Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Skinny with Big Boobs

The woman on the workout site looked like a porn star.

Yeah, I think she used to be in porn, my friend Marie told me. Marie was the one who had recommended the site to me. It was a great site, filled with high-intensity exercises that I started using as kickboxing warm-ups. Its creators were a husband and wife: Freddy, a shy Canadian who did the video recording and editing, and Zuzana, a petite, extremely muscular Czech woman whose surgically-enhanced breasts could barely be contained by her skimpy sports bras.

I have no problem—or perhaps not much of a problem—with breast implants. Several people I love very much have gotten implants to replace breasts lost to cancer, which I think is a great reason for cosmetic surgery. As for women who just wanted larger breasts, I consider their decision none of my business, but I do think most women look nice with the breasts they came with.

My standards for Zuzana were a bit higher than for most women, though. I felt uneasy taking workout advice—which is a form of health advice—from a woman who had risked elective surgery and the insertion of foreign objects under her skin in order to look like a Barbie doll. Once I found out that she was a former pornographic model, however, I could forgive her unhealthy decision, since it was a career choice made before her career was being a role model for health and fitness.

The site had a community of followers who would often send in pictures of their newly fit physiques. The comments under these pictures would gush with praise and support: You look so strong, so sexy! But underlying this support, I noticed an ideology that disturbed me: Exercise is for making you look good. And when it comes to looking good, leaner is always better.

This was especially true of Zuzana’s own standards for herself. In one video journal, entitled “Stress Makes Me Fat!” she complained about the weight she had gained over the past few weeks. I can’t stop eating cashews, she said, turning her palms upwards. I could eat two big handfuls of them. In the video, she is sitting cross-legged on the floor in a sport bra and hot pants, her late six-pack reduced to a four-pack by the unsightly flab covering her toned abdomen. I don’t know much about body-fat percentages, but if her old physique was somewhere around 0% body fat, she must have increased it to at least 2%. Watching this gaunt woman, it was easy to envision her shoving two entire handfuls of cashews—that must be at least twenty of them—into her ravenous maw. Of course you can’t stop eating cashews! YOU ARE STARVING TO DEATH!

A few members of the site commented on how ridiculous it was for a woman with the physique of Bruce Lee to call herself fat, how it set a bad example for the millions of regular people following the site. Zuzana’s husband lashed out at them: How dare you invalidate the very personal feelings Zuzana is sharing with you! Here she has gone out of her way to show that she is vulnerable and struggles with her weight just like everyone else, and all you can offer is criticism.

The commenters were on to something, though. Looking at the site, it was easy to imagine that Zuzana-style skinniness was the ultimate sign of strength and fitness. As an athlete, it was difficult not to be seduced by this ideal: This was as fit as one could possibly look. I often thought of Zuzana as stronger than me, but when I saw her use weights, I realized that I was probably at least as strong as her, just with a lot more body fat. Of course, if I were as lean as her, I would be completely flat-chested, which is not a trade-off I was interested in. But with her ginormous porn-star rack, Zuzana had all bases covered. It seemed to me like cheating: starve yourself down to no body fat and then insert artificial fat where desirable.

Soon after the “Stress Makes Me Fat” post, Zuzana and Freddy got divorced, finally clarifying what type of trauma had driven her to ingest twenty cashews. She left the site and reappeared a few months later on YouTube cooking healthy recipes. She had gained at least ten pounds, moving her from Bruce Lee’s weight class to perhaps that of an Oops-I-did-It-Again-Era Brittany Spears. All the comments praised her new appearance: She looks good fat, more than one commenter noted.

Freddy found a new girlfriend, Lisa, who became the site’s new host. She was rail-thin with rippling muscles, like Zuzana had been. But her breasts were smaller, a natural size for someone with no body fat. Her tomboyish figure looked cute in the little shorts and bras that were the site’s signature workout gear. She gave lots of advice about exercise, about motivation and positive attitude, about healthy eating and lifestyle. It only took her three months on the site before she checked herself into the hospital to get her new, fake boobs.