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To the woman who checks her abs….

Hey – just a head’s up I am that girl. I do check my abs. Daily. And figured it was time to say a few words that I myself needed to hear.

I’ve been listening to and reading a lot lately on the intersectionality of fitness, nutrition science,  and body image. In even the 5+ years that I started to take health and fitness seriously, there has been a shift in mentality. There has been burnout and rebirth, not just within myself but in the space around me.

In the last generation, there has been the “quest for 6 pack abs,” both for men and women. I’ve heard that region of the female body called so many things: “my problem area,” “my mommy tummy,” “my pooch,” “my soft parts.” For many there is such a negative association with that space and since its one of the easiest to see in the mirror, we interact with it every day.

The conversation becomes much more complicated around this idea that we have the power to change our circumstances (which I firmly believe) but that we also should love our current state, our current form, our current situation. I once had a yoga teacher describe to me that being stuck in the past is actually now a medical condition that has a name — depression; being stuck in the future, is what we know as anxiety.

So where do the ab checks come in?

When I think about it a little deeper, I see a habit, a validation, a celebration, and a shield. That’s a lot wrapped into a 5 second glance in the mirror.

I’ve heard stories of the habit becoming an obsession and have wondered — is that me? Am I overanalyzing and why? Is my perspective picking apart what I see today or am I genuinely happy? Can liking what you see really bring you happiness?

The daily check for me has become a validation — an assurance that my progress didn’t disappear overnight (because that’s so likely) and a daily celebration that hey, I’m doing the thing, I’m putting in the work and I’m seeing something come of it.

But that shield element. I worry about it.

Not even taking into consideration the comparison between people, the biggest comparison I see is within myself. I mentioned this validation as a way of checking that I haven’t lost any progress, but seeing it and documenting it is like building an insurance policy that I can’t let it get away. It’s worth too much now.

For me, herein lies the dark side of this equation.

What happens if not over one day, but many, those ab pictures do change. I’m confident in my healthy habits but what if life pulls me in a different direction, my priorities change. Am I less happy? Am I willing to let go? The body inevitably changes with time and the phases of life. There is a certain amount of prolonging that can happen but talk about anxiety-inducing in trying to stop it all together. That has been the challenge of humanity since understanding our mortality.

So the ab checks and the progress pictures are a small thing in the consideration of the universe, but they bring up this question of how do we be happy now and how to do we be happy when things change. How each of us handles those questions is so individual to our experiences and where our mental landscape is at any given day. In the case of progress pics, I want to celebrate hard work, dedication, the practice of becoming the best version of yourself. But I have to remind myself that the best version of me isn’t necessarily one that has a six-pack — it’s one that has love to share and shares it with many, and strives to learn and contribute to the greater good.

So to the girl who checks her abs in the mirror….

You’re beautiful.

If you’re working on being stronger, do you.

If you like what you see today, celebrate.

If you don’t like what you see today, try to find compassion for all you do.

If you’re afraid of change, breathe. Right now you don’t have to take a step backwards or forwards, you’re right where you are meant to be and the path will become clear soon.

If you’re trying to be someone else, ask why. You were created to be exactly you.

If you’re chasing something merely physical, ask why. Everything returns to star dust in the end.

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