The “Fitness” Era

Throughout history, we have struggled to find the true evils for our health—be it sugar, fat, or gluten. Yet the evil seems to be constantly changing. We are at war with food and our own bodies. We hopelessly associate calories with weight loss or gain and thinness with health. We have created so many rules that no one truly knows which to follow.

Most Brazilians know or have heard about Gabriela Pugliesi, a fitness blogger who earns thousands of Reais just by broadcasting her workouts and meal plans. With more than 1.6 million followers on Instagram alone, this admiration for her is a representation of a larger issue ingrained in societies. Pugli, as she is called by her fans, is considered a model for a healthy lifestyle, educating her followers on how to remain in shape. Yet no one seems to question whether she has a degree on nutrition or how much money she makes marketing a specific workout or product.

Her charisma aside, the behavior she displays and perpetuates may be prejudicial to the mental and physical health of the overall population. Recently, there was much controversy among nutritionists concerning her after she announced on social media that girls must support each other to stay loyal to their diets. Pugliesi told her followers to send nudes to a best friend and that if they ate something off their diet, the best friend would have permission to post the pictures of them online. Not only does this violate one’s privacy and safety, but it also places a lot of pressure on sticking to the diet. Pugli also posts many pictures on social media outlets of her body with captions such as, “Good morning to you who did not wake up to go to the gym!”, “try to eat that pizza looking at yourself in the mirror”, or “have you already spit out that chocolate?”

The larger issue, however, is why the number of fitness role models has increased so much recently. The truth is that weight loss is a billion dollar industry, which is understandable considering we are bombarded by images, videos, and even products that serve to reinforce beauty standards. Whether it be a Victoria’s Secret fashion show or a lingerie advertisement, we somehow equate the “ideal” body with happiness. We have figured out a way to profit by commercializing our health and use an image of perfection to sustain it.

Even nutritionists, who are supposedly the ones responsible for breaking these weight loss myths, are giving into societal pressures. The fact is that diets sell. No one wants to go to  doctor in order to hear that they must eat a bit of everything and that a regular body weight is ideal. People wish to be thinner in the shortest amount of time possible and will go to extreme measures to achieve that.

As a result, we have banned and crucified entire food groups. We have created weight loss myths that have taken a toll on our health. We are in a body image craze, where people are obsessed with maintaining restrictive and extremist lifestyles. Without realizing it, we have declared war on what sustains us and allows us to be human. The only way for these ideas to survive, as radical as they are, is through a joint union with the media. Everyone is unsatisfied with their bodies. Be it because of their weight, stretch marks, or shape, there is always some insecurity. Constantly depicting images of impossible perfection, the media has taught us to believe that we are never good enough. The fight will therefore continue and so will the profit.

Constantly depicting images of impossible perfection, the media has taught us to believe that we are never good enough.

— “Bianca

The only way of stopping is if we learn to make peace with ourselves and with the foods we eat. There is no miracle diet just as there is no evil food per se. We must learn to balance ourselves so that we do not sacrifice our mental well-being for the sake of aesthetics. Learning to process and question the information we are exposed to is crucial. We have to filter what we hear and not believe in everything we are told. Most of all, we need to understand that each person is different and be accepting of that truth. We are at war with what comes most naturally to us. The only way to stop it is by declaring a truce.