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December 14, 2011 / Angela McCuiston

Why I Hate the Word TONE

As the phrase goes “you can’t swing a dead cat” without hitting the word “tone” in today’s media.

Get toned in 5 minutes a day!

Tone up on vacation!

Get toned with kettlebells!


From Webster’s dictionary:

Tone (noun)

Definition of TONE

vocal or musical sound of a specific quality <spoke in low tones> <masculine tones>; especially: musical sound with respect to timbre and manner of expression
a sound of definite pitch and vibration b:whole step
accent or inflection expressive of a mood or emotion
the pitch of a word often used to express differences of meaning
a particular pitch or change of pitch constituting an element in the intonation of a phrase or sentence <high tone> <low tone> <mid tone> <low-rising tone> <falling tone>
:style or manner of expression in speaking or writing <seemed wise to adopt a conciliatory tone>
a (1): color quality or value (2): a tint or shade of color b: the color that appreciably modifies a hue or white or black <gray walls of greenish tone>
: the effect in painting of light and shade together with color
a: the state of a living body or of any of its organs or parts in which the functions are healthy and performed with due vigor b: normal tension or responsiveness to stimuli; specifically:muscular tonus
a: healthy elasticity :resiliencyb: general character, quality, or trend <a city’s upbeat tone> c: frame of mind :mood

Examples of TONE

  1. He replied in a friendly tone.
  2. They spoke in hushed tones.
  3. Don’t use that rude tone of voice with me.
  4. the low tones of an organ
  5. The speech had religious tones to it.
  6. The author’s tone shows her attitude toward the subject.
  7. The professor’s condescending tone irritated some students.
  8. a bright, dark, or light tone of blue
  9. the softtones of the painting

Tone (Verb)

toned, ton·ing
Definition of TONE
transitive verb
: to give a particular intonation or inflection to

intransitive verb

: to assume a pleasing color quality or tint

: to blend or harmonize in color


Ok, in all of that do you see one reference to “tone” being used as a verb to describe the shape of a women’s body?  No. Not one.  In fact, this might just be the Grammar Nazi in me coming out, but if you put any of those definitions in for the sentences you see in any women’s magazine today, they’d at least be laughable, at most, downright confusing:

“Get inflection or pitch in 5 minutes a day!”  ”


Ok, now given, there is one: 

3a: to impart tone to :strengthen <medicine to tone up the system> b: to soften or reduce in intensity, color, appearance, or sound :mellow —often used with downc: to change the normal silver image of (as a photographic print) into a colored image
But that still takes things out of context.  And it bothers me.  The misuse of grammar isn’t what bothers me most though, it’s the connotation that is being given to the word as to what is an acceptable body image to women.
If I didn’t have a clear vision in my mind of what I wanted to look like, if I was your average woman who just wanted to lose weight, be smaller, have some shape for crying out loud that didn’t demand Spanx to create and a body she felt happy and comfortable with….I would be so confused just looking at the magazines in the checkout aisle.
Whatever body shape you want is up to you, not me and who am I to say that what you want isn’t acceptable?  However, what I DO have a problem with is the false advertising that gets women to believe that they can “tone in 5 minutes a day” or find weight loss in a pill, the Shake Weight or any of the crap Jillian Anderson does.
I’m sorry, but it’s not as simple as a pill.  It IS as simple as enforcing self-discipline and doing what your common sense tells you to do.  Getting shape to the degree you want might require the use of a structured training program and a personal trainer, but for the most part, you know what to do, you just want an easy way out, a pill that means you don’t have to do the work.
You want the body?  You have to do the work.  And it will take a heck of a lot more than 5 minutes a day.  You think even 20 minutes a day will offset the other 23+ hours in the day?  I’m sorry, but if so, those are delusions my dear.
Back to Hating “Tone”
Most of the advertisements behind the phrase tone imply a body like this:
or even this: Jamie Eason (the 2nd picture) obviously has more muscle “tone” (a state of the muscle) than the first woman, but I can tell you this: Jamie Eason sure didn’t get her shape by using a Shake Weight, or anything that just came out of a bottle.
No, you want to look like Jamie?  You need to say no to the daily calorie splurges and binges.  You need to eat for the body you want.  Are you soft?  Too soft?  You ate for that body.  You need to train HARD.  You want shape and definition?  That comes from muscle, muscle shape and size is created through strength training.  That means lifting something heavy enough, repeatedly CHALLENGING the muscle enough to change.  Muscle responds to stimulus and has to overcome challenge in order to change.  You will not “bulk” up (whatever the crap that means….I already addressed that in this post) but you will get stronger, you will get “tighter” and by that I mean your muscles adapt and as they get stronger, they get more dense, and if your diet is in tune with your goals, you will begin to see definition.
As Leigh Peele states so often, if you put a pea on a bed and put a sheet over it, you’d have a hard time seeing it, right?  What about a sack of potatoes?  You’d see it pretty easily.  You HAVE to grow, challenge and develop muscle if you want to see it after you lose the fat.  What if you lose a lot of fat and just look like a skinny version of your soft self?  That means you need to grow some muscles.  Hire a trainer with some sense who can write you an individualized program to help meet your goals and you’ll get there.
So to break it down, why do I hate the word “tone”?

  • It implies to women that they will get “bulky” if they lift anything heavier than 5 lbs less than 12-20 times.
  • It keeps women enslaved as cardio bunnies, constantly in a state of disappointment, frustration and a body that won’t change even though they do hours of elliptical work.
  • It’s false advertising that perpetuates myths and is misleading.

So ladies, if you come train with me, you won’t “tone up”, because in all honesty there is no such thing.  I am also a professional musician and I recognize the first definition as such…if you tell me you want to tone up, I will assume you have bad intonation.  There, now we are both confused. 🙂

No, if you train with me, you will gain strength, endurance, you will grow “shape” and maybe a little size, because you know what?  When you lose the fat, you have to have SOMETHING to see under it and if you have no size in the first place, you can guarantee you won’t have any to see when you lose fat.

A side note, I would NEVER try to make anyone look like how I want to look, or how I only want them to look. If you want to look a certain way, I respect that and I will do all in my power to get you to that ideal.

But just for the record, I want to look like this; Ms. Erin Stern, courtesy of Flex Magainze:

Or my favorite, Mrs. Monica Brant:


(courtesy of


Leave a Comment
  1. Crystal Fit / Jan 17 2012 5:23 AM


  2. Tonya Blocker / Jan 17 2012 9:17 AM

    dang! like.

  3. Bob / Feb 2 2012 10:57 AM

    Enjoyed your content on the word TONED. I would have to agree with you that this is used out of context when it comes to being in shape. I also appreciated your candid opinion on the truth when talking about what it takes to get the results you desire. There really is no easy way to get in really good shape. It’s all hard work. I think the secret is that you come to a point where you actually enjoy it so much that it seems like being hard doesn’t matter anymore. It’s just very rewarding.
    Thanks, Bob Williams

    • Angela McCuiston / Feb 2 2012 11:37 AM

      Thanks for your thoughts, Bob. That can be the most frustrating and rewarding part of getting or staying in shape: knowing that your results are completely YOUR responsibility. No one can do it for you, which can be a huge reward at the end of the day. 🙂

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