I am sure that by now most of you have seen it or read it. It may have been on the back of a T-shirt, on Pinterest, or in the newest fitness magazine. Regardless, it is everywhere: "Strong Is the New Skinny." We plaster it on anything we can. We repeat it in our heads before workouts, before meals, before bed. It is the newest female mantra.
And I hate it.
In my mind it replaces its older stepsister, its predecessor, the famous Weight Watchers mantra, "Nothing Tastes as Good as Thin Feels." My former dorm room was covered in Post-its, all repeating this pledge in different colors and handwriting. It was on the refrigerator, my computer, my closet. The first thing I saw each morning, the last thing each night. I ran it through my head over and over again, trying to convince myself of its truth.
But it isn't true. And honestly, I can't help but think that anyone subscribing to this belief is eating the wrong food, or at least savoring it in the wrong company. A great meal with great people warms me and heals me in a way that a glimpse of a skinny figure in the mirror never will. I leave meals like that refreshed, rejuvenated, recharged. They fill me up. Skinny glimpses in the mirror have a moment of excitement, even pride, but they tend to leave me, well, hungry, in more ways than one. Yet ironically, when feeling insecure or out of control, I rarely think to myself, "Wow, I need a good meal with friends." I instead default to, "Wow, I need to feel skinny again." Interesting, isn't it? Yet still, the mantra is wrong, it's message is wrong, and its truth is flawed or lacking.
I have developed the same feeling about "Strong Is the New Skinny." At first I was excited -- empowerment toward health body image for women, right? Wrong! This newer version is no better. In fact, it's just plain wrong. Let me tell you why.
- Strong has been around as long as skinny. The message implies one just showed up, and it didn't. It discounts all of the women who have already spent years working for strength. The women who have been going to the gym instead of just the salad bar. The women working in fields instead of lying on fainting couches. What about them? They aren't new. Women have been strong forever.
- Strong is multi-dimensional; skinny is flat (no pun intended). Strong can mean so many things: physical strength, courage, emotional strength, intellectual strength... I could go on, but I won't. Skinny is simply that. Thin, not fat. Don't get me wrong, skinny can sometimes imply impressive control, but rarely a healthy control to strive for, more the kind of control I have mentioned previously, the kind of control that is actually, in fact, a complete lack of control. Either way, it is one dimensional. It covers one plane. It has nothing on strength.
- Strong is work. No one is born strong. Sure, some babies are stronger than others, but that doesn't mean the stronger infant will without a doubt out-lift his scrawny cradle neighbor one day. Strength involves time, commitment, dedication. Skinny can be natural. I know it isn't to everyone, but it can be. Skinny can exist free from work. Strong isn't actually strong unless work is involved.
- The popular view of skinny will never change. Skinny won't go out of style when skinny jeans become flared again. Not only that, but in some ways, trying to make strength appealing like skinny has been in the past takes away from strength's power. One of the greatest benefits of being a strong woman is the fact that the validation and praise come from within, from how you feel about your body as your tool, about its growth, and its progression. A desire to please society by changing their minds is a contradiction. Strong is independent, self-validating.
- Strong and skinny are NOT mutually exclusive. To say strong is the new skinny implies that strong has replaced skinny, implying that strong cannot be skinny, skinny cannot be strong. Wrong! And if you don't believe me, spend 20 minutes on YouTube watching ballet videos, the real professional ballet kind. Or check out your nearest gym, yoga studio, CrossFit box -- they are all full of a good serving of strong, skinny women. Lean powerful muscles. One does not discount the other!
So here's my thing. I spent years trying to believe that nothing tasted as good as thin feels, but so many things taste so good, and feeling thin is so fleeting, so temporary and ultimately reward-less. Strong feels so good, though. I strive for strong, and I think you should too. I'm all for a new female mantra. I even fully support throwing out the beliefs that thin feels better than buttercream frosting or that happiness comes from abstention. I fully support strength and working for it. And hell, if you're going to replace skinny with something, I guess strong isn't the worst choice. But I think a better mantra can be created.
These are the replacements I have chosen to use.
Nothing tastes as good as healthy feels.
Healthy just feels so good. If that didn't just click for you, wait until a time you lose it for a bit. When health finally creeps back, you may be overwhelmed by its goodness. It will make sense to you then.
Healthy feels good.
Speaking of feeling good, strong feels good.
Strong feels healthy.
Strong is Strong.
And to me now, that is enough.
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