Needless to say, Marsha Tieken Christensen and I are overwhelmed and thrilled at the success of “Strong is the New Skinny.” SO many people have gotten behind the movement and support it. The Facebook group has over 5,600 members at the time of this writing and the original “Strong is the New Skinny” blog post has been shared over 2,400 times. And the community is ACTIVE! Lot’s of sharing and encouragement going on every single day!
But THIS has surprised us…
Something has been coming up more and more – and there is a hefty component of pissing and moaning to it. I guess that’s the internet for you and the nature of the Free Speech we are so blessed to have. When I wrote the original post I was really talking about CHALLENGING STEREOTYPES more than anything else and celebrating the fact that we’re moving toward a world where it’s acceptable – and cool – for women to be strong.
There were some mixed reactions to my friend Jen’s post about “Strong is the New Skinny” on her blog. This got me thinking and I wanted to get some of my thoughts on the topic out there.
The SHORT story is:
If a woman is naturally skinny that doesn’t mean she’s anorexic or can’t wear one of Marsha’s shirts any more than any male with a bench press over 300lbs is a steroid-taking meathead.
Here’s Marsha being strong AND Skinny:
And here’s our friend Jen Bolduc being strong AND skinny
I have a personal connection to this movement on at least two levels
I guess, I’m going to need to write a male version of “Strong is the New Skinny.” Something like “Strong is the New Big” or some such. (I’ll probably have to write it right after this so it doesn’t get ripped off LOL). When I was younger I suffered from tremendous pressure to be bigger, stronger and more athletic. I remember force-feeding myself HUGE quantities of food for years and resorting to other some less than healthy practices. My friends and I also piled STUPID amounts of weight on the bar and used less-than-great form to move it around. It’s much less than the “be skinny” pressure for women – but there is HUGE pressure on young men to be strong, muscular, athletic and able to fight.
I remember being at the point I was carrying enough muscle that (and doing ZERO cardio out of fear I’d lose an ounce) I got out of breath going up stairs – and I actually thought that was COOL. I also remember my girlfriend telling me that I “couldn’t be on top anymore” when I was at my heaviest – 225lbs at 5’9″. It’s all funny now, but it was just as dumb as the girls who starve themselves to be more “attractive.” One girlfriend I had would “diet” on tea, cigarettes, popsicles and pickles – and NOTHING else for days at a time. She also told me how, when she was in High School, she and her friends used to have “contests” to see who could lose the most weight. At this point in my life, I would have either gotten her on a good Paleo diet or run for the door – but back then all I knew is I had a “hot” girlfriend with great abs… DUMB!
The other issue I have here is on the other side. I’ve also dated women who were neither strong nor skinny. My passion has always been for training and my attitude for training women has always been “Let’s get you strong and training and eating right and see where your body ‘ends up’.” My attitude about women and their bodies boils down to this: Get strong, get healthy, eat for health and be THE BEST DAMN YOU YOU CAN BE! That is sexy and THAT is “Strong is the New Skinny!”
On some level, I had my good friend Katie (Lively) in mind when I wrote the original “Strong is the New Skinny” post. She was just finishing High School and seriously wanted to get into modeling and acting. She’d apparently been told she needed to lose about 10 pounds and get more portfolio pics done. The fact that I was training her with CrossFit and Kettlebells obviously wasn’t making her any smaller. And, of course this was the same girl who RAN OVER the girls on the other High School Lacrosse teams after less than a year of working with me.
Here’s Lively being strong and not-skinny-enough to be a “model.” And, YES, that’s a 40kg Kettlebell…
And, here she is responding to my “encouragement” to get back to her round of Wall Balls 🙂
There’s another great story about a relationship I had here too. A girlfriend had asked me to give her a diet and a workout program – and BEGGED me to push her and help her stay on track – and then proceeded to skip workouts and – as it was admitted to me later – get up in the middle of the night to eat a pint of Ben and Jerry’s or an entire package of Oreos. While I WRACKED MY BRAIN to try and figure out why her diet wasn’t working! After the Oreo admission I was pretty sure I had the answer 😛 Now, what’s better is that her “official” story to her friends and family was: “Adam is a diet Nazi who won’t accept me for who I am and wants me to be a 90lb bimbo.”
What “Strong is the New Skinny” IS NOT
Continuing on with my Oreo story from above, can we all PLEASE agree that “Strong is the New Skinny” is IS NOT an excuse to NOT work hard, NOT eat right and NOT do your best to look THE WAY YOU WANT TO LOOK?
And, can we PLEASE agree that “Strong is the New Skinny” IS NOT another weapon to use against anyone who isn’t what WE think they should be?
I mean, really! It’s “Strong is the NEW Skinny” not “Strong is the New Skinny is a New Way to Hate on People with Something We Don’t Have and Want OR Something We Don’t Have and DON’T Want!”
And, can we PLEASE agree that getting strong, might, in some cases also make you more on the “skinny” side than you were when you started? “Strong AND Skinny is the New Skinny” just doesn’t have the same ring to it though 🙂
Can’t we all just get along? LOL
This affects men too…
Off topic or not, here are my thoughts on the male side of the body image thing:
Personally, I think the same movement and societal changes that led to “Strong is the New Skinny” have led to the demise of interest in the HUGE bodybuilder bodies that are drug produced. For a lot of young men there’s big pressure to be unrealistically huge and muscular and this leads a good number to steroid use. This DOES NOT mean I’m going to go around saying anyone with a body builder body is wrong or on drugs.
For men, I think there’s more acceptance of “less” muscular bodies that are strong and perform – look at UFC guys like GSP. I think this type of body has made it more “OK” for men to be muscular and athletic as opposed to huge, just like CrossFit has made it more “OK” for women to be muscular, strong and train hard.
George St. Pierre
The POINT is, there is plenty of room for interpretation on healthy, sexy and functional bodies – male and female – and WE as individuals have more control over that interpretation than ever before. Personally, it makes me VERY HAPPY that body images like those in this post are in the media and are showing up more and more.
What the hell is this guy rambling about?!?
OK, I’ve circled the airport long enough. I’m going to land the plane now…
TO ME, “Strong is the New Skinny” is about women deciding FOR THEMSELVES what they want to look like and who they want to be.
TO ME, “Strong is the New Skinny” is about women being STRONG and TRAINING HARD and TRAINING “LIKE A GUY.” 😛
TO ME, “Strong is the New Skinny” is about increasing EVERYONE’S awareness that WE – us as individuals – have a serious level of control over stereotypes and norms and what is accepted and what future generations see. We – each and every one of us – has the ability, tools and OBLIGATION to lead and inspire future generations and create a better world. I recently had a woman – a blogger no less – tell me this could never happen because “men” still control the media and it’s impossible to change the current stereotypes. Well… “Men” may still control the print media to some degree, but there’s this thing called the “internet” that has made it possible to spread all kinds of “crazy” ideas on these things called blogs and there’s this new thing called Facebook that has spread an idea or two here and there. I mean, even a fringe wacko like me can get his crazy ideas out. (A diet with no grains? This guy is insane! He’s not even a Registered Dietitian…) And, in case you’ve had your head stuck in the sand – or someplace else – the “male controlled” print media ain’t doing so hot right now. Just ask Seth Godin…
And finally, TO ME, “Strong is the New Skinny” means women can kick ass with barbells and Kettlebells and tires and sandbags and whatever CrossFit nastiness they can find. And it also means a woman can sit down with a pile of bacon and some red meat and know it’s healthy and feel OK about herself while she does it. Because NOBODY wants to be THIS guy…