Equinox gym is known for having provocative advertising. Remember these ads – a photo spread, really, shot 70’s porn style by noted perv Terry Richardson – that drew so much fire for using catwalk models in sexually submissive poses to sell fitness memberships? (Of course the outcry wasn’t about how the women were being dehumanized and belittled in every picture but rather that they were so skinny they couldn’t possibly know what the inside of a gym looks like outside of the spa.) Well, they’re at it again with a new ad campaign taglined “Are you skinny fat?”
Ah skinny fat. There was a time when I aspired to be skinny fat. I thought muscle-less ultra-skinny Mischa Barton and Portia Di Rossi were the epitome of gorgeous. This period was followed by my introduction to weight lifting and I grew to vehemently hate the “skinny fat” look and decried the “unhealthy” skinny girls to anyone who would listen. And now? Now I feel like it’s come down to woman hating. We girls aren’t allowed to love our bodies if we’re fat, like, duh. And we’re not allowed to love them if we’re skinny either. Heaven help you if you’re just, blah, normal. But if you “tone up” too much then you’ll be accused of looking like a dude and lose your woman card altogether!
What’s a girl to do? No matter what we look like, we’re not good enough. I was reading an article a few days ago about Giselle Bundchen and the writer said “she has always looked manly” and therefore “must watch her angles closely.” Giselle freaking Bundchen isn’t good enough!
Every time I blog about how people can be bigger than a size two and still be healthy (and how it may actually be healthier to be “overweight” according to the BMI standards), I always get a few people commenting something like “Hey, now! Don’t dis skinny people either! Some of us are truly naturally really thin and we don’t have an eating disorder so stop making us feel bad!” And they’re right. Well, not that I’m making them feel bad – that’s never my intent – but that healthy bodies come in all shapes and sizes. This even came up quite a bit in the comments on my post about Crystal Renn with people questioning whether or not she could be called “skinny” at her current size and whether or not she was “healthy.” (You guys gave me SO much to think about with your comments on that one!) Not to mention the fact that all people deserve to be treated with kindness and respect whether or not they’re fat, skinny, muscular or even “not healthy.”
I believe the phrase “skinny fat” came into being to describe someone who is thin but doesn’t exercise or eat healthfully. And while I do think people can be skinny and unhealthy – heroin chic, anyone? – I think this is even more evidence why exercise is great for everyone, regardless of its effectiveness as a weight-loss tool. The problem with labeling someone skinny fat is that you can’t tell just by looking at them what’s going on inside.
Having been in the health and fitness industry for a while now, I’ve seen this phrase thrown around a lot. And let’s face it: regardless of how it started out, it is now a pejorative. Everyone wants to be skinny. Nobody wants to be skinny-fat. So what’s the difference between skinny and skinny fat? The eye of the beholder.
What do you think about “skinny fat” – am I getting worked up over nothing or do you hate this phrase too? What do you think of Equinox’s pattern of outrageous ads? They are really good at grabbing eyeballs…