This week I’d like to do a commentary on a couple of workout images that came to my attention through the twitter feeds of some girls “getting ready” for Cancun. Although physical fitness is about strength and health, there are some that produce negative images. These images are usually dependent on feeding guilt, implying shame, or promising self-satisfaction through body change.
This image was released by a local gym. The idea promises trainers that if they give themselves 12 weeks they will reach what they want to become, but for who? This image implies that self-legitimation comes from the outside. To feel confident in yourself you must receive the attention of others. It is necessary to go to the gym, not to feel good, or become healthy, but to gain approval. On the flip side this indicates that it is necessary to change your body in order to reach that. Now how does this tie into eating disorders? Many disorders are bred by neglect or feeling unnoticed and unimportant, so people turn to changing their body to get attention.
Body modification is used as a surface treatment to treat deep, inner conflict. While activity has proven to raise level of endorphins and better your mood, it is important to be encouraged appropriately. People training should feel inspired to be strong, not that they have something to prove to others.
Probably the more depressing of the two, once again focusing on the stomach, a sensitive area. Both these images draw importance to the abdominals, which take a lot of time and diet to become visible. You could have the strongest tummy in the world, but that protective layer of fat is a natural safeguard against famine that our ancestors’ genetics has programmed.
But I digress, let’s talk about what this image is saying. It hits home by mentioning a commonly mediated stressor… going to the beach. As soon as the new year roles around, especially near the end of winter. Magazine stands are flooded with women’s magazines that preach about their miracle diets and workouts and slimming swimsuits to “get ready” to go to the beach. You might be trying to buy groceries, and “boom” some headline is guilting you to diet because you can’t possibly spend your leisure time at a beach until you are “ready”. That’s a lot pressure for something that should just be carefree and fun.
So this image is basically saying that if you’re not spending weeks at the gym before beach season rolls around, you’ll be covered up. In fact, it wants to you to think you should so that you’ll spend more money going to the gym. Surprise, this came from a newsfeed of another London gym. No one should be made to feel that they have to hide. Guilt and shame-inducing ideas like these feed the diet and fitness industry billions of dollars.
Don’t take these images at face value. It is important to recognize that the way they try to convey inspiration is not productive. Think about them critically instead of internalizing harmful ideals.