"Fit" for What?
Carol Platt Liebau
7/23/2012 7:31:10 PM - Carol Platt Liebau
The weekend "Wall Street Journal" ran a piece discussing "fit [stay-at-home] moms" -- who "spend nearly every free minute working out, cross-training for triathlons and scheduling regular boot camps and yoga."
Hey, I believe in physical fitness, and I try to work out at least one workout daily (except on weekends). But this piece references women who are "squeeze[ing] in a predawn run, yoga at nap time and an after-school bike ride" (and maybe more), every day. For them, the piece reports, exercise is often the "focal point" of their social lives.
There are worse things -- hey, they're not drinking; they're not drugging; they're not standing at the kitchen counter watching TCM or reading "The Weekly Standard" while eating salt-and-vinegar potato chips (confession: that last is a personal weakness). All that being said, isn't it possible for there to be too much of a good thing?
For me, here's the key statement:
To some, a fit mom's regimen may seem self-indulgent. These women, though, see their workouts as a guilt-free stress release. They don't feel badly about taking time to work out because they are setting a healthy example for their children.
But is it actually a "healthy example" to be that obsessed with one's own physical fitness? The article didn't say what or how these women eat, but I know at least a few of these "fit" moms, and their eating is finicky to be point of being a little "off."
What message does all of it send their children, especially their daughters? Are they learning that exercise is healthy and should be fun (and that all food is to be enjoyed in moderation, not feared or fetishized) -- or are they instead picking up the message that their worth is defined, not by their character or intelligence, but by how their bodies look?
Judicious eating along with physical fitness -- like much else -- is an excellent thing, until it is taken to extremes. Then it becomes just another manifestation of an inner emptiness, and far from healthy. When women accept the designation of "fit moms," shouldn't they be able to answer that they are fit -- not just to exercise hard and often -- but to fulfill all the responsibilities that fall upon them, not least being a role model for their children that is healthy in every way.
None of this is to "judge" the "fit moms" -- all of us are doing our best. But before we automatically assume that this lifestyle is universally "guilt-free" or worthy of widespread emulation, maybe it's best to take a really careful look.
And no doubt some moms are, indeed, able to show their children the joy of exercise and the benefits of healthy eating without obsessing about them, or telegraphing the message that one's body and how it looks is primarily what matters. And I salute them. That's no small feat.