First of all, thank you all for your lovely comments and likes on yesterday’s post! Y’all made me smile, and I’m so happy to know that this resonates with so many of you. 🙂 Thank you for making my day!
Rachel — who writes over at The House Always Wins and is one of my favorite bloggers — brought up a great point in the comments section:
So, one thing I’ve seen with some mags is that they’ll use “real” looking models for regular stories (like, say, a story about being happy at work) but they ALWAYS use super fit fitness models for exercise routines. I suppose they are just trying to say their routines work but it’s still kind of a bummer. I’d just love to see DIFFERENT fit bodies — not all fit women are tall and very thin. I’d like to see petite dancers or super-muscular athletes too. I honestly like looking at beautiful fit bodies, as well as beautiful bodies that look more like mine, so more diversity would be a huge improvement.
This makes perfect sense. Body diversity in fitness magazines would be fantastic — I’d love to be able to see women who are naturally tall and skinny, short and muscular, average height and curvy.
The more I thought about this, the more I realized that two things could happen if fitness mags deviated from the tall and impeccably toned norm:
First, showing a diverse set of body types would help drive home the point that there’s a wiiiiiide range of sizes and builds that can be considered normal.
As I said yesterday, I used to seriously berate myself for not fitting the tall and thin, beautifully sculpted norm presented in fitness magazines — but if they were to use models who are athletic, fit women of different shapes and sizes, those of us in the audience would be better able to identify with those women.
I mean, women who are gymnasts are petite and muscular. Women who are ballerinas are petite and lithe. Women who are built for sprinting have an entirely different body type than women who are built for distance running. Meanwhile, women who are swimmers look very different from women who are yogis.
But you know what? They’re all athletes. They all take health and fitness seriously. And they all can serve as fitness role models.
This would help women realize that they can be in great shape without looking like they fell out of a photoshoot — and that, in turn, can do wonderful things for a woman’s confidence and body image.
That brings me to my second point: by showing a wide range of body types, fitness magazines can truly emphasize fitness instead of weight loss.
Fitness is about being as strong and healthy as you can be. Why not emphasize strength, health, and well-being over perfectly toned abs, sculpted thighs, and a tight butt? I mean, there’s nothing wrong with the aforementioned perfectly toned abs, sculpted thighs, and tight butt — but for me at least, working out so I can look like a fitness model makes me feel wretched.
When I work out for aesthetic reasons, I feel like I’ll never be good enough. I’ll never work hard enough. I’ll never do enough squats or crunches to look like a woman who, y’know, gets paid to look like the poster child for squats and crunches.
By emphasizing health and fitness over weight loss and skinniness, fitness magazines might introduce reasons to work out that really make women feel good — reasons that focus on their intrinsic worth (i.e., “I want to take care of myself because I love my family/job/insert-gratifying-thing-here and I want to be able to do the best I can in that role” or, in a truly revolutionary approach, simply loving oneself and wanting to stick around and be healthy for as long as possible) rather than how they look.
Ultimately, I think Rachel hit the nail on the head with her comment about body diversity. Body diversity in fitness magazines could drive those magazines and readers alike to focus on being healthy, strong, and physically fit — no matter what you look like.