One reason I love writing this blog is that it occasionally gives me the opportunity to pull out my “soapbox” and get passionate about the things that touch me deeply! One of my "hot" topics is self image, along with body image, particularly in women. That is why I was thrilled to be contacted by the organizers of "This One's For the Girls", a women's health event on Feb 23rd. Allison Bryan, Public Relations for Valley West Hospital, had been reading some of my previous posts (nice to know someone is actually reading what I write-haha!) and she realized that this event would be right up my alley :)
For the past 20 or so years I have been involved in starting support groups and teaching others how to lead safe, encouraging, life changing groups. At the same time, as a fitness professional, I was discovering that women who could benefit from a little bit of exercise were too self conscious to do anything about it. That’s so sad!! I began meeting women, who for a number different reasons, were playing the "I'm not good enough" CD over and over in their heads. AND they believed that message! Someone, somewhere over time (and I believe society today feeds that monster!) took away their self confidence. There were different levels of struggles-some, like me, struggled with extra weight and with not looking like my skinny friends (I still usually only see the chubby "me" in the mirror). Others had deeper issues, a life filled with physical, sexual and verbal abuse. That is so wrong! It's not easy to re-write any of the negative things we replay in our heads. I have met women who have been so beaten down that I see the "cage door" sits open to freedom and they still sit in the cage. It breaks my heart!! And off I go.....can I get a microphone for my soapbox?!! :)
But....I DO believe that there is hope. One way, obviously, is seeking professional help, but I have seen women helping each other, simply offering to walk along side one another-it works. I realized a long time ago that I’ve been so fortunate to have people in my life that believed in me and helped me believe in myself. And although I haven't changed the world like they told me I could-haha! I know that my lifelong struggle with my weight is not what defines me, but is part of my empathy for others! On Wednesday nights I oversee a support group “Women Encouraging Women”. The group is led by some courageous women who are willing to be vulnerable and open, fueled by their desire to help others. Lives are changing with that support! You really should read one of the women’s blog as she shares her journey. Vic's Thoughts
OK-are you wondering where my fitness background “fits” in? As I said above, in my early years as a Fitness Director I discovered that a woman’s lack of confidence was often the biggest obstacle to taking care of herself!!! So I began creating programs to move them past that obstacle. I also began to see that women who felt physically strong were usually more confident in other areas of their lives. So a 10 minute walk could be the first “step” in empowerment. This was really brought home to me in 2009. I had major surgery to basically put all my pelvic organs back where they were supposed to be. Yeah. Ugh. After 6 weeks I was able to take (painful) baby steps around the block. I spent the next months fearful that if I ever had to run away or defend myself or do anything strenuous, that I truly was not able to take care of myself :( I've never felt so vulnerable and helpless in my life!!
For years, as a volunteer, I led exercise classes at Lifespring in Aurora (Wayside Cross’ women’s program). I wanted to help these women turn their lives around and since “fitness” is what I’ve done for 29 years, that’s what I had to offer. We did mostly strength training, but I also included some yoga. Many were, sadly some still are, overcoming addictions and I knew I could show them a healthier way to manage stress. I loved going there every Monday, but part of managing MY stress is realizing when I’ve taken on too much. I hope to get back to it someday-I have a soft spot in my heart for each of the ladies I met during that time. Life is hard, but we don’t have to do it alone!! I would like to think that I a made a tiny difference. And here I go again….Can I get a spotlight on my soapbox??
So, anyway, as I am in the midst of putting together my “presentation” for This One’s For the Girls I am grateful to Yorkville Patch for giving me the opportunity to share what’s on my heart, which has now led to this opportunity to touch women’s lives!
Come and meet me that day!! Girls only….