This isn’t one of those articles with all the trite phrases you have heard before:
“Beach bodies start in the Winter.” (But, remember, no beach bodies after Labor Day)
“It’s never too late to get the beach body you want.” (I know, Diane, I have it right now)
“Get your summer body ready!” (It’s hanging in the closet, I’ll have you know)
I’ll bet they sound a little familiar and for many of us hair stand on end. The reality is that these phrases were created as marketing tools to sell you ‘the dream’. But do they really?
For some of us, these phrases are loaded with existential dread.
Let’s put aside, for a second, the fact that the idea of a “perfect beach body” is a strange myth. Quite simply put, a body at the beach IS a beach body. Truthfully, if you want to get swole or lean for the beach and that makes YOU happy, do it! But let’s not make that the standard by which we all have to operate both for ourselves and for others.
But if only it were that simple…
Here’s the bigger challenge at hand: Society holds these insidious things called systemic fat phobia and fat shaming that are super prevalent in many communities, especially (and unfortunately) in many areas of the fitness industry. It makes me sad and angry and I’m compelled to share a better message.
For many bigger bodied individuals, that beach body is the last thing on their minds. Many are simply struggling to get into the door of a gym, into a class, and get a spot in the back row so no one sees them. Hey, you back row warriors, I see you and I feel you.
Feelings of shame, fear, unworthiness, and stupidity in fitness settings can cut like a knife and they are VERY REAL. So much of what we are bombarded with on the daily is that our fitness and bodies must be perfect to be worthy, that there is only one standard to measure ourselves against. And if we consider fitness in that sort of static way we are setting ourselves up for failure.
All bodies are capable of moving, lifting, and working. Our bodies are beautiful, imperfect, and can do so much more than we are constantly told it can do.
Perfection is garbage!
Say it with me: “Perfection is garbage!!”
Liberating, ain’t it?!
What can a community do to combat this?
1) Flip the script on the way we contextualize and talk about bigger bodies in the space of the gym and fitness
I, as a bigger individual, always thought that I needed to take an all or nothing approach at the gym. If I wasn’t going in 4-5 times a week, lifting heavy, and farting blood, I wasn’t doing enough. If I couldn’t do something (like my old nemesis push ups) I was a failure and there was nothing I could do to remedy that.
All of these feelings were prepackaged for me before I even came through the door. And, indeed, most fitness marketing plays on setting us up to feel like failures. We are made to feel like bigger bodies are not strong enough, not capable, should only want to change. But we can’t just jump from 0 to 60 in seconds, nor can we allow different bodies to feel less than anyone else's.
As human beings we should never view different bodies as deficient bodies. Let’s instead re-frame the conversation and see them as bodies full of potential. The fact that a person even came in to the gym means that they are ready to realize that potential, and we can all have a hand in shaping that experience. Remember the reason why we are all here in the first pace: to become our best selves, whether that is moving better for our family, losing some weight, getting our clothes to fit better, gaining muscle, or gaining confidence.
2) Re-frame fitness as a journey
Fitness is rarely a straight line. Sure there are paths and progressions that we can follow, but more often than not there are going to be deviations from the course. That’s life.
There’s no magic wand, pill, or anything that will help. Consistency, sustainability, and time are key!
We should make fitness a car ride from point A to point B, with plenty of stops along the way (how else are you going to see the world’s largest ball of twine!!). By focusing on the journey and getting 1% better everyday, we lessen the need to talk about body shape and size. This frees us up to work on other milestones like hitting a PR, nailing a new move, or just coming in consistently. After all, strength is strength at any size.
3) We need to reexamine the way we talk about fat
Usually, when we talk about the “F” word, we are talking about it from a place of shame. The word comes with so many negative associations that it is difficult to unpack each and every one. But, dammit we should give it a good try. We have been made to believe that fat is something to be shamed and feared. Instagram, Facebook, Television, and print media are full of messages that are meant to make us equate being overweight with being a horrible person.
This couldn’t be further from the truth.
In actuality, people who are “overweight” are that way because of many different factors (none of which are your business unless they are telling you about it). No one owes you an explanation for their body. Some people do come into the gym and want to lose fat, which is completely valid. So instead of making fat this mythic enemy, let’s look at it as another facet of our bodies. Most people have it, some have more, some have less, and the presence of it is NOT an indicator of human worth. Once we take shame out of the equation, it frees us up to talk about fat loss in a productive rather than reductive way.
So, what next you may ask?!
It’s super simple: support people on their terms. If someone wants to lose fat, support the hell out of them, be the type of cheerleader you’d want in your corner, and celebrate their scale based victories. If someone wants to get stronger, do all the same things. At the end of the day we, as a community, are here to make people feel better about themselves in whatever context that may be. This shouldn’t be a club for outsiders or insiders. We should be radically inclusive of anyone who walks through those doors. And, who knows, you might find someone you have a kinship with that you would have never met otherwise.
If I leave you with one thing, it’s this: check out Lizzo’s music video for “Fitness.” Talk about a beautiful celebration of bodies and all of their potential.
To learn more about Membership options and becoming part of our incredibly inclusive fitness community, schedule your FREE 1on1 Strategy Session. We’re excited to help you nail your fitness goals and live YOUR best life!
Angelo is the AF Membership Happiness Director, strength coach, and full time badass. His background is outside of the fitness realm and from his past lives in arts and academia, he brings a love of human connections, sharing stories, diversity, and inclusion that he hopes to bring to the fitness industry in a positive way. As someone who has only recently hopped over the fence to join the circus, he brings a great understanding of the journey to both new and veteran Members. Follow Angelo’s adventures on instagram @queernpresentdanger