Monday, May 23, 2011


Summer is almost here and with that highlights body image issues for every female.  Why do we worry about our bodies so much- how they look, jiggle, move, jump, plump, flop or lift?  When eating healthy diets and exercising daily, why do we stress if our bodies can't fight gravity the way we want them to?  Where do these insecurities come from, and how can we help our daughters avoid them?

When we lived in LA, we had a blast but knew that it wasn't where we wanted to raise our daughter.  When Makenzie was born, we picked 5 cities to move to by the time she was to be 5 years old. We beat that timing and moved to Portland, a city of incredible body acceptance, when Makenzie was shy of 4 months old.  The move was significant in Makenzie's first years of life, and my months being postnatal and getting stronger again.  In LA when pregnant, I felt ginormous. I was in the fitness industry, and while active I can vividly remember some gentleman with beer bellies at the club I worked at, asking if I was having twins.  Exactly what a 5'1" 28 year old wants to hear, especially when she is surrounded by tall soap stars and "stars in their own mind" LA peeps every day.  Even being active, we knew it wasn't the healthiest place for us to raise a daughter.  And having had an eating disorder in Junior High and High School, if we could prevent any external pressures on body image for our kid, I was determined we would.

Thus Portland- it was great! While a female can never escape the media, in Portland so many women are encouraged and accepted for being rockstar athletes.  The confidence in who you are and how you hold yourself flourishes when amongst women who are just happy to BE themselves. Mind you, when in Portland, we were constantly surrounded by other men and women who lived healthy lifestyles since many of our friends were clients and trainers from my fitness businesses. They drank the same "health and fitness" juice that we did; living the life of athletes with kids.

2010 Summer -Lake Tahoe- Swimsuit pride!
When in Portland, I actually became more confident in my own body.  I don't know if it was the ability to feel solid and strong after 2 c-sections, if it was being inspired by the consistent runners I saw every morning in Forest Park or climbing Mt. Tabor stairs with an Ergo and my babies on my back.  We all moved because it felt "good to do", and for me I wanted to identify with my athlete self in addition to my Mom self.  With that comfort in my own skin, I gained even more confidence in my own training and teaching abilities.  It led to not just knowing I was an athlete, but feeling my body could push itself harder than I thought possible.  I knew it would hurt, but so many others were training too and to train among some of the best in the world made me push harder. My times got faster which led to me getting more and more inspired.  I LOVED, and still do, knowing that Makenzie (and later Emerson) would only know their Mom as someone who ran, rode, swam and trained all the time.  They don't know anything but being a female means being strong and embracing your solid legs, smaller chest, and strong back.  They know it means you exercise when you first wake up to kick off your day and your metabolism; that you use your body for your vehicle by riding or running to do errands and visit friends.

Every Summer, we made our daily run or ride to the swimming pool. When the girls had lessons I would swim laps,  always peaking over in between strokes.  I loved watching them jump comfortably in their swimsuits, bum cheeks popping out in their suit bottoms and not caring at all.  I relished seeing them joyful as they were moving all over the swimming pool. We swam for hours and would play in the adjacent Grant Park until the sun went down.  Continuously it was my goal to tell them how strong their bodies were, how incredible their bodies were for doing big jumps and swimming with big rainbow arms.  I was focused, and will forever be, in making sure they know their body is a gift and to embrace all it has to offer.

pool joy
It is hard as a Mom to do that at times, since everyone has days where they don't feel "right" in their own skin. Guys want to be a bit stronger with bigger shoulders while ladies are eager for a flat stomach and bums you could bounce quarters off of.   As a Mom, it evolves to the midsection.  As much core work as you do, you will forever have an altered core from growing beautiful little beings in you.  Even for those who train for hours, your body does change and it is part of nature.  It shouldn't be fought but embraced.

A few years back when teaching Baby Boot Camp, some of the boot campers were complaining about their cores and not being what they were pre-pregnancy.  I will never forget stopping them mid-run with a serious teaching voice and explaining how as a female one of the biggest jobs nobody tells you about is retraining your body how to work post childbirth.  But as you retrain, you will most likely be stronger than you were before kids and will be able to physically handle more than pre-children. A few of the ladies continued verbalizing their frustrations and said we, the instructors, didn't know what it was like since we were in shape.  At that, 2 other instructors and myself lifted our workout tanks and showed the gals our stomachs.  While all were strong and toned, we also had a bit of skin shift at the belly button or lower abdomen from c-sections.  Even with strong solid stomachs, we all did have children and embraced our bodies for doing so.  We also tried to not focus on it, but focus on how many push ups we could do, how fast we could run, how high we could jump, or how our weeks' were better for exercising together.

Last week we were getting ready to swim and Makenzie made a comment about being fat in a swimsuit. My jaw dropped to the ground and immediately we discussed how beautiful her strong body was. She said it not with worry, but in a matter of fact manner.  Emerson was standing beside me and said loudly, "Makenzie you are not fat! You are strong and can swim like a mermaid". Proud Mama moment to hear Emerson talk, but mixed moment to hear Makenzie's words.  I asked where the comment came from and she said that at school some of the girls were talking about their bodies and since they said they felt fat, she did too.  So there we were, my two beautiful girls and myself in our bikinis, having a body image talk.  I told Makenzie that girls hear things about their bodies and shouldn't worry about it, but be so happy for strong bodies that can work incredibly!  Her body has gone through more than many do in a lifetime and is so stellar in all it has done and will continue to do.  We talked about all the dynamic things our bodies can do and how it doesn't matter how we look, but how we feel and to always be active and have fun with what bodies we were given.  I poked fun at myself for being short, but able to walk under tree branches without ducking. We pointed out our freckles, different eye colors and cool scars.  Then we walked to the pool standing tall and cannon balled into the water holding hands.

proud to be STRONG
I know I can't protect my daughters from external images and what the media presents regarding women and their bodies. But I can try my hardest, as can you, to encourage self acceptance and pride in the great bodies they(and all others) have been given.  There are not enough minutes in the day to spend worrying about not fitting into a specific model standard. Instead use what would be worry minutes to be physical and get the endorphin rush.  It is much more rewarding than 30 minutes spent contemplating one's boob or booty size.

Grab your bikini, your smile and head to the pool proudly.  You have an incredible body and now is your time to make it shine!!!!


  1. Love the message you share and the encouragement you provide to so many. :) Love you CuZ

  2. Thank you for writing this Erin. Just this morning I was looking back at old pictures...before marriage, kids, etc..and it made me realize how much my body has changed since then...and not in a way I've been happy with. And of course, it depressed me. But reading your words helped shift things back a little into perspective for me. Thank you.

  3. Brooke- thanks much for your words. It is true though, you have to share your self for who you are all the time! Last night to Makenzie's family dance she asked if I could wear this little silver dress that I wore to Vegas. I paired it with a cardigan and belt and went along to feel "fancy" for her. That little bit made her so excited and Emerson too. Embrace yourself, every inch of who you are and your strong inner and outer being. Can't wait to see you next week!
    Katie- glad you read this. The more you can stay strong for you, the better off Rachel will be as well. Being shorter is hard because we don't have much space for pounds to go. But you are stronger now than before babies, and have a greater focus. Make sure to take some time each day to move, in addition to boot camp if you are still going. Time just for YOU to move- and you will feel better. I'm about to post some more workouts on PFPDX blog that help with that. But I've found that even when I run with E all the time, I have to run by myself to also nurture myself mentally. Same as lifting...look at yourself and be so grateful for your strong body and how it moves! Kick booty lady!


I am probably out running, but I thank you for taking the time to share. I look forward to your additional input as this blog grows and evolves.
Erin Kreitz Shirey