In the picture on the left, I had just lost 70 lbs, down from my high of 210 lbs at only age 13, 5’2” tall. I was so happy. I felt BEAUTIFUL. I felt proud of my weight loss journey. And I saw not an ounce of fat. That pink jacket fit like a rockstar. I could wear juniors styles for the first time in ages. People would see me and my mom and finally see me as the child, not the larger parent. My cheeks were rosy and my smile shining.
The picture on the right is also beautiful. I am 27 in this photo, 5’7 and wise enough to know my weight doesn’t matter. I’m more than a number. My beauty on the right has absolutely nothing to do with fitting a societally accepted size. It has to do with the confidence in the woman posed for the camera.
But society told that preteen she was fat.
And fat was bad. And weight loss was good. Society showed that teen in small, probably unintentional ways that losing weight was good. Doctors shoved health under the more easily explained heading of weight loss because it was a clearer goal to offer.
And as a doctor, I admit doctors are wrong to do that.
Weight loss is never the goal. Because that smile is not from losing weight. That smile is from walking for the first time since an chronic illness; it’s from feeling confident in who I am as a new bat mitzvah; it’s from a feeling of health and joy, not at all from a number on a scale I didn’t even step on that week.
So let’s agree to stop congratulating weight loss.
Let’s stop evaluating beauty by a size standard – in my eyes, these before and after photos show two equally beautiful ladies.
And let’s emphasize the beauty in a healthy smile. (A dentist’s tooth plug 🦷)
Photos of that new leggings feeling start this post, because the smile these photos capture is real. It’s strong and authentic.
But now for the real talk, my friends…
Have you ever planned on a gym day and then… life happens? An injury, work commitment, party or family medical emergency and 💥 plans go out the window. It’s hard when you get in the flow of going to the gym to break that cycle. You don’t want your fitness journey progress or your fitness motivation to suffer!
So I have two pieces of advice:
You found that motivation before and you WILL find it again. Remember, at one point you weren’t even going to these gym workouts and classes. That drive that got you through the door hasn’t gone away. That drive is in YOU!
And most importantly,
Why do you want a fitness journey in the first place? If the goal of feeling healthy and building muscle is to live in a gym, then you are either quitting your current life to be a fitness trainer – all the power to you – or you are doing these workout routines for the wrong reason! Fitness helps build your stamina and strength to be a confident and engaged protagonist in your own life. The life lessons you learn reaching a top speed on a treadmill and the cardiovascular health you gain over time help you take long walks with your friends through Boston and help you navigate workplace turmoil. They help you be best engaged in the life you already have OUTSIDE the gym… so by necessity, you have to allow space for that ‘outside the gym’ life! Unless your goal is to be that trainer or athlete, the gym should never BECOME your life. ((And even then, your networks outside the gym matter.)) So if missing a day or week of workouts for LIFE is going to get you down, re-examine what your workouts are really about.
Fitness can encourage a strong mindset and sense of self. AND a healthy fitness journey requires checking in with yourself along the way to re-examine your motivations and whether you maybe do need a fitness break… just to prove to yourself you can take that break and jump right back in.
I believe in you, and I want you to see how strong you are, too!!!!
Right now, I’m feeling strong. But when I saw this reflection twelve hours ago, I felt weak. I didn’t like what I had seen.
I was judging myself for not getting to bed (puppy parenting problems). I was tired and my self perception shifted momentarily because of that. For a minute, I didn’t acknowledge the beautiful woman smiling back at me.
But that beautiful woman never left. That beautiful soul never stopped smiling.
Our perception of ourselves tends to shift with our emotions and energy level. It’s natural! It’s imperfectly human.
Which is why – in sticky notes or phone memos – the kindest thing we can do for ourselves is place reminders in our lives of what we see when we are at our rested, fed and emotional best. Because that best is always in us, always reflecting back. Sometimes, it’s just hidden by a rainy minute or a hectic life (we all have one!).
But let’s start acknowledging that beautiful soul NOW:
Look in the mirror and tell that beautiful reflection how gosh darn gorgeous he/she is. Because YOU my friend (yes, all of you and all of my patients are ‘my friends 🙂) are stunning and a beautiful gift.
This girl hit her all time fastest running speed at Barry’s Bootcamp.
Newsflash: it was the MINIMUM recommended speed and took 2 weeks, lots of ice cream, and an injury to build up to. But I did it!
And you can, too.
The thing about a fitness journey is that the journey has nothing to do with fitness.
It has to do with balance.
A fitness journey involves acceptance of the ups and downs,
allowing yourself to eat when and what your body wants, and finding time for breaks in the process.
This running speed came after I slept in until noon and indulged in all the yummy extras I had in my kitchen. I felt kind of bad about that so-called indulgence for a bit, and then I saw, it’s what my body wanted! And clearly what it needed to achieve these personal bests.
So listen to your body.
Your personal best is always yourself on a fully nourished and rested day.
Me: Oh my! That was too much ice cream for one day but I was so hungry.
Also me: I was on call and at the hospital until 1:30 am, walked my dog until 3:30 am, slept 2 hours, went to work at the hospital, went to a dance class @305fitness, did a workout @barrys, walked a total of 10 miles so far and am walking my dog some more tonight.
Girl, eat your ice cream!
Diet culture emphasizes eating so many calories per day, watching carbs and sugars and all that yummy goodness. Healthy Living is about rejecting all that and following what your body, mind and spirit want. Today, my body wanted lots of sweet flavors and coolness after a #makesweatsexy workout, and that’s A-okay!
Real dental talk:
If you are eating those extra sweats throughout the day, watch your toothbrushing. You may need an extra midday brush to balance the frequency of sugar intake. Sugar AND fluoride can lift your smile.
I picked up this bad boy at Barry’s Bootcamp. And I have to say, I love the fitness challenge message… when you take it out of context!!!
It’s easy to love what you see when you are meeting societal ‘standards’ of beauty – when you are losing weight, gaining strength, getting toned or lean or training for some sort of fitness event; when you are dressed in the latest fashion or just got your hair and nails done. I’ll admit, I find myself enjoying the mirror, too, in those contexts. I was trained to love that standard by our silly society.
But have you been to a women’s locker room lately?
No two women fit that ideal standard. In fact, the most beautiful women I know don’t! (The dame goes for men!) But their smiles, body positivity, optimism and self love radiate through the room. Their joy lifts everyone.
It’s so much harder and so much more beautiful to love yourself when you break those beauty standards- when you accentuate your cellulite, let the dark circles under your eyes show through, wear your favorite shirt because it’s comfortable and that feels right for you. It’s so much harder to #faceyourself and #lovewhatyousee when you let your imperfections show.
My legs have cellulite, my stomach and arms have stretch marks, my eyes haven’t been a shade lighter than dark grey since starting dental school. I get my hair cut a month or two later than I should because I’m busy learning pediatric dentistry and caring for patients. I love ice cream and will choose that over a workout in a heartbeat. And I’m proud of that, because I am doing that FOR me. I have the body of a tired and busy and incredibly grateful doctor and a woman who has overcome SO much to get where she is today. Whatever my size, whether my body shakes when I walk or stays tight and toned, I have learned (and have to keep reminding myself) to look in the mirror and – no matter what reflect sback – love what I see. Because that body is holding the beautiful spirit that is me.
So face yourself! Find at least one thing you love about your reflection. And say aloud to yourself, ‘I love what I see.’