As well as being deputy editor of Unbound, I run a women’s fitness blog with a friend, teach fitness blogging workshops and help lead women’s running groups (don’t worry, I go to the pub and eat chips too, I’m not a freak).
Working in fitness, it’s my job to keep up to speed on all things workout-worthy, which means my social media is a never-ending torrent of #fitspiration. My Instagram and Twitter feeds are crammed with oiled bodies, short shorts, and dubious ‘motivational’ quotes.
Facebook is constantly telling me how far my friends have run, showing me pictures of green smoothies and trying to hawk me trainers. My inbox is overflowing with details of the latest sleb-endorsed miracle superfood or fitness DVD from a reality-TV starlet.
In short, everywhere I look there’s a half-naked woman with her abs out trying to sell me stuff.
One thing I’ve noticed over the past couple of years, though, is that those abs are getting steadily musclier. Whereas once the media portrayed fitness as being all about slimming down to look good on the beach, hitting a magic number on the scales, or losing 10lbs in 10 days by drinking only snail saliva, the tide is turning.
Butts are having a moment, muscles are suddenly cool, and middle-aged women aren’t trying to look like pre-teen models anymore
Now it’s more about actually being fit. Butts are having a moment, muscles are suddenly cool, and middle-aged women aren’t trying to look like pre-teen models anymore. Hallelujah. This is great!
Or it should be. But for every amazing This Girl Can campaign – showing women of all walks of life working out, and making no mention of body size – there’s another I just can’t get behind.
My particular bugbears are the #StrongNotSkinny and #FitNotThin hashtags that are splashed all over social media these days – the latter originated as part of a Sunday Times campaign, which ran in 2013 and 2014.
You wouldn’t go round calling people fatty, so why is it okay to comment on them being ‘skinny’ then?
While I get where they’re coming from – stop trying to starve yourself to look like *insert name of slender popstar*and focus on having a strong, healthy body instead – why do they have to do it by demonising yet another (often healthy, and often genetic) body type? You wouldn’t go round calling people fatty, so why is it okay to comment on them being ‘skinny’?
If you type one of these hashtags into Instagram or Twitter you’ll find gadzillions of snaps of ‘perfect’ gym-honed bodies. While they’ve obviously worked hard to look that way and good on 'em, for many women – me included – that’s just as much of an unrealistic body target as dieting to look like Kate Moss. Ain’t going to happen.
If we have to label body types, then I would say I’m on the slim side. When I’m training for a race, eating well, resting well and working out more, I tend to drop weight but I’m actually at my fittest. What’s wrong with that? Let's have less of the skinny shaming, guys.
These hashtags imply you have to be one or the other – strong or skinny, fit or thin – you can’t be both
I can’t help but find these hashtags offensive as they imply you have to be one or the other – strong or skinny, fit or thin – you can’t be both. I reckon the world’s fastest-ever female marathon runner, Paula Radcliffe, might not agree.
Just like Paula, I’m never going to have Beyonce butt. Much as I’d love to, I’m not going to have a six-pack or amazing guns either, not unless I find a spare 20-hours a week to spend in the gym anyway.
So, dear world, stop trying to body shame us by saying one thing’s desirable, one thing’s not and creating yet another ‘bad’ body type. Let’s ditch the negativity, and instead of saying #FitNotThin, let’s just say #Fit. #StrongNotSkinny? Let’s go with #Strong(OrWorkingTowardsItAnyway).
In fact, sod it all, let’s go for #FitAsF**k. Now that’s a hashtag I can get behind.