Victoria Lewis: A Path to Self Worth

Victoria Lewis: A Path to Self Worth

“I believe all women should incorporate weights into their workouts and there is a plethora of reasons why,” Victoria says. “Mainly because as we get older we have to keep muscle up to remain healthy and strong. But hey, I don't see a damn thing wrong with enjoying looking good. We work our asses off for it!”

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Once you’ve had a baby, You’re always postpartum. Tummy Talk with Samantha Montpetit-Huynh

Once you’ve had a baby, You’re always postpartum. Tummy Talk with Samantha Montpetit-Huynh

“Once you’ve had a baby,” Samantha says, “You’re always “postpartum”.

“There’s this pressure to “get our bodies back” and I have to tell women all the time, “You’re not getting your body “back”, because it’s different now.”

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An Unexpected ‘Quick Fix’ for Lasting Results

An Unexpected ‘Quick Fix’ for Lasting Results

There does not appear to be as much interest in maintaining results as there is in obtaining them.  And although great lengths will be taken to get the result, I think we can all acknowledge that the more challenging part can be in the maintenance.  

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Beauty Isn’t Mine to be Claimed. Compliment my Worth.

By Cassandra Spencer, @cassandradelynn_naturalfitmom

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“I enjoy being told I’m beautiful... who doesn’t? But if you want to really flatter me, tell me I’m intelligent, tell me I’m thoughtful and kind, tell me I’m genuine.  I was given my beauty, but I created who I am.” Amanda M.

Me:  Savannah Banana, come here for a second!

Savannah:  Yes, mom?

Me:  Why is it important for you to be nice and smart and not just pretty?

Savannah:  Well, I like it when you call me pretty.  It’s just fun being pretty.

Me:  *blank stare* thinking to myself that it’s time to send her back to whatever it is a 8 year old writes her in diary

Savannah:  *cocks to the side and puts her hands on her non-existent hips, tilts her head as she looks up at the ceiling*

BUT, I DO like it when you call me smart too.  The kids at school make fun of me for being the 2nd smartest in class, but they are all just lazy and don’t even try.  I don’t really care what they think.  I like being smart because I know that I tried hard and learned something I didn’t know how to do before.  That means I can learn anything and do anything…that’s exciting! I’m going to be a …..

She starts rambling on about all the amazing careers she going to have as an adult, one of which was the new karate star Gabby Douglas…??  But, I honestly stopped listening, as I sat and stared in awe of my daughter.  She gets it!  Phew….thank goodness!  Even though it’s becoming increasingly difficult to pull her away from the mirror, it does not appear that I’m going to have much of a fight on my hands as she matures and need her to value her character and intellect as much as her appearance.  She has always been beautiful and she knows it.

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Now I, on the other hand, did NOT grow up at the pretty girl in school.  I was definitely the Black Sheep in my adolescence…literally and figuratively.  Growing up one of very few Black people at a conservative Christian private school, I was everything but pretty.  I was funny, I was sporty, I supposedly could dance, but I was not pretty.  When I reached college, I kind of became aware of attention from the opposite sex, but I was in a drug and alcohol induced fog for about 4 years, so I really couldn’t tell you much about that time.  As I became a full-fledged working adult, I was so used to not being pretty; I didn’t place much value in it.  But that was ok!  Because I was smart, I was good at my job, I gave to charity, I had my dream car, I bought two houses as a single woman in her 20’s, I was traveling, I had great friends, I dated…well “dating” might be a stretch, but I went out!  

What did I need pretty for?  

So, when I was given a compliment I really didn’t know what to do with it.  Over time I learned how to graciously accept a compliment because I don’t want to offend the person who is giving it.  And conversely, as a person who gives out compliments, I know my intention is to make the other person feel good, and I desire for it to be received and accepted.  But even today, unless you are specifically complimenting a muscle, it’s a little awkward for me.  

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But why?

Well, before I explain let me be clear that I am well aware that being a bodybuilding competitor I subject myself to standing on stage under lights, in high heels and scraps of blinged out material to be judged on my looks.  I know….kind of a walking oxymoron.

I guess the best way to put it is that beauty isn’t mine to be claimed. Beauty is fleeting, it is subjective, it is ubiquitous, it is trivial.  And if you are considered beautiful…what are you thankful for?  Your genetics? But what did YOU do?

Don’t get me wrong, I am fully aware of the value our society places on beauty and therefore the substantial psychological and material wealth it can amass.   But that aside, what does it really say about the value you place in yourself?

In my humble opinion, when you value yourself, you stake a claim in yourself.  You invest in yourself.  You are calculating a ROI (return on investment) that can never be taken away.  You understand that you can create value through experience, intellect and good will.  You understand that you have true ownership over something of value…that something being your character…that character being your legacy.   A true compliment is an acknowledgement of the things you may not be able to see with your eyes, but are clearly visible.  They shine brightly and cannot be ignored because even when placed next to obvious beauty, the light illuminates those dark places in us that surface beauty cannot.

Sometime later, I came to and Savannah was still talking.  I had no idea what she was talking about, but I did catch this little treasure…

“It’s just not good enough to be pretty on the outside, you need to pretty on the inside too”  - Savannah, age 8

Losing Labels and Shifting Your Story: A Sit-Down with GORGO’s Own Erica Willick

By Jill Farr

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There’s often a theme with the women featured in GORGO; many times their stories involve a return to fitness or athleticism, after a detour that might have come about because of career, or school, or starting a family.

But for GORGO CEO and Sisters in Shape owner/coach Erica Willick, that journey towards fitness started later in life, and represented an important shift, both physically and mentally.

“I was a big dreamer as a child,” Erica says. “And then later on, like many adolescents, I started wearing labels that others gave to me. A “Thinker”, the “Smart Kid”—not athletic. I always won the award on the team for trying really hard, but I was never first string anything.”

Those labels led to a self-identification as a “geek”, and that was a persona that paid off big for Erica in university; she excelled academically, and was on the fast track to realizing her dreams when tragedy struck.

“In my second year of university,” Erica says, “My mom was killed in a car accident.”

The unexpected blow devastated Erica’s large family, and another of her labels—that of the “Good Girl”—came to the forefront as she stepped up to the challenge of helping her father and her younger siblings deal with a new way of life.

Erica moved home and was strong for her family…even as she herself was trying to come to terms with an earth-shattering loss. Amazingly, she continued her education, even graduating in the top of her class, and went on to a great corporate job at a high-powered accounting firm.

All of the labels seemed to still fit, and serve her well; the geeky, smart, “good girl” was on the fast track to realizing all of her career dreams, but inside, there was a struggle raging.

“It’s not unusual for people to experience serious depression or other mental issues after a tragic loss,” Erica says, “And I struggled with that through my early twenties.”

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Despite seeking counseling, Erica had a horrible self-image.

“Here was dirt,” Erica says, “And I was here, below it. That’s how I felt about myself.”

Far from dismissing those feelings, all of those old labels--the old stories that she was used to hearing from others about how she was the smart one, the geeky one, the “good girl”—seemed to drive a lack of assurance about herself, with the expectations they brought.

Erica acknowledges that her efforts with counseling were self-sabotaged.

“I was a really great liar,” Erica admits. “The counselor didn’t know what was really going on with me, the tremendous pressure I was putting on myself. I was actually having suicidal thoughts.”

Career successes did help…but only partially. As with so many women, Erica’s lack of self-confidence seemed to focus on appearance…something we often feel powerless to change.

“I felt confident about my job, but my confidence about my body and my looks was low.”

Life took a great turn with the entrance of Erica’s now-husband, but it was the arrival of another man in her life that made Erica realize that she needed to make some changes in her thinking.

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“I met my husband, an amazing man,” Erica says, “And we started a family. I’d done well re-establishing my mental wellness, but after my son was born I noticed that those bad, dark thoughts about myself were creeping back.”

“I didn’t want that around my son. I knew that I needed to work on it.”

Fitness became an avenue for change, but not just because the negativity centered on physical attributes. Although fitness can improve our body’s appearance, and sometimes bring about a more positive self-image for that reason, Erica believes that the power of strength training in particular helped her because of its ability to shatter some of the limiting labels that she felt had been applied to her.

“I changed those labels,” Erica says, “And started creating my own story.”

Erica’s fitness journey expanded to include competing—and winning—in Bikini competitions.

A three time World Pro Bikini Champion (UFE), Erica is unique in that all of her wins have come after having kids; her most recent win in November of 2015 was only 15 months after the birth of her second child.

Her singular journey has given her a wealth of experience and knowledge that applies specifically to women who have had kids and are pursuing fitness, resulting in a recently published book (Your Fit Pregnancy) that had over 2,000 pre-orders and a program (Flat Tummy) aimed at helping women re-establish their waistline after childbearing.

The analytical side of her personality, the “geek” who loves research and applying effective strategies, is a killer combination when put together with her passion for fitness, and her innovative approach to training and coaching is a powerful result.

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Erica has utilized these unique qualities in establishing coaching services through Sisters in Shape (www.sisinshape.com) and co-founding GORGO magazine, a publication that is meant to foster an empowerment for women that does exactly what Erica has accomplished in her own life; encourage the defying of labels through the encouragement of physical and mental strength.

“Fitness is a great way to recreate your story,” Erica says, “Because it’s building mental and physical strength. When you combine those, your confidence goes up…and confidence is everything.”

The driving idea behind GORGO is one of dispelling the notion that women—or anyone—can be put into nice, neat categories, and Erica drives this home with her own ongoing story.

“I don’t know a single woman who is just one thing,” Erica says. “We wear so many hats; we’re creative, we’re smart, we’re athletic…we don’t have to be just one or two things. This is what GORGO is about; a multi-dimensional powerful woman.”

“No one person fits into just one box…we don’t have to accept that for ourselves.”

Sticks and Stones May Break my Bones, but Words Will Never Hurt Me? A Look at Self-Deprecation

By Stephanie Hutchinson

“I need to lose weight”: a phrase I have heard enough times in my life that I would put the count in the billions. It has been echoed from my mother, my aunts, my grandmothers, my friends. It reverberates across coffee-dates, playdates, and family vacations. It is such an accepted phrase, it is said with the same intonation as “I need to buy groceries.” Those five words are offered up as a conversation starter; an appetizer to a meal of self-deprecation and loathing. If those words could kill, they would be dialed right in on your self-worth.

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”: a childhood phrase that seems to span the test of time. We say this when faced with bullying and hurtful words are flung from peers, but what of the thoughts and words we fling at ourselves? What do we do when we stand before a mirror, pinching our skin while judging our bodies, bit by bit? Those hurtful, self-inflicted thoughts don’t go away. In fact, they seem to plant seeds and take root while feeding on what little confidence is left. We start fearing hot weather and the skin-baring clothes that come with it. We stop taking our children to public pools in fear of having to bear-all in a swimsuit. We fear photos of family memories. We miss out on memories made with our families and friends, debilitated by the belief we are unworthy.

“I am strong. I am confident. I am wonderfully and fearfully made.” Last summer, I had the amazing opportunity to take part in a Women’s Wellness Conference as a speaker. Near the end of the day, after many had opened up about personal struggles and endeavors, everyone was asked to line up in front of a mirror. Looking down the line, you could see each woman fidget while avoiding glancing at her reflection. It was obvious how uncomfortable it made each one. Then, one by one, they were asked to look up and describe the woman reflected. As it went down the line, there was a common theme: none of these strong, beautiful, inspiring women had one positive thing to say to their reflection. It was heartbreaking. Some commented on their size. Some on their face or skin. They were each encouraged to say one nice thing. It was difficult, and some just couldn’t. In response, each woman was then coached to see what was truly there in the mirror, and say “I am strong. I am confident. I am wonderfully and fearfully made.” Just as the personally inflicted negativity tore these women down, this simple phrase seemed to build them up. Tears began to roll as each woman heard the self-love she had been longing for.

I have been on both sides of the coin: the mom at the beach, covered up and afraid to bare any skin; and the mom proud of her shape and size, enjoying a family moment at a beach without fear of personally built limitations. I have been 20 pounds lighter than I am and 20 pounds heavier. Even at my lightest weight I have stood in front of the mirror disgusted with what I have seen. Instead of loving my body for growing our children, I have counted down the days until I could return to the gym to “get my body back.” I have been the mother, holding her cup of warm coffee, telling her friends “I need to lose weight,” wishing someone would tell me the contrary. But, the person saying that should be me.

It takes more than one instance of self-love to repair a lifetime of damage. Self-deprecation is an addiction that can’t be beat by a weight loss pill or spanx. You can’t base your self-worth on a number on the scale or the size of your pants. Your worth comes from the selfless love you have for your family, your willingness to provide a helping hand, and your ability to bring light to every room. You are amazing, not because of how much you can lift, but because of your tenacity and dedication to living a healthy and full life. Your self-worth comes of the many lives you touch during your walk on this Earth, and the good that you bring to every encounter. So, in case you forgot, you are strong. You are confident. And you are wonderfully and fearfully made.  

Who the Hell Asked For Your Opinion?: Social Media Girl Lashes Back

Who the Hell Asked For Your Opinion?: Social Media Girl Lashes Back

Warning: This column is intended for smile exercise and laugh therapy only.  Sure, we love rocking the fitness scene and take our mission of empowerment seriously.  But in fitness, as in life, it's best to not take yourself too seriously...there is too much fun to be had in life.  xo

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