Unintended Consequences…


This blog post has gone viral in recent days.  It has lit up the internet all week, gathering moss with a mob mentality that I’m not on board with.

I understand where the author is coming from, and why.  I’m in the fitness business too – I get it.  I have seen women cry in my studio far too often, and for all the wrong reasons.  In these times I have done my best to reassure them that nothing matters more than being a good mom, a good wife, and a good person in the community.

I say often that in the end none of us will be judged by the shape of our abs or whether we do sinister justice to a pair of skinny jeans.  The pressure women feel to be lean, sexy, ripped, etc., is severe, it’s increasing, it’s everywhere, and is completely unnecessary.

However there aren’t just two sides to every story or every idea as this blog suggests.  Like coastlines, ideas can be endlessly distilled with fractal geometry; the angles can be reduced to smaller angles, and smaller angles still, and are seemingly infinite.  As always, I suggest one be careful before choosing sides, or piling on a cause too soon.

Most of the memes, and sayings represented in this blog post seem to have been created, and shared in the spirit of raising one’s game.  I truly believe that, and I respect that.  I seriously doubt that any non-corporate individual would ever create or caption signs like these as a way to belittle women, influence them into behavior they don’t wish to participate in, or to shame them into state of emotional distress.

Memes like this are dangerous...

Memes like this can be dangerous…

This is not to suggest that it hasn’t happened, clearly it has.  These ideas can be dangerous.  But from the perspective of those who create, and share such memes, I’m sure there were no thoughts of the unintended consequences to be absorbed by women everywhere.

Does this mean they are “bullshit” as the author suggests…?  I don’t believe so.  For my part, I have tried hard to motivate, and inspire people without it use of such ideals.  Even my personal tag, Train Like An Athlete, Eat Like A Shark, Walk Like A God is found to be over the top by some, so I don’t use it anymore.  A little mindfulness and humility can go a long way.  However I can appreciate the kind of motivation, effort, and the positive changes memes like these can facilitate.

Conversely, spreading the idea that real women have curves might seem innocent, and even supportive, but that’s dangerous too.  I have seen many women through the years take unnecessary liberties with their own physicality, and abandon successful eating and exercise habits in favor of doing less for themselves because they have been told by others that it’s okay to do so.  Too often, the others influencing this behavior do so because obesity, like misery, loves company.

Just as dangerous...

And memes like this can be Just as dangerous…

The author refers to these ideals as, “irresponsible”.  I find that statement itself irresponsible inasmuch as he’s placing himself on a pedestal as a voice of reason.  Though he may be a voice of reason for some, he aims his passion and enthusiasm at many who are trying very hard to do good work, and for good reasons.

What further troubles me about this is that it also singles out, and belittles success – the success that many have experienced in finding or creating a new life.  Being championed by, or championing others is an honorable endeavor.  It’s unfair that many endeavors do have at least some unintended consequences.  But really, who is that on…?  I don’t believe what makes a woman real is six-pack abs or curves.  What makes a woman real is her priorities.

Where I am in agreement with the author, and where I do take exception is when corporations invest millions of dollars into sharing these memes because they ARE trying to guilt and shame women into spending lots of money on devices, supplements, and products that will offer little or no return for that investment.  These ad campaigns are aimed directly a woman’s self-esteem.  I find that sickening, if not completely ‘Merican.

This fever this blog post has created is just one more example of people choosing sides in this social media era, piling on, and muting the conversation before the conversation ever begins.  Ready.  Fire.   Aim.

The fitness industry is nearing the trillion dollar mark annually.  Every day of my life I think about walking away from it – yes, every single day.  On a very large scale, my industry is insincere, scheming, and false.  At best, it’s smug, and lacks decorum as a collective.

There are some mindful people though, out there every single day working hard to help others – without passing judgment one way or another.  Just knowing those people exist keeps me in the game – for now.  Be well… rc

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Please check back in two weeks to see what happens when I push the “stop” button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there is this from Stephen Malkmus And The Jicks.  Enjoy…

17 responses

  1. I cringed a little every time I saw that reposted this week. I wasn’t exactly sure why either, but I think you have hit the nail on the head. It is just bad form all around, and I am tired of seeing people attack each other in this industry. We should only be working to welcome as many people into this fitness and health realm as possible, and not fret too much over what someone else is doing. I have been guilty of it as many of us have, but your perspective is one that many us so called fitness professionals should learn from. Thanks, Roy.

    • Thank you, Jim, for taking the time. Like you, I cringed. Like you, I have been guilty as well.

      I had not even intended to write about this, but a friend asked me my opinion of the article. By the time I was done writing him back, this had pretty much written itself.

      Fight the good fight!

  2. Glad you wrote about this Roy.. I think as a woman, we have had so much shit thrown at us thru life & as much as their is lip service about changing, it is still the same.. it is all about looks in this world for the most part.. Women are just fed up with it & that leads to things like what you wrote about & also women rebelling.. Not saying I think woman should give up BUT I do think we have so much pressure still… It really gets frustrating…

    I used to not mind pics like the above in my younger years but now & for a while now, it has irked me, these totally idealistic pics that very few can get to.. even with the best of doing it all right. You have to have the right genes & the right beauty to get there.

    I would never be able to get there even with all I do & have done.. Yes, I got there at contest ready body wise at the abs but the boobs were cone & the looks are not there..

    Crap, I am writing a book – sorry!!! I guess with all my years at this & all the NOs I get & still get due to not being the right look or not pretty enough & not the right smile & lips & all that – I just get tired of it..

    BUT I do get what you are saying! I just got sidetracked – give this old broad a break! :)

    • I like this book Jody :-) I like what you’re saying too. It is a complicated set of issues. I just don’t like the idea of anyone calling “bullshit” on others without first seeking to understand them.

  3. I’ll have to reflect more on this. I know for me, I’ve pushed hard in every area of my life. In some areas I did better than others as my talent dictated. I know in my field, there are plenty of hard working women who don’t have the looks, but they are successful. Really, I do not believe it’s all about looks with women, unless you are a woman trying to make it in an area where it’s a given it’s all about looks. There are plenty of places where I do not have the physicality to be successful. If I kept trying to, I would have wasted the talents I do have.

    • Well stated Dr. J. Though I don’t think looks should e anybody’s first priority, even if looks are their livelihood, I will never vilify anyone attempting to improve their looks. At the end of the day, the desire to look good is hardwired into our DNA — whether we’re willing to admit that or not…

  4. As a woman, what I strive for, what I am proud of, and what I try to instill in my daughters is BALANCE.

    As in finding balance in your life.

    I wouldn’t feel balanced if I had so much of the “normal feminine curves” that I qualified for morbid obesity. I won’t even let myself get out of the healthy BMI. But I wouldn’t feel balanced either if I had 12 % body fat and amazing abs, but no social life (just an example).

    And I wouldn’t feel balanced if all I think of were looks (mine and other people’s). God knows I have other things to keep me busy in life!

    The cruel truth is, the world responds to you differently when you have good looks. It’s been shown that good looking children are treated better in school, and that good looking people have an easier time in the workplace.

    I always say it’s health that counts, not appearance, but in all honesty I am proud of the way I look, I can’t lie. It has made my life more interesting in many ways. With men in particular. This is NOT bragging, just an observation. It would be hypocrisy not to mention the power of looks.

    BUT the pressure to always look top notch is tiring, overwhelming, frustrating. I try not to focus on my looks (other aspects of me count just as much), and when I do think of my looks, I focus on what I have (e.g. lean, strong legs) and not on what I don’t have (e.g. thick, long, wavy hair). :-)

    It’s a very complex topic to say the least!

    • Agree on balance and agree on “cruel truth” Julie, thank you.

      Of course all this comes down to expectations. I don’t expect to look at 70 as I look today, but I hope to look good. Saying anything else would be a lie.

      If I had a 40″ waist and a limp I would probably not be as in demand as a trainer. Cruel truth: If I had Arnold’s body, but three eyes a face covered with scars I would probably not have any clients at all. The lottery of birth, yes…?

      Indeed, very complex issues…

  5. Well said. I shared that blog post (and I thought about it for a while before I did because it’s not my tendency to share stuff like that) and while I don’t regret sharing it, I also very much agree re the “choosing of the sides” (which is an epidemic far worse than “obesity”). And don’t get me started on the “real women” thing…we’re all real women. Every last one of us.

    And…um, I guess I’d have to say, in regards to this – “nothing matters more than being a good mom, a good wife, and a good person in the community” – that, depending on the woman, there are things that matter a lot more…or at least equally as much. ;-)

    • Many thanks Karen, and much appreciated. Always well thought. It’s the choosing sides thing that kills me the most. Why do we always have to be right…?

      Speaking only for myself, I don’t want to be right, I only wish to be heard. And for that, I am willing to listen.

  6. First,you are one of the mindful people, Roy. Second,I have come to believe in myself and I know what I want and how to get it. It’s taken me a while to know this, like years. I’ve always been active, for years waking up at 5 a.m. to walk, taking fitness classes, going across the street to the local college & running laps on the track…what ever I felt like doing to stay active. I was never skinny, I will never be skinny but I’ll be healthy, I hope. I never liked being told what I should look like or be like…but that doesn’t mean I didn’t feel bad because I couldn’t look like a Barbie doll. At some point, I accepted that I wouldn’t and just realized it was better to be a good and loving person and try to take care of myself and…to love myself no matter what I looked like. That is really hard. It shouldn’t be, but it is. There’s always going to be someone trying to make us accept an unacceptable standard for what ever reason. It’s up to us to look within ourselves and see what it is we really need or want. It’s too bad that message gets corrupted. I’m glad you are doing what you can to help people look inside themselves.

  7. I had to re-read this a couple times and read the original post…..couldn’t get through all of it….and here is my reason why……

    However there aren’t just two sides to every story or every idea as this blog suggests. Like coastlines, ideas can be endlessly distilled with fractal geometry….

    there are millions of sides because each of us is unique with our own motivations and experiences…I, like you, don’t want to be right….I just want to be heard and NOT judged for my appearances or my thoughts….I do the best I can….sometimes I wonder if part of my *struggles* have been because I have not cared as much how people look but more how they behave, their character, and if for me, having pride in who I am no matter what my size is…..

    I just want to be a woman who lives a life of caring…….

  8. When how I looked became more important them my health and relationships and many other things, I knew I had a problem on my hands. When I was looking for outside affirmation of acceptance and willing to do nearly anything for it I was in a lose-lose situation. Learning who I am, being happy about it and living out my purpose on the earth has changed everything. Now I am happy to take care of my body and treat it well because it ‘houses’ me. I am not my body and knowing this has changed everything.
    As always, thank you for your insight.

    • There no way to underscore just how much I mean this Donloree; many days I long to be in a wheelchair so that this (what I look like) becomes a non-issue for me. I say that partially in jest, but on the heels of Jon’s bike accident, I guess it’s not too funny.

      Sadly, because I do fitness for a living, I am expected to look certain way…

  9. it’s just so liberating to see that most people still believe that how they feel about themselves is what matters most, than to listen to what others have to say. if the other’s opinion is that you are skinny, but in yourself you are feeling great and healthy and doesn’t even get sick, let them be. its your body and not theirs.

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