I’ve been inspired to share more about the progress I’m making with improving my body image. Let’s first start with what inspired me to write this new blog post. I posted  this on my Facebook feed on Tuesday: 

“I’ve been a fan of Project Runway since its inception. After all, my roots are in the fashion industry.

This season is impressing the hell out of me, though. They now have models of all sizes, shapes, and colors because…that’s reality, people!

Bravo to whoever made this decision!! It’s a bold move in an industry that is traditionally ALL about how you look and what size you are, measured against an unrealistic “standard” that someone set way back when. We ARE making progress!”

I worked in the fashion industry for 20+ years before becoming a kettlebell coach! Making progress in body positivity in that industry is so important to me because working in that industry directly contributed to my issues with poor body image.

At my last job in the biz, one of my responsibilities was to be a fit model. I wasn’t asked to do this job but I fit the part, quite literally, as their sample size S.

At first, it was fun having a break in my day just to try on new clothes. It was like getting paid to go shopping. Until it wasn’t fun anymore. Especially if I put on a few pounds. Especially if something didn’t fit well.

No matter what, I needed to come out of that dressing room and have a group of people scrutinize how this garment was made and how it fit. Even that time when I felt completely uncomfortable and self-conscious about the too-tight crop top and skirt that created a major muffin top. (Yep, still remember that very clearly!)   

The worst thing for a clothing company is to have an ill-fitting garment and/or inconsistency in sizing from one season to another. Companies need consistency in their brand, even if it means someone who’s really a size S needs to buy a size L in a particular brand. (not saying that’s right, just saying it’s the reality in this biz) Fittings are an important and integral part of the manufacturing process and to this day, when I put on something that fits really oddly, I question if the company ever looked at the garment on a live human.

But all of that meant that my body was scrutinized in the process of doing fittings. If I gained so much as 1/2” in any body part, it could affect the fit of a garment and it never went unnoticed! I’d also have to listen to all of the reminders about how my body didn’t stack up to this “standard” that someone developed who knows when. (a LONG time ago!)

“Remember, Shari has short arms.”

“Don’t forget, Shari is broad in the rib cage.”

“Shari’s shoulders are more like a size 12.”

“Shari’s inseam is 2” shorter than our standard.”

I seriously could go on. Don’t even get me started on the comments I heard once I started gaining muscle!

Now to their credit, these things weren’t meant as a personal attack. It was what we needed to do in order to do our jobs well. I do know that. And when it came to fit, we did our jobs pretty darn well. We looked at everything on 2 completely different body types; “real people” who both fit the sample size. 

BUT as someone with a history of pre-existing body image issues, I did not receive those comments without judgment. For someone with this history, you can only hear those kinds of things so many times before it starts to get in your head that your body is seriously flawed!

I really came to hate those fittings with a passion. I tried to get out of doing fittings, so many times. But when you’re one of just a few people who fit that “standard” pretty well, there is no getting out of it unless you’re on vacation or unless you leave.

I never fully articulated WHY I hated the fittings so much because at that time I wasn’t fully aware of and in tune with my body image issues.  These kinds of things weren’t being talked about much at that time. 

It was only after I left the industry and started working on improving my body image that I realized the impact these fittings had on me. It was only then that I realized how common it is for people to have body image issues.

This is a big part of why I am so passionate about the movement to end body shaming and to improve body image, and why having it happen on a platform as large and as popular as a long-standing show about fashion is a large step forwards.

There is beauty in people being made in all shapes, sizes, and colors. And the world would be pretty boring if we were all carbon copies of each other, don’tcha think? 

I’ve done a lot of personal work to improve my body image over the years. I’m also working on discovering  and expressing my authentic self as a part of this, or as an extension of this. Speaking out about my own struggles with body image is just one way I do that. If I can inspire and/or help just one person, then it’s worth it. 

Photos have been one tool I’ve used to help myself with this because I’ve realized that seeing myself in photos helps me see how others see me. Not that I really care how others see me, but it puts me outside of myself. I see myself from the outside in, which helps put things into a different perspective than just what I see when I look in the mirror. Photos somehow help me see me in my true light.  

As I was looking at some past photo shoots, I realized that while they were good photos, they were all very posed, serious, business-like shots…because I thought they had to be. As I dig into expressing my authentic self and taking up space in my life and my business, I decided I wanted to capture more of the real me. I wanted people to see my personality, including my playful and silly sides.

I normally would be very concerned with being a certain weight or dieting before the photo shoot. But for this one, I wanted to just let loose, have fun and be authentically me. I didn’t care how much I had worked out in months prior, how much I weighed at the time, or how I thought I might look on camera. I just wanted to be me. 

Mission accomplished…and boy did we have fun! Strangers in the park even noticed and commented. My fabulous photographer nabbed this one while I was poking fun at myself over my bike short tan lines, on a body part that I’ve previously wanted to hide.