16 In crossfit/ fitness/ running

Strong is not the new skinny

Yesterday I came across a great blog post called “What happens when the pursuits of “skinny” and “strong” collide?” , it talks about the new trend of saying ‘Strong is the new skinny’.

I have heard this slogan before, I have seen the photos that often accompany it – women who have not eaten anything for a day so that their six-pack is visible, women who not only have muscles but are in fact skinny as well.  I have never thought much of it and just shrugged it off as yet another ‘fad’ doing the rounds on Pinterest, but I realise now that on some level these kinds of photos have changed the way I think someone fit should look like.

The post on Fit & Feminist blog points out that “skinny” and “strong” are actually describing different things so should not be compared at all – “skinny” refers to how one looks, “strong”, however, refers to what one’s body is capable of doing.

A light bulb moment for me. Strong is not the new skinny. Strong has nothing to do with skinny or not skinny. Strong is what you can DO.

Yesterday I had a great CrossFit session at lunchtime, I achieved a PB in back squat (5×3 reps at 50kg last week, 60kg this week 🙂 BUT I was feeling off in the evening.  I was feeling tired and hungry, and frustrated that I was feeling tired and hungry… even though I’ve either ran or done CrossFit for 4 days in a row. And I was frustrated that after 8 months of CrossFit my arms are still fat and my muffin top still keeps revealing itself when I don’t stick to strict no-grains diet for a few days.

I had started to do something that I always keep telling people not to do – I was comparing myself to others. Probably without realising I was comparing myself to the women who are usually seen on the ‘Strong is the new skinny’ images and definitely also to the few women in my CrossFit classes who have very nice muscles.

Reading this post snapped me right out of this negative mindset, it reminded me why I exercise – I don’t do it to enter competitions where I’m judged by how I look, I do it to feel strong.

I remembered that I am all for inspirational quotes and photos but I don’t pin photos that display muscular women just posing – I prefer photos showing what someone can do, like this one or this one.

I remembered that even though I love CrossFit, I don’t aspire to look like the fittest woman in Europe and in general I don’t get a lot of the CrossFit photos that are out there (squatting heavy weight in hot pants just does not make sense to me).

I remembered that I don’t buy women’s magazines, even fitness ones (other than Women’s Running).

And I promised myself to cut myself some slack for not having a six-pack and to just enjoy what my body can do.

How do you cope with being bombarded by images of what ‘fit’ looks like?  Can ‘fit’ or ‘strong’ be put into photos at all?  Could  ‘fit’ or ‘strong’ be photographed without showing off every inch of someone’s insanely toned body?  Does any of what I just wrote make sense to you? 😉 

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  • Reply
    Metropolitan Mum
    May 23, 2013 at 8:52 am

    What pains me most reading this is that you ARE that slim and strong person. It’s really sad that you can’t see what others can see. Relax, MrsB, relax!!

    • Reply
      MrsB @ Mind over Matter
      May 23, 2013 at 10:16 am

      That’s what my husband keeps telling me! But did you look at the photo of that CrossFit chick doing the muscle ups with the gymnastics hoops – I ain’t looking anything like that! 🙂 (but seriously – I have relaxed today 🙂

  • Reply
    Ari @ The Pace of it All
    May 23, 2013 at 2:06 am

    I love this. This is so true. And good for you, for remembering what you wanted to remember and not continuing to compare yourself to others.

  • Reply
    May 22, 2013 at 10:25 pm

    I don’t really concern myself with it, I find so much consumerism is embedded in all these ‘fit’ images, ‘strong’ images, ‘skinny’ images, it’s all part of a big wheel that they’re spinning for us.
    I just think you should be very proud of what you can do. As long as you’re happy with yourself, that’s all that matters. Be proud!
    And if you’re not happy with yourself (not YOU, but anyone in general), then you need to change it. If you’re too lazy to make the changes, then tough.
    Only we can do what we need to do for ourselves.
    But good food for thought 🙂

  • Reply
    May 22, 2013 at 8:14 pm

    I totally agree with this. I have found so many images of these underweight and over exercised women on social media with that slogan and find it really upsetting. None of the masters in my CrossFit group were built like that. The instructor actually had a normal (though many would view as ‘chunky’) body that was insanely strong and capable. She could do almost everything thrown at her. It didn’t look sexy but that wasn’t the point. It looked impressive, fit and like courage and determination. I value her strength over ‘skinny fit’ any day.

  • Reply
    May 22, 2013 at 4:25 pm


    I’ve actually been thinking about this a lot lately. I was super skinny (48kg and 173cm) for a decade. My entire adult life really.

    And weak as a kitten. Like unable to do a single pushup or run 30 seconds without feeling out of breath.

    When I made the decision to start running two years ago I found myself craving more food than ever before and in the first couple of months put on a ton of weight. As I kept it up, some of it translated into muscle mass (and some of it did not. There’s still more of a belly to me than I’m used to.)

    Long story short. Right now I’m ten (!) kilograms heavier than two years before. I’m also 1-2 dress sizes bigger. I’m EU 36-38 now.

    And there are days when I look at the older pictures and my waify self… And wish it back. Being able to wear anything and buy clothes without truing then on because everything would look good.

    But on 90% of the days I’m just pleased. Ok. So I’m not super skinny anymore (I seem to be the type prone to bulky muscles instead of lean) but I look and feel so much stronger!

    I feel healthy and fit and more confident and pretty much capable of anything. 🙂

  • Reply
    May 22, 2013 at 2:01 pm

    I find it all a bit mixed message like to be honest. You can be strong and slim, but if you’re overweight or obese and strong, well that’s not good either. I know I should’t let the media/blogs/etc influence the thoughts about my body, but it does.

    Do I just go on a 1200 calorie a day diet, run, and lose as much weight as I can, or do I run, lift, and eat at a slight deficit and see less results over all (b/c even if I see a few inches disappear, the scale isn’t moving, and I don’t look any different in my clothes).

    Strong is the new skinny, and nothing tastes as skinny feels and any other slogan, etc leave out a huge market of women (and men) who are overweight or obese struggling to get fit and don’t fit into all of the above.

  • Reply
    Ffion (Chocolate and Raspberries)
    May 22, 2013 at 11:51 am

    The saying ‘strong is the new skinny’ has grated on me for awhile: often the women who are in these pictures have to be just as obsessive and work just as hard as women in ‘skinny’ pictures, just done in a slightly different way, and not necessarily healthily either. Great post!

  • Reply
    The Fool
    May 22, 2013 at 11:09 am

    In principal promoting strong is a good thing but I do agree that then attaching photos of women in hot pants kind of confuses things.
    For me I love seeing photos of runners on the trails just enjoying themselves and being natural. Ian Corless had some great photos from La Palma on his blog recently of elite ultra runners just having fun.

  • Reply
    May 22, 2013 at 10:48 am

    Yes, you make perfect sense. I often struggle with how I want to ‘be’ (i.e. strong) and sometimes being overcome by the desire to look toned and muscle-y in a pair of hot pants as well. I know the two don’t necessarily go together (perfect example, some of the very strong and fit women at CrossFit who don’t always look the part). We can thank our media-oriented society for our self-doubts and only keep working on our self-confidence and strength without letting those kinds of pix make us feel bad about ourselves.

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