By Annie Mulgrew, Program Director at CITYROW
I’ve been body-focused for as long as I can remember. This is not to be confused with self-conscious, although I have certainly succumbed to my own fair share of that weakness. The human body has simply fascinated me: this intelligently designed system, the way it works, and more often than not, the way it doesn’t work (at least not how we want it to).
It is not surprising, then, that I ended up in a body-focused industry. As a yoga teacher, fitness instructor, and program director, my job primarily involves looking at, analyzing, changing, fixing, and studying bodies, including my own. Yet despite my training, my knowledge, and my professionalism, it is still all too easy to make comparisons and be seduced by the desire to look a certain way.
I was at a bachelorette party recently, and one of the girls showed me an app that can alter photos for social media. Going beyond adding a flattering filter, this app allows you to tighten your waist, increase your ass mass, and even shave off the underside of your arms. I’ll be honest, my initial thought wasn’t “That’s insane!” It was actually, “How am I just now finding out about this? I need that!” I have since come to my senses.
Listen, I truly hate posting photos of myself on social media. But, I don’t hate myself. And, I definitely don’t hate my body. I love it. However, just like any great love affair, my love for my body is not without its ups and downs, its break-ups and make-ups, its frustrations and adorations. My relationship with my body is tested regularly, consciously and subconsciously, vocally and in silent. On my best days, though, this is how I feel about my body and how I sustain a healthy and committed connection to it.
When the body is supported naturally, holistically, and wholeheartedly, it aesthetically looks better. It is more attractive because it radiates. Watch a troop of dancers moving in perfect harmony and rhythm. See a crew team rowing perfectly in sync in their movements and breaths. Witness an assembly line as workers’ hands contribute a specific part to the overall whole, quickly, consciously, and without hesitation. These are systems that are functioning properly. These systems are beauty in action.
Form follows function. When you train, treat, and respect the body properly, the pieces fall into place. You move better. You breathe better. You sleep better. You communicate better. You look better. Did you get a haircut? No, I got eight hours of sleep last night. Did you lose weight? No, I spent a night out reminiscing about high school with my best friends. Oh, and we got dessert.
The body does not just metabolize the food and nutrients it takes in. It must also metabolize the moments, emotions, people, places, and things, the positives and the negatives that it experiences. So, yes while it may work overtime to metabolize that ‘just one more round’, it also metabolizes the love, support, and the big fat exhale we get when surrounded by good, true, honest friends.
I don’t eat a lot of dairy because I don’t feel good when I eat dairy. I don’t feel good because it bloats my stomach. I don’t look good because I can’t fit into my favorite pants.
I do drink wine. I feel good when I drink wine because it helps me relax. It allows me to enjoy life at a slower pace. I look good when I drink wine because I am happy. (And usually I am drinking wine at a bar and bars typically have low lighting and low lighting makes everyone look better.)
I know that I feel my best when my body is working properly. I feel my best when I am eating a diet that decreases inflammation and supports my fickle digestive system (read: less bloat, flatter tummy). I feel my best when this complex machine that has been so generously loaned to me is able to rest thoroughly and rejuvenate at night (read: no bags under my eyes). I feel my best when I am drinking enough water (read: whiter eyes and shinier hair). I feel my best when breathing freely and without hesitation through all the cells of my being (read: brighter complexion and supple skin). I feel my best when I see clearly, when I think creatively, and when I respond and react to all the ups and downs of life thoughtfully (read: I have a smile on my face).
If how you think you look in jeans holds you back from going out dancing with your lover, then make different choices so that you can. Practice self discipline, stop eating fries, and pick up heavier weights at the gym until those pants fit the way you want them to. Aesthetics can absolutely motivate you. But, and this is a big BUT, it cannot sustain you. Set up short-term goals for yourself but understand that there is no quick fix. (By the way, your lover probably loves the way you look in those jeans. Perhaps you should listen when s/he tells you so.)
But, please, be realistic. That chick who is insta famous “fit”? You’re probably never going to look like her (remember that app I told you about? She has it). And guess what? I probably never will either. I don’t live my life in a way that supports a constant six-pack or body fat percentage of 8%. I live my life in a way that supports how I need to look to feel good in my jeans, not her jeans.
Sometimes I feel like taking my shirt off. Sometimes I don’t. I am conscious of my diet because I do want my body to function in a certain way. I am committed to my yoga practice because I want my body to move in a certain way. I am concerned with my exercise routine because I want my body to be supported in a certain way. Be concerned with your bod, how you use it, treat it, train it, love it, and support it. Feeling good looks good.
But, when, all else fails, get a spray tan. Because, let’s be honest, that makes everyone look better.
Annie Mulgrew is the Program Director at CITYROW. This tiny powerhouse rows hard, lifts heavy, and kicks ass day in, and day out. In the two and a half years since CITYROW opened, Annie has redefined rowing for New York’s fitness obsessed — she took what had been a male-dominated, collegiate sport, and turned it into one of the hottest workouts in boutique fitness. Annie is regarded as a nationwide expert, with her workouts regularly featured in Cosmopolitan, SHAPE, SELF, Men’s Journal, and more. When she’s not rowing, Annie is a dedicated and certified yogi, an ardent supporter of Notre Dame football and the Tennessee Titans, and a pizza fanatic who never turns down a vodka rocks.