After the Voting: Reflections on the Fittest Friends Contest

The voting is over, the judges have weighed in, and public announcements have been made. I would like to extend my sincerest congratulations to Regina Gunn on winning the Women’s Health Fittest Friends contest. You are beautiful, truly fit, and a wonderful role model. I am honored to have competed with (yes, WITH, not against) you, and I hope this is only the first of many, many amazing opportunities for you! I also want to thank Women’s Health and Men’s Health for running this contest. It was a great opportunity for many aspiring models and performers to get their faces in front of the public, and though I am neither of those things, I met many extraordinary and inspirational women as a result of my participation. Anowa Adjah you are beautiful and strong and such a brilliant and supportive leader. Sarah Laursen, you have overcome so much and are a gentle yet amazingly strong spirit and I know you will go far. Amber Hayes, I am in awe of your power and strength, truly inspired.
I would like to use this platform to speak to the many of you that have contacted me privately to express your frustration, disappointment and even anger about the judges final ruling. I hear you. I acknowledge your feelings. What I want you to know is that I do not consider myself a loser. Don’t forget that I encouraged you to vote for other exceptional women, Regina Gunn included! I wanted to see someone extraordinary win this, and that is exactly what happened! I went into this contest with low expectations. I doubted I would get many votes at all! Lets face it, I’m hardly fitness model material, and the main ‘prize’ of this competition was a chance to model in Women’s Health magazine. My muscles are too big, my boobs are WAY too small (and I have no intention of changing them), my hair is too short, my face is too wrinkled. And like many of you, I have stretch marks and veins from pregnancy, and saggy skin from losing so much weight, and as one of the other finalists so eagerly and publicly tweeted, the picture I entered made me look like a man. The judges were looking for a model, and I’m not it! I’m ok with that. I was humbled by the response my entry got. I didn’t expect it, and I am so honored. In the end, I AM a winner, because I didn’t go into this for the ‘prize’, I went in to it to get my message out. And friends, you helped me do that! You voted day after day, you posted my profile on your walls and shared my message with your friends, and they shared it with their friends. I have had so many people contact me privately to thank me for inspiring them to make lifestyle changes, and THAT is the only prize that means anything to me. That is the very best prize in the world, to know that because my story was shared, someone out there is taking control of their health. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for helping me do that. I know that many of you were hoping that your votes would send a message to ‘the media’ that we want to see more diversity in body size, shape and age on the pages of magazines, and like you, I do hope that message was heard.

As for ‘my message': I said it during the contest and I will continue to say it until I die. Fitness is not about being sexy to find or please a mate, it is not about looks or money and success or youth or professional athleticism or competing to have the biggest biceps or heaviest deadlift or fastest 5k time. Fitness is about YOU, taking control of your OWN health, improving the quality of your OWN life, finding joy in moving and pride in accomplishing things you never thought you could do because you’d been told, by someone in your life or by societal pressures, that you were too old, or too fat, or too clumsy, or too slow or too weak. It is about valuing yourself enough to dedicate time every day to your own health and well being. It is about setting examples for our children, so they will grow up valuing and respecting us, and THEMSELVES, enough to take pride in their bodies and their accomplishments and their health. Women, it is about feeding and nourishing your bodies with plenty of healthy food, it is about rejecting society’s mandate that you must be small and weak in order to be desirable. It is about rejoicing in our bodies’ STRENGTH and power, supporting and building each other up, valuing and appreciating our bodies, and those of other women, for what they can DO, not how they look.

Please join me in this ‘movement’. Stop dieting. Stop trying to look good for someone else. Start nourishing yourselves with food and movement and love and friendships. If you posted my profile on your wall during the contest, please post this blog post on your wall now so that my gratitude can also reach your friends who took the time to vote for me.

I am so grateful for your support, we are all winners.

6 thoughts on “After the Voting: Reflections on the Fittest Friends Contest

  1. Well said, Amber, and very, very gracious. You have a fantastic perspective on this and I applaud you.

    My frustration is that they WERE looking for a fitness model, NOT the "fittest friend". Call it what it is, a beauty contest.

    I have expressed my outrage and now I'll let it go. But, my friend, I am so proud of you, for so many reasons. You are a great inspiration to me. :-)

  2. Amber,
    You are TRULY a remarkable woman and I'm honored that I know you! I will keep your message "alive" and will continue to nourish my self with good food, movement, love, and friendship!

  3. Amber,
    I can not express how lucky I am to have you in my life. Even though we have only "met" on FB/blog/twitter, you have saved my life. You always taken the time and effort to show me the RIGHT way of fueling my body.
    You are truly the WINNER in my book. Our stories are SO SIMILAR it's scary. I thank you everyday for "putting me on the right path" to my dreams. Because not only are you helping me, you are helping me show my children, friends and family that women/moms can be strong AND beautiful, smart AND healthy. That being 125 pounds doesn't mean you're health, just means you're thin. I applauded you for taking the higher road but applauded you more for loving who you are, for working SO hard to achieve your goals not only with your body,mind & health. But also because you have showed so MANY of us that this IS possible for us as well.
    One day (soon) I hope to meet you so that I may thank you for everything. Sending you my very best..
    Love and hugs

  4. well said. maybe to them you were not model material but to me you are beautiful, hard working and a role model. way to go and i agree you did win….a healthy lifestyle what an awesome prize!

  5. “Please join me in this 'movement'. Stop dieting. Stop trying to look good for someone else. Start nourishing yourselves with food and movement and love and friendships.” ~ Amen!

Comments are closed.