We all have moments of feeling inadequate about our bodies. But are social media movements like “strong is the new skinny” really helping us tap into ourselves and love our bodies? Or are they setting impossible expectations?
As someone who has made fitness my life and been “that girl who squats” more times than I can remember, I can’t help but think that seemingly-empowering mottos like this might actually be doing more harm than good.
Just like I don’t need to be surrounded by scantily-clad women in the gym to feel inspired to lift, I don’t need to scroll through images of them in my newsfeed either. We get it. That girl has the chiseled abs I don’t, but does it motivate me to get them? You bet your pre-workout wheat-grass shot it doesn’t.
Why? Because good things come in all sized packages.
For many women, the recent boom of “fitspiration” on social media has served as a powerful and positive message, especially after years of being told that stick-think models were the ideal body type. The yo-yo diets, fitness kicks and emotional roller coasters that accompanied this unrealistic goal were many.
On the plus side, we’ve ditched that look as the body ideal. The shift toward working out to build muscle — not to get to the lowest possible body fat — has been empowering as it seems to be more achievable than the double-zero image of five years ago.
On the flipside, however, you can only fight your body type so much. When it comes to “fistpiration,” we must remember that these pictures are inspirational and not aspirational. You shouldn’t strive to look exactly like anyone other than yourself. Think about it.
Biological differences in the bodies of various ethnicities has led women of all races to strive for bodies that aren’t necessarily typical in their own race. For example, Asian and African women have different distributions of subcutaneous fat and limb length relative to their torsos. They also have higher bone mineral and body protein content than the typical Caucasian woman, meaning they’ll carry less body-fat.
Kim Kardashian will never look like Zoe Saldana, who will never look like Jennifer Lawrence. Kim can work out as much as she wants, but ultimately she’s not going look as toned as Jennifer might if she did the same fitness routine. There are pros and cons to every body type, and regardless of what your mama gave you the important thing is that you embrace it.
Could you imagine what it would feel like for a naturally thin woman to see a picture of someone with a similar body type (let’s take Zoe Saldana as an example again) compared negatively to a “strong” woman (think Jillian Michaels)? It’s socially unacceptable to shame overweight women, so why is it OK to do it to underweight women? If I were thin, I wouldn’t feel good about seeing pictures of women my size being compared to a “girl who squats” or a “fit body that looks good naked.”
Once upon a time, women shied away from the weight room for fear of bulking up or becoming too muscular. These days, pumping iron and pushing out athletic potential is not only popular, it’s also widely embraces. But the thing is, too much of anything is too much, and for every woman out there posting #fitspiration every day, there’s probably a woman somewhere who feels badly about her natural shape in the face of these fit women.
Celebration and support of all body types is the universal key. Everyone is different and at the end of the day, we can’t put a label on what it looks like to try our best.