The Truth About Your Perfect Body
“Strong is the new skinny” has been plastered over social media. Fitness and wellness appear to be overpowering the trends towards unachievable thin builds and model-like physiques. While this seems progressive and empowering, are the renewed social expectations of fitness and strength truly any less burdensome?
Whether you feel pressure to build a six pack, leg gap or lean muscular arms, ideal body perceptions have an enormous and detrimental impact on our own self-acceptance. Yes, achieving a fit, lean and muscular build that is based on regular exercise and lightly regimented nutritional habits is an enormous leap from the super scrawny, anorexic-looking bodies of the '90s. However, while it is significantly more health-centred, it isn’t necessarily more realistic.
The not-so-secret way to get in shape
It is well known among the health community that achieving a leaner build and improved muscle definition is based 70 per cent on what you put in your mouth and the other 30 per cent is the fitness routine that you follow. The more time and energy you devote to getting in shape, the more likely you will see results, but following a strict workout schedule and diet aren't for everyone, all the time.
You have to ask yourself: Are the sacrifices (giving up much-loved Netflix binges to work out, indulging in only one latte per week) truly worth the results? And: Are the results actually achievable and sustainable? (Are you aiming for Kate Upton measurements on a pizza diet?) Obviously, we're all for getting in shape and being healthy but you have to define what healthy means to you AND figure out if being that kind of healthy makes you happy. Is a flat stomach worth more than a daily chocolate habit?
What to expect from your body based on body fat percentage
Body fat percentage is an excellent source of information regarding the health and appearance of your body. Unlike other methods, this index does not rely on the unrealistic nature of a scale but rather the actual content of your bod. A fairly realistic and healthy body fat percentage to achieve is around 13 - 15 per cent body fat for men and 23 - 25 per cent for women. But even those ranges aren't exactly easy to achieve. Your ability to reach any kind of fitness goal will depend on your will power and willingness to give up other, less healthy activities. Are you ready to choose going to the gym over hitting the bar with friends?
Once your body fat percentage dips to the 10-12 per cent for men and 20 - 22 per cent for women, you still likely won’t have a six pack but will achieve a relatively lean build, high energy and athletic ability. That being said ,your sacrifices increase as well. This level of fitness will require significant planning and attention to your diet (cheat weekends are probably out) as well as logging a lot more gym time.
Once men and women reach the level at which they can achieve full six pack status with lean limbs and defined legs, the trade offs can seem excessive. A full six pack is generally achievable once men hit below the 8 per cent mark and women drop down to under 16 per cent body fat. This requires an incredibly strong commitment to a rigid exercise regime and consistent sleep and social patterns. Food, social situations and opportunities for hobbies beyond exercise related goals are difficult to maintain. Those fitness models you see on Instagram? All they have time for outside of eating healthfully and going to the gym are their selfies!
The super skinny trends have always encouraged unrealistic commitments to nutrition, or lack thereof. And the sacrifices for the perfect model bod are dangerous and completely unattainable for most of the population. Fitness centred body image is certainly a move in the right direction but it is vital that people curb their body image expectations to meet their lifestyle, priorities and interests. So take the yoga class you love, replace junk food binges with healthy smoothies and drink more water but don't give up your social life for an unrealistic aesthetic goal.
Rather than focusing on the final outcome, focus on achieving strength and beauty through nutrition and fitness that fits into a balanced and happy lifestyle. The perfect body you have been seeking may not be worth the work—or maybe, if you open your mind a bit, you’ve had it all along!