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Strong, Beautiful and Proud

So I’ve discussed this before with the Olympics starting shortly, but what truly is the “perfect” body?

Mainstream society tells women they should be thin and not even have that much muscle. If you base the “perfect” body off of high fashion, you should be rail thin and tall.

If you base the “perfect” body off of fitness models, you should be down to almost only essential body fat and be proportionally muscled.

If you base the “perfect” body off of a 100 different things, you will find that each one has a different ideal. Some ideals, however, are more acceptable than others.

Generally speaking, women who are big with muscle are not considered to have the “perfect” body – they are considered to be “masculine.”

Uhm…usually I’m the one flexing! ūüėČ

Shoot sometimes even if women AREN’T BIG but can lift heavy weights are deemed to be unfeminine.

But says who?

I actually love the response that British Olympic lifter Zoe Smith had when she was told by people that she was “unfeminine” or a lesbian just because she can out lift many men.

The obvious choice of slander when talking about female weightlifting is ‘how unfeminine, girls shouldn’t be strong or have muscles, this is wrong.’ And maybe they’re right‚Ķ in the Victorian era. To think people still think like this is laughable, we’re in 2012!

Actually the whole documentary about her and two other female competitors from Britain is awesome!

The “perfect” body for those three women in the documentary is a body that allows them to lift the most weight in their weight class!

The same goes for Cheryl Haworth.

Cheryl Haworth is 5’8″ and 300lbs and a top Olympic weightlifter. By mainstream standards her body isn’t considered “perfect.”

But if you were 5’8″ and 300lbs and America’s top Olympic weightlifter, would you really think your body wasn’t “perfect?”


I think generally our image of the “perfect” body is to focused on¬†aesthetics. We never stop to think about how maybe our big butt or muscled arms (that society may tell us aren’t perfect) help us move and perform as well as we do!

I would much rather have a body that can run and lift and do any activity that I ask it to do than fit a standard of beauty that mainstream society has defined.

I would rather have biceps the size of the average man’s than sacrifice one ounce of my strength!

I’m glad to know that I’m not alone.

What the documentary about Zoe Smith and two other British weightlifters called “Girl Power: Going for Gold.”

Also, watch the documentary Strong! about Olympic Weightlifter Cheryl Haworth.

STRONG! explores the contradiction of a body that is at once celebrated within the confines of her sport and shunned by mainstream culture. Through Haworth’s journey of strength, vulnerability, loneliness, and individuation, we learn not only about the sport of lifting weight, but also the state of being weighty: the material, psychological, and social consequences and possibilities of a having a body that doesn’t fit.

I think Strong! is a must see. TV showings of the documentary started on Tuesday (July 24th). Here is the website if you liked to find a showing in your area!

Can we please start focusing on how strong and capable our bodies are instead of how skinny we can become?

Can we please stop thinking of muscles and strength as masculine qualities?

The Perfect Body

What do you consider to be the perfect body? One with six-pack abs? A bubble butt? Being so strong you can lift a car? Maybe all of the above?

The perfect body means so many different things. Some people want to look shredded – lean muscles and six-pack abs. Some people don’t care what they look like but want to be able to lift 3 times their body weight. Some people just want to have a body that can run and play with their grandkids.

I really started thinking about what it means to have “the perfect body” when I was looking through ESPN the Magazine’s Body Issue. I looked through it once with Ryan and then with Candy. Both times we looked at each of the athletes and discussed which bodies we liked or wanted. We all had slightly different opinions about which bodies were our favorites.

But that got me to thinking…All of these bodies are, in fact, perfect. All of the athletes’¬†bodies in the magazine¬†are perfect in that they made¬†each of them¬†highly successful in their sport. It reminded me that “perfection” can mean so many different things.

It also reminded me of a situation in college. It was my freshman year, and I was introduced to lifting by a new strength and conditioning coach at Boston University. The girls on my team had been used to getting away with murder and slacking on their weights. But this new coach wasn’t going to have it.

She pushed us to lift heavy. We did heavy front squats and heavy bench. We worked on hang cleans, deadlifts and pull ups.

And the girls didn’t like it.

They were afraid they were going to look manly. Or have huge traps. They were afraid they wouldn’t look feminine. (Really they were afraid of working hard!!)

Of course this was a load of bull crap and our trainer told us so (our trainer was actually a very pretty blond who lifted heavy weights and still looked very feminine). But the girls wouldn’t listen. They were more worried about their bodies looking “perfect” by society’s standards than their bodies being “perfect” for their sport.

This I didn’t understand. First off…I felt that my body would look perfect if I lifted. Secondly…if you really want to be a twig with no muscle, you have the¬†rest of your life to accomplish this. Right now you are on scholarship to play TENNIS; therefore, your body should be made PERFECT FOR TENNIS!

But they didn’t see it that way. Their body wasn’t perfect if it didn’t look a certain way, which in my opinion kept them from reaching their full potential in tennis.

Which raises a question for me…do I have conflicting images of what I want my perfect body to be? On the one hand, I want to develop six-pack¬†abs while on the other hand I want to be able to lift enough to win a powerlifting¬†competition…Usually the two don’t go hand in hand. I’ve actually even been told numerous times by Brian that I can’t worry about gaining weight while we are training. But at the same time…I don’t want to gain unnecessary fat.

Can I really accomplish both? Can I not gain fat while gaining strength? Can I even¬†lower my body fat percentage¬†while adding strength and muscle? There are people out there who say, “no you can’t” while there are others out there who claim¬†to have done just that.

We will see who is right!

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