I’ve been trying to write this post for a few years, and I may still re-write it, but last week, my sisters in sport over at Oiselle started this thread on Twitter broke my heart to the point of wanting to express something. It all started with this:

That turned into a snowball of responses from women who were directly, or inadvertently, body shamed as a child – many still carry these demons, many wonder if they’ll ever be good enough, if their bodies are capable, if their bodies are WORTHY of love, attention, or if they’ll ever look and feel perfect.

And no one is safe, professional athletes feel body shaming ALL THE TIME (in both the “too skinny” and “too big” directions):

But it really affects people like me and you:

As someone who struggles with self image (yup, I’m putting it out there – I sometimes have issues with what I see in the mirror and what I hear from people around me), body comments, comparisons, and all other forms of “be like this, not like that” drives a little stake into my soul every time I’m exposed to it. Women (and even men) are constantly exposed to images and language of what their bodies SHOULD be instead of positive affirmation for what their bodies ARE. And while body shaming and unrealistic images are NOT the same thing, they play into the same feelings of body inadequacy.

To me, before/after images can exacerbate self-image issues and my gym will never post them.

This gym doesn’t highlight successful weight loss stories, before/after images, or any tips to lose weight, look good for bikini season, etc. What we DO share are successes that never happened before – a first 10k, first double under, heavier kettlebell swing, magnificent form, and the amazing ability to improve as an athlete. THOSE are the successes that bond us together and drive us forward as a team, and we’re focused on team in here.

Now this is not to say that before/after images is body shaming. It’s not – body shaming is a form of bullying – but these images are a marketing tactic that gyms use to make you feel think, “maybe you should do better” – which plays right into body insecurity.

I will never care how much you weigh – I know as a gym owner this is one of the dumbest things I can say – weight loss is a multi BILLION DOLLAR INDUSTRY for a reason, it’s a huge seller to people in need of change, but I never want you to feel like you’re not worthy because you didn’t lose as much weight as Joe or Jane, I don’t want you to feel minimized because you’re not built like HER, I don’t want you to stop coming because you didn’t hit an arbitrary number on a scale. If you do need help, I want you to see a professional dietician, not a gym owner.

And as a gym owner, I know the story doesn’t stop with an “after” photo. The after is not an ending point, and if we treat it as such, then we’re not respecting fitness as a lifelong journey. And I want fitness to be part of your weekly routine, and that it’s something you look forward to, not something you HAVE TO DO if you want to lose weight.

You are so much more than all of numbers on a scale, the before/after picture, and the shaming you may have experienced…I want you know that when you workout at any Alaris program that you are measured by your effort you give on that day, and nothing else.

Together, we can create a more body positive world. Your body is awesome for what it’s capable of, and I want us to keep celebrating THAT.

PS: You can check out the #TheySaid hashtag on Twitter….but be warned, it really may hit you at your core, but if you want to share, it’s a safe space to do so.