I was sitting the other day, relaxing in the bathroom, flipping through a Fitness Magazine - Shape Magazine to be exact. Now, I have two confessions when it comes to the topic of fitness magazines:
I am not sure when I signed up for a subscription to ANY of them, but I receive DOZENS a year, and
I barely EVER look at them. I’ve recently put them in the bathroom in order to encourage some reading. It’s worked!
Upon skimming the magazine, it took me approximately 3 minutes to become outright appalled.
The first article I stumbled upon had a fitness model demonstrating a slew of imaginative exercises I could possibly use with my current classes and clients. She was the eptiome of everything we have come to expect from our fitness models: long, lean, large-breasted, gazelle-like, and demonstrated the exercises so well I was able to secure new moves in my mental library!
The next article was about increasing your cardiovascular capabilities. The magazine shared great ideas on a variety of ways to do this all while keeping one’s workout interesting and effective. Another gorgeous model (also long, lean, well-endowed, narrow-hipped, gazelle-like) was performing movements to aid in avoidance of injury while running.
I flipped the page.
Really!?! This article, reserved for a smorgasbord of questions about running, displayed an EVEN MORE stunning, incredibly gazelle-like, air-brushed smooth body that I’ve NEVER seen out and about in real life. I had three quick and succinct thoughts:
Thought 1: <sigh> I wish my body looked like that.
Thought 2: <gasp!> OMG! Stop it! My body is incredible!
Thought 3: It’s no wonder there is an epidemic-sized obsession among the female gender with being thin – even skinny! We are incessantly bombarded with messaging that these body types are the normal ones, while average everyday body types are being grossly under-represented!
Full disclosure: I am a HUGE proponent of living a healthy and mobile life, and yes, usually that leads to being an athletic weight and having muscle on the body, which, in turn, often results in what is culturally considered an attractive and enviable human form. But these representations went well beyond that. They had left the realm of realism altogether.
How do we as ‘normal’ folk avoid the onslaught of messaging telling us we are the abnormal ones - the ones who are not cut out to model exercises in fitness magazines, or the ones who don’t deserve to win our love interest in the end?
I guess I would start by realizing I’m not alone. According to livestrong.com, the average American woman is 5’4” and 166 lbs, which is technically overweight according to BMI charts. I don’t mean to speak out of two sides of my mouth, because I am certainly not encouraging being overweight! (As a fitness professional, I know the risks that come with being overweight AND underweight!) I’m simply saying several body types are being under-represented in our media. In fact, the human population has three basic body types:
Ectomorphs – Appear thin and have smaller joints. They have a hard time building both muscle and gaining fat. Their frames are very narrow. This is generally the body type you’d see walking a runway. Famous Ectomorphs include Kate Moss, Calista Flockhart, Brad Pitt and Bruce Lee.
Mesomorphs – Often have athletic builds with broad shoulders and narrow waistlines. These are the jocks. They tend to build muscle easily and both gain and lose fat easily. Some famous mesomorphs include Tina Turner (love her!), Jennifer Garner, Bruce Willis (love him!), and George Clooney.
Endomorphs – Carry a larger frame due to large joints and accumulate fat more easily. These are the folks the term ‘big-boned’ was invented for. Building muscle is also easier for endomorphs, but they still tend live in a softer body. Famous endomorphs include Amy Shumer, Oprah Winfrey, John Goodman and Jack Black.
Our media is the driving force as to what we “know” to be true in our society, so ignoring large portions of our population creates a false standard of what healthy looks like. And what would happen if the media actually DID represent our population as it is by throwing up images of more than 2/3 of people being overweight? Maybe then we could have a real conversation about what being healthy actually is and what it actually looks like. Instead we sweep it under the rug, fat shame and display perfect images so we can go on wondering why we don’t look like ‘that’ and asking what’s wrong with us.
The answer is nothing is wrong with us.
So the next time you are relaxing in your bathroom, flipping through the latest issue of SELF, Shape, Fitness, Redbook, Women’s/Men’s Health, just remind yourself that this is simply eye candy. These images have been put on this page for decoration, to sell a product, to make money. And that’s their job. And they’re really good at it.