About the interview: Lauren and I have been best friends for more than a decade, and grew very close on the volleyball court together, which is unfortunately where a lot of body image issues surfaced for her. She’s always been a star athlete with a great body, but past coaches have made her feel like that wasn’t the case, and one year in college was told she wasn’t in good enough shape to get sufficient playing time. We had many long conversations over the phone that year about her struggles, and I could relate to the feeling, but wanted her to know I didn’t agree with them at all. But ultimately, she did lose weight and focused a lot of her life on fitness and health, and continues to be one of the fittest people I know. We’ve kind of shared a bond over our stories around body image (because hers didn’t end there), and continue to support each other, so I’m excited to share her interview and how she found fitness and health in the process of being torn down by others.
CC: What’s your body image story?
L: I’ve been told both ‘You’re too big’ and ‘You’re too small’. These experiences have taught me that people are always going to say what they think and their delivery and opinion might not always align with mine. Ultimately what I’ve learned is that it’s my own perception of myself that matters the most.
CC: How would you describe body image/how has it impacted your life?
L: Growing up playing competitive volleyball and then playing at the collegiate level, there has always been a huge focus on my body. I would say the main focus was intended to be around how my body allowed me to perform athletically but there were certainly times where how my body looked became the larger focus, compared to how I felt. The women’s volleyball world was extremely competitive in itself. Comparing our bodies to eachother was an added struggle that I think a lot of female athletes can relate to. There were times where I felt great but was told by trainers or coaches that I wasn’t ‘in shape enough’ or ‘needed to improve x’. Those types of things can get to your head as a college girl just working on getting comfortable in your own skin.
CC: Why is body image/self love/self acceptance important to you?
L: The journey to self acceptance and positive body image has had it’s ups and downs but has been very rewarding overall. Self love and positive body image affect so many other aspects of my life that it’s very important for me to feel comfortable with myself. I’ve learned that loving yourself and your body is a powerful feeling.
CC: What has been your biggest body image struggle?
L: I started learning more about nutrition and healthy eating my junior year of college. I’m pretty type A and when I have a goal to accomplish or become invested in something, I go full force. For me at that time, it was fueling my body as a D1 athlete with healthy foods so that in turn my performance on the court would improve. I started cooking more, eating less crap, drinking less booze, and I was seeing great results. I loved how I felt, looked, and was seeing the results I wanted on the court. I fell into a routine where I became too strict about what I was eating because I felt like I could only eat healthy things- I had worked so hard to achieve my goal and didn’t want to let that slip away. It took a bit for me to realize that food doesn’t always have to be labeled ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Luckily now I’ve found a balance where I’d say I generally eat pretty healthy because I enjoy it and I enjoy how it makes me feel, but I don’t think twice about reaching for the pint of ice cream when I’m craving it (those who are close to me know my addiction to ice cream is pretty real- love you lots Ben and Jerry).
CC: What has been your biggest body image victory?
L: I would say the above, finding the balance that I have now has been my biggest win. I think a lot of people can relate to living in our social media focused world today where we see someone post about their workout on instagram or post the salad they ate for lunch and we immediately turn inward and think- well now I feel crappy for not working out today and eating that cookie. I think it’s somewhat of an ongoing challenge to not let that get into your head or focus on others too much.
CC: If you haven’t always loved your body, how have you worked to get there?
L: Taking out comparison, training to feel good and not working out ‘because I have to’. Working out for me is 100% the best part of my day. It’s the time of the day where I get to focus on me and tune out anything outside that’s going on. I also do yoga 3-4 times a week and the mental release and reset I get in those 60 minutes has helped me grow as a person. Teaching group fitness classes and becoming a certified personal trainer has impacted me in so many ways as well. It has allowed me to gain confidence by stepping outside of my comfort zone and has taught me that it’s okay to be vulnerable. I think working on self love and positive body image is an ongoing project. I plan on continuing the above and expanding my experience and involvement in the fitness industry.
CC: Does the media/models/celebrities have an impact on how you see yourself? Any examples?
L: I’d say I have less of a focus on celebrities and social media but I do enjoy following females who embrace the idea of being strong, not skinny. There are a lot of really great trainers out there who are embracing all the right things and setting good examples for young females.
CC: Do you compare yourself to other girls a lot/feel pressure to look a certain way at times? Why do you think you do?
L: I think with our world today it’s definitely easy to find yourself comparing your body to others. Social media is a powerful tool but I’ve learned that your own mind can be even more powerful. Yoga has also really helped with letting go of ego and comparison.
CC: What’s one thing you’d say to your younger, middle school aged self if you could go back? Or to younger girls today?
L: Know that finding positive self body image and self love is an ongoing process. It’s okay if you don’t feel like you have it down 24/7 365 days a year. But do be cognizant of the process and do your best to take out comparison, focus on yourself and what makes you happy.
CC: What do you do to love your body?
L: I feel my best when I’m active and moving my body somehow. Some days that means an intense HIIT workout and some days that means just going for a walk on the lake. Like I mentioned earlier yoga has led to a lot of self growth and I’ve noticed so many positive changes since making it a part of my regular routine. Teaching fitness classes has also made me love my body more and be more appreciative of all it can do. Being able to help push others past their limits and see their transformations and hard work keeps me motivated.
This interview is a part of The Curve Confessionals, a new content series on the Curve Confessions featuring other’s body image stories. Want to be interviewed, or know someone who might? Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.