-- This is a guest blog post by Christina Canterino --
I want to share a story with the world that has affected me in a way I never thought possible. Let me start by giving you a little background about myself…
I am a 29 year old woman, and I lost sixty pounds in two and a half years. I have kept the weight off and have gotten leaner, faster, and stronger as each day passes. I struggled with bulimia throughout my young adult years, going in and out of therapy and treatment. It was so bad, that i was forced to drop out of college midway through my second semester. It was one of the most difficult periods of my life. Now, I consider myself athletic, confident, and healthy.
A few years ago, I was able to complete my bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Sociology. However, fitness and wellness have grown to become my passion. During the day, I am a working member of corporate America. At night I am a group fitness instructor. I am studying for the NASM (National Association of Sports Medicine) personal training exam to further my knowledge and career in fitness. Making others feel comfortable in their own skin, promoting body confidence and self-esteem and helping people live the best life they can is what I have recently dedicated my life to achieving.
My mother and I had begun our weight loss journey together, starting as a fun and friendly competition between the two of us to see who could lose the most weight. We met in her office every day for lunch and to chat about the struggles of dieting, exercising, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. It was amazing to have one another for support, and the bond between us could not have been stronger.
After few months, my mother was able to lose nearly eighty pounds. This led to her speaking with a cosmetic surgeon, and she decided to complete her transformation by undergoing a tummy tuck. Five days later, suddenly and tragically, my mother passed away due to complications from the procedure. This was the turning point of my life. If I had known then what I know now, I would have been able to help her see the bigger picture and feel comfortable with herself the way she is, rather than turn to plastic surgery.
The loss of my mother has completely changed my life, and I am now devoted to bettering myself and others both physically and mentally. I want to help every woman feel confident in their own body. I want to encourage them to feel comfortable while they are working out. I strive to lead by example, showing confidence in my body and even in the clothes that I wear while I work out. It is my goal to make women conquer their insecurities and body image issues and help them live a happier, more self-fulfilling life.
In almost every single fitness ad in magazines and even on television the model is primary pictured in just a sports bra. Heck, almost every female athlete in the Olympics wore just their sports bra to compete. That being said I just don't think it's right to impose any kind of restriction on what a women can and cannot wear (within the lines of decency). Especially at a gym. With that being said, I have an unfortunate story about a couple of women who do not agree with my lifestyle…
Never in my 29 years have I ever heard of someone being told at their gym that your midriff is not allowed to be visible while working out. I especially wouldn’t think about it at a UFC branded gym whose walls are plastered with life sized photos of popular male UFC fighters shirtless alongside Ronda Rousey and other amazing female UFC fighters all dressed in their typical gym attire – sports bras. Even when you pull up the UFC-Ballantyne website the first thing you see on the homepage is a women being trained in a UFC weight room dressed in, you guessed it, a sports bra and short shorts.
At first, I had no idea how to react after the owner of this UFC Gym franchise pulled me to the side to tell me that I was not allowed to work out in my sports bra and my midriff had to be covered at all times. I was dumbfounded. I was so unprepared for something like that to come out of another woman’s mouth that I literally had no words. The franchise is actually owned by not only one, but 2 middle-aged sisters.
I had been working out there for a few weeks, getting into my groove, taking my tank off when it inevitably became soaked with sweat, without a peep from anyone. The main female owner who runs the day to day business didn’t seem to mind, however, when her sister took a class one Saturday while I was doing Tabata in the corner, all I felt was her staring at me the entire time. She must not have been focusing on her own workout because every time I looked up I saw her glaring. The next time I went in to work out, in a place I view as a health sanctuary, I was told this ridiculous news. Which inevitably mean, I could no longer dress like this to my gym...
I honestly didn’t realize how passionate I was about this issue until I let what happened resonate in my head for a bit. I realized my right to work out in just a sports bra was important to me. Some people may think: What’s the big deal? You can’t work out without your abs showing? But I see a much larger social issue here.
What are they going to tell us we can or cannot wear next? And how will that make women feel about their body, if they cannot express themselves with confidence. Being told to cover up is not empowering, especially in a place you go to chisel your body. I can’t decide if what happened to me is a form of oppression or body shaming or a mixture of both, but I am very upset by the major step back this is for women. Since then I have joined the YMCA. The most Christian gym there is. And they have no problem with my sports bra.