A couple weeks ago I talked about how tiresome it is to read all the criticisms online directed at fit and beautiful women for supposedly “making people feel bad about themselves”.
These are critical people launching their own insecurities at others in the hope that they will somehow feel less inadequate as a result. Very sad.
But another potentially not so healhy trend is the one that we all see a ton of if we go anywhere near Pinterest or any fitness blog out there.
I’m talking about all those “motivational” posters that include quotes like “strong is the new skinny” and “this is what fit looks like”. They ALL include sexy pictures of women who look like this:
Beautiful huh? I won’t pretend I don’t wanna look like her. And I definitely admire all the hard work and dedication it takes to look like that. A few years ago I’d have jumped all over this slogan. In fact I’m pretty sure I still have a tank top that reads something similar now.
Heck yeah – it is no longer about being a stick thin waif with an eating disorder – this is about strength and fitness, which is good, right? And yeah, it is a step in the right direction. Strength, and muscular definition are way more healthy than a simply trying to be skinnier than the next supermodel.
But what these pictures don’t tell us is the following: not all fit and healthy women are super skinny, sculpted and hot.
Some of them look like this:
And I am betting that she is a lot fitter and stronger than the woman above.
Whilst seeing a beautifully toned body is aesthetically pleasing and can be very inspiring to get us to start paying attention to our own health, we need to remind ourselves that we all come in different shapes and sizes. I am lanky and tall – I will never be cute and compact like other girls. And that is ok.
It is perfectly possible to be extremely healthy and fit but not to have ripped 6 pack abs or a tiny tight butt. Healthy bodies exist in a range of body composition percentages. What may be a healthy natural weight for me, may very well mean someone else would need to starve themselves to look the same way – ie. NOT healthy. Each of us has a different body shape and composition and we need to see the beauty in each of those shapes.
Having said that, I think we all know when we have excess body weight that is not healthy. A bloated, flabby tummy, for example, is usually a sign that we are out of shape and could improve our nutrition. It is not healthy to carry excess body fat, or to lack muscle.
And we all know we are physically out of shape when we get out of breath after 10 squats or can’t lift the equivalent of our own body weight. But we may not all have a wasp-thin waist or have the sun shining through our highly pronounced thigh-gaps.
Ideally we would each embrace our individual body types, and then work at getting those bodies into the healthiest state possible. Focusing on health and fitness, as opposed to trying to LOOK like a supermodel.
When people start CrossFit, often their reasons for doing so include wanting to “look hot” in a bikini. Fair enough, I think if we’re honest we all have a bit of that going on – it’s natural to want to look good. But often when that is the focus, things like our health begin to suffer. We stop fueling our bodies correctly, we push our bodies way past their limits, risking adrenal fatigue and burning out, and we become obsessed with every pound on the scale. And often, this actually sabotages our ultimate aesthetic goal. When we’re that stressed out about a scale, or whether or not we have a 6 pack, often our bodies begin to store body fat through the over production of the stress hormone cortisol, so it becomes a lose lose situation.
Conversely, when our focus is on health and getting fitter and stronger, the physical stuff usually falls into place and we actually will begin to look our best. When we eat right and exercise smartly our hormones regulate, and we automatically find our ideal weight and body composition. And as I said above, this may not look the same for everyone and that is ok. It doesn’t mean we can’t all still be in awesome shape.
Saying “Strong is the new Skinny” places the emphasis on the aesthetic goal rather than the health goal. Let’s try to be strong because being strong is badass and healthy, and if we look hot as a result – then that’s just a bonus!