Fitness Culture Doesn’t Give Us Squat

Graphic Sam Jones

What the hell is a healthy lifestyle, anyway?

Gwyneth Paltrow is publishing $200 smoothie recipes, while Lululemon is manufacturing compression tights so you can buy yourself a thigh gap. Fitspiration posts have stretched so far beyond “no pain, no gain” that they’re actually giving me brain cramps.

I’m talking about new-fangled sayings, emblazoned across photos of bikini bodies and pictures of glowing white women, smiling on elliptical machines like the atmosphere in their gym is 50 per cent nitrous oxide. These are sayings like, “sweat is just fat crying” or the modern classic, “when you’re having a bad day and you feel like there’s a weight on your shoulders—do squats!”

That’s right, forget self care or cutesy posters of kittens telling you to never give up, the new status quo for healthy living requires a big fat wallet (the only kind of acceptable fat) and a healthy dose of self-loathing.

If I see one more Instagram meme extolling the best path to health as getting up with the perfectly-waxed asscrack of sunrise, banging out a 10-kilometre run and then chugging a smoothie which has no flavour except the colour green—well, my next jog is going to be straight off the edge of the earth.

I’m not trying to hate on people who want to improve themselves. I’m just exhausted and nauseated from wrestling with the fact that the one lane to being considered healthy in Western culture seems to be buying $10 bottles of organic juice and never skipping leg day. Check this: we are all different, which means there is more than one way to stay hardy.

If you’re vegan, you’re right. If you’re paleo, you’re right too. If your thing is sleeping in until 1 p.m. and then crushing a bike-ride after class, or maybe an early-morning hike on the weekend through an enchanted Maple grove, hell yeah. Good for you.

What I’m saying is that next time you find yourself in a grocery store, freaking out over whether or not kelp really is the new kale, remember this. The magazine-gloss, high-adrenaline, muscle-bound, all-or-nothing, steroid-shooting cult of fitness excludes so many people of all body types and incomes, and it sucks.

You can be healthy your own way. You are better than that. I’m better than that too—a kitten poster told me so.