Thin-spiration, Fit-spiration, versus ‘This Girl Can’ because of Soul-spiration?!
I have become inspired. Inspired to write, inspired to speak, inspired to share, all that is about to flow…so, in essence, I have been inspired to move.
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*The ad campaign “This Girl Can” that opened this stream of inspiration is at the end of the article (released in the U.K. last week and went viral overnight), so in case what I have to to say doesn’t inspire you, there is a good chance that it will…!
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About two weeks ago a friend invited me to participate in a nutrition and detox challenge beginning with Paleo eating. Since it had been a couple years since I had done a detox or Paleo challenge, it felt like it was time to reset and join this online program…you know, post December dark days and in light of the new year, the timing felt right. Thus far, participating in this online program with about sixty people has been really supportive and inspirational…for the most part. However, as part of of the program, each participant was asked to take before photos, body measurements, and weight, none of which I did.
And for very good reason.
So many years of my life I spent too much energy, time, and focus on that number on the scale or the number on the tag in my pants as a measure of beauty or healthy success. In high school, I was fit and healthy, but never felt confident or comfortable in my body always comparing myself to the super “thin and beautiful”. First year of college living in an all girl dormitory, I found myself developing disordered eating practices such as abstaining from food, overeating, undereating, numbed-out eating, “closet” eating, and binging and purging, all signs and symptoms of classic emotional eating. After that year, low-fat eating, yo-yo dieting, and using obsessive exercise as punishment for overeating, were the staple flavors of choice in my secret, emotional relationship to food (sound familiar to anyone?!).
Now, having spent years healing my body and mind towards holistic health and a body positive perspective, it still takes conscious, intentional energy to not slip back into the direction of body shaming and a negative body image…especially working in the fitness and wellness worlds, where I feel inundated with images of body shame, idealized “meat-market” body comparison, and trendy militarized perspectives of fitness (whoa! loaded statement and probably topics in and of themselves…I digress…)
As a professional whole health-wellness coach and fitness instructor, I have literally worked with hundreds of clients. Too often, way too often, I am asked by a client if she should be weighing herself daily or weekly, just after she finished expressing to me that her motivation for change is life long health, more energy, and vitality.
Wait, whaaaat?! Isn’t that a contradiction?
Maybe not for others who are able to utilize the scale and before/after photos to truly serve their whole health and wellness, (and I believe there are people for whom such measures might simply be a healthy biofeedback tool)…but for myself, and countless others, particularly women, I feel that focusing on such measures is not in alignment with authentic holistic health and reinforces unhealthy thin-spirational and fit-spirational messages, which I will touch on in a moment.
Of course I understand all the bzillions of reasons why a person feels they “should” use that number on the scale as a measure of health and success in making changes, but those “measures” just don’t serve me and my whole health and wellness goals (neither am I a big fan of the word “should”, but that’s also another topic). Those “measures” such as before and after images, pant size, weight, even BMI, in essence (and in my experience) ultimately serve what I call “Big-Fitness”. Big-Fitness refers to the money machine behind an industry whose one supposed mission is to promote health and overall wellness through physical activity and exercise.
However, similar to the pharmaceutical companies (“Big-Pharma”), my sense is that there is a wolf in sheep clothing behind what drives much of said ‘fitness-wellness industry’. As I scroll through social media platforms such as Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook in health and fitness related spaces, I find myself begin to spiral down the rabbit hole of what is called “fit-spiration”. So-called motivational images are plastered everywhere I look that are really just isolated portions of virtually unrealistic and unattainably fit bodies that the vast majority of the population may never attain. In the Beauty Redefined blog post “Why Fitspiration Isn’t So Inspirational“, Dr. Lexie & Lindsay Kite state:
And while a slogan and image motivating you to get out and move and live and do is a beautiful thing, so many of these “fitspiration” messages floating across the web must be exposed for what they are: shame-inducing, objectifying, limiting ideals that keep women in their places as objects to be looked at above all else.
Then, don’t even get me started on the media and marketing fit-spirational images that have been photo-shopped to really become “thin-spiration” (another disordered inspiration for health).
I literally feel sick each time I peruse the vast majority of Pinterest and Instagram pages in the health and fitness sections where people all over the world post selfies of their bodies as either a way to motivate themselves or theoretically wow and inspire others towards this level of externally measured health and fitness that they have achieved. As if that is the primary goal and only measure of ultimate health and wellness… Culturally, thanks to Big-Fitness, it seemingly is.
So, here I am, nine days in to gently shifting to a whole food eating detox and my only measure/gauge is what my body is telling me (a.k.a. my “health”). For the first time in years, I have astonishingly sailed through a menstrual cycle this last week with little to no cramping, mood swings, or cravings. I have more sustained energy and focus (as long as I eat!), my skin looks and feels great, am even having health b.m.’s (I know, is that TMI?!!), and I am enjoying the process one day at a time while holding in my mind’s eye the vision of a healthier destination than where I was before.
You know how I can hold that vision? Because I can feel it, mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually, deep in my Soul, that positive change is taking place, albeit slowly, while envisioning the destination goal utilizing all my senses.
Not because I can see the change in a number on a scale.
Not because I can see a smaller pant size.
Not because of my before and after selfies that I and everyone else on Instagram can see and click “like”.
And not even because of the amount of “likes” I might get on those images.
And definitely not because friends and family make comments on how I look thinner or lighter or smaller (as if that is the “ideal” goal).
I can feel and know in my heart that today I am making decisions for my body and mind that serve my Soul’s goals for optimal health and vitality. Internal change, internal beauty, internal health, drives the external, visible changes.
Not the other way around.
Yet, so much of these Fit-spirational messages and Big-Fitness marketing approaches seem to have it the other way around, shaming people into guilt-driven fitness consumers striving for an idealized “perfectly fit” body. The vicious cycle is that instead of encouraging people of all shapes, sizes, and abilities to participate in fitness, move their bodies, and feel good, it seems to move their money out of their wallets while “investing” in their physical health and then discourage them when they find themselves not able to “fit” the “fitness ideal” nor truly sustain longterm positive health behavior changes.
How’s that for some Fit-spiration?!?!
I crave to see people moving their bodies more because of Soul-spiration.
~Let’s revolutionize what and where people are finding their inspiration.
~Let’s compliment each other, not on thinness or weight, but instead on how healthy someone seems or their radiant, positive energy as a reflection of their health.
~Let’s support fitness classes, community gyms, and wellness organizations that are not buying into “Big-Fitness” as a means for marketing or motivating (a few of my local favs: Diablo Rock Gym, In Her Image, Bloom Retreat, & The Body Positive, heeeey! Shout-out!).
~Let’s begin to create a presence in these “Health and Fitness” social media forums and pages with Soul-spirational posts and images so as to offer an alternative measure of health that is truly achievable for all people.
~Let’s create visuals that represent a fitness, not exclusive to the elite and wealthy, but instead for the people and by the people that instead of objectifying women begins to celebrate the divine goddess within us all.
Whole health goals with Soul, the new fitness paradigm for those who desire to move more, connect with others, and transform their health.
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And here it is…presenting the Soul-spiration catalyst for this article (cheers to the U.K. for launching ‘This Girl Can’ campaign!):
This Girl Can – celebrates the women who are doing their thing no matter how they do it, how they look or even how sweaty they get. They’re here to inspire us to wiggle, jiggle, move and prove that judgement is a barrier that can be overcome.
Are you in? Will you join me and The OLA Movement tribe? Thoughts or responses to Thin-spiration, Fit-spiration, versus Soul-spiration? Please leave a comment or join the conversation on our facebook page.