Finding Joy in Fitness Helped Undo My Teenage Body Image Issues

Like so many others, my journey with body image wasn’t always easy. At times, it was incredibly hard to find anything I even liked about how I looked. With the new POPFLEX swim release, Cassey shared a piece of her own self-image journey and her relationship with swimwear. Her openness inspired me to share my own story. 

Especially since it’s how I found Blogilates. And eventually, myself. 

Although we all have our own struggles, I hope these stories shared in the Blogilates community resonate and help you know that if you struggle with body image, you are not alone. 

Trigger Warning: This story is about my personal experience with body image issues. If you are going through this struggle currently, you may not be in a good mental place to read this article. If this sounds like you, we recommend that you seek the help of a mental health professional. You deserve to be loved. That includes love from yourself. ❤️

kristen kubek as a child playing on a playground body image story

Body image issues start young

In fifth grade, I remember staring at a picture from a friend’s birthday party and thinking, “Wow, I hate how I look.” I wish I could go back in time and tell my younger self that what you look like doesn’t determine your worth. But of course, it was different then. 

The early 2010s were the era of skinny-chic and fat shaming. The Disney Channel stars I idolized were bone-thin. When they weren’t, these teenage actors were shamed horribly by the industry. 

My love of fashion started young, but it was clear that to be in the industry, you had to be beautiful. At this time, that meant you had to be model-thin. I thought that I couldn’t be into fashion if I didn’t look like a fashion person. (Which news flash, even “fashion people” don’t really look like that IRL; thanks, airbrushed magazine covers 🙄).

To start getting “in shape,” I started dancing. But, as much as I loved movement and performing, the dance industry was just as toxic. At the ripe age of 12 years old, I had to face the reality that the two things I loved most had one thing in common; they unofficially had a maximum weight requirement. 

The weight loss journey begins

In my late middle school and early high school years, I spent extensive hours searching for “dancer body workouts” and “model fitness routines.” 

I wanted to look like the girls who were successful at what I wanted to be good at because I thought that was the only way to get there. 

I associated my success in fashion and dance with what I looked like because everyone who was respected and well-known in those industries looked a certain way. 

As a freshman in high school, I discovered Blogilates when I searched “Victoria’s Secret Workout” on YouTube and found an ab workout video from Cassey’s early days of social media. 

Cassey’s videos really opened the door to the world of YouTube fitness. At first, it was a spiral. I was doing the right thing for my body, but for the wrong reasons and at the wrong time. I went from being the non-athletic friend to obsessively working out in my basement. 

Through it all, I found that Cassey’s positivity in her videos made my closeted workout sessions less of a form of self-punishment and more of an enjoyable way to move my body. It was like chatting with a friend at the gym.

By doing Pilates, I found joy in movement that was dance-inspired.

It became a way to build the foundation for a more positive relationship with exercise, instead of suffering through HIIT workouts that I absolutely loathed, but did anyway because I thought it would burn the most calories. 

Better yet, I was able to see how Cassey’s fitness journey changed over the years. I saw that she had gone through a similar journey; the ups and downs that all of us have felt. It was comforting to see acknowledgment that even fitness professionals with a huge platform have the same struggles as those who follow them. 

We were going through it together. I wasn’t alone.

kristen kubek wearing popflex pirouette skort

Fast forward to today

Now I’m a contributing writer for Blogilates, helping to create a positive narrative around wellness that I wish I’d found earlier. I’m a fitness instructor who takes plenty of rest days. I don’t feel guilty when I eat an entire Costco muffin in one sitting (even if I didn’t work out that day). 

It took a lot of work to get here. 

But it gets easier. Every. Single. Day. 

After years of recovery, reflection, and practicing self-love, I found balance. Now I use movement not to make my body look a certain way, but to feel my best. I have a body-neutral approach, meaning I acknowledge that it’s okay to not like what my body looks like all the time because my physical appearance is such a small part of who I am.

It also really helps that unlike in the early 2010s, the fashion industry has gotten a lot more diverse. (The dance industry has too, to an extent. But there’s still a lot of progress to be made on both fronts). 

I am so grateful for those who have paved the way when it comes to rejecting the concept that beauty, grace, and success have a particular look.

kristen kubek rome

How it started vs. how it’s going

I found Blogilates because I didn’t like my body. I stayed because, through Cassey’s infectiously kind and friendly personality, I was finally able to find joy in movement. 

I hope the same for all of you. The Blogilates community is here for you and is a safe space to share your stories! We hope you feel the love (from us, and from yourself) ❤️.


14 thoughts on “Finding Joy in Fitness Helped Undo My Teenage Body Image Issues”

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  1. Ale says:

    I am so sorry!! You were so nice!! And you are so pretty!! I loved Disney attress too and I would want to be skinny like them. I hated sport, gym. I loved only stretching. Then i discovered Cassie!! I fell in love with her!! She made me love sport, workout, movement but, most important, she was always so positive, so kind, so nice!! She always made me feel happy and she encouraged me not to give up in life in general! Like a friend. But my parents don’t want that i work out because, according to them, I had only to study medicine: no sport, no friend, no diet. They full me with psico medicine, recover me because they wanted i not workout and gain weight even if i don’t need. Actually all the people that i know only want that i not workout, i full me with psico medicine, i work wothout payment and gain a lot lot of weight because “you liked us most when you were fat”. 14 kg over my healthy weight!!! This is my life

  2. Elena Sonicare says:

    Your willingness to open up about your personal journey with body image struggles is truly commendable. Continue to shine your light and promote the invaluable principles of self-care and self-acceptance! I for one find it incredibly inspiring to witness how you discovered harmony and cultivated a constructive connection with physical activity.

    1. Kristen says:

      Thanks for your kind words Elena!

  3. Lainey says:

    This is such a great article. I really resonated with a lot of it, and you are inspiring me to heal my relationship with wellness. Like you said, I want to move my body to feel my best, not to look a certain way. Thank you for a wonderful article Kristen!

    1. Kristen says:

      So glad to help you on your own journey, Lainey! <3

  4. Morgan says:

    I loved reading this article! I resonate with a lot of the things you mentioned, and it really is amazing how Cassey created such a loving community. I like the idea of the body-neutral approach. I’ll have to try that and see how it works for me. Thank you so much Kristen for sharing your story!

    1. Kristen says:

      So glad I could share some insight and resonate with you!

    2. Kristen says:

      So glad you liked the article! Thanks for reading!

  5. Granny popster says:

    Thank you, Kristen, for your heartfelt article. I wish you co to Jed success in your health journey. It’s great Cassey has created a safe platform in her health and wellness community. Although I am much older than most of her community, I have also found it helpful and encouraging.

    1. Kristen says:

      So happy that it’s a journey that so many different people can relate to!

  6. Brawn says:

    I appreciate your vulnerability in sharing your personal experience with body image issues. It’s empowering to see how you found balance and a positive relationship with exercise. Keep spreading your message of self-love and acceptance!

    1. Kristen says:

      Thank you! It’s tough to reflect and share publicly but I know that the emotions in this article might be a breath of fresh air for others feeling a similar way.

  7. Ami says:

    This was beautiful. It also reminded me of how I stumbled upon Cassie’s videos back then and what keeps me going back to her channel whenever I want to work out for myself. Thank you for writing this 🙂

    1. Kristen says:

      It’s a painful but beautiful journey, how so many of us came to Blogilates for maybe not so great reasons but stayed because of her kindness and gentleness. Thanks for reading!