Gym selfies confuse me.
A gym is an environment of opportunity, where you can triumph over immense physical challenge. Yet a passionate workout leaves me sweating, out of breath and probably with a wedgie. Attractive right? So sharing a photo of myself with the world in this state is not something I’d be overly keen to do.
Furthermore, a photo of my abs reduces my body to an object. It doesn’t tell of the ability behind core strength, the journey, the pain, the achievement. A body becomes an inanimate thing, not a wonderful human being.
Bodies should be celebrated, not for how they look but because simply, they are bodies. Highly intelligent entities that give us freedom, expression, determination, resilience. They should be cherished, respected and nourished.
The health benefits of exercise are well-documented. But as relaxation is a by-product of mindfulness and not the primary benefit, to me a fit physique is the by-product of exercise. The primary benefit of exercise is how I feel when I’m alone with my authentic self (not how I feel counting ‘likes’ my picture has received on social media).
Being ‘healthy’ can be demonstrated in a whole host of shapes and sizes, and yet we seem to believe it’s only achieved by a slender able-bodied fitness model holding a kale juice. Of course, if you’re naturally this way, then wonderful. But if you’re not, it does not make you any less valuable.
Bodies are more than a defined stomach. Bodies are more than a perk bottom. Bodies are their ability to do incredible things… however ‘incredible’ is defined by its owner.
Food and I used to have a difficult relationship. As long as my body was the ‘right’ weight, I was unconcerned by how it felt or what it could do. But when I started dancing, a lack of energy and strength just wasn’t allowed. I had to respect my body in order to become what I wanted the most.
By learning to dance, I learned to love my body… Despite all its weaknesses and imperfections, it is mine. Through years of dedication, it can do some wonderful things. Sure, it’s nice to look fairly healthy, but this is not what drives me. If it was, I would never feel ‘good enough’; exercise would become a chore, a task to reach an unattainable goal… And whatever I did, there would always a filtered Instagram photo waiting to rob me of all my self-esteem.
Thank goodness for Sport England’s recent This Girl Can campaign. It is a metaphorical middle finger up to any advertising campaign that manipulates women’s insecurities (Victoria’s Secret, here’s looking at you kid), and emphasises the message that if you want to do something, just do it. Hey, Nike had it right all along.
Whatever Instagram tells you… the perfect body does not exist. It’s what your body can do, not what it looks like.