I was browsing through Instagram when I saw a photo made me pause. I immediately began scroll through the comments because the moment I saw the picture, I knew it was one of those posts that would stir up controversy. The words fat, weak, skinny-fat, big, bulky, starved, lean and hot–well those are not words used unless you are trying to grab attention and possibly cause controversy.
The responses varied from: it is body shaming to others defending it saying those who were upset by it were just overly sensitive. The picture actually was part of an article on BodyBuilding.com called How Lean Should I Get? and those in defense of the picture said those offended by it must not have read the article.
I have posted an article on our facebook page about the dangers of skinny-fat–people who are naturally thin, never work out, and eat food that is unhealthy the majority of the time. There are health risks. But for the most part, I steer clear of using words like fat or skinny to describe body types–because they just aren’t nice words.
I read the article because I wanted to give the author the benefit of the doubt–maybe it was a really insightful article, like I found the Time article to be about the dangers of skinny-fat. I was hoping it would be an informational article on how nutrition plays a vital role in health. It wasn’t. There were some great points the author made, like how we are often hardest on ourselves and don’t always see what other’s see–which is we look great. But those good points were outnumbered by the bad.
Here’s how the author got it all wrong.
At 23 percent body fat: You’re really in shape now. You’re officially a “workout girl” and you’re ahead of 90 percent of the women in America. You’re fit and lean, and there’s nothing left to fix. Depending on your body type, you may find you’re totally done at 23 percent.
Nope. I’ll have to put myself out there on this one–I am probably about 24-25% body fat and I eat healthy the majority of the time (ask my trainer who knows my nutrition plan, my husband and my kids who eat the same thing I do) and I’m running and strength training 5-6 times a week. And despite not being 23% body fat I still get to call myself a ‘workout girl’. So are all of the other women I see day in and day out at the gym who vary from 18% body fat to above 30% or more.
It’s a fallacy to assume there is nothing left to fix in those under 23% body fat. Many women suffer from self esteem issues, including those who are fit and lean. It’s all a journey and those who finally hit 23% body fat aren’t cured and will need to continue working on bettering themselves from the inside out.
At 21 percent body fat: You’re super-hot. You look great in clothes, you can wear whatever you want, and you should feel great wearing a swimsuit. At 19 percent body fat: You’re a rock star. You look amazing in clothes; you can wear whatever you want. You can’t wait for bikini season. You’ve officially won at leanness. Men want you, women want to be you, and you’re the envy of all your friends. I’m only half-joking about that last part.
Wrong again. I have a friend who has been everything from 18% body fat to close to 30%. She was always a rockstar. And I am definitely no where near 19% body fat and I can and do wear whatever I want. I will rock a bikini and I’d argue at least one man thinks I’m hot- the one who matters most–my better half, my husband.
If I have a female client at 19 percent body fat, I let her know she’s done. We shift the context to fitness-related goals like mud runs, training for a kettlebell certification, running a 5K, doing a tactical strength challenge—really, whatever fun and cool things you’ve always wanted to be able to do. You may get leaner from here, but it’s not necessary, and it’s not the goal.
This one actually makes me sad. Because I have fitness related goals that include both lowering my body fat percentage (see, I’m not entirely against this article) and goals that are completely unrelated to how I look on the outside. But Lord help me if I had to put off some goals, the ‘whatever fun and cool things‘ I’ve always wanted to be able to do, because I’m not 19% body fat. I wanted to run an ultra marathon–so at 7 months post partum I started training for that. My body fat percentage wasn’t anywhere close (nor will it ever be) 19% body fat.
I crossed the finish lines of two ultra marathons last year because it’s what I wanted to do to challenge myself, to fill my heart and to accomplish a dream. Thank God I didn’t have to wait until I was 19% body fat to do that–or I never would have done it. I hate to think there are others out there who would read his article and think you have to wait to have fun in the fitness world because you aren’t a certain body fat percentage.
Here’s where BodyBuilding.com and all those who are striving to be the Lean and Toned aka Hot look have it wrong when they post memes like: Do you even lift? Or when they make fun of those who do hours of cardio a week: Not all of us want to look like that last picture.
Some of us follow BodyBuilding.com because we want to add strength training to our fitness routine but we don’t want to just lift. We enjoy running for hours, or cycling or swimming or crossfit. Not because we are hoping to get super lean or thin or hot but because, well, we just love to do those activities.
Marathoners who are made fun of in memes, do not want to look like a powerlifter–because then they wouldn’t be as amazingly fast as they are. Just like powerlifters don’t want to look like elite marathoners. Different goals will yield different results and no one look is the be all, end all of ‘hotness’.
And what may be more surprising to the author is that not all of us are exercising for a look–but rather to achieve goals like crossing finish lines, setting new personal records in a bench press or squat– but the primary goal isn’t how we look.
I wonder if whoever made this meme knows that the woman on the left is Paula Radcliffe. The current women’s world record holder in the marathon with her time of 2 hours 15 minutes and 25 seconds. She is a three-time winner of the London Marathon(2002, 2003, 2005), three-time New York Marathon champion (2004, 2007, 2008), and won the 2002 Chicago Marathon. Given those impressive achievements I’m almost certain she is confident and content with the body she has.
I’m a mother. A runner. And I strength train a few times a week. I don’t want to look like a fitness model nor do I want to get my body to under 23% body fat. And I’ll never make myself put my dreams on hold because of what a scale says.
My second ultra-marathon, 52.4 miles. My primary goal was to raise money for the Bonnie Addario Lung Cancer Foundation, second was to cross the finish line and no where on my list was caring what I looked like while running this race. 25% body fat and all.
Attractiveness comes in all shapes and sizes. So does health and strength.
Never Give Up,