11/04/2015 03:16 pm ET Updated Nov 04, 2016

Why Strong Is the New Skinny and Why That's a Good Thing


There have been quite a few articles denouncing the recent "strong" women campaigns. According to these authors (here and here), strong is just code for skinny, and we've been duped into believing that strong might actually be a good thing. In the past decade, we've swung from one side of the pendulum (too skinny is in) to the other (anything goes). And any discussion to find a happy medium, such as strong, or even fit, is dismissed as playing into the hands of marketing execs and those mean "skinny girls."

Great progress has been made in portraying what real women look like -- even from where we were a few years ago. Today, Instagram is filled with women who harken back to Marilyn Monroe's wholesome figure in various yoga poses (which we love). These women are portraits of strong women, comfortable in their own skin, celebrating womanhood. And we should celebrate right alongside them.

But we should not dismiss, or worse abdicate responsibility for, our own health and wellbeing. You and you alone are responsible for your health. The editors of Cosmo are not, nor are the editors or authors on this site. Society, government, nor your friends and family can control your actions. Ultimately, the responsibility comes down to you -- getting yourself to a doctor, following a healthy lifestyle, and doing the hard work of being strong.

Every body was not made equal. Not all of us were endowed by our Creator with the gifts (both physical and mental) on our wish lists. We all have things about our bodies we want to change. But being strong doesn't necessarily equate to being skinny. In most cases, being strong means weighing more, but feeling better. The bottom line is, weight aside and skinny aside, you won't be happy unless you are holistically strong: Strong in body, mind, and spirit.

Strong in Body: This can mean different things to different people. If you are a personal trainer, strong in body is going to mean something different than to someone who just wants to keep up their kids or run a local 5K. But the goal is the same -- functional fitness, i.e., the ability to train your body to do what you need it to do when you need it to do it. You don't need to be skinny or to bulk up to achieve this state, but you do need to work at it and ensure you don't neglect your muscles by sitting all day, watching TV on the couch all night, and in general, being lazy. So, get up and walk to work, join a gym, take a Zumba class, or go to yoga with some friends. Every little bit helps.

Strong in Mind: You can either be the victim in your own life's play or you can take the leading part. Which do you want to be? It takes strength to walk out on stage front and center everyday, but everyone possesses the ability to take that first step. It's a choice you must consciously make and you have to have strength of mind to achieve it. This means working out your mind as you would your body (think puzzles, such as Sudoku, reading the dictionary, or maybe even a good old-fashioned game of Scrabble). Instill in yourself the drive and temperament to access each situation to keep moving forward, even when everything around you is falling apart.

Strong in Spirit: This is how you approach life. Do you live in the dark or do you seek the revitalizing power of the light? Is your soul nourished or are you deficient in being able to express gratitude and hope? Remember the old adage -- you can't take care of others until you first put on your own oxygen mask. So take the time to get to know you, your needs, your desires, your boundaries, the qualities that make up your unique soul. Then pray, meditate, chant -- do whatever calls out to you -- and be grateful for being you. Strong in Spirit the hardest of the three to learn, but as Oscar Wilde said, "everyone else is taken."

As you build strength, the more you'll be able to do. The more you do, the more you can enjoy what life has to offer -- whether that's playing with your children or hiking the Inca trail or completing a New York Times crossword puzzle (in ink). Being strong is a gift you give to yourself.

You and you alone are responsible for your health and overall wellbeing. It is you who chooses to exercise, to not smoke, to drink in moderation, to eat healthy, to pray or meditate, to use your mind, to reflect and make adjustments, and to be the best, strongest expression of yourself... Or not. What choice will you make?