So, I work out. I have worked out since I was around 12 years old in one form or another. Weights, Cardio, Circuits, Machines, KickBoxing, Bikes, Stair Climbers...I have done it all. I worked my way through college by working not as a waitress but in a gym. I have penned many a blog about how I am not in love with fitness, as many people claim to be. I see training as a means to an end. The end began with vanity of course having started as a teen. The end has now transformed into being in condition to live, remaining functional enough to carry my own groceries into my 100s and not break my hip on a whim. But, like most people who work out I have a bit of vanity wrapped up in the whole deal to this day, even if it isn't the main package. I do respect everyone's choice as to what they perceive as beauty and what they deem important in their lives. In my particular life, I value my body being fit and capable of the things I need it to do. I am also not afraid to be accused of being shallow and I will openly say that I also value being able to fit into a pair of awesome jeans. I love to dress up. I love to dress down. I love my body looking good doing these things. I love NOT having to worry about whether something fits, is too tight, whether I have a dunlop, etc.
Yup, you may define it as vanity. I define it as having a bit of pride in my damn self and the fact that I take care of me.
So, I could possibly feel like pretty much a failure at my "beneficial hobby" when I see pictures like these. Why? Because they are bullshit. Yet even though they are bullshit we believe them. To explain why they are bullshit can take some time so either settle in or forget about it and move on. If you are interested I will attempt to get across why they are bullshit and I am telling you from the perspective of someone who does train, who does value her body in a visible, physical manner and who does, even though she knows they are bullshit, still have to remind herself that she is, indeed, worthy of saying that she is in great physical shape and just fine the way she is.
Let me begin by explaining the basics of being a chick. Those basics include the fact that we have, overall, a higher level of natural body fat than guys. We gotta birth them babies ya know. We also, in general, need less food than guys. I know, the whole set-up sorta sucks but it is what it is. So, basically, this is why if your husband and you both decide to drop some weight it will probably be easier for him to do so.
So, looking at the photos above - you have first a lovely lady with some awesome abs and fake tits. Next a cross-fit junkie who is most likely what many refer to as a natural Ectomorph - naturally leaner, sort of a straight up and down type build - note the lack of fakes - Ectomorphs are generally small breasted. WHY am I focusing on boobs you say? Because they have something to do with this so just give me a minute! Last you have a bodybuilder. Actually I think she is a Figure competitor - there IS a difference but that isn't what this post is about.
Soooooo, basically the latest craze of being "committed to excellence" and "strong rather than just skinny" and "strong equals healthy" and "limitless" in terms of physical fitness tells us subconsciously that if we do certain things, whether it be this workout or that one, eat like a cavewomen, eat nothing but greens, eat X amount of protein....there are a ton of "things" that we must do and they might be different as night and day but if we find the RIGHT ones and if we do them hard enough we will look like these ladies. And I am telling you to beware. Why? Because those "things" are what is limitless. Not only that but the industry - they are selling you Y and calling it X. Y is the product or mindset or rhetoric they want you to buy and they want you to believe it is X so that you will buy more of it and also the A, B, C that goes along with it and some other stuff too. Because if you get ALL THAT STUFF then you might actually have X and THEN look like these women, right?
Well, if you don't then maybe you just aren't "committed" enough. Enter feelings of being not good enough, not doing enough, not trying hard enough, feeling worthless even - at which point you will try harder or go jump into a vat of ice cream depending on whatever else might be going on in your life at the moment. But the result is the same. You will be doing ALL THIS STUFF in order to get the body of strength and health as defined above by those pictures.
NEWSFLASH - all that stuff includes - body fat low enough that muscles will show through, which for most of us means 12% or so (this is uber hard to do for most chicks by the way and Ectomorphs have a better chance reaching it but it is still a push), training over and above the point where it makes you feel good and is more like an assignment in a sense, eating not enough to train that hard, possibly taking supplements or additional agents, possibly outright doping, surgery for those perfect ta-taz because generally if the bodyfat is that low you don't have them even if you once did, manipulation of food/water, etc, etc as all of these folks did for these photos don't think for a minute they didn't, a great photographer, and....Photoshop. Now, somewhere, sometimes, SOME women have the perfect storm of genetics, timing and physical make-up to have that body without all of the things I just listed. I have never met one of them but I do believe they might exist. Sort of like how I believe that dragons might be real, but...
Anyway - I am not one of those women. But, I have tried to be. Yes, I have done all of the above at one point or another in an attempt to be "committed enough" (except the doping and the surgery as I am NOT an Ectomorph myself but rather more of a burlesque version of the female form). LOL actually my natural body type is about as far from the latest trend in "strong" and "fit" as you will find. I have some extremely resilient curves. LOL. I don't show muscle very quickly and I don't build it very easily. Basically, I look like a girl. That's good, right? Not by today's standards it isn't. So, I have tried in the past to NOT look so much like a girl. I've tried my best. Maybe I just wasn't committed enough though...
Ohhhhh, I remember that mindset. It is the same mindset that we had when I was a young girl trying to be skinny. Then more skinny. Then even more skinny. There was a saying that was popular - you can never be too rich or too thin. I wasn't old enough to understand the rich part but I certainly understood the thin part. And I was committed. I was VERY committed. So you would think that being strong would be a better goal to strive for than being skinny, right? Except that these photos haven't a damn thing to do with being strong.
Having visible abs doesn't necessarily mean you are strong. Having big muscles doesn't either. Bodybuilders can be some of the weakest people in a room, especially if they are competing. The size of the muscle (or appearance of it) is exacerbated by very low body fat, high water intake and then water denial, specific foods to make the muscles appear more "pumped" and vascular... It has nothing to do with strength. And doing a handstand on an oversized tire could mean you are strong at handstands. But, strong otherwise? Who knows?
WHY do we accept the ideals of strength like these the way we accept ideals of beauty from Hollywood? I think we are just programmed to. We have to look outside ourselves for the checklist of what is real. We can't feel that we are strong, fit, attractive by our own merit. We must be strong, fit, attractive by someone else's standards. Industry standards. And so we do more. We buy more. And we do more of more... And so on.
This is a sickness. It is a sickness more of our psyche than anything. I feel like this country in particular, and more in particular women, are suffering from this sickness of always wanting more and basically coveting the impossible standards set for them by someone, somewhere else. There has to be some balance between the plain, straight up crazy this leads to and the other extreme of complete and utter "let yourself go to hell" but that balance is not rewarded or even aspired to in our culture. I am not sure how to get around it other than with a real person revolution one by one. But, first, we must realize that these images are just not what we need to be measuring ourselves by. I have my own set of standards for myself. I unsubscribed to fitness rags years ago, I delete those "inspirational" posts as soon as I see them - hell, I hide the people that post them excessively! I stay clear of the rhetoric and only engage in talk of fitness with trusted confidants. Most importantly, I avoid the ongoing roller coaster of emotional blackmail and toil that makes up the "health and fitness" industry. And if I feel myself backsliding into the whole mindset I just withdraw and immerse myself in what I DO know - that movement makes me feel alive, that sweating releases my soul and my daily baggage, that feeling my muscles strain is good for me. That is my personal, very quiet revolution against the extreme machine. If you have fallen victim to all this nonsense, I suggest you find your own variation of revolution and stand fast.
Trying to live well in every way...and sometimes laughing about it later.