Strong, Not Skinny

By Tawny Maya McCray

December 4, 2015 5 min read

Today our motivation for working out is less about how we'll look in a bathing suit and more about doing things that are good for our bodies and minds -- and can still result in us rocking a killer beach bod. With everything from CrossFit, boot camps and boxing to yoga and one-on-one training, there are a number of ways to keep our bodies healthy and fit.

"I'm anti-thigh gap," said Gwendolyn Mets, 37. "Skinny has never been a goal for me, I just think it sends the wrong message to young girls."

Mets, who admits she's been slim her whole life, experienced a sudden weight gain two years ago when she had to undergo a hysterectomy. She gained about 35 pounds in less than six months, leaving her with low energy and low confidence.

"I feel like I was trapped in my own skin," she said. "Then one day I woke up and thought, 'I don't want to feel this way anymore.' That's when my fit journey began."

She said she never enjoyed going to the gym and running on a treadmill. She needed something with more intensity, so she decided to take up boxing. She soon found that her new activity was a great fit for her, since it's high impact, high energy and it hits every muscle group. Mets worked up to a boxing routine of five to six days a week for an hour or two and has seen a huge transformation with her body. In nine months she's dropped 50 pounds and gone from a size 12 to a size 6.

"I'm leaner, stronger and have abs for the first time in my life," she laughed.

Mets added that she also overhauled her diet, and now eats five times a day plus juices daily. An example of what she eats in a day consists of oatmeal with bananas and green apples and a veggie shake that includes apples, carrots, spinach, kale, parsley and cucumber for breakfast; a protein shake mid-morning; egg whites cooked in coconut oil, sauteed spinach, kale and a baked sweet potato for lunch; sauteed zucchini, carrot strips and tofu in ginger sauce in the late afternoon; and whole grain bread with peanut butter in the evening.

"This isn't a diet. It's a lifestyle," she said. "It took me a while to figure out what foods worked for me and what I needed to eliminate. It's a process."

The foods she has eliminated include pasta, rice, white potatoes, corn and meat.

Tamara Fanning, 37, has owned her small boutique gym, Get Fit On Adams, for eight years. The gym encompasses everything from group circuit classes to one-on-one and small group training, and has an option for the client to work out independently. Fanning has 18 one-on-one clients and 15 clients who do group classes and work out independently in the gym. She said her clients are all working out to be fit rather than just to get skinny.

"My clientele want to carry their groceries up a flight of stairs without getting out of breath, learn to balance so they can kayak, or just feel stronger and healthier every day," she said.

Fanning said when beginning any workout routine, it's important to take measures to ensure you don't injure yourself. Hiring a personal trainer is one way to go about that.

"We are educated professionals that know the human body and how to guide it into a better state of health and fitness without injury," she said. "I have never had a client injured in the 18 years I have been a trainer, but I have heard many horror stories."

According to a Washington Post article from 2014, one reason muscle is trending, experts say, is the increased media attention on female athletes. Using the 2012 Summer Olympics in London as an example, the article states that not only did female athletes outnumber their male counterparts for the first time; they also received more screen time and on-air mentions than men. The article pointed out that coverage of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi reflected a similar change.

Fanning said she finds it refreshing that the trend today is working out to be fit, because it has the potential to create a healthier population.

"It is super-important to be fit for basic quality of life; it makes for a happy life," she said. "You feel better, you have more energy, and you spend less time at the doctor's office."

Mets, a mom to a 6-year-old boy and 5-year-old girl, said while all that has been true for her, her goal from the beginning has been to be the best version of herself for her kids.

"I want them to see mom as happy as possible and as healthy as possible," she said. "I never want my daughter to feel that beautiful is a number on her jeans or a scale."

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