A Pinterest-perfect body: thinking twice about “trouble spots”

My increasing tendency to spend my downtime on pinterest has led me to notice a lot of pins, especially as I look at fitness-related motivation, dedicated towards certain body parts and how to make them look a certain way. Like the magazine headlines that say “A Perkier Butt in 7 Minutes a Day,” I don’t think the routines will do the trick. But even worse, I have noticed the way in which bodies are literally turned into objects—butts, arms, shoulders, abs—to go along with these routines.

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We talk about the objectification of women’s bodies, and this is an example, I’d say. We’re taking this part of a woman’s body and we’re focusing on it, removing it from context and personality. We’re also contributing to something that we take for granted sometimes—this idea that we can pick and choose how we want our body to look in sections and then achieve it through our own hard work.

When I work with personal training clients, I sometimes get the questions about “what am I working now?” and I sometimes have a sense of if the person is concerned with “toning” or afraid of “bulking up” or asking because they want to know about the functionality of what we’re doing. I really try to answer questions about how to tone a certain body part gently and not hold people at fault if they want to have tank top arms. But I hope that people know that just because things like Pinterest make it easier than ever to take for granted that every part of your body can be molded and shaped until you have the most ideal of all the ideal bodies doesn’t mean that it’s realistic or even possible.

When you think about the insane notion that you should perfect every part of your body to match the idea in your head or in the media that you see of what is defined as perfect for each region as insane, you might feel a range of things. Maybe you’re defeated—what’s the point, then? I’d argue there’s lots of points: aesthetics in general, the health benefits of working out, the functional benefits of moving your body, the sense of accomplishment and self esteem you can get from participating in physical activity, to name a few. Or maybe it feels like a relief—the pressure is off and you can be a little more appreciative of the awesome body you’ve got. Those “trouble spots” you were so concerned about before won’t hold you back if you let yourself let go of the perfectionism around our bodies that’s easy to buy into.

I hope that this post leaves you thinking, and I of course hope that you are a little gentler on yourself. Lots of people have one body part that they just can’t seem to “fix.” Our body parts are not mistakes, and this idea that if we try harder or find the perfect routine just sustains our insecurities—and keeps the people who benefit from them in power. Let’s learn to love our bodies as a whole, appreciating all of the parts. My friends over at Fit is a Feminist Issue shared this photo on their facebook page (which is always filled with interesting things to check out, I might add), and I think it is a perfect way to leave you thinking:

worth loving

Does this resonate with you at all?
Do you focus on specific body flaws? 

think about it: fat shaming? i’m not so sure

From the Today Show to my facebook news feed, I can’t ignore this image:

maria kang

Even though the ad’s been around for about a year, it’s causing a storm now. It’s being called fat shaming and Maria Kang, the trainer in the ad, is getting a whole lot of attention around the interwebs.

Fat shaming? I disagree.

I think that asking “What’s your excuse?” (For not having a six pack? For not being half naked? I can’t even be sure what she’s asking me about) to the general population—women who don’t simultaneously earn their paycheques and sculpt their six packs like someone whose job might be looking this way—is misguided. It’s not realistic for most people, no matter what the fitness magazines tell us. The vast majority of personal trainers want us to want this kind of body. Sure, trainers and fitness instructors exist who sell health and who don’t focus on aesthetics (I count myself among them), but I think it’s safe to say that people wanting rock hard bodies is a good thing for business if you’re a personal trainer. To sell something, something has to be lacking or not good enough. In this case, it’s our bodies or where we spend our time and energy.

Do I think this is the worst ad ever? Not really. I also don’t think it’s very effective advertising. Like I said, I don’t consider this fat shaming, but I didn’t like the way it made me feel. I know I don’t respond very well to being shamed—I’d rather be encouraged (something Molly Galbraith suggests in her take on this ad). Sure, I think Kang looks good, but she doesn’t make me think that I, too, can have kids and a six pack if I work harder. Quite the contrary, actually.

As a woman, I know I’m supposed to look like Kang—and if I don’t look like her, I’m supposed to want to. The thing is—and I don’t think I’m alone here—if we don’t look that way, it doesn’t mean that we’re making excuses. In fact, most women I know who don’t have perfect bodies are the ones busting their butts in pursuit of them. Times when my body has been the furthest from this ideal are the same times when I’ve been dieting my butt off and hitting the gym religiously—far from making excuses for myself.

I’ve blogged before about my frustration with working hard and not fitting the image I think I should. Not looking the way you think you should or the way you want to is hard. I sometimes wonder if it would be easier to feel chubby—if I’d be okay with it—if I just ate what I wanted and didn’t dedicate years of my life to dieting and then to giving up dieting or if being able to eat a cupcake wasn’t something I thought was worth blogging about, etc.—but that’s not the case for me. Whether or not I have a six pack, I spend a lot of time thinking about and working on my health. I work out—a lot. I am conscious (perhaps too conscious) of what I eat. So I for one, with my measly 2 abdominal muscles and soft lower belly, was insulted by the ad suggesting I’m making excuses.

So again, do I think the ad is fat shaming? No. But do I think it’s empowering or motivating?  Also no.

How did this ad make you feel? Do you think it’s fat shaming?
What message would you like to hear from personal trainers?