Look the Part, Fit the Mold: The View of “Healthy” Women in the Media

Do you prefer to listen? Check out the podcast episode that goes along with this article on both Soundcloud and iTunes. We delve into the topic a little bit deeper and touch on the story of my experience with looking the part and fitting the mold.

In today’s culture, a fitness professional who “looks the part” is automatically assumed to have more knowledge than one who has gone to years of schooling and received certifications in a specific area. The fitness influencer on Instagram who is lean and muscular is assumed to know more than a person who may not be as lean, but has gone to school and received certifications for exercise science or personal training. In the world of fitness, it’s common to hear: “You have to look the part if you want to be successful.”

When I first started shadowing and volunteering in the fitness field, this is one of the first pieces of advice a trainer gave me. Never having been an overly lean person, it’s something I have struggled with since I decided to pursue fitness as a college major and career.

When I first began my fitness journey, I wanted to fit the mold and “look the part.” At my heaviest weight, I was around 189lbs and I now weigh in around 155lbs at 5’2”. Going through a weight loss journey over the course of five years and counting, I’ve learned a lot about myself and “looking the part.” I’ve come to start to embrace my journey as I think it gives me unique perspective when working with clients. (Tune into my podcast for a more in-depth look at my fitness journey!)


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This distorted view of healthy is not only present in fitness professionals. Regardless of your profession, there is a set standard portrayed by the media of the image of what it means to be “healthy”. However, healthy is not defined by your bodyweight. People can be what is considered “skinny fat”. Outwardly, they appear to maintain a healthy bodyweight. However, metabolically, they have a high heart rate, are unable to sustain moderate levels of cardiovascular activity, and are not strong enough to perform tasks in their daily lives.

Mainstream media has a skewed picture of what healthy people should look like. They fit everyone into a single mold when in reality there are infinitely as many molds as there are people. Everyday we’re overwhelmed with unrealistic, photo-shopped images on fitness magazine covers and in tv advertisements. Articles constantly tell us the “best exercises to lose fat fast” and “3 tips for flat abs”.

Thankfully, this is changing for the better. The definition of what it is to be a fit and healthy person is becoming more realistic. With the growth of sports such as Crossfit and powerlifting, there are many women and girls focused on being strong and performing well, regardless of their appearance. The different molds of what it is to be healthy are becoming apparent and more accepted.

Personally, I love the changes. Increasing your focus on the performance in the gym, as opposed to the number on the scale, can yield positive mental changes in ways you may have never thought were possible.

I encourage you to begin to make this change as well. Start to look at the inspirational fitness coaches for what they know, not what they look like. When you set your next fitness goal, focus on the process and building habits along the way. By focusing on performance and changing small habits for the better, the long-term body composition changes will come.

Examples of small habits that can make a big impact are:

  • Drinking enough water throughout the day
  • Focusing on whole, non-processed foods and fresh fruits and veggies
  • Eating enough protein during the day
  • Following appropriate portion sizes (Check out my last post for advice on reading nutrition labels and portion sizing!)

Along the way, remember how healthy you are is not defined by the number on the scale. Less weight does not mean healthier. More weight does not mean less healthy.

Healthy is being able to run a 5k or a 25k or a marathon. Healthy is being able to deadlift the bar or 1x or 2x your bodyweight. Healthy is being able to go for a walk with your spouse or bike ride with your kids. 

The journey to healthy is about creating and maintaining habits that improve your quality of life.

What healthy habits are you working on? Do you have fitness goals you’re working toward?

Let me know your thoughts and comments below, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/emilymeyerfit, or tweet me @emily_meyer13!

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