I read a great article in The Telegraph recently, which featured an interview with the Coldstream Guards British Army fitness instructor Lance Corporal Farren Morgan (pictured).
Lance Corporal Morgan has a strong following on Instagram and uses his experience in the military to encourage physical fitness and mental strength.
His interview in The Telegraph focuses on Morgan’s concerns that new current recruits to the army have unrealistic expectations as to the level of fitness they will be expected to reach whilst serving and what they will need to do to achieve that level of fitness.
Based on his experience with recruits, Morgan argues that the “body positivity” movement has promoted a culture that legitimises obesity and weak character amongst young men. According to the fitness instructor, many recruits join up thinking that “being happy is all that matters”.
Morgan goes on to argue in the interview that young men and women are bombarded in our culture with advertising urging them to “embrace their bodies” despite the potential health implications that exist from being obese.
“My job is to help people get into the Army and into the military,” Morgan says.
“Young recruits’ brains are like sponges and I know lots of them watch TV day in and day out.
“They see these [body positive] images in the media, promoting an unhealthy lifestyle [while] celebrities say ‘it’s OK to eat what you want, as long as you’re happy’.
“That’s wrong. Being overweight puts more stress on the NHS and if this trend becomes a widespread way of thinking among younger recruits, you will knock off a lot of the operational effectiveness of the Army.”
Morgan advocates further that millennials in general need to “man up” and stop pretending it’s “OK” to be fat.
“I see so many of these body positivity adverts on TV and they have a negative impact on recruits’ mental health and their well being,” he continues. “People join up and think, ‘hang on, the Army is telling me that I need to be healthy, robust and train five or six times a week’.
“But then they see adverts on TV saying that you don’t need to do all that. You just need to be happy in yourself.
“I think it is confusing and a shock for a lot of them.”
Morgan also takes aim in the article at our culture of instant gratification, with takeaway apps like Deliveroo and UberEats, which he sees as also being to blame for the growing problem of obesity among the general public in the UK.
Putting aside the military aspect to this story (and all branches of the forces make serious demands on the fitness of those who serve, as this is needed for such personnel to be combat-ready) I support what Morgan is saying here. It seems to me that we are surrounded by television, online and social media messaging which is designed to make consumers feel safe and welcome while consuming the content they are served. This in turn keeps such consumers coming back for more, which then supports the business model of such platforms.
The problem with this kind of practice is that it breeds a constant need for infantile gratification on the part of consumers (that’s you and I!) as they seek to feel safe, secure and pseudo-loved while consuming the media fed to them.
This is particularly true on social media, which has, as we know, created echo chambers within which individuals elect to spend time with others who reflect how they think and (here we go again) how they feel. This in turn creates a defensiveness on the part of consumers when they are challenged outside of such boundaries.
Where physical and mental fitness is concerned none of this is healthy or to the benefit of individual men and women, who are discouraged from developing robust characters or the physical and mental strength to deal with challenges or adversity.
I find it interesting that those individuals who break free from this paradigm and invest in their inner and outer strength are then regularly condemned and ridiculed online for being selfish, narcissistic and narrow-minded in their worldview when the opposite is true.
In my opinion, focusing on physical and mental fitness, choosing not to self-gratify whenever under pressure (remember, its food, not love!), as well as thinking in the long-term is not to be condemned, but to be congratulated. The fact that so many now assume this positive worldview is also to the credit of such individuals, and not something to criticise.
Lance Corporal Morgan is right in what he says in his interview.
Succumbing to the encouragements of the “body positivity” movement is a mistake and to be resisted. Building character and strength in the face of adversity, as well as physical fitness, is to be encouraged.