body is totally counter-intuitive… not only to the whole fitness-industry culture, but to American culture at large. People don’t get it. I used to get tons of compliments for being so lean. And frankly I got an awful lot of comments that were supposed to be compliments, but really hurt my feelings, like “you look so skinny!”
Thanks, but… I don’t want to look skinny. I want to look like I could kick your ass and then rock your world in bed.
Neither of those things seemed to go with “skinny” on me.
Having gotten back to training for strength and performance, and eating for a mix of energy and pleasure, I’m happy where I am now. I still like myself a little curvier than most women in my industry, though, so if I gain some muscle, that’s ok. And if I gain some fat, that’s ok too. I’ll probably just hover around my current “set point” though, which is where it’s very easy for me to maintain my body without thinking too much about it. That, to me, is the ultimate goal.
When setting your own goals, consider what you’re really looking for. Give yourself challenges so that you may rise to them and prove how awesome you are. But let your natural body type and “set point” inform your goals. Maybe aim to find the weight that you can maintain without obsessing over food or killing yourself at the gym. Maybe embrace your curves, or even try adding to them. Maybe consider that fat is what makes our bodies feminine, so while too much is certainly unhealthy, fat itself is not the enemy.
Now if you want to experiment and see how you’d feel at 10, 15, or 30lbs lighter or heavier, assuming you’re taking good care of your body, I’ll support you. If you want to be able to run a marathon, win a physique competition, or help your Ultimate Frisbee Team come in first this year, that’s badass. But if you think looking like a model will make you happy, I simply ask that you reconsider.