Health Is Not A Body Type

By Katy Moran
 

I have been a Personal Trainer for nearly 6 years and during that time I have predominantly worked with Women.


I have trained clients in commercial gyms and small personal training studios, online and in person, in the UK and abroad. No matter where I train my clients, by which medium or what goal we are working towards, the concept that being healthy, means being a specific body shape keeps on coming up.


And this wasn’t just raised in a passing comment, it was and is a belief system, deeply ingrained in many people and perpetuated by so many professionals and fitness media.

I have been a Personal Trainer for nearly 6 years and during that time I have predominantly worked with Women.

 

I have trained clients in commercial gyms and small personal training studios, online and in person, in the UK and abroad. No matter where I train my clients, by which medium or what goal we are working towards, the concept that being healthy, means being a specific body shape keeps on coming up.

 

And this wasn’t just raised in a passing comment, it was and is a belief system, deeply ingrained in many people and perpetuated by so many professionals and fitness media.

I want to take a moment to break down why this is and what we can do to shift our perception of health.

 

When I first started training, I found the gym to be a very intimidating place. No matter how many times people would tell me that ‘no one cared what I looked like training’, I found it very hard to believe them. I thought it was me doing something wrong or not being brave enough to claim space.  After years of experience working in this industry, I see now, that feeling that way wasn’t my fault, as the marketing around the fitness industry is overwhelmingly about breeding insecurity, in order to generate relevance.

 

From the magazines we buy to the posts that get pushed on social media, to the way some of us treat each other, health isn’t viewed as

consistent effort in healthy actions, achievements, battles overcome, enjoyment, passion or the knowledge you have, unless your body fat percentage is low enough for you to fit a certain body type.

 

And I truly can’t grasp why this is. Let’s look at

world champion tennis players, Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka, World’s Strongest Woman Donna Moore and Heptathlon Queen Jessica Ennis, their body types could not be more different and yet we know they are all the best at what they do. They are all world class athletes, will anyone dispute that they are healthy?

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But then when we look at the women being featured on Women’s Health and similar magazines, or in promotions for gyms or influencers that are promoted on social media, the majority if not all fit this stereotype of female health, that is often low body fat and physiologically caucasian. Of course, they should be featured if they inspire healthy actions, but we can’t promote one image of health and expect everyone to feel empowered to be healthy. It must be said that there is a trend now, to share female bodies that do have a different body shape, as long as they are pinching their fat and making a show of their belly rolls, which in my opinion, isn’t normalising anything, it is making those living in larger female bodies feel alienated, whilst simultaneously ensuring that the bodies of women continue to be observed for what they look like and not what they can do.

 

There is a secondary impact of this culture of promoting health as a body type and a very disappointing one. Women feel that they can’t share their successes, their knowledge, or their journey, for fear of being called irrelevant as a work in progress by some and offensive to those that don’t want to change their body by others. The pursuit of health and a healthy body image is sometimes one of the greatest achievements people experience, what are we doing as an industry or just as people, to actively take away the voice of women who feel empowered by sharing their success.

 

For me the fitness industry should be inclusive. It should be empowering. To promote health is to promote the tangible concept of healthy actions and not the elusive and exclusive idea of a ‘healthy body type’.

 

The fitness world is not a club that you get to join when you look a certain way: every BODY is welcome.