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THE BODY IMAGE GAME

By Krystal Jackson

“What will people think of my legs?”

“I am in the fitness industry and I can’t have big legs.”

“They are so white and I should have leaner legs.”

It makes me nervous to actually write these words down and tell you my feelings and emotions. But, I know it is important for myself and our athletes that I share.

Yes, those are all thoughts that went through my head when one of our clients challenged me the other day to wear shorts to the gym. My first thought was:

“What would people think?”

Body image is something that is very dear to my heart and something I have struggled with my whole life. I know many males and females, athletes and non-athletes that have struggled with this as well.

I am currently thirty-three, have a loving husband, two sweet young boys, and an amazing business that I LOVE going to.

Even though I feel like I bounced back pretty easily after having my second boy almost two years ago, it’s just not good enough in my head.

In my head, to be lean means being ripped and looking like a fitness model.

Part of this stems from feeling like I’ve always been on some sort of stage. After over 20 years of playing at a high level in many sports and on nationally ranked teams, I have always been “performing.”

That brings me back to the topic of body image. This topic rose to the surface recently because I had a client — the same one who challenged me to wear shorts — share an article with me that he read by former UCLA and Laker great, Kareem Abdul Jabbar.

It is titled, “Body Shaming Black Female Athletes Is Not Just About Race” and it got us talking about our own body image insecurities. He shared some of his insecurities with me and in turn, I admitted that body image is something I have struggled with my whole life.

This is just one of many reasons why I love what I do. As client-trainer trust grows, people feel they can open up and show their true self!

I then shared with him that I never wear shorts to the gym because it is uncomfortable for me to show my legs. Mostly because they are so white.

At that moment he challenged me to wear shorts for his next workout. He even sent me a text with the link to Lululemon shorts for me to buy! I laughed pretty good when I received his text. He owns a very successful business and really knows how to make sure things get done!

This challenge has really motivated me to find out why I stopped wearing shorts. So, I took some time to think back and see if certain events in my life had led me to this insecurity.

After some reflecting and a lot of crying, a few things came to me.

One thing that came to mind is that growing up I was always a bigger girl. Long and lean was never my body type. I was constantly playing sports and being active but I just didn’t have the knowledge of how to eat properly.

I heard the comment, “If you can just lose 5 more pounds,” many times through out my younger years.

I believe this had something to do with me not eating enough during my senior year of college. I was the leanest I had ever been but I was not eating enough for how much I was training. I was not trying to starve myself but for five hours of training a day, I definitely was not fueling my body properly.

After my indoor career, I went on to play beach volleyball. However, not eating enough caught up with me as I couldn’t keep it up forever. It just wasn’t sustainable.

I got married and put on about 10 pounds and almost reached 160. Those were scary numbers because I had never seen them on the scale before.

At some point during my beach volleyball career, I stopped wearing spandex and shorts all together. Playing beach volleyball in a bikini at my heaviest weight really hurt my self-confidence and body image.

Still to this day, I do not wear shorts because I feel they are too tight on my legs and that my legs are big.

The logical part of my brain knows my legs are not big. But, the vulnerable and fearful part of me imagines what other people will think.

That is what scares me the most.

Even switching over to crops — yoga pants that go to mid-calf for all the guys out there reading this — was a big change for me three years ago. I used to wear jeans and Lululemon pants to everything.

Being in the fitness industry, I feel the pressure to have the “perfect” body. But what truly matters is how comfortable I am in my body. To love and appreciate me and all of me. To be able to wear shorts and be proud of my legs.

I shared my “Shorts” story with my business coach’s boyfriend David. He was helping us learn how to be vulnerable and to put ourselves out there for people to see and hear the real you. He said something I felt was so beneficial that I have to share.

He said from a man’s perspective, the most attractive woman is not the one who is in the best shape, but the woman who loves her body the most.

Body image comes down to the love you have for yourself, your self-worth, and what’s inside.

As a “big sister” to many athletes at our gym, I am sharing this for them so they can learn to be proud of their bodies. To love and appreciate what we are given in our beautiful life.

So, here is a picture of me wearing my shorts for the first time to the gym to train our athletes!

Even though I must work on loving myself daily, I am excited about how far I have come.

I am proud of what I was given and I am doing the best I can to take care of my beautiful body!

My challenge to you is to get out of your comfort zone, but this time with your body. Release the shame. Be proud of you, the amazing and beautiful body you were given, and show the world how proud you are to be YOU!

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