Fitness is more than just a physical state - it's a powerful industry.
As long as humans have been concerned about appearances, the fitness industry has been there to capitalize on those insecurities. Seriously - if you've ever seen daytime TV commercials, you know exactly what I'm talking about. Some products out there are truly designed with a heart for wellness. Others are marketing ploys, convincing you that whatever shape you're currently in isn't good enough.
I take a pretty firm stance on this because I see people wasting money and chasing some unrealistic beauty ideal all the time, and it frustrates me. I hate that people waste so many precious moments of their lives wishing they could look differently. The more that gadgets, programs, products and supplements are marketed, the more people feel like they're not doing enough.
But here's the thing - more does not equal more, and thinner does not equal better. Branding, wording, and marketing matter. And that's where I see so many companies go wrong.
Beware of the Wolf in Sheep's Clothing
Think about those gimmicky infomercials I was talking about; now think about how they advertise for these companies. Usually, you'll see before and after photos that don't really look real, and a middle-aged woman who's super proud that she fits into her jeans from high school. The bottom line these companies promote is that shrinking down is the key to happiness.
This is why I struggle with the fitness industry. This sort of exclusivity has left a bad taste in my mouth, because it sends the message that thinner is better. Thinner makes you happier and makes your husband more attracted to you. Fitting into those old jeans is a victory, so now you can go on living your life inherently better than everyone else because you bought their product and lost weight. (Did I layer that sarcasm on a little too thick?)
Think about all the times you've read the words "shred," "melt" or "slim" in reference to a particular workout or product. This wording insinuates a constant striving to be thinner, and for some, this messaging is detrimental.
A Fine Line
From what I can tell, there's a fine line between fitness and vanity. All of these products designed to whip you into shape are heavily marketed by making you feel crappy about the way you currently look. It's okay to want to look a certain way, but don't hang your happiness on it. That's where the industry gets it wrong.
When it comes to making choices about health and fitness, think about how the product is being marketed to you. Does the company...
- promote mental and emotional health alongside physical health?
- include and accept all body types?
- promote a healthy, realistic nutrition plan?
- promote strength, endurance, and non-scale measurements of health?
- use careful wording when branding and marketing their products?
I don't consider myself an expert on the body positive movement, but I do care that the companies I support strive to encourage a healthy body image over vanity. And I think it's important that we choose wisely for the sake of our own wellness, and as we influence the next generation.