Here’s another expression to add to the banned list: “get in shape.” Let’s just throw it out, along with “cankles,” “fat days,” “bikini body,” and all those other insidious phrases that really only serve to highlight all the ways in which we find ourselves inadequate.
I will readily admit that lately the idea of getting into shape has been sneaking into my thoughts a bit too often. I woke up recently from the yoga I’d done the day before. My first thought: ugh, I’m so out of shape. My running has been a bit inconsistent lately, and I find myself wondering if I need to get into better shape. Every now and then, I’ll catch myself thinking this way and feel the urge to grab myself by the shoulders and give a good shake. “Wake up!” I want to yell to myself. “Get in shape? What does that even mean?!”
Obviously I know what the meaning of the word “shape” is, and I also understand what’s meant when people use the term “get into shape.” However, the phrase’s implications extend beyond its literal meaning: when I tell myself I need to get into shape, what I’m really saying is that the body I have is wrong, and I need to change it physically in order to make it right. After all, what “shape” are we talking about if not the shape of the ideal “healthy” body?
Although I’ve said it a million times, it always bears repeating that health and fitness do not come in one size. They don’t come in one shape, either, and when we use expressions that even benignly suggest that they do, we do ourselves a big disservice. I may be sore from yoga, but what that means is that I should probably start practicing more consistently again; the quality of my runs may be uneven, but that could be the result of a number of things, like the intense heat and humidity we’ve been experiencing lately. Neither of these things has anything to do with my body, and there’s no guarantee that they would be any less a problem if I were to trim my problem areas, flatten my tummy, and firm up my glutes in order to fit into the “shape” that we tend to associate with being fit and healthy.
And so: a ban on getting in shape. We can replace it with descriptions of what we actually need, and do away with this idea that being thin and perfect will solve our problems once and for all. Maybe we can even come up with some new, more positive phrases. Any suggestions?
[Republished from my personal blog.]