It was my first professional photo shoot. I’d done some informal shooting for other people’s sites and projects, but I’d never done a shoot just for me and my work.
The shoot took place in New York City at my friend Mark Fisher’s gym, just a few weeks before I relaunched my website as an online fitness professional. I had been coaching in person and blogging for years, but had just recently taken the leap into online coaching. And, because I didn’t feel as powerful in my skin as I do today, I felt a great deal of pressure to be “strong and small” in order to feel as though I had the right to show up in that space.
So, of course, I dieted hardcore in preparation, often times going to bed hungry and avoiding all social interaction. Essentially, I dedicated all of my time and energy towards being “photo shoot ready.” The shoot came and went and the website got launched. In the 5 years since, my life, my business, and my body have changed and evolved in a myriad ways.
For years after this initial shoot, I’d look back at the photos and yearn for that physique; it was the last time I was this “lean” and I’ve changed my physique a lot since then. Thankfully, I spent years healing my body image and learning to feel more powerful in my skin. Now, I’m at a place with my body where I don’t look at old photos and wish for a different physique, or judge myself in any way.
Rather, I find it incredibly fascinating how bodies can change based on how we choose to live. In looking through photos of my body over the years, I notice that it pretty much always reflected my lifestyle. Bodies are constantly changing, as they are living, breathing reflections of how we live, age, and evolve.
Today I can look at this picture and remember that during that time, my body looked like this completely as a result of my lifestyle—strict training, strict dieting, and lots of energy spent on my body. At the moment, that’s not a lifestyle I’m choosing, so my body is going to look different.
All of that is okay.
What I realize now is that all of the variations of Neg’s body over the years have been beautiful and perfect in their own right—from 115 pound Neg who had just joined the Air Force and ran 2 miles every day, to pregnant Neg weighing in at 171 the day Isaac was born.
Today, my body looks like someone who loves to lift, spend time in nature, drink wine, and eat tacos. It looks like someone who enjoys traveling without stressing out over food or spending hours at a local gym instead of exploring the city—someone who thinks it’s okay to take days off from the gym and eats a donut if she really wants one.
I can honestly say that I love that body because I love that life. None of that is permanent because bodies are always changing; if my body changes again, it will be because I choose to change my lifestyle in some way. And if I choose to do change that lifestyle, I stand in full confidence that I will do so for ME—not so that I can try unsuccessfully to fit into some arbitrary beauty standard, or because I think I need to look a certain way in order to show up and take up space.
Today, I love my body and I love my life. Tomorrow, I’ll keep doing the same. As my lifestyle changes, so too will my body, and all of that is just fine with me because my goal isn’t to fit into a box that society finds acceptable—it’s to live powerfully in my body so that I can show up in the world and share my voice.
For me, seeing my body from this perspective was incredibly liberating because it offered me unlimited options in how I choose to structure my life. I stopped seeing my body as “a work in progress” and started seeing my life as a total experience. I began asking myself, is this how I want to live? If not, is there something I can change?
But what it all came down to was whether or not I was living life in alignment with my values—were my fitness and nutrition endeavors adding value to my life, or detracting energy? Was I actually enjoying myself?
When we tailor our lifestyles to fit our needs, values, and desires, our bodies naturally follow suit—which opens up a dialogue that I think is hugely necessary right now.
“What’s more important to me: the way my body looks or how I’m experiencing my life?”
Let’s chew on that and see what comes up.