Tone, Tan, fit and ready.
What is the true definition of fitness, and what is the perceived idea of fitness. These definitions, or ideas bleed into what ‘we’ believe we need to look like. Thin, toned, tanned, the true Barbie girl.
Where do these ideas of how we need to look come from? Unfortunately they are coming from a strong source that is very persuasive in our lives, the media. Be it music, TV, internet – which really is today’s source of the previous two. I think we can also include our peers. Even news is no longer immune to it. News has become over the years infotainment, sometimes the lead story being about the latest popular celebrity and how they are either overweight and look terrible, or they are thin and look fantastic! More and more messages about how important it is that we fit into this mold that largely has been created by companies and industries selling their wares to make money off of this fantasy and unrealistic ideal.
Let’s look at where this fits into our world of fitness. More and more I’m seeing the sexualization of fitness. Barely dressed fitness models, their abs lighted in a way to highlight that their body fat is probably around the 4% – 8% range, advertising the product to give you this body. The ripped abs that everyone wants! Of course you want those abs, that’s what we are told, right? You can notice it in the gyms too. People who won’t workout hard because it will cause them to sweat, and that just isn’t right, they don’t want anyone to see them sweat. How many ‘fitness’ classes do we see advertised again focusing on only looks instead of focusing on being healthy. Get that beach body in 6 weeks! Booty bootcamp! I’ll stop there because I really don’t think I need to list more.
It makes sense, really, from a marketing point of view. If this is what people want to buy, or are led to believe they want to buy, this is what we will sell them. Why is it PBS needs to have fundraisers to stay on air? Because the reality is there aren’t enough people interested in watching shows covering world events, science, technology, etc. to have companies advertise on this channel. They’d sooner spend their money advertising on reality tv shows, tabloid talk shows, and most of the other shows out there that spend their time dancing on the surface of quality, and meaningfulness. But, if the majority of people switch to watching PBS, would companies start spending their marketing dollars on advertising on PBS? Absolutely! It would mean an increase in their sales, and that’s all that really matters.
Let’s take another example, vegetarianism, or veganism. It was much more difficult years ago to live a life of plant based eating due to the low number of people who chose to live or eat this way. Today, it’s much easier as more mainstream businesses have seen the increase in the number of people who chose to live this way and because of this are now carrying vegan products. I’m a firm believer in the phrase ‘we vote with our wallet’. Change has happened, albeit slowly, because more and more people are voting with their wallets every time they make a purchase at the grocery store, or they don’t make a purchase at their grocery store because the store didn’t carry the product they wanted, and they made that purchase somewhere else.
Don’t be fooled, most companies don’t care about their customers, they care about their customers money. Don’t rely on companies to do the right thing, rely on them to do the thing that will increase their sales. So you have to get pass the BS and dig a little deeper, and understand the motivation behind these things. But, once you have done this, it sets in motion the change needed to either offer better shows on TV, or healthier, planet friendly products in our stores.
That was a lot
What does this mean with respect to fitness and health, and the media’s obsession on how we should look? I think it means that if less people subscribed to these models that the media have created, less people signed up for booty fitness or beach body extreme, the less we would see of these classes and the more we would see of classes focused on the health of the individual, and the fitness of that individual. You vote with your wallet.
The definition of fitness, or being fit changes all the time, and changes based on who is asked. I’m sure a body builder would define being fit as having a low percentage of body fat and being able to bench press more than their body weight. Over sized, cut muscles. A runner may define being fit as the ability to run a marathon in under 4 hours. My point is usually the answers are biased based on the activities of the person answering. We all want to think that our favourite activity is the one that best for our fitness, and best for your fitness! If I’m doing it, you should do it too.
As a society we have the belief that being thin is the result of being healthy and fit, and conversely, being larger is the indicator of being unhealthy, and unfit. This isn’t the case! A lot of people that fall into both the thin and larger categories are in great shape, just as I know people that are unfit that fall into both categories. How we look is not the sole indicator if we are healthy or fit. Let me say that again, how we look is not the sole indicator if we are healthy or fit.
Most everyone will think the thinner person is the healthy person. Dr. Jimmy Bell at University College, London, coined the term TOFI, T-O-F-I. Thin on the outside, fat on the inside. TOFI is used to describe lean individuals who have a disproportionate amount of fat stored within their abdomen. People who are TOFI’s will have a much higher risk of developing type II diabetes. That doesn’t sound too healthy does it. But they are thin, shouldn’t they be healthy by the media’s definition of what healthy is? Once again we cannot believe what we are being told and sold either directly or indirectly.
We need to educate ourselves to get a better understanding what it is to be fit. We need to spend the time to do this because the reality is it directly impacts us. What we eat, what we do every day has a direct impact to our health and wellbeing. We sometimes notice this right away such as consuming too much sugar and feeling the effects of the sugar rush and then the insulin dump that follows. Sometimes we may not notice the effects until years down the road manifesting itself in a stroke, cardiac arrest, or Osteoporosis as some examples.
That is what’s really concerning to me. Choices being made today that will have long term affects, and most people not realizing this. This is damage to our bodies and in some cases cannot be reversed! You don’t hear about this when you being advertised to, to get the best body you can have by losing that 10 lbs by drinking this wonderful shake.
What is fit
In my opinion, fitness is a combination of things. Having healthy indicators such as a low resting heart rate, healthy blood work, healthy cholesterol levels, a healthy body fat percentage, all things your doctor can evaluate for you. I’m going to include a caveat here that if your body fat is naturally low, not low from purposely working on getting it low, than you are more than likely fine. The same can be said for a higher than normal body fat percentage. Have this validated by your doctor to be sure you are not at risk of developing health issues. Just like your doctor can give you an idea on the health of your body with respect to blood work, etc., you can have a fitness evaluation done to get an idea of your personal level of fitness. This should give you an understanding of where your health and fitness is with regards to overall strength, endurance, and cardio-vascular health.
The more you know
We all want to look good, and that’s great. I believe though that we have to change our definition of what good means. Looking good should always be inclusive of feeling good.
It mostly comes down to you. The more you educate yourself with respect to health and fitness; nutrition, exercise the more power you have. You’ll be able to see what’s behind the curtain, who is driving the message behind the latest fad, diet, commercial, image. Think of fitness and health as a life style, not something you do for 6 weeks, or something you do solely to alter one body part, if you know what I mean.
It really is beneficial to you to do this, to sort through the BS, and make the right choices. It’s not easy. I’m not going to kid you. But the payoffs are huge, for you, for everyone.
The more people who do this, the more people who understand what a healthy body is, and that we can be healthy in a variety of body types, the more muted the message from companies that don’t have our best interest in mind will become. Companies will then eventually have to market to us, the ones who are informed and understand, and just like how the negative messages have influenced the masses, the positive messages will do the same.
Imagine…, it’s easy if you try.
Yours in health,