How to Love Your Body

By Raeesa Ashique, Blog Contributor 

I follow several female trainers on social media because they provide inspiration and motivation in terms of how and why I go to the gym, and I read just about every training-related article on my newsfeed simply because one of these trainers posted it. Also, I love fangirling over successful women from all areas, whether they are athletes, human rights activists, politicians, or my fellow bloggers.

One article I read this summer was on body types, and it felt like a revelation. The three basic body types are ectomorph, endomorph, and mesomorph. The first has a slim build and fast metabolism. These people find it difficult to gain weight, so bulking up is particularly difficult. The second is the opposite: they have a slower metabolism, and can gain both fat and muscle relatively easily, but find it difficult to shift weight. The third type is basically a happy medium: they have a naturally athletic build, and can gain or lose weight easily. Of course, most people don’t fit neatly into one category, but are some combination.

Okay, I’ll admit: the article wasn’t actually ground-breaking, but the information was tangible and scientific and provided some interesting perspective. First, it encouraged me to consider the most efficient eating and exercise habits for my body type in order to maximize my result, and second, it put a spin on the body image discussion. I realize I’m risking sounding like a broken record here, but I will add my two cents anyway.

The model build has created an unrealistic and unreasonable standard of beauty, which inherently makes no sense. How can there be a “standard” body type? But people believe it, because the media promotes it.

I became very conscious of this when I met Martha Hunt, the Victoria’s Secret model, this summer. She came to Toronto Eaton Centre to launch a new collection, and I got an autograph, which is slightly embarrassing to admit. (But come on, she’s gorgeous.) She was sitting behind a table signing photos, and my first impression – no exaggeration – was shock at how small her arms were. I’d become so accustomed to a certain image on ads and posters that it now seems like the norm, so I never consciously realized how ridiculously skinny models are.

I can tell you from experience that skinny should not be everyone’s goal. I won’t pretend to have body image issues, because it feels disrespectful to those with legitimate insecurities, but I used to hate being a twig as much as I hated when people pointed it out. I think it’s key for girls to understand this: skinny does not necessarily mean healthy, and being underweight is not desirable by those who are. Don’t aim to be skinny for its sake alone.

I’m still built like a thirteen-year-old, because I was tall for my age in eighth grade and haven’t grown in either direction since, but I don’t mind anymore. I wish I could say I had a transition moment, but the truth is that I didn’t – I just became accustomed to how I looked and developed my own sense of style, and that was that.

I would love for other girls to reach this point as well, so here is my advice: don’t subscribe to this idea that there is a standard body type. It is unreasonable and discouraging. For example, I could yearn to look like Kim Kardashian (I don’t, by the way), but I know I could squat every day for a year and never look like her. I’m just built differently. It’s the same idea for all these girls who want to be stick-thin.

Just remember that the grass may seem greener on the other side, but everyone has their own problems. Wanting to look like someone else is never the solution.

Now, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want abs like Kayla Itsines, because I would love to achieve her level of fitness. But don’t let this be the “be all end all” of your body image. Don’t hate yourself because you don’t look like Gisele. Don’t idolize the images that the media throws at us every day.

The only way to be happy is to accept your body the way it is, and move forward from there. Exercise, establish your own sense of style, wear clothes and makeup that make you happy. Don’t worry about impressing people, and don’t wait to “look good” to feel good. There is no single definition for attractiveness, and once you understand this, it all gets easier.

Follow Raessa on Instagram at @raeesashique

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8 Quotes for a BossMuslimah

By Waffa Abu-Hajar, Blog Coordinator

If you’re like me, you’re pushing yourself and are determined to get to your goal. But sometimes you have those days where you just feel like giving up.

As a student who has been taking classes all summer, here are a few quotes I like to read, analyze, and apply to my life to help me reach my goals and also to be my best self.

  • “Be patient. For what was written for you was written by the greatest of writers.”-Unknown

    • This is a perfect reminder when something doesn’t go the way you planned. You learn from your mistakes, take what you’ve learned, and apply it to what is to come.
  • “Difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations.”-Unknown

    • In my opinion, it’s okay to be going through tough times because if you keep going at it, it will get better. Believe me.
  • “There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.”-Ernest Hemingway

    • Today, people like to be confident, which is how we should be, but confidence isn’t thinking higher of yourself over others.
  • “True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.”-C.S. Lewis

    • I think this one speaks for itself.
  • “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”-Mahatma Gandhi

    • I have had a lot of experience with being hurt by others. Anger is a strong emotion that most people cannot let go. People may tell you not to forgive someone because they keep hurting you, but forgiving others shows how mature you can be.
  • “If there is one recipe for unhappiness it is that: expectations.”-Yasmin Mogahed

    • I have learned that expecting an outcome, and holding on to it so tight, may end up hurting or upsetting you. To not have expectations will help you be happier.
  • “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”-Winston Churchill

    • When you get that grade on a test you studied really hard for, and you feel like it is over. It’s NOT. Trust me, I have been through failures that taught me so many lessons.
  • “Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.”-Malcolm X

    • Education, not just going to school and getting a degree, but learning from experience. Don’t let an opportunity go, for you may end up learning and gaining a lot from it.

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The Lesson that Changed My Life

By Sumayya Tobah, Editor

I was twelve years old when I learned what was arguably the most important lesson of my young adult life.

At that age, I had three very close friends. When you’re twelve, you’re not just friends, you’re sisters. There is no time period in my life that I look back at as romantically as I do when I think about that age. We were infinite.

I remember confiding in one of my sisters about something I had wanted at the time — a role in the play, getting an article published, I can’t quite remember. What mattered was that she wanted the same thing. But instead of undermining me, making me feel small, or ultimately tearing me down, she looked me in the eye and asked me two questions:

“Is this what you want?”

“Will it make you happy?”

When I confirmed both with all the conviction a twelve year old can muster, she said, “Then it doesn’t matter what I want. I support you.”

And that was that. It didn’t matter that we were both going after the same thing, she had my back. For the record, I am still extremely close with the friends I made at that age. When a friendship is built with unconditional love and without judgement, it thrives and survives.

Ladies. This world is going to tear us down. It is going to tear us down and tear us apart.

We are taught to compete, and if you’ve studied your Beyonce and Adiche as well as I have, you know the lines by heart. We are taught to compete for boys, looks and success. Who has the best job or makes the most money. And it doesn’t stop once you get married or have kids: who has the biggest engagement ring, who’s husband makes the most money, who’s kid is the cutest or has the best grades. God forbid you get frustrated as a mother. God forbid you show signs of any kind of failure. We are distrustful of each other, unable to show any kind of real vulnerability as we perfect and polish our perfect social media personas.

We see it all around us. It’s Taylor versus Kim. It’s Angelina versus Jen. Can you think of two male celebrities that have been pitted against each other in such a vicious way? No, but Beyonce and “Becky with the good hair” are still getting those clicks.

And I can’t help but feel that with all the elements of the universe teaching us that we’re not meant to support one another, the ultimate act of rebellion is unconditional love and support.

I was never a competitive person. I don’t fight for attention, I’m not thirsty to be first and I’m secure enough to know when a moment isn’t about me. I spend time with those who love, support and don’t push me to be something I’m not. And because of this, many women don’t believe I’m genuine. They’re always waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Here it is, ladies. Here’s the secret.

It took me a long time to learn this, and sometimes I have to remind myself; my sisters, I am not in competition with you. I’m not here to beat you, or step on you to succeed. Your successes are mine. Your failures are mine. If I can do something to make your life a touch easier, I will. And if someone is stopping you from fulfilling your full potential, I will do what I can to help you reach your goals.

Here are the only things that matter: Are you happy? Is this what you want?

I am the result of so many strong women. If you’ve read my earlier posts, you already know I have an embarrassing amount of love for my mother. But the line of strong women only ends there. I am very aware of the lineage of warrior women who fought to get me where I am today.

Even more impressive perhaps is the tribe of women who shaped me outside the home. The teachers, the friends, classmates and mentors who showed me that two women can want the same things and still support one another.

We have to stop buying into the idea that we’re here to compete with each other. One woman’s successes does not make me a failure.

This is a friendly reminder: I am on your team.

Follow Sumayya on Instagram and Twitter @thisissumayya

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