Accepting body changes is hard, but sitting with the discomfort is worth it.

Allyson (Ally) Leard is not an ordinary fitness professional.  In addition to coaching CrossFit full-time at the Reebok International Headquarters in Boston, Ally is also a professional competitive CrossFit athlete.  After years of hard physical training and discipline, Ally competed against the most elite CrossFit athletes around the world at the 2017 Reebok CrossFit Games in Madison, WI.

Shortly following the close of the 2017 CrossFit Games (her team placed 5thin the world, by the way), Ally got some great news; she’s pregnant!  “What a perfect way to take a step back, relax and take some much-deserved rest,” Ally thought.

Ally looked at the next 9 months as such an exciting time.  She daydreamed about being one of those aspirational fit, pregnant ladies on Instagram that are kicking ass in the gym, working out in just a sports bra, strutting their blossoming bellies without a care in the world.

Ally anticipated the joy of eating all of her favorite foods, nourishing her body as well as the one on the way, and embracing the extra “cushion for the pushin’” that’s not only inevitable, but healthy.

Being a CrossFit Games athlete who’s incredibly fit, toned and accustomed to working out in a sports bra and booty shorts, this should be a piece of cake, right?

Maybe not.

When it doesn’t go as planned…

“When I first started seeing changes to my body, I was like, ‘I’m really going to embrace being pregnant and I thought that it was going to be easier than it has been,” said Ally, “I’m a little surprised at myself for feeling bad about my body.”

It turns out accepting your body’s changes is a lot more involved than simply wanting to do it.  This goes for pregnant women and non-pregnant women alike.

Despite her moments of insecurity and discomfort, Ally still chooses to work out in a sports bra. This may seem like a fake it ‘til you make it scenario, but forcing yourself to deal with your insecurities is a powerful way to overcome your greatest obstacles.

Brené Brown, a sociology research professor, emphasizes the benefits of leaning into our own discomfort. One of Brown’s major tenants is that shame cannot live in silence. The more we expose ourselves to our biggest hang-ups, the more we’re able to overcome them.

Cue the social media peanut gallery…

Unfortunately, just like choosing to embrace our bodies, becoming resilient to the external pressures we face isn’t easy.

One day after a tough workout, Ally posted on her Instagram story a picture of her in just a sports bra. Ally didn’t think much of it until she was messaged by a stranger with a comment, “Ew ur gut is gross. Do some situps hun.”

“It just caught me off-guard. I wasn’t expecting a comment like that.  I’d never been called ‘fat’ before and I was already struggling with my body’s changes,” said Ally, “It’s funny because it’s never good enough,” said Ally, “If you’re muscular, you get sh*t on, if you’re thin, you get sh*t on, if you’re average-sized, you’re boring.  And now I’m pregnant and still get sh*t on.  You can’t win.”

Courage begets courage.

Ally could’ve run away in defeat, deleted the message and pretend it never happened, or posted a fake empowering Instagram photo with a well-thought-out, inspirational caption in an attempt to make everyone think that she’s bulletproof and doesn’t care what other think.  As tempting as that might be, those actions don’t help us for the moments we feel weak, alone and hopeless.  They don’t solve the problem, they numb it.

Instead, Ally unpacked that shittiness, and shared her raw moment.  Although Ally thought this was an act of self-love (which it totally is) but it’s also a selfless act of courage. And courage inspires more courage in yourself and in others.

“Courage is contagious. Every time we choose courage, we make everyone around us a little better and the world a little braver.”  – Brené Brown.

So, ladies, pregnant or not, let’s get real about body positivity.  It’s not easy.  The relationship we have with our bodies is one that needs to be attended to every day. There will be days when you look in the mirror and think “Hot damn, I’m a fox!” and there will be days that we poke and prod at parts of ourselves that we aren’t happy with.  Both of those days are equally important and both of those days should be celebrated for exactly what they are.

And on a personal note…

Ally, I’d like to thank you. Thank you for being fully authentic, open and strong.  Thank you for not only leaning into your own shit, but also inspiring other women to lean into theirs.  You are truly an inspiration, and that little nugget on the way is one lucky lady.

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Article written by Sara Eckhardt