Are #fitspo models ruining your health?
I love sports models. Not in a "Wow, they're so hot way," (although it's hard to deny their attractiveness) but more for the fact that I admire for their dedication. After all, they've got curves, they're lean, and they have bodies that almost every woman would love to have. To get the kind of results they achieve requires an incredible amount of drive, discipline and commitment. Because it's certainly not easy to keep up the lifestyle demanded by your body to get it to that kind of shape. It's impressive.
Not only that, I also love their promotion of weight training, too. Because 10 years ago, all the female fitness advice out there pointed towards cardio being the best way to lose weight, and plenty of women were petrified of stepping in the weights area of the gym, or even doing a push-up, let alone picking up barbell. Some even have decent dieting strategies and don't promote super low-calorie plans, or ridiculous practices such as zero-carb or zero-fat diets, juice cleanses or detoxes. Again, that's awesome.
But (you were waiting for it)... I'd like to talk about the darker side of the #fitspo industry. They might not necessarily lie about things, but I think stuff is omitted from the lives of many of these fitness models, in order to keep up the "sex appeal" of this now booming industry. It's a side that if left unchecked, could quickly ruin your chance of being the healthiest and happiest version of yourself.
1. Let's talk about a little thing called dieting
Firstly, dieting is hard. Damn hard. And to get into the same shape of these girls, it takes time, effort and consistency. Can almost any woman drop body fat and get very lean? I'd say so. It's a realistic (if lofty) goal to have. However, what's not realistic, and definitely not safe, is trying to sustain these results year-round. Getting lean for a photo shoot, a trip, an event, or even a competition is one thing, but keeping that for the other 11 months of the year is something else entirely.
Because their job demands it, sports models somehow manage to maintain their physique. But your body hates being this lean. When you get below a certain level of body fat, several potentially disastrous consequences can happen.
- Your hormone levels (particularly the sex hormones - testosterone and estrogen) drop.
- Your metabolism slows as your body tries to conserve energy.
- You lose muscle mass.
- You feel tired all the time, and you get grumpy and irritable.
- You can lose your period.
- Hair and nail growth slows and can even stop, and your skin becomes dry and flaky.
If you compete every couple of years in a bikini or fitness competition, then these effects can all be reversed within a few months post-show. By staying that ripped and lean 365 days a year though, you run the risk of causing some severe long-term damage.
2. Had a terrible relationship? Wait until you have one with food
Do you find yourself thinking about food when you're bored in the afternoons at work? Most people do. This preoccupation with eating gets worse when you're dieting, and becomes hell when you're dieting all the time. While they may not be open and upfront about it, I'd bet my mortgage that "most" sports models have a disordered relationship with food.
Cravings will be almost constant, you'll feel guilty when you eat something not listed on your plan, or go over your calorie allowance, and obsess over every single meal, as you weigh up what will be the tastiest thing to have for the fewest calories or carbs. It's not a nice place to be, and considering many women who don't compete or walk around this lean already fear food, imagine how horrendous it must be for a fitness model.
3. Things are not always what they seem to be (on Instagram)
You should definitely look and have an admiration for their body composition. But again, please understand that the majority of sports models don't post images of themselves post competition after they've put some weight back on - the photos you see on social media are often the retouched, pre-competition images, which means that they were taken while at their leanest.
Now, before I get attacked by the hungry hordes of sports models who are dieting right now while reading this, I'd like to mention that I'm also not saying for a second that there's anything remotely wrong with it, either. After all, you'd be silly not to capture and show the world what you've worked so hard to achieve. I'm just informing those other women of the truth behind those images. You don't have to be that lean to have a smile on your face and feel proud of your body.
4. Wrapping up
I hope this hasn't come off as a hate-filled, because I've got nothing but love for anyone trying to achieve something better in their lives. I'm not trying to stop women from competing in sports or fitness model competitions, either. I actually think it's something that many women could benefit from - it shows what your body can be capable of achieving with some hard work and dedication.
In fact, I'd go as far as to say that if done right, it's also a much healthier option for your body than training and running a marathon, and you'd look much better at the end of it too. Just don't copy everything they do. You can imitate their love for training, and going hard on the weights. You can embrace their desire for deadlifts and lust for lunges. You can even follow the dieting advice of those who have a moderate, balanced and flexible approach. Just, for the love of god, don't try to achieve and then maintain this type of body year-round.
Even if you want to get lean, you should only stay at this point for a short time (say 2-3 months maximum) and then you need to know how to properly reverse out of this. This is easier said than done, but involves gradually cutting down your cardiovascular activities, and bringing your calories back up to around a maintenance level over the course of another couple of months.
You'll probably feel like a failure. If you gain some body fat post-diet, it might be hard to take. But remember this: you've dieted down before, so you CAN get there again if you want to, it's not like you'll never be that lean again. In the grand scheme of things, enjoying your food, having energy, loving life and training hard is far more important than walking around with visible abs all the time.
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