How I Learned to Accept (and Love) My Muscular Body

Trends come and go—this is a certainty. Seasonal colors in clothes, fad diets, even haircuts are all pulled into the current of popularity and what may or may not elevate a person’s desirability. But when it comes to your health, do you want to be part of a trend built on someone else’s thought process instead of your own?

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve felt pressure from the “thin is in” trend and, further, the negative connotations that surround a women with a strong, muscular look. What occurred to me, though, is that my desire to “fit in” was so much further outweighed by my desire to discover how to do things in a healthy way—especially when it came to my body image.

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I began to think through a list of pros and cons of honoring my shape and structure versus trying to push my body in a different direction. Some women are naturally built thinner, smaller. That’s their genetic predisposition and, for them, being thin isn’t unhealthy but rather their body’s equilibrium. The difference is when someone who’s not built that way comprises their health and what their “ideal body image” is in order to achieve it.

If I were to back off on working out or cut nourishing carbohydrates and proteins, sure, I would shrink in the short term but I began to think of the long-term effects of those choices. My bone and muscle tissue would be less and less resilient. My metabolism would slow down to a crawl. My energy and productivity would be highly reduced, and when that goes for me my confidence goes with it.

My hair and skin would lose their luster. My ability to be as strong in my life as I am now would be greatly altered—and I’m not talking at the gym. Helping a friend move, getting my luggage down from the overhead compartment, even pushing two tables together at dinner—all of these everyday, “being in life” functions would be compromised.

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The decline in some of these areas are a slow change, but I want to be capable and self-sufficient well into my ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s and believe it or not, that decision begins now. And what, give up my quality of life just to be less muscular? Who decided this was a bad thing? Who chose this trend?

Being muscular can take on many forms, from the lengthened look of Pilates, to dense leg muscle that cycling builds, to the chiseled bellies of a body builder. All are muscular, all are a reflection of what your incredible body was built to do. Strong is in. Healthy is in. YOU are what’s in. The effects on your physical and mental well-being will be dramatic whichever direction you choose. Be a part of this decision.

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jen-widerstrom-profile Jen Widerstrom, a trainer on The Biggest Loser, has a holistic approach to health and wellness that incorporates nutrition, fitness, and mental well-being. Check out her Health cover story, Jen Widerstrom’s Shape-Up Secrets. She’ll be taking over the @HealthMagazine Instagram account on Wednesday, January 14. Follow along at #JenWiderstromforHealth.

Photo: James White
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