I’ve just finished reading renowned psychologist Susie Orbach’s book Bodies. In the book Orbach discusses how our attitudes towards our bodies have changed, and how as a society we venerate the ‘perfect’ body, spending thousands to try and achieve the desired look. The irony is that often the look that is so desired cannot be achieved. Most of the time the flawless bodies we seen on billboards and on TV are an artificial construct; they are the result of hours of stretching, editing and embellishing courtesy of software called Photoshop.
Becoming the norm
This skewed vision of beauty and the weight of societal expectation means that women and young girls (and increasingly, men too) are spending thousands on cosmetic surgery to try and sculpt their bodies into the vision of perfection. It’s terrifying. In 2013, there were 11,123 breast augmentations, 6921 eyelid enhancements and 6016 face lifts performed in the UK. Cosmetic surgery used to be considered radical, but now it is fairly normal, and you can even combine a cosmetic procedure with a holiday as part of a package deal.
Where have we gone wrong?
I think we need to re-evaluate our relationship with our bodies, and get some perspective. And yes, I know my business is fitness. There is a difference between fitness and the pursuit of a perfect body. In fact, you can be fit but still be fat, and this might not be a problem. Whilst subcutaneous fat, particularly around the middle, can be damaging to our health, what is more damaging is a lack of fitness. Talking about the worrying state of children’s fitness, Judy Murray said this: “It’s a lack of fitness, not fatness, that will cause Britain’s kids to suffer long-term health problems.”
Our philosophy is to promote good health and help our clients to prolong their healthspan through the advocacy of diet and exercise. We make no grand claims of how much weight you will lose on our programs, or how many calories you will burn. We also don’t use terms like ‘bikini body’ or make any reference to dress size. We believe that our clients will lose weight (if they need to) through an enjoyment of exercise, and sensible, measured advice on how to tailor their diet. If you’re happy, this will be reflected in how you look.
We are all responsible
I believe we all need to change our attitudes towards food, fatness, fitness and most importantly, how we look. We need to be much less critical of ourselves, and of others. Instead of chasing the dream of a perfect body, or the perfect dress size, let’s make peace with our bodies. I don’t take much interest in appearances. I’m interested in keeping myself healthy so I can go out and achieve what I want to get done. I don’t care if people don’t like my look. I just need to feel comfortable with it. Obviously I want to be fit, strong and confident, but I don’t obsess about it. I haven’t got the energy to waste.
Change your mindset
If what you’ve read here resonates with you, the first thing I would do is ditch the magazines. That (sadly) means almost anything that’s aimed at women. All they go on about is mimicking looks, who’s got it right, (but even better, who’s got it wrong), who’s let themselves go and who’s been caught out in public without make-up. Don’t get caught up in gossip and malice about how other people dress, or talk or appear. Learn to love yourself with all your quirks, nuances, marks, scars and peccadilloes. Focus on enjoying what your body can do for you rather than what it looks like. Enjoy life.
I’ll finish with a short quotation from Bodies, in the words of Susie Orbach, from whom we could learn a lot about how to build a better, healthy relationship with our bodies:
“Our struggle is to recorporealise our bodies so that they become a place we live from rather than an aspiration always needing to be achieved. We urgently need to curtail the commercial exploitation of the body and the diminution of body variety, so that we and our children can enjoy our bodies, our appetites, our physicality and our sexuality. Our bodies should not be turned into sites of labour and commercially-driven production. We need to be able to experience our diverse bodies, in the varied ways we decorate and move them, as a source of taken-for-granted pleasure and celebration. We need bodies sufficiently stable to allow us moments of bliss and adventure when, sure that they exist, we can then take leave of them.”
Leanne Spencer is a Fitness Entrepreneur, Author of ‘Rise and Shine: Recover from burnout and get back to your best‘ and Founder of Bodyshot Performance Limited. Bodyshot specialises in bringing the science of genetics to the world of fitness. Connect with the team @BodyshotPT or Facebook or visit our website at https://www.bodyshotperformance.com/