Every January like clockwork, my mother and I kick off our weight loss, eating right campaign. We set goals, pack our lunches and track our progress. We’ve been doing this forever as our battle with weight loss has been a lifelong journey. This year, however, something felt different.
As I planned out my healthy living 2014 campaign, I wanted to find exercise classes that worked different muscles and were convenient. If I went home after work, the probability was high that I’d be on the couch and not working out. Enter Zumba class, held Mondays and Saturdays, right by the train station. I started in mid-January and am fully obsessed. I had taken Zumba in the past but this class was different, probably thanks to my super energetic instructor Maria. I leave class each week feeling energized, happy and healthy.
Our Zumba class is held in a room that has a giant mirror on the front wall. It’s great to watch the instructor in the mirror, but class after class, I hide behind the pole to avoid seeing myself. I could not bear to see all of me jiggle in the mirror. When jumping and dancing around, it’s very clear where ALL of my problem areas are. I literally cringed for the first couple of weeks. Then I saw the Aerie “Real” campaign.
Aerie, the sister clothing company to American Eagle Outfitters, launched their “Real” campaign for the
spring collection of underwear and bras. The campaign highlights real women, without makeup or Photoshop touch-ups. Their slogan reads “Because the real you is sexy.” I saw this campaign and thought they have a point there. The following Saturday at Zumba, I wore a see-through razor back tank that read “Fun, Free, Fearless.” It was big deal for me, to wear something so transparent that did not cover me up.
Like many women I know, body imagine and self-confidence is a HUGE issue for me. Most days, I don’t feel insecure or worry about my body. I used to work out, at the gym or in a class and feel SO self-conscious in my spandex and tank top. Going to Zumba has taken me out of my comfort zone and helped me to see there’s no need to be self-conscious. I am working out, bettering myself, making myself stronger. There’s no need to compare myself to the Barbie-like instructor at the front of the room. While I still don’t stare at myself in the mirror, I’m learning to care a little less about what jiggles.
As a society, we typically focus on being skinny, not healthy. Take the season 15 Biggest Loser winner, Rachel. Yes, she lost a bunch of weight, but now she almost looks sickly, not healthy. Yet, she won the competition and is praised for that. We need to shift popular thinking like Aerie did. Women are beautiful at all ages and sizes. That message needs to be consistently reinforced in our younger generations of girls and to all women. We need to face the mirror and be happy with what we see.
Christina Aguilera’s powerful ballad below reminds all of us that we are beautiful. In case no one else tells you today, you are a beautiful, strong woman!