I’m writing this article because I feel like I have something important to say. Rather than writing about training, nutrition, physiology or fitness kit, I am going to write about something equally important, which is body image and wellbeing.
I know that this might be considered controversial, but I have a few things that need to be said.
Please know that none of this is aimed at any one of you lovely lot reading this. I’m not out to make accusations or make anyone feel bad, but I’m also not someone to beat around the bush on important matters.
So here goes...
I’m sick of hearing accusations of body shaming.
Body shaming is defined as inappropriate, negative statements and attitudes towards another person’s shape or size.
You know, the kind of things you see in gossip magazines and uneducated instagram comments:
“Ew, she’s too skinny”
“They need to lose weight”
That is body shaming, and that is not okay.
The backlash against body shaming is gaining momentum, attempting to encourage more positivity towards our society’s diversity of body shapes and sizes. However, it’s being taken a little too far in some cases.
Isn’t anyone else just exhausted and bored of reading and listening to people drone on about how every image of someone in shape makes them feel bad about themselves?
If a mere image of someone in better shape than you is something that you find to be confrontational or offensive (do you realise how ridiculous that sounds?) that’s your problem.
Below are some very recent examples of the body shaming backlash being taken too far. I’ve also thrown in some other ad examples to highlight other issues that I think, in general, people just need to chill out about.
LDN Muscle Tube Advert
How some people see it
The LDN Muscle team have received backlash for ‘body shaming’ from both men and women who claim that their ad has made them feel under pressure to achieve an ‘unrealistic’ body.
How I see it
Firstly, their bodies are the opposite of unrealistic. They work hard for them. Most (if not all) of them have full-time jobs alongside LDNM - these aren’t people who spend all day every day in the gym, and you don’t have to be either.
Having said that, being in peak physical condition (and the truth is, having a healthy muscle mass is good for you for many reasons) does take effort. And if you want to look like the LDNM team, but don’t want to put in the work, you have no right to complain. There are no shortcuts to optimum health and I know this better than anyone (see below).
I haven’t used any of the LDNM plans myself, but I know Alice personally and I know other experts who work behind the brand, and it is beyond obvious that they are there to promote a healthy lifestyle and body confidence, nothing to the contrary.
Some people have also commented on Twitter, ‘Maybe I don’t want to look like that?’
Then don’t. What’s the problem?
How some people see it
This tube ad has been accused of being sexist and degrading to women. The tagline, “The most fun you can have with two bits of clothing on”, has been said to sexually objectify women and imply that they should look a certain way or wear certain kinds of clothing to workout.
How I see it
The tagline is a play on a common saying, “the most fun you can have with your clothes on”. Working out can be fun, and GymBox have amended it to reflect the attire of an aspirational fitness model.
To be honest, I think the tagline is just a bit naff. But that’s just bad copywriting, not a boardroom of people strategically deciding how best to objectify women.
Yes, this draws a parallel to sex but here’s news for you: lifting weights (and working out in general) gives you confidence and makes you feel sexy.
Every gym has a different target audience profile based on demographic and psychographic cues, to which they tailor their offering. If this kind of marketing message doesn’t appeal to you, then you probably aren’t the kind of client that GymBox is trying to attract. And that’s fine. It would be a bad marketing strategy on their part to try and please everyone.
Boux Avenue Shop Window + Ad
How some people see it
This one isn't fitness-related, but it still got my back up.
Boux Avenue has been accused of depicting women as “sexualised domestic beings” after a window display featured mannequins in underwear (duh, it’s an underwear retailer) in a laundry environment. It has been said that the store is “demeaning women with outdated ideology”.
How I see it
First thing’s first, regardless of 1950’s stereotypes, women still have the occasional wash load to put on. I do my own laundry and quite like feeling like a domestic goddess on a Sunday morning.
The comments featuring in the news stories that I have read around this state that the display “undermines the respectable and admirable academic, scientific and physical achievements of women.”
I have academic and physical achievements that I am extremely proud of. I take my life seriously, but I don’t take myself too seriously.
I totally dance around in my underwear while I’m doing the laundry. It’s fun and convenient. If this ad bothers you, I suggest you put on some Beyonce and do the same, it’ll chill you out in no time.
If you want to seem as smart, strong and intelligent as you really are, stop allowing yourself to become so deeply affected by billboards and shop windows.
I do, however, agree that it would have been cool to “display attractive women in the House of Commons, laboratories or the sporting field,” (something along the same empowering vein as the most recent ‘Imagine The Possibilities’ Barbie ads, which are super cool, by the way) but I’m sure this would have led to equally tiresome debates about discrimination in the workplace and sexualisation of women.
...and one not so recent example...
That Protein World Ad
How some people see it
Everyone is bored of seeing this ad. I know, I know.
The infamous Protein World ad reading “Are You Beach Body Ready?” sparked total outrage last April, prompting a petition for its removal, vandalism of the posters, and general angry backlash from a huge number of people, from casual social media users to brands such as Dove.
The general counter argument is that every body is beach body ready; if you have a body, you can go to the beach, no matter what your shape or size.
Several months on, Women’s Health magazine has now banned the cornerstone phrase ‘Beach Body’ from their magazine covers.
How I see it
I remember tweeting about this poster before I had seen anyone else comment on it, and before the large-scale backlash had really begun.
The reason I thought it was terrible wasn’t because of the slender model (and how this is an ‘unattainable’ physique, yadda yadda yadda) or because of the ‘Beach Body’ slogan (which had at that point been used hundreds, maybe thousands of times on magazine covers worldwide), but because of the health and nutrition messaging:
”Substituting two daily meals of an energy restricted diet with a meal replacement contributes to weightloss”
This is obviously just an unhealthy message. Restriction, meal replacements, quick fixes… those were the things that I had an issue with. And to be honest, I’m a bit disappointed that this issue wasn’t spoken about more. This is a genuine health issue with roots in science, yet it was overshadowed by subjectivity and the insecurities of our society.
I feel like the whole uproar surrounding the Protein World ad took things a little too far in the opposite direction.
While it’s not a can of worms I want to open now, the message that I want to get across is that I am a huge advocate of optimal health, and some bodies are not representative of that.
The argument usually goes that mental wellbeing is often overlooked in our society in favour of a an aesthetically pleasing physique. However, a problem also arises if you are mentally and emotionally comfortable in a body that is actually a ticking time bomb.
I don’t think it’s okay for people to settle for a body that doesn’t enable them to be truly energised, focused, productive, active and healthy.
While this article from T Nation is a little more ‘forward’ that I have been on the subject, I think it’s a pretty good read.
How Body Shaming Affects Me
I’ve been affected by body shaming too.
With the growing backlash against ‘body shaming that isn’t actually body shaming’ (i.e. people who aren’t in good shape making accusations at people who have worked hard for their physique), I feel like being in shape is something that I have to apologise for.
But I won’t.
I’ve experienced situations where friends or coworkers have made comments about their weight: ‘eugh, I look so fat in that picture’. If I defend their healthy size/shape, I’m usually met with gibes like ‘not that it’s something you have to worry about’. Their tones range on the spectrum from ‘I say this like I’m joking, but it’s exactly how I feel’, to genuinely scathing.
Generally now, I just become an outsider in any of these kinds of conversation.
I’m sick to death of feeling like a body that I have worked hard for is something that I should apologise for.
Because I won’t.
I’m not perfect, but I’m happy with my body composition. There are improvements that I want to make, but I look like I’m in good physical shape, and I like that.
Looking this way is the result of a lot of hard work. It’s also the effect of knowing that if I don’t do what it takes to look like this, I will be in a hospital bed somewhere.
For those of you that don’t know, I have Cystic Fibrosis. It’s a life-threatening illness that severely affects my lungs and digestive system.
Exercise is my physiotherapy.
Gaining muscle mass helps me to stabilise my weight, and reduce risk of injury and osteoporosis that could leave me unable to exercise.
Eating a healthy diet, including supplementation where necessary, ensures optimal nutrition absorption and helps me to regulate inflammation.
The product of those things gives me a body that I’m proud of. My body looks fit, strong and healthy and I love it. But looking like this is ultimately just what keeps me alive.
So next time accusations of body shaming are made, remember that the person with the aspirational physique worked hard for it, and no one has any right to take that away from them.
On the flip side, if someone finds images to be 'shaming', they need to take responsibility to get to the root of the problem, take action, and find the confidence that they deserve.
“A well-built physique is a status symbol. It reflects the hard work you've put in. You can't steal it, you can't borrow it and you cannot hold onto it without constant work. It's from dedication, discipline, self-respect and dignity.”
I'd love to hear your thoughts on this. Please share them with me in the comments below and on social media. Find me on Twitter @theblondeethos