Fit is the new Guilty

By Kersley Fitzgerald

Dev and I were sprawled on the couch last night in a state of Friday stupor when Logan's Run came on. I was looking at Jessica in her "dress" thing and Logan in his uniform and said, "Man. People were really skinny in the 70s." They were. I remember my mom and her friends, already slender, continually on a diet.

Something changed in the 90s and 2000s. I don't know if it was computers or additives in our food, but people got rounder. Despite the fact there's a fitness center on every corner, and every other commercial is for an ab workout or a diet pill—even on Christian radio.

Ever since people in America could afford food, skinny has been in. These days, it isn't enough to look good; you have to do so naturally. I remember reading an article a while back on the TV show Mad Men about how women in the 50s and 60s looked good because they had girdles and bullet-bras, while we're expected to look the same with no added support.

Now, even skinny isn't enough. You can't just be thin, you have to be strong. Michael Matthews's book Fit is the New Skinny seems to have started a tidal wave. High intensity workouts are all the rage. Christian magazines extoll the virtues of muscles. Miley Cyrus is so cut she wants to let the whole world know. And you could bounce a quarter off of Miss Kansas's tattooed obliques.

I get it. I really do. I've long held that being strong was more important than being skinny. Something that this post says eloquently. I especially like the point she makes about teenage girls being crabby and making poor choices because they're so hungry all.the.time. Even when they've lost the ability to tell they're hungry. Makes me wonder if she was spying on me.

But what I'd love to see is some perspective.

It's great that women are starting to reject the goal of seeing a 0 on the tag on their jeans (or a 246), but is beating yourself up that you don't look like a fitness model any different? Instead of doing a pull-up, how about finding the level of fitness that matches your lifestyle? Instead of six-pack abs, how about training your body so that it can do what you need it to do? Instead of striving for yet another unattainable body shape, how about being fit for the sake of joy, not guilt or shame or pride?

If you climb 14ers (mountains over 14,000 feet), you're going to need a certain level of fitness. If you have to carry clothes baskets from the upstairs bedrooms to the basement laundry and back, that's another level. If your eighteen-month-old weighs 25 pounds, or if you want to be able to play a game on the floor with your grandkids (and get back up off the floor!), or if you have a new puppy, or if you garden—all of these require some sort of strength. And the weight room is a great place to find it.

What these things don't require is a two-hour (or 4...6...) workout every day. Or three days of skipping fluids so that your muscles stick out. Or running until you throw up. Or, and this one always gets me, working out so hard you're too tired and sore to carry that laundry.

The "fit is the new skinny" bandwagon also makes the horrible mistake of marginalizing those with medical problems. My mom went from fast-walking an hour a day on iron-hard legs to being nearly crippled by arthritis in a matter of years. She still lived her life, though. She still did laundry and worked, and when she was confined to a wheelchair after surgery, she still baked cookies and mopped the kitchen floor. That's a kind of strength you can't photoshop on.

There's an article, written by a masseuse in Portland that I think should be required reading for everybody. "Woman [sic] have cellulite," he says. "All of them. It's dimply and cute." He goes on—"Men have silly buttocks匒dults sag匛verybody on the massage table is beautiful. There are really no exceptions to this rule."

If climbing mountains gives you joy, do stairs. If running gives you joy, run. If your laundry is two floors down, do curls. If your kid's a tank, do baby-presses with him. If you love flowers in your garden, stretch your back and do plenty of squats. If your family has osteoporosis, do strength training; if they have heart disease, do aerobic training. If you strained something, do your P.T.

This is more than common sense—it's ministry. Sunday, I needed to chase a ten-year-old through a crowded hallway, catch him, and give him a big hug because his family had had a rough week. Two weeks ago, I helped a friend move. Sometimes it takes physical strength to love people in practical ways. But I can't think of a reason it would take a 15% BMI.

So figure out what your life requires, what brings you joy, and what shape you need to be in to serve others. Concentrate on that when you hit the gym.

I'll be right there. Right after I ice my shoulder.

Photo Credit:
raider of gin; "workout"; Creative Commons
Patrick M; "Finger hold"; Creative Commons

comments powered by Disqus
Published 9-16-13