Fat versus Thin or Form versus Function?

I love my body.

There’s a sentence you rarely hear.

And this is something that’s been playing on my mind, particularly following on from the recent backlash, featured in various news articles and on social media this week, against the latest Protein World adverts.

Protein worldIn case you haven’t seen them, the ads show a woman, with the most incredible physique, in a skimpy yellow bikini, accompanied by the slogan ‘are you beach body ready?’

In defence of the advert, the woman isn’t super skinny – she is shapely and toned with muscle definition – and, as a spokesperson for Protein World pointed out (although perhaps not in the most sensitive or diplomatic way), this company aren’t alone in adhering to the ‘beach ready’ trope.

Indeed, this is a slogan that is churned out on an annual basis, alongside a flurry of articles on diet and exercise, that remind us that the comfort eating of the winter months is about to come back to bite us (just Google ‘get a beach body’ and you’ll see what I mean).

But, as my mum always said to me: just because everyone else is doing something, it doesn’t necessarily make it right.

Whatever you think of the adverts, (and they are certainly sparking off lots of opinions), the fact that people are publicaly standing up for their bodies (whatever shape or size) has to be a positive thing.

In the UK at least, we are conditioned to be as self-deprecating as humanly possible. Try to give an Englishman a compliment and you will be met by a barrage of objections, excuses and awkwardness. Tell someone you like their outfit and you’ll hear how they got it in a sale, or have had it forever, or that they aren’t really all that sure about it anyway.

beach doveAnd the same goes for our bodies. We are taught to critique and pick ourselves apart piece by piece. Heaven forbid that anyone might declare that they are actually quite comfortable in their own skin – whether they have sculpted six-pack abs or not – and wait for the gasps of disbelief. Suggest that you actually like the way you look and you become a social pariah.

We grow up hearing everyone listing their flaws and, in turn, see those flaws in ourselves. And I admit to being party to this. I’ve spent years pulling apart my appearance, feeling negatively about my body, picking up on every lump, bump and blemish, hating myself and then feeling guilty for being so shallow and ungrateful as to hate myself.

Even this week when I’ve been reflecting on what incredible things my body can achieve, how lucky I am that I have fully functioning limbs and that my vital organs are still all working at least, I still found myself, in a moment of weakness trapped beneath the neon lights of the gym, resenting every curve and squishy bit as they were reflected back at me in mirrors on every angle. Then I got myself back in check and chastised myself for being so ridiculous.

beach_body_ready_3282046bI admire those women who are able to confidently stand up for their own bodies and who feel comfortable enough in their own skin to strip down to their bikinis and stand on the tube platforms in protest (or even those who are confident enough to strip down for a giant poster).

Because it shouldn’t be about form but function. We should be proud of our bodies and what they can do. This shouldn’t be a question of fat versus thin, as the Protein World debate has become, but one of form versus function.

We should look after ourselves, eating the correct things, doing functional exercises – running, walking, climbing, swimming – stretching after days spent sat at desks, doing body weight exercises to keep our bones strong, to make sure our bodies can fulfil their full potentials.

So as the protesters declare, we should be making sure #eachbodyisready, but not just for the beach but for everything that life throws at it – be it marathon, childbirth, illness, injury and everything in between. And whether you do that in a skimpy yellow bikini or not is up to you.

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