Strong is the New Skinny

by Chloé Taylor

Body image is something many of us fret about on a regular basis. That includes me. There are particular times in life when this worry is exacerbated – puberty, swimsuit shopping, personal training sessions, Mondays, the list goes on and on. We feel too fat, too skinny, too short or too tall.

Perhaps these insecurities begin at puberty when everything goes out of whack. Lumps and bumps, curves and ripples all pop up seemingly out of nowhere. I know when I was around 13 I suddenly went from a tall skinny weed of a thing to a new, curvier version of myself. I was appalled by my new hips and more appalled still that they didn’t come with matching curves up top. Twenty five years later I’m still waiting for the top of the hourglass to appear. (Dear Santa, all I want for Christmas is the ability to fill a C cup!) I put on weight as a teen and had a decidedly chunky look for a while. I remember hating my thighs, my bum and my hips and doing everything short of proper diet and exercise to “fix” them. I starved myself. I binge ate vegetables. I drank slim-fast shakes, stumbled through the 20-minute workout, cried in my pillow and avoided wearing shorts at all costs.  Some teens go even farther, hurting their delicate bodies in order to achieve a lower weight.

Speaking of proper diet and exercise, I know now that to cure my unwanted chubby parts all I need to do is work out regularly. When I start to notice my jeans are getting tight, I make sure to add a few more minutes of walking or swimming to my routine. I try to cut down on sugars and top up my sleep and I also try really hard not to worry too much about it. I wish I could tell every teenager out there that we’re all built differently, that our flaws are only perceived and that fashions will change. Accepting health over vanity ultimately makes us beautiful.

Sometimes I hear that I’m too skinny or that I should never have to worry about fitting into clothes. The truth is, being told you’re skinny is no different than being told you’re fat.  Some people struggle to keep weight on, while others fight to keep it off. I do have to work at it, I’m not just lucky or genetically blessed and I resent that people think I have an easier life just because of my current weight.  Facebook is full of postings where overweight people are encouraged to skinny-bash their thin peers. It’s an alarming trend.

My brother is a competitive body builder and a personal trainer and I noticed on his website recently that he had a post saying Strong is the New Skinny. I like this message. When I work out I feel strong and I feel rewarded for living a balanced, healthy lifestyle. It’s not about being fat or skinny or somewhere in between, it’s about being well. The lucky side effects of exercise and a balanced diet are, generally, physical fitness, tight muscles and better skin and hair. I’m excited that young people are paying attention to the balance of their diets and making sure to fit exercise into their routines. I think parents have a responsibility to encourage activity, grow veggies with their kids and teach them about food and how it works in your body and in nature. Maybe we can help some kids feel better about themselves by giving them the power to make positive changes in their lives. I know I feel better now that I’ve decided to be healthy instead of skinny. If strong is the new skinny, then healthy is the new beautiful.

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