When did fitness become so ‘cool‘?
When did something that is meant to improve our health have the potential to make us more unhappy? When did fitness get upgraded to a trend and a ‘fad’? By writing this post, I hope that I am able to pick the fitness industry a part (a little bit) and explain how and more importantly why I think we have forgotten what it actually stands for, and what it’s core values should be.
Guaranteed if you weren’t already pressuring yourself to look or exercise in a particular way, the sheer volume of info available namely via social media, (quite often skewed or incorrect) will have made you question how you go about approaching a healthier and/or fitter lifestyle. Am I right?
I think it’s fair to say that along with the likes of fashion and beauty, the fitness realm has established itself as one of the most profitable industries of all time. It’s gone from exercising because it was healthy to being undeniably fashionable. It is now cool to tell anyone and everyone about your 5:47 am alarm and early morning workout AND did your workout even happen if you didn’t post it on Instagram?
The fitness industry is littered with ‘famous’ faces, collabs, sponsorships and those insta-worthy influencer shots we all aspire to re-create (guilty as charged) but, what we are forgetting is that fitness and exercise is a health movement. These influencers are responsible for providing information that should be correct, well researched and valid. But is this always the case? I’d argue against it. And I think this is where one of the biggest problems is. Some of the most followed faces are not fitness professionals or industry experts yet we take their words as the gospel truth.
Instead, we focus on those who are ‘insta-famous’ because of the number of likes their photos receive and we are forgetting are those who are Olympians, registered nutritionists, qualified personal trainers and sporting professionals. We are more in favour of seeing that girl, who has 122K followers, has perfected the ‘belfie’ and the fitness model with chiselled abs. Fitness should not be all about aesthetics but we are so over-exposed to it, that it has become almost impossible to make the distinction between exercising for weight loss and exercising because we enjoy it.
I’ve recently become o-b-s-e-s-s-e-d with ‘The Guilty Feminist’ podcast and one of my fave episodes to date was the one titled ‘Women’s Magazines’ featuring Sarah Millican (It’s Episode 7 for anyone wanting to have a listen). In this episode, they talked about how some of the largest female fitness magazines in the UK are writing almost aggressive articles about ‘weight loss’, ‘controlling our cravings’ and of course, the before and after pictures. Articles about self-love and mindfulness are placed next to those explaining ‘why he doesn’t love you’. WHAT? Where is the logic??
Sarah Millican bravely, admitted that she has totally stopped reading all female magazines because she believes she isn’t their target audience. She tells Deborah Frances-White that she is the woman in the ‘before’ picture and is HAPPY with that. She doesn’t want to become the ‘after’ and has no interest in ‘shedding the pounds’. FINALLY. A women who doesn’t want to loose weight! Why has exercise become synonymous with weight loss? Why do women always have to be on a diet?
We’ve all heard the phrase ‘Don’t miss out on 95% of your life to weigh 5% less’ and as much as it does make me cringe a bit, it’s true. If the media continues to celebrate these ‘bodies’ that we are told are perfect, younger generations are more likely to pair exercise with being the perfect weight. Some of these influencers are famous for not much other than their perfect and sculpted bodies.
Of course, we can’t only blame social media for documenting the fitness industry like this and as much it may seem I am blaming Instgram, I do actually love the platform. We are all guilty of contributing. One minute we’ll be protesting against it, and the next we’ll see one of said images and will undoubtedly compare ourselves. Fixating on the abs, the thigh-gap and most likely, a super lengthy Instagram caption about hard work and dedication when really, its good lighting and knowing your angles.
Before and after pictures (excuse the phrase) ARE a really good way to measure your goals, keep you motivated and accountable but when did it become so normal to make judgement and comment on other peoples? Yes, they may have shared them on social media and we should probably make exceptions for these, but what about the ones in magazines? And the articles that sit with them? I don’t feel that those are motivational, positive or helpful in anyway. If you have ‘fitspo’, make it someone you admire rather than someone you envy. Even better – make it YOU.
I imagine you’ll have heard about the blogger who called out a female fitness mag on one of their articles and as a result, was named, shamed, and blacklisted from events. This isn’t encouraging and I think it clearly shows that the industry isn’t planning on any making any dramatic changes.
The focus of exercise and fitness should be about moving in ways that feel good for you. Having a goal is great! And I urge everyone to set goals and challenges. It’s good for the mind, body and soul and if that goal is to loose a bit of weight, please do not let me stop you or make you feel bad for wanting to do so. In opposition then, if you don’t want to loose weight and just want to exercise because it makes you feel good, and you enjoy it– that is also perfectly oh-kay. Your journey is about you and only you.
I can probably sit and argue this topic all day, and one thing that bugs me, and that I’m embarrassed to admit is I still read these magazines. I still read the ’30 seconds to abs’ articles; I follow the girl with 122K followers and sometimes can’t help but feel inadequate when comparing her body to mine. So what can we do about it?
As much as I’d love to have the definitive answer, I think at the moment, the answers lie with each individual (sorry to get all spiritual). A strong mind just sadly isn’t as desired as the ‘perfect’ body. My advice? Try to de-clutter. And this is something I’m actively trying to do myself. I’m trying to stop comparing myself to influencers on Instagram and remember all the reasons why I love exercising and why it doesn’t have to be about weight loss. Forget what the gym can do for your looks, and focus on what it does for you mind and mood. Un-follow anyone who makes you feel that you aren’t enough. You control your fitness regime. Don’t let it control you.
What else do you love doing in life? Make it work in harmony; don’t let your workouts and diet take over. Its cliché, but its all about finding your #balance.
Forget about that girl with that body. Remind yourself of what you and your body are capable of because our bodies are pretty incredible. Embrace the #strongnotskinny revolution and if a magazine tells you to curb your cravings, tell ‘em to go do one.