I have long been suspicious of the fitness industry, and in particular the more recent, particularly self-punishing styles of workout that have become so popular. For my own part, I believe in eating whole foods, indulging from time to time, and being as active as you can in a way that doesn’t cause injury. I’ve found new levels of fitness lately, doing an activity I love. I will never be as ripped as a fitness model. But I’m getting into reasonably good shape.
I don’t fault those who push themselves to their limits, and discover that their limits aren’t where they thought they were. What I object to are the constant, insidious or sometimes overt messages that say that we should ignore our bodies’ messages, push ourselves past our limits to injury, and collapse, puke, or pass out rather than fail.
Today’s beautiful if rageful response to this culture is from a father of a young girl, who doesn’t want her growing up in a world where heroin-chic has been replaced by hypergymnasia, a newfangled approach to anorexia that involves obsessive exercise instead of not eating. The article is a response to six images from Fitspiration, most of which show fitness models posing sexily and text like “Your body isn’t telling you ‘I can’t do this.’ ‘I need to stop.’ ‘It hurts.’ ‘It burns.’ Your mind is. Shut it up with more.”
And that’s the message: your body is a weak vessel whose voice should be ignored, your mind is lying to you, and when you think you should stop because it hurts, you shouldn’t listen to yourself. What part of you is left, exactly, to push back at the meatsack you are apparently inhabiting at this point is unclear. It only knows that you need to look like a fitness model or you’ll never be happy or sexy.
Health is a wonderful thing. Fitness is glorious. And exercise is good for you. But this kind of thing is really, really screwed up, and it makes me sad that our culture has gone so far afield from the idea of befriending our bodies that we’re actually making them our enemies, to be dominated and overcome (for their own good, of course).