In a cage fight between skinny & strong who will win? On the left we have Jaslene Gonzales, winner of America’s Next Top Model, Cycle Whatever. On the right we have an unnamed CrossFit woman. What’s your call?

CrossFit chick, hands-down. Maybe in a bar fight and if Jaslene had a broken bottle. And the element of surprise. Then … Okay, not even then. CrossFit chick takes it in every scenario I can think up.

Never Thin Enough

Andrea Muizelaar, winner of Canada’s Next Top Model, Cycle Infinite Winter, found this out the hard way. You may remember her from 2006 when she did what many would consider the unthinkable: she walked away from her title and modeling contracts because even as an emaciated anorexic, she was still told she wasn’t thin enough.

One art director told her not to waste her money on a personal trainer, “This is real world,” she was told. “It’s long and lean that sells, not long, lean and muscular.” Comments like that came all the time. “I was told in my skinniest stage: ‘You gotta tone up your stomach; it’s a little too big’,” she said. She adds that she was so malnourished that her toenails were falling off (now that’s high fashion!) and she was so weak that opening a heavy door was nearly impossible. (source)

At last she decided to choose her health over her modeling career and she scrapped it all, heading back home to her small home town in Canada where she got a job at a bank and enrolled in college.

Here she is (left) at the height of her modeling days. Here she is (right) today.

Finally Strong Enough

Her new healthy lifestyle was recently put to the test. On a cruise with a friend to the Caribbean, they were accosted by armed thieves. Her friend had a knife put to his throat and was knocked almost unconscious. Andrea managed to fight off her attackers, kicking, screaming and scratching. She escaped and ran to a nearby village to get help. Her friend was quickly found and, save for a concussion for her friend and lots of bruises and cuts on Andrea, both came out of it unhurt. (Incidentally, the villagers who came to her rescue were described as “several burly women with baseball bats.” How awesome is that?!?!)

Imagine – going from being too frail to open a door to being strong enough to kick your way free from armed attackers. “If this had happened when I was [a] Top Model … , I would probably be a lot more messed up than I am right now,” Andrea concluded.

Training For Thin Vs Training For Strong

When put in that light, every woman I know would say that of course she would rather be strong than skinny. The irony, however, is that most women train exactly the opposite (as Andrew once accused me of doing although hopefully we’ve worked that miscommunication out). Their entire focus is on skinnifying – read: endless calorie burning – instead of building muscle.

Now, nobody wants to look like the 1976 East German Women’s Swim Team. Not even the East German swim team wants to look like the East German swim team. But your end goal definitely determines the type of training and nutrition program you use. The difference is between seeing food as evil vs. seeing food as fuel. The difference is heavy functional lifting vs. endless reps with a 3-lb dumbbell. The difference is deciding that what our bodies can do is more important than how they look.

I’m a girl. In our society, even. Believe me, I feel the thin pressure as much as anyone. We are told over and over again that our looks are our power and we are only as good as our last Botox treatment. But I, and I believe most of you too, don’t totally buy that message. We buy People but we also get Women’s Health. We lift weights because muscle is more compact than fat and will help us fit in our jeans better but we also get a little thrill every time we go to put up our ponytail and a bicep pops out. It’s that balance that I’m always looking for, sometimes succeeding and sometimes not.

But I’m telling you, if comes down to wearing a size zero or being able to kick some bad-guy booty in a knife fight – at the very least I’m coming out of that with a chunk of somebody’s ear. Now, if someone can please tell me where I can sign up for Krav Maga I’ll be set.

PS … Lifting heavy will NOT make you look like a dude. Unless you are a dude. In which case, you probably should take the lipstick off. At least on the weight floor.

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  1. Strong is always sexier and smarter in the long run but there is a train of thought says that we as women are always going to go with what men want and men set the standards. I see both angles

  2. It’s funny, everytime I’m in the gym trying to gain muscle my body seems to become leaner with no outright muscle definition you can see. So for me being strong goes hand in hand with being slim…but my right hook is still solid (lol j/k, a little).

  3. I think that both body types can be celebrated. If you have to take unnatural measures to be skinny than that is not the body type for you. I understand the essence of this strong is the new skinny movement but let’s not create an environment where those who are skiiny feel as though they are less than.

  4. Lean and strong is the way to go, both cardio and weight training.

  5. Don't Believe the Hype

    Skinny women are the ideal period. Not fat. Not Muscular. Slim and fit women is what every man wants but we’ll settle for the different variations because of love or convenience or children. Let’s not live in a fantasy world here ladies.

    • @Don’t Believe the Hype: speak for yourself on the “ideal woman”. i love curves on a woman. not a little “bump” here and small dip there=> real curves! most brothas i know would agree. nothing against a skinny/ lean woman. but i am also not celebrating mo’nique and jill scott size women either. my wife hits the gym 3-4 times a week and lives for running and yoga. she’s not lean and yet she’s very fit, about 17% body fat. small upper body and strong lower body. not all body types are meant to be the same. and not all men want the same thing. one

  6. Imani Burrell

    As a 17 year old, high school senior, I was 5’5, weighed 120lbs. and could do 17 chins ups (hands facing away). As a 47 year old, semi-retired mother of 1, I am 5’7, weigh 110lbs and can do 10 chin ups (if I cheat a little on the last one). That’s 30 years, +2 inches, -10lbs, -7 chins, indicating a significant loss of strength. In my defense, I don’t train 6-8 hrs/day anymore, either, but I do wear a size 0. Purely from a vanity standpoint, I’d say it was worth the trade.

  7. andrea muizelaar

    wow thank you for the lovely article. certainly made my day and further empowers me to continue on a normal healthy happy lifestyle xox

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