By Nic DeCaire

As I scrolled through Facebook the other day, I came across a picture that made me stop. It was four or five women standing on stage in bikinis.
I know what you’re thinking — typical man.
But the women caught my eye because they weren’t typical figure competitors. I was a competitive bodybuilder for many years, and in the sport, you strive to have the most muscle and lowest amount of body fat. That’s what I’m trained to look for when I see those pictures.
I looked at these women and started judging. These women should not be on stage, I thought. They aren’t in good enough shape.
I read the caption. These women each had lost more than 100 pounds.
My head dropped in shame.
Was I ever wrong.
I can tell you from experience that being on stage and letting a crowd of people judge your body is probably one of the most terrifying things you could do in this world. Imagine standing under bright lights — half-naked, I might add — and letting people pick apart your flaws.
Most fitness competitors have flat stomachs and muscle definition. These women did not. They did not stand on stage with abs and tight legs. They had curves and cellulite, and it did not matter. They had achieved something remarkable, and you could see it from the smiles on their faces.
They were standing proud, as they should have been.
My initial reaction made me think about how society views fitness. If you look at a magazine cover, fitness is defined by abs, curves and biceps. So, if you don’t have a flat stomach or a six-pack, does that mean you aren’t in shape?
Why can’t women wear a bikini if they are bigger than a size two without thinking people will judge them for it? Society has made us so insecure about our bodies that we are never satisfied with what we have — even those with a washboard stomach.
Everyone has a different reason for exercising and staying healthy. It can range from trying to lower cholesterol or blood pressure, rehabbing an injury, trying to fit into old jeans or simply enjoying the way it makes you feel.
Your fitness journey is exactly that. It is YOUR JOURNEY. You decide what healthy and fit means to you, not a magazine or website.
Too often, I hear personal trainers tell their clients what they should be doing and how they should look. What gave them the right? Who are we to tell someone they need to lose 20pounds to be in shape if they really don’t want to?
At Fusion, we have made a conscious effort to ask clients what they truly want out of fitness. It is their journey. We are just there to help guide them on the path.
I wish I could take that moment back when I saw that picture for the first time. Those women deserved more than that. They are brave for standing on stage and competing. I bet they have an amazing story and I would love to hear how they achieved their success.
Maybe if that was the way society saw it, we would have more people trying to live a healthier lifestyle because they would not be judged when they get started.
Nic DeCaire is the owner of Fusion Fitness Center on Main Street. He writes a monthly column for the Newark Post.

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