I was about 10 years old the first time I heard, "Spandex™ is a privilege, not a right!" Rene, my older brother, 15ish at the time, exclaimed in the grocery store after we saw a person wearing, in our opinion, a poor wardrobe choice. I didn't think much about it at the time and just laughed because he said it with such a goofy, opera voice. Trust me if you knew Rene, you know what I mean, but fast forward 18 years later and now I realize how much those words impacted me then and continue to do so today.
My brother really didn't mean it in any malicious manner, I now know he was just conditioned or marketed to believe that only certain body types and people should wear Spandex™. Now a health fitness specialist with experience in sports conditioning, eating disorders and chronic disease, I realize how much impact the fitness industry has on what "health" is defined as and is "supposed" to look like. I am not here to go on a rant on body image (I’ll save that for another blog) or try to fitness shame anyone. Rather, I am offering a perspective from someone who, in all things considered, fits the "fitness marketing mold" but is deeply, incandescently disappointed by how we market "health, fitness & wellness."
The World Health Organization defines health as "a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity." Yet, if you want to improve your health and Google programs to help you do so, you are bombarded with images of women wearing teeny tiny bikinis, men with ridiculously defined muscles, about to burst in your face, and all with perfect hair and makeup! I don’t know about you but the definition of health and these images, just don’t match.
Now I get it, if one works hard, watches what they eat than yes your body composition will change but people COME ON, these images are not the real world, they are not real people! They are the "fitness freaks" (said in a loving manner as I am one of them) on sometimes very restricted diets, workout 3+ hours a day and glam it up for the photo shoot! Now power to the models as they can prance around in whatever they choose and show off their own personal "physical" achievements. By all means, I love walking around naked to the point where my husband sweetly reminds me "babe, I’m pretty sure our neighbors just saw your lady parts!" But let's put some clothes on these models and shift the marketing focus from the physical gains (which are limited) to the emotional/ mental ones (which are limitless)! Full disclosure, my goal is to be on DWTS and salsa my butt off, so again I have nothing wrong with wearing teeny tiny bikinis, just don't market health & fitness that way and influence people into thinking that "health" comes in only one shape and size such that wearing Spandex™ has to be EARNED as a privilege. Plus, let's be socially responsible and stop unconsciously influencing the vulnerable and easily impressionable by pretending that these fitness models have it all, by marketing health with our bodies! Positive mental health and self-acceptance doesn't increase with the shrinking size of your pants.
The key point here is let's not set up our clients, family, and friends with a single dimensional idea of success, but rather a holistic, all encompassing one. Let's educate them, encourage them and help them focus on each stride/ achievement of health. Not just the numerical, physical ones. Let's remind each other that health has no "photo" definition and cannot be compared from the outside. We all have different health stories and we should honor each and every one of them. From people that are training for extreme sports, to those battling cancer or wanting to breath/ move better. Let's offer better motivation than the chisel and the over marketed "bikini body!" Let's inspire them to become aware of the limitless gains which come with focusing on their health journey and watch them blossom into the physically capable, mentally flourishing, and socially accepting individuals.
P.S Spandex™ is comfortable and everyone should be able to wear it without judgment! I love you brother and I know you agree with me and not just because I talked your ear off about it. xoxo