Strong is the New Beautiful


Myself and Dom are regularly contacted by people in the fitness industry asking us to endorse the latest in fat shrinking wraps, weight loss pills and calorie burning rocket juice (that last one was a lie).

‘Lose 60 pounds in two weeks!’ …‘Er, no thanks.’

‘Get thin quick’ fads are just that. Fads. When people ask us for advice about the best ways to lose weight, our stock response (if it’s not ‘don’t be ridiculous’), tends to be, ‘moderation’. We’re genuinely not in this industry to help people get thin, we’re in it to help people stay healthy and strong. Sometimes though, we have a hard job trying to convince our class participants that not everyone is genetically engineered to be a size six.

It’s depressing that we’re still so fixated on fitting into this perfect Barbie shaped idea of conventional beauty, especially when there are so many intelligent, inspirational women in the world who are about much more than what they look like in a bikini.

Last week the Minister for Sport and Tourism, Helen Grant, talked about getting women into sports that would make them feel ‘absolutely radiant’ and ‘very feminine’ (the sentence that particularly grated spoke about rollerbladers and their ‘beautiful socks with sequins’).

To suggest that women should choose a sport where the primary goal is to look a certain way while exercising defeats the point. The benefits of taking part in any exercise or sport will always far outweigh what you look like when you’re actually exercising (if any of you have seen what myself and Dom look like after a class you'll know we really do practise what we preach!).

When we watched all glassy-eyed as Laura Trott, Nicola Adams and Jessica Ennis-Hill took to the podium to collect their gold medals at the 2012 London Olympics, we weren’t thinking ‘Urgh! Look at all that sweat!’ or ‘I can’t believe she’s gone for a ponytail!’

We were in awe of these female athletes, their dedication and their super-human abilities. It was a particularly refreshing time to pick up a magazine or newspaper and see women dominate the headlines for their achievements rather than their weight loss pursuits.

Nicola Adams, Laura Trott and Jessica Ennis-Hill at the London Olympics 2012

Nicola Adams, Laura Trott and Jessica Ennis-Hill at the London Olympics 2012

Almost 2 years later and it doesn’t feel as though much has changed. Women are still largely ignored in the sports pages of our National newspapers and are often unwillingly pushed to the forefront of glossy magazines with non-stories like last week’s golden nugget of a headline; ‘why has Kim Kardashian ruined her face?’

I’ve just finished reading ‘Bossypants’ by Tina Fey (please, for the love of God people – read this book. It is really, really funny). The chapter entitled ‘All Girls Must Be Everything’ concludes with a list of attributes every girl is now expected to have:

  • Caucasion blue eyes
  • Full Spanish lips
  • A classic button nose
  • Hairless Asian skin with a California tan
  • A Jamaican dance hall ass
  • Long Swedish legs
  • Small Japanese feet
  • The abs of a lesbian gym owner
  • The hips of a nine-year old boy
  • The arms of Michelle Obama
  • And doll tits

It's safe to say, we won’t be endorsing that calorie burning rocket juice any time soon.