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I’m a competitive athlete and even I get body shamed

I had the privilege of being in the middle of a really interesting interaction with a bikini competitor, a powerlifter and a figure competitor about body shapes the other day. All three of us work our tails off in the gym to reach our goals. Despite our varied goals and builds, we all lift heavy, sweat hard and eat well to achieve our respected physiques.

You know what else we had in common?

We had all been accused of being “too much” of something at some time: too big, too small, too curvy, too boxy, too lean, too thick or too much of something. After we got past the initial sting of it, we all basically had the same attitude about it: “I would rather be a strong badass than worry about other people’s opinions. Pass me the peanut butter.”

The conversation got me thinking about “shapes.” What defines a body shape? We have all heard the words ectomorph, mesomorph and endomorph thrown around. People often categorize body types by fruit: pear, apple or banana. Then, there is the geometric approach: triangle, oval, diamond, double diamond — or hourglass — and, of course, round.

Whether you are a fruit or a polygon or any type of “-morph,” it doesn’t matter. You know why? Those shapes are faceless, heartless and inhuman. None of these classifications are people.

Real people love, smile, hug, eat, sleep and feel. We can give and receive, suffer and soothe, love and let go, lose and win. We can and we do because we are people, not bananas or apples, or triangles or ovals. There is so much more to us than a simple shape.

For competitive athletes, the concept of body shape — as well as things like bone structure, muscle density, appendage length and stature — can make or break us. Do you know how I was persuaded to start competing? Someone told me my clavicle was perfect for it. That’s how minute differences in our bodies can define our success in our chosen competitions.

Despite the fact that all three of us had found success in our given sport — with completely different shapes — there was body shaming dished out to all of us. How is that even possible? How is it possible that three different women with three very different builds all endured body shaming? There really is no way to win is there? The more I thought about it, the more I had to discover.

A simple Google search of female athletes brought the likes of pros including Ronda Rousey, Serena Williams and Elena Delle Donne to my screen. I immediately did a hard fist pump in the air. Yes! This is what I’m talking about: beautiful, strong, classy women of completely different shapes and physiques.

Do you think any of these women care when someone tells them that they are too big, too small, too curvy, too boxy, too lean, too thick or too much of anything? No, not even for a minute because they are owning the hell out of their unique and beautiful bodies. They are all winning — every damn day.

Learn from the pros. Don’t let anyone, including yourself, make you feel you are too boxy or lean or curvy or thick or tall or short or imperfect in any way. Find things to love about your body and rock it! Find ways to develop your body, nurture it and make it healthy. Don’t minimize yourself to a type or a shape or a stupid fruit.

Whatever your build is, enjoy it, love it and treat it right. Lift heavy things, sweat, eat well and love your life. For God’s sake, don’t ever let anyone tell you that your body is too much or too little of something! Become who you want to be and own it. That’s how you beat body shamers. That is how we win.

Mandy Skinner is the author of the Soccer Mom with Muscles blog, as well as the book PB&J and Push-Ups: The Busy Mom’s Simple Guide to Diet and Fitness. Mandy is the proud mom of two, Sean and Sarah, as well as a personal trainer and nutrition coach devoted to living healthy and happy. In addition to her athletic endeavors, Mandy is a constant advocate of healthy and active living.

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