We are all born unique and different and as part of our #BeYourself campaign we are highlighting various members across the LGBT+ community who inspire us to be ourselves, express our uniqueness and encourage self love and acceptance. Paddy is a qualified Personal Trainer based in Dublin and was the runner up in ITVs “The Biggest Loser UK”, He writes below about being Body proud and influences in society that deter us from being body proud.
As I stood looking through the weekly magazines in the newsagents during the week – one thing struck me, one thing which was consistently present through both womens & mens magazines, that one thing? A false representation of what real life bodies are, A false representation of what must be done to achieve a healthier body, A false representation – that if you are curvy (or a celeb is curvy) that then they have somehow failed, or fallen off the wagon.
We are constantly – day in, day out – bombarded with images of men with ripped abs and pecs of steel, bombarded with pictures of women who look like they live their lives on a constant lettuce and dust diet.
And you know what, I’m sick of it. I’m so sick of the media making people feel bad, feel inferior to others, feel as though they are abnormal – when infact, they are very very much normal.
Today, we live in a society whereby an increasingly high number of our population are overweight. Many countries like Ireland are on the brink of an obesity epidemic, which is ironic given the surge in fitness industry also. Yet, even when the “normal person” (what even is a normal person!) is more than likely a little bit curvy and a little bit out of shape – the media persist with presenting stick insects as the norm – and the image of what should be achieved fitness wise for both men & women.
Well, Fuck that.
There is a huge difference between being ripped with abs, and being healthy – in fact I would confidently say that those people who have the abs, (male & female) suffer just as bad, if not worse – with eating disorders, and obsessive behaviours around fitness – than those people who are overweight. Counting every last macro, every last gram, every last rep…. that, is just not healthy either. What is healthy? Well – this is subjective to every person all I can do here is give my personal opinion – with the knowledge I have also of being a qualified fitness professional.
Healthy, is about balance, healthy is about a body that is … fit for purpose, a body that isn’t ill. Healthy is about, fuelling your body with the right nutrition. Healthy is about having a confident and accepting mind-set towards yourself.
A quick search of the front of female magazines, showing how diets & bodies are constantly front page news….
And similarly for men, not a single dad bod in sight…
When looking though Instagram in particular, one look at the #FitFam hashtag and you will be blinded by people who picture after picture all they show are abs, muscles and probably a high percentage of sponsored content from their affiliates. What ever happened to online fitness people actually wanting to give out advice, support and information to people they engage with. Sadly, when a lot of people reach a point of being known as a fitness influencer all they seem to care about, is themselves. I understand they have to make a living in a lot of cases from their career but putting up nothing but pictures of your abs – and saying you feel fat at 10% body fat is utter shite. How on earth is that promoting a healthy body image for the average guy who is sitting with love handles, mini moobs and enjoys the few beers at the weekend. How is posting a pic of you in your skin tight half see through leggings and bra meant to educate those women who follow you.
No, in my opinion all this does is reinforce something that may be slightly aspirational for some people – but for so many others, it reinforces the idea that they are somewhat less inferior. (Which by the way they aren’t).
Now, there are some utterly fantastic fitness / fat loss people whom I engage with online and will often mention. People who openly share just how bloody difficult it is to lose fat, build muscle… just how hard it is to be positive every day and to eat right and to live up to expectations. To me, these are the people who I admire. They are real.
Last week I seen a post by a lady whom previously used to attend one of my classes – this lady was very open and honest about how challenging a year 2016 was for her, and shared a body picture about how physically her body had changed by 4 stone though being in a negative place. To me, this lady is so much more inspirational that ANY of the online FitFam Hunz who stick their asses in front of the camera day in day out. This lady is real, she is relatable, she is honest – its people like this that the media should be celebrating – REAL women. I admired so much the honesty, the rawness, the willingness to share and be open – I genuinely found it so so inspirational and touching. No mention of brands, of shakes, or this or that sponsored crap – just a stunning lady, opening her heart and soul to the world, sharing what a real women looks like. I honestly cannot applaud you enough “M” you are simply awesome and wonderful.
So, to myself – I don’t like my body. Even at my lightest I wasn’t happy with it – I had fat here and there, I had moobs (WHOPPERS of moobs), I had love handles still. Even after losing so much weight back then I still didn’t feel comfortable with my top off. I remember my first sun holiday after my weight loss, I sat by the edge of the pool with my t-shirt on – teary eyed at the thought of having to show my body off. Even now, writing this, I feel embarrassed.
You see, the weight you are – does not determine the overall sense of happiness you will have in your mind. To this end, what I have learned over the years is that – the body you have today, right now, is the body you need to become confident with. Yes, you may need to work on your health and fitness to reduce your weight – however this shouldn’t be simply to look better, as you have NO idea who you will really feel when you achieve X weight.
If you take anything from this blog, please let it be this. Follow people who make you feel good. People who don’t make you feel guilty or bad, but instead inspire you. Follow people who you can relate to, people who don’t have egos.
As I mentioned earlier, I have never – at any weight been completely comfortable with my body. Over my last few Blogs I have discussed my challenges with weight gain, the shame and embarrassment I felt because I regained weight. I’ve openly discussed before how I’ve felt as a failure for suffering from binge eating and failing to “practice what I preach”.
I am human, I am determined, I work each week to try and improve myself though better eating, through exercise, and possibly most importantly – through focusing on creating daily positive thoughts about myself and my achievements. I’ve started unfollowing a lot of fitness accounts / people online – as they are relatable to me, they are full of shit, they don’t offer anything to make me feel good and to inspire me. I wont ever have a 6 pack, I have zero interest in having one either!!! What I do want – is to feel comfortable in my own skin.
Over the past year I’ve worked so hard mentally to accept myself physically, as I said last week – I am where I am, I need to accept it – and use this as my foundation for moving forward. I can’t change it overnight, I can’t suddenly undo the bad habits, but I can step by step learn to accept myself more.
Regardless of where you are in your weight loss journey, if you are not accepting yourself right now – today, then I fear you are doing yourself an injustice and simply going through the motions of what you think other people expect you to be doing to improve things. Just because a weight may be going down, does not mean you are making progress in all the areas needed. Remember, mental health is crucial and to me is the most important part of any fitness journey. People need to be supported to Be Body Proud – right now in their own skin. Be Body Proud, whilst it is tough – the skin you are in is YOUR skin.
I look at my body, and I am still not 100% accepting of it – however I completely understand that I am where I am – and whilst I have a lot of work to do – I feel it’s important to reinforce a REAL image of life. A REAL image of what Being Body Proud is about – accepting who you are, and accepting that although you have work to do – you are still an amazingly wonderful person loved by so many people.
So, Kim Kardashian broke the internet with her half naked antics – I fear I may break your eyes, but I have been so fortunate to have the support of so many people online that I feel it’s important I continue to share the realities of life, the realities of the struggles we all face as we try to maintain or lose weight.
I feel it’s important to accept that I too am working on being Body Proud.
I am Paddy, I have love handles, I have a belly, I have curves in places I probably shouldn’t … but you know what – that has absolutely nothing to do with my worth as a person, a friend, a fiancé, a son, a brother…
I am Paddy, yes I am overweight, but I am working to improve myself daily – like so many other wonderful amazing people, so many single dads, stay at home mums, people who are working two jobs and trying to improve themselves, students who are living on a budget – these and so many others are the people we should be celebrating.
Here I am. This is me. You can’t change your skin, but you can change your mind-set.
Be Body Proud.
For more on Paddy check out his blog: projectpaddy.com