By Katie Mathews
This is about the time that gyms begin to empty out a bit as New Year’s excitement wears thin and resolutions begin to fall away - a time when many struggle to live up to their own expectations. This blog post is not necessarily about gyms or protein supplements or scales. It is about something I consider more important than physical weight loss.
I will start with Instagram.
I have had an Instagram account for a little over a year so I consider myself newer to the scene, and for the most part, I enjoy it. I have recently been annoyed with my account though. I suppose it is my own fault but I want to share nonetheless.
I have a number of friends who are really passionate about fitness, and it is great to follow their pages not only to show support but also to share in their success in a way. As a result, I find that when I go to the search page, my feed is filled with dozens of men and women that I do not even know and the stories behind their own fitness and weight loss journeys. My feed is literally filled with them - thirty second clips from workouts, inspiring quotes, and before and after pictures framing their own transformation. Internet cookies on overload. Side note - is there a way to reset this? If so, send me a remedy ASAP. In the meantime, I will continue by focusing on transformation pictures.
Transformation pictures. I have struggled with eating and self-image in the past so seeing these pictures can be a trigger. They are also a big pet peeve of mine because I believe that, as a society, we have turned transformation pictures into a market platform in which to sell products and set unattainable standards.
The next time you stumble upon a fitness infomercial, I encourage you to watch it for a few minutes and notice the before and after shots. These side by side images are the major selling points, but they always fail to explain just what that person had to put his/her body through in order to get the shot. Sometimes the person on the right is not even the same as the one on the left.
You might disagree. You might be someone who enjoys taking and/or looking at transformation pictures, and I want to say that is totally okay.
As long as you are doing it for a positive reason, I admire it.
What is important to keep in mind though is that, while these pictures capture the outside of a nearing “perfect body,” they do not capture everything happening on the inside. When it comes to weight loss, I personally believe an inner transformation is just as important as an outer. I have been working out and taking care of my body in different ways through the years - as a swimmer, as a runner and as a yogi. My body has grown and changed. There are times when I like my body, and there are times that I do not like it.
A few days ago at yoga, we began class in Tadasana, a posture where we stand tall at the top of our mats with our shoulders rolled back and down, eyes closed, hands open to receive - kind of like Superman. The teacher invited us to take a moment to direct our attention to slowing our breath while reflecting on our feet and how they carry us through life. She joked at first that most people hate their feet, but then she went on to explain that, there are 26 bones, over 100 ligaments and over 250,000 sweat glands in each foot. A powerful, complex engineering system inside of a foot - deep inside of skin over muscles and muscles over bones. Not feeling particularly great at the time about my overgrown pedicure, this factual information quickly changed my negative perspective into a more positive one.
It reminded me that we do not give our bodies the credit and the respect that they deserve.
I am certainly guilty of this, and it is why I do not like transformation pictures. If I were to take a transformation picture of myself, I would stare at it and continue to desire more physical change. Focusing solely on the outside, I would struggle to give myself the credit that deep down I know I deserve.
What has become critical for me in my fitness journey is to remind myself that I am not in pursuit of a perfect before and after shot of my outward appearance. Rather I am constantly evaluating and redefining a fitness lifestyle focusing both on outer and inner health. I applaud everyone who finds a passion in healthy living and who works to honor the bodies God has given us. All I am trying to say is that, in the process of striving to better the outside, do not fail to tend to the inside. Do not focus so much on creating a perfect outside that you forget to honor your courageous inside.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Hi everyone, my name is Katie Matthews! I live in Cincinnati and am the Director of Campus Ministry at St. Mary's Church working with the college students at Miami University in Oxford. Fr. H.Paul Kim first introduced me to his idea of the Living Person in 2010 when he encouraged me to do two things: pray and run. Since then I've fallen in love with this concept and challenged myself in a variety of ways. I most enjoy swimming, running, yoga, laughing obnoxiously loud, dancing, and all aspects of Ignatian Spirituality.