No more annoying – to me – is the idea that, at 5AM, I’m foolish enough to believe that placing an order for a pill will turn me into this amazingly cut blonde white woman with washboard abs.

Um, y’all don’t make pills strong enough for all that. I might be close on the abs… but the rest? C’mon.

The dieting industry has made it a total draw to “get this ‘athletic’ body!!!!! without work!!!!!!!!!! take our pill!!!!! exclamation points!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” I get it. We always want results with little work. That’s…. cute? It’s cute because it’s naive… and I always associate naive with children. And really, children are always cute.

The reality, here, is that again we’ve allowed industry to romanticize something that – with even a moderate amount of digging beneath the surface, we could learn – simply isn’t true.

Don’t sell me on “this pill could help you achieve an athlete’s body,” and then rush to define “athlete’s body” as this person with almost dangerously low body fat because “society thinks this looks good, even though American society has more body fat than it can stand to admit to itself.” It simply isn’t true.

Enter Howard Schatz.

Within the pages of their 2002 photobook aptly titled Athlete, you will find the following:


I see you, Lisa Leslie!

Do you see what I see?

Let me tell you what I see. I see a multitude of bodies – obviously athletic bodies, lest they be unsuccessful in their sports – in various shapes and sizes. I see bodies that don’t feel required to fit into whatever mold the “un-fit masses” have tried to fit them in. Why? They’re too busy committing themselves to their craft.

From the description of the book:

With a seamless blend of art and precision, Schatz shows us the awesome upper-body power of Olympic wrestling champions, discus throwers, and football players; the lissome graces of high jumpers and rhythmic gymnasts, the shock-absorbing legs of downhill skiers, the sculptural perfection of NFL wide receiver Terrell Owens and sprinter Shawn Crawford; the compact muscularity of gymnasts Tasha Schwikert and Sean Townsend; the Giacometti-like slenderness of marathoners Tegla Loroupe and American marathon champion Deena Drossin; as well as 125 other athletes at the top of their games. In serene portraits and intricately dissected motion photographs, Schatz gives us an unprecedented celebration of the body as divine machine, and manages at the same time to present a collective view of the human spirit at its most intense.

What is my point, here? My point, really, is three-fold.

First, don’t get suckered into defining something as broad as “athlete” – especially when “athlete” can refer to everything from gymnastics to sumo wrestling – by marketing that never even mentions a sport. It’s disrespectful to and discounts those who don’t fit that visual description – it excludes them from their rightfully earned title of “athlete” because they don’t look the way an uninformed public says an “athlete” should look – and doesn’t give them the credit they deserve.

Second, these are extremely – extremely – successful athletes. There are Olympians in this photo set. If they’ve got what you consider to be amazing bodies? Guess what – they’re not taking pills to get them. They’re putting in work. The only people who believe you can get “something” for “nothing” are those who have nothing. In fitness, you have to work. You want that body? Let’s see several hours a week – maybe even several hours a day – of commitment toward achieving it.

Lastly, if you can see how foolish society’s standards are for fitness…. then the logical question must be “where does this standard come from?” If you can’t answer that question immediately, and be satisfied with your answer… perhaps you should question why you hold yourself to such a standard in the first place.

Just a thought.

Scans from Athlete found here.

Click to purchase Athlete.

Y’all can thank Ngozi for this beauty.