This is a blog post I’ve had in mind since I started Happy Is The New Healthy, mostly because of the name connection (you’ll see…), but I struggled over whether or not I should post something that might offend people I truly care about and readers of my blog. That being said, I can’t hold back. That’s not who I am. And Dr. Seuss gave me a good reminder.
That being said, this is an opinion.
Why strong might be the new skinny, but that’s scary
When I first came across the Facebook page for “Strong is the new skinny”, I almost liked it. Then I realized…I don’t like this any more than I like the idea of “skinny is the new skinny”…
As I poked around the page a bit more and ran into some posts that promoted it, I saw some of its merits, but I also saw something troubling: replacing skinny with muscular/fit/just a different idea of “perfection” or even of an “ideal”. IS it really better?
I started to notice a similar trend on some blogs and websites I actually love. I am not going to hate on anyone’s goals or aspirations, but I do hope that aiming for “strong” is really aiming for strong and not aiming for looking like an Oxygen Magazine cover model.
Back to the Facebook page/promos I saw…some of the women I saw in the posts were strong looking, and that’s great. But the vast majority were those Oxygen Cover model lookalikes, whose bodies I would argue are no less out of the realm of healthy or normal or reasonable for the average person than are those of extremely thin models. Many of the pictures associated with the movement say things like “Skinny isn’t healthy–strong is,” or “Be the girl you were too lazy to be yesterday.” Coupled with photos of half naked, tanned, made up women with bodies I rarely see in real life, I’m not so sure this is that different from “thin-spiration,” and that makes me sad.
While I am 100% supportive of moving away from “skinny” as a goal or an ideal, the thought that striving for muscularity–often to the point of heading to the gym to purposefully sculpt certain muscles–seems misguided too. To achieve the look, these women “cut” to an extremely low body fat percentage though they end up weighing a “normal” weight thanks to having more muscle. There are plenty of physical issues that come with being extremely lean for an extended period of time (losing your period, placing your bones at risk, throwing off your hormones, etc.)–issues strangely similar to those associated with striving to be skinny. There are also a host of mental issues (not living up the out of reach standards, using the pursuit of an ideal as a distraction, using your goals as something to control in your life) that I would argue are not much different than those involved in striving to be stick thin.
Though I’d never argue that “eating clean” and pumping iron is unhealthy in and of itself, and I know that many girls who struggle with eating issues come into this lifestyle during their recovery (and eating regularly and learning about your body are good steps in recovery), I guess I struggle because I still see people selling themselves short and dedicating themselves to a petty goal involving shaping their bodies.
Besides specific sculpting workouts, there is a whole lot of eating on purpose involved to get one of those perfectly shaped, sought-after “strong” bodies. Some restriction here, some extra protein there…eating “clean”, etc. I see a LOT of merit in eating more whole foods, but when you replace one set of rules with another, it’s kind of just another form of crazed.
I do not mean to attack anyone here, but striving for anything with your body and controlling it is just another form of ED, in my mind. It might be partially recovered, but everyone deserves full recovery. I guess it’s sad to me because I question what these amazing, hard-working, determined girls might do with their energy otherwise? What if instead of trying to change the shape of their bodies, girls decided to change the world? What if all the energy women spend trying to fix their trouble spots went towards fixing things that are actually broken?
So where do you draw the line? Am I saying that any girl who lifts weights has an ED? Or is selfish and should go volunteer instead?
Heck no. I am a fitness instructor myself–and I believe that working out is fun, a source of strength, and a healthy thing for us! But what I refuse to believe is that striving for an image of “strong” or purposefully trying to create a body type is healthy—it’s still a way to sell yourself short.
Your body is perfect the way it is, naturally. What needs to happen–and I am aware that this is a very humble OPINION–is for us to realize that there is NO ideal body! Wouldn’t it be radical if we thought women were strong because they could climb mountains or run marathons or lift heavy weights—not because they look like a fitness model? I think it’s kind of simple, for people to get healthy they need to focus on getting healthy, not on looking a certain way.
I’ve said it before and it is truly my goal to believe, live, and show the world that your weight is a byproduct. You can focus on it, but we all know that what matters is your actions—are you eating enough nutritious food, moving your body, and giving it the respect it deserves? Your “ideal” body will just come when you’re doing these things!
I know this might be offensive to some people–even to some I really care about–but if your focus is on creating a certain body and if that focus requires specific eating that feels out of intuition, even if it’s a shift from a more restrictive, skinny-focused or an out of control, “screw it” unhealthy place, I’d suggest that it’s still selling yourself short.
Giving up an ideal, a goal for your body, etc. opens up a lot of doors. Scary doors. Think about it. When I gave up the fight to control my body, I was scared shitless. All that energy and what to do with it? Worry about things that matter? Take responsibility for my own life? It’s scary because if you fail, you fail. But being scared is not a reason to revert to an old habit and is not a reason to live small…You’ll also be leaving behind the vast majority of people you meet, who are complacent with disliking their bodies and with accepting the message that there is something wrong with liking themselves. But seriously, when you think about it, what’s better? Settling for a small life or at least trying to live a little while you’re here?
I’m going to reign this one back in, because I’m off on one of my Cheryl’s trying to change the world tangents.
Use your energy, determination, and drive to set goals that matter. Accept that your body has an ideal and will find it when you listen to it and take care of it and give up the need to control or shape it.
When you get to the end of your life, how do you want people to remember you…
- She had a six pack
- She cycled her carbs really well
- She never ate white flour
- She lived her life
- She followed her heart
- She left a mark
Be strong, but define it yourself.
Strong is strong.
What do you think? I’m curious to hear responses, especially from people who have thought about or done fitness modelling, this kind of training/eating, or who have had EDs.
If you have a blog, link me up to a post you held back on publishing–was it worth it?