I’ve noticed a lot of mixed messages that are given to fat people when it comes to movement and athletics, most of which shouldn’t be messages at all. It came to mind today because of some of the responses to the petition to keep The Biggest Loser from having kids on the show – responses that we got specifically because Jeanette and I created the petition on behalf of the Fit Fatties Forum
To give you some background, the forum’s stated purpose is “to be a space where people who are interested in fitness from a Health at Every Size perspective can connect, get support, and make friends.” Apparently some people just can’t get behind this idea.
Nobody is under any obligation to exercise. Whether or not, or how much, we exercise is nobody’s business. While fathletes, and those of all sizes who enjoy movement, have every right to talk about our experiences, of course they don’t make us better or worse than anyone else. As a fat person, I find that I’m constantly barraged with the message that I need to exercise – typically based on the assumption that I don’t exercise at all. I can’t even count how many times I’ve been told, by everyone from friends, to doctors, to strangers, to “eat less and exercise more” by people who have no idea what I eat or how much I exercise in the first place.
So people can’t stop yammering about how fat people need to exercise, but when we do then they moo at us, they tell us that we obviously aren’t doing it enough, or we’re not doing it right, they continue to suggest that we need to start, they assume we’re beginners etc. Then today I received e-mails like this:
“I looked at your fat people forum – I think you people need to stop running marathons and start focusing on losing weight.”
“Who cares what you can do if you’re still fat?”
“There’s no such thing as a fat athlete, take down your forum and join a real forum when you’ve lost enough weight to actually be an athlete. I don’t say this to be mean, I just want you to be healthy.”
Obviously many of these people are trying to fill the moat around their tower of fat bigotry. Also, has anyone else noticed that “I just want you to be healthy” is the “bless your heart” of fat bigots? (If you’re not familiar, in the Southern US, the phrase “bless your heart” is often used immediately before or after saying something rude, as a way to suggest that what you just said is actually ok.) Someone can want me to be healthy all they want, they can even want to help. But I don’t have to care about that and I don’t have to accept their help, nor the premise that I need help to begin with.
These mixed messages and the idea that the only “successful” outcome of movement is thinness not only go against the evidence (which tell us that movement is great at helping people be healthier and horrible at making people thinner), but they also create an environment that is custom made to create resentment of hatred of exercise and movement. One of the reasons I typically use the word “movement’ on this blog instead of exercise is that I know people who are triggered just by the “E” word.
I wish that instead of spreading mixed messages heavily influenced by fat bigotry, we could focus our attention on making sure that people of all sizes have safe, affordable movement options. Safe means both physically and psychologically safe – so every person should be able to show up at a swimming pool without even a chance of being shamed or bullied or teased. Every person should be able to confidently walk into a class appropriate for their level knowing for sure that they will be welcomed and that they will be not experience weight stigma, shaming or bullying. Then each of us can make our own choices or our own reasons and leave everybody else the hell alone.
If you are looking for shame free support for your movement practice at any level, you can check out the Fit Fatties Forum here! It’s a free forum for people of all sizes and abilities, there are discussions, a photo and video gallery and absolutely no diet or weight loss talk.
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