You are here

Is "Strong Is the New Skinny" Really Sending a Good Message?

September 11, 2013
Jennipher Walters

You know the phrase "strong is the new skinny," that's going all around your Pinterest page, Twitter feed and, well, everywhere? Well, I get that it's inspiring. That it's supposed to mean that we value being strong and healthy more than fitting in a size 2 dress. But, it bothers me.

In the phrase, "skinny" is something to be sought after. Something that's good. And now, in order to be accepted and seen as beautiful by society, you need to be strong - with visible muscles and the ability to do lots of push-ups and dead lifts and pull-ups. But is this really the message we all want to be sending?

I get that being strong rocks, and I think all women (and men!) should lift weights. Strength training is good for a number of reasons - from building strong bones to boosting your fitness to managing chronic conditions and even making your brain sharper. And personally I have had my life - and the shape of my body - be totally changed by lifting weights regularly. But I don't think it's helping anyone for strong to be the new skinny.

Everyone is different, and some of us put on muscle more easily than others, just like some of us are naturally more slender. Does this mean then that non-muscular people are now not as attractive? That they need to change, even if they are living a healthy lifestyle? Are they no longer beautiful because when they flex there's not much there or their abs don't resemble a six-pack? Now they get to the feel the pressure that "non-skinny" folks have felt for years, chasing after what could possibly be an unrealistic appearance?

Again, I love strength training and think everyone should do it a few times a week. But a new obsession with looking a certain way, even if it is a healthier way of life (which, many could debate as many fitness models shown in these internet memes have highly-restrictive diets and extreme workouts)? No way.

I think what we all really need is to not need to look like anything - skinny, strong, whatever it may be. At the end of the day, the thing we're all searching for is to feel good. To feel empowered. To feel energized and confident in our own skin. For some, that feeling is bolstered by having muscles to flex. For others, that might mean just walking with her head high, knowing that she's taking care of herself in a way that feels good for her.

The only "new skinny" I'd like to see is being oneself and taking care of oneself. It's not nearly as catchy, I know. But how tragic would it be if we all just took our body image issues of trying to be skinny and just moved them over to some new "strong" ideal? Instead of treating our body with respect and loving ourselves, we transferred our need to feel beautiful (and therefore worthy) to the weight room instead of getting our self value from a deeper place? What does that do to us - and how does it affect the generation behind us?

That, my friends, is what really bothers me.

I love to lift weights. And I am proud of the things my body can do - and the physical strength that I've built over the years. But, for me, strong is not the new skinny. The new skinny is no longer putting a label on beauty. The new skinny is being your best self. The new skinny is already you.