Many years ago women were culturally encouraged to "be skinny". The fitness trend of the time was cardio-heavy aerobics with minimal weight training, and the image of the ideal woman was tall and willowy.
Think fashion models like Twiggy, Iman and Cindy Crawford. Think TV stars like Farrah Fawcett and Brooke Shields. These women were not even remotely fit by today's standards. Even Lucy Lawless as the mighty Xena: Warrior Princess had little to no muscle definition. But they were considered the epitome of sexy.
This ideal of female beauty sparked a huge diet trend. For decades, all over America women and girls alike counted calories, and cut out fat and carbs. Beautiful meant thin--even if it led to crippling eating disorders like anorexia or bulimia.
Eventually we came to our senses and realized that the level of "thin-ness" being perpetrated by our cultural media was flat out unhealthy. Eating disorders were tackled with ferocity and women were encouraged to exercise healthfully and eat mindfully. Super skinny was no longer sexy and women were told that being strong was much sexier than being thin.
This seems like a good thing. But is it being executed truthfully? Are we just moving women from one body image extreme to another?
High Intensity Interval Training is a huge trend among women looking to become strong. It encourages the development of muscle and performance capacity. It promotes a truly healthy diet that should properly support this type of training. Nowhere in the HIIT's creed is "skinny" ever mentioned. As a matter of fact the opposite is entirely true.
But, sadly, once again it seems as if our cultural media is taking something healthy and turning it into an unsupportable ideal. Because of HIIT's popularity, fitness advertising is grabbing on and starting to promote a body image that is unsustainable for women. Most of the photos being used today are of women that are thoroughly, muscularly defined with six pack abs and less than 8% body fat.
These women being shown as the new ideal woman are fitness models who spend their entire lives becoming fit. This is their job. They don't sit at a desk and run kids around. They don't have to squeeze in a workout at 6 am to make it to the office by 8. They most likely don't ever have to worry about grabbing whatever they can for lunch as they run around their lives. The images you see are taken after a day of dehydration which shows off those hard earned muscles. That's not healthy at all. The images of these women aren't real representations of females at all. HIIT is supposed to support your life. It isn't supposed to make you feel as if "the goal" is impossible.
Furthermore, these women are being photographed as "sexy" instead of "healthy". They are being objectified as sex objects instead of powerful women who are powerfully fit. This is not a good representation of a healthy woman, or a healthy motivation for women looking to get strong. Sex sells. But what is it selling?
We must be very, very careful that our female athletes and our advertising stays true to the sport. It takes work and dedication and love to create a fit body. It isn't easy. And the result is much more than a "sexy" body taken in pieces with little to no clothing on. We are female athletes and female warriors. We earn the right to be tough and strong. Our dedication is what makes us sexy and our determination to keep going, to overcome, to become powerful is what makes us strong.
How about we take pictures of that?