[First of all disclaimer...I have 100% posted a picture of my six pack with the caption "strong is the new skinny" in the past but when I am wrong, I will say I am wrong.]
There is a worrying trend in the fitness industry that needs to be addressed. We are dressing up terribly disordered relationships with food, exercise and our own self perceptions as a fitness journey. We're trying to get strong, not skinny...we claim; yet the measures we are willing to go to achieve that look of fitness and health, take us to the extreme opposite end of fitness and health. This is not about being fit and healthy, this is about looking a particular way, a way popularised by social media...and ultimately marketing hacks, in suits, trying to sell you products.
I said this on instagram a while back, but I believe it deserves to be said again:
"At what stage do we scoop a friend up and say "you need to stop, you have gone too far, you look tired and unhappy." Apparently strong is the new skinny but that's bullshit. We are starving ourselves and lifting a few weights in the guise of being strong and fit when in reality, when this lean, you will be the weakest and least healthy you have ever been. This is me, 3 years ago... sub 10% body fat and still willing to do more as the reality is, when your goal is purely aesthetic and weight based, and your brain is starved, the end is never in sight. I'm lucky to have age and some wisdom on my side, I knew things like lack of period, secret binging, erratic emotions, constant dizziness and no energy were a clear sign things were not right but I see YOU and YOU and YOU and I just want to give you a hug and my energy and help. Problem is, when in it, it's hard to admit that perhaps you did "go too far" and it's harder to hear it. If you're that person, feeling that way...I've got you, just ask"
I meant what I said, and it did have to be said.
I see a worrying number of very young women on the same track as I was 3 years ago. Tired, starved, over-trained and unhappy. I am a little lost in what we can do about it. At 35 years old, I worry that my message falls on deaf ears, as I am a little "naggy mum" but I am genuinely worried about it. With six packs becoming the new body ideal for women, the strains we are putting on our body are increasing rapidly. Whilst we might believe that a calorie deficit for 12 weeks to get lean can't really do much damage; add an intense training regimen to that deficit and you could be seeing long term damage to your metabolism, your soft tissue and even your reproductive health....for what?!
I've asked it before and I'll ask it again...what is our end game? Please ask yourself this.
For me, a certain level of body fat is favoured in my industry, as Jason Jackson quoted in a past blog post "your body is your business card" but for me it just isn't worth it. Health, peace of mind, spontaneity and my relationships with my family and friends are so much more important to me than my body fat percentage. If I lose a few followers because my body doesn't live up to their warped expectations...then "see ya...don't let the door smack your ass on the way out!"...I'm cool with it. But I am me...and you are you, and maybe you're not cool with it, for all kinds of reasons and I guess I am reaching out.
For me, the secret has been learning the full extent of what my body is capable of doing if I treat it right. If I eat for my needs, if I train consistently but allow it adequate time to rest, if I enjoy the training that I chose, if I listen to my body and respect it; it truly is incredible. Something I have said before when I speak at events, is over the last three years I have come to know of my body that there is not a single thing, physically, that I could not achieve, given the right training and direction...and that is so incredible. And I am not special, I am not gifted or particularly talented, I just understand the human body and its capacity to achieve...I guess that is why I am here, waffling on the blog of my project, FEMPOWER....a project designed to show you just that. Your capability's beyond your selfie or mirror.
Okay, so here's a deal...I am thinking off the top of my head here...if you happen to be reading this and you are on a quest for a six pack; maybe you are on a calorie deficit or macros and training really hard for that. I want you to focus purely on strength and fitness goals for 8 weeks...just as a start. Ditch myfitnesspal, eat like an adult (balanced whole foods, with a little space for the odd treat) and train 3-5x per week...do that, try some things that are scary and challenging. Learn how to squat with a barbell, do a strongman (woman) class, train with friends, get muddy in the park on sundays....do that, tell me about it and then re-evaluate in 8 weeks whether that six pack is that important...because I can promise you, it isn't...and you will be so much happier. Learn how to value yourself beyond an arbitrary number on a scale or the back of a dress; see what your body can DO and your brain...you are f**king awesome in so many ways #beyondtheselfie.