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)