Most of my blogs are a soapbox of sorts. This is no exception. Straying from my standard raunchy humor, let’s get deep for today…
I’ve recently become a strong advocate of a particular movement in the womanly world. There’s a saying floating about…strong is the new skinny. It’s association ranges from athletes to fitness programs to nutrition plans. And of course it’s plastered all over Pinterest. Love Pinterest. Anyway, it’s a refreshing perspective on what “beauty” really is. It emphasizes an individualized body image that focuses on fit rather than size-suggestive descriptors like thin or fat. Cause strong comes in all shapes and sizes.
First there’s the magazines and media. The appearance pressures society places on women today lead to record numbers of eating disorders, dieting, pill popping, plastic surgery, weight obsession and more…all for the pursuit of what has been embedded in our minds as perfection. Svelte bodies and gaunt figures that can hardly support the human heads sitting upon them. Women whose legs parallel those of Dali elephants (if that’s confusing, Google it). And celebrities who replace food with cigarettes and coffee to slim down. These are the people youth aspire to become. And don’t fool yourself…these are also the people who most adult women want to emulate. But what an unbearable existence. Can you imagine never indulging in a cupcake? Having to ignore a growling stomach continuously. The smell of food inducing vampire-like cravings that can not be satisfied. Brutal. No thanks.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, we’ve also seen a push for being comfortable in your skin. Lady Gaga and her little monsters, Dove and their “real” models, and support for those of a plus size. Now I’m a supporter of being who you are and loving yourself, but my problem with the acceptance of what is typically considered overweight is that it neglects any focus on physical health what so ever. I realize self-acceptance is a big part of mental health, but isn’t that difficult to acheive if your body won’t cooperate? Sure, those skinny models are emaciated and malnutrition is taking a toll on their hearts. But those who qualify as obese likely struggle with high blood pressure, cholesterol, and joint problems. Also a seemingly unbearable existence.
Alas, there is hope. In comes “strong is the new skinny”. I preach everything in moderation, and I think this saying fits that mantra perfectly. Everybody (men and women alike) should be comfortable in their skin…their healthy skin. Don’t aspire to have the body-type of an Ethiopian orphan. It’s not natural and it’s not good for you. Also don’t let yourself use the ”self-love” shit as an excuse for sitting around and allowing your health to deteriorate until you’re so miserable that you can’t possibly love anything but Cheetos and recliners. Do a little workout here and there. Eat fairly healthy most of the time. Take control of your body rather than allowing it to control you. I think when your body is strong, your mind and spirit follow.
You may wonder why I seem so passionate about this movement. I’ll share. Personally, I’ve always had an athletic build. Growing up in gymnastics, I was thin but toned, and maintained that physique throughout most of my teenage and adult life. I was always a little insecure though, as most girls are. In high school I grew fast. At 5’7″ I was too tall to be petite, but not tall enough to be modelesque. I had muscle so I was small enough to be thin, but not small enough to be super skinny. I wasn’t comfortable with myself and I wanted to identify with what I thought seemed like a more appealing body type. At some point in time I found myself aching to lose a little weight. I wanted to be the kind of skinny that turned heads (even if it was in a bad way), and I didn’t care if it was at the cost of my health and sanity. So I took it upon myself to purge. For those unfamiliar, bingeing + purging = bulimia. Between the end of high school and the end of college, I worked my way into a 3-5 time per day barfing cycle. I got good at it too. Practice makes perfect. I had roommates, so I would plan showers or jogging around my purging schedule so I could avoid being caught…cleaning the drain and taking desolate paths got me through a couple of years. I developed control over my gag reflex so I didn’t cough or make noise. I knew what foods came up more easily. I would eat things one at a time so I could determine when I’d actually emptied the entire contents of my stomach. Gross but true. The saddest part was that I didn’t know a single girl who didn’t at least TRY puking as a method of weight loss or weight control. I just happened to be more successful than most. Anyway…I eventually got some help and worked through my “crazy”. But it never totally goes away. That feeling of being not quite good enough. And I attribute that in part to my own issues, but also to unrealistic media portrayals of what’s beautiful and assholes that just don’t acknowledge the sensitivity of the subject.
So skinny is no longer my focus (most days). The desire for strength and health play a larger role in my day-to-day habits and it’s probably the best thing I’ve done for myself…ever. So jump on board. Love yourself, but don’t settle for your sedentary self. Pay attention to your food, but don’t avoid it. Most will never have a shot at being a super model, but we all have a shot at being the best of ourselves. Cause strong is the new skinny. Fit is now fabulous. And healthy is hip. All the cool kids are doin it.
And for those interested, some of my favorite supporters of this lovely lifestyle…