“I am a Smart Fit Girl. I am strong both physically and mentally. I respect my body and my mind. I love myself for who I am and everyday I strive to be the best version of myself. I am a Smart Fit Girl, and I encourage and empower all girls to be the same.”
In celebration of National Smart Fit Girls Day on November 23rd (the day SFG officially became a 501c3 registered non-profit) I asked Junior coach Phoebe Richey and SFG Lead Coach Leanna Carr about their experience with Smart Fit Girls and how it is changing their lives each and every day.
“I started working as a Coach for Smart Fit Girls earlier in the year,” Leanna . “I moved to Fort Collins a couple years ago where Chrissy Chard (co-founder) and I became friends. After hearing their vision/mission statement, I knew I had to be involved. It’s an incredible program.”
At the Fort Collins site, Smart Fit Girls meets two times a week for two-hour sessions. Each day they start the session with a journal entry that is relevant to the lesson they will be learning. For example: “When you hear the terms self-esteem and body image, what do you think about?” or “How do you think social media impacts the way you view yourselves and others?”
Leanna says at the beginning of the program they emphasize to the coaches the importance of creating a “safe-place” for the girls and they ask open-ended questions to really get them thinking.
Phoebe is now a junior coach with Smart Fit Girls at the South Carolina site. She started as a participant in the program in 7th grade after Kellie Walters (co-founder) shared about the program at her school.
“At first I didn’t want to do the exercise part,” Phoebe says. “My mom signed me up and then I loved it so much and wanted to coach. During a typical day at school you can get brought down and SFG helps build you back up.”
After the girls take part in a journal entry and open discussion they go over a learning objective that can range from SMART Goal Setting, Muscular System Anatomy, and Nutrition 101. The final hour of the session is filled with some sort of physical activity. Leanna says the core of the program emphasizes weight training and its benefits (as well as the importance of safety while using weight lifting equipment) but they also teach them many different types of physical activities that they can do at home or outside.
“My favorite activity we ever did was when we were told to write bad things we experienced on a sticky note,” Phoebe says. “Then we placed the sticky note in water and the writing disappeared, just like the bad things will over time.”
Leanna says that confidence is a characteristic that should be planted at a young age and that many of the methods and activities they teach the girls are used to cultivate a healthy sense of self-esteem.
“Mental health as a whole, in my opinion, is something that is very overlooked,” Leanna says. “This is especially true when it comes to young girls and the pressures they face each and every day. Our core mission it to teach them the benefits that being strong can have, both physically and mentally. By encouraging a non-conventional form of physical activity (weightlifting) that focuses on becoming stronger versus smaller, we can help improve self-confidence and self-esteem and empower them to love their bodies just the way they are.”
Phoebe says that she feels more confident in herself and is thankful for the knowledge and friendships she has gained by being apart of the SFG community.
“As women, we all can probably attest that the middle-school age can certainly be a unique period filled with many challenges, as well as opportunities,” Leanna says. “The transitional period from being a dependent child to a self-reliant adult is dynamic and extremely influential.”
The theoretical framework of SFG is based off Ryan & Deci’s Self-determination Theory, which, Leanna says emphasizes the importance of competence, autonomy, and relatedness.
“Knowledge is one of the greatest things the world has to offer and we strive to equip and empower each girl with the tools that can benefit them for years to come,” Leanna says.
Phoebe has only been a junior coach for a couple months so she said she’s still learning a lot but that she feels like she understands where the girls are coming from. She just moved out of middle school so she is able to identify with them better.
“I hope these girls learn how to make healthy, informed choices that they’re able to instill throughout the duration of their lives,” Leanna says. “I hope that they are able to learn the importance of kindness, gratitude, and respect…while demanding it for themselves. I hope that they learn to embrace their muscles, curves, cellulite, etc.…all of the things that make them unique and special.”
As someone who began working out because she wasn’t confident in the way she looked, Leanna truly didn’t know what self-love meant. She is thankful for her own journey and the passion she found about five years ago for powerlifting/strength training and the career and platform it has given her to influence others.
“I am 26-years-old now and it took me 21 years to learn how to love my body and all it’s capable of achieving,” Leanna says. “It took me just as long to realize the importance and necessity of lifting other women up. I want to help build a world of empowered girls who eventually become empowered women.”
She says that many women struggle with honing the ability to see their own self worth and that this global epidemic of body hating has us always conforming to the newest fad diet. We are too harsh and cruel to not only ourselves but also our fellow female counter parts.
“If I can inspire one girl to have enough self-respect and self-esteem to want to make a positive change in her life, then I am satisfied,” Leanna says. “I’m so dang proud to be a part of Smart Fit Girls and I get teary-eyed every time I think about the impact it is having on our youth. Every girl deserves to know what it feels like to love their bodies and recognize their worth.”
Smart Fit Girls is making that happen everyday and each year more and more girls participate in the program. SFG’s message is being heard but it still has so much room to grow! Support SFG today by donating through PayPal, when shopping on Amazon order through smile.amazon.com and add Smart Fit Girls as your non-profit, or become an Ambassador! Join our community and, together, let’s continue to empower the next generation of women to be the best version of themselves each and every day!
Written By Tessa Yannone, SFG Blogger