Lose ten pounds in three weeks! Tone your backside by Monday. Conquer belly fat once and for all. 250 swim suit styles, find the right one for your body shape. That’s right. Summer is here. The time of year when women all over the United States grab an armful of bathing suit styles and hit the dressing rooms. Then just as quickly hand them back to the dressing room attendant and slink out the front door feeling like we’ll just come back when we lose that last five pounds.
Just pick up any women’s magazine – fashion or health or anything in between and you will find that the editors of those magazines do not think that women like you and me look the way we should. In fact, what they do think is that we should somehow look like what they publish month after month, year after year on those glossy pages. And for reals, who wouldn’t want to look like Miranda, Alessandra, Adriana or even the old ladies with kids like Gisele or Heidi?
But, it’s not entirely about the magazines and it’s not entirely their fault. There is great content to be read flipping through their pages and very helpful and useful information that could lead you to develop a healthier lifestyle. The trouble comes from what we do with those images and what we do with that information. If you are like most women, you may not feel empowered or healthier from consuming content from a fashion magazine. Instead you may feel like you just have more work to do in order to look like what you see.
“I’d rather be skinny and depressed than fat and happy.” Anonymous
For some reason women still want to correlate healthy with being skinny. We want to believe that if only we were “skinny” then everything else will fall into place. We will magically have an amazing wardrobe that totally fits, we would wake up in the morning ready to tackle the day, our relationships would flourish, our kids would behave, our bosses would give us break, dishes would be done and unicorns and ponies would appear in the meadow in our back yard. Wait, what? The problem with that mentality is that skinny will never be a destination. There isn’t an ending point to say “I’m done now, I’m skinny.” It just doesn’t work to have an ideal as a goal, especially an unrealistic one. Skinny just isn’t a good option for a lot of reasons. That’s not to say that being unhealthy is a good option either, it’s just that there are a lot of places in between.
“Fashion mags? I continually promote athletic and fit bodies to the girls on my teams. They do not need to be skinny!” Jim Steg, Coach and Founder of the Verrado Volleyball Club, Iron Man Tri-Athlete and CrossFitter.
With coaches like Steg, the pendulum (although a slow swinging one) has been shifting from unrealistic weight goals to a more healthy lifestyle. A lifestyle means that we don’t just make one decision and then we are done. It means that we make a lot of decisions on a daily basis over the course of our lives to maintain health. So, whether you are a young athlete in peak shape or a mother trying to shed some of that baby weight, balance is what is going to make the difference long term not only in your physical appearance but in the overall health of your body. Using food as fuel for your body will leave a longer lasting impression than crash diets or starving yourself. We should feel energized by what we eat and by our workouts, not depleted and drained.
“Our culture has shifted over the years to focusing on words like healthy and strong to describe fit women.” Tyler Hayes, Husband, Father, Air Force Reservist and CrossFitter.
The bummer is that there are still lots of women who focus on trying not to bulk up or put on muscle weight instead of focusing on what will make them healthy and strong (and that may just include muscles). There is still the stigma that a woman doesn’t want to get too muscular because it somehow compromises her femininity. The misconception is that if you lift weight, you will get huge. If you get huge, you lose your woman card (yes, men, we have those too). Women want their strength to come from their confidence and their character, not their power clean or overhead squat. Guess what? Maybe your strength can come from both. Imagine this: the same woman that completed a twelve minute AMRAP of 5 pull-ups, 10 push-ups and 15 air squats in the morning goes home and later that afternoon pushes her five year-old on the swing, brushes the tangles out of her eight year-olds hair and wipes tears from tiny eyes after kissing the “boo-boo” and applying a Band-Aid. At bedtime, she sings lullabies and rocks her six month old to sleep. Femininity is not defined by the size of your muscles.
So keep reading those magazines if you like but be careful what you do with what you see. Shoot for strong, healthy bodies and be a part of defining your own body image instead of letting someone else define it for you.