Health + Fitness

Body shaming goes both ways…

By: Editor-in-chief Lenush Lebedeva

There is only one ideal. The one YOU create. The one you want. 
As a child I have always been drawn to sports and have led a highly active lifestyle. In fact, I was one of those kids who didn’t come across a sport I didn’t want to try out at least once. Well, let me tell you. Nothing has changed for me as an adult. I personally love being active whether it’s just sweating it out at the gym with some basic exercise or if it is playing tennis with friends and family, swimming, a Muay Thai lesson while in Thailand, aerobic classes, or any other form of activity I find interesting. Although my active hobbies are helpful in keeping up with certain health trends, I am also a big fan of procrastinating for days on end in front of my laptop. Let’s be honest who doesn’t enjoy those lazy days at the end of which one looks back at it and realizes they uselessly and aimlessly sat around on the couch too lazy to even reply to an email which was somewhat urgent. This is most likely a sentiment people are acquainted with all too well given the global pandemic and numerous lock downs we have lived through. I am a strong advocate for an active and clean lifestyle, I keep my sessions religiously and cheat on my diet on special occasions only.

This gives me a sense of confidence and accomplishment. I am no martyr lunatic I also like looking back at my reflection after all that dedication and see defined abs and sculptured legs, and whoever says they don’t care about that while spending hours at the gym is fooling you, RUN! Again, as so many other topics, this is a repeated title, but… having done my research on the topic I feel we are now shamed into worrying only about our health but not our appearance. There is a lot out there on body positivity and how the fashion and beauty industry and Instagram, are affecting the mental state of individuals by promoting unattainable standards for beauty. What about the mental of state of people who are aiming for that “unattainable look”, which BTW can be yours if you want it enough but what if they are uncomfortable or even scared of being honest about it with their personal trainers, nutritionists or others assisting in achieving set goals? Just out of the fear of being labelled shallow most people are unable to properly articulate what it is they are after so that the professionals helping them can set a clear goal. On countless occasions I have heard the ladies on the voluptuous side tell their trainer “I just wanna tone up” when in reality she wants to lose 15 kilos. By not realizing the actual set goal the trainer will create a program muscle building which surely will burn some fat but by no means reduce that amount of weight. This will lead to the client toning up and generally looking better however not actually reaching the goal she was after, which will likely lead her to give up on the training and the goal for another half a year. Nowadays everybody is so bullied into accepting their body as it is that people are frankly afraid to admit even to themselves that they are unhappy with their body image. What does it even mean ‘as it is’? Our bodies are what we make them, they are reflections of our lifestyles, food choices and activity level.

I see this “shaming” spiralling into a whole other mental health issue already. When a young woman just under thirty is clearly always shying away from her food choices yet not admitting that she is watching what she eats- that is an eating disorder waiting to happen, in fact it will most likely progress towards other mental disorders. Now, I am not a psychiatrist. This is purely my opinion based on observations and personal experiences, but I am sure I am not the only one out there who would strongly appreciate not being shamed into shying away from a strict diet. The sad truth that I have observed many times over is the unrealistic expectations many have from their two or three sessions a week. Will this improve one’s overall health? Of course. Will it increase one’s endurance? If it is a properly structured program, most definitely. Will it improve body image and the general look? If only by exercise- very slightly. Of course, exercise is an important part of body sculpting, but have you ever heard the phrase “abs are made in the kitchen”, whoever is the original genius behind this phrase is absolutely right. No matter how fast and long you run, regardless of how many five-star trainers you hire and how relentlessly you attend your Zumba class, unfortunately “you cannot outrun a bad diet”. And here is the brilliant twist where most of us screw up. The “bad diet” statement is less about the quality and more about the quantity. You can eat junk food worth 1500 calories and lose weight and the same way you can eat 3000 calories worth of fruits, vegetables, nut butters, whole grains and still pile on those kilos. Obviously, any nutritionist will tell you that in order to keep under the given calorie limit for your body composition you must eat the type of food that will keep you full for longer, and fortunately it isn’t junk food. It is the age-old song that we have all been hearing, and it is true. But the notion that we should not be concerned with our size or reflection in the mirror or better yet appearance in a photo, and the most important is health, is not only fake it is also unfair. Yes, our health is the most important. But we hear daily complaints and now even restrictions on filters and photo edits (that is a whole separate topic) because they are setting unrealistic ideals, but on the other end of the stick we constantly come across vilifying diet and exercise which are natural methods of self-care and improving appearance. Influencers claiming that being concerned with body image i.e. taking care of their food choices and regularly exercising made them unhappy, shaming other women and men who follow strict diet plans and exercise by calling it starvation and killing themselves in the gym. I respect that some women and men are absolutely comfortable and even confident with some excess weight. Some of the plus size models, are gorgeous and clearly know how to carry themselves, I am not even against these Instagram pages either, there is a market for everything nowadays. But if the objective is body positivity, should it not go both ways? The shaming must stop.