by Kelsey Dass ’18
Richard Simmons said, “No one is perfect…. absolutely no one. But why focus on that? Focus on what you like about yourself, and that will bring you happiness and peace.”
Prior to the explosion of social media, especially Instagram, fitness was defined by movement. It was as simple as that; the expectation was realistic and attainable.
With modern day Instagram fitness models, we have altered what it looks like to be “fit.” Social media has made the gap between expectation and reality far too wide.
One of the most vivid memories every 90s kid has is of their parents, rocking in front of the television and “Sweatin’ to the Oldies.” Crazy-haired Richard Simmons with his short shorts and sweatbands defined “fitness” for over 20 years.
The guru made fitness fun. From his studio opening in L.A. to the famous fitness show debut in the 80s, almost everyone was hooked on the movement.
There are a lot of different factors that contribute the success of this older approach to fitness. Simmons was not merely standing in front of the television flexing and flaunting his toned stomach. He was physically moving with his audience for the entire workout. At times he was joined by other males and females who also endured the workout alongside their audience. He practiced what he preached.
Simmons was not the only one. Jane Fonda was another fitness icon of the 80s. From her “Abs, Buns, and Thighs” to “Low Impact Aerobics” DVDs, Fonda worked alongside her audience. However, she was not half nude and her audience did not see every outline of her body. Her entire world was not these workouts; she was a female actress as well. When people have the ability to feel more connected to the person their working out with, they are more inclined to do so.
Simmons and Fonda presented themselves as down to earth, cheerful partners to workout with. Their approach was far from intimidating and made people truly want to turn on their DVDs to workout.
Nowadays, men and women go onto their Instagram feed and are bombarded with images of girls standing alone, extremely close to the mirror and flexing their six pack abs. Or men, such as Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson with arms and veins protruding out of their necks.
There is nothing wrong with these Instagram fitness models. This is their “job;” they are paid anywhere from $5,000 to $25,000 for every post they upload. But that is just it, it is their job.
However, what the young girls who scroll through Instagram on the bus to school do not understand is, those girls spend all day every day to look like that. They go to the gym several times a day and follow a very specific diet in order to have steel cut abs, tiny waists, and large yet toned bottoms.
The problem that lies here is the unrealistic expectation. Other men and women, girls and boys of society have other ways in which they spend their days. Many people spend their time working a nine to five in business, teaching children, practicing law enforcement, and for the younger generation, attending school.
How are these people supposed to attain this “perfect body?” They can not; the gap is too wide. The expectation presented to us by social media and the unattainable nature of this version of fitness do more harm than good.
What many respected about Simmons were his realism and positive encouragement. He exemplified an attainable, healthy body type that did not intimidate or shame an audience.
The lack of self-esteem in young adults is an epidemic. We are raising children in a world where they are conditioned to believe “fit” means one thing. That being—what they see on Instagram. I hear girls are constantly questioning themselves and asking, “why can’t I look like that?”
They need to know that they do not look like that because they desire something more out of their daily life than just fitness, and that is OK.