As a business owner, I utilize many of the top social networking sites to promote Dane Life Fitness. Sites like Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr utilize a visual format to entice viewers to stop and read, and then perhaps “buy” whatever it is we’re selling. Lately I have been dismayed as I see a huge surge in posts displaying women whose abs are so muscle bound that they sport more than the proverbial 6-pack – they have an 8-pack and oblique striations (see photo below).
These are not muscle-bound she-men training for a body building competition, these are young (20-30’s) athletic women who have achieved the type of abs usually viewed only on super low-fat and fit men. Clearly it’s great that women have figured out how to finally lower their body fat levels to such a state that their flat tummies rival men – OR IS IT?
While I applaud these women who work hard and make their daily focus be exercise and extreme nutrition, I’ve stated time and time again that women NEED body fat if we are to be healthy. Obviously we need our body fat levels to stay in a certain “lean” range for our health’s sake (17-28% depending on age and build), but the female form is not supposed to be as low-fat as the male body naturally is. Not to mention that the aforementioned extreme nutrition makes life sometimes feel stressfull — after all, we’re supposed to be able to enjoy good food, wine and chololate (in moderation) aren’t we?! (Oprah says yes!)
Why this is a detrimental trend in my view is because women with body fat levels lower than 17% can and do see a weakening in their immune systems, poor circulation (personal thermostat levels), menstrual and reproduction systems compromised, and thyroid confusion (thyroid malfunction is not surprisingly on the rise). It is especially hard on the body when these low-fat levels are forced vs. natural. What I mean by that is some girls/women are born naturally thin with super fast metabolisms. I was one of those – I was 5′ 7″ by age 15, but I still couldn’t break 100 lbs until I was about 22 (with 15% body fat). But I didn’t starve myself ever, I had (and still do) have a great immune system, and clearly my body could handle it. Forcing your body to have super low body fat levels when it’s not natural creates a great strain internally, especially on your organs.
Now that I am in my 50’s, and while still lean and healthy (19% body fat), no longer sport my own concave lower abs, I realize more than ever how detrimental it is to women to be always told we need to have flat abs. We’re supposed to be slightly round between our ribs and hips – we’re supposed to be curvy and…well…feminine. These uber-lean models are changing what our young girls think about how their bodies should look.
The worst part of this is that 85% of men when polled about their preferences fessed up to actually not finding super skinny or overly-toned women as attractive as someone with a little “softness” to their build. Men want us to be women – not walking muscles. So one must ask, why are we so obsessed with a washboard stomach?
With all this as food for thought, once again I plead with all my female followers and friends to maintain healthy levels of body fat, but more importantly to love your bodies and your stomach in particular. Join me in re-labeling what is attractive and sexy in our own perceptions and embrace being well-rounded individuals – including our abs!