It’s easy to be dissatisfied. Often times, especially in young adult populations, we are faced with the pressure to look a certain way, or weigh a certain amount, and end up scrutinizing the bodies we have. Unfortunately, body dissatisfaction is one of the leading predictors of eating disorders and consequent health complications. To combat this, the body positivity movement has really taken off, encouraging men and women across the globe to accept their imperfections and make peace with their bodies.
One source of body dissatisfaction is comparison to others, particularly to those in health/beauty magazines. Why can’t I look like her? Why aren’t my abs as defined his? What we don’t consider is that the figures we idolize and strive to replicate also struggle with the same sentiments. Food and fitness both play a key role in this.
In a recent interview with Spoon and a Q&A session with healthyU, fitness star and CEO of Blogilates Cassey Ho shares her story and gives us advice based on what she’s learned. As in her viral “Perfect Body” video, Cassey is an advocate for self-acceptance and has great wisdom to offer.
Spoon: What inspired you to create the “Perfect Body” video?
CH: Basically it was just kind of an overwhelming wave of emotions that had built up over time. I’d had a pretty stressful week, and during this high-stress, I experienced a creative epiphany. So, I assembled my team and we made this video! It’s amazing how the world just works in particular ways – I didn’t expect it to go viral or be featured on Good Morning America. It turned out to be not only a video statement to my own haters, but a message about body positivity to the general public.
Spoon: What is your take on the body positivity movement?
CH: I have two thoughts – it’s great that people aren’t just showing stick-thin models and photoshopped, perfect bodies on magazine covers anymore. On the other hand, I think it’s important for everyone to focus on loving themselves every step of the way, and not to forget to keep the progression going; people should aim to be stronger than they were yesterday.
Spoon: Tell us your story. How has your relationship with food changed throughout the years?
CH: I’ve had a lot of different experiences with food. When I was younger, I pretty much just ate whatever, as most kids do. In college, I gained a little bit of weight, you know, the Freshman 15 and all, but teaching pilates helped me to lose the weight.
After I graduated, I got interested in blogging and creating fitness videos, and developed a deep desire to understand more about food. Once I started experimenting with calories and macros, I got more and more into it, and in retrospect, it was an obsession, as I was very detailed and meticulous.
In 2012, I competed in a bikini competition. This was very damaging to my metabolism, and it’s taken me three years to heal. During the competition, I could only eat certain foods, and wasn’t even allowed to have fruit. I developed this unhealthy outlook on food, and even after the competition, I would feel guilty about eating an apple or banana because of the sugar.
I started gaining weight, this weight gain didn’t stop, regardless of whether I ate pizza or salad, and how much I worked out. It’s especially hard when you’re under the public eye, and you’re just dreading that first comment like “did she gain weight?”
Finally, one day I just stopped focusing on weight loss and body transformation, instead focusing on getting happier, and worked my way to the balance I have today. I let my body recalibrate and gave it a rest. Now, I can look at food and not feel guilt. Now, I know it’s okay to have bread and rice, and I do – I consume whole grains and carbs regularly. I’ve reached this very peaceful state of mind, and found balance in my life again.
Spoon: How has exercise factored into this?
CH: From the beginning, exercise to me has always been about finding the joy in moving around. People tend to forget this, and seek exercise as a means to get abs or a bigger butt. I think it’s important to exercise to make yourself feel good.
Now, I exercise either early in the morning or straight after work, which can take motivation at times, but I’m willing to make any sacrifice to make sure I’m happy. Also, for people looking to be re-inspired, you need to change it up, and new things will excite you, whether it be running or pilates or CrossFit.
Spoon: What kinds of mindset changes did you make in your journey to self-acceptance?
CH: At the end of the day, I made sure I exercised and ate healthy foods because they made me feel good, not because they made me look good. It’s easy to fall into this vanity hole where you become soulless and the entire journey is about a superficial physicality that will deteriorate with age anyway. Whether you have 6-pack abs or not, people can’t take away the happiness that comes from exercising and eating healthy foods.
Spoon: What advice do you have regarding body image and positivity, especially to those of us with perfectionist tendencies?
CH: I’m the same way with being a perfectionist. However, every person was put on this world with a different gift to give, and comparison is the thief of joy. People should stop comparing themselves with others, and work on their strengths instead of picking at their weaknesses. When this happens, things become much more fruitful.