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Females & Image: the Perpetual Struggle

Posted on the 05 November 2012 by Hayleytantau @hayleytantau

Do you hear that, women? Our body is a canvas, so get your makeup brushes out and put your body-image obsession into overdrive because there’s a new trend in town.

Over the past few months I’ve noticed a strange shift in the content filling up my Facebook newsfeed. My online female friends have been ‘liking’ pages titled “[insert fitness model's name here]‘s Bikini Body Challenge”, “Fitspiration”, “Sexy Fitness Models” etc.

Firstly, let me say, I am a huge fan of Michelle Bridges (I have her cookbook) and that I am also keen on fitness and healthy eating – I swim 1km everyday and love vegetables (I also love chocolate, wine and cheese… because I’m a human being). I’ll admit the primary reason I eat healthily and exercise regularly is to look good (and to be able to sprint for a train without getting puffed out, if need be) and not deprive myself. I don’t take protein supplements (my father once bought me protein shakes and it ended up going stale) and I know my weight limits.
I believe people should eat healthily and exercise because humans are made to move and not consume such highly-processed food.

These Facebook fitness pages and websites send a different message to women. These Facebook pages post daily images and quotes that show an incredibly buff female – with fake breasts, most likely – with writing scrawled over it, usually saying: “Unless you puke, faint, or die, KEEP GOING”, “Be proud, but never satisfied”, “Working out is your drug – GET ADDICTED!” and so on, so forth. There is a direct contrast between every quote. One will say “Nothing tastes as good as sexy abs feel” and others will say “it’s what’s on the inside that counts”, “Fitness FEELS good”.

There is an irony in this particular social-media driven movement. It promotes loving yourself ‘as you are’, leading a ‘healthy’ lifestyle and GETTING RIPPED AND BEING DETERMINED AND PUSHING YOURSELF AND VOMITING AND DEPRIVING YOURSELF BECAUSE IT’S WHAT’S ON THE INSIDE THAT COUNTS! DO YOUR SQUATS! GET IMPLANTS! BUT BE TRUE TO YOURSELF AT THE SAME TIME!

Females & image: the perpetual struggle

Fitness model Abbie Burrows

Here’s the irony: fitness modelling and body sculpting are about aesthetics. There is no argument there. It’s not body building, where your physical strength is tested, and it’s not as if it’s an intelligence competition. It’s literally buff women in tiny bikinis who are more muscly than 98% of the men in my life. It’s not ‘determination’, it’s obsession. A fitness model/body sculptor must dramatically change their lifestyle, eating habits, exercise regime, sleeping patterns and most intriguingly, their social life.

As human beings in a western society/first world country, we diet and exercise because we want to look good and fit into the norms of a superficial society – I’m also guilty of this, as previously mentioned. We want to look good so we become more popular and enjoy life. Yet these particular ‘determined’/obsessive individuals will wake up at the crack of dawn, exercise for a good 4 hours, inhale some protein, do some more exercise and go to bed at 8pm so they can repeat this the next day. There’s no room for drinking alcohol or eating out at a nice restaurant with friends. This kind of ‘determination’ means that these women (and men) won’t go to night clubs to show off their “sexy(?)” bodies, because it is past their bed time and alcohol is poison to their body.

(Note: I’m not saying that alcohol is good for us and that we should all drink it. I’m asking why do these people work so hard on aesthetics when they barely give themselves a chance to show their bodies off in a normal, social situation?)

Back to my argument, there is one Michelle Bridges diet tip that I disagree with.
She says; “Avoid hanging out with friends that will lead you to temptation and poor food choices”.
Yes, if you are an incredibly weak-willed individual, (like a majority of us), then people will lead you to eat food that is not made out of whey powder. But what’s the point of training so hard, to look so good, if you cut out the ‘normal’ people in your life?

These fitness ‘inspiration’ sites promote the idea of “not comparing yourself to others” – despite the fact that, ironically (again), this is an inspiration site where people look at other woman and say “I want to look like that!” And if the motivation isn’t coming from comparisons, then it’s coming from your psyche. It’s another form of anorexia or obsessive compulsive. It’s not healthy. It also wreaks havoc on your body. Unfortunately, excessive exercise and limited nutrition can result in “a decrease in hormone production and a disruption in your monthly cycle. Decreased production of oestrogen can also lead to osteoporosis and set you up for potential injury that can take you out of the game,” oh, and it can also prevent ovulation. That’s not healthy. And to be honest, it doesn’t look that fun.
Yes, looks are important. I’d be lying if I said image has nothing to do with success. However, don’t forget to enjoy life. Don’t deprive yourself, don’t punish your body if you are not naturally a beanpole, don’t cut people out of your life because they refuse to sniff protein powder/may lead you into culinary temptation.

This is just another form of telling women what to look like. We need to stray away from these image-driven movements so we can take the importance off image, and place it back on ideas.

Be healthy in mind and body.

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