I’m not proud of it, but I’ve definitely been that girl. The girl who obsessed over numbers: weight, portions sizes, pant sizes, bra sizes, hell even shoe sizes. Within one year of high school I dropped nearly 20 pounds, followed by almost 4 years I choose not to remember; Years I spent equating my worth to numbers I thought defined that worthiness.
Again, I’m not proud, but it took falling madly in love for this abuse to end, which doesn’t exactly align with my feminist sensibilities. Nonetheless, I met who I believe will be the one I spend the rest of my days with, and gained nearly 10 pounds. I’ve had my moments where I’ve blamed him, nearly broken up with him over it, still clinging to the insane idea that I had to wiggle in to those size 2 jeans (I’m a girl who needs a little stretch in the pants, whether a 0 or a 6), and that the 100 had to be followed by a twenty something – preferably early ’20s, mid-20s is pushing it, and once you hit the dreaded 128, well, it’s full melt down mode. I won’t even get in to what happens at 130, but it’s sort of like the scene from “Yes Man” when Jim Carrey has to play “Jumper” to get Manny off the ledge. Idiocy.
Two years into our relationship, with many ups and downs (often literally,) I’ve come to my senses. You don’t throw away your “one” over a little bit of late night Ben & Jerry’s action, nor do you feel guilty that yes, it’s nice to share popcorn at the movies, or watch people roll their eyes when you do the one-milkshake-two-straws thing (yeah, I’m that girl, too.) So where am I going with this? This is not an effort to justify “letting myself go” (I kid, I’m past that whole part for real!) It’s to address what has been pitched as the cure to all this nonsense – The “strong over skinny” movement.
You may also know this movement by taglines such as “lady in the streets, freak in the gym,” (okay ‘Luda) “Eat clean, train mean,” and so forth. I first became interested in all this stuff when I realized the remedy to a lot of my issues was exercise. At first, again, it was for the wrong reasons. I told myself, “Okay, if you work out a lot, you can be a little less psycho about the food stuff.” Luckily, as I evolved, realizing that I cared more about the important numbers – how often I had lunch with my grandma, my GPA, or how many date nights my beau and I could sneak in with our busy schedules – the real benefits became my motivation. When I work out consistently, I feel great. My mood instantly lifts, my body ticks like a clock, and I can hit the stairs without feeling winded. It took a while, but I finally get it.
So then I discovered Instagram. Because I’m technologically challenged, I thought the app was just to make your pictures look cool, or eliminate the slight shading above my lip when I missed a monthly wax, but I digress. It wasn’t until a friend asked me what my “Insta” username was that I made the whole “This is a social media outlet” connection. Well, let me tell you, I made up for lost time. I could write witty captions, oh, and look, tag friends! But wait, what the heck is a hash tag…? Oh hot damn, I can look at everyone’s #dachshund pictures? Goodbye world…I’ll be in the corner looking at wieners #sicksadworld #dariareference #1photofound.
So then I started posting foodie pictures. Now, this wasn’t some sick form of tracking my “intake”, those days are long gone, I assure you. Rather, I’ve always been a picture person, and this was another way to record my cooking ideas, or cool restaurants I’ve been to in any of my favorite little artsy towns, without breaking out the digital cam (yeah, I’m old school, or a hipster, #youdecide) I could also share with my other foodie friends: “Dude, check out this #avocado and #freshmozzarella #omelet with #garlic and #basil accompanied by #homemade #sweetpotatofries that I made for a quick breakfast.”
Then I remembered “Oh yeah, I can click the hash tag, and see if anyone else casually mentions avocados in their posts, they’re not just to be funny/annoying. Maybe I can even get some more recipe ideas! Holy guacamole! I just discovered an empire: clean eating. There are chicks with over 100k followers posting recipes, workouts, fitness tips, inspirational quotes, and even pictures of their fabulous workout clothes donated by fitness apparel companies to, I guess, promote the clothes? All right, I’ll admit that’s a little strange but hey, let’s see what this gal has to say…
Wait, what? Her last post urges me to “Do it for you—for your health—for your peace of mind—Namaste… #eatclean #trainmean #fitchicks #yogachicks #20morehashtagsrelatingtohealthandfitness,” accompanied by a catalog worthy photo of her in an elaborate yoga pose in a room that looks like it was personally outfitted by pottery barn (there’s definitely a social economic rant I could go on about, too, but I’ll spare you [for now]). I scroll a little more and, whoa there’s your booty…again, and again, and surprise, there is you’re perfectly perky derriere, part 10.
Next, there is another extensive collection of the ever important abs. I honestly didn’t know you could get ripped like this. There’s almost, I’d guess, 100 pictures total, out of the over 2,000 posted, with the shirt lifted (if there is one to begin with,) booty popped and a side stance (to also display the ever toned thighs [#hammies?], but that’s only a side thought), and the abs glistening. The caption reads something along the lines of “Just finished my fasted cardio and these little babies are just popping through — time for a little (and I quote) “breaky” and then to spinning! Have a great day and be the best you! #obliques? #amillionotherhashtags” Uhm, popping through? Last time I had abs like that, I had the flu and could only down toast, and I was also pretty sure I was going to die within the next 24 hours.
So here is where I think we have more work to do. The original problem was that women felt they needed to be skinny to have worth and to be physically attractive. If it “isn’t about that” anymore than why is every other picture of you half-naked, with scummy dudes leaving horrifying comments on it? Or with still insecure ladies saying they wish they had your body, commitment and drive, vowing to “clean up” their act or diet. Why are you posting pictures expressing discontent that your already freakish abs aren’t “coming in” as quickly as you’d like? Something is just a little off.
Now I don’t mean to sound like a #crabbypatty (#imaddicted). Among some of these slightly concerning posts is some really awesome stuff, as I mentioned. There are recipes I’m dying to make, and intend to, even with some of the supposed health benefits motivating me to do so. There are new strength training moves I can challenge my body with as my latest routine has me in a rut. There are inspirational quotes and even write ups from some of these women that truly are uplifting, motivating, and reassuring; but, that being said, I can see it potentially having a toxic effect. I quickly talked myself out of some of what it instructs. I do not need to send away for overly priced nutrition bars because it boasts more protein than sugar, unlike most nutrition bars, nor do I need every muscle poking out of my body to stop me from eating the rest of my peppermint Joe-Joes from Christmas.
Here is what we do need, each and everyone one of us beautiful women: we need to be stronger than anything that is deemed more valuable than basic and true good health. We have to be stronger than letting our physical appearance – skinny, fit, fat or anything in between – be our most motivating reason for pursuing health and fitness in its highest and most important form.
Molly Bru is a freshly licensed high school English teacher living in Western Massachusetts. She is an avid hiker, aspiring runner, part-time rock climber and all-the-time adventurer. When she isn’t eating and exploring her way through New England, she is obsessing over lesson plans and traveling beyond her beloved Six-States. For an abnormal amount of pictures of her cat Monty click here and to check out her blog click here .
Featured Image via Shutterstock.