The Rider’s Mind Podcast Episode 88: Weight “Matters”

This episode is very personal as I share some of the troubles I’ve had with my own body image.  I discuss the limiting beliefs and stories that we may have around weight. I also talk about whether or not weight really affects our horses as much as we think it does or if we’re just using weight to confirm our own lack of enoughness. You’ll learn about what I’ve dealt with in the past and how I’m now dealing with it in the present.

I think this might be the most vulnerable I’ve been on a podcast episode. I’m sharing my personal struggles with body image and how I am still working on this. What has helped me the most with being more accepting of the body I am in is self-love. 

Some statistics that helped me feel less alone and more willing to share on this topic indicate that a lot of people struggle with the same things I have. I am sharing this because I hope that my story will help somebody. 

Approximately 80-91% of women are unhappy with their bodies and resort to dieting to achieve their ideal body shape. I polled The Rider’s Mind Facebook group and 77% of respondents said body image has been an issue and 57% said it is currently a “thing”. 70% of normal weighted women want to be thinner.

Body-image and self-esteem are often connected.

Our body image can be influenced by those around us, including our peers and our parents. It can also be influenced by direct comments about our weight and shape and how our bodies are developing. It can also be influenced by our perception of how we “should” look when we compare ourselves to others. For example, as a barrel racer, I have an image in my mind of what a champion barrel racer “should” look like. 

There are also different personality traits that affect our body image. If you come from a culture of comparison and judgement, that can also affect your body-image. You might compare yourself to other riders. Your coach’s comments or perspectives might also be influencing you.  

How many of us have held ourselves back from entering something, trying something, moving up to the next level, laying it out on the line and riding at the highest level because, at a subconscious level, we don’t “match” and look like the riders at the top?

In the past, I’ve even gone so far as to comment to someone that “I wondered how fast my horse would go if I were lighter.” I really believed that my horse would perform better for someone who weighed less. 

Today I believe that your ability to not interfere with your horse through your hands and your balance are more important than your actual weight. How you sit in the saddle and what you do with your weight is important. Your ability to think and react and your body’s overall health, wellness and strength are important. I also believe that what you believe about yourself will impact your riding whether it’s a truth or not. 

I am still healing from this issue and I think there are others who are holding themselves back because of their body image. 

I had a distorted vision of my actual weight. If I could now go back and be that weight when I thought I was fat, if I could take back all the years I wasted worrying about it and just go for it, I would. 

I have had a negative body image for as long as I can remember. It’s been through my work to love myself more over the last 10 years that I’ve recognized the impact those negative beliefs had on me. 

My lack of self-care through nutrition showed up in my body. I was damaging my body with food and making unhealthy food choices. Emotional eating is a thing for me. I also punished myself with food. Making better food choices came down to health issues for me.  Through my journey of self-love, my body has become less of an issue for me because I was able to love myself as I was. 

It was important to me that I make changes because I loved myself, not because I didn’t think I was good enough as I was. 

The weight loss industry is a billion dollar business for a reason. Body image issues and weight issues are not exclusive to me. If you’ve ever felt alone, know that this is a real thing for a lot of people. 

You might be hearing things that confirm what you feel. For example, I was at a business workshop and explained that I coach barrel racers to help them with mindset. The person commented that “she thought barrel racers were all tiny little things”.  I replied that barrel racers come in all shapes and sizes, but I felt triggered.  Another example was when I worked to qualify for the short go at a derby and then the vest I won didn’t fit me. These things just emphasized how I was feeling. 

There are some common limiting beliefs that you might hold about your body:

  • You’re going to fade away to nothing
  • You’ll blow away in the wind
  • You’re strong as an ox
  • You’re big-boned
  • She looks better with some meat on her bones
  • She’s nothing but skin and bones
  • It’s not safe to be seen 

I asked Stride members about this and some of the things that have impacted their body image. Here are some of the things that came up:

  • Parents who have suggested they were getting a bit chubby
  • Feeling too tall or too big for their smaller horse
  • Showing up at competition and having insecurities surface as reasons we’re not enough

These are all limiting beliefs because we can disprove them.

We put a lot of study and work into our horses and making them the greatest athletes they can be.  But are we treating ourselves equally?  

There are so many stories and beliefs around weight. The first step is to be aware of your own stories and beliefs, then ask yourself is this 100% true for everyone all the time…or am I just making this story up?

Stories we tell about ourselves:

  • I am fat
  • I just love food   
  • I’m big boned
  • I’m getting old
  • It’s my hormones
  • I am large
  • I don’t look like the other girls

You can’t keep repeating these stories. 

Many of our beliefs are subconscious.  You might not even know you have them. 

My body image is my body image. My distortion is my distortion. You could tell me I’m perfect and I’m not fat, but I feel I’m fat, it doesn’t matter what you tell me. It comes from within. 

You have to recognize your limiting beliefs and change them because whatever you believe is true. 

Think about your riding: 

Is it your beliefs about your weight or the actual number that bears the greatest load?
If weight wasn’t on your radar, how would you show up? What would you do differently?
Does your mindset and what you believe about yourself matter more than the actual weight?

For me, losing weight so I could be quicker or be a better rider wasn’t a healthy reason. Losing weight because I thought I was fat was not sustainable. Doing something because you don’t love how you are isn’t a great success strategy. It will work, but I know it’s not a long term solution. 

Looking after your body because you love it is self-love. 

Fueling your body with nutrients that serve it’s needs is self love. Reducing the amount of ingredients that lower your vibe instead of nourishing it is self love. Strengthening your body, quickening your reflexes and keeping your mind healthy are good reasons.

I knew all of this and believed all this, but I needed accountability. The food I was eating was creating inflammation in my body and that’s what spurred me to make a change and stay accountable.  I loved myself enough to stop punishing my body and I’ve signed up for a group that’s given accountability I needed.   Weight loss has been a side effect to improved health and less pain.     

It has been mentally taxing as I’ve had to find alternative ways to deal with all my feelings. I have a lot of them. There’s a lot that goes into body image and maintaining healthy eating. 

If you’ve been struggling with your body image, I encourage you to dig into what exactly is contributing to your struggle.   

What stories are you telling? What is holding you back?  What limiting beliefs about weight are you believing?  How are you benefitting from these limiting beliefs?  Are you trying to avoid being seen? Does it feel safer?

There’s a lot of emotional work to do around improving your body image that is independent of weight loss, but will have a big impact on you improving your health.  

I hope that if body image has been a “thing” for you or it presently is, that you know you’re not alone.  If I can overcome this, you can too.  You can do challenging things and you’re worth it.

It’s a commitment and decision to love your body the way it is right now. If loving it means treating it better, having better boundaries and self integrity around how you fuel your body,  then your body will probably balance out to a happy place.

Love yourself first and it will be easier to treat yourself better. 

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Join the discussion in the The Rider’s Mind Community on Facebook. As a member of this community, you’ll also get tips and videos from me. 

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I'm now on Clubhouse too!  Find me @michelleadavey

Learn with Me

If you’re looking to make changes to your mindset, be sure to sign up for my free Next-Level Mindset Mini Course.

You can also join Stride, my next-level barrel racing group. This group receives video training and coaching from me and Stride members have access to special guests. We work on becoming mindful barrel racers so we can show up, be present and perform with great partnership.

Sources Consulted for this Episode:
https://www.macmh.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/18_Gallivan_Teens-social-media-body-image-presentation-H-Gallivan-Spring-2014.pdf
https://www.dosomething.org/us/facts/11-facts-about-body-image
https://www.eatingdisorderhope.com/information/body-image

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