In 2008, I joined Woman’s Fitness Center here in Baton Rouge. I joined that particular gym because of its women-only and caring environment. For the most part, the Fitness Center was about empowering and motivating women to become healthy. My membership expired when I went to treatment. I did not renew it upon my return because a gym membership was not in the best interest of my recovery. I still love what the Fitness Center is all about and recommend it to anyone I meet.
That is until two days ago, when I drove past this…
and then this…
Pardon my Internet French, but WTF?
These billboards are reinforcing the notion that in order to be happy with yourself you must ‘downsize’ or fit a particular dress. Enter: Southern Smash. I founded Southern Smash not to rid the world of scales or gyms, but to promote a wholehearted approach to living. My hope is to change the conversation from body bashing to body loving, embracing who we are without defining ourselves with numbers and sizes.
I believe 100% in living an active and healthy lifestyle: physically, mentally, spiritually. Yes, some people legitimately need to lose weight to restore their health. Obviously, exercise is a huge component of weight loss. And therefore, gyms like Woman’s Fitness Center certainly have their place, but I believe one’s journey back to health should be a wholehearted approach. It’s no secret that weight issues go far beyond the number on the scale. Therefore, individuals seeking a healthier lifestyle should also work with nutritionists and therapists to really get to the root of his or her problems. People simply think, “If I ‘Fit the Dress’ I will be happy.” Well, what happens when that dress comes off? Are you still happy with yourself? Are you happy with who you are as a person? Do you even know who you are without being a size or number?
Our society promotes a body bashing culture and we are inundated with messages (like the billboards above) that tell us if we wear a certain size or weigh a specific number then we will be happy. These messages are normal, they are accepted…and people believe them. In fact, I feel like I’m usually the odd one out for noticing these types of messages. Of course, now I know I am not. In the last two days, my phone has buzzed with messages asking if I have seen these new billboards. And I love it. The SMASH mentality is getting out…people are drinking the SMASH Kool-aid! Women are noticing how advertisements like these are sending the wrong messages and they are demanding better from companies like Woman’s.
Plus, these billboards reach far beyond their target demo. What about the mini-van mom driving a car full of children? What is that 12-year old going to think when she reads it? Probably up until reading that billboard, she did not think about her thighs, but now she is prompted to ask herself, “Are my thighs small enough?” What if that girls passes on ice cream later that night or decides to skip breakfast because that billboard told her thighs should be a smaller size? You may think I am getting too carried away, but this is the truth. I’ve talked to hundreds of young tweens and teens. They notice these things. They are aware. And worst of all they believe these false messages.
I am SO incredibly disappointed in the Woman’s marketing team and all of the powers that be, mostly because I know what an incredible team they have over there. My hope is that the next campaign will remind all who drive by the billboard that they are more than a number and more than a dress size. Maybe their next billboard campaign will tell that little girl in the backseat that she is beautiful just the way she is.