[re] Considering the Body

Through this blog, I would like to explore and rethink the ways that we buy, sell, and package the body.  Healthy bodies are often associated with aesthetically pleasing bodies, and vice-versa.  As a result, we are becoming in fact less healthy as a population.  Mental health, emotional well-being, and physical health are declining as a result of pressures to manipulate the appearance of the body.  Enough already!

Personal training has put me in a really tough position: people come to me, usually based on a photo they’ve seen of me, for advice on how to look better.  Most of the time, the goal is not much more complex than that: people simply want to look better, because they think that it will be enough to make them feel better.

And how do people determine what “better” will look like?  Unfortunately, they end up looking around at other bodies for ideas.  Sometimes people come in without any measurement of “better,” but simply desiring a different number on the scale.  Some actually have brought in magazine cutouts or given me names of exemplar athletes.  Others are more specific: smaller arms, bigger arms.  Smaller thighs, bigger thighs.  A smaller waist.  And, most often, they want abs.

Sure.  I can help you change the number on the scale.  I can help you sculpt your limbs and, if you have it to lose, I might be able to help with some visceral fat loss.  But it’s going to require a commitment to change your entire lifestyle.  Sadly, this is where most potential clients fall off.  Quite frankly, I’m ok with this.  I am a full time student, and part-time personal trainers do not do it for the money, trust me.

But how do I explain to the mesomorph that she will never look like an ectomorph?  How do I explain that abs are genetic? How do I impress upon people the sacrifices that go into the bodybuilding aesthetic?  Instead, should I help people count reps and allow them to believe that “core work” will help the appearance of abs? Should I tell them that even at the highest level, just before a bodybuilding show, I feel no better than I did when I was at 25% bodyfat?  Killing yourself in the gym should make you feel good because you enjoy the accomplishment, not because of how it will make you look.

And this brings me to my point: Isn’t there another way to think of the body?  Do we have to think of our bodies in purely aesthetic terms?  Must we think of our bodies as objects that must be manipulated?  Must we be motivated by appearance to be active and eat well?  Can we judge health and fitness qualitatively instead of quantitatively–that is, based on performance or feeling, and not appearance?  Come with me on my journey to unwrap the aesthetic body and explore other possibilities for health and well-being.




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