Am I a “hard body” hater?

hard bodyHere are some thoughts in relation to two media items about women and their bodies. One was an article and the other was a video infomercial type ad. This isn’t very eloquent, but you’ll get the gist…

My friend pointed me to this article the other day, which seemed fairly reasoned to me—but she said to read the comments for the “ugh” factor.

 

The topic was “Why do women over 40 have to kill themselves to have 20-something looking hard bodies like the celebrities?” Good question, right?

Well, the comments in the post blew up.

Of course, there were plenty of reasonable replies that didn’t miss the main point (reading comprehension 101 anybody?), but many women were triggered by a few things. Some were in the camp of “I don’t want to be a sick, fat lazy person, like my parents became.” A valid desire without the moralistic blaming.  Who wants to be sick or infirm in old age? Zero.

 

The other responses fell into the, “How dare you say that what I have poured all my energy into (creating a chiseled “bikini-bod” after 40) is not something to be valued and admired!” These women, as so many people do, took the thought that you could be ok without all that effort, sacrifice and “working my butt off” (literally), as a personal attack to their identity, their reason for being. These are women that feel their worth is completely tied up in their physical appearance. To suggest that softer bodies are ok, that it is natural and normal and nothing to be ashamed of…well, it really pisses them off.

In their minds, you are attractive (“worthy” of love) with a hard body that takes hours of discipline & restriction each day to achieve, or you will end up trolling the “big box stores” in your motorized scooter because you can’t walk.

(BTW, psychologists call this extreme or black and white thinking. One of the patterns that leads to depression, anxiety and other problems. Just sayin’).

Now, with all that said, before the “health” advocates and athletes send me hate mail, I must clarify:

  • I think exercise is a good idea! No matter how hard or soft your body is, finding consistent movement you enjoy (either during and/or after!) is key to overall health & happiness. If your body CAN move, it wants to and needs to. So get off the couch and go dancing,walking, swimming, cycling, hiking, surfing, yoga-ing…You get the idea. Get outside (if you can) and enjoy yourself.
  • I reject the harrow and racist notions of what is considered attractive, sexy & beautiful in our culture. If your criteria for a woman being sexy is 23 % body fat, a six pack and no visible cellulite anywhere, then there is really no point in us talking at all–or, if beauty to you is ONLY EVER a 5’11” super thin photoshopped supermodel, ditto.
  • I support health at every size as a movement. Being emotionally, spiritually & physically healthy are personal values of mine. They aren’t for everybody. Plus what is health anyway? Do you mean cardiovascular health? Metabolic? Mental health? Being an elite athlete? Does health mean being a certain size to you? Because if it does, there are waaay too many people debunking that myth.

 

I just listened to an infomercial online the other day that was targeting women and their fear of being fat. It wasn’t selling itself as a diet, but rather targeting our endocrine system. Yet, even though getting our hormones balanced is SUPER important, (when out of balance we can pack on extra, unnecessary pounds and not be able to lose said lbs until back in balance), this does not make us unattractive, unworthy, or ugly!  Hey, I’ve got hypothyroidism. I know of what I speak!

Throughout this whole reasonable sounding pitch words like “unattractive”, “fat”, “soft parts”, and “problem areas” were constantly repeated. These qualifiers were in constant use. It was so subtly intense, even I had to remind myself it was bunk!

All these “soft problem areas” are what make our figures more feminine versus masculine. These parts of our bodies are designed to store fat for energy and warmth (and providing for healthy babies). So basically, they are saying that the parts of you that “mark your body as female biologically are bad. Instead of being life-giving, they need to be cut away, dieted away or burned away. Your body needs to be more masculine–“harder”, “firmer”, and “less curvy”. (To my gender-fluid intersectional friends, I’m sorry I am only able to address this issue from a dominant culture social construct.)

Back to the infomercial. As this man is so kindly telling women that it isn’t their fault they have unattractive soft fat on their bodies, they were made that way after all, nevertheless you can make your body more valuable to men by remaking it to fit suposed masculine ideals. How crazy is that?!

I can hear the jaws clenching now from my gym rats, so here’s caveat #4

  • I support strength training and “lifting” for women. A lot of women like to lift weights. Me, not so much, I do a little, but prefer using my body weight and resistance bands, etc. But that’s just personal preference. Strength training is excellent for women’s self-esteem and confidence. It can be a healthy activity when done correctly. We all lose muscle mass as we age and so I think we all need some type of strength training whether it is cross-fit, yoga, or lifting cans of food in your kitchen. But then again I value personal health and think most of us (myself included) need to move our bodies more.
  • I think we need to all join Tess Holiday’s movement #effyourbodystandards and claim our own definition of what is attractive, sexy, beautiful and not let the diet industry decide that for us.
  • And finally, if you got this far, BRAVO! Please know if you want a hard body, go for it, just know why you are doing it. However soft your body is, does not define WHO you are or How Valuable you are as a person.

You are valuable.  ‘Nuff said.    

P.S. No nasty anything will be published in the comments, so don’t bother. And don’t give me any “health concern” arguments either. I’ve read the research and do not buy into the hype.

                                                              

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