What is it?
#Strongnotskinny: the latest trend of the fitness junkie, trawling its way through social media. Realistically nothing more than a catchphrase, yet like so many hashtags before it, the ‘strong not skinny’ slogan has inspired a surge of international controversy.
What does it mean?
Type the #strongnotskinny tagline into the Instagram search box, and you’ll be confronted with a barrage of oiled muscles, defined abs and platefuls of food.
While many agree that this is a positive shift away from the disturbing and distorted pro-anorexia images that can seriously impact vulnerable users of social media, some people have also raised issue with the hashtag, claiming that it’s ‘just another way’ to perpetuate unachievable body standards and “skinny-shames” those who don’t have the same toned biceps and peachy glutes as the women (and occasionally men) featuring in the photos. Instagram admin promptly responded by blocking the most recent photos marked with this hashtag.
So why have I jumped on the bandwagon?
I’ve been following the #strongnotskinny hashtag for a while, and I am curious about this ongoing debate.
Coming from a dance background, an industry that is notorious for encouraging high rates of anxiety and eating disorders in young girls, I found it refreshing to be confronted with a trend that focuses (in my perspective at least) on what the body can do, rather than how it looks.
While muscle size may be a go-to visual cue for how “strong” someone is, when it comes down to it strength can refer to a variety of different attributes – such as psychological strength and motivation, as well as the physical ability to lift 10kg more than in your last session.
Strong is something that a variety of people can strive to achieve at different levels, regardless of how they look; whilst skinny remains purely an aesthetic that requires conformity to one body type.
I was a skinny girl. During my adolescence, particularly when taking regular ballet classes, and even during my earlier years at university, ‘skinny’ was something that I strived to be. My hatred for exercise was fuelled by the fact that I simply wasn’t strong or fit enough to do well at it.
Now in my twenties, I work hard to be strong – for my own personal satisfaction and for health reasons. I still look and weigh in at pretty similar to how I did in my teens, but thanks to the #strongnotskinny mentality I no longer describe myself as just ‘thin’ or ‘skinny’. Since starting to lift I take pride in improving my pound for pound, in replenishing my body with the nutrients it craves and in working hard to lift just a few kg heavier every time.
Naturally you see the benefits in the way my body looks, but the changes are not drastic. I am healthy and, crucially, I concentrating on doing rather than looking.
Describing myself as #strongnotskinny I have made myself more than just an aesthetic.
As a last note…
In Western culture, women in particular have long been subject to a huge amount of pressure to look a certain way. Be careful of the fads that take the internet by storm and always be wary of the vulnerable, increasingly young, users of social media who are so easily influenced by stereotypes, pressures and ideals.
Hashtags such as #strongnotskinny can have such a positive impact in a very judgemental world-hopefully with more people using them correctly we can help each other be strong, in whatever way, shape or form.