Not so long ago, losing weight, dieting, and pursuing the perfect body were decisions we made to please others. Being overweight was society’s target of shame and it was through weight loss programs people felt they could finally reveal their skin hidden under layers of clothing and reignite their confidence.
While the quest to look better in the eyes of the stranger is still present, today it has been definitely overpowered by the quest for health. People are honoring their individuality, understanding that the only ones they need to please are themselves, and that the sole purpose of losing weight should be to better their health.
However, with better health comes pride in the accomplishment, pride in achieving what most people fail to maintain, and can sometimes give birth to an obsession of showing the results of such success to others.
There is nothing wrong with sharing your pride. Whoever tells me that no effort was placed in losing weight, gaining muscle, and becoming stronger gets to see how high my eyebrow can arch up, and if that person doesn’t tell me what they had to do, then I can confirm what I thought was a lie.
With the #fitspo social media movement, images on accounts have people hypnotized by self-proclaimed fitness gods and goddess, creating the sense that we are living in a narcissistic world.
All these images appear to be modern representations of the idealistic bodies venerated in the ancient Roman and Greek era. They pictured aesthetically pleasing men and women who conveyed beauty, authority and power.
Given the power of social media and how the health and fitness industry has flourished through accounts and feeds, it is easy to miss out on some of the positive and valuable changes that the pursuit of health has given us.
1. Exercise And Fitness Changes The Rules
Exercise and fitness has changed the rules for women. Without running too far, the most noticeable examples can be found today in those “narcissistic” social media feeds. Women have muscles, women are strong, and surely women don’t have to be skinny.
Women today are independent, courageous, and incredibly smart. This didn’t happen from night to day, nor has social media caused it. Women were always independent, courageous, and incredibly smart, but only women knew. Women have broken rules that weren’t supposed to exist in the first place.
In 2003, Paula Radcliffe ran the London (UK) marathon in 2:15:25 hrs. She holds the world record since that day; however, she wouldn’t have been able to run it without the sacrifice of another woman.
Katherine Switzer was almost pushed out of the course of the 1967 Boston marathon by race officials for being a woman. She had to hide her identity to sign up and it was around the two-mile mark when race officials figured out she was not a man and literally she had them running after her to take her out. Wearing the number 261, she finished it around the 4:20 hour mark. Unfortunately, another woman running the race, Roberta Gibbs, didn’t have the same luck and was pushed out of the course just before the finish line.
Today, women can ran marathons, but in 1967 they were “too fragile” to run more than 1.5 miles. These women did something for us and for that I am sure we can agree that it was the most selfless thing they could do.
2. Health Promotes Better Business Practices
There is no secret in the power of brands and their ability to shape society’s ideals. Their messages build opinions, desires, and a need we might not actually need. However, businesses in their attempt to please, they sometimes listen to the public.
The public has access to more information than it has ever been available. They know what photo editing can do and they know what ingredients should and shouldn’t be going into the food they eat.
The rise of the need for self-love has converted beauty brands into rejecting idealized female bodies and replacing them for the already popular “real woman”. Similarly, some of the most recognized fast food brands with huge sales across the globe have suddenly decided to jump into the health trend by engaging in practices such as the elimination of GMO foods.
If people venerating their bodies across the Internet, is making brands reconsider what they are selling then perhaps we are talking about some good being done.
3. Health Is Highly Contagious
When something is contagious we associate it with something that is harmful or sickening such as a virus. The images that are portrayed of aesthetically fit women and men can equally have damaging effects, especially when they show edited versions of reality.
However, as strong and self-sufficient we may be, we were born to be around people, to find commonalities and to feel understood. That is why personal stories and real-life examples move people. We feel inspired and encouraged and to some extent health can be contagious in a positive way.
Seeing women like Katherine and Roberta running that marathon is more than contagious, it is infectious. Today, we have thousands of women and men who have been infected by others who are pursuing health, they keep changing the rules and they are making the “big sharks” recognise that the public needs to be listened. All this tells me that getting fit and healthy is far less narcissistic that we might think.