This Fitness Model Turned Body-Image Advocate Is Happier Now That She’s Less Fit
She had a major change of heart.
Jessi Kneeland is here to talk undying body love. The trainer and fitness model turned body-image coach shares why she softened up and how she's never been happier.
Once, I had a ton of muscle, which was very hard earned. That was key for me as a trainer because it showed that I knew what I was doing. I did love heavy lifting and the satisfaction of seeing my strength grow. I also lucked out by being a strong, sculpted woman when that look was just getting popular, and I became a fitness model as well.
When I was a trainer, female clients would tell me, "I want to look better so I can be happier with myself." I would say, "I can help you get stronger, but how you feel about your body is up to you." That's when I realized that women need help learning how to feel great about their bodies. And when a client would cry after lifting an amount she never believed she could, I saw how that accomplishment had such life-changing potential for her. (Related: How Falling In Love with Lifting Helped Jeannie Mai Learn to Love Her Body)
A funny thing happened some time after that revelation. I gave up exercise for a year. I was traveling a lot, so it was difficult to keep up my lifting. But I also think I needed to prove to myself that I'm OK with not chasing some perfect body as a measure of self-worth. As a result, I saw my body take on a much softer state.
These days, as a body-image coach, I really believe in the power of viewing imperfect bodies on social media. You get to choose who you look at on social media. Anything that makes you feel less good about yourself has to go. When I post unfiltered images on Instagram- showing my bloated belly or my cellulite-I'm saying I embrace it. That doesn't mean I don't think movement is important; Pilates and walks are a major part of my life.
I always ask clients to write down their body goal and how they expect to feel when they reach it. Next, I tell them to cross off that first goal. What's left is the real driver: the emotional experience. And it has nothing to do with the way you look. (Next Up: This Woman Shared Her 15-Pound Weight Gain to Show How Counting Calories Can Be Dangerous)