In honour of today being Valentine’s Day, I figured I’d do a little piece on self-love, with a side of ranting (because come on, that’s what I do best).
I was on a Skype call recently with a remote client that I train online (you can do that with me, by the way, should you not be local to Singapore), and I was trying to demonstrate something – so I stood on a chair so she could clearly see my legs.
Before I could get into the explanation of the thing itself, she stopped and said – “your thighs – they don’t touch!”
I’d heard of the so-called “thigh gap” before, of course – but it caught me by surprise that it was worthy of being called out over Skype.
For those of you who aren’t in the know (and believe me, when it comes to this trend, consider yourself lucky to be out of the loop), the “thigh gap” for many women is the ultimate expression of thinness, fitness, desirability, physical perfection – it’s like the six-pack for men, but perhaps more unattainable (and stupid, IMO).
But what bothers me most about the thigh gap, more so than its association with the above ideas, is its association with being FEMININE and FRAGILE, or as Wikipedia says:
“…the thigh gap had become an aspect of physical attractiveness in the Western world and has been associated with fragility and femininity, although it is also seen as desirable by some men as a sign of fitness.”
A sign of fragility (um…not so great for hip-breakin’ in your elder years?). A sign of femininity (let me hike up my 1950s hoop skirt and see…)? And a sign of FITNESS?!? ABSOLUTELY untrue.
Having a thigh gap is a sign of one of three things: you have very thin (often NOT fit) legs, you are bowlegged or have a wide-set pelvic structure, or you stand a certain way to “roll back” your legs into a thigh gap a la Instagram models.
My point in all this is that ALL a “thigh gap” is telling you is whether or not you can feel the cool breeze between your upper legs – and not a thing more.
Just like the “thighbrow” (don’t fall down this rabbit hole, guys, unless you really want to) or what my pre-social media generation used to call “gratuitous cleavage,” the thigh gap is nothing more than positioning parts of your body in such as a way as to be perceived more attractive or desirable to the (small; IMO irrelevant) component of the population who actually notices and/or values that load of sh*t.
Which brings me to my actual point.
I train and work with women (and men) every day, and what I notice most about how women (versus men) self-talk in the gym, it’s this:
they’re we’re almost always commenting on the way their bodies look (rather than how they feel or function).
If we lift something heavy, we want to make sure it’ll “pay off” in visible leanness. If we run, we might notice certain areas “bouncing around” and we assume they shouldn’t be. If we stretch, we turn away from the mirror so we don’t have to see our (perfectly normal) skin folded over our waistbands as we bend.
It’s a whole can of worms, folks. And the GD “thigh gap” is just one symptom of it.
As women, we have to call ourselves on the default habit of bringing everything back to our physical bodies – particularly while we’re doing something healthy for those fabulous bodies (like exercising, or getting a massage, or dancing with friends).
If your thighs touch when you stand up, it’s not a sign of poor fitness. If your belly flops over a bit when you BEND OVER, that’s a completely normal effect of human movement. If you notice that your butt bounces a few moments behind you when you’re running on the treadmill, it’s probably because you have some nice muscles back there flexing to help you stride – not because you have too much “junk the trunk.”
I challenge my clients to focus on the intrinsic benefits of exercise and clean eating, even if it doesn’t seem natural at first. Instead of obsessing over getting into a certain dress or wearing a bikini at whatever vacation or seeing a magical number pop up on the scale, why not consider:
- how much better you sleep when you’re being consistently active
- how much more energy you have when you’re not eating crapola
- how much better sex is when you’re in good physical shape (cough, er ah, just sayin’)
- how much your kids appreciate when you have energy/ability to keep up with them
- how great it feels to accomplish a solid, write-it-down-in-numbers fitness goal (like running your first full mile, or lifting a new PR on the weights floor)
- how much less stress you have when you drop the body loathing and celebrate the body doing
Especially as a fitness professional, where my body IS part of my business no matter how much I’d pretend or hope it wouldn’t be, I know I can work harder to change the body focus for myself – and encourage that among the women that I train.
We can all take a few moments to appreciate the things our bodies can do, the humans our bodies have produced, the memories our bodies have walked us through, and the adventures our bodies have yet to experience – without saying a single bad word about ’em.
So let’s. And this Valentine’s (or GALentine’s, as I’ve noticed the cool kids are starting to celebrate) Day, I hope you can incorporate some beautiful self-love rituals that do not have a damn thing to do with the way your body looks (my plan? holding hands with my adorable man all night, eating a fine meat-filled dinner, and getting a little buzz off some overpriced craft beer).
What’s your favourite way to celebrate Valentine’s Day – or celebrate your healthy bod?