I grew up when leg warmers were totally awesome and head bands rocked. Yes, I’m old enough to remember Olivia Newton John encouraging us to “get physical” and when Jane Fonda’s workout was a still just record album. Think Richard Simmons, Flashdance and Jamie Lee Curtis in the movie, Perfect (which, like Flashdance, I don’t think my parents permitted me to see). These pop culture images shaped my feelings and insecurities about my developing body. From a very young age,I got the message that you were either fit or fat. Fit got the right attention, wore the right clothes and of course, always projected confidence and success. Fat never went to the prom, didn’t take care of herself, would cringe at the idea of wearing a bathing suit and had to listen to countless relatives lament (not in an intentionally mean way), the waste of a pretty face.
Despite all the years that have gone by and the much needed attention to the obesity epidemic in this country, I feel like the messaging about shaping up can still be harsh and discouraging. And it’s a shame. Leah Segedie of Bookieboo,com and founder of the Mamavation Twitter campaign asked a number of us who blog about fitness to get behind a new effort to encourage the exercise and wellness industry to make the workout world more welcoming to folks who want to change their lifestyles. It’s not easy for a size 6 or 8 to walk into a gym given the obsessive pursuit of perfection that often lurks on the treadmill and in the cycling room. I can only imagine how hard it is to take the first step if you are a size 20. I think what Segedie is looking to promote is a judgement free zone and I support her 100%.
I’m lucky to have discovered exercise as a stress reliever and weight management tool early in my adult life. Throughout the ups and downs on the scale and a twin pregnancy, to boot, I’ve kept myself healthy despite the negative messaging about fitness that troubled me so much as an adolescent. We all know that reducing body fat, lowering cholesterol and blood pressure and building lean muscle mass is hard work. There is no magic bullet for the hours of sweat and daily dedication it takes to succeed. But we could all benefit from a more supportive culture that recognizes that the first step is always the hardest.