Social media (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and all those other crazy-addictive sites) is an increasingly prevalent aspect of modern life. More and more, it’s criticized for making us “lonely” and less connected to the real, physical world around us. At their worst, online communities can encourage bullying and even eating disorders, but in some corners of the internet, social media is embraced as part of a healthy lifestyle, helping people thrive.
Feminista Jones, an avid social media user and sex-positive feminist blogger, started her own health and fitness challenge called the #SexyShred. Her goal was to create a supportive, inclusive community for people looking to live healthier lifestyles using social media. And it worked: A quick search through the #SexyShred hashtag on Twitter reveals people tweeting about their healthy meals and daily workouts, feeling confident in their bodies, and motivating each other in positive ways.
Inspired by the community she’s created, I asked Feminista Jones a few questions about the #SexyShred, its creation, and how social media can spur us all to lead healthier lives and make healthier choices.
How did you get the idea for #SexyShred?
I wanted to break through a weight loss plateau and wanted to challenge myself to really push beyond my comfort zone. I was tweeting about it and came up with the phrase “Sexy Shred” and asked if anyone wanted to do it with me. I figured if I could get a few women to join me, we could hold each other accountable. 106 women signed up for the first cycle. I just wanted to lose another 5-10 lbs!
Can you give us some background on the challenge in general: how it works, how you administrate it, how many people participate, how often it happens, and more?
It’s based on clean eating and increased fitness. I provide members with information about clean eating, which includes lists of approved and banned food items. People are required to do a minimum of 240 minutes of exercise each week, and that exercise includes challenges I administer throughout the challenge.
People sign up and commit to 28 days of clean eating and increased physical activity. We use all forms of social media to share our meals and exercises, as well as offer supportive words of encouragement. The first run had 106 women. Due to popular demand, I made it co-ed and the second run had 265 people. I’ve decided to run it 4x a year (January, April, July, October). I facilitate the weekly food and physical challenges, which are designed to get people to rethink how they eat and how we approach food consumption in general, as well as challenge people to exercise more and challenge themselves to new exercises maybe they hadn’t considered doing before.
You identify strongly as a feminist and a woman of color. How do these identities fit into the #SexyShred?
When I became super-active in the gym almost two years ago, I noticed something odd. Men would randomly give me and other women workout advice, but not each other, both in the gym and online. Totally unsolicited advice, that was often the most remedial advice. That bothers me, because it assumes that women don’t know much about working out, resistance training, weight lifting, etc. That’s not fair. Conversely, there are a number of men who deem women that work out as being “manly.” A good example of this is Serena Williams, who is a dark-skinned Black woman with an incredibly fit, muscular body. She is often likened to masculine adjectives, called ugly, etc. I happen to think she’s amazingly beautiful and a role model for women who want to be fit. As a Black woman, especially when I was larger, I felt like people dismissed me and my weight loss efforts. There was a “study” recently about Black women opting to preserve their hairstyles over exercising for the improvement of their health. I have a problem with being stereotyped that way. I do, however, recognize that Black women, especially, are disproportionately negatively impacted by weight-related illnesses. We have to do better for ourselves. Some of us need more or different types of help than others, but I feel we should have the same goals of living healthier and longer.