September's issue of Women's Health magazine has a whole naked thing going on with, among other images, Jodie Kidd as Lady Godiva, naked on a horse. It's a pretty spectacular picture. The message behind the picture is also pretty spectacular.
After talking about her modelling career, during which it was constantly speculated that she had an eating disorder, Kidd says she's relieved that 'fit is the new thin.' What an amazing concept, that ideas of beauty and desirability might now be connected with the processes behind being more healthy and active. This idea is certainly not new but it's something that we, as a society, haven't necessarily bought into properly. As Kidd says in the article, the 'waif' look was big news in the nineties. Maybe the time wasn't right to wholly embrace the fit look back then. Maybe that time has now arrived.
Why fit is better than thin
Fit indicates effort. More precisely, it indicates effort and reward. This is a good thing to teach ourselves. It is different to the effort/reward cycle for thin as that often involves unhealthy habits and mainly consists of deprivation. It says that you mustn't eat that yoghurt or chocolate or red meat because you will gain weight. It looks at food as an isolated source of unhappiness, rather than the fuel which keeps us alive. Food becomes the enemy for the Thin Gang. Calorie counting consumes many hours and guilt is the name of the day. (I speak as an ex-Weight Watcher so I know the mental torture of trying to not eat the entire fridge when you're hungry.)
Fit doesn't need these things from you. It simply needs you to step out of the house, regularly enough to turn it into a habit and move your body forwards. You don't need any fancy equipment, not even, in my case, shoes! If you insist on eating a huge fry-up when you get back in, you can. That desire will abate after a while but for now, do it if you want to. The important thing is to get out of the house. Staying in the house is also fine. Stair climbing, exercise videos, anything. It does not require anything of you except time and whatever you most want to do that involves moving.
My movement of choice involves following this beautiful towpath
Over time, the fact that fit is the new thin will start to dispel the myth that being healthy/slim/active can be achieved with a quick fix. The solutions that are promised by weight loss pills, vibrating toning machines and liposuction engage with the expectation many of us have today, that our bodies can be altered in a matter of hours or days.
The issue is not even about weight loss, as such. The weight loss is a direct result of the choice to be fitter because of the positive health benefits it brings. The muscular thighs, flatter chests and broad shoulders that can sometimes appear due to women getting fitter are a welcome sight because of what they indicate and the strength and power they represent, even if they do not feed into modern concepts of beauty.
The idea of long term sustainable weight loss is often not entertained. It would take too much time, we will give in before any real change is made, we don't have the months and years required for the results we want.
The inconvenient truth
Whether the idea of immediacy would prevail so much if we hadn't created a society that can expect everything we want, I don't know. There is just the possibility, though, that we can realign our expectations by promoting fit as the new thin and thus, the likelihood of people being prepared to entertain healthier, long term goals.