You needn’t go any farther than the magazine racks at the grocery store or social media to know that nowadays fitness advice looks like erotica. I find this trend disturbing on so many levels, and I’m certainly not the only one who’s noticed.
Recently, Huffington Post carried a piece written by magazine mogul and fitness model, Tosca Reno. In her article, Ms. Reno points out how very unhealthy it can be for the models who get to the pinnacle of their profession by going under the knife, starving and dehydrating themselves to achieve the popular aesthetic:
“What we don’t realize is that when we are looking at the faces and bodies of women in these physique magazines, is that most of them have dieted for months to look that way. Or most of them are just days prior to a contest where they have put themselves through rigorous training and dieting to get lean enough. Or they have just competed and won’t look the same in a few days time.”
But even more disturbing is the objectification of finely chiseled body parts which, as Ms. Reno rightly points out, “… women are dressed and posed for the bedroom and not the gym …”
In doing my research to write about this alarming phenomenon I came across blogger Dominique Talley whose blog “50 Shades of Fitness: The Pornification of the ‘Fitness’ Industry” (on her website www.eatprayliftblog.wordpress.com) said it better than I could hope to. And because I tend to like people who ask more questions than they answer, her words really resonated for me:
“So my question is why are we not good enough as we are? Why can’t we be sexy without being sex objects? Why can we lift weights without being some kind of barbell-sporting-dominatrix? Why can’t we be great athletes without being sexy athletes? Why can’t we be badass without being a hot piece of ass?”
Neither Ms. Reno nor Ms. Talley is naive about why these images have become so prevalent. For that matter, neither am I. We’re all grown ups here and we know that sex sells. But Ms. Talley posts the picture below and rightly asks, “… you tell me…when a ‘fitness’ competition requires women to pose like this, is it about sports, or is it about sex?”
There’s no escaping our evolutionary truth: we are visual creatures. There’s also no point in denying that the female body is beautiful. But when we revere only one body type as “ideal” we diminish the innumerable other body types that make up the rainbow of human forms. In fact, all bodies are beautiful, each in its own way.
Both authors make the cogent point that the primary goal of fitness shouldn’t be about achieving a bodacious booty, but about working our bodies the way they were intended to be worked. Maybe a little less “shredded” and a little more functional ought to be our goal. And from my own experience – having transformed myself from someone who was morbidly obese for 20+ years to a fit and healthy marathon runner – it’s the confidence, the resilience and the tenacity that we gain through fitness that is its real power.