I have been getting a lot of emails from people who listen to my radio show and also from my own clients, talking about how they are just so afraid they will never be as “skinny as my friend Jane Doe”….or “I work out all the time and my friend is always one step ahead of me and one size smaller.” Many will tell me that their weight loss surgery or medical weight loss program has failed because they do not look like stick figures.
I find this very disturbing as both a personal trainer, who does not fit the mainstream media idea of what a trainer should look like, and also as a former morbidly obese woman. This photo popped up today on Facebook and really got me thinking about how unhealthy it is to have this insane and media-driven idea of what healthy is supposed to look like. The women in the top photo are lovely. Nothing against them at all of course. However, the women in the bottom photo are realistic. They look healthy and glowing and confident and BEAUTIFUL.
If you asked any fashion magazine editor and likely almost anybody under the age of 50 in America, they would likely tell you the top girls are beautiful, but the responses to the ladies on the bottom would be varied.
Just WHEN did we decide as a society that beauty and health were defined by being as skinny as possible? These ideas are what fuel young girls in their quests for perfection and thinness that often lead to eating disorders. Sometimes they can become obese and sometimes they go the opposite direction and can become anorexic. Is either healthy? I think not.
If we took a good look into the lives of many of these women that the media tells us are perfect and beautiful, we would find addiction, depression, and also a slew of bad habits such as smoking, heavy drinking, and many more. The pressure to keep this unrealistic ideal up can be overwhelming for many.
Instead of bombarding young women with images of super-skinny models, we need to be teaching them healthy eating habits and to exercise regularly. Growing up with good self-esteem and confidence, regardless of body type, could go such a long way in keeping a healthy and active body for life.
I am six feet tall and a size 12. I love my body and am proud of my curves. Do I like the excess skin that is left over from losing 130 pounds? Of course not! But it is part of who I am and part of my history. That skin is like my battle scar. I wear it proudly and know that even after it is removed, my body will never look like the bodies of the Victoria’s Secret models. Who cares? The point of losing weight and exercising is to get healthy, not to get skinny. What have I accomplished if I am skinny? How is that a measure of my health? I have to wonder how many of those emaciated models can complete a half-marathon? I wonder how many smoke and have lung problems? I wonder how many could keep up with me in the gym? I truly wonder, if we did complete physicals, just how healthy those skinny girls would be?
There is a difference in someone who is just born extremely thin and has a high metabolism, and someone who diets themselves almost to death in the hopes of meeting the unreal standard set by society to be perfect.
All bodies are different just all of us are different as people. what may be a healthy weight for you is not going to be so for me. It is wonderful and healthy to be on a quest to shed pounds and inches and burn off the excess fat in a healthy manner, but unfortunately, I have seen many who, sadly, once food is stripped from them as a crutch, they have nothing else to lean on except the quest for thinness and they measure their success solely on that goal and it is so sad. Exercise becomes a cross-addiction and even in some cases anorexia. Basically- the addiction and obsession are still there, just manifesting themselves in a different manner.
There is so much life to live without another obsession- THINNESS- taking over where the food addiction that left you obese left off.
I tell all of my clients in Fit and Flourishing that we are going to set realistic goals of a lifestyle that is healthy and that will lead them towards optimal fitness, and we are NOT looking to make them skinny. For some, that end result may very well be a size 2, while for others it may be a size 12. Being healthy never was and never will be a one-size-fits-all quest.
If we really want to achieve true lasting results and optimal health, we need to start focusing on living life and being happy and being active and putting good wholesome food into our bodies. We need to create good habits that we practice at least 80-90% of the time. We need to stop this obsession with food and being the skinniest and the smallest and the most perfect. We need to stop feeling the need to post on the internet (in an effort to have someone else tell us we are okay) photos of every morsel of food we eat and the exact calories we consumed for the last month, etc etc. This leads down a slippery slope back into the obsession with food that made us so obese in the first place. STOP MAKING food the focus of your very existence.
Love you for you and love every inch of you and once you do that, doing things that make YOU healthier and happier will come naturally and with much less effort. Make eating good food and exercising habits, not obsessions that make you crazy and make you feel guilt of you miss a workout or accidentally have 100 extra calories that day.
STRIVE TO BE AS HEALTHY AS YOU CAN BE, NOT AS SKINNY. Trust me, they are two different things. Once you can do this, the results will amaze you!