Ok, I can’t keep it in any longer… One of my greatest peeves in the fitness industry is this brainwashing misunderstanding that excessive fitness, leanness and being ripped is the look of health and beauty.

I digress…

Through junior high school and high school one of my closest friends who was an all round athlete was smart, funny, gorgeous, strong and lean, and apparently very fit and healthy. She seemed to have it all. What I didn’t know until a bit later was that she also had bulimia. Although her parents sought treatment for her, by the time we were in university, she died in a treatment centre for eating disorders and drug addiction. Although lean, muscular and athletic she was very unhealthy both emotionally and physically.

A year or two later, while in my early 20’s, I found myself in my doctors office receiving news from a regular annual check up. I was in one of the fittest, strongest states of my life, and therefore I thought also in top health. That day I received a diagnosis of adenocarcinoma in situ, the early stages of a rare and rapid spreading form of cervical cancer. I learned in that moment, that although extremely fit, my immune system was being attacked and I wasn’t healthy.

So back to my point…

I had always blended the two together, thinking fitness equated to being healthy. Our society seems to blend the two together often, just as it blends thinness, leanness and strength with health. Although these items are essential components of health and wellness, the singular and often obsessive, focus on them, can actually often compromise wellness at it’s very roots. They are not interdependent. They are not the same.

Although there are many people out there who are naturally very lean AND healthy; most people, including the majority of fitness models gracing the covers of our magazines, are not naturally so ripped and are actually in diminished health during such states.

The purpose of this post is not to bash desires for leanness or enhanced fitness, but simply to draw apart and distinguish “health” from “leanness”, “fitness”, “strength”, and being “shredded”. Although components, they are only part of a much larger picture.

On the topic of being shredded…

I know many people who have competed in bodybuilding competitions, fitness competitions, sports that are weight-classed such as wrestling and kickboxing, who admit freely that they feel healthier and even stronger with a bit more fat.

An ex-boyfriend once said after a body-building competition that although happy he did it to achieve a lifelong goal, he could never do it again as it “nearly killed him” – and not in a good way. For the months leading up to his one day on stage he was extremely unhealthy mentally, emotionally and physically and he realized it simply wasn’t worth his health to continue in the sport.

When we look at the models on the covers of our “health” and fitness magazines, we see fit, strong, lean, ripped, photo-shopped images, and we’ve come to associate that look with happiness, confidence, health and wellness.

What we don’t see however, is the behind-the-scenes discipline and hard work most of those people have to do to achieve that look – I say most, simply because some are genetically inclined to be that way naturally. For those who aren’t genetically inclined in such a way, because of the strict discipline and poorer health associated with that look, they usually don’t look like that for very long.

Leading up to the photo-shoot, competition or event, we don’t see the boost to their already regular exercise/strength programs, the increased discipline to their already strict diets, any supplements with negative or unknown health consequences they may be using to help with the fat burn, and the multiple days of dehydration they put themselves through to lean out.

Being shredded, or excessively fit, may be the look of many things, like genetic make-up, strong discipline, or sport, but it is not often the look of vibrant overall well-being and health we often associate it with.

So what now then for those who want to feel better in their bodies and need specific goals to strive for?

If you are up for an experiment, what about letting go of the bikini body or bulging 6-pack goal, in favor instead of health, wellness or radiant energy? What about a practice of kindness, love and grace towards your body?  I know these goals are less tangible, but in following these sorts of practices and this state of being, we invite greater freedom, and at the same time begin to support our bodies in naturally finding their healthiest state, ideal weight, and most beautiful shape.

I’d love to know your thoughts on this topic.  What comes up for you? Do you agree? Disagree? I’d love to hear your comments on this topic.