I’ve been seeing and hearing the phrase “Strong is the New Skinny” a lot lately. A lot! And normally, in text, the phrase is accompanied by a photo of a young woman who looks like this:
Um…sorry…this woman doesn’t look strong at all. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure she’s a lovely person but strong? I’m not feeling it. She’s definitely skinny. And long. I’m 5’6 with short legs, muscular calves and I have a huge ribcage – I’m built like a linebacker.
I think the mantra of “Strong is the New Skinny” is a little insulting to everyone. First, skinny people – it’s okay to be skinny. Most thin people can’t help being thin anymore than I can help having blue eyes…it’s just the way it goes; the way they were made. Second, for strong people: Athletes, weight lifters, arm wrestlers, etc. These people work hard and their feats are being downplayed. To say that being strong has taken the place of being skinny makes it sound like working hard at taking care of your body is a fad and that it will be replaced by something else sooner or later. It’s insulting. It takes a lot of discipline to get to the level of fitness these people get to and they should be respected and commended for it; certainly not compared to a fad diet or regime. Third, for people who are like me, who are NEVER going to look like that chick above…it can be devastating. Some of us work our asses off at the gym and with our healthy eating and whatnot and our bodies are still going to be our bodies. No matter how much I exercise I am not going to wake up tomorrow and be 5’11 and lean and slender. I am still going to wake up tomorrow and have muscular calves and a huge ribcage and that’s just the way life goes. This is my body. This is my temple. And what’s really unfortunate, is that many young girls are going to strive for that long, slight look, not realizing that, for most of them, it’s unattainable and they will end up doing harm to their bodies. I speak from experience. As a mid-teen, growing up in a world of supermodels, I was driven to be uber skinny and to do whatever it took to reach my (unrealistic) goal of thinness. I succumbed to eating disorders and did damage to my body, my mind and to the people who loved me.
If ad companies want to promote healthy, strong, fit bodies why not post a photo of this girl:
These women are badass and should be praised for these accomplishments. I would LOVE to see a real strong woman like this in an advertising campaign promoting strong bodies. But, unfortunately, that probably won’t be happening because what it still boils down to, after all these years, is the same old: Sex Sells. The ads are usually super thin models with long flowing hair, full makeup, teensy, tiny outfits with tons of cleavage. Are they strong women? They could be. Are they gorgeous women? Absolutely. Do the ads make us feel guilty? Likely. They used to make me feel guilty for not getting to that physique. Now I just laugh. I have my own demons to deal with. I don’t need to fight with the ad demons too.
And we (women and men both) should not be made to feel guilty by advertising companies to look a certain way. That can be a path to living a very unhealthy lifestyle.
Years ago The Body Shop came out with the greatest advertising campaign:
I loved it. It helped get rid of the stigma that followed women around that we should all be tall and thin. (This ain’t Hitler’s world.) Obviously we need to exercise and follow a healthy diet – those are just given – but we also need to respect, accept and embrace our bodies. No matter what. Embrace all of it – thin or heavy, tall or short. Loving and respecting yourself is the first step too good health. Once you do that you can accomplish anything.