Sometimes when I’m bored and tired and don’t have much energy to muster, let alone put toward doing something productive, I’ll just flip through pages on StumbleUpon. Occasionally, I find things that are interesting; sometimes I find things that I feel entirely indifferent toward; and at other times, I find things that I can’t help but stop and consider just because of how disconnected from them I am in my day-to-day life. Case in point, this page:
It’s been a long time since I’ve picked up an issue of Self, Fitness, Shape, or any magazine of their ilk. I used to be an avid reader. In fact, I used to tear out pages from them and keep them in a binder, vowing that I would do the exercises in the vain hope that I would end up like the model demonstrating the moves. Most of the time, trying to do this resulted in me feeling frustrated, sore, and extremely disappointed in myself. To top it all off, the articles and features always made me feel slightly inadequate, like I hadn’t cut enough calories, or I had overindulged, or there was something wrong with me because I wasn’t thin like the women in the pictures. So much of my life was wrapped up in my body, how it looked, how it felt, and what it was able to do. Reading women’s fitness magazines as often as I did only served to enforce the negative messages I was already sending myself, and affirmed my belief that I wasn’t working hard enough to really feel good about myself.
I would be lying if I said that since throwing out all the back issues of those magazines that I had lying around, my relationship with my body changed entirely, because it didn’t. That fact is well-documented here on this blog. Indeed, as I sit here writing this post I can’t stop thinking about my mid-section, and how unhappy I’ve become with it in the past couple weeks. But I can say in all honesty that my priorities when it comes to fitness have changed dramatically. I no longer exercise to fit a certain standard, and these days my reasons for wanting to change my body have much more to do with athletic performance than appearance. I do need to invest more time in core work, for example, but it’s not so that I can look like the woman in the yellow bikini above, it’s because last year during the Philadelphia marathon, that part of my body fatigued far earlier than it should have, and I want to avoid having that happen again.
I’m relieved to be mostly free of my near-compulsive need to act in a way that would be consistent with the lifestyle described in women’s fitness magazines. In spite of my current struggles, I have come a long way and I’m far from being the person I was for most of the last decade or two. My definition of health and fitness differs pretty drastically from the one these magazines share, and to me, that’s a victory. Now when I see a headline about flat abs, guilt-free treats, or losing X number of pounds quickly, I find myself hoping that other women can take a step back and see that there’s more to a healthy lifestyle than whatever’s on the cover of Self.