US Weekly recently posted a picture of Jason Momoa on vacation in Venice. I’m sure you all remember him for his role in Aquaman, when all anyone could talk about for a month was his shredded and well-muscled physique. Oh and the hair, of course.
However, this photo in Venice looked a little different from when Momoa was in Aquaman. A little more ‘normal’. He’s certainly lost some ab definition but he’s still very clearly taking care of himself. He still looks like many people’s end-goal physique. However, social media commenters ripped him apart, saying he had a ‘dad bod’ and asking what happened to his abs. Well done guys, you managed to be offensive to Jason Momoa, people worldwide who are in good shape but not ‘ripped’, AND every single person who is ACTUALLY carrying around some extra weight, in one fell swoop.
Social media – fiend of the fitness industry
Social media is great. You can document your whole life right down to your morning coffee and what color nail polish you chose this week, find like-minded individuals to talk to about your hobbies, learn about whatever you’re interested in…and…look at unrealistic pictures of people and decide that’s what you want to look like, then spend months trying and failing to get there, becoming miserable and wondering why you can’t do it if ‘everyone else’ can.
With the rise of fitness ‘influencers’ posting pictures of 8-pack abs and bubble butts, it’s very easy to feel bad about yourself and get dispirited when you can’t reach the same physique. What they don’t tell you is that it’s incredibly hard to get down to such low body fat levels, and not healthy in the slightest to stay there.
Most of these ‘influencers’ with incredible physiques online do not walk around like that year-round. They train and diet very hard, get super lean, line up 50 outfit changes and take their social media pictures for a few months or even a year all in one go. Then they reverse diet and walk around at a more sustainable weight and physique.
Advertising companies are even worse. It is not unheard of for them to approach bodybuilding competitors, pay them a chunk of money for photos straight after their show, then more photos once they have reverse dieted and put on some ‘fluff’. They then use the ‘fluffy’ pictures as the ‘before’ shots, and stage lean pictures as ‘after’ shots for whatever product or program they are trying to convince you will make you look like a supermodel.
Then we haven’t even gotten started on the clever lighting and makeup tricks, and photoshopping that also gets used to make people look amazing, or dare I say it plastic surgery.
The Jason Momoa picture and comments have sparked conversation amongst fitness enthusiasts on Facebook, and one lady commented that it is ‘super common for people to believe that those with well-defined lean muscles have that look 365 days a year. That is absolutely absurd on every level. I see it here all of the time with people’s assumptions and expectations. And that’s amongst those that work out.
I can back this up with my own experience, I regularly see people post pictures of physiques that are unobtainable for more than a day or so, saying those are their goals. Another Facebook user pointed out that ‘if everyone ate to have abs and defined muscles they would go crazy. People have to live and enjoy life’.
So it seems the tide may slowly be turning, at least within the knowledgeable fitness space, but if Jason Momoa is getting body shamed when there ‘Ain’t a damn thing wrong with the way that man looks’ it’s clear we still have a long way to go!
Body shaming and mental health
Hey, you. Yes, you. You’re beautiful! That workout you did the other day? You worked so hard and you smashed it! Great job!
Doesn’t that make you feel good? Don’t you feel encouraged now to keep making effort at the gym, and eating healthily? Imagine if I’d said the opposite, that you were fat and ugly and your workout was lame? Would you feel like hitting the gym tomorrow, or like hiding at home and drowning your sorrows in a tub of Ben and Jerry’s?
Even online, what we say to others can have a profound effect on our mental health, and our actions afterward. If someone already struggling with body image sees someone in good shape essentially being called fat, they may feel too ashamed and self-conscious to even set foot in the gym.
One Facebook group member pointed out ‘it’s sad that Jason Momoa gets body shamed and it makes world news, others get body shamed and they self-isolate themselves into depression.
Particularly after lockdown, depression is on the rise. As someone who has experience with it myself, it becomes so easy to develop a negative relationship with your body. My ex used to joke that I had a ‘fat ass’ – I know I don’t, but if I was having a bad week emotionally and PMS struck at just the right time you can bet your bottom dollar I would take that to heart and feel like crap. Also, I’m a strength and performance coach so I know better!
Negative emotions are often the root of negative habits. So many of my clients struggle with emotional eating when they are stressed or upset. Making them feel worse about themselves with negative comments about them, or people in better shape than them is the absolute last thing they need, very likely to cause them to reach for the take-out to cheer themselves up and to be too unhappy to be able to face the gym. Then, if real depression strikes, it can be so hard even to go to work that you may not have any energy even if you did want to go to the gym, creating this whole spiral effect.
Health and happiness at any size
So it turns out that one of the reasons behind Jason Momoa doing a bit less training and a bit more living a normal life is that he actually had surgery for a hernia. He literally HAD to stop working out to get healthy. Once he recovered, he decided he was over doing sit-ups every day and working hard to stay lean, so he chose health and happiness instead.
As a society, we are far too fixated on ‘looks’, when what’s really important is health, both mentally and physically. Personally, I love working out for the sake of it, for my mental health, and because I want to be able to get on and off the toilet on my own when I’m 90! Of course, I do also like to look good but that isn’t the driving force, and I won’t sacrifice pizza night for the rest of my life just to look a bit extra ripped. You don’t have to be 9% body fat to be healthy. In fact, that isn’t what healthy looks like. Healthy looks like making some good food choices while also enjoying a bit of what you like, feeling happy and confident in your skin, and enjoying life, while being fit and strong enough to run around with the kids, go hiking in nature, or do whatever activity takes your fancy, at whatever size you happen to be. Let’s stop deterring people from this by making them feel like they aren’t good enough. Let’s promote healthy instead of skinny.
Ismana is a true clichéd ‘gym bunny’ and loves crossfit and powerlifting, which enable her to enjoy an active and adventurous lifestyle – the body will never be an obstacle before the mind is! Ismana loves to share her skills and knowledge with others, and is an experienced strength and performance coach, with a strong belief in keeping things simple when it comes to training.