I’m sure you’ve seen them too…
The magazines, posters, memes and other images of what a healthy and fit person looks like.
You see incredibly lean and muscular people wearing next to nothing with sayings and advertisements reminding you that…
…you don’t look like these individuals – but you should.
And if you don’t, then there must be something wrong with you…and it’s time to fix it right away.
You should buy this product and do that workout if you want to look this good. In fact, if you do, maybe you’ll even find a date…you know – someone who would have never given you the time of day otherwise.
Does it make you feel bad about the way you look in comparison to the models in these photos?
Because to be honest…I personally don’t feel that these images have anything to do with health and fitness. They have to do with modeling.
Health and fitness doesn’t mean you have to be a size two, nor does it mean that you have to be a chiseled looking god.
So what does health and fitness mean?
This is a good question to ask, so I’ll give you my perspective.
Defining Health and Fitness
According to Merriam-Webster.com, the definitions for both health and fitness are:
- the condition of being well or free from disease
- the overall condition of someone’s body or mind
- the condition or state of something
- the quality or state of being fit
- the capacity of an organism to survive and transmit its genotype to reproductive offspring as compared to competing organisms; also : the contribution of an allele or genotype to the gene pool of subsequent generations as compared to that of other alleles or genotypes
Now I have taken the liberty to check out a few other sites that offer definitions of both of these words and I can assure you that I found nothing that alluded to the concept that health and fitness meant you had to look like a swimsuit model, or Michaelangelo’s “David”.
Health and Fitness, quite simply means, being healthy and fit.
It has more to do with the quality of the food we eat and the ability to physically keep up with an active lifestyle while minimizing the effects that stress and illness have on the body due to unhealthy habits than it does with fitting into a small piece of designer clothing.
So with this being said, you may be wondering…
Does this mean that it is wrong or bad to want to feel a sense of pride about our appearance?
No. As long as this is put in its proper perspective.
But because we are bombarded with constant reminders of what society considers attractive and beautiful, it can easily blur the lines between true physical health, and an image.
This is where clarity is needed.
The Image of Health and Fitness vs. Being Healthy and Fit
Since I have already gone over what it means to be healthy and fit, let’s discuss the image of health and fitness and its effects on the human perspective.
When we watch a tell-a-vision show or a movie, flip through magazines or see any other form of visual stimuli, we are taking in information.
If there is enough support by society to back up the validity of the information being dispensed at any given time, we typically don’t question it, but we do tend to believe it and follow along with it instead.
And since all information tells a story, if it’s presented in the form of non-fiction material that we should all live by, then we take it as the truth and make decisions based on this perspective.
So in regard to health and fitness, when you see a photograph of someone wearing revealing (if any) clothing in a setting that tells the story that if you do such and such, you’ll look like this, it’s creating an illusion…one that may cause more harm than good.
The reason is because when we think that being fit and healthy means looking like a runway model or professional sports figure, we think this means we need to look the way they do; so we therefore set expectations of ourselves that may not be realistic for us as individuals.
And if our self-worth is low and we measure ourselves against an ideology that isn’t necessarily an accurate depiction of living a life of well-being, but is instead painting a false picture of it…it can lead to making decisions about our diet and exercise programs that are based out of a place of emotional turmoil…which could lead to eating disorders, fad dieting and unsafe fitness practices that cause injuries.
This is the negative drawback to the image of health and fitness.
Now am I saying that photos of perfectly sculpted humans are a bad thing in and of themselves?
No, not at all.
In fact, they’re fine, and can even be used as a tool for motivation for someone who doesn’t base their self-worth on them.
I also want to mention that I am not knocking the image of health and fitness in any way, but I do feel it’s important to be made aware that there is a difference between the reality of a lifestyle, and its visual representation.
The former focuses on the big picture, which leaves room for the imagination and involves all of its related components (such as stress levels, emotional health, quality of relationships, etc). The latter gives an impression, and can be misinterpreted based on a persuasive form of advertising offering limited information (such as the model’s nutrition habits, genetics or how much time they spend working out in order to look the way they do), and isn’t necessarily realistic or doable for everyone.
The truth is that one can be perfectly healthy, but may not look the part.
I personally know of several people who take excellent care of themselves, exercise regularly, eat a well balanced diet, have an uplifting and productive outlook on life and are in otherwise great health.
They may not all look like models, but they are real life shining examples of what well-being is really all about.
I have also known individuals who could have easily been featured on the cover of any health and fitness magazine, but practiced unhealthy habits and suffered from negative self-image issues regardless of what they looked like.
You also need to remember that photo imaging is a normal practice that influences the mindset of the public…and it’s all based on a manipulated illusion.
So while there is nothing wrong with using the image of health and fitness in and of itself as a form of inspiration, it’s important to be cognizant of the negativity that can occur within one’s mind and therefore, behaviors – unless this is taken with a grain of salt, and not used as a tool to measure self-worth…
…or as an objective truth about what well-being truly looks like.
How do you use the image of health and fitness?
Featured Image credit goes to Brainyquotes.com