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I Used to Love H.E.R. (Health and Fitness In Its Essence Is Real)

What are we after when we talk about becoming more fit? Are we really after establishing healthy habits, active living and appreciating the miracle that is the human body? Or, are we on a quest to become less and accept less of ourselves to become mainstream?

Ilen Bell, MS, CSCS, Co-Founder of Black Fitness Today

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This post is long overdue…

I write from a place of love, but concern and frustration, much like Common – the genius emcee – when he penned ‘I Used to Love H.E.R (Hip Hop in Its Essence is Real) in 1993. At a time when hip-hop began to change for various reasons – money and greed, contractual obligations, pressure from major labels. etc., the soul and consciousness became less visible in mainstream. In my opinion, fitness has taken a similar path, where it’s sometimes hard to define the difference between soft porn and exercise.

I see far too many peach emojis, hump-day (and everyday) booty shots and claiming-to-be-built-through-hard-work-and-dedication-but-in-reality-purchased bodies come across our screens which have people in pursuit of an alternative reality. In some ways, we’ve been guilty too, whether through re-posting of images that glorifies the over-the-top ideal that sexiness is vital to communicating the message of fitness, creating content that has done the same, or just simply staying quiet. So for that – I apologize.

Let me be clear, I have no issues with showcasing and celebrating physiques. But the foundation of fitness has been lost in order to sell a personal brand, or even just to get likes and follows. What about the fitness? When you look at the reality of most of our lives, we have to go deeper than aesthetics.

Health and fitness in its essence is real, but today there’s less real and more fake. Today there’s more lose-weight-fast tools, unrealistic poses to shape our bodies just right, filters and photoshop than consciousness. The question has to be asked – what are we after when we talk about becoming more fit? Are we really after establishing healthy habits, active living and appreciating the miracle that is the human body? Or, are we on a quest to become less and accept less of ourselves to become mainstream?

It’s tempting to bite the apple when advertisers want more traffic, more readership and more edge. When the money is spent, you have to give more edge to get more pay, create more questionable content to drive traffic and get clicks. Then you look up and its obvious you don’t believe in what you’re putting out. It’s like when J. Cole thought he put out a banger with the song “Workout” off of 2011’s “Cole World: The Sideline Story” only to learn he “Let Nas Down.” It was at that moment that he too realized he bit the apple, and folded under the pressure of the label to put out something that would satisfy those hungry and addicted to alternative reality.

I was speaking with my wife and co-founder of Black Fitness Today, Lauren, and I said “man, somebody has to take charge, this is getting out of control. She said “you’re the one.” So here I am. I stayed quiet for too long and let the game dictate instead of dictating the game.

Cheers to health and fitness because in its essence, it’s real and has the power to build our community and change lives. If you create for the fake, stop, take charge and be who you desire to be in the fitness industry while avoiding the traps set to degrade yourself along the way.

Ilen Bell is co-founder and CEO of Black Fitness Today, a digital platform dedicated to empowering the black community through health promotion and performance enhancement. He lives in Tucson, AZ with his wife and daughter and nine-to-fives it as head strength and conditioning coach for a military special operations unit.

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