It's that time again. That time that my Twitter and Facebook feeds fill up with weight loss tips and fitspiration quotes. They also fill up with people denouncing "fitspiration" and the "bikini bod" as yet another patriarchal construct that needs to be burned with fire.
I find both equally grating.
Fitspiration is easy enough to crack, because let's face it, there is only so many times you can read: "Diet soda makes you fat" and "I ran half a marathon today," before you wanna pull your hair out. I added a fitspiration blog to my blogroll for about a week, thinking that it had some interesting recipes that I wanna try out, only to have my dash bombarded by pictures of ultra-skinny women in gym shorts.
Let me get this out of the way: If you have a fitspiration blog, or are a fitspiration person, and you find yourself empowered through those blogs, power to you! I myself train pretty hard and I come out of it feeling quite accomplished with myself.
Reading about all the things that I am doing wrong, however, and how much better everyone else is than me, sucks.
So I don't.
You'd think with this frame of mind that a feminist denouncing of the summer countdown fitness fever would be right up my alley, but it really isn't, for three reasons.
One, the fact that you never know why exactly someone enjoys exercise, so denouncing all exercise-doers off the bat strikes me as particularly unfeminist. I've been told by a pretty reliable source that people in certain Latin American cities train every single day, from Christmas to festival season, just so that they could have the stamina to party all night. Clearly, a bikini bod is not the first thing on the matter.
Two, even if you do know that a certain set of women are exercising because they want a bikini bod, and they feel empowered by that, who are you to judge them? Maybe achieving that model will make them feel better about themselves, or maybe through their quest to look what they deem attractive on the beach they discover a true passion. At any rate, I don't think telling people their new past-time is a giant lie will make you lots of friends.
Three, it's very easy to write an article. Or a blogpost. I sat down on my laptop and wrote this one in about half an hour, having thought it over beforehand, and it wasn't particularly difficult. How many of the people denouncing the spring fitness kick actually go out and do the work it takes to inspire change? Because let me tell you, one article in the Huffington Post isn't really enough.
Imma get personal here: there was a time, when I was a teenager, when I would weigh myself every morning and my mood for the rest of the day, what I ate and what I didn't, would be inevitably affected by what the scales said. It sucked. I thought I was ugly. Even now, years later, I'm more likely to poke good-natured fun at my appearance than to admit to myself that maybe, perhaps, just a haunch, but I'm not the bad-looking.
That didn't happen on its own. I did not learn those attitudes on the knee of some shady (and sleezy) marketing executive. I learned them from my friends, my mother, my mother's friends, when they, too, poked good-natured fun at their appearances or hopped on the scales. Even if they told me I was fine, gorgeous even, I still didn't believe it, because if they thought their bodies were X, Y, and Z, where did that leave me?
And yeah, it sucked. Still sucks.
So if by any chance you're wondering how to navigate the whole spring health kick brouhaha, and you're not sure how to respond when someone makes disparging comments about their appearance, here's a few things I think work:
1. Don't be an asshole.
That's it. Really.
Don't put yourself down.
Don't put other people down.
Don't give unwanted advice.
Be that change you wanna see. And if someone is genuinely excited about doing fitness and stuff, or someone is genuinely put off by fitness and stuff, be supportive of them. Be emphatic. There's really not much more to it than that.