Skinny is a four-letter word.
Recently, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to my approach to fitness and to the nutrition, mindset and exercise recommendations I make because the moderate/sustainable approach, well, it just isn’t SEXY.
It’s not an eye-catcher or attention-grabber or a quick sell.
I’ve wondered a little lately if I’M the one off-base, if I’M missing the boat by not offering ‘get skinny quick’ workouts and meal plans, or by selling weight loss supplements/fixes as well….
I made a conscious decision last year to stop trying to ‘sell the six-pack’ in social media. I made the choice to keep my shirt on (literally) because I realized it wasn’t my goal or true calling to sell women on getting skinny or having six-pack abs or an apple butt as what their fitness should look like.
Fitness, for me, is so much more than just looking a certain way, or meeting a subjective standard of beauty in order to feel good, happy with one’s body, ‘fit enough’ or accomplished.
Fitness is a source of strength, of learning to trust one’s own body, of finding the depth of one’s courage and human spirit, of feeling comfortable and confident in the body we travel our life’s journey in, whatever it’s size or shape.
Holding up that slick, six-pack ‘lean, tight and toned’ ideal as the end goal, selling that as the ideal and gold standard by which women measure themselves—it wasn’t encouraging, and it didn’t make me feel good about what I was doing.
It was heartbreaking.
Heartbreaking because many of the women I worked with, or had social contact with, many of the women I knew and loved in all the areas of my life were saving self-acceptance and happiness and comfort in their own skins for when they achieved “X” number on the scale, or “X” number in their dress size, or “X” number in body fat %, or when a certain ‘least favorite’ body part yielded to their wishes and finally looked smaller/toned/tight/smooth.
And these amazing women deserved MORE than that.
As I’ve lived through more phases of my life, met more challenges, endured more hardships, and accomplished greater satisfaction of my own through performance-based achievements (rather than just scale-based or appearance-based ‘accomplishments’), I realized that feeling good about myself and my body wasn’t an ‘outside-in’ project.
It was an ‘INSIDE-out’ one—complete with cellulite, wiggly bits and a host of other aesthetic ‘imperfections’ combined with relentless self-acceptance and even gratitude.
Once you have these experiences and epiphanies, you can’t go back to thinking and living the way you were before.
It’s like opening Pandora’s Box of positivities—and these positivities have to be shared and spread; once that box is opened, they can’t be contained or stuffed back in.
So I made it my mission to spread the messages of relentless self-acceptance, fitness as a tool for growing into MORE of one’s self, not less, of loving yourself forward into change, not loathing yourself into submission. These were messages and ideals that had meaning, these were messages and ideals I could feel really good about promoting and encouraging women to strive towards.
And yet…there are moments, I have to admit, when I feel a little nagging doubt, a ‘naysayer’s’ voice in my head, wondering if maybe I’m off-track or in the wrong business—because the sexy and the quick-fix have a lot of traction and seem to really sell.
Then there are the moments like the one I had first thing this morning, when I received a message from a reader who was distressed by an experience she’d had with her 6 year-old daughter a that night.
She wrote, “Tonight my 6 year old daughter, two days into first grade, told me she wants to be “skinny” – and asked me if I right she was getting skinnier. I was so sad to hear her say those things. I make a point not to say things like “skinny” or “fat”, and instead focus on being healthy and strong. She said she wants to be famous and skinny. I was not expecting this kind of comment from such a young girl.”
Holy crap. She’s 6. And I know her mother is a great role model for her, so the fact that she’s saying this is really kind of scary. I could make a thousand guesses where she’s getting these ideas and messages, but it wouldn’t really matter. What matters is being part of the solution, not adding to the problem.
Being a part of the solution is what galvanizes my dedication to the choice I made last year, the decision to promote physical and emotional strength through improved fitness, to promote positive self-image and body acceptance while helping women learn to adopt healthier eating and movement habits in their daily lives.
Because I can’t stand for one second the idea that I might be someone who contributes to the concept a little girl has that she needs to be skinnier to be accomplished, to be accepted, to be someone.
This one message gave me back the conviction that I AM on the right track.
I’m certain that I am because I’ve lived many years of my life consumed with angst about not being good enough, feeling like I had to have a super low body fat percentage, look like “X” body ideal (round here, smooth there, ripped here….), and get enough external validation through the praise and compliments of others to feel good about myself.
And even when I DID look like “X” and got ‘lean enough’, and got lots of external validation, it wasn’t enough. I still didn’t feel good enough. Having reached one aesthetic goal and failed to get the ‘good enough’ feeling, I would chase another aesthetic ideal, or try to become more like someone else whose body other people praised as worthy and admirable.
It ate me up inside.
I was never good enough. I didn’t appreciate the body I had, the gifts and abilities I possessed. I was negative and fearful and desperate. And I don’t wish those feelings on anyone—let alone a 6 year-old girl who just started first grade, who is just in the beginning stages of developing her character and identity as a person, not just a body.
So, despite the noise around me, the bells and whistles and shiny objects flying around in the fitness industry and social media, I know I have chosen the right path.
- I know that emphasizing looking at our bodies and ourselves in a positive way is critically important.
- I know that promoting gratitude for the health and gifts we have is essential on the path to true and lasting body and lifestyle change.
- I know that teaching women the value in working out isn’t in getting skinny, it’s in getting stronger, inside and out.
- I know that giving women the tools to change their own lives, one step at a time, instead of offering some ‘miracle solution’ is the right thing to do—truly, it’s the only thing that REALLY works.
I know, because I have lived both sides of the coin.
And I’m going to continue being a part of the solution.