With summer approaching, we trade in our winter parkas and wool socks for swimsuits and shorts, but not without a dose of hesitation. This is the time we realize that the season of revealing clothing and insecurity is upon us. The warmer weather and the impending self-doubt accompanying it finely tunes our attention to the health and fitness magazines we usually gaze at passively while waiting in line at the grocery store. Diet fads flood social media streams, screaming to people through the screen that they could be better, they could be more worthy, if they cut out just one more food from their preexisting lifestyle. One day, these diet extraordinaries will suggest that cutting out sugar --in all forms-- from your life will leave you with sculpted abs in less than six weeks. Then, the next week another opinion will refute, proposing that eating chocolate will shrink your midsection. Soon after, another article will have you stuffing as many super foods as you can into your blender to concoct something you have to convince yourself to drink. If you read Shape Magazine recently, you would understand that sniffing peppermint or eating off of red-colored plates will help promote drastic weight loss -- yes, apparently the color of your plate is a supported claim for shedding weight. After countless trial and error runs, we exaspertaly ask ourselves, “Why aren’t I achieving the same impressive results as the models on the cover of the magazines? Am I doing something wrong? Am I not doing enough?” Blaming ourselves for a lack of results, we go back to hours of cardio and kale smoothies.
The covers of magazines and glorified social media posts promise to whittle away imperfections and leave you with exquisitely toned legs. They promise to fix, transform, and change you, but in reality you are only losing the self-esteem you have worked tirelessly to build. It is not solely the weight that is lost when you dedicate yourself to extreme methods of diet and exercise. Your self-worth and identity are bound to erode as well.
The fitness industry is one of the most powerful, profitable, and the most persuasive industries in the world. Despite gaining such a reputable assortment of praise, none of these traits describe the fitness industry as the most correct, the most informed, or the most successful industry of all. Unsubstantiated claims from cherry-picked research have become popular amongst cunning fitness industry marketers, who pay large sums of money for advertisements targeting the insecurities of men and women. In the industry, “health” and “fitness” have become dog whistle names for “thinness” and “dieting,” popularizing unattainable goals that in most cases, are the opposite of healthy and fit. To the fitness industry, desserts are “sinful” and must be earned by never taking a day off from the gym. Foods are viewed as the enemy rather than “nutrients that are chewed, swallowed, and savored for fuel and energy.”
The vision of the fitness industry is short-lived and promotes immediate gratification to those they attract. This situation may seem familiar to you: it is late at night, and you are senselessly scrolling through instagram photos. With each new photo crossing your screen, you descend deeper and deeper into the untouchable lives of models, entrepreneurial travellers with aspiringly beautiful lifestyles, and the captivating before and after pictures of fitness gurus that lure you into the ideas of “I would be more content if I looked just like them,” or “I need a lifestyle change, and I need one quickly.” Due to the overstimulation of technology in our society, we have become accustomed to the idea of immediate gratification, the need for immediate rewards. Much to the fitness industry’s benefit, our deep desire for instant results has crossed over to our health and fitness regimes, as we convince ourselves that transformative results can happen with a simple detox and six-minute ab workout. What the fitness industry intentionally grazes over is the unavoidable reality that positive changes in both mind and body take tremendous patience and dedication. Results are born from adopting whole foods into your diet, not living in a deficit of nourishing foods. Changes are not noticed after burning yourself out in intensive cardio training sessions at the gym. Fitness goals are not achieved from committing to the slogan “No days off.” In fact, allotting yourself rest days to reinvigorate your spirit, strengthen your muscles after breaking them down in a workout, and sharpening your focus before venturing back to the gym are one of the most vital tools in attaining ultimate health. As I have discovered over the past months, you must undergo a lifestyle change in order to see impressive results body-wise, but most importantly, in your mind.
But this balanced lifestyle I wholeheartedly believe in does not exist in the fitness industry. Until the overwhelming amount of false advertising begins to dwindle, we will forever be reminded that our self-worth equates to the cleanness of our diet and the hours logged with exasperation in the gym. Anyone with $10 in their pocket can purchase a magazine with a toned fitness model on the front reading "How I got Thin Fast: Drop Two Sizes in Two Months.” On many occasions, that same person also has the power to browse social media on their phone throughout the day and collect a multitude of opinions from different fitness platforms on how to attain the perfect summer body. Throughout a single day, the average person will be torn in opposing directions given the opinions of varying sources. No wonder we feel the need to try every trend that pollutes our social media pages. How could we possibly determine who, in the fitness industry, holds the expert answer for being the healthiest versions of ourselves?
Unfortunately, with the horde of opinions in the fitness world, there is not a decipherable answer to this question. The fitness industry ignores that everyone has a unique body type-- a body with different needs, different capacities, and different overall make-ups. So the answer to this hovering question must be discovered by you. Your health and wellness intentions must be set according to your body’s abilities, not by the headline of a fitness tabloid. Over the past months, my fitness regime could be considered a retaliation against the fitness industry. I have eaten more instead of restricting my intake, I have lifted heavier weights instead of structuring my workouts strictly around cardio, and have rested a considerable amount instead of over-exhausting myself in the gym everyday. Most importantly, I have recognized that my body is my body regardless of the season. Before shakily reaching for another sip of your “lean green” post-workout shake after hours spent in the gym, finish this sentence: “I am doing this because…” Understand the goals you are striving for-- are they sustainable? Will they benefit you in the long run? Ignore the perfectionistic ideals of the fitness industry. What lifestyle are you going to lead?