Hey, have you heard about the latest movement influencing females? It’s a slogan, it’s a paradigm shift, and it’s generating millions of hits on Google. Still lost?

Don’t worry—I’ll fill you in. It’s this new concept that strong is the new skinny. Maybe it started to develop with the rise of CrossFit or the Girls Gone Strong website.  Or maybe, society has just become more open to the idea of empowered women after the long, slow, rise of female corporate leaders over the past decade. To be honest, I’m not quite sure how it took off, but I’m pretty sure it’s here to stay.

I think one of the reasons I have no idea how it developed is because sometimes I’m a bit out of touch with the mainstream female mindset. I’m a competitive powerlifter, and before that, I was a boxer and worked in football strength and conditioning for half a decade. So, I’m not out of touch for any reason other than the fact that I’ve just been living in a man’s world with a man’s mindset for quite sometime.  For the record, it’s not like I am only into “manly” things.  Most of my apartment is pink, I was on the cheer team in high school, and a fashion designer raised me.  Anyways, the point I’m trying to make is that when I finally realized that there was this "strong is the new skinny" movement going on, I had the perspective to process it and identify one small leak in the gas tank of this massive movement.

But before I talk about the leak, let’s talk about what makes this the greatest thing to happen to females since we were allowed to leave kitchens unattended, get doctorate degrees, and rise to the top of Fortune 500 companies.

“Strong is the new skinny,” has given rise to some awesome changes in the female mindset; both in and out of the gym. While I've already admitted to being out of touch with the rest of the female pack, I’m watching it happen with my close friends, my peers, my clients, and even my 60-year-old mom (despite her age and a torn ACL, she refuses to stop box squatting and doesn't take BS from anyone). Women are becoming empow(her)ed with each rep they complete. Don’t believe me? Go into the free weight area of the gym and check out the increase in women hanging around what used to be a man cave. Even better, a ton of them have their headphones in and are avoiding pick-ups. Instead, they're just getting after it for themselves, not for some dude.  Still don’t believe me?   Go to a CrossFit box and check out the millions of women swarming those boxes, embracing their bodies, and kicking dude’s butts along the way. So, step back and notice what’s really going on. The weights are giving women this mentality that it’s OK to be strong, it’s OK to have muscle, and it’s OK to kick some guy’s butt.

With all the physical changes this movement brings, some people might be missing sight of the best part, the mental changes.  I’ll give you an example. I was in the car with my friend Scarlett the other day and she was fighting with her boyfriend of three years. Scarlett just started to get into lifting heavy and competing in figure shows. At the same time, she’s also become pretty independent and no longer feels like she needs her boyfriend’s approval for every decision. Recently, she's been applying to graduate schools, something that she had previously put on hold until she knew that it worked with her boyfriend's schedule.   Every time she steps in the gym she steps away from people standing in the way of what she wants.. I even heard her tell her boyfriend the other day, “If me chasing my dreams is making you feel bad about yourself, we need to end this because I don’t deserve to be resented for being awesome.”

Scarlett was quiet and timid before she started training, and I strongly suspect the change in her self-confidence and sense of autonomy is related to the empowerment she gains every time she hits a PR. Actually, she had the aforementioned phone conversation with her boyfriend post-shoulder press PR. So let’s keep it real. Girls are lifting heavy, gaining self-confidence, and learning they don't need anyone’s approval but their own to validate that they're amazing.

If the above is what makes this movement a freight train, then we still must address that there's a leak that needs fixed. I hate to be the one to bring it up, but I figure that because I’m already a lone wolf, I might as well. Plus, I’m terrible at not sharing my opinion.


Look at the phrase “strong is the new skinny.” Do you see the issue? I do. Look a bit harder. Think about society and think outside the box. Still don’t see it? OK, I’ll give you a hint. We live in a society where until now; skinny was the ideal for women. However, that ideal is met by maybe one percent of the population. On top of that, we live in a country where obesity is a disease and the majority of women are overweight.  I’m not making this up; in 2011 the CDC reported that 56.6% of women are either overweight or obese.

So then here comes this phrase “strong is the new skinny.” For the many women who have struggled and failed to achieve the skinny ideal, it’s awesome. With this phrase, the ideal is to be strong, not skinny. Let’s be real—with basic training, everyone can be strong. Plus, to make it better, there isn't any dieting involved. However, here’s my issue—why do we have to degrade skinny for strong to be OK?

Skinny is a body type. It’s only a physical thing. On the flipside, strong is more than just an adjective used to describe a physique. Sure, “strong” is literally physical. It’s a body image and a body type, but it’s also a mindset and a concept. Unlike skinny, it’s something all women can be, regardless of the physical body they're rocking. If we as women are really going to use strong as the adjective to describe us, we need to stop putting down skinny in the process. Someone can be skinny and strong. Don’t believe it? Go check out a dancer, the U.S. gymnastics team, or the girls in the 97-, 105-, and 114-pound weight classes at a powerlifting meet. They're athletes, they're all strong, and they all own their body types. They don't shun them because it’s become a popular idea that you're either strong or skinny but not both.

If we as females truly want to embrace and own the word strong, an adjective that used to be exclusive to describing men, and really possess it for ourselves, we need to accept all of our sisterhood, regardless of body type. It’s the only way we can really take this word “strong” and make it our adjective. At the end of the day, we are strong. It's our choice and it’s time to start owning it by embracing a truly strong mindset where we can pick one another up without having to put someone down in the process.