By Dr. Tiffany Breeding
Over the last decade there has been a palpable shift in the mindset of women, and girls as it relates to how they view the “ideal” body type. Many in the health, fitness and sport industries are using the terminology “Fit is the New Sexy”, or “Strong is the New Sexy” to replace the skinny, non-muscular build of Kate Moss and similar models of the past.
I notice it in so many places, social media posts of fitness professionals or ads for weight loss/nutrition programs. If you look at mannequins in active wear stores or departments, the figures have butts and quads, they are curvy and toned. Sport bras are made for bigger busted women, and the sizing of clothes have shifted to have wider legs and more space in the trunk.
With this shift comes inevitable criticism about the potentially harmful effects of this new focus on Fit or Strong. When women and girls see and read about the new “norm” being muscular and toned, having curves and more athletic bodies, there is a pressure now to achieve and maintain this new standard. This is not dissimilar to the seemingly unattainable skinny figures that once dominated social media and body typing. It is my goal, and my focus to redefine this terminology “Strong is the New Sexy”.
I don’t believe this message is or should be perceived as negative. I don’t believe strength should be viewed as something strictly physical nor related to a certain body type. Strength is a state of mind. For example: strength of character, a strong sense of purpose, strength in the face of adversity, and being a strong leader. All of these exude confidence in your own abilities and your own body regardless of muscle, bone structure, height or weight.
There is no reason that women cannot embrace and aspire to be strong.
I don’t think we have to change this message of strong being sexy, we simply must redefine strong. We have to recognize that strong can mean lifting heavy shit and putting on lean muscle, or it can mean carrying the burden of today’s hard-working, intelligent, game-changing women. Strong means doing all this with grace, ease and resilience. By living a life of intellectual and emotional strength, we become confident, sexy beasts; superheroes of today!
The detrimental impact of this mantra comes when we associate strength with strictly a physical attribute. In my own practice of performance-based nutrition and mental skills mastery, I teach my clients to invest in the process of change. We learn about fueling our body, not dieting. We talk about how thoughts lead to emotions and these emotions drive our behaviors. In order to modify unwanted behaviors like making poor nutritional choices, or the inability to adhere to a regular fitness regimen, we have to change the way we think about those decisions.
We learn to think about cooking meals for your family after a long day or waking up 30 minutes earlier to hit the gym as a CHALLENGE not a THREAT. Thinking about how we are modeling a health-focused lifestyle for our daughters, our sisters, girlfriends, moms. Talking to other women about how nutrition fuels our minds, and our bodies so that we can perform at our 100% every day; and that 100% may differ day to day.
We don’t talk about “losing weight”, “getting in shape”, or “dieting”. When we do, we link healthy behaviors like exercise and proper nutrition to a size, or a physical objective. By re-positioning these same exercise and nutrition-related behaviors to a focus on higher personal performance, achieving excellence of character, being the best version of ourselves now we are sending a much different message. It is a balancing act, and my goal is to help every client makeover their metabolism and their mindset one thought at a time, for the last time.
Making invaluable lifestyle decisions becomes a positive principle of growth and development at every age. I talk to my clients about maximizing their metabolism, not restrictive eating. Each week we have a mindset mastery mission. We focus on process, not outcome. We set small sustainable goals and incremental action steps lead to big changes.
Next time you see that new tagline about Strong Being Sexy, rather than envision some muscle-bound athletic body that may or may not be attainable for you, envision a woman standing up for her beliefs, ringing the bell at the summit of her mountain, and embodying a confident, badass female to which we can all aspire. One Size Fits All.
Tiffany Breeding, AKA Dr. Tiff earned her Masters in Kinesiology/Performance Psychology from Georgia Southern (’05) and her PhD in Health and Human Performance from Middle Tennessee State (’08). Breeding is also a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (NSCA) and Fitness Nutrition Specialist (NASM). For the past 7 years, Tiffany has been providing corporate and executive performance to clients through worksite and employee wellness programming. She uses her unique combination of mental and physical performance training to offer clients nutrition counseling, metabolic restoration and performance coaching. For more information, visit Tiffany Breeding at www.workwithdrtiff.com.