I have had a few professional careers in my short three decades of life, so what am I doing here, running The Alley Gym?
In a past life, I was a middle school Special Education teacher. Middle school is notoriously tough for everyone, but after spending thousands of hours with pre-teens, I saw that the added pressures of social media add a whole new level of complexity that a maturing brain is not prepared to cope with. This is in addition to the already-difficult-to-deal-with hormonal changes and bodies that are developing and changing before their eyes. These changing bodies and hormones create all sorts of new social dynamics, which are hugely compounded with the explosion of FaceBook, Instagram, Snapchat, and a dozen other apps that I am not cool enough to know about. From a female perspective, many of us are already headed into life at a deficit because we are taught to believe that women should be quiet, submissive, and pretty. A recipe for chaos. On top of all the mental demands of the teenage years, many of my students had no idea how to physically treat their bodies. They survived on neon red fried snacks and beige school lunches. There was little emphasis on physical movement or strength, the importance of sleep, or how to fuel their bodies with food. I know from experience that it is pretty difficult to exist in a balanced mindset when your physical body is revolting. Our physical and mental health are tied together; one cannot fully exist without the other. My sweet students didn't have to knowledge to address either issue.
After I left teaching to attend the Institute of Integrative Nutrition for Health Coaching, I became pregnant with a child of my very own. All the despair that I saw in my students hit way too close to home once I realized that I would be raising my own future middle schooler.
Children these days are constantly bombarded with negative and unrealistic messages about their bodies from movies, TV, social media, and peers. Now that I have my own daughter to protect from these messages, I realize that while it would be nice to move to a deserted island to shield them from the madness, that just isn't the answer. What we CAN do it provide a strong example of what it looks like to love our bodies, respect ourselves, and enjoy healthy food and exercise because it feels good. If children see that this is possible from their first and most influential role model, they are far better prepared to face the obstacles that come their way in the future.
In my own quest to become my best self, I realized how much predatory bullshit is out there aimed at mothers. It's not just children who are vulnerable to these messages. It is women like you and me that are still taught that we must "get out bodies back" after having a baby. We must look a certain way. Act a certain way. Exercise like this and eat that. But the truth is, we are already perfectly whole beings. Our bodies are capable of beautiful and amazing things that are completely unrelated to our appearance. As long as we believe that we need to be "fixed," then that is the message that we will pass on to the next generation perpetuating the same body image issues and disconnect from ourselves that we learned as children.
Whatever dreams you have for your children, you must first model yourself.
That is why I do what I do.