Why you shouldn’t be scared to lift weights
CONTENT WARNING: This post discusses eating disorders, body image and mental health which may be distressing for some readers.
I began lifting the weights in my basement out of necessity. After a year of staring at a computer for online college, I felt sedentary and slow. I followed some body-acceptance weightlifters on Instagram and made a pact with myself to exercise every other day. After suffering from disordered eating throughout my high school years, I wanted to improve my physical health and remedy chronic body dysmorphia (which primarily affects teen girls). Whether you do 10 sit-ups or 30 reps, getting active with weight training sharpens your focus and improves your mood. Before 2021, I didn't exercise, much less lift weights, out of the fear of having muscle definition—in my mind, feeling strong meant looking masculine. Though I'm in the process of prioritizing my happiness and decentering misogynistic beauty standards, reclaiming my strength has propelled me toward a place of body acceptance. It can for you too!
Image via @eakinwale.
Many girls fear that if they start lifting, they'll look bulky and heavy. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, only 20% of women do strength training, despite the numerous benefits to self-esteem and physical health. This fear points to the larger issue of women's bodies in repressive gender roles. Along with a multitude of familial, social and academic pressures, women face the crippling expectation to be as small as possible. We're told that skinny is the desirable state for women and girls, despite overwhelming evidence that this standard is dangerous. The narrative that women cannot take up space and that their bodies are acceptable if they are uncompromising to rigid beauty ideals runs rampant. Harmful "health" advertising and media ruin women's health, leading to eating disorders and low self-esteem in childhood, adolescence and beyond.
Image via @annavictoria.
Thinking of your body through a neutral lens can ease your fear of weightlifting and looking "too strong." Your body walks, your body sleeps, your body makes art and your body breathes. Lifting weights is another way of showing appreciation for yourself! This idea is called body neutrality and can help decenter your physical appearance and recenter your wellness. If you lift, you are increasing your strength which provides you vital nourishment. (P.S. Most teenage girls do not have the hormone profile to bulk up at the gym, especially from moderate weight training.) Please remember that you are valid, no matter where you are in your weightlifting journey. You simply exist, and that is what matters. Strong is whatever you are, wherever you are and whoever you are.
Image via @negharfonooni.