I’m a feminist. I believe in the power of a woman. I firmly believe that women get the short end of the stick in many circumstances and I am all in on empowering women to reach their potential and achieve great things.

I’m also concerned at the alarming number of women who identify or evaluate their fitness based on how they look. So many women that I talk to have issues with their appearance that it quite literally is affecting their health and they don’t even know it.

I’m not talking about eating disorders or self-destructive behaviors. These are too common, but in a way, much less insidious. With eating disorders, there is an identifiable symptom and path to getting someone better. What I’m talking about is not “treatable”

So many women think that being skinny equals being fit. If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard “I don’t want to get too bulky.”, or “I just want to get toned.”, I”d be a rich man by now.

This is a problem for a couple of reasons.

First and foremost, basing a fitness program on how you’re going to look is a recipe for failure. Looks are subjective, and in your own eyes, you will never look as good as you want to. If you’re basing your looks on the way other people see you, then you will always be chasing someone else’s opinion and that’s a dangerous road to go down.

Without defined performance measures, it is much harder to stay consistent and know whether a program is working for you or not. There has to be an objective way to determine success.

Strong women don’t need affirmation from others and they know that being fit is about what you can do, the amount of stress your body can handle, and how free you are to do the things you want to do.

If you are fit then you will look like you’re fit. Bottom line.

Secondly, it’s based on the idea that muscle is bad. This is dangerous. Muscle promotes bone density, burns fat, provides safety in movement, and enables the body to perform activities.

Women that don’t train with heavy weights, are weaker, more prone to injury, at risk for osteoporosis, have higher body fat, and tend to be less active.

Women need muscle. If you weigh 135 pounds and have 35% body fat, then you are obese. If you weigh 135 pounds and have 15% body fat, then you’re probably in pretty good shape (objective data based on science, not looks).

The aversion to muscle is weakening women physically and perpetuating the perception that women should be small and weak. It is unacceptable.

If you are looking for a fitness program, stop using your looks as a barrier to getting started. The mindset that evaluates looks first, misses the opportunities for true health and fitness. It forces you into an inferior program, with less true health benefits, and keeps you weak and superficial.

There is nothing wrong with a strong woman. Women are, in many cases put in more stressful situations than men, why should they be weak? If more women would look at their fitness as a tool to empower themselves and create a new level of freedom, the world would be a better place. We need strong women.

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