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Body Positivity vs. Body Shaming: The Fine Line, When We Cross It, And How Not To

“Strong is the new skinny” began as a movement for body acceptance. The naive media consumer in me wants to believe it started with the best of intentions. Greater body type diversity in the media by praising women who have visible muscular definition has fundamentally changed the fitness industry and the way that women understand how their body is meant to look. And while the sentiment behind it is nice, the implications that come from widespread acceptance of this mentality can be, and are quickly becoming, detrimental. It is no secret that being physically strong has its advantages, but to replace one standard with another ultimately still places one type on a pedestal, leaving all others as inadequate. This isn’t a body positive way of thinking.

The images that represent the media’s version of strong women are in themselves limiting. Featuring models who are lean as hell and wearing basically nothing, we’re given even more requirements to meet in order to be considered beautiful. These women ARE beautiful, but become the unreachable expectation. Such a beauty standard is just as difficult to achieve as being skinny, and gives us all just another reason to believe that we just aren’t good enough.

No one wants to be called a body shamer. It’s not a flattering look. But when we consider one way of being as inherently better than another (strong vs. skinny), we are still shaming. Supporting one, very narrow body type does not bode very well for the self love community. 

If we aren’t critically thinking about what exactly the media is telling us, it’s easy to get caught up in just another campaign. So I challenge you to be a critical consumer and challenge what’s being put in front of you.

Real beauty is cultivated from taking care of yourself: mind, body & spirit. Eating real foods that nourish your body, maintaining health (in whatever way or at whatever weight that means for you) so that you can move through your day with ease and joy, engaging with people and activities that make you happy. Beauty is not created from lifting weights, and health looks different on every single body.

I am a CrossFit athlete. I live and breathe for strength, function, and the beauty of having muscle. There is no doubt about the importance of being strong for my sport, and the strength I have cultivated in the gym has infiltrated every piece of my strength outside of the gym. I have the phrase “Beauty in Strength” tattooed on my ribs. Not for the reminder that having muscle is sexy and cool, but to acknowledge the emotional, spiritual, mental, AND physical strength I’ve developed over the last 4.5 years. As an ode to the sport, yes, but also as an ode me growing into my truest, happiest, most beautiful self, in my best and healthiest body. From insecure college woman to CrossFitter, the changes I’ve seen in myself are astounding and have, in part, been created from the physical strength I’ve gained. But that doesn’t mean that my body is inherently better than anyone else’s.

Having defined muscle IS beautiful, but so is being every other which way.

Sending self love,

Maggie

 

 

 

Finding Beauty in Strength

If there is one thing I have learned from CrossFit it is that no body is the same. No body looks the same, moves the same, lifts the same, runs the same, carries weight the same, metabolizes the same. To think that my body will ever look like Sienna Miller’s is completely ridiculous.

Some women are “blessed” with the thigh gap. They don’t have to worry about chaffing when they walk in a skirt or planning their next bathroom stop to use baby powder to relieve a little pain. They don’t have to worry about unsticking their legs from each other with no one noticing every time they’re sitting and they’re sweaty. They don’t have to worry about pulling down their shorts from riding up the second they start to move in them. But I still say, fuck the thigh gap.

I used to daydream about the thigh gap. It was my goal, though I had no idea how to get there. But when I started CrossFitting, I realized it just wasn’t in the cards for my body to have a thigh gap. It wasn’t how I was made. And I am finally okay with that.

To me, strength is beautiful. Strength in physical ways, but also strength in mental and emotional and spiritual ways. I find beauty in the strength that women, like myself, can say that they love the way their legs look in spandex because we can see the muscles that we have worked hard to build. Women who don’t wish we were a certain way because we accept their bodies the way they are, and understand that we are all created very differently.

This is why I love CrossFit. It teaches healthy habits. It teaches both women and men to learn to love what their bodies can do. Walking into a CrossFit gym, I am a badass. I have muscle, I carry myself with confidence, and I have absolutely no thigh gap.

Now, that’s not to say that if you have a thigh gap that you are unfit or not beautiful. (You actually are extremely lucky that you don’t have to deal with chaffing.) The point of saying “fuck the thigh gap” is to say it on behalf of those women who wish they had one; who have yet to accept their bodies for the amazing machines that they are. I only hope that one day they can say it with me.

And if you need any more inspiration, here’s Elisabeth Akinwale on just how bad ass your thighs can be. Cheers!