I have a confession to make that might get me into some trouble. Alas, in the name of female empowerment, and in the interest of transparency, here goes…
I’m not particularly fond of my legs.
For as long as I can remember, these gams have had a gargantuan nickname. I’ve run the gamut from Thunder Thighs to Quadzilla, and while I do embrace my body as a whole, and love it so completely–my legs wouldn’t be something I’d pick out as my favorite. In fact, while most people tend to look at abs as a marker of physical progress, legs are what I look at on other women when admiring their physiques.
When asked about what I like best about my body, I’ll usually say my shoulders (my softball nickname was “delts of doom” for good reason) or my back. Those are the parts that I am comfortable showing off, the parts that are never the cause of anxiety or lamentation.
My legs, however, are another story. Oh, legs…what a tortuous affair we’ve had.
Don’t get me wrong, I adore their strength and muscularity. I love that I can squat 200 pounds and deadlift 300. I relish how fast I can sprint (especially for a hobbit-sized girl), and how I make standing yoga poses my bitch. These babies are built for performance, there’s no doubt about that. Aesthetically though, I spent years hiding them as I was self conscious of their girth.
Shorts?! Eff no. That was not something my wardrobe consisted of.
These days, although I wear my Quadzilla badge-and cut off shorts-with genuine pride, I’m still not the biggest fan of my legs. When I gain fat, that’s where it goes, and oftentimes that means the difference between jeans fitting snuggly, or failing to fit at all.
So, when people compliment my gams I am sincerely taken aback.
I want my legs to look like yours
When I’m not lifting in my garage, I’m working out at Gold’s Gym in Venice–the mecca of bodybuilding. To say the gym is pervasive with human specimens would be an egregious understatement. It truly is a site to see. This is part of the reason I workout at Gold’s: the environment is inspiring. Being around so many physical specimens is invigorating and motivating; it makes me want to train more diligently than I already do–which is saying something.
While I enjoy being around people, and generally thrive socially, I am, by all accounts, an introvert. Which is why I always-and I do mean always-wear headphones at the gym. Being around people is enough for me, but talking to them is another story. So, when I was recently tapped on the shoulder by a fellow gym goer, I was reluctant to remove to my headphones and engage.
Social interaction is sometimes difficult for me, but I’ve been making more of an effort to open up lately. So I relented, removed my security blanket, and was confronted with an unexpected question from a tall, muscular dude:
“How many days a week do you train legs? Because I want my legs to look like yours.”
QUADZILLA STRIKES AGAIN!
There were also several follow up questions about exercises and rep schemes, to which I answered “it depends,” “heavy,” and “I train my legs every time I train.”
I’m not sure if my advice was helpful to him at all, or if he really even intended on putting it to use. But what I am sure of is how I felt when I walked out of the gym that day, as I hopped on my bike: utterly perplexed. I reflected on this interaction the entire ride home.
My legs? You want your legs to look like my legs? It was something I just couldn’t wrap my head around.
Alas, this led me to a realization that I believe is important to all of us: What we see in the mirror is often not what the rest of the world sees. You can characterize this as body dysmorphia, or simply attribute it to proximity bias—either way, there’s a disconnect between what we see and what everyone else sees.
As I mentioned, my legs are not my favorite—but the thing I get the most compliments on? You guessed it, my legs. Yet, I am so hard on myself and so absurdly self conscious of my legs, that I fail to see them the way others do.
Since coming to this seemingly obvious realization, I’ve made a conscious effort to give my lower body some much needed love. I challenge them more physically and show them off more often. While there is still sometimes a bit of hesitance to expose them, there’s also a growing pride and sense of acceptance.
It’s a process, of course, one that takes regular practice and often involves two steps forward and one step back. I don’t always gravitate immediately to the positive and sometimes I have to check myself. After all, I spent the better part of 30 years hating my legs, and change of this magnitude doesn’t happen overnight.
But all in all, I feel free. Free from self deprecation and undue apprehension, free from wardrobe limitations and fitting room frustration. And most of all, free from a life-long hatred of my own flesh.
After all, life is too short to be so damn hard on our bodies.
Do you have muscular legs that require you to buy the stretchiest jeans out there? Is your idea of fun a heavy squat sesh or brutal hill sprints? Chances are, you’re a quadzilla too. Let’s change the body image rhetoric and blow up social media with our #quadzilla pride! Be sure to follow me on Instagram, then post and tag me in your #quadzilla photos.