Meg Boggs Wants You to Rethink What 'Strength' Means
Like so many people, Meg Boggs was once influenced by societal ideas about what it means to be "strong." But Boggs has embraced a new definition of strength — one that everyone should be adopting.
Boggs, who is an author and athlete, has partnered with Fitbit for a campaign that's all about challenging damaging notions about what it means to be strong. "I used to think being strong meant not eating, even when I was hungry," Boggs writes in an Instagram post created for the campaign. "I thought it meant dropping a pound every single day. I thought it meant hating everything about myself, except the weight loss and the absolute starvation...I fell right into the stereotype. Be thin at all costs. I guess it's just always been the easiest way to sell fitness. And I bought into it, like most of us do."
Eventually she shifted her focus to exercise. "This worked for me for a while, but I recognized my complete disregard for everything else," Boggs tells Shape. "I wasn't prioritizing sleep or water or recovery. I was constantly finding myself powering through pain again. Except, instead of powering through starvation, I was powering through exhaustion. There was never any balance in anything I did or chose, no matter which way I would try and navigate my own recognition of strength." (Related: This Woman Is Speaking Up About Why She Finally Stopped Modifying All Her Exercises)
But the athlete has since set out to help undo that narrative. For Boggs, who has opened up on social media about her challenging fertility journey, her experience with PCOS, and the body-shaming she's dealt with, strength is not just about what her body can do at the gym (though that's impressive as well — see the many videos of her crushing her workouts).
In a video of Boggs created for her Fitbit partnership, negative messages flash across the screen: "You should be losing weight...You would be prettier if you lost weight...What's wrong with you?" But that last question morphs into a new query: "What's strong with you?" Boggs and Fitbit are inviting you to ask yourself that very question — and share your strengths with the hashtag #WhatsStrongWithYou. (Related: This Mom Shared Photos of Her Cellulite and Stretch Marks to Talk About Postpartum Self-Love)
This shift is overdo, believes Boggs. "Our society is obsessed with what strong LOOKS like," she says. "You [have to] have the six pack abs, the chiseled arms, the peach-shaped booty, and/or the weight loss to prove your determination and strength. It's as if that's the golden ticket, that's what sells, that's the answer to a life worth living."
These expectations can be layered, she's found. "As women, you can't look 'too strong' or else it's not feminine enough to be respected and seen as worthy to exist as a woman. Add in being a fat woman and you're not even allowed to speak about strength unless it's paired with the strength to avoid carbs. It's ridiculous. And as someone who exists in a fat body, I only ever see my body depicted as a villain, comedic relief, and/or the triumphant weight loss story — never the strong, main character with a complex story line. Her/his story only ever ends in weight loss. It's dehumanizing and leaves no room for the actual stories fat people have to tell, including the stories of strength." (Related: The 'Health at Every Size' Approach to Health Care Is Aiming to Put an End to Weight Stigma)
Boggs decided to start telling her own story, and with this campaign she's encouraging others to do the same. "For me now, being strong means thinking more about my health holistically, giving me both control and confidence to take care of my body and mind," she says. "When I'm checking in with my body, balancing activity with rest, making choices that impact me positively, and finding time for both mental and physical health, I'm at my strongest."