A few years ago, nice cars and ties became the fashion, as did the idea of the dynamic man and rebellious girl. Generation 2.0, political independence at the hands of citizens wanting more than ever to make a difference at the decision-making table… For the average modern man, having access to property became life’s substitute, one at the hands of increasingly-greedy corporate players.
Society of independence and management… an era of business meetings and professional ambitions. But, in the athletic and fitness world, the picture is a different one. Industries have understood that today, after having smoked and drank too much, we are taking our health into account and taking care of ourselves more than ever before.
Because our comfort of life has increased along with our social and political consciousness, we find ourselves inclined to pay more in order to eat better, dress better, but most of all (re)take our health into our own hands.
The “fitness” industry in all of this? Well, it has become a thriving sector that sells us “athletic” clothing, drinks filled with electrolytes and sexy gym equipment. This new trend is more than anything the perfect occasion to sell a new image- a phenomenon that is a reccuring pattern in history.
After asking Madame to prepare dinner while Mister brought home the bacon, we would find her a few years later detached from marriage, a new homosexual, and more than ever ready to reclaim her existence.
25 years later: the world of fashion and anorexia. Mannequins and dancers ready to do anything to catwalk or appear in the work of a famous screen writer. Models reduced to objects, to an image being sold- one of dreams, dreams, and more dreams. And you in all of this?
Desperate to achieve this fantasy, chubby girls become dangerously thin, and the respectable patriarch cedes his place to the “sexy rebel”. Image is a huge part of business, and we find it sold within perfume bottles, pairs of shoes, lipstick… and history repeats itself. Unfortunately, our cherished “fitness” industry is no exception.
Health is the new tool being manipulated by various companies to produce their industry’s millions of dollars: shakers, high-protein meals, “breathable” cotton and fashionable “high-performance” sneakers. And of course, we find once again women at the center of it all- now, the new queens of fitness.
Unfortunately, these “new” independent women who now proudly partake in sports, aspire to be like the beautiful athletes we see on magazine covers: as impressive in shape as in performance. There is something wrong though- we’ve forgotten a few things: Photoshop? Steroids? Sexism? Lies?
Yep, tools which many of us ignore or don’t take into account. Now, we don’t want “skinny” girls, we want “lean” women with washboard abs and prominent quads. The fitness industry is not all rainbows and ponies- it’s most of all money (and not just a little: in 2008, more than 10 billion dollars went to this industry in the US alone) and women at the mercy of industries in search of opulence.
Worse even, “fitness” has become an open door to eating disorders, and even targets gymaholics who are afraid of becoming fat, and who are ready to do just about anything to get visible abs.
No more croissants in the morning, “they’re too oily”.
A cult of bodybuilding, endurance and definition has been created… thin young men and frail looking girls, step aside: now, everyone wants to be strong and muscular.
The fitness industry seems to promise that “you too can look like a pro bodybuilder.” L-Carnitine, BCAA, a shaker and to bed… tomorrow, you will finally be big enough.
Dreams, that is what we are being sold- dreams that manifest themselves in yet another supplement, always more efficient at burning fat, developing 20 pounds of muscle, and transforming us overnight. Really, it is as simple as this…all the models that we see rely on the image they give off- nothing stops them from turning to extreme measures to acquire this image.
This trend is poisonous; not only does it conceal itself behind a screen of smoke, it is also the vector to constant belittling and self-hate. Indeed, it is not uncommon to find images of athletes online (most who are taking anabolic steroids) next to which a text in bold says something along the lines of: “if you aren’t sweating and suffering, you are not doing enough”.
Thanks for the advice, guess I am too fat and lazy to reach 6% body fat….
I personally believe in the Buddhist principle of Ahiṃsā, which is a principal of non-violence. I think, however, that it must apply to the self as well as to others- something that is not a part of today’s ideology. Everything has become about extremes it seems; moderation is no longer an option. For a person seeking to get healthy or improve their physique, it can be discouraging to hear that everything is “black or white”.
A daily walk is no longer enough- one must also workout at the gym, stretch, and go running… Eat “clean” and sleep “well”… Mental and physical health go together though, and through such extremes, the former finds itself neglected…
How can we feel good when we are constantly told that if we don’t eat enough protein, we will finish losers? That if we aren’t sore every day, that we won’t progress?
So, how can we deal with this situation?
First of all, it is important to keep in mind that what we see does not reflect reality. Images are manipulated and manipulating- after all, there are potentially thousands that will take another daily supplement, or invest in new gym equipment.
It is also important to come to terms with the biological limits we have as humans: it is very difficult/impossible to be VERY lean, VERY muscular and VERY healthy (mentally and physically) at the same time.
In fact, hormonal health is often inversely proportional to body fat level (when one is not overweight of course).
Rather than aspiring to be like a specific bodybuilder, it is best to take a step back and understand that we have much room for improvement; room to become aware of the importance of nutrition, understand that we can indulge daily without any negative consequences, and realize that gaining muscle is cool but that there is no point in believing you will be like “him.” “He” is a model paid to make us dream, and is often much unhealthier than we may think.
This reminds me of a quote I heard: “being healthy? I don’t care about that- I do this for my image” – a professional female bodybuilder.
On the other hand, although it may not be possible for us to look like our favorite bodybuilder, with motivation and patience, it is possible to have excellent results.
Life is a dance, so learn to dance! Ignorance comes at an often heavy price.
To conclude, the new “health and fitness” trend is a model that has limits, and is something we must be objective when dealing with. Most importantly of all, we must understand and identify the intentions of the fitness industry- I can guarantee that the people behind it are definitely more interested by the size of your wallet than that of your biceps, and that they will go to any length to get to your money: sexism, lies and hypocrisy.
In other words, be cautious, and watch out for the wolf hiding in sheep’s clothing.
Grandma, you have such big arms… I spend a lot of time at the gym, my dear