Dear PrettyLittleThing.com: Fitness Is Not Just About Being Skinny

Let me start by saying this, I am no avid gym-goer, but I also have no phobia of exercising. Fitness is something I value, but not, let’s say, over a well-rounded health and body positivity, which is why when I was late night online-shopping, I felt somewhat uncomfortable when I found that the popular clothing brand PrettyLittleThing.com has added this vest to their ‘PLT Sport’ activewear range:

The word ‘skinny’ here is what bothers me. First of all, I was shocked that PLT could be this ignorant. In an age which has chosen to idolise social media fitness stars like Kayla Istines and The Body Coach, why has a business chosen to use such a dated ideal as ‘skinny’? It’s not a stretch to imagine that the brand have released this vest with those wanted to hit the gym for January in mind, but here’s the thing: fitness is so much more than getting ‘skinny’. Fitness is about being fit, that’s why it’s called fitness – c’mon PLT, it’s not that hard to grasp.

For me, the implication that one would only don activewear in order to become skinny is not only a disservice to the idea of fitness but also a dangerous implication that one should workout until the perceived state of ‘skinny’ has been achieved. While it’s true that some January gym-goers might be going with the intention of losing weight, it is important that this is not the only intention. The losing of the weight must exist within the idea of wanted to get fitter and be healthier. But as I said I am more a feminist than a fitness expert, so I looked to the opinions of those more qualified to give advice.

Rosie, a 3rd year Film and Literature student who also studies the philosophy and practice of sport in a specialised interdisciplinary module, has been keen on fitness her whole life, she goes to the gym regularly as well as participating in group fitness challenges such as 10k mud runs and military fitness events.

When I asked her about the topic she agreed that it’s a touchy subject, highlighting that movement such as “Healthy at Every Size” and “Fat Acceptance” can be regarded as problematic by a large portion of the health and fitness community and that it’s important neither to demonise being slim nor promote being unhealthily overweight. Rosie argues that any doctor will tell you that being overweight/obese (from a large body fat percentage to muscle ratio) is not healthy, and neither is being underweight. Rosie stresses that the most important thing you can do is to choose to make your lifestyle healthier regardless of what size you are. She says while it is important to love yourself and your body, it should be in a way that strives to be healthy – for overweight people, this does mean losing weight, but in a healthy way by eating a balanced diet in an appropriate portion size. For underweight people, likewise, this means consuming more.

When I showed Rosie the PLT vest I stressed that my problem was with the choice of words. She put an interesting spin on the concept, noting that the phrase “Am I skinny yet?” seems to be a reflection of the instant-gratification crash-diet culture of the times, an edgy attempt to replicate online memes like perpetuating the “omg I started my lettuce diet today how am I not already 3 stone lighter lol” culture.

Rosie agrees it is easy to see how this can be perceived as a triggering statement for those who have had eating disorders such as Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia – for those who have experienced body dysmorphia and who have been fixated on exactly the question “Am I skinny yet”. There is nothing wrong with wanting to lose weight and be slimmer as long as it’s not to become underweight and a healthy mindset about the process is maintained.

Rosie’s points helped me realise how to critique the vest without condemning those whose good health takes different physical forms. Being active in order to increase health and wellbeing is a great thing, and Rosie agrees noting that a decision to make a change in lifestyle to become healthy is something worth celebrating and that fitness can give many other advantages too. She explains how fitness can increase sense of determination and self-discipline, releases endorphins, acts as a stress relief, and gives a sense of acheivement.

I would encourage PrettyLittleThing.com to remind those buying their activewear range that they should not don the clothes with ‘skinny’ as their only goal.

Rosie reccomends the following thread for more information on health and wellbeing:  https://www.reddit.com/r/xxfitness/top/?sort=top&t=all