Body Image

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What would health and fitness advertising look like if marketers had to be honest?  I was inspired to do this post after seeing the hilarious before & after pictures here - I'm not sure who did these originally, but I owe them for a lot of laughs.

I had WAY too much fun doing these.  Someone should have been taping me giggling like an idiot while trying to come up with witty sentences in Photoshop.

In any case, I thought it had been far too long since I'd done something similar to my popular "Pinterest Modifications" post, so without further ado, here's my take on a few popular articles and products we've seen over the years...

AdRedo1

Alternative caption "9 foods that, just like everything else on Earth, contain chemicals."

AdRedo2

"Eat this, not that" potentially an experiment in "how many books can you sell off of one concept?"

AdRedo3

Please pay close attention to my pro-level Photoshop skills here.

AdRedo4

Any takers on how many VS models have done this workout?

AdRedo5

God I hate slideshows.

AdRedo6

Other products used: going back in time before having children, eating less, moving more.

AdRedo7

I mean this could be any exercise DVD / magazine headline / program promotion really.

And this last one is a little off-topic, but this was my theory for why Cosmo keeps talking about sex when any sane sex-having female would probably find those articles a tad ridiculous:

AdRedo8

I know this because I have experience being an 11 year-old girl.

This week I'm re-hashing a very old post from my last blog.  Sadly attitudes towards female bodybuilders (and even male bodybuilders) by many hasn't changed much since.  I'm hoping that re-surfacing this post can help others to respect rather than be revolted by bodybuilders. 

Take a look at the two pictures below:

NaturalBodybuilders

They may not be very pleasing to your eyes.  It's probably not a physique you'd ever want to have.  You may even be a little disgusted.

It's completely fine to not want to look like a bodybuilder, I'd say most people don't.  However there's a trend I notice when talking about bodybuilders with many people that I do find a little troubling -

Bodybuilders are spoken of with disdain, with disgust, as though they were somehow less human than the rest of us merely because of their chosen sport.  As though because we don't like their physique ideals something about them must be flawed.

If you do a Google search for 'female bodybuilders,' the first link is entitled "Steroids gave me a penis."  Seriously?

In truth, bodybuilders are doing what most people want to accomplish, but to a higher degree: Losing fat and gaining muscle.  They're experts at it.  Thankfully for most of us, we don't have to work half as hard as a bodybuilder must to achieve our goals.

I'm hoping that this post will serve two purposes:

  1. Lend more evidence to why merely doing strength training is not enough to 'bulk' you up.  We'll take a look at how some bodybuilders train - it's probably a bit different than your typical strength routine!  Bodybuilders would love if they could just wake up one morning HUGE from a few months of strength training!
  2. Come to respect bodybuilders for their resolve, consistency and dedication to their sport instead of being repulsed by it.

Competition Divisions

Back in the day of Arnold Schwarzenegger and crew, bodybuilding was pretty simple.  Nowadays there are several different divisions, each with their own judging criteria.  It can get a little confusing.

In general though, all of the competitions are looking for some degree of muscle size, the best muscle symmetry and proportion, as well as a certain degree of muscle definition.

The fake tans caked on so liberally that competitors' heads look photoshopped on, oil, and minimal clothing isn't just to look as strange and inhuman as possible.  It's to enhance muscle definition and make it more visible to judges.

Let's define the different types of body aesthetic competitions:

Bodybuilding

Bodybuilding competitions have simple goals: Get as much muscle and as little bodyfat as possible, while maintaining good symmetry and proportion. (As in, not having one shoulder larger than the other and not having quads that are out of proportion with your hamstrings)

There are drug-tested bodybuilding competitions (the two bodybuilders at the beginning of the post are "natural" competitors), and then there are open divisions where basically anything goes.  That's where you'll find your Jay Cutlers, Ronnie Coleman's and Iris Kyle's.

Iris Kyle looks like she cares a lot about your opinion of her body.

In addition to the spray tans, oil, etc. mentioned above, dehydration and lifting weights before going on stage (in combination with drastically low body fat percentages) are some other techniques used to help increase vascularity and get that really 'shredded' look.  Before going on stage a competitor may also take in a high amount of carbohydrates in order to make the muscles appear fuller and larger.

Physique

Female physique competitors

Very similar to bodybuilding, except competitors can get marked down for having too much muscle.  That's really the main difference.  Sort of seems like an option for women looking to be muscular and compete but still retain a more traditionally "feminine" shape - but don't quote me on that.

Fitness

A step down again in terms of muscle size, leanness, and vascularity requirements.  However competitors in this division typically have to do some kind of routine that combines aspects of strength / flexibility, so a greater degree of athleticism is required.

Figure

Like the Fitness division, minus the routine.

Bikini

Bikini Competitors

I'll admit, I'm not sure what exactly judges look for in this division, because the only judging criteria from the NPC (National Physique Committee) website are:

  • Balance and Shape
  • Overall physical appearance including complexion, skin tone, poise and overall presentation.

So, perhaps a step down from figure.  Judging by the pictures of most bikini competitors, that's accurate: fairly lean, not much muscle definition.

Note: I thought Scott Abel's take on 'watering-down' bodybuilding competitions was interesting.  There is a lot of talk about the dangers of deciding to compete in figure and bikini competitions going on lately.  Take a few minutes to listen to this podcast starting at 12:48.

Bodybuilding Exercise Routines

Bodybuilders spend a lot of time in the gym.  The stereotypical "bodybuilding split" workout typically involves 4-5 days a week and tons of volume. (Competitors on drugs can recover faster and thus do more work) That takes quite a chunk of time each week.  To give you an idea, here's a sample day from competitor Josh McMillan:

*2 warm up sets of 15 reps, seated dumbbell curls, then:

  1. INCLINE SEATED DBELL CURLS (SUPINATED)-
    4 sets of 6 reps (slow deceleration), then 6 hammers.
  2. BARBELL REVERSE CURLS (to forehead)-
    3 sets of 12 reps (3 second decel)
  3. HIGH PULLEY MACHINE CURLS-
    3 sets to failure (around 15-20 rep range)
    *2 warm up sets of tricep push downs
  4. TRICEP ROPE PUSHDOWNS-
    4 sets of 12 reps w/flex
  5. ONE ARM REVERSE TRICEP PUSHDOWNS
    3 sets of 10 reps
  6. BENCH DIPS-
    3 sets to failure
  7. MACHINE SHRUGS-
    4 sets to failure

A bit more work than most put in on a typical day - done 4 or 5 times per week.  Doing exercises to failure is not pleasant.  It burns.  Your body begs you to stop but you must have the mental fortitude to push through it anyway.  Rinse, repeat again the next day.

This doesn't count the cardio that many competitors put in.  It varies from competitor to competitor, and you'll find many arguments for and against excessive cardio.  But at the end of the day most will do some form of cardio in the weeks leading up to a competition.

I got to interview Staci, a natural female bodybuilder in the 118-132lb weight group.  She gave me a general idea of how much time she spent in the gym and how much cardio she also did on top of regular training:

"During off season, I am in the gym for 1 hour a day for weight training 4 days a week and cardio will take up 2 of those other days, with 1 day full rest. When I am cutting for competition, I am in the gym in the morning for HITT (High Intensity Interval Training) before breakfast and for another hour later in the day for weights. I will do this for 4 days, and depending on energy levels, I will put in a few more cardio sessions the other 3 days as well."

Now bear in mind, this is just a sample.  Bodybuilding requires you to take note of whether or not an exercise is working for you, whether or not you should consider a different angle on the bench when you're doing incline bench press, whether or not you should widen or narrow your grip, are you making sure to target both your soleus and your gastrocnemius on calf day?

Bodybuilders need to have a good, basic understanding of human anatomy to be successful.  How can you make a muscle bigger when you don't know it exists?  How can you make sure a muscle is activating unless you know what its function is and what bone it attaches to? (You could always read blog posts, I guess!)

So if one needs to have a broad knowledge base in anatomy and physiology (or hire someone who does) to be successful in bodybuilding, where did this stereotype come from?

Bodybuilding Diets 

Dieting for a show can get pretty grueling - not to mention boring.  Ask any competitor.

If you think that your diet is restrictive, try a bodybuilder's who is preparing for competition.  Men strive to reach levels of 3-8% bodyfat, women around 9-15%.  For reference, average bodyfat percentage for men is 18-25% and for women is 25-31%.  How do you have to eat to get to these numbers?  I asked my friend Charlie, and he had this to say about dieting for competition:

"The diet is the tough part. Lifting is fun, being hungry for 12-16 weeks is not. Diet for competition is usually a low carb diet... total calories 1700-2000. The target is no more than 2lbs of weight lost a week, anything more your losing muscle. Off season diet is 3500-4000 calories a day with protein being about the same, but way more carbs...

Three weeks out from the show I wanted to quit. I was grumpy, tired, hungry, and wondered was it all worth it. I didn't quit, because I knew I would beat myself up if I did. The diet messes with your mind. You question everything your doing and wonder if you're screwing up. This is why I think a coach is the most important thing you can have. Someone to talk you off the ledge, to have a sane mind that can hold you to the plan and can gauge your progress and make adjustments without sabotaging everything."

In the weeks leading up to the show, all food is logged.  How many ounces of chicken, exactly how many almonds, how many grams of plain oats?  Exact calories and macronutrient levels must be measured.  There can be no cheating involved - you bring your food to work, to restraunts, to birthday parties and holidays.  Research the correct supplements (legal or not, depending on your division), take them at the exact right times according to your training each day.  Any deviation might mean the different between first and last place.

And then there's the post-competition diet.  You don't want to completely de-rail for a month (though many do) and get fat, since it's just that much more weight you'll have to lose before the next show.  But to gain muscle, you do have to eat at a caloric surplus.  It's a fine balance between eating enough to gain muscle and support your workouts, but not so much you gain 50 pounds of fat.

Staci had this to say about switching between phases:

"The main difference between off season eating and pre-contest diet is the amount of calories. When I am bulking, I aim for about 2500 to 3000 cals a day. When cutting, I am looking at around 1400 to 1000 cals, depending on the workout for the day. Macros will move up or down, obviously but keep protein very very high...

The transition can be grueling. The key is to not reduce the amounts to quickly, as you will almost go in to shock psychologically and mentally. Obviously your body is use to taking in so much, and when it is not receiving, it will come back to bite you...[[One time]] I cut my cals too quickly and had a difficult time functioning, as far as speech, cognitive and emotionally. It was an eye opener to see just how much this affects you."

Now obviously if you found female bodybuilders less than easy on the eyes before this post, nothing above will have changed that.

But how about we show these ladies (and gents) a little respect for the tremendous amount of work they do and do away with comments like these:

FemaleBodybuilders

How about we stop being "afraid" of getting too "bulky" as though that's a bad thing or the only reason to lift weights?  Again, bodybuilders would LOVE it if it were that easy.  Hopefully we can see now that's not the case.

Even in light of all this, the physique of a bodybuilder will probably be continually unappealing.  And that's okay.  Take a look at this video of a young female bodybuilder:

Chances are good she doesn't care if you think she's too manly looking, or that some random dude on the internet wouldn't have sex with her.  But I just want you to look at the confidence she exudes while on stage.  Just from her body language you can see the hard work she put in, the dedication, and you can tell she knows she's amazing.

Even if you don't want to look like her, we should respect her for her resolve.  We should respect her for having the guts to even decide to prepare to get up on that stage.  We should respect her for the respect she has for herself.

That's something that we should all strive for, no matter in what manner.

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Read Part I and Part II of the "Get a Bombshell Bikini Body" review.

Finally down to the LAST segment here of what has become an unexpectedly long review of a very short spread in Cosmo UK.

Before we start reviewing this last segment, I noted that all of the pictures from Anderson's blog have been removed for some reason.  So, I took the liberty of searching around for cached pictures and uploaded them to imgur.  We'll be focusing on the last page today.

Get Gwyneth Paltrow's Legs

Anderson has often stated that repetitive exercises, like running or biking will 'bulk' your legs.  This leads to some confusion because of her usual suggestions.  How much repetition is too much by her standards?

After all, she'd like for you to work up to doing 80 reps of each exercise (I'm assuming 80 reps per leg), would that be better or worse than taking 160 steps running?  You could obviously argue that the impact from running causes a stronger adaptation in your legs, bulking them - so what about biking?  is 160 rotations on a bike more or less likely to bulk than the exercises she gives in this section?

I suppose I'm being overly critical since almost no one is just going to take 160 steps or 160 rotations, but you can question the principle.

In any case, just take a look at some marathon runners to see that running a lot of miles doesn't automatically 'bulk' your legs:

Such bulk.  Much muscle.  Wow.

Such bulk. Much muscle. Wow.

And an endurance cyclist for good measure:

Here are the things a person needs to do in order to put massive bulk on their legs:

  1. Eat a caloric surplus - this is a must.  If you are eating less calories than you burn throughout the day, your body isn't going to put a lot of resources into building NEW muscle.  It must devote all of its energy to keeping your current body functioning.  As well, a good portion of said calories need to be protein.
  2. Train in a way that promotes muscle growth - this will typically be lifting weights that are difficult to do in a ~12-20 rep range.  Definitely not endurance running, definitely not long distance cycling, and for most all women not lifting heavy shit for less than 10 reps.  However, if condition #1 above is not being met, this point doesn't matter.
  3. Get enough sleep - good for a lot of things, like optimizing muscle growth.

Do all those though, and it's still going to be very, very difficult to put on a noticeable amount of muscle if you're not really trying at it.  You will never just wake up one day and look like a body builder on accident.

Secret Move #1 - The Frog Cross Leg Lift

"...stimulates the accessory muscles - key to pulling in the larger ones."

Even if working your "accessory" muscles (not sure what this term is supposed to mean) could pull in muscles five times their size, this exercise is working some very large muscle groups, such as your glutes and thighs.  This exercise is basically like a lying clamshell followed by a lying hip abduction.  Big, powerful muscles being worked here!  So again, I ask, WHAT accessory muscles?  What defines an accessory muscle?

The second 'secret' move worked the same large muscles as the first.  Nothing special here.

Gym / Fridge Friend

Our gym friend is the bike - with the stipulation that you shouldn't "overdo" it.  If overdoing it on the bike leads to massive bulk, it would certainly be nice to know what 'overdoing it' actually means.  Does it mean you shouldn't bike for more than 30 minutes?  That you should keep it under a certain number of rotations per minute?  Not to bike up hills or at a higher resistance?  Can you do intervals?

My advice - just do what you like.  Remember that if you're not following the 3 muscle-building musts outlined above, you won't be able to build much muscle.

Our fridge friends are a random assortment of high fiber foods because,

"High-fibre foods boost metabolism..."

It's possible that foods that are high in fiber take a little more energy to digest than say, pure fat.  However just know that the calories of fiber have already been taken out on your food labels.

Go ahead and do the math. 1g carb/protein = 4 calories. 1g fat = 9 calories. So, (1x9) + (25x4) + (2x4) = 117 calories. But the label says 60! Well, 14g of fiber, so: 117-(14x4) = 61. Pretty cool.

As well, I've been unable to find any studies to substantiate the claims of "negative" or "zero" calorie foods like celery.  The claim is that they take more energy to digest than they give - haven't been able to find anything to back that up.  If you find something, let me know.

In any case, for most people eating fiber is a good plan - it's satiating so you'll end up eating less calories, and it might even help you poop.  Woohoo!

The Secret Celebrity Trainers DON'T Want You to Know!

(Yes, that headline is very, very tongue-in cheek)

I've had many criticisms of my criticisms of celebrity trainers.  I've been told I'm just jealous and hating on their success, that not everyone wants to be a bodybuilder, that they personally really enjoy their workouts and DVDs, etc, etc.

The only one that really bothers me, though, are comments like "the proof is in the pudding!  If her methods don't work, why are all of her clients so small?"

Stick with me here, I'm going to drop a bomb:

Her clients already looked small before they ever even heard of her.

Yes, this is the key to being a successful model or actress - you must already look amazing.

Don't believe me?  Anderson's first superstar client was Madonna around 2007.  Here is Madonna in 2005 vs. 2010:

Looks about the same to me.

Looks about the same to me.

What about some of her other clients?  Let's look at Gwyneth Paltrow:

Paltrow

Shakira became a client more recently:

Shakira

You know the show America's Next Top Model?  All the girls on there are gorgeous.  They were gorgeous before being models, they'll continue being gorgeous after becoming models regardless of if they pick up a "trainer to the stars" or not.

Conclusion

I'm not trying to discount the hard work any of these ladies probably put in to maintain their figure.  But the moral of the story is that Anderson didn't 'make' their bodies.  She didn't give them their figure.  She's not defying their genetics.  I would say that her success is actually because of their genetics.

Thus concludes my first Anderson rant of 2014.  Hopefully I won't have to do more - but I probably will.

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It's that time again - to review an entire book chapter by chapter.  I've heard Harper's follow-up to "The Skinny Rules" is even worse than the original.  I CAN'T WAIT!

Introduction

This book, like any good advertisement, starts out with an anecdote.  Bob had a client.  A rockstar client.  A (supposedly overweight) rockstar client that had a show coming up in just three weeks.

"Now she needed some fast-acting advice to get her on stage feeling confident, comfortable and looking like the rock star she is."

For reference, here is what a rock star looks like:

Beth Ditto

Oh, wait, nope that can't be right.  She doesn't look like she goes to bed hungry.  Rock stars follow Rule #18.  Let's try that again:

Coheed and Cambria's Travis Stever

No...no okay that can't be right either.  His midsection isn't perfectly chiseled.  They say the third time's the charm:

Maya Ford from The Donnas

COME ON WHY WON'T YOU PEOPLE CONFORM TO MY WORLD VIEW OF ROCK STARS NEEDING TO BE SKINNY????

Jack Black

Bowling for Soup

The Hot Toddies

Birtha

NOT EVEN IN THE 70'S GOD DAMNIT!!!

Okay...so...you don't have to be thin to rock the fuck out.  Well, I guess Harper and his theoretical client missed that memo.  (Isn't rock supposed to be about kind of eschewing mainstream society and doing your own thing anyway...?)  I guess...I guess let's move on to some other points.

"If you've read my book The Skinny Rules..."Previous publication mention #1

"...you'll transition to The Skinny Rules."#2

"...and then you can transition to a sustainable (Author's Note: lol) regimen (aka The Skinny Rules)..."#3

Guys, just in case you didn't know, Harper has another book.  He's mentioned in a couple of times in the introduction here.  Did he mention that he has another book?  And that you should buy it?

Okay sorry that has nothing to do with actual advice.  But that's probably because the first 6 pages of the introduction are all about painting a picture in your head.  This introduction is one big, long sales copy.  It's designed to hook you in and make SURE that if you just picked up this book out of curiosity you'll buy it.

It hooks into common fears:  a looming important date such as a vacation, a reunion or a wedding.  It reinforces that right now, you look like shit.  And Harper is going to solve all of your problems.  You will become slim.  In shape.  Trim.  Fitting into your sexy dress or suave tux.  Envision how amazing it will feel to turn heads.  How?  Don't ask questions.  Just absorb.  Imagine.  Then give me your money.

Next is where things start to get scary...

I'd been told by other people that Harper promotes a really terrible caloric intake in this book.  He beings by asserting you won't be doing anything unsafe.  Challenging, yes, but not unsafe.  Just my thought, if you need to assure your client that the diet plan you're about to give them won't cause them medical duress, you should probably give yourself a little time to ponder over that plan as well.

Harper assures you that YOU are at fault for needing a quick-fix.  Let's ignore the part where he is supposed to be the professional who reminds you that seeing drastic results in 3 weeks is rather unrealistic.  Or the part where as someone genuinely concerned for your health and well-being it would be on him to mention the negative side-effects of crash dieting.  Not writing a whole book about how enthused he is about it.  Literally EVERYONE wants a quick fix.  It is the professional's responsibility to bring their client back down to Earth and see the bigger picture here.

A sane person would say "Couldn't doing this very low calorie diet launch me into yo-yo dieting?"  To which Harper says:

 "...don't worry so much Grandma!"

Apparently, because he cites this one study where participants saw improvements in health-outcomes on both short and long-term diets equally, dieting won't cause you to yo-yo.  Even though that study said nothing about what happened to the participants after the study was completed.  Which is what would be necessary to say that dieting doesn't cause yo-yo dieting.  And the abstract doesn't tell you how many calories the participants were eating.  And these were obese post-menopausal women.

VLCD can definitely have their place with the very obese.  However if you're the kind of person picking up this book to lose some weight to look noticeably "fabulous" for an event, you're probably not obese enough to warrant VLCD intervention.  Either way, it's not good information to pan out to the general public, especially without the advice to be guided by a medical professional.

"...detailed in The Skinny Rules..." I HAVE ANOTHER BOOK #4

What about cleanses?

No, those are no good.  Because according to Harper, those are unsustainable and too restrictive to stick with for 3 weeks.  Unlike his program.  Where you have a bunch of rules to follow and can only eat EIGHT HUNDRED calories a day.  That sounds soooo much better!

I like to eat pastries while reviewing diet books.  Lets me feel like I'm stickin' it to the man.

I like to eat pastries while reviewing diet books. Lets me feel like I'm stickin' it to the man.

However, he does say that cleanses don't actually cleanse anything and your liver does its job just fine without your help.  I do really have to give him props for that point.  It's rare to see big public figures speaking out against cleanses!

As well, he confirms that spot reduction is not a thing.  Another thing that you don't see a lot from public fitness figures.  Thanks Harper!

Just 13 rules.

That's all!  So easy to remember, just like those last 20 rules.  (What was rule #7...?  Wait can I eat sweet potatoes?)

"So, think of the Jumpstart Rules as the big reveal version of the final training regimens that athletes...use to get ready for their big event."

Funny, athletes get ready for big events by a general reduction in exercise and an increase in food consumption.  So basically the exact opposite of what you're about to do.  But I guess I get what you were trying to say, kinda.

What happened to his rockstar client?

She fell off the wagon on day 13 and binged on chocolate cake.

Haha just kidding, we're not talking about reality here.  She finished the whole thing, was super duper DUPER HAWT and

"from the stage she yelled out: "I love you, Bobby!""

I'll just bet she did.

There's a bit of a "chicken or egg" argument about certain marketing tactics.  The dual argument will go as such:

"The media just give us what we want.  We fear being unattractive or appearing old, and they prey on those already existing fears with weight-loss products and wrinkle creams."

Or,

"The media makes us think that being old is a bad thing.  By rarely portraying women over 40 in big productions, or women who are more than a size 2, they make us think that being old or fat are bad.  We get that message, then advertisements and other marketing tools drill it in by selling us products to solve a non-existent problem." 

I admit myself, I am not sure which camp I agree with.  Both seem plausible to me.  Some will bring up evolution as a way to say that the desire to appear young and healthy (aka, not overweight) is bred into us.  The more you look to be between 18 - 35, the more likely you are to be fertile, the more attracted potential mates are to you.

(Of course, I could perhaps buy that for the 'old' argument, but considering overweight and even obese women were literally idolized in the past, I'm not sure about that particular side of the argument. )

I used to have a client who was a big advertising executive.  I was always fascinated by his job and we'd spend time in between squat sets talking about his work.  He told me one day about one of his biggest challenges in marketing.  His company had a client trying to sell a television that was much more expensive and vastly inferior to their competition.  Off to a great start, right?

He detailed to me about one common advertising tactic: present your product as a solution to a problem, regardless of if your particular product is actually a better solution, or even if that problem is an actual problem.  They made a marketing campaign that promoted this particular TV as stylish enough for your wife to approve putting in the living room, but with a picture great enough to capture every bead of sweat on your favorite quarterback's face.

And, it worked.  They sold the majority of their stock and even outperformed their competition - who recall, had a superior product for a cheaper cost.

Does that sound familiar?  You can probably think of a few products and commercials you've seen use that same tactic.  Here is a completely made-up problem used to sell deodorant for example:

How have we managed for SO LONG to live without a special deodorant to deal with the super-special STRESS SWEAT?  That one was just an obvious example.  What about cellulite?  Another made-up problem with no 'solution' to date (aside from losing overall bodyfat), but that doesn't stop some of the most ridiculous advertisements I've ever seen from stepping in to "help":

LOBSTER WEIGHT LOSS TECHNOLOGY AHAHA THIS IS FUNNY SO WHY AM I CRYING??

LOBSTER WEIGHT LOSS TECHNOLOGY AHAHA THIS IS FUNNY SO WHY AM I CRYING?? (click to zoom in.  It's still hard to read the label - there's probably a reason for that.  That reason of course being that it says 'lobster weight loss inspired technology.')

Anyway, all of this is building up towards a discussion on an article I found in Self this month titled "Old Talk is the New Fat Talk."  I took the liberty to snap a few quotes from it that I found particularly controversial:

Hypocrisy

I'm going to go ahead and get a couple of issues I have about this out of the way that don't have to do with the content of the article.

  • Right before this article there were 5 pages dedicated towards how to look hot after you finish your workout.
  • Before that there was an article about how you should really consider using sandwich bread instead of a pita pocket for your lunch so that you could save yourself 50 precious calories.
  • And earlier in the magazine was a page dedicated to the #1 exercise to get a flatter belly, as if such a thing could even exist.

Now that doesn't mean the content of this article isn't worth reading.  After all, the author of this could have nothing to do with whatever else is put in the magazine.  Maybe she's as disgusted with the surrounding content as I am - who knows?  But don't the editors see the irony?  In reality it probably doesn't matter too much.  Just something to point out.

But let's take a look at some of those quotes:

"Now women are viewed as sex objects for a much greater portion of their life span."

Why is that?  Is it true that in the past when you hit your 50's you went from sex-object to dignified elder?  Or did you simply drop off the face of the earth, as many women in entertainment do now?  Which is better?  Here are some stats I took from a documentary (Miss Representation - starting at 0:58:00).  I tried to find their source but couldn't - I've emailed them to try and get where the stats came from, but here is what they claim:

  • Women in their teens, 20's and 30's comprise 39% of the population.
  • Yet, they are 71% of female characters on television.
  • Women 40 and older are 47% of the population.
  • Yet are only 26% of female characters on television.

"Thanks for that Madonna."

Is it that Madonna has somehow retained all of her youth naturally, or has she had to use a liberal amount of photoshop in her promotions to appear young so that we will still recognize her talent?  Is it really her fault?

Note, there is NOTHING WRONG with the former picture.  Oh no, she has some wrinkles.  BECAUSE SHE'S FIFTY-FIVE.

"Here's the deal: You're gonna obsess, whether it's about gray hair or cellulite or something else entirely."

Why would you even write that?  Why on EARTH should you just accept that you're going to obsess about your appearance?  Doesn't that sound like something you should, I dunno, work on?

Here we have a magazine that perpetuates our obsession, attempting to normalize that obsession as though it's just human nature to worry about whether you have thighs that touch or not, or whatever the latest body-flaw obsession is fashionable these days.

"...if you truly don't like the way you look or feel, use your vanity to inspire you to take steps towards a healthier life..."

What if you take those steps towards a healthier life and still don't end up as the perfected ideal you are presented, which is likely going to happen?  You're perfectly healthy, but still have cellulite, as normal human beings tend to have.  According to Self, whelp, you're just doomed to a life of fruitless obsession.

So, Self, I get what you're trying to say.  It's unhealthy to obsess over these pointless little things.  It's normal to age, it's normal to have cellulite.  But apparently they have reached the conclusion that worrying about these things is simply an inevitable consequence of being female.

They do a pretty good job of perpetuating that.

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I'd love to hear your thoughts.  What really causes these impossible ideals?  Do marketers use liberal photoshop because if Madonna didn't look picture perfect we wouldn't buy as many of her albums?  Or were we conditioned by the same marketers to expect that ideal so that the idol in question seems more awesome to us?

Are we given wrinkle creams because we inherently don't want to look old, or are we told not to look old and thus given wrinkle creams?  Does it matter which came first?  Should it make our strategies for overcoming this different?  What do you think?

I started this article as something to potentially put on my company's website, but ended up liking it so much I figured I'd just post it here.

I work at a facility whose name ends in "Strength & Conditioning." For some people that is a huge turn-off since those aren't words you often hear in reference to non-athletes. First of all, I challenge everyone who participates in an exercise program to start thinking of themselves as athletes. Stop spinning your wheels working out, start TRAINING.

You have the same vessel as all athletes. You have 2 arms, 2 legs, a heart and some other stuff in between. You're good to go!

Secondly, remember that your body is capable of amazing things. You've got all the tools, you might just need someone to help you figure out how to use them. So without further introduction, here is the article:

You belong here.  Among the barbells, the heavy weights you’d never dream of lifting, the pieces of equipment you can’t even imagine the function of, the people you’re confident started out knowing all this stuff – you belong here.

Because those other people you see pushing sleds, squatting rather large-looking plates and rolling their muscles on what could only be best described as a medieval torture device are just like you. They came in not knowing what to expect or what exactly they were getting into. They too weren’t sure what a kettlebell was, where exactly their quadriceps were located or that spot reduction was a myth.

Take heart in knowing the girl who just did 2 pull-ups has been working on that for the past 8 months. If you look at her thighs you’ll see the stretch mark scars from 25 pounds ago. That guy squatting some unfathomable weight over there? He came in a year and a half ago with hamstrings so tight he couldn’t reach past his knees. They weren’t in shape when they started. You don’t have to be either. You belong here too.

'No way', you think. 'These people are born athletes. I could never do that.' After all, you’ve hardly been active your whole life unless you count walking the dog*. Strength and Conditioning is what college and professional football players do; certainly not everyday office workers. 'What good would moving all that weight around do for me anyway? I’d just get hurt.'

Strength and Conditioning is for you. Have you ever picked something up off the floor and had that fear of hurting your back looming over you? Have you ever felt your shoulder and back aching from carrying your purse for half a mile? Have you faced helping your child move into their first dorm room with a conflicted ambivalence because you’re not sure how much help you’ll be? Strength and Conditioning is for you. You belong here.

Today your hips are so stiff you can’t even pick a weight up properly. In a month you could be deadlifting a kettlebell (those weird iron balls with handles that insist on being labeled in kilograms). In half a year you could be properly squatting 75 pounds for reps.

But who cares about that? Today you can’t play airplane with your toddler because he’s gotten a bit heavier (and squirmier) over the years. But in a month you could be tossing him around in the pool. In half a year you could be bringing up 8 full bags of groceries with no help. Strength and Conditioning is for you. You belong here.

*I do count walking the dog.

So what does "Strength & Conditioning" mean to you?  Do you feel like there are just some activities you'll never be able to do?  Let me know in the comments!