It’s a hell of a process to be a woman.

I posted this photo a couple weeks ago on social media:

to be a woman | kourtney thomas fitness

It proudly showcases what I like to call my “butt shelf.” That little extra bit of skin or bumpy section or whatever you want to call it below my butt and at the top of my hamstrings, which is sometimes referred to as the glute/ham tie-in. It’s a small part of my body that I made a really big deal about for a long time.

I used to think it was the ugliest thing ever. Like, why do my legs and butt have that? How could I make it go away? Would I ever have a round bottom with a perfect glute/ham tie-in?!?

Mainstream media had made it clear to me for years (basically, since birth), that parts of women’s bodies that are not completely smooth and perfectly (?) shaped are shameful and should be covered up until they are fixed. Cultural and familial influences had done nothing to change that idea either. Every female I knew in real life was concerned with all the same things, whether it was a butt shelf, or some other heinously named thing, like saddlebags, pooch, chicken wings, FUPA, back boob, or muffin top. (I had to actually Google these things because WHY DO THEY EXIST THIS IS AWFUL.) From every source, every direction, I was continuously bombarded with messages that there were things wrong with my body and parts of it were gross.

Conditioning is real, y’all.

And this conditioning with the “thin ideal” at the forefront kept me playing small for most of my life. It made it normal for me to eat a Yoplait yogurt and 15 Wheat Thins for lunch every day. It made it normal for me to go to bed each night flexing my abs. It made it normal for me to put all my energy into staying small, and to be continually dissatisfied with how I looked, no matter what.

All of my self-worth was wrapped up in my looks, my size, my weight, and my physical attractiveness as it related to the current cultural body and beauty standards.

And it was years, many years, before I started to dissociate from that. Even as I got into health and fitness, I was still seeing the same things. But now the situation had shifted from “this is the ideal” to “we’re here to help you achieve this ideal.” That’s damaging too, as we continue to see the effects of the machine that is the women’s weight loss industry. Still, as a newbie, I fell into the trap for a bit. I was still buying into some of the conditioning myself, and I coached that way for the first part of my career too, as embarrassing as that is to admit.

It wasn’t until I found hypertrophy, or bodybuilding, that things started to change. My perspective started to shift. I was forced to examine all of this conditioning, break apart all of this messaging and its effects on me and my self-image. I was forced to ask questions, to do some very uncomfortable emotional work, to reflect on difficult things in order to unravel the mess that is women’s bodies in the world.

It didn’t happen overnight. As I worked out harder and my body changed and grew bigger, I was faced with digging through more complicated narratives, personal and societal. I had to sort through all the feelings, which were ever-changing, and different every single day. There were times when I was so excited about my growing muscles and bigger size, and there were times when I looked in the mirror and hated everything I saw.

It’s a hell of a process to be a woman, that’s for sure.

Eventually, on the heels of years of going through this process with a different perspective, I realized that having a butt shelf just doesn’t register on my list of things to give a fuck about.

I mean, does having the perfect glute/ham tie-in and working crazy hard to get rid of my weird butt shelf thing make my life better? Make me a stronger woman? Get me more friends or business? Make my husband love me more? No. No, it does not.
Again, coming to that conclusion didn’t happen overnight, or even over a few months. I’ve been susceptible to just as much conditioning as anyone else, and it takes years to undo that damage. But examining it for what it is has helped me realize that it’s pretty much all bullshit, and there’s nothing wrong with my butt shelf. Or my body. Which, in fact, I love wholeheartedly at this point, bigger than ever.

Letting go of this need to look a certain way or be a certain size changed my life, trite as that may sound. Once I was finally able to detach so much meaning and self-worth from my physical attractiveness based on cultural standards, I was able to open up to all the things in life that had never even registered to me before.

Would I ever have actively sought out a program specifically to get my upper body as huge and jacked as humanly possible? Nope. Would I ever have been confident enough to travel to Peru and trek the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu? Nope. Would I ever have felt sure enough in my capabilities to bring my business wholly into the online space and be successful? Nope. Would I have felt self-assured enough to make a speech about how fitness professionals are getting it wrong when it comes to this stuff at a conference for fitness professionals? Nope.

Realizing that five extra pounds of body fat did not make me less attractive, less likeable, less fun, less intelligent, or less of anything was a game-changer.

And when I came into my confidence as a woman, not as a small and smooth body, I was finally able to occupy the space that I wanted to. To be truly happy physically, mentally, emotionally, professionally. That’s when the Big Arms, Big Life philosophy was born, and I’ve lived, and coached, by it ever since.

What I realized, is that a big part of what women are wanting right now is the freedom and permission to create what they want for themselves and their bodies, on their terms. And I knew that what I wanted was to support them however I could. A big part of my mission is to build a world where we reallocate hours spent pinching fat in front of the mirror to doing the things we truly love – to living our version of the Big Life.

And that’s what Build Your Big Life Coaching is all about.

It’s not a fitness plan. It’s not a workout challenge. It’s not a system for how to do a certain thing or fit a certain picture. Yes, it involves fitness, but more than that, it’s a comprehensive program that encompasses deep, emotional work, questioning, and effort to discover more about yourself and what living a Big Life means to you. It’s taking all those feelings of readiness to reality. And it’s support along the way, with loving and honest encouragement, and personalized, real-time action steps for how to go out and live your Big Life.

It’s freedom. It’s choice. It’s clarity and direction.

Whaddaya say? Find out more and sign up over here.

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