Estelle Dragan reminds us that getting fit isn’t just about becoming slimmer, and that we should celebrate all body types
Within today’s society, there seems to be a real stigma surrounding weight loss. To some extent, societal pressures mean that weight loss has become in some circumstances a form of self-destruction and obsession, rather than an empowerment. In this light, it is true that social media forums such as Instagram can make people idealise being ‘skinny’ and therefore associate beauty with these body types. This has placed weight loss under much scrutiny. However, I would like to bring to the foreground that just as we should celebrate larger body shapes, we should also celebrate smaller ones too, whether that be a result of weight loss or a naturally fast metabolism. In other words, people who aspire to lose weight and become fitter or more toned should be able to do so without being scrutinised for conforming to societal pressures. When kept under healthy control, all fitness journeys and body types should be celebrated.
Personally, my way of boosting self-confidence both mentally and physically is by exercising. This isn’t with the aim in mind of matching society’s perception of beauty, but rather a personal way in which I make myself feel motivated, healthy and fit. I try to attend three group exercise classes a week, which means that I can enjoy the workout as well as benefit from it physically. I come home feeling refreshed and happy. Feeling content from the release of endorphins is just as much of a confidence boost as being happy with your figure. Exercising is a great form of therapy, and whether your goal is to become fitter and slimmer or not, the act of exercising should be celebrated in itself.
Exercising, however, shouldn’t be and isn’t always about weight loss. My housemate, for example, has a very fast metabolism and is consequently, naturally, very slim. She is particularly conscious of the way people view her body. She attends exercise classes regularly with the goal of putting on weight and becoming stronger. Being bigger and stronger is her form of self-empowerment, whilst others may want to shrink their body, or simply become healthier. This highlights how exercising and success means something different to everybody. You can be doing the exact same workout as somebody else, just as frequently, yet have the complete opposite motive in mind when doing so. This is why we shouldn’t condemn certain body types. After all, the term ‘body type’ is ambiguous in itself as achieving a certain body type means something different to everybody. It should be about personal achievement rather than the notion of physicality.
Whilst the media (social media especially) can sometimes trigger obsession about weight loss, it cannot be ignored that this is evolving for the better. Social media doesn’t always have to be a repressive forum; it can also be motivating. For me, it was Kayla Itsines’ BBG programme that got the ball rolling. I was never particularly interested in exercising despite often feeling drowsy and sluggish. However, after following Kayla’s fitness account on Instagram, I was inspired to download her Sweat app which includes weekly tailored meal plans and a calendar function that allows you to pre-plan weekly workout routines. From then on, it was like having a personal trainer in my pocket that motivated me to become a better version of myself, both mentally and physically. What makes Kayla’s programme different and important is that she encourages women not to view progress as weight loss, but rather wants it to be “the ‘go-to’ platform for health and fitness so that women have access to the tools they need to feel fitter, stronger and more confident at the touch of a fingertip […]. The BBG Community was created by girls using my guides who wanted to support each other on their journey. These girls come in ALL shapes and sizes, all ages and backgrounds, have varying fitness levels and use my guides or app to motivate and support each other”. Programmes like these also stress the importance of having a healthy, balanced diet. Weight loss and/or building fitness shouldn’t be defined by the number seen on the scales, but rather should be about enjoying food in a new, healthy way. This exemplifies how social media should be and is becoming more of a community for people who want to transform not just their bodies, but most importantly their lifestyles and mentalities.
Lack of self-confidence often roots from the way people perceive themselves physically. Instead of championing weight loss or body shape transformation in isolation, we should celebrate obtaining a better version of yourself. Fitness is just as important for your mental wellbeing as it is for your physical wellbeing, and therefore we shouldn’t simply view success in the light of matching a certain ideal. Body confidence is personal, and therefore body types shouldn’t be comparable.