Fuelled by Fury

It’s been so long. I apologise!

This is what has brought me out of my hibernation today. My fitspo facebook friend ‘liked’ this picture and it sparked a response I would never normally post the likes of. But it’s early. And my baby’s sleeping. And she’s beautiful at eight months old. And I never want her to look at something like this and feel that maybe she’s not good enough or maybe that what’s aspiration looks like.

Here’s the pic:

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And here’s my comment. It’s nothing like anything I would usually post in facebook, and no doubt someone will make a post suggesting I’m jealous or insecure about myself… Do I regret it? Absolutely not.

Yes, you can see she’s dedicated by the expression on her face. Oh, no, wait. She hasn’t got a face. Or in fact anything other than a disembodied, oiled up stomach with a hint of boobs – and don’t forget the suggestively posed thumb in the knickers. Save your weak soft porn and stop dressing it up as ‘Fitspiration’..

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Change and Acceptance

I found a similar image to this on Pinterest a few days ago and have been debating whether or not it’s something to share on this blog. As luck would have it, I finally managed to track the original down on google from my inaccurate memory of the words, and discovered this, better version.

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The original didn’t have the last frame, but it still made me think. I’ve been cutting out junk food and trying to do a little exercise every now and then and I am finally starting to feel a bit different. But I think that this ‘Fitspiration’ doesn’t have to refer to diet and exercise, maybe it can refer to breaking harmful habits, or studying or anything else that we commit ourselves to for the betterment of ourselves and society. Four weeks for us to start changing from the inside, eight for those close to us to notice our change and twelve for everyone to see the difference. When the fitspo is removed, it still holds true as a positive reinforcement that, whilst change is not always easy to achieve instantly, it is noticeable and worth it in the end.

And that’s what I mused upon before I found this version, which I like infinitely more. Yes, we can change, it takes time – but we are also enough as we are and should have confidence in ourselves even if the change we want takes longer than we would like. — BWG

Fitness Information and Happy Inspiration

This. Just all of this. Thanks to Beauty Redefined for the link, and this amazing post. Apologies for any mistakes made in transferring it over, the whole thing links to the article itself, which has more images — BWG:

Why Fitspiration Isn’t So Inspirational

If you are on Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter, you have seen fitness inspiration images just in time for “the holidays” or “bikini season” or your “big day” to motivate you to “get fit” – we call them “fitspiration.” They are almost always images of parts of women without heads or faces. They are always very thin, surgically and/or digitally enhanced, tanned, oiled up parts of bodies with text like this: Look good, feel good. Unless you puke, faint, or die, keep going. Girls who are naturally skinny are lucky. Girls who have to fight to be skinny are strong. No matter how slow you’re going, you’re still lapping everyone on the couch. If you haven’t posted one of these pictures on one of your social networking sites, one of your well-intentioned friends has. I promise. Pinterest itself is a site designed to help people collect images that inspire them, for heaven’s sake. And while a slogan and image motivating you to get out and move and live and do is a beautiful thing, so many of these “fitspiration” messages floating across the web must be exposed for what they are: shame-inducing, objectifying, limiting ideals that keep women in their places as objects to be looked at above all else.

Ever heard of a thing called “thinspo” or “thinspiration?” It’s an online world of thousands – even millions – of females who share and collect pictures of very thin women as inspiration to keep up their eating disorders. It is a saddening and terrifying world of females banding together to literally get thin at any cost, and thousands of girls and women die every year in this pursuit of thinness. But Beauty Redefined is here to reveal truth – to speak about things as they really are – and we echo Charlotte over on The Great Fitness Experiment: “Fitspo may be thinspo in a sports bra.”

It is.

So we are here to provide you with a few ways to determine if the fitness inspiration you are viewing is healthy and motivating you toward real health goals or keeping you imprisoned in a body that is to be looked at above anything else. You are capable of so much more than being looked at. And if you believe that, it puts fitness back into focus as a way to improve your physical health first and foremost.

1 Be very aware of any “fitspiration” that is advertising something. Nike, Lululemon, workout DVDs, etc., all profit from these “girl power!” messages that look so empowering on first glance. The problem with so many of these is what Virginia at VirginaSoleSmith.com calls “a lot of big, fancy girl power talk to sell us stretchy pants and sports bras. This is fine if you’re in the market for some new stretchy pants or a sports bra; not fine if you’re hoping their marketing materials will teach you something profound about yourself.” PLEASE read why this is NOT healthy or inspiring.

See this bit of fitspiration floating around online?

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It has effectively chopped a woman into just a part of her – without a head as is so often done in objectifying but totally normal and harmless-looking media. This part of her also happens to be sexually alluring to men, which is so often the case in this same objectifying but totally normal and harmless-looking media. Her hand is placed in her pants in a way that looks very reminiscent of a woman about to pull down her pants in a sexually alluring way. Her hip bones, navel, and cleavage are highlighted by the lighting of the shot, which say nothing of fitness or whatever the “it” is spoken of in the text. This text is open for interpretation so the “it” can be a well-meaning physical fitness goal, but the image would lead one to assume it is a look – a vision of oneself – that is the goal. A sexually appealing, “to be looked at” goal that leaves little room for worrying about internal indicators of health or meeting a fitness goal like hiking to the top of that peak or finishing that race or getting your heart rate up every day.

Pay attention to the advertising so often being done in these “fitness inspiration” messages and you will see what is really being sold here. Is it a message of real health and fitness or a message asking you to commodify yourself by buying sports bras, yoga pants, the latest fitness DVD, etc. to appear a certain way. Advertisers are VERY GOOD at framing their messages as an empowering “You Go Girl!” message with their fists in the air cheering you on. But pay attention to their swift move from using that pumping fist to cheer you on, to punching you in the face for not being enough. If you do not have rock hard chiseled abs, the right workout outfit, etc., you are not good enough until you do. These advertisers will make sure you know that, because their profit depends on your wallet and your beliefs about yourself. They’ll make sure you know you must work for “it” every second. Of every day. For the rest of your life. (Note: Please be aware that we go to great lengths to avoid perpetuating harmful images on this site, so we’ve purposely left out the more obviously thin-ideal-focused fitspo images. A simple Web search for fitspiration will reveal a much more representative spread of what those images look like.)

2 Next time you see one of these “fitspiration” messages, please ask yourself how it makes you feel. If these images and texts motivate you to respect your body as something that can do so much good, make and reach fitness goals, and maintain health that will keep you happy and able, then they are appropriate for you. If they motivate you to worry about being looked at or to improve parts of your body to meet a beauty ideal you see in media, you must be aware of this. Virginia at VirginaSoleSmith.com so concisely says, “Pay attention to how it makes you feel to be ‘inspired’ by lots of photos of a largely unattainable beauty ideal. Because that’s what rock hard abs are, after all. Yes, sure, core strength is important for your health. But pictures of bikini-clad, chiseled muscles beaded with sweat? That’s about pretty, not about health.”

If these images and messages categorized as “fitness inspiration” actually inspire body shame – you feel ashamed of the beauty ideals you cannot reach and want to hide or judge your body or covet other women’s bodies – then these messages are not inspirational at all. They trigger you to feel anxiety, hopelessness, and ask you to resort to extremes to get somewhere largely unattainable for healthy people, which does not discount that some people may be able to attain that ideal, but most cannot. This powerful quote from a woman centuries ago has everything to do with the fitness inspiration we are discussing here:

“Taught from infancy that beauty is woman’s scepter, the mind shapes itself to the body and roaming round its gilt cage, only seeks to adorn its prison” (Wollstonecraft, 1792).

This woman hundreds of years ago described what girls and women growing up today are asked to do every second of every day for the rest of their lives. We are asked to believe our power, our very identities, our worth, all lie in our bodies because we ARE our bodies. So we are asked to fix every part of our bodies – from the wrong-colored roots of our hair to the scratchy bottoms of our feet and every new flaw in between (baggy eyelids, insufficient eyelashes, saggy knees, cellulite, stretch marks, and every other sign of life). Men are not asked to fix these “flaws” because this is women’s work – a work that must last a lifetime. Of course there are exceptions to these beauty ideals being pushed on men, but for the most part, beauty and beauty under the guise of health, is women’s work. We are advertised in media to ourselves as parts of ourselves to encourage us to view ourselves as simply parts in need of constant maintenance and perfection. We are asked to believe we are our bodies and nothing more, and we are asked to adorn the prison that we must reside in every second. Of every day. For the rest of our lives.

Now look again at those “inspirational” fitness messages. Are those messages carefully crafted to appear to be health and fitness inspired, only to sell you a product, keep you fixated on parts of yourself that have nothing to do with your actual health and physical fitness, and keep you roaming around your prison? Our bodies are not prisons – they are gifts that allow us to live and breathe and act and do and be. But when we believe we are only bodies, and health is simply making those parts look presentable and beautiful to people looking at us, we are at once prisoners and the prison guards.

3 We borrow from the fantastic Virginia Sole-Smith again for our last very important point: “Any motivational statement that has to diss another type of body in order to make you feel good about your body? Not. Helping. Anyone.” You’ve seen those photos of Marilyn Monroe vs. Nicole Richie with the words: “When did this become hotter than this?” or some variation. Ugh. When we pit female against female, we get nowhere fast. We continue minimizing each other to our bodies EVERY TIME we judge each others’ bodies, comment on them, even compliment each other.

One thing Lindsay and I mention at every speaking engagement is this: We have been taught from a young age that girls are to be looked at. So we compliment little girls on how pretty they are and little boys on how funny/rambunctious/smart/anything else they are. When we greet another female, we so often compliment her on her appearance: “Have you lost weight?” “I love your hair!” “Is that a new outfit?” But reverse that scenario. When guys greet each other, how often do you hear them minimize each other to their bodies and appearance? I almost NEVER hear a man say “Is that a new outfit?” or “Your hair looks great today!” to another man, because they do not learn they ARE their bodies like females do. We are capable of so much more than being looked at, but when our dialogue revolves around our bodies and we judge other women’s bodies, we are not getting anywhere progressive or happy or healthy. So next time you see a “fitspiration” post that pits one woman’s body type against another, please comment on it and link to this post!

So where do you turn for fitness information and happy inspiration?! If you are seeking positive inspiration to get fit and healthy and respect your body as something so powerful and capable of more than being looked at, we can help. That’s why Beauty Redefined is here! Check out our in-depth look at the Body Mass Index (BMI) that has a shocking history and completely flawed present status. Get going on making 2012 the year of the Body Hate Apocalypse by setting real health and fitness goals. We’ve got a fantastic list of them here. Read why fat shaming and focusing on numbers on the scale won’t get us anywhere in terms of real health here.

You are capable of much more than being looked at. When you believe that, you break free from the prison walls that keep you confined to your body, pitted against every other woman/prisoner in her own individual cell, always monitored by a gaze that controls your beliefs about yourself and your actions. Beauty Redefined is here to shine a light in on that lonely prison cell and remind you what you are capable of in a world so badly in need of you – not a vision of you – but all of you. Thank you for joining the fight! Please support our true messages by buying our sticky notes, posters, and T-shirts here! We’re taking back beauty and we hope you’re with us in this awesome fight.

Real Fitspiration (thanks to tumblr and The Exercist)

A site that I find myself frequently is this – Fitspiration. I’m not a tumblr user, so I don’t ‘officially’ follow it, but I keep it open on my iPhone so I can check it once a day. Whoever runs it is brilliant, they choose great pictures, quotes and prose to inspire and motivate into a healthier lifestyle, and a lot of the time they’re pretty funny with it, too. I thoroughly recommend it.

There are often references to another tumblr user, The Exercist, who I regret not looking up before. It turns out this is another smart, sensible page for encouraging fitness, I’ve not read much of it but it looks great so far.

This is the page I found myself at today – I Really Want To Start An Exercise Routine – and it’s really helped me adjust my priorities when it comes to my admittedly small efforts to work out. I have to tread the fine line of balancing sleep with any down time I get and also the unpleasant backlash CFS sometimes provides when I push my body too far. Keeping these points in mind will hopefully help me to keep myself in line, and not get disappointed in my efforts or sucked into an unhealthy mindset. Thanks, tumblr! And thanks to The Exercist 🙂 — BWG

1. Clearly define your goals. You need to know what you’re working towards. Things like “Get healthier” and “Like myself more” are both very admirable, but they’re also very vague. Start thinking about specifics. Do you want to run a mile in under 9 minutes? Lower your cholesterol levels? Squat your body weight? Set something more definite and tangible.

2. Take a look at both your abilities and the resources available to you. The sort of exercise equipment that you can access is going to affect the sort of workout you can do, as will your fitness limitations. You can’t run if you don’t have a safe environment to run in, for example, and you can’t do intense cardio if you have respiratory difficulties. Acknowledge both the things that you have and the things that you don’t. And most importantly, think about what you enjoy. Exercising should be fun, so don’t ignore the activities that you like the most and the ones that you absolutely loathe.

3. Start researching the types of exercises that fit within the above parameters. You want something that will help you move towards your goals while still existing within your pool of resources. Google is going to be a big help in giving you ideas here, as will fitness websites like Bodybuilding.com, Fitocracy, FitSugar, Shape and tumblr here. Talk with your doctor and a potential trainer in your area. Educate yourself about what you’re getting into and how you can do so safely.

4. Make some flexible plans. Any routine that you create right now is just a guess – You won’t fully know what you’re capable of until you jump in. The first couple weeks will be an experiment to see whether or not the new plan suits you. If it’s too difficult, don’t feel bad about dialing it down. If it’s a breeze, feel free to increase its intensity. Play around with the number of days you exercise (just include at least 1 rest day per week and don’t exercise the same muscle groups 2 days in a row), play around with intervals and intensity, and play around with exercise types. Give yourself 1-2 weeks before drastically changing your plan. This will give you enough time to try it out properly. If it’s working and you enjoy it, then you will have done it for just ling enough to create a habit. And remember – Just because a plan worked for someone else does not mean that it will work for you. Copying another person’s workout routine may provide you with a place to start, but don’t be afraid to make your own adjustments. You are a unique individual with your own needs and goals, so don’t feel pressured to take on a specific workout routine just because someone else achieved positive results from it.

5. Ask for help when you need it. People make their living off of planning workouts. If you don’t know what you’re doing and aren’t even sure of where to start, seriously consider joining a gym or hiring a trainer. They can at least get you started. If you can’t afford that sort of commitment, then start browsing through online workouts that suit your needs. There are plenty of graphics floating around #fitblr that you can choose from and read through. Use them as a guide. Just be aware that, if you don’t have any expertise or experience, trying to plan your workout alone can be dangerous and time consuming. Talking to a professional is really the best choice for complete beginners.

6. Have fun. Always have fun. If you don’t enjoy what you’re doing, then you shouldn’t be doing it. Try something else. Not every single workout will be filled with rainbows and unicorns, but you shouldn’t dread exercising. It should leave you feeling happy and fulfilled. If your workout is just breaking you down, then step back and reconsider. Start back at the beginning and figure out exactly what you want from this. Unless “be miserable” was listed as a goal, you shouldn’t actively force yourself through workouts that you hate.

Fighting the fight.

I’m quite a passionate person when it comes to certain things – equal opportunities, education and religious tolerance for a start. But this blog has been created in direct response to one passion in particular: the absolute conviction that nobody should have to spend their life feeling negative or ashamed about their body.

A couple of things have happened recently to bring this into focus for me, the first of which was the birth of my daughter in March. The hormones and exhaustion and physical changes of pregnancy, labour and breastfeeding are extreme, and I faced a complete overhaul of the body that I once knew so well. My insecurities and desperate hope for the future led me to discover the term “fitspiration” on the Internet.

Another little catalyst is one of my Facebook friends. She’s a lovely person, kind and interesting, but in the last seven months or so, every one of her Facebook posts has been about how hard she’s working out, what she’s eating, and how much of a ‘fatty’ she is. There are selfies, so many cheeks-sucked-in selfies and there are ‘inspirational’ photos from the internet, with what she considers to be motivational phrases. It’s an interesting experience to have that come up on your newsfeed on a daily basis and hard to avoid being pulled into that mindset.

The last was finding this post.

The Six Most Shockingly Irresponsible Fitspiration Photos

Like nothing else I’d found online, this highlighted to me how irresponsible is the perfect word to use about the pressure put on people to achieve a certain body shape. Yes, it is nice to feel healthy and it’s nice to look in the mirror and feel proud of yourself, but that doesn’t come from bullying. It comes from acceptance, respect, listening to and being wise about your body, and that’s what I hope to promote with this blog. — BWG