Yesterday I was reading an article that delved into the topic of body image. The article discussed why shaming fit people seems to be okay, but shaming obese people is not. Stay with me here.
The author, a visibly fit and healthy person, discussed how she has had people come up to her, grab her bicep, and say "Wow you must work out" and then continue bashing her about how women who lift are gross or people who are fit are disgusting. She goes on to discuss how no one would ever go up to an overweight or obese person, grab their stomach and say "Wow you must eat a lot" - nope. That would probably result in a lawsuit.
Political correctness and general manners dictate that one of the worst things you can do is make fun of someone who is overweight. However, there is a new type of shaming going on - fit shaming.
So what exactly is shaming? Brene Brown, a shame researcher, defines shame as "the intense painful feeling or experience of believing we are flawed and therefore unworthy of acceptance and belonging." We are somewhat hardwired to feel shame as it keeps us in line within society. Think about it. Adults shame children to teach a lesson. But remember this as well - shaming is very effective unless the person being shamed truly could not care less what other people think of him.
The current trend in our mainstream social media is overflowing with attacks against healthy, fit people and is filled with support of "big and body confident" without ANY mention of the health issues (both physical and mental) associated with being overweight. Are we entering a period in time where health and a healthy lifestyle is frowned upon? For the safety of our children and families, and for the longevity of our species, we better hope not. Don't believe me? Here are a few statistics:
So, all of this got me thinking about a few things.
1. You don't have to be skinny to be fit, in the same way many skinny people actually are not truly fit (aka "skinny fat").
2. People who are not fit, sometimes tend to be jealous of those who have a healthy and fit lifestyle
3. Comments made toward your healthy lifestyle aren't necessarily meant to tear you down, but rather to make the person commenting feel better about their own lifestyle choices
4. Bodies come in all shapes and sizes, and not everyone will be a 00-2. This doesn't mean you cannot be fit and healthy. We all want to change something about ourselves. Maybe we want a different nose, better hair, flatter abs, a better booty, stronger calves - whatever it is, everyone struggles with something about their image. You're not alone.
5. Love yourself, but always strive to be better.
Have you even been put down or "shamed" because of your fitness lifestyle? I'm sure you have. I know I have - more than once. You know who the culprit usually was? Someone who wished they could be at my fitness level. Someone who wished they had the same drive and determination. Someone who was jealous. You know what? Go ahead - throw those mean comments, because I'm happy with my lifestyle and I'm proud of the body I've built.
Maybe you've heard something like one of the following:
1. Gross. I wouldn't want that much muscle. That chick is probably a dude.
2. He's disgusting. I don't like guys who are that muscular.
3. Ugh. She's so skinny. Does she even eat? Get her a cheeseburger. She's disgusting.
4. That guy must be an a-hole. He thinks he's so great because he's fast. Who cares.
5. She thinks she's so awesome because she ran a marathon. What a loser.
6. Seriously? Why would we want to be like that couple? Do races on the weekend? Spend time outdoors? They're so stuck on themselves and they're so materialistic. Why would they spend money on races or gear or a new bike? Geez. No thanks. We'll see you at the bar.
7. Look at her quads. That's disgusting. I bet she can't even wear jeans. I can't stand girls who lift. They're freaks and no guy would ever want that.
8. I bet he can't stand being married to a woman like that. She's always in the gym and her place is at home in the kitchen. I'd be so annoyed if I were him. She's probably a crappy mom too since she spends so much time on herself.
9. She just had a baby. She must be starving herself to look that good. There is no way she did that in the gym. She obviously has some issues and isn't focusing on her kids like she should be.
10. Your commitment is impressive. I mean, I'd never want to spend that much time in the gym or look like you, but hey - good for you.
11. You ran 6 miles today? Why? You're training for one of those 5k marathon things? That's dumb.
12. He/she is so self absorbed. They only care about how they look.
13. Does his girl seriously like the way he looks? I bet she thinks he's a total meathead.
14. Lifting weights is not lady like. Men will not like that.
Fit shaming shouldn't happen. We should be building each other up and celebrating the goals and accomplishments of our fellow athletes. Of course, sometimes unhealthy habits develop, and in those cases, we should reach out and do what we can to ensure our friends are kept safe and healthy. But, in general, let's celebrate each other and grow our culture of health and happiness.
So, to those outside of the fitness community who feel the need to call a fast runner an "elite a-hole who thinks he's better than everyone" or say that a girl who lifts heavy is probably really a dude - please think about your comments. Do you know why that person started focusing on their fitness goals and working hard? How many people turned to fitness in general as a way out of a tough time or perhaps even depression? Sure, some people grew up in a fitness oriented home and carried the torch from there, but before you judge, make sure you know the story. Also remember that people who work out frequently receive the benefit of extra serotonin for mood stability, thus leading to happier and more productive days. People who live a healthy and active lifestyle tend to get more promotions at work, are able to maintain a better work/life balance, make quicker and better decisions on their feet, and are able to better motivate and care for co-workers and family. Keep that in mind as you decide if you want to throw your stone.
Look at the number of newly deemed "lifestyle diseases" that are developing everywhere. Health professionals and drug companies cannot even begin to keep up. Social media perpetuates the image that if you're a very fit woman you must be a bad mother, or if you're a very fit man you must be a lousy husband. This couldn't be farther from the truth.
So, instead of spending an hour or more per day watching mindless television, why not spend that hour on ourselves? Why not go out for a bike ride as family, hit the gym as a couple, spend some time doing sun salutations, or swimming laps at the local pool. Maybe we should spend that time in the garden with our children, taking a hike at the nature center, or watching the sunset from our kayak. When we take care of our mental and physical health, we can better care for our family and friends.
I believe in being confident in your own skin. I believe in loving the person you are, yet continually trying to make that person better and stronger, both inside and out. Just because someone doesn't look like you, or your cannot look like them doesn't make them wrong.
Remember this: you cannot control what other people think and you will never be able to please everyone. There will always be people who don't like you solely based on jealously. Maybe they are jealous of your healthy lifestyle, your fitness capabilities, your intelligence level, your education, your family, your looks, your career, your car/home/possessions, or all of the above. While you can't control how they choose to feel about you, you can control how you react to people who choose to put you down based on your lifestyle choices. Remember, you'll never run out of energy if you use criticism from your haters as fuel for your fire. There is an old quote that says "people only rain on your parade because they are jealous of your sunshine and tired of their shade" - this couldn't be more true. Just control your reactions to those who criticize you and remain positive.
Keep working hard, loving yourself, bettering yourself, and loving others. Take time each day to make this world a happier, healthier, and more beautiful place for everyone. Keep shining your light and exuding kindness, peace, and love. It will make a difference. You will see.
See you tomorrow morning for 6x800m repeats. You're going to kill it.
#thefitclub417 #earnednotgiven #wekickbuttat5am #trainharderthanmeIdareyou
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