Strive to be Strong not Skinny

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When did it become socially acceptable to publicly talk about the size or shape of a person’s body? It still boggles my mind that people have told me that I should be skinnier because of the amount of classes I teach a week.

My response will vary. If I am feeling especially cheerful, I will say something like, “It’s not about being skinny, it’s about being strong.”

If I feeling particularly annoyed, perhaps if I have been just met this person, my response my be a little different, such as,” You would think you would have better manners.”

I was once in a store asking to try on a pair of jeans, and when I asked for a size twenty-eight jeans, the lady responded with, “Wow, with all those classes you would think you would be smaller.” My mother was with me and was horrified, as she had only heard the stories I had told her; she had not heard such comments in person. I shrugged it off again.

I went home that day and had a t-shirt made that read, “I may not be skinny, but I am strong, and can punch real hard. Please keep this in mind.” I often wear this as I shop now, and have never had anyone comment since on my body type.

What I feel when I hear these kinds of comments, is sadness. It shows me that so many have no idea what it means to be healthy. Many people equate being fit with being skinny. The reality is you can be healthy at a variety of weight. I try so hard to educate my class participants on “being healthy and strong.”

Many in my class and in my personal life have heard, “I don’t care if your skinny, I want you strong.” Too many women look for results on the scales. It takes a lot to erase years of, “diet, diet, diet, lose, lose, lose.”

I explain to people that twelve years ago I was a size fifteen (and no there is nothing wrong about being a size fifteen, it is just part of my story and a fact pertaining to it) and I weighed a certain amount. I am now an instructor, and wear a size seven, and guess what…I weight the same as when I was a size fifteen.

When I tell this story, a look of confusions comes over their face. I explain that it is not that “muscle weighs more than fat” because a pound of anything is a pound. The difference is, a pound of muscle takes up less space than a pound of fat. If you think of it this way, a pound of fat would be the size of a mouse pad, and a pound of muscle the size of the mouse. Twelve years ago my body fat was a lot higher than now, so I “took up more room”. Now that I am more muscular, the pounds are still there but is made up of muscle not fat, so therefore I appear more “trim” or “leaner.” Which is exactly what I wanted. Not thin…strong.

Another example I use to emphasize body image is the time a lady joined my Fit & Healthy Challenge. She was measured and weighed each week. Having not attended any kind of class before, she was determined and came at least three times a week. Each week when she weighed in, she was getting discouraged, as she did not see the scale going down. I tried to reassure her, that the amount of classes she was doing she should be looking for inch loss rather than weight loss. After ten weeks, it was time to measure her again. She had lost five inched from her waist, but yet the very first thing she said was, “But I am sad…I didn’t lose any weight!”

I was sad. After working so hard and getting stronger each week, building lean muscle and reducing her body fat, it was still a loss to her, because the scale told her different. I hated that scale that day.

You change from the inside out, so be patient. Remember how long it took to decide to make a change? Please ladies, be kind to each other and yourselves, use positive words and encourage others to Strive to be Strong, not Skinny.

Also remember when you say comments like that to someone, they just may be a person with a great set of abs and strong punching arms under a small layer of fat, a powerful lioness perhaps waiting to pounce! :)

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  • Colin MacKinnon
    March 08, 2013 - 10:27

    Great article Kelli, Its amazing the things that people say! Feeling and looking good is a commitment and something we all have to work at. Once you decide to commit the journey is well on its way. Great story! Colin

  • Carolyn White
    March 05, 2013 - 06:45

    I love this article and applaud the message...I see so many beautiful healthy women starving themselves to look skinny...I just want to say you looked perfect the way you were...be strong and fit and feel good about who you are. We need more postive messages like this for the everyday woman and ladies be nice to each other. People are so quick to make negative comments, look around and if you have a postive thought about someone share it.