One of my Facebook friends (you should also check out her blog about her own weight loss here...truly amazing!) posted an article last week that was really interesting to me. When I first saw the title, I didn't really agree with it all. But then when I actually read the article, I completely changed my mind. The article was entitled "The Problem with Strong is the New Skinny." A link to it is here.
If you're on Pinterest like I am or like to read fitness magazines, you've no doubt seen the phrase "Strong is the new skinny" numerous times. I have no problem with the actual phrase. In fact, I love it. For so many people, me included when I first started, losing weight is primarily about being skinny. But skinny is really just part of the equation. What about healthy? What about strong? Being skinny doesn't necessarily mean that you are healthy and strong. So I thought it was a great thing when I started seeing motivational pictures that promoted being strong and healthy over being just plain skinny. The problem comes when you take a look at the girls in those motivational pictures. The ones like this one:
They look pretty much exactly the same as the girls in the motivational pictures promoting being thin. The only difference is that these girls are holding a dumbbell and wearing a sports bra. Until I read that article, I had not really observed this before, but it is true once you take a closer look. The picture kind of dilutes the intended message somewhat. It says "Strong is the new skinny, but only if you're this certain type of strong, only if you look like these girls." And that just made me angry.
It made me angry because I know that I am strong, and the fact is that I don't look like these girls. I don't have 6 pack abs, perfectly glistening skin, and not a single ounce of extra body fat. I may have my doubts about a lot of my personal traits, but I have never doubted that I am strong. Physically, my legs had to be strong to carry 328 lbs around day after day. And I think it's pretty much physically impossible to work out almost every single day for a solid year like I've done and not become strong. As far as mental strength, I became more and more convinced of just how much of that I had every day that I overcame some obstacle or temptation this past year, every day that I said, "I will not quit." I don't need some picture of a 19 year old girl that superficially carries a positive message, but really says, "You're still not good enough if you don't look like this." The truth is that I don't need those pictures in order to know that I am strong even if I don't look like that. But what about that 14 year old girl reading the fitness magazine or looking at Pinterest? I don't know about you, but when I was 14, I put a lot of stock in what those magazines said I should look like. I think it is very damaging to young girls. Why can't we have pictures of normal women in those pictures, women who are strong and healthy, but may not weigh 110 lbs? Women who maybe have a muffintop or a little extra arm jiggle, but still work hard at the gym to keep the body they have. Women who may not be perfect physically, but are strong enough mentally to know that they are still more than good enough. I don't have a daughter (yet), but if and when I do, that's the kind of role model I would want her to look up to. Day after day, I realize that perfection is boring, that our imperfections are what help make us who we are. Yet why do we as a society still strive to be perfect? I strive to be better every day now, not perfect.
I hope that someday soon the pictures on those motivational posters truly match the message. Strong is the new skinny, but I don't discriminate about what strong looks like. It comes in all shapes and sizes.