Personal trainer Kirstin Dragasakis was told by a client—and figure competition judges—that her butt and thighs were too big. She respectfully disagrees
Being a personal trainer was Kirstin Dragasakis's dream job. The 40-year-old from Minneapolis, Minnesota loved training herself and found training others—and watching their physical transformations—to be incredibly rewarding. But then she got Ms. X as a client. During their very first meeting, Ms. X pointed Kirstin's muscular quads and glutes and exclaimed, "I don't want to lift weights if it will make me big down there like you are!" (You should be lifting heavier weights—they won't make you bulk up!)
The words cut through Dragasakis like a knife—the woman had nailed one of her deepest insecurities. Several years prior, she had participated in a bodybuilding figure competition. She loved lifting weights and enjoyed feeling strong and powerful. What she didn't love, though, was "the focus on appearance, and appearance only." After the show, she had asked the judges for feedback. "Overwhelmingly, they said I lacked symmetry because of my big booty and thighs," she remembers. "The competition was wonderful in that I learned about my strength and determination in sticking to a very tough goal I set, but it wasn't fabulous in teaching me about body love and body acceptance." (Learn from These Women Who Show Why the #LoveMyShape Movement Is So Freakin' Empowering.)
Eager to keep lifting weights but wanting to ditch the glittery bikini and all the attitudes that went with it, Dragasakis decided to take up powerlifting. She got a coach and worked at getting stronger and tougher every day, taking pride in how quickly she was progressing.
So when her client insulted her body shape, it really stung. "To be honest, at first I was terribly hurt and near tears. I have, in my worst moments, felt inadequate as a trainer because I am not super lean, ripped all year long," she says. "I don't look like all the fitspiration pictures." (Find out Why "Fitspiration" Instagram Posts Aren't Always Inspiring.)
But it didn't take long before her embarrassment turned to anger at the woman's rudeness and then pride in her strength. Instead of being ashamed of her muscles, she channeled her feelings into training even harder for her first powerlifting competition. "I've earned these legs and this butt!" she says. "My thick thighs and booty are assets and not parts of me to hate and disparage."
And it's not just for herself that Dragasakis says she's fighting—she says all women need to ditch the widespread idea that bulky is bad. "I wish more women would come to understand that strength and muscle are gifts and are so important to our health, especially as we age," she says. "And I wish more women knew how empowering it is to be able to pick up heavy shit and put it back down!" (Check out 18 Ways Weight Lifting Will Change Your Life.)
As for the "fitspo" ideal, Dragasakis would like to ditch that too. "I hate fitspo that pushes 'strong not skinny', which actually glorifys overtraining and an unrealistic level of leanness," she says. Ultimately, she adds, it's not about trying to look like some "perfect" girl on Instagram or in a magazine but about being the best, healthiest version of you. (They're not all that perfect, anyway.)
"From now on, I am going to own being 'big down there' and use it to kick ass in my competition," she says. And we'll be standing on the proverbial sidelines applauding her strength, both inside and out!