Hello, my name is Dominique. I am a certified personal trainer, group fitness instructor, and mother of two. I work out six days a week for at least 45 minutes each day and consider my diet healthy-adjacent (insert side-eye as I eat “brookies” whilst I type).
Despite my sometimes-questionable food choices, I consider myself healthy. Actually, I know I am healthy; the issue is that there are so many things telling me that I’m not, or even worse, that I am “at risk.” For instance, when I type my numbers into a BMI calculator, OVERWEIGHT is the message I receive. Me, the girl who has been an athlete and proud tomboy all of my life, am apparently overweight and at risk for health-related diseases. If your BS-ometer is not going off, mine is ringing loudly for you and every girl who has ever felt belittled, made to feel as if she was not enough, or judged by this archetype of fitness.
As a self-proclaimed lover of all things competitive, there are not many sports I don’t enjoy and not many physical activities I haven’t tried. My first instance of body-shaming came when I joined my high school dance team. I was told I should use the summer to try to lose some weight around my midsection. I “tried” for about a day, but my healthy appetite and Caribbean heritage determined that it just wouldn’t happen. I worked at a patty shop and was not going to turn down oxtail or a beef patty with coco bread to fit anyone’s archetype of what a dancer should look like. I decided that they would just have to deal with whatever jiggle I gave them, and it worked for me.
The second notable instance occurred in my freshman year of college. At this point, I was 166 lbs. and nicknamed “Tha Woman,” said in a New Orleans accent, because of how “grown” I looked coming in as a freshman. Being a competitive cheerleader, cheerleader for football and basketball seasons, and a member of my freshman step team kept me very physically active. My knees were causing me terrible pain often waking me up at night and would lock up on me on long rides to away games. I had to see the athletic trainer for the football team and after a short exam, instead of any kind of physical therapy, he determined that I should lose weight to try to lessen the strain on my knee. After a not-so-subtle eye roll, I thanked him for his time and completely ignored what he said.
I, however, am extremely lucky. I had a mother that, day in and day out, reinforced in me my worth and my beauty. I had mentors and friends who did the same. I have always (read: mostly) taken pride in the way I look and have allowed these instances to roll off my back. However, that doesn’t mean they did not taint my experiences. It does not mean that I don’t grow weary of the constant onslaught of images portraying “fit” and “beauty” with women who either look like they eat air and berries while working out all day or women who don’t have a muscle in sight. And I say that not to judge women who look like that because they are beautiful, too, but to point out the lack of inclusivity in the way we identify what “fit and beautiful” is and looks like. The standards by which we view ourselves and measure ourselves are archaic at best, and though I am generally unbothered, I empathize with people who are negatively impacted by it. I grow even more concerned when I think about the messaging that people who don’t look as “fit” as me receive and what that does to their confidence, their ability to feel loved and accepted, and their drive to continuously improve themselves in a healthy and meaningful way.
I am dedicated to continuing to challenge everyone to be more body positive by pushing the fitness industry in the direction of love and acceptance for all body types. We can all play a role in making a more inclusive future for our loved ones. Genuinely compliment a stranger on their strength and beauty. Remind your sons and daughters that those models may be touched up and Photoshopped and that their own beauty radiates in ways that could never be captured in a mere picture. Model body positivity and healthy decision making from a standpoint of overall health and wellness and how you feel versus how you look. In the largest and smallest ways, consistently reaffirm your own beauty and the beauty and strength in others. Remind yourself of what you are “fit enough” to do.