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Thou Shalt Not Be Judged: Thoughts on Online Body Shaming

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by guest blogger Rebecca Norris, Men's Health sales assistant, blogger, writer, and fitness buff

This is my personal story about body shaming. I'm not quite sure where to begin but here goes...

Recently, on a Friday after a hard workout, I took an obligatory #FitPic for my progress folder.

In the moment, feeling damn proud of my improvement and the work I'd made with squats, I figured why not post the photo to my social media pages and let it speak for itself? (OK, with a few hashtags, too.) After all, my fitness idols--people like Michelle Lewin, Mariza Villarreal, and so many others--and even my friends, post body shots from all angles--so what's the big deal?

Well, apparently it was a big deal.

The "offending" FitPic.

After the photo went up, I started to receive a number of body-shaming comments and texts saying things like, "I don't approve," and, "What the hell are you thinking?"

Well, let me tell you.

In college, after meeting a boy and making excuses, I let my love of improving upon my body, health, mind, and spirit slip to the wayside. And it impacted me greatly--not only did my body slip into shambles, but, before I knew it, I was experiencing anxiety and depression like never before.

It was these impacts that made me realize I needed to reconnect with my fitness goals again. That's when I joined a gym and met my trainer, a man who pushed me to regain the portion of myself that I'd lost. You see, that's what the gym does for me: It clears my mind, makes me less reactionary, lets my anxiety take a backseat, gives me a goal to work toward--ultimately, it makes me happy.

On a daily basis my trainer pushed and encouraged me. Before I knew it, I was squatting 185 pounds, leg-pressing 500+, and could finally do a pull-up. I once read that if you want to live a happy life, you should tie it to goals, not a person or thing. And that's exactly what I was doing.

Then I got injured.

I could not squat--nor do any lower body lifts in general. I got discouraged. One thing led to another, and I was out of the gym again. And just like two years prior, when I'd let it all slip to the wayside, I was again feeling all the adverse effects of caving to the excuses and disregarding my goal. I felt like a shell of myself.

It wasn't until a recent move to New York that I started to force myself back into a fitness routine. And over the past months, I've been working my way back up to my PRs and even hitting a few new ones on the way.

So, yeah, on that Friday, I felt pretty damn good about the strides I've made with my body, mind, and spirit. And posted a picture to celebrate that.

And in return I received shame.

So, that being said, before you so easily gasp at photos like mine of people's bodies online, before you judge me, and body-shame me, do you realize that it would mean you're judging some of the very key elements that I've built my life upon? Do you realize that you're shaming me for something that's helped me grow?

The same goes for all body shaming. Do you realize you may be judging someone on the cornerstones of what makes that person who they are? What they're proud of? What they've worked toward? Or that you may be reinforcing fears and insecurities? Do you realize that what you say may actually hurt?

Who knows, maybe some people just can't wrap their minds around the fact that there are real people behind those photos, and instead of thinking of what body shaming can mean to someone, they fall back on being judgmental.

Or, even worse, is it because they find it too difficult to be happy for someone who is happy with him- or herself, so they find something to critique?

These days, I'm living healthily, happily, and unapologetically. I've never truly done that before, and I think it's about damn time. #JudgeAllYouWant

Rebecca (Becca) Norris is a lover of magazines, fitness, to-do lists, social media, cupcakes, hot tea, and Moleskine notebooks. After graduating from George Mason University, she made her dreams of working in the magazine industry come to fruition by joining the Men's Health sales team. Becca enjoys pushing herself in all that she does--her latest endeavors being Ashtanga Yoga and training for a half marathon. Follow along on her journey at her blog, Meant for Manhattan.

Adapted from a previously published post.

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