Strong women, part 2: Being skinny

So I came across this image and put a big, red cross of frustration through it.

 

 

Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope.
Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope.

 

Although I’m all for people deciding for themselves what they should do with their bodies, promoting a specific ‘perfect body’ to people (especially to young girls) irks me. It’s no secret that there are countless people, mostly young girls, with eating disorders and although we love blaming commercials, there are a lot of communities that -in varying degrees- will tell you that thinner = prettier. We don’t even need the commercials to tell us that we need to be skinny anymore, we now have fucking pro-ana websites giving us advice on how to get skinny.

Even the recent “strong, not skinny” movement, that I originally supported, seems to have caused a slew of women to become semi-orthorexic variations of the original “thinner=prettier” girls. They basically want to be really thin, but with 15lbs of
extra muscle. In terms of health, this may seem like progress but it’s not that black and white. Besides the risk of replacing one eating disorder with another (there’s quite a bunch of fitness models with a history of wrecking their bodies with eating disorders and messed up dieting), the focus still tends to be on the way a woman looks. That makes little sense if you’re saying that “strong beats skinny everytime.”

Sports performance at a modest level correlates with health, vitality, a better quality of life, longevity, higher self esteem and a better, overall feeling of well being. Physical development can offer us so much in terms of physical and mental
health, yet we’d rather focus on visible collarbones. Or more recently, visible collarbones and bigger biceps.

Don’t get me wrong, wanting to look good is absolutely fine, but I do believe that it’s good to assess your priorities and the reasoning behind them. There is a difference between trying to look a certain way because that’s what everyone wants to see, or trying to look a certain way because that’s what you want to be. The former may result in eating disorders and insecurity. The latter may result in a lifelong journey to be better and stronger, where you can actually enjoy every step forward instead of chasing the carrot on a stick.

Frankly, I’d rather see my body as the result of taking good care of my body and loving myself, rather than hating what I see and desperately trying to adhere to some arbitrary ‘perfect body’ ideal. Then again, I’m not a young girl.

The ‘perfect body’ of a woman is not the skinny, fat or muscular one. It’s the one well taken care of and loved – especially by herself.

 

“This makes me feel special.  I will not always be the best at everything in life but I will always be the Hardest Worker.   My advice – more people should spend less time complaining and comparing themselves to others and more time working!  My satisfaction is far more related to the effort that I put forth versus the end result.  The end result is often out of my control, my effort on a daily basis is not.” – Gillian Ward Mounsey. A woman who has outclassed many men in her life through sheer, hard work. Read her story here.

 


2 Responses to Strong women, part 2: Being skinny

  1. Recently I am being asked about my fitness goals a lot. People ask me if I am working out because I want to loose weight, or to have a six pack mostly. They put it like that is the choice: loosing weight or showing muscles. When I answer them what my goal is, they just don’t understand what I say and repeat their question, because, hey, that are the only two goals one can have right? Wrong.

    My goal for my work-outs is to become better at them and get healthier at the same time. I like to work-out because it benefits my health on so many levels I won’t even start pointing them out. At the same time, I want to gain experiences, like participating in a half triathlon, in a power lift competition and in a qualifier WOD (without ending up last). That kind of goals takes practice and dedication. If I were to focus on my looks, I would never be able to reach those goals because I would start making poor decisions. I am not going to lie. I am a girl (not a very young one) and I like it when people appreciate the way I look, but I am working out and training to get closer to my personal goals, not to be more appreciated (and stigmatized) by others.

    I wish more people, both man and woman (because I see the same thing happening with man who want to look ripped) would find a goal that will help them become happier and healthier more often, even if that means that they work-out less. Eventually life is not about looks, but about how much in peace you are with yourself.

    Thanks for writing this, Jeremy.

    • Avatar Endure and Survive
      Endure and Survive says:

      It would help a lot if people realize that ‘looking better’ is often a nice side-effect of training for performance.

      Glad to see you training for a lasting experience that you’ll carry for the rest of your life. 🙂