The Blog

My Top 3 Breakout Body Image Stars of 2014

For the most part red carpets are filled with sad, "hangry" stars, full of fillers and botox and empty of nourishment or self confidence. But, if you dig a little deeper you will find that every year there are a few standout women in the spotlight, who are not afraid to breakaway from the B.S. and send a more positive message.
This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.
LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 03:  Cameron Diaz attends a photocall for 'Sex Tape' at Corinthia Hotel London on September 3, 2014 in London, England.  (Photo by Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 03: Cameron Diaz attends a photocall for 'Sex Tape' at Corinthia Hotel London on September 3, 2014 in London, England. (Photo by Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images)

We're always complaining that the standard of beauty portrayed and perpetuated in Hollywood is unrealistic, unproductive and sending a terrible message to women everywhere. And, it's true; for the most part red carpets are filled with sad, "hangry" stars, full of fillers and botox and empty of nourishment or self confidence. But, if you dig a little deeper you will find that every year there are a few standout women in the spotlight, who are not afraid to breakaway from the B.S. and send a more positive message. This year is no different.

There are three brave and badass girls right now, who are inspiring a new narrative when it comes to fitness, lifestyle and self acceptance.

Khloe Kardashian

Kim, who!? Gone are the days of Khloe, the forgotten Kardashian. These days the youngest sister is arguably the hottest. It's not because she lost 30 pounds that she's a fitspiration, but rather how she lost getting STRONG! That's right, forget Quicktrim, the Atkins diet or waist training corsets, turns out this Kardashian is earning her badass bod the old fashioned way -- hitting the gym, hard! Her irrefutable results remind us that we don't need to starve ourselves of food and self love to look and feel great -- what we need is the resolve to make a change and the dedication to keep it going.

If you peruse KoKo's Instagram feed, among the countless and yes, shameless selfies (she is still a Kardashian, after all), you'll find numerous pictures and videos with her trainer Gunnar Peterson, showing off her ample abilities. She posts vids relentlessly hitting boxing pads, tirelessly dragging sleds across the gym floor and ruthlessly ripping it up on the StairMaster. So while Kim is off "breaking the Internet," Khloe is busy breaking a sweat! Now, that's a Kardashian I'd like to keep up with!

Cameron Diaz

Before you get all like, "Cameron Diaz is gorgeous and perfect and she probably doesn't even need to workout because she's so perfect and awesome and perfect..." have you read The Body Book, yet? In the self-written lifestyle book, she admits that even she has suffered from body hang-ups in her life. Before you cue the eye rolls, let's unpack this admission. Because she was blessed with disgustingly long legs, a flawlessly lean figure and a freakishly fast metabolism, she admits to abusing her body in her teens and twenties -- smoking a pack a day, bingeing on disgusting food, and just generally treating her body like complete crap.

According to Cammy D, it all took its toll, wreaking havoc on her skin and overall health and eventually forced her to make some serious lifestyle changes. It's her new and improved perspectives that make her this year's Queen of Fitspo. Here's the 411 -- She treats her body like a temple. She covets carbs because they help fuel her energy, so she can tear it up in the gym and "be present" everyday. (#Preach!) She loves cheese, sweating and isn't afraid of ageing. With advice like this it would be easy for Cam to come off judgey and pretentious, but fear not, she is still the goofy, giggly, self-deprecating girl we all wish was our bestie. The only difference is, now when you imaging yourself getting drunk with her, picture yourselves crushing bottles of organic wine and keeping well hydrated.

Lena Dunham

Some might be surprised at the choice to label Miss Lena a fitness inspiration. It's true, she doesn't have Cam's covetable six-pack, or an enviable dedication to the gym like Khloe. But, what Lena has is a revolutionary attitude towards life and self-acceptance, that we can all learn from. Much like a lot of us, she hasn't always had the best attitude towards her body, succumbing to Hollywood pressures during the first season of her hit show Girls. In her new book Not That Kind of Girl Lena admits to going to extremes to lose weight, revealing that her obsession with food once dominated every part of her life. (Sounds familiar!)

Now that she's a little older, a lot wiser and still just as lovably neurotic, somewhere along the way Lena has found peace, perspective and happiness. She now claims to think of food as fuel for her body, maintains an active but realistic relationship with the gym and really loves herself -- lumps, bumps and curves included. In her words, "It used to be when I went into a room with all thin women I felt like, what's wrong with me? Now I just feel special." Damn straight, Lena!

(P.S. Check out her outstanding outlook for yourself and watch this video diary from her book tour. It's worth a couple of minutes!)


Antonio_Diaz via Getty Images
"Here's why crunches don't really work that well and are actually dangerous: Imagine your spine is a credit card. In the same way that repeatedly flexing and extending a credit card will eventually lead to wearing out of the card, repeatedly performing the crunching motion can put a lifetime of damaging strain on your back.

You've probably been taught that if you're going to pick a heavy object off the ground and you don't want to hurt your spine, you should bend at the knees and not at the back. But anytime you do a crunch or a sit-up, you're bending at the back -- over and over and over again!"

--Ben Greenfield, certified strength and conditioning coach and sports nutritionist, and HuffPost blogger
The Seated Hip Abductor/Adductor Machine
Getty Images
"It's not super-effective to just target those smaller muscle groups and, quite frankly, most people I see on that machine are talking with a friend or reading a book... not really paying attention.

A better option: Get more bang for your buck and do lunges -- walking lunges, cross-behind lunges, step-ups -- you will engage and use your inner and outer thighs, while also training your whole leg and functional movement."

--Chris Freytag, national fitness expert, author and HuffPost blogger
Behind-The-Head Lat Pulldown
Karl Weatherly via Getty Images
"The move I think is not beneficial and possibly harmful is the behind-the-neck lat pulldown done on gym equipment.

It requires you to have very flexible shoulders, and if you don't, you can impinge your shoulder and suffer great pain in your rotator cuff. Most trainers now recommend pulling the bar down in front of the shoulders, which still has you using your lats but in a safer way."

--Ramona Braganza, celebrity trainer and founder of 321 Fitness
American Kettlebell Swings (If You're Not Ready For Them)
Brian Steele via Getty Images
"I am always hesitant of the American kettlebell swing. This can be a great move, but only if done properly. The traditional kettlebell swing is the Russian kettlebell swing, where the athlete moves a kettlebell from just below the groin up to around a 90-degree angle to the torso. This movement is a power-producing, dynamic movement that is beneficial to the stay-at-home mom or the elite athlete. All of the power is generated from the hips and this exercise utilizes almost every muscle in the entire body.

The American kettlebell swing has the same start point as the Russian kettlebell swing, but it ends with the kettlebell overhead. When a kettlebell is in the overhead position, I see lots of people who overextend their backs to compensate for the weight. This is also seen when someone is fatiguing. This can be fixed by mobilizing the shoulder girdle and the thoracic spine, as well as by scaling the movement to a lighter weight or less repetitions.

You should only complete American kettlebell swings if you have proper core stabilization at the top of the lift, as well as solid shoulder mobility. If done improperly, this can lead to back and shoulder injuries."

--Collette Stohler, author of The Intuitive Athlete, and HuffPost blogger
Curls In The Squat Rack
Predrag Vuckovic via Getty Images
"People need to understand that it is not alright to curl in the squat rack. This is the greatest gym etiquette offense of all and a recurring joke/point of rage amongst experienced gym-goers. You can literally curl anywhere. The weight for curls is relatively light. You could put the weight on the ground and easily pick it up. If you're squatting, you need the rack. You have to put the weight up high so you can comfortably take it out to start your set. The weight compared to most other exercises is much higher, and you need to have the safety/spot bars available in case something goes wrong during the exercise.

If you're curling in the squat rack, you should probably stop because you just might be aggravating the exact person you don't want to get upset, which just might make the squat rack curl the most unsafe exercise to perform of all."

--Pat Davidson, Ph.D., director of training methodology at Peak Performance in New York City
The Leg Extension Machine
Wavebreakmedia Ltd via Getty Images
"I'm a firm believer in challenging the body with free weight and bodyweight-based exercises, as opposed to using standardized machines. Machines are not as 'one size fits all' as they seem, so more often than not, you aren't able to perform the given exercise from a natural position. When it comes to the leg extension machine specifically, it relies on a non-functional movement (we don't replicate that motion in our daily lives). It also places more stress than necessary on the back of the kneecap, which can cause problems not only for those with existing knee pain, but also others who are predisposed to such issues. There are so many more dynamic ways to work the quads (the only muscle the leg extension machine works) that activate other muscles in the legs and core, as well as create a better sense of body awareness when learning proper form!"

--Alena Hall, HuffPost Third Metric Fellow and certified personal trainer
The Smith Machine
"The Smith machine does all of the balancing and stabilizing for you. Due to the single plane, unnatural and fixed motion, using the Smith machine does not allow you to recruit the smaller, surrounding, stabilizing muscles. This takes away the functionality of the exercises and you isolate large muscle groups. Go from squatting with a Smith machine to the motion in a real-life situation -- like lifting a heavy object off of the floor -- and you have the potential to seriously injure yourself.

[The] smooth balance and fixed motion can also make you believe you can lift more weight than you should be. Continue to use the Smith machine and you will get very strong in exactly one plane of motion, which would be great if there was only one plane of motion. Over time you can develop over-use injuries depending on which exercises you are doing with the Smith machine.

The takeaway: Learn proper form with free weights. Strive to be as symmetrical as possible to avoid injuries and build up to heavier weights safely and with the appropriate amount of time."

--Alison Peters, NYU Langone Medical Center exercise physiologist