What I am about to write about is such a difficult subject and is extremely complex. I’m not going to try solving the body image problem in one single article, but this is my reflection why I feel we need to have a conversation about what a healthy body image could look like compared to what the ideal body image is being portrayed.
Have you ever had a crazy thought you wanted to radically change your body image; well you are not alone? For me, I have always wanted to have the Arnold Schwarzenegger look. The big arms, massive legs and back muscles that stretch as far as the horizon. Unfortunately for my dream, having bulging muscles, with my genetic preposition means I will always naturally revert to being lean. As well as being a dad of three not having the time, motivation and money to fully fuel my desire. What does that mean for me and my goals? It is simple. Resetting my goals and playing to my strengths. Leaner people are generally going to be stronger runners and better at other cardio sports. Carrying less body mass makes the process of running a hell of a lot easier.
Have you heard of a thing called somatotype? There are three different body characteristics we all inherited off our parents. Personally, I am an Ectomorph which is generally leaner, have faster metabolism and slower twitch fibres. The desired body builders somatotype is mesomorph. They will find the muscle building process more rewarding. The other somatotype is the Ectomorph and they have issues with excess fat and their weight. With a lot of hard work, we can change or morph into another somatotype in the short term. But your body somatotype will always reset to your genetic makeup.
How was it important for our ancestors to have a layer of cushion!So really, what is the ideal body image and how important is it? Did you know our ancestors, desired a higher body fat percentage to protect themselves from famine and diseases? What the Roman’s celebrated was a different female body type then what we seek today. Venus was a goddess who was worshipped for her beauty, passion and fertility. The ancient statues and paintings depicting the Goddess’s body shape was a curvier, pear shaped body type. We can assume the extra layers of body fat was a status that food was plentiful. Also, her wider childbearing hips meant there was a better chance surviving childbirth which would have been a massive problem before modern medicines. This is not to say, Venus the Goddess was obese. But the extra weight on her legs and belly might not have passed, the generation of Instagram. Which is what society is believing is acceptable.
Did you know, Sumo wrestlers apart from being massive in stature are extremely healthy. Sumo wrestlers do not have the same obesity diseases that occur in others who might carry around the same weight. Due to their heavy training regime, Sumo wrestlers have healthy functioning organs, normal insulin levels and low levels of visceral body fat. Our body types come in all shapes and sizes. What we need to decipher, what is an ideal body image? Compared to what the healthy body image is? The two are worlds apart and we should not feel pressured to feel we need to be anyone but ourselves. Ideal and healthy are not the same, chasing the ideal body image is unattainable because you will always want more. Be happy in your skin and make the changes necessary for your health and wellbeing.