Fitness coach and motivational speaker Jessi Kneeland has a massive Instagram following (over 19,700 followers!) but you won’t find a single #fitspo image on her feed.
Instead, belly rolls, cellulite and thick thighs replace chiselled abs, smooth skin and thigh gaps as the fitness blogger and body positivity advocate chronicles her journey to intentionally get out of shape.
“For years, I had been relying on tough workouts four to six days a week for energy regulation, to boost my ego and confidence, and most of all to solidify my self-identity as a ‘fit chick,’ a ‘legit personal trainer,’ and (most importantly) an ‘athlete,’” writes Kneeland in an Instagram post.
But her attitude towards working out changed after she got injured.
“I had been identifying myself and my worth through my physical strength and dedication to fitness,” she writes. “But not only was I no longer impressively strong and muscular, I was literally immobile. I felt useless, worthless, and ugly. I worried about gaining weight, losing credibility, and worst of all about losing the thing that made me.”
Kneeland decided a mindset shift was needed, but in order to explore her self-identity she knew she needed to let go some of the habits that helped her “maintain her body.”
So she stopped following nutrition rules and dropped lifting weights. She lost muscle, gained fat and became 10 to 15 pounds heavier.
In a recent post, Kneeland shares her progress and how she feels with her new “softer” body.
“When I post photos of my body these days, and mention having gained weight or lost muscle mass, I’m often asked how I handle the negative feelings or comparisons to my old body. After all, aren’t all women all supposed to be constantly chasing the kind of body I used to have? Shouldn’t I feel terrible about ‘losing’ something I had worked so hard for?” she writes.
Nut physical changes to her body was’’t the only thing Kneeland noticed, she also realized a significant change in the way strangers treated her.
“Men and women alike used to comment on, praise, and gush over me — my body, my dedication, my strength, and how ‘inspirational’ I was,” she shares. “Nobody gushes over me anymore… With my new (still totally healthy) body, I receive less attention, smiles, and compliments. I feel less visible overall, and experience less of a ‘people like me’ feeling. And that’s just with 10-15 extra pounds!”
A sad reminder that despite the recent body positivity movement, women are still being judged based on their body shape and looks.
“I don’t miss my squat-booty, but I do miss the compliments and gushing attention I used to get,” Kneeland admits, but reminds others not to associate negative emotions with physical changes. Instead, she advises others to find and fix the underlying issue.
“Most people don’t distinguish between these two things, the feeling and the physical changes. Instead they see a physical change and feel a feeling, and then blame the change for the feeling,” she writes. “But it’s often a lot more complex and deep than that. If you hate your thighs, what are you really hating? If you feel insecure about your round belly, what are you really feeling insecure about?”