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This Trendy “Strong is the New Skinny” Thing (and what it could mean for the next generation of girls) | Sophieologie

I Agree 100%

Dear Society: Please assist me in convincing young girls that “strong is the new skinny”.

This Trendy Strong is the New Skinny Thing and what it could mean for the next generation of girls Sophieologie


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BUT THEN I FOUND A MOTHERFUCKING UNICORN.Because one of the jobs I applied for online asked for a creative writing  sample (which I do #likeaboss) on the topic of health & fitness. What a wonderful, wonderful coincidence (or fate? who knows).

I got hired to write for Cody, a small startup that was developing a health & fitness iPhone app. My role was to create content for their blog. Specifically- write workouts and health tips that would eventually be offered within the app for users to browse (BTW, everybody should go download Cody, I like to think I made him really funny :) )

And so, the heavy door into the world of fitness had been heaved open to me.

Becoming familiar with exercises, workouts, and fitness-lingo was a requirement of my new job. And, as one would expect; it is pretty much impossible to write instructions on how to do an exercise unless you can actually do the exercise yourself. So I found myself frequenting the gym more and more often out of necessity.

I’m sure I made a complete ass of myself the first few times I went, but eventually, with a lot of practice and a few (ok, a lot) embarrassing moments, I figured out the basics of the weight room and then (this is the miraculous part) began to really look forward to working out. This is coming from the girl that has always been notoriously un-athletic. Like, worst dancer on the dance team, slowest person on the Cross Country team (I joined because it was a no-cut sport, and I needed a P.E. credit), always picked last in P.E., ran a 11-minute mile bad. 

Like, allergic to exercise bad.

This Trendy "Strong is the New Skinny" Thing (and what it could mean for the next generation of girls) | Sophieologie

Now I wonder how my life would have been different if people had encouraged girls (me) to be strong instead of skinny.I think back to high school, when I put myself on a 1200 daily calorie limit, even though I was running 3-5 miles daily.  I attended a reputably rigorous high school with a 5 AP course load, woke up at 6:30 am, went to school, did extracurriculars, worked part-time, and often went to bed at 2-3am. I was counting calories, denying myself food, guilt-ing myself when I did eat, and even though I was never more that 120 lbs., I never stopped pinching my “fat” every time I looked in a mirror. I was hungry, angry, tired, and depressed all the time. And I was a teenager. Let’s not forget that part.  Teenagers are hellions.

But when I look back at my experiences, decisions, and accomplishments, I still wonder how different would my life have been if I had been encouraged to be strong instead of skinny. Would my grades have been better if I hadn’t been literally starving myself since the age of 13? Could I have gotten into Harvard instead of McGill? Would I have been a better runner if I had been encouraged to fucking eat instead of diet. Would I have had better relationships with my parents, sister, and friends?

Let me repeat: Strong > Skinny

It’s sad that only I came to this realization with clarity after seeing both extreme sides of the coin. I still can’t do a lot of basic things (chest to ground push ups still evade me), but the progress I have made so far has made me fully realize what I was missing when I was younger. It’s funny how the skinnier I desired to be, the weaker I got, and when I finally realized I had to gain weight, the stronger I got.

Actually, that’s not funny at all. It makes a lot of sense.

Since I started writing for Cody, and out of professional necessity, started working out,everything has changed.  Now when I look in the mirror (this is embarrassing  by the way, I can’t believe I’m admitting this online) I flex instead of sucking in. Now when I pinch my stomach, it’s to feel my abs, not to feel shitty about how much “flab” (real or imaginary) is sitting there. I no longer stare at the “calories burned” display on the elliptical, but how many plates I have on each end of the barbell. I can open my own pasta sauce jars now. I am moving soon and do not need the help of any hulking strong lad to transport my furniture. My goal has changed from “be a size zero” to do a motherfucking pull up.  I have gained far more self-esteem from being able to pick up heavy shit that I ever have from being able to zip up a skin-tight designer dress.  I became a more capable, energetic, independent, and mentally focused person once my focus shifted from what my body  looks like to what my body can do

But it’s just tragic - no sarcasm here- really really tragic how a large majority of young girls in America spend their time obsessing over their weight, devoting time, energy, emotions, and effort into being skinny.

It’s tragic because you have to the think of all of the potential that is lost when a whole generation of girls care more about fitting into minuscule pants instead of… oh I don’t know… running for student council, pursing a passion, studying, volunteering, playing sports, working, furthering woman’s rights… the list could go on and on. My main point is, girls waste so much time on being skinny – because we are taught that is is important if we want to be successful- when we could be devoting their efforts to becoming so much more powerful than simply skinny.

What’s even worse is the following scientific truth I’m about to acknowledge, that NOBODY BOTHERED TO TELL ME when I was an insecure teenage girl, that really would have helped me out: Muscle is approximately twice as dense at fat. 

Or, for all of you visual people:

Left: Me at 104 lbs. Right: Me at 126 lbs. Notice a difference?.... yeah, that's what I thought.Left: Me at 104 lbs.Right: Me at 126 lbs.Notice a difference?…. yeah, that’s what I thought.


Anyway, I think it’s time I brought this blog post to a conclusion and made my point:

Dear Society: Please assist me in convincing young girls that “strong is the new skinny”.

Done! Why it's an exception that "strong is the new skinny" is beyond me.

This is an amazing post. Thanks, guys. I wrote this a while ago:  The looks I used to get was really, really hard to be accepted. Martial arts was easier, but there were definitely gender barriers in some of the more traditional arts I studied.  

This is what I just did with my class:

The title, "Are You Owned By Madison Fifth Avenue," was an entire discussion, but what the students generated was amazing. I'm backtracking to get them to convert them to Google Docs or link them into this blog post, controversial though they might be, because they researched slices of American advertisement that we see every day. The body images celebrated are airbrushed and often unhealthy. We got a lot of mileage out of this topic, and we're not done yet... if you're interested, scroll down to the bottom and hit the link to the student project--I was a bit hesitant to link it into a blog I use for a high school classroom, due to the graphic nature, but did so because, heck, this is all prime time advertising. They just tied together the theme.   [Ed reform pitch--these are the ed moments that matter:) ]

Dawn, those links are awesome. You're right, this should be fundamental to education.

I just love the point that it's what your body can do, not what it looks like.

Thanks. It's an important issue. It really affects so much more than that--gender imbalances in careers, the expectations people have for men and women still. I grew up in the first generation of people taught that men/women could both be anything but my experiences didn't support those lessons. I was surprised, honestly. It's important to start w media message, but that's the most difficult thing to tackle. 

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