Strong vs. Skinny

Strong vs Skinny

Who of you has heard the phrase “Strong is the new skinny”? If you are just a tiny bit interested in fitness, and follow relevant profiles on social media, I’m sure you’re no stranger to the hashtag #strongnotskinny either. Especially in fashion and fitness, body image and body shaming are huge buzzwords. The media love talking about the weight and bodies of celebrities, and girls as young as eleven years compare themselves to each other (I’ve recently overheard a conversation of a group of young girls and couldn’t have been more shocked). The “Strong and Lean, not Skinny” movement has clearly become a mantra for all of those determined fitness freaks out there, who don’t thrive for a thigh gap or exposed collarbones, but want to transform their bodies in a healthy way with clean eating, and targeted resistance and weight training. So far so good…

So why am I forcing you to read and hopefully discuss this? Let me tell you why! After a long absence from the office I returned to find one of my colleagues almost shockingly thin. I knew she was on a radical health trip, cutting out all “bad” carbs, supplementing her diet with protein and working out regularly, but suddenly she was only skin and bones…so I thought. As soon as I saw her in a T-Shirt, I knew I couldn’t have been more wrong. Her arms were extremely muscly yet lean. Completely clothed she looked like a walking skeleton (even the skin on her face has become all saggy), but once I got a glimpse of the body underneath all that fabric, I couldn’t help but notice her amazingly strong physique – this is not easy to achieve for a woman. So yes, my colleague is indeed strong and lean, but she is also extremely skinny…more so than literally everybody else I know.

The Oxford dictionaries define the word “skinny” as “unattractively thin” (ie. skinny does NOT mean unhealthily skin). Do you see the problem? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder…we all perceive different body traits as attractive. Even when I was a lot heavier than I am now, there were people, who would call me skinny, but also those that would call me chubby. Minus 20 Pounds later and things haven’t changed…there are still those that think I’m skinny and those, who think I’m chubby. And that’s ok, because we all see the world through a different pair of eyes. But that also means that skinny doesn’t actually have a universal meaning at all (if we forget about extreme and unhealthy cases for a minute). It has a different meaning for every single one of us.

If you train hard, eat healthy, build muscle and shed all of your body fat, chances are you are strong and lean, but also skinny in the eyes of a lot of people. Coming up with a catch phrase like “I want to be strong, not skinny” only attaches more meaning to the word skinny than it actually has, and creates so much more room for body shaming than the world needs.

All of those in favour of #strongnotskinny should stop looking down on women, who don’t thrive for visible muscle mass. We all know that muscle is the best fat burner, so muscly women tend to be just as skinny, or even skinnier, than the ones without (see Victoria’s Secret Model Iza Goulart, who has the most defined lean muscles ever, but is also freakishly thin). Just because you prefer the treadmill to the squat rack, and don’t care about muscle definition, does not mean that you are in any way less fit or healthy than those girls that do (unlike some personal trainers and major influencers on Instagram want to make you believe). I’m an avid gym goer myself and only do weight training. Do I want to look as muscly, and be as thin as my colleague? Even though I deeply admire her discipline and hard work, I don’t. I like a defined and toned physique, but I also like to indulge.

We should learn to be much more tolerant and accepting towards each other and stop throwing around empty catch phrases like these that give much more importance to body image than is healthy for most people’s self esteem. I’m sure the whole #strongnotskinny hashtag can be highly motivating for some, but it can also become a slippery slope towards obsessive eating habits and a completely deterred body image for others.

What do you guys think? I know a lot of people are in favour of #strongnotskinny, and I’d love to understand why that is.

(Pictures via Pinterest)

  • Ivana Džidić

    I couldn’t say this better myself…I think that many people with weigh problems hide under that tag. Just because someone has some muscles doesn’t mean they are not underweight. Recently, I also talked with my sister in law how some people get so obsessed with healthy food they in fact became underweight…there is even a name for this condition, it is a type of anorexia. While it is true that some people who have cancer benefit from a very strict diet (that in fact starves cancer I believe), a normal person shouldn’t live on just fruit….besides, everything we consume has been processed. The fruit itself is not what it used to be. She has a colleague at work that has become a living skeleton and all in the name of health.

    Many man ruin themselves in a name of that body-building body. Most men were I’m from are extremely tall…and they are supposed to be lean…I noticed them getting bigger and bigger, more and more muscular…and this is not really natural. Our fathers never looked like that, even those that did sports (and they all did back then) just as most men do now.

    I myself am muscular, just like my mother…. When I was hospitalized and lost 20 pounds because of Chron disease, my muscles were still defined….and many people would probably describe me as fit back than. The fact is that with my build, wides shoulders and hips, I didn’t look that thin when I lost all that weigh…I looked pretty much as I do now (some would even say better). However, the doctors took it quite seriously, made me drink some kind of 500 calories drink several times at day….and they must have been right because I took me months to get that weight back. Unlike most of the people with Chron I know, I never had serious weight problems but probably because I had good doctors watching over me, not brainwashed ones that are convinced that all problems can be solved with weight loss (and there are people like that in western medical industry, I read about one Mexican family that was harassed by the doctors in USA that made them put their child on 300 calories a day diet while in fact the child was growing too fast and it was not because of the food, the situation was more complicated and the doctors kept insisting that it is because they’re fat Mexicans who eat unhealthy….that story really saddened me, I can’t imagine how awful that family must have felt).

    • Jasmin

      OMG….that Mexican case is horrific! It really is a shame that some people and even doctors believe that a low weight and a lot of exercise is everything a human body needs to be healthy and strong. There is indeed so much more to health than this…

      I’m very sorry to hear that you’re suffering from Chron disease! I don’t know much about the disease, but it sounds very uncomfortable. I hope you’re doing alright now! Thanks for sharing such a personal piece of your life! I really appreciate it.

  • shanaz@ReverieSanctuary

    What an eye-opening piece! I didn’t know about the #strongnotskinny thing that’s been going on but it isn’t a surprise and is much much tamer than the #thighgap obsession. I think based off the phrase alone, the basic idea is to be healthy as opposed to throwing up food in the case of bulimia just to discard pounds from the body. However, like you said, it is a slippery slope that can push someone into a dark rabbit hole of serious body-image issues. For teens who are still getting comfortable in their own skin, I think the pressure can be really high these days. While I can see the positive in the desire to be healthy (and strong) this so-called challenge is sort of advocating NOW that I have come to terms with physical parts of myself that I did not appreciate when I was young, I’m not so sure about those who are at the moment having a tough time accepting their own bodies. My middle isn’t too toned as I’d maybe like it to be but I’m not losing sleep over it. If only we pay as much attention (and exercise) to the mind as we do to the body…xx

    missreverie | Fashionista NOW

    • Jasmin

      Thank you so much for reading, and sharing such an elaborate comment with my readers. My thoughts exactly. Having all those personal trainers on Twitter and Instagram telling young girls how they’re supposed to look like is horrific. It puts so much pressure on them that not everybody will be able to handle in a healthy way. It’s bad enough that magazines and other media show highly stylized pictures of women…one might think that at least major influencers on social media – “real” people – would advocate freedom of choice when it comes to looks, not shaming certain groups of people…whether skinny or curvy. xx

  • Cvetina Cekova

    Love this post! I’m definitely fan of strong and fit body!


    • Jasmin

      Thanks for reading! I’m glad you like it Cvetina 🙂 xx

  • Fashion Over Reason

    Great debate starter, Jasmine! I admire your willingness to broach a topic like this, as it tends to be super controversial. I’d heard of #fitspo and #thinspo (both of which I admit to using) but never of the #strongnotskinny hashtag.

    I totally agree, we should all learn to be more tolerant, not one woman’s body is made the same. Our natural body shapes are so unique, it’s so unfair to tell women they have to look a certain way. That said, I admit that I am a lean physique aficionado. Perhaps it’s from being in the fashion industry for so long, and also has a little bit to do with the way I was raised. However, I am firmly against body shaming and fully embrace all of the diversity we have out there. It’s what makes everyone different. Imagine how boring life would be if everyone looked the same?

    xx Hélène

    • Jasmin

      I know…I wrote this article ages ago, but it took me ages to pluck up the courage to actually publish it. I didn’t want it to turn into a rant.

      Anyway, thank you so much for your great comment. I’m glad I’m not the only one, who thinks that just being thin is just as good as being strong, as long as we treat our bodies right. xx

  • Brittney

    I didn’t even know about this new hashtag, and I’m torn on how it makes me feel. On one hand, I’m glad that strong, muscular women are getting to celebrate their bodies. But I agree with you that there’s no need for any of this nonsense in a world where we celebrate how we look regardless of what we weight or how much we bench.

    Another Beautiful Thing

    • Jasmin

      Thanks for weighing in Brittney. Yeah…there are a few people on Instagram (with millions on followers), who love throwing around the #strongnotskinny hashtag, when #strong would really be enough…Such a shame. xx

  • jointyicroissanty

    People should be more tolerant, and stop evaluate the appearance of other people in critical way. I like to be slim but I don’t buy this trend to be muscular and strong (honestly I stopped swimming crawl, because my arms were beginning being muscular and I didn’t want it). I think that the most important is to being healthy and feel good with our appearance. People should not be under influence of the trends which define how silhouette has to look like, because everyone has different tendencies and this can cause unnecessary disappointment. Variety is fantastic also in types of human beauty. Great article!
    (sorry for my bad english;)

    • Jasmin

      Thank you so much for your elaborate comment. Very well said! I couldn’t agree more! xx

  • Alyssa Martinez

    Nice article! I agree with you on many points. I have nothing against people who likes strong skinny. I’m skinny but personally, I don’t like bulky muscles on my arms and legs. I’ve been through #strongskinny during my high school due to my activities such cheerleading and carrying a lot of books on my Book Lovers’ Club. I don’t really like what I look, I feel like a dried fruit. But that’s just my opinion. Beauty is subjective.



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    • Jasmin

      Thanks so much for sharing. I wouldn’t mind being a little more toned myself, but I guess us girls can be a little hard on ourselves 😉 xx

  • Lera

    I’d go with strong any time, good points!

    • Jasmin

      That’s great! Thanks for weighing in 🙂 xx

  • #byLily

    Great article! I agree with you on many points, but in the end one should do whatever they want that makes them happy. Beauty is such a subjective subject.

    X Lily

    • Jasmin

      Thanks dear! I totally agree…maybe I wasn’t clear. The only thing I’m condemning in this article is the bodyshaming of “skinny” people…which we basically all are…whether muscly or not, BECAUSE it is such a subjective matter 🙂 xx

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    • Jasmin

      Thank you 🙂 xx

  • borka gamero

    How lovely!… team #strongnotskinny !
    Have a great november!
    Xox from Miami,

    • Jasmin

      Thanks for reading Borka! Enjoy your Monday 🙂 xx

  • amalya

    I think one should chose what she/he likes and respect other’s choices as well.

    Happy Sunday!


    • Jasmin

      Thanks for weighing in Amalya! I couldn’t agree more 🙂 xx