I am a plus size PT!
Well, at least I think I am. I'm not exactly sure what the definition of a plus size PT is but for those who like to use labels I assume I would fit the bill! That is, based on some of the images used to represent "health" or "fitness" in the media world.
These photos are both me as a mum. One is not a pre-baby or post baby. Both are post baby. In the first I was just over 2 years postpartum, the second was taken just a couple of months ago. I have not had any more babies and my daughter is almost 7. I am bigger now. Giving up a massively calorie restricted diet (some may call it disordered eating) and 5-6 hour long high intensity training sessions a week will do that do you.
Diets and excessive exercise may help you alter your body composition in the short term, but can you maintain it long term? For the rest of your life? I couldn't. It certainly wasn't doing my mental health any favours either. The moment I stopped counting and measuring everything I put in my mouth and working out for hours at a time (on broken sleep I might add) it was as though my body let out a huge sigh of relief. "Phew!" it said, "We weren't sure how much longer we could keep that up!"
The weight didn't come back on straight away yet slowly and surely it did. Now, I am now on the tumultuous path of rediscovering and reframing my relationship with food and exercise and figuring out what works for me. Its a case of once bitten twice shy and finding a new way forward is not easy. For me, the result has been weight gain like I have never experienced before.
If I had to guess, I would say there is roughly 30 plus kilos between these photos. In the first pic, I had just lost over 20 kilos in less than 6 months. I don't want to get too caught up on numbers but in the space of 5 years I have come full circle and then some. I am bigger now than I have ever been and as much as I try to work from a place of self-compassion and embrace my body as it, I would be lying if I said I have never felt shame about my size. Perhaps this is compounded by the industry in which I work but for the most part I compare myself to how I used to look. As a teenager and then a young adult, being lean was a part of my identity. It was something a lot of well meaning people in my life commented on regularly!
What I know now though, and remind myself daily, is my body does not exist to look a certain way and my self worth is not determined by my body size and shape. Read that again and allow some time for it to sink in! It has taken me a long time (perhaps 20 plus years) to realise there was such a strong connection between my feelings of self worth and how I thought my body looked.
The me you see on the left is not necessarily happier or healthier. I didn't feel more loved by friends and family or more worthy of respect. Just smaller.
Why then do I have goals that involve wanting to change my body composition? Admittedly this has been a difficult concept to reconcile. In the end though it comes down to what is driving me. My priority is to be healthy and feel fit and strong. Not just smaller. I am shifting the focus to what my body can do rather than how it looks. I am also not prepared to go to extremes. Any changes I make need to be sustainable long term and fit easily into my life. I have no crazy, restrictive rules around food or exercise.
Most importantly, I have a very impressionable 7 year old daughter observing and taking in everything I say and do. My actions need to support what I want her growing up believing are normal, healthy behaviours. In the same way I have taught her that brushing her teeth morning and night is important (not that she seems to get that yet!)
So what kind of PT does all this make me? Of course people will pass judgement based solely on my size. I know though that I am a much more empathetic fitness professional as a result of my experience. I know first hand that a rigorous, "all or nothing" approach to your health and fitness will do more harm than good in the long run and most likely leave you feeling a sense of failure.
I believe in choosing exercise that we enjoy doing, look forward to (even though we may not always feel like it) and is for our mind as much as much as our body. Endorphins! Exercise should not be a punishment for the food we eat, the way we look or used solely to change our appearance. That approach does not foster consistent, long-term behaviour change. By the same token, food is to be enjoyed! It is for fuelling and nourishing our body. I believe feelings of shame or guilt have no place when it comes to food choices.
We live in a world where health and fitness is far more complicated that it needs to be. Lets get back to basics and keep things simple! Being fixated on our appearance does not serve us and simply gets in the way of enjoying life and precious time with our loved ones.
For me, the Body Beyond Baby #nomoreprebabybody campaign is about pushing back on the pressure we feel to look a certain way and understanding that our body does not define our worth. You are not a "before" and "after" photo and we are so much more than our bodies!