Body Image

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Lately on the Facebook page, we’ve introduced a new campaign by LIFT BIG EAT BIG to showcase varying body types in the same outfit. Photos are sent in by heavy-lifting participants which are then contrasted with the standard model body type, wearing the same articles of clothing.
While most have received this campaign with open arms and dropped jaws, there has inevitably been some negativity from certain members of this community, who feel that comparing body types is wrong, and that all body types are acceptable.
To quote one of my athletes : This is LIFT BIG EAT BIG, not “go jogging and eat twigs & berries.”
There seems to be a misconception that LBEB is diametrically opposed to skinny people. This couldn’t be further from the truth. For example, here are a few skinny individuals that I coach on a personal basis or are contributors to the site:
Bok Choi, my 108lb athlete
Erika Wilson, 114lbs with a 305lb deadlift
Dana Mcmahon, a 100lb ex-powerlifter who wrote this for LBEB
The difference with these woman is that while they are skinny, they are a healthy skinny. There is an immense difference between being a naturally skinny person who is still very strong or fit, and a person who goes to unhealthy lengths in order to maintain a job in the modeling industry. Sorry, but anyone who believes all fashion or runway models are healthy, are misguided. It’s no secret that many designers expect models to be walking hangers–which in turn leads to models developing dangerous habits to satisfy that goal. Obviously there are exceptions and some models are healthy, but that is rare. 
To quote Karl Lagerfeld of Chanel: “No one wants to see curvy women. You’ve got fat mothers with their bags of chips sitting in front of the television and saying thin models are ugly. Fashion is about dreams and illusions.”  
~Source: Focus magazine
I believe that quote sums up what LBEB is opposed to quite nicely. The issue is that people look at photos of models who are not only dangerously skinny (a 23 inch waist on a woman of 5′ 10″?) but also heavily photoshopped, further adding to the unattainable body image that so many strive for.
To say that “maybe most models are naturally this skinny and they probably do exercise” would be playing the part of the fool. Both my wife and I have worked with the modeling industry and we have seen these unhealthy habits firsthand. Have you ever heard of dipping cotton balls in orange juice and swallowing them so you feel full, but aren’t actually getting nutrients? Then you should read this. While this is only one example, many other examples show up when you search for supermodel diet plans. Another popular one is the Victoria’s Secret Diet where models like Adriana Lima and Alessandra Ambrosio take on a liquid diet, while  doing two-a-days at the gym. And let’s not forget that Alessandra was 2 months pregnant at the time of the fashion show. 
Some have praised the efforts of a a select few agencies that demand that models maintain a certain weight, but these agencies are rare and are anything but the norm. In fact, there is STILL no minimum BMI guideline for models.
The average model used to weigh 8% less than the average woman in the 1970’s, now the average model weighs 23% less than the average woman. Most models qualify for anorexia, and not surprisingly, a size 6 is considered a plus size in the industry.
Had to put Big Marshall in here
So, to say that LBEB is in the wrong for comparing two body types is ridiculous.  What is ridiculous is to shove these images of extremely thin models down the throats of men and women everywhere, when these models are not designed to look like people, they are designed to look like mannequins to hang clothes on. We feel that it is much better to promote a healthy, attainable body type, and it is most effective when contrasted with the standard image of beauty that can be seen in online and print ads all across the globe.
One simply has to go on Pinterest or Tumblr to see images of “Thinspiration” feeds, where individuals post images of horribly anorexic “fitness models” with taglines such as “inspiration!!” and “OMG need this body for Summer.” Our goal is to steer women (and men) away from the need to aim for too thin, and have them instead aim for healthy. By posting these comparison photos, what we’re trying to do is show an alternative for the Thinspiration photos found everywhere. Again, thin is NOT bad if you’re healthy–however this is not the case with many models and the Thinspo photos.
We realize, that yes, these models are real people and need to be treated with compassion. However, this does not mean that we must emulate their unhealthy lifestyle, especially in an age of such oppressive advertising campaigns. LIFT BIG EAT BIG will continue to challenge the conventional norm of the healthy body image for men and women, and encourage ALL individuals to engage in heavy strength training. 
If you are unable to accept this, then LIFT BIG EAT BIG is not the community for you.
  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08511952171840068024 rawb

    GREAT article. Can I email it to a bunch of folks?

    • http://www.liftbigeatbig.com/ Lift Big Eat Big

      Absolutely.

  • Anonymous

    “The average model used to weigh 8% less than the average woman in the 1970’s, now the average model weighs 23% less than the average woman.”

    How much of that is models getting skinnier than they were in the 70’s and the average woman getting fatter than in the 70’s?

    • Anonymous

      both, I’m sure.

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05333814195848636859 Brandon Morrison

      Good qestion. I would say its a combination of both.

    • http://www.copyblogger.com/ Sonia Simone

      It’s both. Average model size used to be 4/6, sometimes 8, and now it’s 0.

  • Anonymous

    It’s almost like modeling is the sport of being skinny. Really then, not much different than body building. If body builders are athletes should models be considered athletes?

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05333814195848636859 Brandon Morrison

      I don’t consider bodybuilders to be athletes. There is no athletic competition they take part in. They are more like show-cars.

    • Anonymous

      No athletic competition in bodybuilding? Tell that to everyone whos ever COMPETED in a bodybuilding show.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04561130019306274267 George.briley

    Well Said Brandon something I’ve been waiting to see said by someone! hopefully the people moaning on the photos will finally brighten up and appreciate the hard work and amazing bodies LBEB produces

  • Anonymous

    As a woman the most freeing thing every has been that through functional fitness I’ve changed my goals. I slowly stared caring less what he scale said because I didn’t care if that number went down nearly as much as I cared if my number on my weights went up or my times were faster. It’s an amazing feeling to be able to say this is the one body I get and I love it because I can accomplish things. Being able to back squat 75lbs or do toes to bar became my focus not matching the body of models. Which meant I gained self confidence because I had goals that could be reached through in a healthy way. I think that’s the entire point. People would be surprised how much better you feel about your body when your goal is to be the most fit and healthy you. Best thing I ever did was toss my scale in the garbage and track my workouts progress.

  • Michelle Kim

    I don’t disagree with anything in this post. For the record, I can’t speak for other people but I never had a problem with the comparisons being posted. What I had a problem with was when the mutual back-slapping in the comments escalated into bullshit statements about drugs and eating disorders.

    A big chunk of my life was seriously below-par in the health and quality departments because of bulimia, and I know I’m not the only one. A lot of people develop an interest in fitness as part of their recovery from eating disorders, and I’d guess that your fanbase includes more of those than just me.

    So that’s what I reacted strongly to, and the “GTFO if u dont liek this” is what I kept reacting (admittedly obnoxiously) to. Just thought I’d clarify, because I respect what you’re doing and hope you keep doing it. I didn’t want that to be misunderstood.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01759026042936146861 Unknown

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01759026042936146861 James de Lacey

    I love this website and these comparisons. People need to realise getting strong is the way to getting the body you want not trying every diet under the sun which obviously isn’t working. Keep up the good work and spread the message!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12985368207372790975 Peter "Fucking" Baker

    I bet the women with the best asses LBEB. Just a hunch.

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05468857403421078076 Obey the Frog

      I second this hunch.

  • Malcolm

    Well said! increasing strength, knowledge, and self esteem are far more satisfying goals to achieve than an unattainable drug assisted photo shopped magazine cover image,
    It makes my day to see and hear about women and men who care less about the number on the scale and more about the poundage on the bar

  • http://malcs-strengthpitt.blogspot.com/ Malcolm

    Oh yeah and Karl Lagerfeld can kiss my ass! anyone who listens to what people want to see, in regards to women’s body types from a man who looks like an extra from Salems lot needs a good slap!

  • Anonymous

    Believe it or not, some people don’t have to starve themselves to be skinny. I eat a ton, and am completely healthy, but I am a beanpole, and have the body of most super models. This isn’t my fault, it’s genetics. And reading comments filled with skinny-bashing sucks. Everybody has body image problems, not just those on the bigger end of the spectrum. Remember that the skinny girl you are picking on and calling unhealthy may just be born that way, and remember that she is probably just as uncomfortable in her skin as you are yours.

    Wether it’s a thinner person making fun of a thicker person, or a thicker person making fun of a thinner person, it’s still hurtful, and it still sucks. Ya dig?

    • Anonymous

      Completely agree, but that is the point of this article. It’s to say that not everyone who is skinny is unhealthy. These guys are talking about SOME models, like the ones they worked with, who they have seen firsthand exhibit unhealthy habits. I think they made it pretty clear that skinny isn’t bad as long as you take care of yourself. I have seen the comparison photos and don’t think that it is making fun of anyone. In fact, I’ve even seen LBEB defend skinny by saying it’s uncessary to call them anorexic.

      I do agree with you that making fun of body image whether you’re skinny or huge can be hurtful, but after seeing the photos, it is clear that the intention of the photos is to show that other body types also look great and you don’t necessarily have to be extremely thin to look good in clothes. The photos and the article is not to say that there’s anything wrong with thin, just something wrong with unhealthy.

  • Aundrea

    I just came across your site
    This is a fantastic post. The thinspo stuff on pinterest like the one you posted makes me sad. Its sad that girls are growing up thinking that being thin and the gap between the thighs is all that matters….I mean sure I would like a gap but only so my thighs don’t rub together in shorts when I run, not one large enough to cram a football into.
    I am new to crossfit but not new to lifting weights. I find it empowering, exciting and I wish more women would embrace it for what it is and what it can do for our bodies.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10466269612045249616 Kristin @ My Mission Impossible

    What a fantastic article. I’ve been trying to get around to writing a thinspo vs. fitspo post on my blog echoing this post. Most women go through a period in their lives where the struggle with body issues. Blogs like these are such a great inspiration and can really show people that it is not necessary to be scary skinny to be beautiful! Strong is the new skinny!

    Kristin @ My Mission Impossible

  • http://wherewildthingsplay.wordpress.com/ wherewildthingsplay

    LOVE it.

  • kathleen

    Awesome article. I LOVE my muscles! When I see super skinny girls/ women I think ” she must be a stinky, unhealthy smoker” (I’m an RN). Not attractive at all!

    • Anonymous

      Wow. Nice to see licensed healthcare professionals making judgmental assumptions about people.

      I’m 5’10”, deadlift 1.25 x BW after training for 6 weeks, eat 3000-4000kcal/day, but yet to top 120 pounds. In the last ten years I’ve been called a junkie, anorexic, cancer patient, and any number of insults based on my appearance. According to what my body can do and how it functions, I’m fit and healthy. According to you, I’m an ugly stinky unhealthy smoker.

      I’m just glad the nurses where I work have some compassion and common sense.

  • http://www.thegetinshapeworkoutplan.com/ the get in shape girl

    No doubt, seeing your “butt test” ladies and the chicks you post lifting and squatting have DEF helped me become more comfortable in my skin. Know that you are helping at least one woman in this world realize that STRONG is beautiful!!!!

  • Anonymous

    I love the comparison photos, makes me feel like the end game is more obtainable.
    JH

  • the got in shape girl

    How does switching out “Ladies, you gotta be a beanpole to be a worthwhile person” for “Ladies, you gotta have abs and a perfect ass to be a worthwhile person” (what do the ladies without glute hypertrophy do?) improve women’s attitudes towards their own bodies?

    Or what this lady said: http://gokaleo.com/?p=330
    “I get so frustrated that a philosophy that talks such a good game about valuing women for their strength and abilities still objectifies our bodies so blatantly. Spend a few minutes surfing paleo blogs and you will see image after image of women in bikinis and booty shorts, many even naked. Sure, they’ve got visible abs, which sets those images apart from the images you’ll see in fashion magazines, but in the end it’s the same old story. Women’s bodies are being exploited to sell a product, and in the process a message is being sent to women: this is how you’re supposed to look to be desirable.”

    Looking forward to seeing these retorts missing the point:
    - The woman writing that blog post is ugly and only ugly women think that
    - What’s wrong with being attractive
    - Plenty of women can get lean if they tried
    - It’s just a compliment
    - Men are objectified too
    - Women like it
    - Sex sells so get over it (my personal favorite, the anthem of the “I don’t want to think about this issue or change anything” crowd)

    • bullockja

      First of all, have you talked to the modles to see if they feel objectified? They are either paid for their appearance or volunteered, so they are not exploited. Men are going against 6.5 million years of evolution. We are programed, hard wired if you will, to look at and be attracted to the female form. You have never looked at a male model with his shirt off? Yeah, right.

  • the got in shape girl

    And two more:

    - the lady in the picture isn’t half-naked! (because half-naked “inspiration” pictures are totally not prevalent in the strength community and I am totally only talking about that one photo and not a general trend)
    - this isn’t the paleo community (yes, because her post totally doesn’t apply to the strength community either . . .)

    • Lift Big Eat Big

      Doesn’t look like I need to say anything, you got all the responses covered! Although I’m not promoting abs, am I?

      Thanks for reading!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02911028699463595920 Willow

    I LOVE that you posted pics of the “skinny” ladies you train. I look at most the LBEB girls (who look awesome!) and I’m just not that body type. I started with no ass and couldnt even fathom doing 1 push-up or 1 pull up and never in my life squatted, etc. I am 5’8″ and a ruler bodytype (knock knees and all, LOL!) When I started working out I was 135lbs and 24% body fat (skinny turned into skinny fat) and now I’m 142lbs 14.9% BF. I have put on 22.4 lbs of muscle in the last 2 years. Its frustrating to work so hard and be so dedicated to my food only for people to say, “oh you’ve always been skinny!” I hate that word! It took this long for me to get to 142lbs and I’m even more excited to get to 150!! I recently deadlifted 225lbs and its my favorite gym moment EVER, and my goal for the end of the year is to able to DL 315! Its inspirational to see these ladies lifting so much!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07902215364905022487 Louise

    While I don’t agree with the insidious nature of the fashion industry and what young women do to be a part of it and emulate it, I feel like your comparison pictures are preaching to the choir, that will never convince a girl who is striving to be skinny.
    What will convince people is the empowerment and confidence that strength training gives you.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02865403306875500723 Meghan Olson

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02865403306875500723 Meghan Olson

    I was anorexic when I was 11 years old. The “beautiful” body image presented by media is part of what drove me to “be the best” at being skinny. My lowest weight was 58 pounds and I was 5 feet tall. Now, 9 years later, I am a little more than double that weight but only 4 inches taller. My obsession with being skinny has turned into an obsession with the gym, in a good way. I feel confident and want to continue getting stronger. I wish my 5th grade self could have seen this article. Thank you for sharing it.

  • Anonymous

    All I want to say is the female in the first picture (Laura Sowalskie) is gorgeous and I’d marry her :D

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