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Breaking Chains: Escaping the Grip of Diet Culture Through the Power of Weightlifting

Friday, 17 November 2023 14:37 Lifestyle

"Beyond Ozempic: Redefining Beauty in the Weightlifting Era"

In the age dominated by the pursuit of thinness, a paradigm shift is emerging. Amid the Ozempic era, where the desire for a slender physique is pervasive, a different narrative unfolds—one that focuses on what our bodies can achieve. I discovered this transformation when I noticed two firm lumps on my arms, identified as deltoids. Previously, my perception of shoulders was a vague extension into a shapeless mass. Now, these small, perfect deltoids, occasionally revealing themselves when my elbows rest on solid surfaces, serve as a reminder that our bodies possess the capacity to surprise.

In a time when the ideal body undergoes constant redefinition, with thinness reclaiming its place, the "Ozempic era of weight loss" is at its zenith. The demand for the celebrity-favored slimming jab is so intense that even those with type 2 diabetes, relying on it for blood sugar regulation, face challenges in securing enough doses. Celebrities discreetly endorse Ozempic or Wegovy (both semaglutide brand names; the latter licensed for obesity treatment), reflecting the prevailing obsession with thinness evident on runways, magazine covers, and the Instagram feeds of icons like the Kardashians.

My foray into weightlifting coincided with the TikTok explosion of Ozempic in 2022. Seeking an alternative to jogging that spared my knees from London's pavements, I embarked on a journey of strength training. While I'm still a novice in this realm, lifting 35kg this week feels like progress, considering my arms once trembled under a mere 1kg dumbbell. Recent research suggests that regular strength training not only builds physical strength but also reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer.

For me, the benefits extend beyond physical health. Weightlifting has become a tool to confront the ingrained ideals of the 00s—an era that exalted protruding clavicles as the epitome of allure. Though I still grapple with the allure and repulsion of weighing scales, the experience has prompted a profound shift in my body relationship. It's no longer just about external appearance but, more importantly, about acknowledging what my body is capable of achieving.

"Unveiling Strength Beyond Expectations: A Journey into Weightlifting"

The surprising applause from the staff of an outdoor pho restaurant as I scaled their gate after being locked out was a moment of revelation—many people don't anticipate women to be physically strong. For someone who appreciates attention and loves food, having Vietnamese chefs applaud my dedication to noodles was an unexpected delight. Yet, it's the subtle, everyday triumphs that illuminate the profound impact weightlifting has had on both my mind and body.

Now, effortlessly lifting a heavy suitcase from an overhead locker or swiftly jumping a fence to retrieve my wandering dog are routine feats. The ability to carry fully loaded Tesco home delivery crates has become a quiet affirmation of the transformative power of weightlifting. Each instance feels akin to a low-fi version of Spider-Man discovering his ability to shoot webs or walk up walls—seemingly inconsequential to observers but monumental in personal achievement.

In a world where women's fitness narratives often revolve around visible transformations, such as marathon medals and Strava counts, the unacknowledged capabilities of the body take a back seat. Reflecting on past gym classes centered on "leg-lengthening" pilates, ab workouts for toning, and the pursuit of the burn, I realize the emphasis was primarily on altering physical appearance. Except for the glutes, the sole muscle encouraged for women to build. Weightlifting, however, offers a different narrative, where the focus shifts from becoming smaller to discovering the untapped potential within.

While I hold no judgment for those opting for Ozempic or Wegovy to achieve cosmetic weight loss, societal norms often misdirect us towards associating respect, success, and advancement solely with thinness and conventional beauty. For a truly transformative experience—whether in body or outlook—try embracing weights. In this journey, I've found that strength goes beyond the visible, and the empowerment derived from weightlifting is a revelation worth celebrating. — Zing Tsjeng, Author and Freelance Journalist

In conclusion, my journey into weightlifting has been a revelation, challenging societal expectations and reshaping both my body and mindset. From the unexpected applause scaling a gate to the everyday victories of lifting suitcases and chasing after my dog, each moment reflects the transformative power of embracing physical strength. Unlike the conventional focus on appearance-centric fitness routines, weightlifting has become a source of empowerment, a journey that celebrates the unacknowledged capabilities of the body.

As the world often steers women towards visible transformations and societal norms prioritize thinness, weightlifting stands out as a powerful counter-narrative. It transcends the pursuit of a smaller physique, encouraging a deeper exploration of untapped potential within. In a society that often directs individuals towards shortcuts for cosmetic weight loss, the true essence of strength lies in discovering what the body is capable of achieving beyond mere appearances.

Whether it's lifting crates, jumping fences, or carrying the unexpected load, each feat embodies a personal triumph, echoing the transformative journey of Spider-Man realizing newfound abilities. In this realm, the emphasis shifts from conforming to external standards to embracing the strength within—a journey that extends far beyond the confines of conventional beauty.

Ultimately, weightlifting has provided not only physical strength but also a fresh perspective on what the body can accomplish. As an author and freelance journalist, I encourage others to explore this empowering avenue, breaking free from the confines of societal expectations and discovering a new outlook on both body and self. The journey may be personal, but the impact is profound—a celebration of strength that goes beyond the visible.

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