Strong is Smart and Sexy

In order to get back in shape after having her second baby, actress Jessica Alba apparently used the ‘corset training’ method. A corset is a steel ribbed cage that, according to an online retailer, can reduce waist size by seven inches when tightened. Alba told news reporters that she “wore a double corset day and night for three months” and that “it was sweaty, but worth it.”

I thought corsets died out in the 1800s and that the general consensus is that they were horrible for women. Not only did they restrict women’s movements on a daily basis, but they also caused internal damage by squishing organs. In fact, since corsets were so stiff, they caused women’s abdominal muscles to atrophy which meant that, when they took them off during pregnancy, many died in childbirth because they had no abdominal muscles left to push out the baby. Corsets represent an archaic practice that really should stay in the past, along with other awful trends such as foot-binding and lead face makeup.

Corset, ca. 1893 (photo:
Corset, ca. 1893 (photo:

Alba’s story made an impression on me because lately I’ve been thinking a lot about perceptions of health and body image. Western society stands thinness up on a pedestal, which, in my opinion, is ridiculous for a number of reasons.

First, ever since starting CrossFit, I’ve learned that there’s a huge difference between being thin and being in shape. The former used to be my ideal, but now it’s the latter, because it’s a hell of a lot more important to be strong and active than to wear small jeans. I’d rather be large and strong than thin and weak.

Check out this short clip of the awesome Canadian Camille Leblanc-Bazinet squatting 300 lbs — more than what most guys can do! I’ve got 165 lbs to go to match her…

Second, everyone has different body types. For years, I struggled to accept my “thunder thighs” and the fact that, in grade three, they were already twice as wide as my best friend’s. Now I realize she’s built differently and I have a much bigger-boned frame than she does, but it was upsetting at the time.

Third, the quest for thinness results in women (and men, too) beating themselves up on a quest for that magic bullet — think Jessica Alba’s corset — that will make them look thin at the cost of health and happiness. The only magic bullet out there, I’ve come to realize, is busting my butt at the gym, because the only way I’ll get real results is by doing real work. Everything else is illusional.

Now those are some seriously healthy thighs! (photo: flickr)
photo: flickr

I hope that Alba’s method of postpartum belly-squishing doesn’t catch on because it’s a bad idea and it certainly doesn’t make her a healthier person. I have nothing against Spanx and BellaBands, which are great on an occasional basis, but to lock oneself into a steel cage to suffer for three months because society tells a woman she’s got to be thin at all costs is tragic.

You might like:
Why I’m Officially Hooked on CrossFit
CrossFit: my husband’s mistress
Books vs. Burpees


3 thoughts on “Strong is Smart and Sexy

    1. Well, it’s probably a bit like recovering from a C-section, I’d imagine — not being able to bend properly! Even worse would be taking care of a toddler with a corset.

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