Recently (well, ok, it’s always been a thing), my attention has been drawn to all the contradicting messages on social media regarding health and body image. It feels like every time I scroll through my feed, I’m hit with something different:
“Detox to lose 7 lbs in 7 days!”
“You don’t need to diet – love yourself the way you are.”
“This 30 day workout plan will get you abs in no time!”
“Work out for health, not to look a certain way.”
And on and on… my head hurts just thinking about it.
Maybe you’re a fitness competitor and you’re training and eating to look a certain way. Or maybe you’re happy with your body and are just committed to enjoying your life. You’re just doing YOU – but it doesn’t matter because according to social media either lifestyle is wrong. There is no right way – you’re either completely devoted to your appearance or you don’t care at all. What happened to the middle ground? That gray area? Does it even exist anymore? Did it ever?
For the record, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having aesthetic goals. Who am I to judge someone whose profession it is to have a kickass physique or a new bride who’s working out to have killer shoulders for her sleeveless wedding dress? Or maybe you just want to wake up in the morning, take a look in the mirror and think “dang, I worked hard, and I look good.” As a society, we think it’s acceptable to highlight and feel bad about our flaws – but if we talk about how proud we are of getting back into shape after having a baby or the definition we’ve built in our booty through heavy lifting, we’re considered shallow and obsessed with our appearance.
On the flipside, there are some of us who are taking conscious breaks from working out super hard. Maybe you had an unhealthy relationship with food and exercise, so now you are working to fix it by letting go and relaxing. Or maybe you’re a new mom and your priority is your child, not your jean size right now. Well, postpartum moms can’t win no matter what they do – if you don’t drop the weight fast enough, you’re not committed and working hard. If you drop the weight too fast? Then you’re not making your child a priority. Ugh.
We really need to stop this behavior and understand that as life changes, so will our goals. Sometimes we care about being in shape and other times it’s just not the priority. Either phase of life is totally okay – and there is nothing wrong with working towards an aesthetic goal as long as you are not letting it consume your life or lead to unhealthy thoughts and behaviors. The problem isn’t having the stereotypical six-pack. The problem is when we become so obsessed with achieving it that we lose sight of what’s really important and potentially damage our health in the process.
So, where do I stand with all of this? I enjoy working out and being fit, and I have no shame in taking pride in my physique. I eat well (most of the time) and work out (sometimes). But that doesn’t mean I don’t know where my priorities are – my family and overall health and happiness (which includes wine, chocolate, and potato chips) will always come before maintaining a certain body fat percentage!
Question of the Day
What are your thoughts? Is it okay to have aesthetic goals?
I think you hit the nail on the head. It’s not just mom’s that can’t win, though. I feel like all women are scrutinized when it comes to nutrition and fitness. If we eat a brownie, we are either PMS’ing or “not caring this week!” If we eat a salad, we are either “committed to health” OR we’re on “a diet that won’t last.” We feel the need to explain ourselves for every bite of food we eat, every work out we do or don’t do, it goes on and on. And we do this to ourselves! Maybe if we all just establish our own goals and embrace them, we can start to accept each other’s goals!
Thank you for mentioning how goals change as life does. I just don’t have the drive I used to. I miss it, but when I list off the priorities in my life right now, I can understand why. Maybe in a few years, I’ll be in yet another season where it makes sense to circle back to harder workouts and longer runs. Today, I just want to fit in a walk and a nap, lol!
Well damn girl you look great in the bikini so keep eating those chips! And BEST line to take away here is: Our goals change as we change! So true!
I can definitely tell (at almost 50 and going through changes with menapause) that everything in my body is changing right now….it kind of sucks some days ….but this too shall pass!
So pleased to read this message. Best post & writing in awhile; tap into this!! Reminds me of old-school CNC that drew me here. Love the individuality of your take on this SUPER pervasive issue in our faces/of our time & couldn’t agree more, esp. if you’re of a certain (mid 30s) age + a kid. More of THIS introspection.
How true and how needed is this post!!
It is true how life changes, goals change. I used to be focused on running all the time because I wanted to stay slim. Now, since I’ve been doing Crossfit, my goals are to keep getting stronger and see just what I am capable of doing!
I am glad you brought this topic up! It’s something I have been thinking about lately. I really enjoy having goals, but now that my goal is not to “run X half marathon faster than the last time,” I am unsure what to do. It feels really strange and disconcerting to simply work toward being healthy and fit and checking that box. However given all the things I do: work full time, commute via train, raise 4-year-old twins with my husband, keep a household going, I simply don’t have the extra time, money, or energy to have a big, huge goal like 6-pack abs. I enjoy earing salads and drinking beer (usually not together). If I could get rid of my mom pooch I would, and if that means more than the 6 days a week I already work out, then the trade off for me isn’t there. Otherwise I think I look pretty good, and much more working out is very literally fighting against my genetics. I can win some of those battles but not that war! haha.
There are times when working out isn’t fun. It’s a job or a box to be checked, and i am sortof in that rut at the moment. Hoping I can find something new and interesting to perk me up again!
I agree with aspects of this post, but it still assumes that there is one aesthetic that is better than another. Taking health out of it, I wish we haven’t been trained to view flat stomachs and toned whatever as superior to all other types of bodies.
I think the problem is when our self-worth is tied to how we look. I think finding movement that is enjoyable and getting to an intuitive place with food is the most important. Most women can’t look like the “in-style” body and still be healthy. I think it’s easy to go from having aesthetic goals, to feeling like a failure if your body can’t achieve it. I wish less focus was on how bodies look and more focus was put on how bodies feel. It’s a tough middle ground to find.