Saturday, September 7, 2013

Stretch Marks: Scars of Life

As a woman and trainer, I struggle with one of the same issues that many other women struggle with - body image. As a trainer, sometimes (not always) people expect us to have a perfect diet, to be fitness model material or to have always made fitness and health a priority. The longer I work in this industry, the more I realize it encompasses a WIDE variety of people. Some trainers fit the category above and are very disciplined, and some have strayed so far from a healthy lifestyle that they found themselves in a dark place and luckily got themselves out and are trying to help others do the same.

I tend to fall somewhere in the middle and can't help but have my moments of insecurities. Over these past few years, I've come to a very important time in my life where I am beginning to finally see my imperfections not as imperfections but as representations of the scars of life. Scars don't always just represent pain, they represent stories. Many of us have physical scars that showcase events that happened in our lives that all have meaning, and even if they were painful to receive, self-inflicted or not, something good usually came from those scars in the end. Whether it be a lesson learned, a chance to forgive or a sacrifice for a loved one, scars by definition heal and we have the choice to rejoice in that healing or dwell in the pain longer. Sometimes sadly it is the emotional scars left behind that take longer to heal.

This was one of the first bathing suit seasons that I was not afraid for others to see my stretch marks. I have had three children, nursed for five straight years and had gained and lost a lot of weight (post-pregnancy) to the point of reaching a size 18. Other scars that I look at on my body and remember were ones that resulted from severe depression and stupid decisions as a teenager. These scars on my body represent who I am. When I look at my children, I remember that sometimes in life we have to sacrifice our bodies (and breasts in my case) and what others may think of us for the ones we love. When I see my stretch marks and scars, I remember being in the dark places of life and feeling out of control with food and depression. I remember what it felt like to hate myself and how much I never want to go back there again.

There is a woman I've watched workout for over a year now and she has lost literally hundreds of pounds over the past few years. She carries a lot of excess skin and it shows that she used to be very, very overweight. Many people I know in situations like her's hate the excess skin that they carry and I believe that is really a normal and acceptable feeling to have. I know I was not as overweight as some, but I believe some of the reasons people in this situation want that skin to disappear is because they have worked so hard to lose so much weight and they feel inadequate because they are comparing themselves to someone else's version of fit, or possibly because that skin represents years of unhealthy decisions for a variety of reasons and it is possibly embarrassing or too revealing of their past. Or possibly the stretch marks or excess skin are reminders of painful experiences that led to their weight gain to begin with.

Whatever the reasons are, I believe at some point we all have to accept the decisions we made in the past and learn to forgive and love ourselves for who we are today - scars, stretch marks and all. They represent who you are, the sacrifices you've made and the lessons you've learned. Good and bad. And that's okay. I don't know if the woman I mentioned above is self-conscious of the way she looks or not, but I do know that she has inspired a LOT of people into making and sticking to good changes in their lives because we saw what she accomplished. It took her years, but she did it even at an older age! I know I've said many times to myself, "if she can do it, so can I." And I never would have known if I didn't see her imperfections. She became so much more stronger, beautiful and inspiring to me because she was a REAL person who was not afraid to be vulnerable and let us see her imperfections.