Why I Don't Need To Have The 'Perfect' Body To Be A Health Coach

Jen Brister

“Bread or no bread?” Bread!

“Soup or salad?” Soup!

Out of 40 health and wellness colleagues in the room, I was the only person who ordered soup and bread.

Not only that, but I was immediately met by a sea of judgment. Everyone cautiously ate their green leaves of lettuce so mindfully, being careful of their every move.

One person said, “Oh, you got the soup. How nice.” Yes, it is nice. And it is fucking delicious.

I unapologetically love food. I love to cook it, eat it and savor it. As a health coach, I also do care about what I eat not in a dogmatic way, but in a loving way.

You see, I have an amazing relationship with my body. I listen to it. I do not listen to fad diets, grocery store marketing or blog haters.

I listen to my body. It tells me exactly what it needs and when.

And on that rainy day in NYC, it said, “Lindsey, I could use some bread and soup.” I listened, and guess what? I was right.

Now, for most people, bread and soup is considered a bad meal, but a leafy green salad is good meal. Because as much as we love to label people, we love labeling food, too.

While I sat back and whole-heartedly enjoyed my soup and bread, feeling great about my decision, I could see the discomfort and anxiety so many of my colleagues were feeling.

Being in the health industry, I am judged for two things: my food choices and my size.

I remember going out for fro-yo in my hometown once, and someone recognized me as the “Food Mood Girl.”

The group, not knowing that my husband was right by them, commented on how they just couldn't believe I was eating fro-yo, as if enjoying my fruit-filled treat was like pledging allegiance to the dessert devil.

A few days later, another friend told me her mother-in-law was on my website, and she was "surprised" people took my advice because I wasn't "skinny enough.”

Not only was I committing to the dessert devil, but now my size was being questioned. Normally, I would let this go, but I couldn't help think, “What is wrong with my size?”

I've been the same size for the better part of my life. I've been a size 6 since about ninth grade. The only big change would be my bra size, which is to be expected because puberty.

But for the most part, my shape and body type has stayed the same.

As a teen, I remember feeling inadequate around my friends and peers. I wasn't skinny or overweight, but what was I?

When it came to guys and sports, I always felt like I fell short. I felt like I wasn't quite thin enough for either.

I'd always get picked somewhere in the middle for dodgeball and dates. It wasn't bad, but it also never made me feel good.

Fast-forward to my career as a health and nutrition coach, author and speaker. When I attend health and fitness conferences and events, I feel the same exact way.

I'm not skinny or fit, but I'm not overweight, either. Yet, I still feel this weird in-between feeling, still not knowing what the hell I am.

And then I realized: I am a medium-sized woman. I'm not skinny, not overweight. I'm just medium.

Once I realized that, I had to wonder, "Since when was being medium-sized not healthy? Since when did a size 6 or 8 or 10 suddenly become a fitness failure?"

We live in a culture that profits off of self-hate, one that wants us to believe even a medium-sized frame is not worthy of things like love, health, kindness or acceptance. Even a medium frame has lots of work to do because the smaller the dress size, the more valuable of a human you are.

And regardless of whatever baggage and shit you have going on in your life, if you are thin, you are a beacon of health to certain people.

The last time I went for a physical, they took my height, weight and blood pressure.

“OK, your numbers look fine. You are all good and healthy,” they said.

They didn't once say, “How are you doing mentally? Are you taking time for yourself? Are you practicing self-love? Do you have a healthy creative outlet? How are your personal relationships? How do you cope with bad days?”

Those questions tell me a lot more about my health and well-being than a dress size or a scale ever could.

As I sat back and watched how each one of my colleagues silently judged me for ordering bread and soup, I couldn't help but feel sad for them. Not only were they missing out on the best fucking tomato soup I've ever had (seriously, I'm still dreaming about it), but because they judged me for some soup and bread, I imagine they judge themselves even more harshly.

I imagine their own judgments and being in the industry has made them extra cautious about their every move, making them feel constantly on edge about their food choices and how others perceive them.

They've probably not only given food bad labels, but they've also maybe even given themselves worse ones.

So, what if we quit labeling and judging ourselves by our size, weight, food choices and appearance, and instead start loving and respecting ourselves for our minds, creativity and vitality?

And what if we start basing our opinions of others on those things rather than the labels we've been taught?

I bet you would not only have an amazing conversation, but you would also see other people's health a lot differently.

I bet you would see their zest, their spunk, their attitude and their happiness. I bet you would see reflections of yourself in them and wonder why you had been judging so hard before.

And I bet you would learn to quit judging yourself so harshly, and instead, you'd learn to eat some soup and bread every now and then.

This article was originally published on the author's personal blog.