by Susan Fiorentino
This Valentine’s Day, I celebrated my five-year anniversary of starting my fitness journey at Kettlebella Fitness. Most people probably do not celebrate an anniversary for the first time they took a fitness class, but that day truly changed not only how I handle the stresses of life, but how I feel about myself. It seems almost fitting that this journey for me started in February, a month which is strongly focused on love and women’s health. Self-love and body acceptance is something I struggle with but this group of women have helped me handle obstacles that come my way from my eating disorder. As most young women trying to make their mark, I have a very full schedule. Sometimes, I forget that if I do not take care of myself first, then I will never be able to give my other commitments the attention that each deserve. Today I wanted to share ways that help me remember to be kind to myself, so that I can my “best self” and not a “perfect self”.
I work with children, especially a lot of young girls, and as I have gotten to know them over the years, I am aware that I am some kind of role model in their life. I encourage them to be healthy and active, always try their best, never say “ I can’t” or doubt themselves. Why am I not able to send the same message to myself? If I ever heard someone talk to my students the way I speak to myself, I would be upset. These girls are growing up in a different time than I did, and I see the negative self-talk from girls as young as six or seven years old. I encourage them by reinforcing how well they are doing and building up their confidence and let them know they are capable of great things. Being around children so often also reminds me that if I am not taking care of myself, I will not have the energy to coach cheerleading or tutor them and am not living true to the talks I give to them.
When I am feeling especially down and find myself in a negative mind set, there is a high chance that social media is to blame. Social media is a trigger for me, specifically an overload of extremely edited and unrealistic health and fitness accounts so I take a break from it whenever I need it. I would constantly find myself scrolling through my feed and being upset that I was not able to meet these “standards”. Now, I only follow a handful of legitimate health and fitness social media accounts and unfollow accounts as soon as I feel they are triggering for me. Social media should be a platform for good and when it becomes toxic, it is okay to walk away for some time.
I am not into fashion at all but I do make an effort to support brands that use realistic body images in their products. Everyone wants to feel confident and rock that outfit that makes them feel like a ten, but some companies make that difficult to feel. Aerie is one of my favorite brands and I love how real and inclusive they are in advertisements. In my experience, their clothing has been true to size.. and I know my size with their clothes. There is no guessing game and I am never in the dressing room near tears because I know I am size BLANK and the BLANK is not fitting correctly. Aerie is also a huge supporter of NEDA (National Eating Disorders Association) and that organization has also helped me in my recovery.
My outlook and feelings about myself have improved when I actively remember these three things. There is no perfect body and your worth is not based on a number. I still have fitness and health goals for myself but they are definitely more realistic and attainable in a healthy way. Everyone will have a different “why” on why they are a path of healing and their different coping skills but our goal will ultimately have a similar focus – to be happy and healthy and in a positive life.
Susan Fiorentino is from Staten Island, New York and is currently a Development Associate at Staten Island Academy. She also coaches two cheerleading teams and is a member of the Young Professionals Group for The Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation. Susan enjoys taking group classes at KettleBellas, going to Jets games, and working on building her brand- Bay Resilient Communications.