ENOUGH ALL READY! Enough of the constant barrage of ads, articles, blogs, retouched photos, Dr. Oz peddling Green Tree Extract, workout videos promising 6 minute abs – all pushing women to feel bad about our bodies if they do not match up to the 20th century ideal that we all must have flat fat-free stomachs.
I’m not trying to be hypocritical — I offer workout routines focused on abs, I counsel clients on how to reduce their abdomen fat, and I’ve even written in this blog about performing the perfect crunch. BUT what I’m addressing today is that a washboard stomach is NOT necessary to have a healthy life, causes women to feel less good about themselves, and most importantly, is shifting focus away from serious health issues like diabetes in obese children, and heart disease from too much body fat, etc.
Why are we so obsessed with flat stomachs and when did this obsession set in? In the 70’s my beautiful mother used to lament that she wished zaftig bodies were still in vogue, as in eras gone by she would have been considered beautiful for her rounder figure. Victorian paintings, roman statues, even pin-ups of the 50s glorified the rounder, softer, more voluptuous female physique. But not anymore.
I tried to research it on the internet, when exactly did our ideal of body beauty change? Was it wafer-thin model Twiggy in the 60’s? Was it Madonna prancing around in a bra in the 80’s? The answer is not quite clear, but regardless, the pressure is on – we MUST banish muffin tops, have no dimpling, eat no carbs and stay in a constant crunch all day to be beautiful. And for what? So we can be more attractive to men and land that sensitive thoughtful considerate prince who ultimately cares more about our insides? (I’m sensing an oxymoron there.) Or so that we can wear clothes that only a tall thin 16-year-old girl looks good in.
Then there’s the rest of our figure. Breasts must be perky yet at least 36C (at which size it’s almost impossible to be perky unless implants) and hips curvy but not fat. Is it any wonder we women feel consistently inadequate, especially as we pass 40.
So what can we do about this? What can we change? The answer is: only our perspective – one woman at a time. First we must accept that very few of us can have what our “world” considers female body beauty. Second we must focus our beauty ideals inward – our true essence is what radiates beauty.
For me the ideal female body is one of confidence and grace. Good posture, welcoming eye contact, a warm smile, and a firm handshake or hug. There are those rare individuals who think they’re beautiful no matter how large or round they are. Because of their extreme confidence everyone around them sees their beauty as well. I wish more women had their perspective.
Keep in mind that I am still, and forever will be, an advocate of lower levels of body fat via healthy nutrition and exercise. But that is about keeping your body going strong for decades – living to 90 and beyond! It’s all about how the body functions, and lower body fat IS healthy. But you can have healthy insides and still not be a stick figure.
Even working in the fitness industry along side body builders with 9% body fat seeing their deliciously muscular bodies in the mirror beside me can be a hard pill to swallow sometimes, until I remember that maintaining too low a body fat level is seriously detrimental to your health, and once again, my perspective is all about being healthy, while still enjoying life (and chocolate…and wine…and days off from the gym). Heck, I’m 52 and stronger than I was at 20 with the same endurance I had at 30. What more could I ask for?
So ladies the next time you find yourself feeling inferior, inadequate, or unattractive because you aren’t a size 4 any you do not have 6-pack abs, just remember that it’s about your health. If you are not currently eating right and exercising – start! But do it for the goal of a long life, not society’s ideal of what makes a body beautiful.