This post was inspired by something I read earlier this week called Squats are AWESOME…But Body Shaming and Objectification Are Not. I’ve already written about Why I’m Anti-Fitspiration in a prior post, so this is kind of a continuation of that topic.
The “fit girl” images that are so pervasive on the internet are incredibly sexualized. The same goes for YouTube videos. Go ahead and search for “female fitness motivation” on YouTube. You know what you are likely to find? A video full of clips of women wearing bras two sizes too small for their oversized implants and booty shorts doing exercises that require them to be bent over, ass up. As a woman, am I really supposed to be inspired by that kind of T&A?
Being inundated with these images sends the message that you should work out and get fit to be hot. To be sexually attractive to men. To make other women jealous. That is utter bullshit. There is more to life than being hot. And might I add, being hot and being fit are not necessarily the same thing! There are plenty of women out there without a ripped up six pack who are incredibly fit. And there are plenty of women out there who may be incredibly lean, but who have been starving themselves nutritionally/calorically, overtraining, battling eating disorders/poor body image, or taking banned substances who are far from healthy and happy.
I realize I may sound like a hypocrite right now. Bikini competitions in particular are pretty much all about being hot. Your body needs to be both tight and curvy in the right places. You need to be tan, get your nails done, wear clear stripper stilettos, and have sexy hair and makeup. The posing for bikini ranges from classy but flirtatious to downright trashy depending upon the competitor. Regardless of what your style of posing is, you will still be required to arch your back and push your ass out in the mandatory back pose. This is one of the reasons I was hesitant to compete in the bikini division in the first place. It’s one of the reasons I continue to have mixed feelings about competing. It’s also why I compete as hobby, but don’t have serious goals to climb the ranks and turn pro.
I realize that the pictures that I posted from my photo shoot are on the sexy side. For me, it was fun to see myself differently, and it also gave me a confidence boost after placing poorly at the competition. Although some people may disagree with me, I feel that they are in good taste and am proud of them. However, they are not representative of what day-to-day Kayla is like. They simply capture a moment in time after 5 months of dieting and training with a fake tan and professional hair and makeup and a very talented photographer.
I am not advocating that we completely discard any concern about physical appearance whatsoever. Every woman deserves to feel confident about her body, and it’s natural to want to look good. And if you are carrying around extra weight, you are compromising your body’s wellness and limiting its ability to move, heal, and function optimally. My opinion is that someone who is truly happy will respect and love their body enough to make good choices, which support a healthy weight and lifestyle. What I am saying is that there is a wide spectrum of “healthy” and “fit.” I don’t think fitspo images of super lean women should be the holy grail we are all striving for. Me at 11% body fat was really not that different than me at 16% body fat. In fact, I think I was ironically more content with my body at 16% prior to the competition than I was at 11% afterward.
I had my trainer measure my body fat last week, and I was 14%. Am I as lean as I was for stage? Nope. But my strength is better. My endurance is better. I am eating massive amounts of vegetables of all kinds, fruit, healthy fats, and protein. I am able to eat to support my training and recovery. Although mentally I am still coming to terms with my decline in leanness, I am much less preoccupied with how I stack up against other women and much less critical of my body. I still have some work to do, but I am headed in the right direction.
And guess what – I don’t have a six pack. But I would argue that now I am much healthier, mentally and physically, than I was when I did.
Don’t work out to look like some fitspo image or to be what you think men find sexy. Work out to be strong, to feel empowered, to feel good. Eat healthy to nourish your body and to fuel and recover from your workouts. If you do have some weight to lose, then by all means, make lifestyle changes (notice I did not say starve yourself, do tons of cardio, or shame and self-loathe yourself into self-improvement) that will gradually get you to where you want to be and are sustainable for a lifetime.
In closing, if you DO want to watch some truly inspiring workout/fitness motivation videos, I highly suggest you watch anything of Dana Linn Bailey’s or check out Abby Garrett’s YouTube Channel or her Facebook page.