I hope this is common sense, but your body is not the enemy.
It’s not out to get you and it’s not trying to fail you. You may not always be happy with your body, but beating it into submission will not give you the results you want. With all of that being said, I’d like to know why the fitness industry is telling us just the opposite.
I’ve noticed this disturbing trend in fitness marketing and messaging. Case in point, I was on the Facebook page of a national trainer for a large fitness organization, and stumbled upon this photo that she had posted on her page:
I have a lot of problems with this. I realize the person who posted this meant for it to be inspiration to train harder and eat better. However, when deconstructed, the language nothing short of abusive.
Here is what this poster is really saying;
“The person who I am right now is a lazy, undisciplined and weak. I have tried in the past and failed. The only way to be better is to reject who I am and become a new person. I can only do this through self-loathing, and beating the crap out of myself. Only then, once I have rock hard glistening abs, will I be worthy.” (Never mind that scientifically there is no correlation between inducing pain and getting positive results.)
When spelled out that way, it sounds pretty crazy doesn’t it? I don’t have a psych degree, but I’m pretty sure that unless you have multiple personalities, there is no old you or new you. We are who we are. We all have good traits and bad traits. We have moments of weakness and moments of strength.
Sure, we can transform our bodies, but does that make us a better person? Does that change who we are? While it might change how we feel about ourselves, I’d argue that we are the same person, regardless of exterior.
I wish that this kind of negative demoralizing messaging was uncommon, but it’s not. You can hear it in the aggressive cuing of a group fitness class, and see it on the promotional posters for fitness classes. Common ones that I encounter are “if your legs are screaming, tell them to shut up.” “Sweat is your fat crying.” “It has to hurt you to change you.” One of my least favorites is “Great bodies aren’t born, they are forged.”
They’re all telling you the same thing. Your body isn’t good enough and it’s your fault. Forgot genetics, forget Photoshop, forget you don’t need 11% body fat to be healthy. If you just worked harder and endured more pain, you could look like that idealized image on the poster.
I’m going to burst your bubble. You can’t look like the girl on the poster, because in real life the girl on the poster doesn’t look like the girl on the poster. It’s all a myth. I think on some level we know this, but I find it extra offensive that layered on top of this photoshopped perfect body myth is the idea that we need hate our bodies, and hurt ourselves to achieve the unachievable.
Results don’t come from pain or self-loathing. Results come from intelligent nutrition and workout programming. Results come from training smarter instead of harder, and knowing that recovery time is just as important as the workout. You can’t hate or beat your body into six-pack abs, or better health and fitness.
Why would you want to?
Our bodies are amazing. They let us move and feel and experience life. They do a million different regulatory things per day that we never have to think about. They’re diverse and beautiful in their diversity. The fitness and wellness industry has the potential to offer so many positive ways to experience and improve movement and yet it falls back on this masochist aggressive marketing.
I’m struggling to finish this post, because I don’t have a good solution for correcting this negative message that is so inundated in fitness culture. I suppose it starts with awareness. We need to look more critically at what is being depicted in fitness ads and less critically at ourselves and above all remember the problem is not our bodies, it’s the messages that are being directed at us.