[00:00:08] BS: Hello. You’re listening to Love Your Enthusiasm, a podcast that helps motivate you to follow your greatest passion. I’m your host, Britt Skrabanek. Courtney McCarthy is our guest today on the show.
Courtney is the owner and CEO of Loyobo FIT. Loyobo is short for love your body, in case you’re wondering. This episode, Courtney gets real about the fitness and health industry being broken, and why she decided to do something about it. Together, we explore common misinformation about what being healthy really means, and Courtney shares her personal journey about learning to love her body after realizing, she couldn’t hate her way to a healthy body. I love everything that Courtney and Loyobo FIT stands for. I know you all will totally dig what Courtney what has to say on the show today.
After you’re done listening, remember to rate, review and/or subscribe wherever you love to listen to podcasts. Thank you for loving your enthusiasm, with me, through the show. Have a beautiful time with Courtney.
[00:01:19] BS: Hello, Courtney. Welcome to the show.
[00:01:22] CM: Thank you so much for having me. I’m so excited.
[00:01:25] BS: I’m excited to have you here as well. We already traded some conversations by e-mail. The first thing I really want to get into is talking about your piercings that you had, because you told me that you had 17 piercings in high school.
[00:01:41] CM: Yes. There was a while that I bragged, I had one for every year that I was alive.
[00:01:47] BS: Oh, so there was some meaning behind it.
[00:01:51] CM: Yeah, at the time. Yes, it was definitely that I went through a strong phase in high school. It’s interesting, I feel it all comes full circle later in life where I was just – I was rebelling against what people thought I was supposed to look like. At the time, that was through piercings and funky hair and a lot of black clothing.
[00:02:13] BS: Yep, totally understand. I ended up going through my piercing phase after high school. It was more in my early 20s, so probably 20, 21, I started getting all these piercings. Yeah, eventually took them out.
[00:02:31] CM: Yes. Most of mine are gone now too.
[00:02:33] BS: Yeah. I took them out when I fell in love, which is just this really weird, sweet story. Before that, it was just about the piercings for me. I don’t know if it was like this for you, but it was having that pain as well, which just it’s temporary for the most part. Then it’s also about that image and showing that. Once I fell in love, I was like, “I don’t need all of this metal inside of me. I’m going to take it out now.”
[00:03:00] CM: Yeah. Mine definitely came with a phase of adulthood. There were certain piercings and depending on which ones you had, you might identify of certain piercings, especially I had a big industrial piercing on one of my ears.
[00:03:12] BS: Yeah, had one of those.
[00:03:14] CM: Yeah, and it always bugged me. I got to the point where I was like, this just isn’t worth the slight discomfort all the time anymore. I feel when you’re in high school, beauty over pain, or aesthetics over pain is everything. You grow out of that.
[00:03:31] BS: Yeah. I’m trying to think if I can describe this industrial piercing to the listeners, in case they don’t know.
[00:03:38] CM: It’s a giant bar through two points in your ear.
[00:03:41] BS: Yeah. It’s like, the upper part of your – upper and mid part of your ear, so it’s a diagonal bar that goes through the cartilage.
[00:03:50] CM: Exactly. Which looks amazing.
[00:03:52] BS: It does. Looks really cool, but it does hurt and it’s very difficult to take care of.
[00:03:58] CM: It was the little things, like wearing headphones, or headbands that – you take those things for granted.
[00:04:08] BS: Absolutely. Well, today I am so excited to talk to you about all of the wonderful things that you’re doing to help women and with a positive body image. All of this stuff is so aligned with what I love to focus on as well. I think we’re going to have a really great discussion today.
[00:04:31] CM: Me too. I’m so excited.
[00:04:33] BS: All right, Courtney. Let’s talk about what you’re on a mission to do first. Why are you on a mission to help women create their own version of health?
[00:04:44] CM: Yeah, it’s a great question. I feel there’s two different storylines that brought me to where I am today. The first was my own health and wellness journey. In my early to mid-20s, I was at a point in my life where I was extremely unhappy for a wide number of reasons. I was at a job that I didn’t feel connected to. I was in a relationship that had a lot of toxic elements. It was showing up in my body. I was carrying extra weight. I was suffering from severe symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. There were days that I couldn’t go into work, because I was just physically in so much pain.
As you can imagine, I was trying everything. I tried every possible fad, cleanse, or diet, or fitness trend. I paid so much money to work with tons of different experts, or visiting doctors, getting different tests done. I was at a loss. One day, I happened – again in this trial and error phase when I was just trying – being open to anything that could possibly help me, I happened to take a fitness class with a woman who by any definition, did not look, or act like a stereotypical fitness instructor.
She was a middle-aged mom. Didn’t care what she looked like and it was the best hour I’ve ever had in my life. I even still get a little emotional when I talk about her, because it was the first time that I was in this room full of women, of all different ages. I was just having fun. I wasn’t thinking about what I was looking like. It was like, the universe aligned. I was like, “Is this what being in my body and what fitness and health is supposed to be like? Is it supposed to be this enjoyable? Have I been doing it wrong for all these years?”
That’s what initially through her support and her seeing a potential in me. She really encouraged me to start. It was a Zumba class, so I became – I took the training to become a licensed Zumba instructor. That started my initial journey into working in and having a career in the health and wellness field and fitness.
That’s the first storyline. It was my own journey. It was my own discovery of finally finding something that worked for me, that made me feel good in my body. I was like, “I want to help other women have this experience. To open the doors that all of a sudden were opened for me,” and to feel – I actually remember, physically holding back tears from crying in this Zumba class multiple times, multiple weeks, because I was just so not just happy with myself, but looking around and seeing the joy in these other women. It was just like, “This is just the best. Why don’t we have more of this?”
[00:07:43] BS: I love Zumba. Zumba is so much fun. Now, I’m a big crier, but I have not yet cried in a Zumba class. I completely understand what you mean. I’ve been a lifelong dancer and I’m also a yogi as well. There’s something very magical about moving with a group of people together. It’s amazing.
[00:08:03] CM: Yes, especially when it’s that shared understanding of why you’re there, which I think I had never experienced before, because often, especially in a fitness environment, I’d walk into a gym and like so many people I’ve worked with and talked to, now it’s the intimidation. People are judging you. You’re judging other people. It’s all about going hard, or lifting heavy.
As soon as you are in a place where that’s taken away and it’s purely just about moving and experiencing your body and everybody’s on the same page with that, it is what you described it as. It is magical. It’s a whole new level of connecting with people and understanding, and almost like an inner and outer body experience at the same time. You’re right. It’s hard to describe, but it’s the best.
[00:08:54] BS: Yeah. No, that’s good. I think that, I always tell people this and I know that we haven’t had classes the way that we used to.
[00:09:06] CM: In a little while.
[00:09:07] BS: Hopefully, that will change at some point this year as we’re recording this. It’s early in 2021, so anything’s possible.
[00:09:15] CM: Fingers crossed.
[00:09:16] BS: Yes, exactly. I always tell people, especially I used to teach dance and teach yoga as well, that you need to find the right teacher. You should try different teachers and different classes to find the one that you love and the experience that you described of making fitness enjoyable and it should be. If it’s not, try something else, or try a different teacher.
[00:09:45] CM: Oh, especially nowadays, there’s so many options. I’ve had people come to me and say, “I don’t like Zumba.” When I prod a little bit deeper, it’s because they went to a class where –
[00:09:56] BS: One class.
[00:09:57] CM: – they didn’t connect with the instructor, or the experience wasn’t great. I’m like, “I’m Zumba instructor. I have drank the Kool-Aid.” I have been to Zumba classes that I was like, “Well, that was awful.”
[00:10:07] BS: Oh, me too. I’ve done Zumba for so many years and there’s some classes that I love, some that I’m like, “want-want.” It depends on the music choices as well, which I know is –
[00:10:18] CM: Dance style, teaching style, personality. In the same way that you don’t become best friends with every single person that you come into contact with. It’s the same thing. You just got to find your fitness instructor best friend.
[00:10:30] BS: Yeah, exactly. I love personally, with Zumba teachers, I had a really great one when I was living in Portland, Oregon, and I’m forgetting her name. Otherwise, I would definitely give her a shout out right now. She was actually at the LA Fitness. I don’t always love taking classes at gyms. In this case, she was just fantastic. She was such a ray of sunshine. She wasn’t doing the Zumba class where she was trying to be that sexy, show-offy teacher. Instead, she was very welcoming and very fun. She really just lit up the room and I loved going to her classes. I went every week for a long time.
[00:11:08] CM: That’s amazing. Yeah, you’ve got to find those find those gyms.
[00:11:13] BS: Yeah, find those teachers, find those classes. Also, there’s just so many different styles, like you mentioned, even with Zumba.
[00:11:20] CM: Oh, yeah. Even nowadays with the pandemic and how the industry and instructors have had to be so innovative and creative, there’s all these new formats coming out and different ways of experiencing classes. I truly do believe in my heart and soul that there is that – I’ve had people tell me, “I’m just not a gym person. I just don’t like exercise, etc., etc.” I’m like, “You have to keep trying, because now there is something out there that can be just as magical for everyone.” Even if it’s a different type of outside the gym activity, there’s some movement that you can do that just feels super good for you and your body.
[00:12:01] BS: I’ve heard this a lot. I imagine you have as well, something I like to say is it’s never too late.
[00:12:07] CM: Exactly.
[00:12:08] BS: Because you get a lot of people that maybe as adults, or moms, or business owners, where their wellness has just taken a back seat to other obligations and people. They’re just getting back into some routine to take care of themselves. Maybe it’s been a few years. Maybe it’s been a decade since they’ve really had a class that they went to. It can be intimidating, like you said. I mean, you’ve got mirrors and bad lighting and just that. I think with women too, we get – fall into this trap often of comparing ourselves to others, which can be really dangerous.
[00:12:56] CM: Yeah. We actually hear it all the time, especially at the studio and with our community, our fitness community exactly what you described, like people who are like, “I’ve never been athletic, or I’ve never been sportsy,” or as you described, “I’ve never been to a gym in 10 years.” It’s amazing how often, people surprise themselves, or people are shocked at discovering if you’re open to the experience, again with the right match and the right guidance and the right environment, that complete non-gym, non-sportsy, non-athletic identifying person, all of a sudden, becomes the front row regular in our weightlifting class.
It’s coming to me being like, “Oh, my God. This is so great. I love it. I feel so good.” It was just about for so many of those people, you’re right, it’s so intimidating. It’s about finding the community, the instructor, the trainer, whatever it is that that allows you to be vulnerable, that helps you to feel comfortable, that helps you to be open to those experiences. A big phrase that we use in our community is when you allow yourself to be uncomfortable, that’s when that magic happens, because you allow yourself to try new things and be open and it’s just great when it happens. That first step is always the hardest, but if you can allow yourself to do it, amazing things happen.
[00:14:30] BS: It is. You see a different side of it as a teacher, as I have before too. I’ve worked with beginners as well, beginners coming to dance, people who have never danced before, children and adults. Then, also with yogis as well. I taught corporate wellness for a while. You forget about the beginner’s mind and also, all of the fear and courage that it takes to even show up to a class like that. Especially if you’ve been working out for a long time consistently. I am one of those people that always seems to work out, otherwise, I get insane. I do it to protect those around me.
You forget about what it’s like to come into something new, which is why it’s also good if you have done a certain type of sport, or activity. Like me, I did dance for so long and then I switched to yoga. It’s good to switch things up as well, just to try something new.
[00:15:33] CM: Absolutely.
[00:15:33] BS: Get into that beginner’s mind again.
[00:15:36] CM: Yeah. It’s something that we actually really try to cultivate in our members. One of our guiding principles is about embracing challenge, because I think that especially when it comes to fitness, one of the buzzwords that’s often used in the industry is plateauing. I think, what it comes down to is that we allow ourselves to get comfortable. It’s when you, whether it’s physically, emotionally, or spiritually. If you allow yourself to keep seeking out growth and to have that growth mindset of when you experience challenge, it’s not a sign of failure, or a sign of weakness. That’s actually a sign of growth and opportunity and an opportunity to learn and improve yourself.
That’s what we’re constantly encouraging with our members, which is haven’t tried yoga yet? Try yoga. Haven’t changed your weight set in a while? Change your weight set. Because that’s how we learn about ourselves and we continue to see that forward momentum, which I think is so important.
[00:16:40] BS: Yeah. Keep the body guessing.
[00:16:42] CM: Exactly. And the mind, and the body.
[00:16:44] BS: Keep the body and the mind guessing. Exactly.
[00:16:48] CM: Yeah. That was the first half of my journey to getting to where I was, was just everything that we’ve talked about, that personal level of discovery and my own journey with my body and self-care and health and fitness. Then a big part of the other arc of that story was once – as you said, once I saw it from the other side, once I was actually a fitness professional and working in the industry and working for gyms and seeing how that side of things operated. For the most part, as a young woman at the time, entering to that field an extremely male-heavy, male-dominated field, where almost all of my bosses were young males. I was super unhappy as an employee. I felt underpaid. I felt undervalued.
On the flip side, so many of the members – it’s interesting that you brought up LA Fitness, because I used to work at a bunch of big box chains like that, which I think most of us when we think of gyms, we think of that big box, giant weight room, giant cardio room. We think of that experience.
[00:18:01] BS: It’s not the best and it wasn’t my favorite.
[00:18:03] CM: It’s not the best.
[00:18:04] BS: The only reason I was really going there was for the indoor pool that they had.
[00:18:09] CM: So many people say that. You go for the amenities, right?
[00:18:12] BS: Yup, exactly. Then I would take some classes occasionally.
[00:18:15] CM: Occasionally.
[00:18:16] BS: I despised that big box gym environment. Seriously. It’s tough.
[00:18:20] CM: Yeah, but it’s such a common model that people think. When you think of gym, I feel that’s the first thing that comes to mind.
[00:18:27] BS: Totally.
[00:18:28] CM: Then, after I’d been working – about six months into my journey as an instructor, I started to see a very common trend with the members who were coming to my classes and who I was working with. It was basically the same feedback at different facilities, different age groups, different fitness experiences. The feedback was all the same. They didn’t feel valued. They didn’t feel heard. They didn’t feel seen. For the most part, many of them were only utilizing those memberships at big box gyms, to come to specific instructors, to come to specific classes.
They didn’t feel they knew at all what they were doing. They were frustrated in their own journeys. That magic that we were experiencing, felt like it was so difficult to cultivate. I was like, this didn’t work for me. I’m a part of this industry, because of this one amazing woman, who I guess as you said, I should give a shout out. Dana Crochet. Amazing woman. Amazing Zumba instructor in Ottawa, Canada. Susannah Black, I got to give her a shout out too. She was the second woman that inspired me.
I was like, I only got into it, because of the experience and the influence of these two incredible women. Once I’m in the industry, I’m like, so much of it felt broken and felt – especially with the female experience, didn’t feel like it worked, didn’t feel like it was addressing their needs. I was like, there has to be a better way. There has to be a way that puts the experience, that puts the holistic view of the person and that as I said, that emotional and spiritual and mindset mental component as part of it.
I remember, one of the final straws of me quitting some of the big box gyms was a young male trainer in his 20s put a bunch of flyers up all over the gym of these supermodels in bikinis frolicking on a beach.
[00:20:28] BS: No.
[00:20:30] CM: Yeah. It was and it was after that two weeks earlier, I had gone to management and said, I really want to have a little holiday Zumba party, where I encourage everyone to come out and we have some great socialization time and we connect with one another. I was paying out of my own pocket. I was like, I want to bring some things, some prizes to give to them, to thank them for coming to my classes and stuff., They were like, no. No flyers allowed. Don’t put up anything. Absolutely not.
Then a week later, these giant photocopied bikini clad photos were everywhere. I was like, how damaging is this, this idea that these supermodels, that’s what you’re telling the 50-year-old, mother of four kids, who’s trying to fit in self-care in her busy life, that’s what you’re saying that she needs to be in order to be healthy, or valuable, or beautiful, or successful, or any of those things, that’s the goal that you’re saying she should strive to? I was like, “No. No, no, no.” There has to be a different way. That’s what initially encouraged me to branch out on my own.
I wanted to show women what was possible when you cannot just tap into that magic as this occasional thing, but you can tap into the magic consistently, daily, and see how that changes your life and how you’re able to show up.
[00:21:52] BS: I love it. I have the same mindset, Courtney. I mean, do you think things are changing, I mean, would the young male trainer in his 20s put up those bikini flyers in the gym in 2021?
[00:22:09] CM: That’s such a good question. I’ll be honest, there’s definitely waves of change happening.
[00:22:15] BS: I agree.
[00:22:16] CM: I think it’s also the thing of law of attraction of, because I’m operating in that way, I attract and see more people who are also sharing my values. As soon as I step outside my little bubble, I’m like, “Oh, crap. It’s oh, God.”
[00:22:32] BS: You know, what really gets me down is Instagram.
[00:22:36] CM: Oh, especially when you’re scrolling through and you get on this totally none – it’s like a DIY, a cute puppy, or something and it says, “Swipe left.” You swipe left and it’s a weight loss ad. You’re like, “How did I?”
[00:22:48] BS: It’s just all of it, dude. It’s all of it. I think that things are changing, but then I see the filters. I’ve mentioned this on the podcast before, but I was amazed when my husband, who does weightlifting all the time told me about the Instagram, men, all of the bodybuilders and the fitness influencers who use fake weights.
[00:23:14] CM: I know. It’s a thing. It’s a real thing.
[00:23:17] BS: I was so surprised. It never even crossed my mind as a possibility, that they would say that they’re lifting more than they actually are. I’m like, why would you do that?
[00:23:27] CM: Oh, yeah. I think that’s where there are definitely signs of change. Meaning, that the awareness of diet culture, the awareness of certain trainers and certain studios, or certain professionals, it’s definitely there. There’s so many Instagram accounts now, who the normalize, normal bodies movement. It’s definitely a thing that probably wasn’t really a thing before, in the same volume. Right now, it feels like swimming against the current, that the vast majority of not just the fitness industry, but just the way in which western societies operates, like diet culture and fat phobia and anti-fatness is just so – it’s the pinnacle of the core of the way we view our bodies, the way we view success, the way we view what is health, what is beauty, what is fit, that is going to take a lot of time and a lot of work of different activists and individuals to really see the impact of that change.
[00:24:33] BS: You’re right in what you just said that everything is connected. The body image, the diet culture, the idea of success. Yeah, it is all connected. It is insane.
[00:24:44] CM: All of it. Unfortunately, I would say, the fitness industry is a huge component of that, but it’s not just the fitness industry. It’s the beauty industry. It’s the agriculture and food industries. It’s fashion. All of it, they’re all operating under the same idea that this specific body type is good and you get it from controlling your body and suppressing your body’s needs and wants and restricting yourself and deprivation and hard work and sacrifice. That’s the narrative and the story that we’re told that you need those things to be seen as beautiful and fit and worthy.
If you don’t have those things, those attributes, if you don’t look that way, it’s your fault. You’re the failure, it’s because you didn’t work hard enough, it’s because you’re lazy, it’s because you didn’t make the right choices. That’s pretty much the only option that people are given, until they’re able to connect with individuals like you and myself and some great other people, especially the black, fat woman activists. Those are the ones who are at the forefront of change of showing us that no, there are different options. There are different ways to do this, to exist, to define ourselves and to take some of that power back.
[00:26:03] BS: I agree. There is so much misinformation out there about what’s healthy really means. It sucks that such a great thing has been tarnished by the industry and by others.
[00:26:18] CM: Become a commodity.
[00:26:19] BS: Yeah, it has. Courtney, I’d be interested to hear what your definition of healthy is at this stage in your life.
[00:26:27] CM: Yes. I love this question, because and I love the way that you just phrased it, at this stage of my life, because I do truly feel that it evolves over time. There’s not a singular answer for what’s going to work for everybody and there’s also not a singular answer of what’s going to work for you. It’s going to change as your body changes, especially as women. Our bodies goes through so much change in our lives, whether it’s getting our first period, whether it’s pre or post-natal, whether it’s pre or post-menopausal.
For me, right now, when I think of healthy and what it means to be healthy, it’s about having a consistent self-care routine that allows me to feel connected, in tune and aligned with my body, and that’s it.
[00:27:11] BS: That’s great.
[00:27:13] CM: I mean, that’s a big mouthful. It has nothing to do with what I physically look like. It’s all about how I feel and how I’m taking care of myself.
[00:27:23] BS: I love that definition. It’s very well said. Our bodies do change, especially as women. One of the things I’ve really have loved as an adult, who still dances and some of my other friends who dance and even perform still, going into their mid-30s, I mean, I know people who still perform even beyond that, 40s, 50s, 60s. One such friend, her name is Sada Naegelin. She was episode 7 of Love Your Enthusiasm. She had a really great episode that you’d probably love, Courtney. It’s called The Art of Showing Up for Yourself.
[00:28:02] CM: Oh, I love that.
[00:28:04] BS: Sada is an amazing person. She is a co-founder of an organization for healthy Latinas and that lifestyle. It’s called De Las Mias. She’s also a contemporary dancer and a performer. Her and I, we actually used to work together, but we’ve become friends over time and we would talk about just how our bodies have changed as lifelong dancers. Especially, of course with dancers, you end up with a lot of body image problems, especially if you did ballet, of course, is usually the worst one, which I did a lot of.
She and I would just talk about how we don’t have the same expectations of our body. It’s like, once we both hit 30, it was like, “Oh, this is changing.” Then she recently had a baby. Then of course, more changes. Then now, I’m going to be 40 this year, more changes. It’s just like –
[00:29:00] CM: It never stops.
[00:29:01] BS: It doesn’t stop. You’re right. It is this, healthy is an evolution. You have to look at where you are at that certain stage and also know that it’s actually a really beautiful thing to see your body evolve. You’re not going to drop weight as quickly, or bounce back as quickly as when you were younger. It’s just not going to happen.
[00:29:21] CM: Yeah, but at the same time, with those changes, you get to see new things that your body can do. That energetic young person, the ability to look back on 40 years and have that – when I say have that wisdom, I truly mean your body has that wisdom of lived experience. I always say, there’s a type of strength that women have, especially as we age, that if they’re shown how to tap into it, is such an amazingly powerful thing. I think that’s what it’s about. As your body changes, I think that many of us grieve a lot of changes, or we romanticized different periods of our life.
There’s such a great train of thought of how often have you looked at a younger picture of yourself and been like, “Oh, my God. Why did I hate my body back then? It was so great. I loved this. Look at how it looks compared to me now. I don’t like this now.” You know that if you had the wisdom of future forward sight, you would know that probably, you’re going to do the same thing 10 years from now. You’re going to look at where you’re at now and see all these amazing, wonderful things about what your life was like and what your body did for you now.
I think, if we can try to take that approach in a more present-focused way of just being able to look at ourselves and what our body does and is and can do now in our present life, or whatever stage that we’re at and celebrating that, instead of focusing on what we used to be able to do, or what we can’t do, I think that many of us would find a lot more confidence and a much deeper sense of joy and self-love.
[00:31:12] BS: I love that we’re talking about body wisdom and body wisdom is just something that doesn’t get discussed enough and it’s something, like wisdom of the mind as well. It’s something that you gain over time with a lot of work and exploration. When you’re younger, you’re just not going to have that same mentality. You’re not going to have that same focus. As your body starts to change and you got to work with what you got, you start to gain that body wisdom about what you can and not necessarily can’t do, but maybe shouldn’t do, and that’s something that I’ve learned as a dancer as well, is I’ve learned that I don’t have anything to prove anymore. That’s a big one for me and that yes, I can go take an advanced class still. I can still go into an advanced ballet class and survive. I use the word survive, meaning I’ll get through it, but –
[00:32:16] CM: You’ll get through it.
[00:32:17] BS: – I don’t want to. I’m going to take an intermediate class instead, because that’s a happier place for me to be. I don’t have anything to prove. An intermediate class is just what my body loves now, what it needs. I’m so happy with that. I don’t need the competition and the advanced movements. I just don’t need that anymore. That body wisdom, I did not have that 10 years ago for sure.
[00:32:42] CM: Oh, yeah. Well, I think it’s a really interesting bell curve that I think that happened. I’m going to give a shout out to a fellow Canadian. She’s a really great influencer on Instagram. Her name is Alicia McCarvell. She spoke about this on her page the other day. She’s like, “When you think of a five-year-old, they have this incredible sense of self. Most five-year-olds think that the universe is gift to our world, they think their bodies are like Superman and Superwoman. They’re capable of all these amazing things.”
We’re born with this innate sense of body wisdom. When you think of a small baby, they say yes to food, they say no to food. They know when they want to sleep, they sleep when they want to sleep. They’re running in-tune with their own physical and body and cricketing rhythms and cycles and needs and wants and desires. Then somewhere along the way, that gets broken. That gets shut off and we’re taught this other message of eat what’s on your plate. Don’t complain about the food that you’re presented. Willpower. Again, that sacrifice, deprivation, food is bad, fat is bad, thin is good, control is good. This idea that you can’t trust your bodies.
I think you’re right. It takes a lot. This is a lot of the work that we’re currently doing in the community is building that awareness again of slowing down, of tuning inward, of stopping the cycle of trying to find these external cues, these external solutions, these I just have to buy this thing. I just have to do this program. I just have to get this dress size and then I’ll feel good enough, then I’ll know what to do, then I’ll be in this great picturesque vision of health and fitness and beauty and worthiness.
It’s about realizing that it’s all inside of you and it’s about slowing down and building that awareness and unlearning everything that we get taught, between the ages of five and maybe it’s 40, maybe it’s 50, maybe it’s 65, maybe it’s 30. That it does take time, and I’m hoping that the more work that we do now, the more it might benefit future generations of like, is it possible? Can we hang on to that a little bit more? Can we hang on to our body wisdom and trust in ourselves from the beginning, without being told that we’re less than, or that our bodies are fat and lazy and that’s a bad thing, and just being okay with just being who we are from the beginning? I don’t know. That seems a little idyllic right now, but watching that transformation happen, as you said, as people age and people are able to do that work and do that reflection. Maybe it can happen earlier and earlier and earlier.
[00:35:38] BS: Yeah. I know that, Courtney, that you went through that transformation yourself. I would love for you to share with the listeners how you made that pivot from loathing your body, to loving it.
[00:35:52] CM: Yeah. I always like to start with the disclaimer that I am not an end destination. Even as somebody who – I mean, this is my life’s work right now, my life’s passion and something that I help others with. I am still very much a journey in progress and there are definitely days that I wake up and I struggle with body image and I struggle with feelings of worth, or feelings of lack. I also really want to recognize, I’m in a more privileged position as a woman in a white body, as a woman who identifies, or even passes as straight identifying, that my journey is different than people who have different bodies than me.
That being said, it did take time. It took a lot of repetition and consistency and trial and error to really figure out what worked for me, a lot of working with coaches and being influenced by podcasts and YouTube videos and Instagram and fellow fitness professionals. I would say, one strong pivot was that awakening, becoming woke, if you will, as the kids say, of what diet culture is, and how much –
I talk about it with my clients now, of how much of our definition of beauty and success and fitness and wellness and all those concepts are given to us, that they’re not actually what we want. Part of my journey was I lost a ton of weight. I lost over 50 pounds. I was in this tiny, tiny body and I had rid myself of all my IBS symptoms. So many people were looking up to me as a role model, and I still didn’t feel good enough. I still was nitpicking at myself and wanting to be thinner and looking at this bump and that rule.
I was like, I had the “solution.” I was in this body that was supposed to be much closer to the ideal. As I said, there was no destination. I didn’t get to that body and be like, “Okay. Now I feel great. I feel perfect.” I still felt less than. It wasn’t the answer. It was it was through understanding that nobody makes money off of a woman who loves her body. Nobody makes money off of a woman who feels good enough as she is. I was being told by all of these different industries that were profiting off of my insecurity, that I wasn’t good enough and that I had to do more and I had to be more and I had to lose more weight, I had to have more muscle. I needed a flatter stomach. I needed to dress better. I needed to put more makeup on. I need to put less makeup on.
It was through actually becoming aware of that and listening to some very knowledgeable, intelligent individuals who are much farther ahead in this work than even I am, of recognizing that the impact that that can have on the way that I see my life, the choices that I make and how I define what is good for me. Through that awareness, I started to do the mindset work of trying to figure out what is my why, what is my joy, what actually makes me excited to get up in the morning, what actually really makes my body, again, tapping into that body wisdom, what makes my body feel good, this body?
Then once I identified some of that, like my Zumba is a big one, how can I have more of that in my life? Setting those boundaries and making those choices to really lean into my joy and to prioritize self-care and to do some of the tools in my toolbox that I still use on a very regular basis are affirmations and journaling and reflection of how to say no, how to assert my needs, how to prioritize self-care, how to come back to my why. All of those really positive things of building awareness and tapping into my why and tapping into my abundance and reaffirming my worth.
Then on the flip side, really releasing and letting go of and closing the door on negative influences, who were trying to keep me stuck. Even something as simple as the media we consume, again, whether that’s podcasts, or YouTube, or TV, or movies, or magazines, or whatever it is. If you’re consuming it, being mindful of how does it actually make you feel, what is it telling you? Even in the last two years, I have really become mindful of who I follow on social media, and making sure I’m following black bodies and bigger bodies and bodies with different disabilities and bodies who look different than me, so that I’m aware of what normal bodies look like.
I find that that alone has such a positive impact of my mental health, than when I was in the mind space of I was like, I need to follow my body goals. I need to follow those thin, fit women, who I want to look like that. Seeing them all the time is going to inspire me, or whatever that kind of bullshit that you tell yourself. When really, when I sat and checked in with myself, I was like, “That does nothing, but make me feel worse.”
It’s by following people who are unabashedly showing up as themselves, for better, for worse, with their – I don’t want to say flaws. I want to say, the different characteristics and the different uniquenesses about their bodies that make their body theirs, that reflected back the love and confidence and acceptance that I was so longing for. I think that that was also a big part of it of like, recognizing how what I surround myself with, what I consume, what I see on a daily basis has to reflect back the joy and the self-love that I want.
If I’m reflecting back that constant message of diet culture and fat phobia and anti-fatness and lack, lack, lack, buy, buy, buy. I’m just always going to feel that way. You have to start making those really conscious choices to protect your energy and to align yourself with people who show you where you want to go.
[00:42:25] BS: Thank you, Courtney. It’s just so many wonderful things that you said. Thank you thank you for sharing and then also, for focusing on what we consume and our attention is a commodity.
[00:42:40] CM: Absolutely.
[00:42:41] BS: More than ever. It’s one of our most precious commodities. Especially over the last year or so, as we become more and more digital to connect with other people and we’ve really all been funneled into this digital vortex. We have to be disciplined about how we’re spending our attention and do what makes us feel good. If it doesn’t, we need to try to avoid those things. I mean, it’s very, very harmful. It goes back to comparing ourselves. Earlier, you mentioned feeling less than. It’s something we all go through. It can be heightened when we are in the information age. Don’t forget that. Don’t forget that there are people who do get that and are using the information age to their advantage. We are getting information at the speed of light. Don’t forget that.
[00:43:39] CM: Yeah. I think as you said, like how much of it isn’t real.
[00:43:44] BS: Fake weights and whatnot.
[00:43:46] CM: Fake weights, I feel is one of the tips of the iceberg when it comes to social media.
[00:43:49] BS: I know. There’s so much more. There’s contouring.
[00:43:52] CM: Oh, yeah. I remember, I was watching, I think it was The Social one day. This was last year. They had an episode where one girl takes out her extensions. I was thinking, “Well, yeah. Obviously, some people have extensions.” Then, every single woman on the panel, either takes off a wig, or takes out extensions, including women that I looked at and they’re like, “No, she’s got normal hair.” I was like, I literally had this mind-blown moment where I was like, even the women who I think look normal have additions on their body that aren’t real, whether it’s as you said, extensions, contouring, a push-up bra, filters –
[00:44:34] BS: Photoshop. Yeah, all of it.
[00:44:36] CM: So much of what we see isn’t real. I think that there was something else when it comes to brain psychology is our – and this is why visualization can be such a powerful and positive tool and something that I both use and encourage my clients to use, because the brain can’t tell the difference between a real and a perceived memory, which is why visualization can help you feel so much better about yourself, or get closer to your goals.
It also means that we are constantly consuming, or being exposed to media that holds up this standard of what we should do, what we should look like, we should all over ourselves and we hold up this ideal that isn’t even physically possible. That even the models don’t have the model bodies. Even the fact, I learned that there are robots on Instagram now, that men are creating accounts of fake women and they have millions of followers who again, are looking, “Oh, she’s so beautiful, or she’s so thin, or whatever.” I’m like, “But she’s not even real.” Now women are supposed to not just be perfect, but be closer to a robot than a real human body. You can’t win. You just can’t win, if that’s what you’re up against.
[00:46:00] BS: Yeah. You don’t want to be a robot, right? I mean, I don’t.
[00:46:04] CM: I don’t. Then again, if you don’t, as you said, make that really conscious effort to build the awareness and find out what you’re looking at, you’re taking in all those subtleties, without even realizing what’s happening. I think that’s what’s scary about as you said, the digital and virtual world is you’re consuming so much so fast. It might initially seem harmless, but it’s the cumulative effect of you’re constantly seeing these small things every day for hours a day and they’re having a really large impact overall, of it just becomes normal.
All these crazy, unrealistic bodies, or skin complexions, or weightlifting capabilities, or whatever it is, you’re constantly, consistently being told over time that that is the normal, whether you realize it or not. As soon as you start consuming that, that becomes your bar. Of course, you’re always going to feel less than. Of course, you’re always going to feel not good enough, because that’s what you’re being told, even if it’s subtle, even if you don’t realize it. That’s the brain change that’s happening every day.
[00:47:23] BS: Yeah. We all just really need to check ourselves. It’s that side of things. It’s what we consume, but it’s also what we put out there.
[00:47:31] CM: Absolutely.
[00:47:32] BS: I mean, what you’re putting out there is possibly feeding that engine. I mean, look at your phone and just what you’re able to do when you post, we’ll go back to Instagram, when you’re able to post an Instagram photo, all the filters and all the different apps, where you can just change things and you can edit videos. The possibilities are endless in the palm of your hand. Just for you to manipulate an image, or a video, you can do that and we’ve all done it. It’s just something to think about, not only what we’re consuming, but what we’re sharing with others as well.
[00:48:08] CM: Yeah. It’s why we’ve made, actually from the very beginning, we’ve made a really conscious effort. We have a strict no filter, no Photoshop policy. Now, that being said, I will absolutely use those ridiculous filters that have butterflies on my head.
[00:48:28] BS: Butterfly filters are allowed.
[00:48:30] CM: Always down for that. I like, actually, the birds papaya, Sarah Landry, recently just released a new photo editing app and she said it’s about creating, not correcting. I loved that, because I’m like, that’s what I look like we do. Do we enhance colors of our walls and some photos, or make things brighter? Absolutely. Do we take away flaws that are there to make the photo more palatable? No. We also are really open, or we try to be really open with our own struggles.
As I said, when people come to me and they’re like, “You seem so confident,” or I talk about loving my body, I always want to start with that disclaimer being like, “I don’t have all the answers. I’m on this journey with you and we’re figuring it out together. I can guide you and help you learn from what I’ve already learned, but I don’t ever want to give the impression that there’s this end goal of just you’re going to love your body and be perfect and that’s it.” It’s about being real and being authentic with each other, that there are some days that yeah, it still sucks, or you put on a dress and it doesn’t look the way you were expecting and you’re just like, “Oh, man. That sucks.” You still have those thoughts and it’s still something –
Or actually, I use the onion analogy too. It’s layers of healing. You get to a point where maybe, for many women, maybe turning 30, or turning 40 is a bit of a deal. Then you and then you get to a point where you’re really good at it, good with it and you accept it and you come to peace and you’re happy and excited. Then you keep going down your journey and you get triggered by something and you enter this whole new layer of healing that you’re like, “Oh, I didn’t even realize this was a thing.”
There’s always new discoveries and new self-growth. I think it’s about having those real conversations and showing up and talking about stuff and pulling back that mask, or the filter or whatever it is that you want to use, that allows us to really see what a normal human experience is like. A normal human experience is bumps and bruises and hairy, hairs, and imperfect skin and imperfect bodies and jiggles and wiggles. Learning to see the beauty in that, of not looking to perfection and taking those things away to find your happiness. It’s not happiness, in spite of those things. It’s happiness, because of all of those things. It’s happiness with the experience of all those things. That’s on a whole different level.
[00:51:00] BS: Thank you, Courtney. Such a wonderful and important conversation. I really enjoyed hanging out with you and sharing our body wisdom with others.
[00:51:10] CM: Well, thank you. Thank you so much for having this platform that you use to spread these type of conversations and this awareness, because I think it’s so important that – and as I said, we’re just starting this conversation. The more that we can talk about it, the more that hopefully, things start to change.
[00:51:28] BS: Absolutely. Courtney, before we officially wrap up, can you let the listeners know how they can stay connected and find more info?
[00:51:37] CM: Yes, absolutely. Our name is Loyobo FIT, which stands for Love Your Body Fitness. We are on Instagram @LoyoboFIT. Or you can check us out at loyobofit.com. We would love to connect with you.
[00:51:49] BS: Wonderful. Thanks, Courtney. Take care.
[00:51:51] CM: Thank you so much.
[00:51:56] BS: If you’re looking for more ways to create your own version of health, check out episode 2 in the early days of Love Your Enthusiasm, where my good friend and the founder of Tri Girls Rise, Jennifer Edwards, talked candidly about trying things that scare you. From almost zero fitness, Jennifer decided she wanted to tackle triathlons at the age of 26. She explains how getting into triathlons completely changed her perspective and inspired her to encourage others like her to see themselves as an athlete at any age, or ability. Yes, this is a fantastic episode, so make sure to listen to that one.
Thank you all for tuning in to Love Your Enthusiasm. I’ll see you next time.