NPC BIKINI COMPETITOR, ISSA PERSONAL TRAINER, AFAA GROUP FITNESS INSTRUCTOR AND LICENSED COSMETOLOGIST
For much of my life, body-image issues had a grappling hold on me mentally and physically. When I first got into competing, it was all about the aesthetics, which made it very difficult to not relapse into unhealthy habits. It wasn’t until I made the connection that it was more about how I felt inside than how I looked outside did I begin to heal. Now I do workouts simply because I enjoy them rather than following a regimented plan or cranking out endless hours of cardio to burn a certain number of calories, and the number on the scale doesn’t dictate my happiness.
While there have been tremendous strides made in the realm of fitness and athletics, there are still stigmas attached to gender. As a female in this industry, I have definitely experienced the pressure to fit into a certain mold and to look a certain way. My reaction to that judgment was to distance myself from those delivering it. I wasn’t going to give up competing, but I stopped seeking feedback and advice from people who were using their positions of power to take advantage.
Women have always been strong, but now we have more of a voice than ever. It is our duty to use this platform to inspire other women and to become the strongest version of ourselves both mentally and physically. One quote I love is by Zen Shin: “A flower does not think of competing with the flower next to it, it just blooms.” We as women should work together, struggle together and celebrate together, never letting jealousy dampen any of our successes. Remember: Never be afraid to take the big chances, even if you stand alone.