Fat is Not the Opposite of Fit

Since fitness is important to me I read a lot of articles about it. One of the things that comes up pretty often is the idea that fit is the opposite of fat.  For example “After losing blah blah blah pounds, Sandy went from fat to fit!”  This activates my bitch slap reflex.

If Sandy lost weight then she went from fat to thin (at least for the short term).  If Sandy increased her strength, stamina, and flexibility, then she became more fit regardless of her body size.

I think one of the biggest tragedies of the “omgdeathfatz war on obesity” rhetoric is the lie that the only way to become fit is to become thin, and that if our efforts at fitness don’t make us thin then they won’t make us healthy.  That’s not what the evidence tells us, but the idea persists – that fit and fat are opposites when in fact they are unrelated. In fact, while most fat people will never achieve long term thinness, almost all of us can become more fit. To be clear, there is no obligation for anyone to choose fitness, it’s all about what you want.

Fitness is about what you choose within the parameters of what your body can do, within the context of your body’s particular abilities and limitations.  I think of fitness as being built on the three pillars: strength, stamina and flexibility in whatever combination and at whatever level you want to and can achieve.

Nobody can tell us how fit we need to be, or how we need to be fit.  We each get to come to fitness on our own terms.  For example, I don’t enjoy running or yoga so I choose other ways to work on stamina and flexibility.  My training is also sport specific – I train to improve my dancing and so there are some things that I do that I don’t completely enjoy – if I wasn’t a dancer my fitness choices would be different.

If you are looking for inspiration and/or company, I suggest you check out the fit fatties forum.  It is full of people who choose to focus on their fitness in all different kinds of ways and at many different levels.  There are fitness newbies and oldbies, strength athletes, dancers, runners, joggers, walkers, triathletes, yogis and more.

So when you see fit discussed as the opposite of fat, I invite you to think BULLSHIT BULLSHIT BULLSHIT!!!!!

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Fat: The Owner’s Manual – Navigating a Thin-Obsessed World with Your Health, Happiness, and Sense of Humor Intact, with foreword by Marilyn Wann, is now available for pre-order.   This is a book about living life in the body that you have now, making decisions about what you want in the future, and how to get there.  Whether you want to change your body, fight for size acceptance, just live your life, or understand and support your fat friends and family, this book was written to provide the insights, aha moments, humor, and hard facts to help.

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11 thoughts on “Fat is Not the Opposite of Fit

  1. This is what I keep telling myself, and telling myself, and telling myself, and I will tell it to myself even if it takes a lifetime to get it through my thick head.
    From the time I was a child I heard the fat vs. fit rhetoric. I’ve started working out again in earnest. I’m fortunate that the place that I work has a therapy pool. I do my workouts in the water due to shoulder and back injuries, and I feel a lot better now that I’ve started again.
    I’ve had to resist the urge to weigh myself “just to see if I’ve lost any weight.” While I’m unlikely to relapse into forcing myself to vomit at this point, the scale not moving could make me relapse into self-loathing diatribe. I really don’t need that.

    1. Good for you for fighting this! It is so prevalent in our society that a fat person cannot be fit (or healthy), that it is really hard to convince ourselves otherwise. So hang in there, and keep working out and enjoy your improved fitness!

      1. Thank you! I’ve noticed that I’m able to move with a lot more ease since I’ve been working out. My shoulder still hurts when I grip my fingers behind my back with the other hand, but at least it’s tolerable now. And my sciatica has eased up a bit too!

  2. Love that you bring this up. I’ve lived in London the past few years (am originally from the US, moved to Sweden when I was about 20, lived there until recently) and the term “fit” in the slang sense of “attractive” has become very common (and so, of course, synonymous with “thin” unfortunately). It definitely serves to exacerbate the conflation of “thin” and “healthy”.

  3. I am trying! Heck, I am doing better than trying, I am actually doing it! Today I walked for 20 minutes on the treadmill. That doesn’t seem like much, but only a few months ago I was barely making it out of my chair to use the restroom. I thought I would never walk again and I would be completely dependent on my wheelchair for the rest of my life. I am so happy to be able to walk again. I can’t wait for those nature trail hikes I so fondly remember.

  4. It’s the ultimate in doublethink: the weight loss industry’s message is that anyone can be thin, and therefore healthy, with balanced eating and exercise. This implies that good diet (not necessarily a “diet,” but good food choices) and exercise can bring a person to their ideal weight. So if you’re eating right and exercising and are still fat, doesn’t it follow that THAT’S your ideal weight?

    1. health-wise, i mean, not necessarily the weight you dream of being -some people do really want to be skinny. but in terms of what your body wants, yeah.

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