Dear Editors of Shape Magazine,
You recently published an article by Kristen Aldridge outlining Charlize Theron’s workout routine and the “secret” to her “beautiful ballerina body.” I want to thank you for your writing and for spreading the message of fitness. Any chance we have to inspire people to be active is awesome and you’ve taken advantage of that by sharing Charlize Theron’s workout with us.
I’m having a little difficulty with a couple of statements, though…
In your article, you quote trainer Fedele DeSantis as saying the secret to Charlize Theron’s body is to “Make sure your grip for every exercise is narrow. A wide grip makes your muscles grow wide and your body more masculine.”
And then we see it again later in DeSantis’ workout prescription: “Use dumbbells 5 lbs. and under to avoid getting bulky.”
This is blatantly false.
This has been proved wrong over and over again and by perpetuating these myths you’re not only causing women to fall short of their goals but damaging their self esteem and frustrating trainers like me who are sick of seeing our clients being told this misinformation.
I’m not a fan of the blame game and I don’t care where these myths started. I just hope I never see them again.
Let’s chat a little bit about just how detrimental these statements are and how, if you care even the slightest bit about the health, happiness, and self esteem, of women everywhere, you will never publish something like this again.
1) The bulk and size of your muscles has nothing to do with your grip width
You know what it does have to do with? Two things:
- How much you’re eating
- The presence of male hormones like testosterone
How big you are is determined by the energy you consume and the energy you expend. Full stop.
When we eat, we consume energy. When we move, play, exercise, perform feats of strength, or even think really hard, we expend energy. Keeping a healthy balance between the two is how you maintain a healthy balanced physique (which may or may not look like Charlize Theron. But that’s a story for another time).
Furthermore, a woman is about as likely to build a wide masculine figure by accident as a shark is to start swimming on land.
As a man who has tried earnestly to bulk up myself, I can tell you it doesn’t happen by accident. And that’s for me with testosterone flowing through my body, with good nutrition, tough workouts, and a solid sleep schedule. Even with the cards stacked in my favour, I have to plan, schedule, and try to bulk up by training hard, eating more than I need, and prioritizing sleep.
The only way a woman will bulk up or get a “masculine” body is if she starts taking steroids or testosterone, something I don’t think the readers of Shape Magazine are about to start doing any time soon.
2) By telling women that lifting over 5lbs will make them bulky, you are damaging their self esteem
This one is so seemingly innocent and so brutally wrong it makes me cringe with second-hand embarrassment.
One of the first principles of fitness training is the principle of progressive overload. This means that, in order to improve your fitness, you need increase the load you use. If you stop increasing the weight at 5lbs (basically a paperweight), you don’t have far to go. You’re not going to get more fit. I promise you right now that all of your readers can lift weights heavier than 5lbs and would be stronger, leaner, healthier, happier, and have higher self-esteem because of it. You’re literally stopping women from getting fit by feeding them this misinformation.
The fact is…
By lifting heavier weights, women will burn more fat, build lean muscle and keep themselves healthier for life. Don’t believe me? Take it from Mattie Rogers, American record holder in the sport of weightlifting, who can move 230lbs from the floor to over her head in less than a second. Looks to me like using heavy weights hasn’t made her “masculine” or “bulky.”
Furthermore, loading the body with heavier loads will improve bone density, a huge health problem for women after menopause. Women are prone to low bone density, osteoporosis, and easier bone breaks as they age. By doing some basic strength training starting from a young age, we can essentially eliminate this problem.
By lifting heavier weights, we can crush stupid stereotypes that women are weak. Women are constantly fed bullshit nonsense that they are weak. We constantly hear things like lifting heavy things is a “man’s job,” being strong isn’t feminine, or lifting heavy weights will “make you masculine and bulky.” If you only knew how damaging and weakening this information is for little girls and women to be bombarded with, you’d not only stop publishing this stuff, you’d recall every issue of Shape magazine, issue a public apology, and start donating your profits to fitness outreach programs across the country. I’m serious.
By telling women that heavy weights will make them “wide” and “masculine” you tell them to believe that they are supposed to be weak. That they will never be capable of doing things for themselves. That if something comes along in their life like, I don’t know, moving a couch or carrying groceries, they’ll need a man to do that for them. Is that what you what for women? For them to be dependent and weak?
I don’t know about you, but I work with a lot of women. When I see how damaging this misdirected information is to my clients’ self-esteem, it makes my blood boil. It makes me want to shred every page of misinformation about fitness. It makes me want to knock down the walls of Shape Magazine’s headquarters with a heavily loaded barbell.
But that wouldn’t be productive.
What I would really like, instead, is for us to start sending a message of empowerment to women.
To women everywhere,
Lift heavy weights if you want to. It won’t make you “masculine” or “bulky.”
If lifting heavy weights isn’t your thing, that’s cool too. There are other ways to be fit but don’t for a second believe that you can’t or shouldn’t lift heavy.
If you want to burn fat, build some self-compassion and work on loving your body, not hating it and fighting it. Slowly build healthy nutrition habits and give your body the fuel it needs to perform (no more crash diets). Build an active lifestyle and make a point of picking up some heavier weights a few times a week. It won’t make you bulky. It’ll show you just how strong and powerful your body is and what incredible things it can do. Find reasons to laugh, smile, and share good food and good times with good company. Learn to appreciate your body and your life as it is right now, and know that, as long as you consistently put in a little work every day, it can only get better from here.
To Kristen Aldridge and the editors of Shape Magazine, I implore you; please stop publishing this bullshit. Please stop weakening the self-esteem of women everywhere. Please stop telling women that their femininity rests on their size, or the weights they use, or the type of grip they use on an exercise. It doesn’t.
And above all, please start empowering women. Help them to believe that they’re capable of anything if they put their minds to it. Publish more stories about women achieving things for themselves, not for the approval of others. Make heroes out of women for more than just their appearance. Let’s build the collective self esteem of impressionable young girls around the world by showing them that a woman is worth more than the clothes she wears or the six pack she sports. That she’s worth more than a new celebrity workout routine that doesn’t even work or the same garbage recycled sex tips we see on magazine covers.
Shape Magazine is one of the largest fitness magazines out there. You have millions of followers. You have the power to inspire and empower women or to degrade and inhibit them. The choice, and the responsibility, is yours.
If you care about the health, happiness, and self esteem of your readers, please take action now. And if you want to know more about what it takes to make lasting positive change in the lives of women and help them achieve their fitness goals, I’m always happy to chat.
A coach who cares
Categorised in: For Women