Today I’m covering the only kind of cancel culture that we’ll cover in our community: the kind that relates to and involves health & wellness goals.
I’m particularly fired up about this topic – it literally struck me in the six-pack! Ladies and gentlemen, my abs were canceled. Last month, I attempted several posts that included photos of my own transformation, as well as a few others of our clients – my personal transformation being the cover.
Here’s the specific feedback I received from Instagram for one of the posts:
This image doesn’t comply with our Personal Health policy. This promotion isn’t running because it uses content that excessively focuses on a person’s body or body part.
After further communication with Instagram (it took me a handful of attempts to receive a response from a “live” person versus what I believed to be auto responses), I was informed that portraying a midsection with defined abs might make someone feel badly about themselves.
Of course I dug deeper, and here’s what I found:
I have a number of responses for these “standards” as defined by Facebook and Instagram, beginning with these points:
Look at the main pillars of well-being, which include love, finances, relationships, health & spiritual. No one has canceled Kim Kardashian’s posts – lest we feel badly about our own finances when we see her home, clothes, and handbags. As a related example, the vehicles that professional athletes drive capture the attention of many. Do we also stop sharing inspiring, needle-in-a-haystack relationship or medical stories so as not to upset the single or medically-challenged people out there? How are my abs any different?
One doesn’t have to look too deeply in their social media feeds to see that these guidelines are not consistently being followed. It’s effortless to find both images that are explicitly sexual in nature as well as images that are not. And yet my images were singled out. Don’t get me wrong – I’m sure I’m not alone here – though I’m personally offended since my images are meant to show mastery of physique in a tasteful manner and for a professional sport: natural bodybuilding. Enter the upcoming Olympics…do we cancel women’s volleyball, since (gasp!) they’ll be shown wearing their sport bikinis? I doubt it.
Going back to my comment above, “mastery of physique in a tasteful manner and for a professional sport,” I hope that by demonstrating mastery of my own nutrition, others can see that I have a handle on how to help someone lean out. While it is true that most of my clients are lifestyle clients with no plans to ever step onstage, the ability to take nutrition and physique to the next level supports that I have a degree of knowledge about how to help someone shed fat. Most importantly, my social media posts, images, and videos throughout the year should also show that my weight doesn’t swing a ton in my growth season – I have a decent amount of peace and control in the equation year-round. It’s my guess that a potential or existing client would be assured about a degree of my ability to help them achieve their own sense of peace and control with their nutrition. And isn’t that – peace and control - what everyone is striving for anyway?
“Excessive visible skin” is incredibly subjective – by Instagram/Facebook’s standards, how is it that many clothing companies are able to promote skimpier summer fashion these days?
Context matters. If a true review of my posts, body of work, and messages would’ve happened, I think one would conclude that KK Wellness is in the industry for the right reasons: to help our clients improve their relationships with food while achieving optimal health in supportive, peace-promoting ways. We work incredibly hard to provide a positive community, and to be honest, it pisses me off that Instagram/Facebook is trying to quiet exposure of those of us who are genuinely trying to do right by people.
This topic goes much deeper than “a photo in a bikini.” One of my top wishes as a health coach is that we could use the set of The Voice to help gain perspective on what it means for every person having the right to his/her goals. Imagine if we could sit in the backwards-facing chairs of Blake Shelton or Kelly Clarkson and listen to the beginning and/or ending of everyone’s journeys. Because then, without seeing a person’s weight, we could truly listen to what is common among nearly every person trying to lose weight: the level of despair and frustration at the outset of their weight loss journeys, as well as the amount of celebration & pride when they win their journey. Have you ever seen our transformations and the absolute JOY in the “after” photos? Here’s the truth:
Among many individuals, the weight of our perception about our emotions and ability to lose weight is not necessarily proportionate to the amount of physical weight we have to lose.
In other words, after spending 26 years so far in this industry that I love dearly, here’s what I know: No matter whether you are focused on losing the last 10 pounds or have over 100 pounds to lose, the perception of psychological/emotional weight tend to be incredibly similar. Addressing the gap between current and desired weight often feels psychologically and emotionally heavy to just about all of the clients with whom I’ve worked. Keep in mind that no matter whether someone is at, approaching, or not at a healthy weight, that doesn’t give us any insight or tell us anything about what’s going on mentally. They can be at a healthy weight and in incredible pain!
Some may disagree with one or more points above. For example, it can be tempting in the social media arena to wonder why someone is going further when they already look ideal to you. One consideration – they are maintaining their hard-earned work. If you aren’t already at your ideal weight and body composition, trust that the work phase is challenging, and challenges appear as well in the maintenance phase. It’s work no matter what! In fact, another reason I appreciate the health and wellness goal-setting process is that it cannot be bought with money. No one can be too financially wealthy to “purchase” abs and maintain them, and I’ve seen many who struggle financially who make healthy happen. In my experience, it most often boils down to effort and persistence…which should give many hope – the opportunity is there for those willing to go for it!
Next, if you disagree that there’s just no reason to go beyond “healthy enough,” consider this: Yes, I do believe there is a line; I will never support a client reducing body fat when it becomes unhealthy and/or when it starts to interfere with daily activities. Bodybuilding goals or stage goals are temporary, and the athlete isn’t intended to stay at such a low body composition for a long period of time. In the process of making “lean” even “leaner,” some of the best benefits I’ve personally experienced extend well beyond the trophy: I’ve learned that it’s possible to debunk a lot of myths about “age means you get fatter” or that one has to be a victim of the aging process; at 47, I stepped onstage at my leanest, fittest, healthiest self ever.
I’ve learned I’m capable of digging deeper than I mentally thought possible.
I’ve been able to redefine and extend “stretch goals” in other areas of my life to a higher level.
These examples demonstrate why leaning out an already-reasonably-healthy frame is NOT superficial work. So many non-scale victories can occur while still keeping an individual in a healthy zone. And do we really want to stop short of achieving even fuller potential in life? As long as you are at peace with the work involved and your overall health is preserved, I say GO FOR IT…unapologetically. It is your right.
So, if you’re in pursuit of a more defined midsection or any other “vanity” goals, don’t allow any fit-shaming to sap your joy in the process along the way. In many cases, the fit-shamer is well-meaning and wanting to let us know that where we are physically is wonderful and acceptable, embraceable as-is. However, inserting one of the dirtiest words in the health-goals-process, SHOULD, is not ok - statements like, “You should just be happy where you are” or “You should just have the glass of wine.” I don’t look at my overweight friends or acquaintances and ever, ever say, “Do you really think you should be ordering that burger and fries?” Flipping the script, “Why can’t you just eat the damn cookie?!” is equally unacceptable. It’s basically saying, “You shouldn’t be allowed to pursue your goals further.”
How can anyone say that the line should be drawn at a certain point for everyone? The beauty of having individualized goals is that each person should be able define his or her own goals according to his/her wishes and desires. I often remind my clients, “Your goals, your pace” – meaning that I’m there to help them achieve what they set out to do, to help them lessen the “noise” from anything or anyone threatening their progress, and in a sustainable, supportive manner.
In summary, I hope that this article helps to lessen any unhealthy or unproductive comparisons you may be making with any others on social media, in groups, or in your daily communications and self-talk. What is ok, welcome, and embraceable: at KK Wellness, we’re here to celebrate the work, and there is no goal too big or too small, but most of all, no goal that isn’t worth naming OR celebrating.