Let’s talk about weightlifting.
This is a typical GIS hit for “woman lifting weights.” Most of them are very thin, very lean, with no visible distinct musculature going on. (Unsurprisingly, stock-photo wise, they’re almost all exclusively white and long-haired and feminine, although I did see a few POC and an older woman in the hits which was INCREDIBLY refreshing!) They all tend to be lifting small weights.
Now, let’s see what happens if we google female weightlifters, i.e., people who lift frequently enough to identify that way whether by hobby or career or whatever. (I’ve done this a few times, and the results are a bit skewed at the moment, given the proximity in timing to the Olympics, so suddenly lots more Olympic women are showing up—which is great! Just FYI.) The photo below is pretty standard for what you get usually—a very lean woman, with heavier looking weights, with visible muscles, a six-pack, etc.
Googling female bodybuilding yields similar results, only the women are much much bigger, much much leaner, with far more defined musculature. (This is what most people will think of in a knee-jerk reaction to the term female weightlifter, and is what many mean when they say they don’t want to “get bulky” by lifting weights. Guess what? Getting built like that, much like getting supermodel skinny, is based hugely on genetics and hugely on a ton of work an dieting and super careful eating and working out and supplements and often steroids. It’s not magic and it doesn’t just happen by lifting weights.)
Note the leanness. See the tendons? See the very visible delineations between muscles, the curves where muscles go places, in all three photos? What’s missing?
There’s a secret in the weightlifting fitspo communities. Once you move into weightlifting, the focus blissfully falls away from “Eat less! Do hours of cardio!” to “Eat more! Lift more!” For women’s resources, with the exception of great sites like Nia Shanks’s etc., the underlying message remains: lift weights to get slimmer and more toned. Lift weights to show off your perky butt. Lift weights to build muscle which burns more calories which makes you slimmer. Lift weights to eat more without getting fat. You have to eat more, but you need to eat more a certain way, or you’ll just put on body fat. Lean mass, no fat. Fat fat fat fat fat.
The body fat obsession. The obsession exists very much in men’s weightlifting culture as well, just differently—“Eat tons and bulk as much as you can to make huge muscle gains and to gain weight” alternates with “Try carbo backloading or protein binges or intermittent fasting to get cut.” “Gain tons of lean mass while reducing body fat! Gain weight while getting more cut! Stay toned!”
Toned. Cut. I hate those words. They’re the thigh gap of weightlifting, the collarbones, the ribcages, the “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” of people who have broken out of the standard body mindset shell long enough to challenge and free themselves in some ways, only to get trapped in others.
I did. I totally did. I fell down the rabbithole. Because I fucking love weightlifting, because I’m short and thick and chubby and it makes me feel strong and sexy and powerful and my body yearns for it and loves doing it. Even while I was increasing what I ate because to build muscle, to lift heavier and heavier things, you *have* to eat more, you have to have a caloric surplus—you cannot build muscle out of nothing, building means creating, means you have to something there to make it out of—even while I was doing that, even when for the first time in my life I stopped caring about what the scale said, even when the numbers creeped up, even when I am at my all-time highest weight *and feeling healthier and more energetic than I ever have*—I found myself trying to cut weight.
I found myself embracing the muscles and the gain and the food, I found my metabolism and body rejoicing in the protein and the exercise, and I found myself hating the bits of fat I found. My stomach. My hips. Looking up diets, looking up weird eating patterns to cut fat, cut fat, fat fat fat fat fat. There’s that word again. Not cut, not toned.
Cut. Toned. You know who isn’t cut or toned, but still lifts really fucking heavy weights? REALLY fucking heavy weights that the rest of us dream of?
So fuck you, fitspo. Fuck you cut, fuck you toned, fuck you crazy diets and crazy exercises to burn fat. As long as I eat what my body needs to do what I want it to do, I just don’t care.
I fucking love this and totally want to take up weightlifting as part of my ~obese lifestyle~ cause pretty much fuck fitspo.
I want to weightlifting to be more toned, and I want to be more muscular. :/ I just actually would have to go to the gym, and I don’t know if I have the determination. I constantly keep falling through with my exercises.