Don’t Buy into the Propaganda

“Exercise to stimulate, not to annihilate.

The world wasn’t formed in a day, and neither were we.

Set small goals and build upon them.”
-Lee Haney


**Trigger Warning- there are thinspo images contained within this post**

A few days ago my trainer posted the photo above to Facebook and tagged me in it.  I both agree and disagree with the sentiment conveyed.  I used to be someone who was very into Fitspo images and the idea of pushing through every workout regardless of how I was feeling.  However, I like to believe I have grown as a person since then.  Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great to use these images to motivate people to get off the couch and push themselves harder than they would have otherwise.  The part I don’t agree with is the idea that we should all do so at all costs regardless of the potential for over training or injury.  It’s the all or nothing  sentiment that bothers me.  That’s not how real fitness should work.


Instead of focusing on pushing ourselves at all costs, shouldn’t we be striving to be healthy?  Because all or nothing is not a healthy way to train.  Rather, it’s sure fired way to get injured, burnt out, or both.  This is not what we should be inspiring pressuring ourselves and each other to.  Instead, why aren’t we all focused on simply doing our best?


We should all take into consideration that life happens: illness, injury, family needs, cheat days, unexpected emergencies… they all happen.  Guess what? That’s ok because we are all human.  I think sometimes we forget that… especially in the case of women.  We think we should be super heroes, able to take care of everyone and everything, and what’s more, to do so perfectly.  Not only do we expect to take care of every need of those we love, but also to eat perfectly and exercise religiously when we try to “get fit”.

When we don’t do these things perfectly (because it’s damn near impossible) we feel guilty and beat ourselves up.  Everywhere we look we see images like this:


Sore or Sorry? As if there are no other options? And yes, yes I do want that cookie… In fact I might just have two or even the whole package if I feel like it.  PS. I won’t feel guilty either.


  I’m already hurt but keep going?  What a healthy message! How about if I take some rest instead to avoid a more permanent injury.

“I don’t care if it hurts..

I wanna have control

I want a perfect body,

I want a perfect soul”

Where to even start?  First, any person who truly feels this way needs therapy, period.  Trying to take control of life by restricting eating and attempting to create a “perfect” body sounds a lot like an eating disorder to me.  This a great message to offer to impressionable teens…

Also, if your body is healthy and functional it’s already perfect.  Don’t waste your time striving for an ideal of beauty that only exists in digital editing suites…

Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels“?

I am not sure what you have been eating, but I can think of LOTS of things that taste better than being skinny feels. Especially since skinny isn’t even healthy.  Furthermore, if you are FIT there is absolutely nothing wrong with treating yourself to an occasional aforementioned cookie.

My point is fitspo is great if it inspires you to get into your running shoes or to the gym when your motivation might otherwise wain.  However, I strongly disagree with the idea that there is one right way to get fit for everyone.  It’s not a cookie cutter process, and you need to take the path that works for you.  I also disagree with the get fit no matter what mentality.  The emphasis should be on getting healthy not skinny.  Skinny and fit are not the same thing… Not even remotely.  Bottom line, you need to do what works for you at your pace.  You also need to do it for yourself, not because you feel guilted into it or want to win society’s approval.  Getting fit should make you feel strong and empowered.  It’s an excuse to be selfish.  Instead of abusing yourself the way suggested by fitspo, you should take care of yourself and listen to your body.  Remember you are already strong, capable, and beautiful, now you’re just getting fitter.

For more anti-fitspo reading check out the following links:

Getting Down With the Panache Sports Bra <– Written by Weirdly Shaped and Well Photographed

Fitspo Sucks: 5 Reasons Photos of Hot Women and Catchy Slogans Are Ruining The World <– By Remodel Fitness

Does the Number on Scale Really Matter? <– By yours truly, in case you missed it

PS. Today is your last chance to enter for a FREE 2014 SPARTAN RACE ENTRY!!!  Don’t miss out!


Does the number on the scale REALLY matter? (Or why I’ll never buy another designer dress)

“Self-worth comes from one thing – thinking that you are worthy.”

-Wayne Dyer

As you all know, the past 9 weeks the hubs and I have have been participating in a “Get Fit Challenge” through our local gym.  While I may have joined simply to be supportive, it has not spared me from the torment of the weekly “weigh in”.  Normally I am not someone who ever weighs myself.  I don’t need a scale to tell me when I’m getting a little soft and fluffy.  I do live in my body after all.  Getting dressed in the morning is enough evidence of any changes going on.  For example, I don’t need a number to know when my derriere is getting huge.  All I need is a mirror.  (Thanks cycling!)

However, being required to weigh myself every frickin’ week has given me a preoccupation Imagewith my weight that is entirely not welcome.  I know my biggest issue with training is not eating enough, and yet the thought of that dreaded weigh in has me in fear of eating.  At least it did initially.  Then the hubs and I went on a vacation.  I think I literally ate my way through the whole week.  While I tried to stick to healthier options, I still ate french fries and carbs when I wanted them.  My only exercise consisted of running with a cumulative total of 20 miles for the week.  Guess what happened! I didn’t gain an ounce.

After that I decided to focus on trying to eat MORE.  Instead of trying to be strict about only eating clean, I tried to work on getting enough calories (while still trying to make healthy choices).  The result was that I actually lost a little weight.

It’s hard to believe that with all the mileage I pull in a week, and that fact that body is frequently starving for calories (why does healthy food have to be so damn low in calories anyway?) that some number on a scale could still make me feel, well, fat.  I am only 5’4″ and my weight fluctuates between 139 and 140.  I am the heaviest I have ever been.  Yet I still fit in size 0 and 2 dresses.

That is until I went to a bridal salon recently to get my bridesmaid dress for my brother’s wedding.  Now I am familiar with the sizing of bridesmaid dresses.  I went in totally expecting the sizing to be off.  I never could have prepared myself for how much off they were. The last bridesmaid dress I purchased was about a year prior and was a size 4.  By the time of the wedding, it had to be taken in.  I was expecting, because these were “designer” dresses, for my size to be a little higher.  I think my jaw might have dropped when they told me I needed a size 10.

They asked me if I had any questions, so I inquired whether this size was already adjusted for Imagethe possibility of pregnancy.  They told me no.  They actually recommended I order a size 12.  Then the sales associate proceeded to explain that I required I larger size because I “have large hips” (ahem, they are called quads and glutes… thank you very much).  I wanted to ask whether they were planning on putting the zipper across my ass, but held my tongue out of courtesy for my future sister-in-law.

By this point my head was reeling in confusion as if I were in another fashion dimension with completely different sizing (and I was).  I asked what size the sample dress was for a point reference.  She went to look.  It was a size 10.  Oh, the dress you had to clip me into because it was so huge it was falling off? That is the size I need for my ENORMOUS thighs?  Thank you so much for clarifying.  I feel much better about myself now.

At this point I was contemplating asking to see what a size 2 or 0 dress looked like just to see if a human could fit in it, but I was pretty sure they couldn’t manufacture a dress that microscopic.  I told my sister that they should offer prozac with the receipt along with a note reading “Congratulations you are not only fat, but broke.”  I wanted to cry.  Then I wanted to diet.  Ultimately, I just got angry.  I could only imagine how other women feel being told their size was a multiple of more than 5 times the size they normally wear.  This is why I’ll never buy designer clothes.    When you are paying that much money for an article of clothing it should build your self esteem, not deflate it.

So here I was already feeling insecure thanks to the scale with my worst weight insecurities confirmed by the bridal salon and pissed off that I live in a society where these things seem to matter.  That is when I decided that these things may matter to society but they don’t have to matter to me.  I have worked hard for every ounce of muscle on my body, and I’m not about to be ashamed of the fact that some snooty designer doesn’t think women should have curves.

ImageAs far as the scale, I have stopped caring about that too.  I would rather focus on how much I’ve improved at swimming or how far (pun intended) I have come with running.  I can deadlift my body weight and do unassisted chin ups.  At our most recent weekly challenge (<– see photo) I beat my former-marine-husband’s time by over 4 minutes both times (18:35 the first time and 15:15 the second… with FULL chest-to-ground burpees…sometimes being short ie. low to the ground has it’s advantages).  The point is that I can do things with my body now that I never could have dreamed of or accomplished when I was just “skinny” and 20 pounds lighter.  I don’t care if my BMI is at the upper limit of normal.  I don’t care if I don’t fit society’s unrealistic visual standard of beauty.  I don’t care if my muscular legs give me big hips or my shoulders get “bulky” or “manly” from pull ups and swimming.  I appreciate my body for what it can do.  Societal Approval not necessary.

You may have noticed a cropping up of articles and blog posts recently about body acceptance and keeping it real, notably this article by Laura Fleshman (for a more graphic look I’d also check out this post by Molly Galbraith).  As you may have guessed, I LOVE what they ladies have to say.  I think it is great that women are creating a movement of whole body acceptance.  It is refreshing to see both super fit and everyday women flaunting their imperfections unapologetically with the extremely appropriate hashtag “keepitreal”.  To that I say WOOOHOOO!

Now let me tell you a secret.  This past Saturday I finally let my trainer measure my body fat Imagepercentage.  It was 13.3%.  With the margin of error that puts me at 13-16%, which is in between Essential Fat and Athletic on the ACE chart.  That basically means, I don’t have any weight to lose.  If my body fat goes any lower, I may stop menstruating and have difficulty conceiving a child.  Despite this, I still have cellulite and love handles.  I still have rolls on my stomach when I slouch, and I don’t look even remotely chiseled.  Yes I have a muscular build, but it doesn’t look anything like the fitspo propaganda floating around the internet.  If my body fat percentage is in the Essential range, I can only imagine what number those people are at (or how dehydrated and photoshopped they are).  Whatever percentage it is, I am pretty sure it’s not sustainable and not a number they live at 365 days a year… something to keep in mind when these images are telling you to work harder for the body of your dreams.

From now on, I’ll be looking at that kind of fitspo in a new light: a definition of beauty that is unattainable by most and unsustainable for nearly anyone.  Sure, there are female body builders and fitness models who diet themselves down to even lower body fat percentages than mine, but the majority of the time that involves dropping the weight before competitions.  They don’t live at that number all the time.  Then we see photoshopped images of them and think that’s how they look 365 days a year.

In reality, short of going on a strict eating plan or totally dehydrating myself, this is the fittest looking (not the same as fittest in general) I am probably ever going to get.  I don’t think I could cram in anymore training without injuring myself, and I wouldn’t want to anyway.  There are things I want to do in life beyond just my fitness goals.  My athletic pursuits are meant to enrich my life not define or rule it.  If I get six pack abs in the process that’s great.  If not, I’ll just be a little more cuddly when my husband squeezes my waste.  I think I can live with that.