Hell Yeah 400 Pound Athlete

_Gneiting_MRT_You may have already heard about Kelly Gneiting.  He is a 400 pound trained sumo wrestler who just finished his second LA marathon in 9 hours, 48 minutes.  This was an improvement of more than 2 hours over his previous time. And it was no ordinary marathon – according to reports it was extremely cold and the rain has been described by some of the participants as “torrential”.  He is also a hero of mine and so, with all the talk about fat athletes going around, I thought I would re-post a piece.

I was searching for stories about him today, and I came upon a runners forum discussion about him (WARNING:  reading this may make you want to reach for the brain bleach).  Maybe I’m naive, but I was honestly shocked to find the comments largely unsupportive.  Since I have a rule about not seeking out people who disagree with me and commenting on their blogs, I thought I’d respond here:

“At his size, this just doesn’t seem like any activity is healthy.”

You have to love a lose/lose scenario.  “I think you’re too fat, but I don’t believe that you should move your body because of your epic fatness”.  Seriously?  To me this always sounds a whole lot like “I like feeling superior to fat people, so stay where you are fatty and I’ll keep putting you down to make myself feel better”.

“I guess it’s hard for me to comprehend how a body in that shape could PHYSICALLY handle the stress when it has to deal with the stress of keeping his body going on a normal day.” and “is running in that poor of physical condition dangerous?”

You don’t know what shape he is in.  You only know how much he weighs.  THEY ARE NOT THE SAME THING.  Since you’re writing this comment after the marathon, you could certainly have chosen to respect the fact that he is an athlete of the same caliber as anyone who finishes a marathon.

“At 405 lbs he probably has a very difficult time just walking”

Not that difficult – since he just finished a 26.2 miles race.  The truth is right in front of you, how are you missing it? Please re-evaluate your assumptions or, you know, fuck right the hell off.

“The energy expended in his bid to have others qualify/validate him would be better spent improving his circumstances and his physical health.”

He ran a freaking marathon – why do you think that you should judge his circumstances or health?  Also, let’s be clear – I won’t speak for other fat athletes but when I use my platform to point out that I don’t fit people’s stereotypes, it’s not a bid for their validation.  It’s a courtesy to them.  I’m not asking for their approval,  I am doing them the favor of providing them with an opportunity to rethink their stereotypes.

A blog by Rick Chandler at NBC Sports said “But taking half a day to finish a marathon, and walking the great majority of it, is not really a sports accomplishment, is it? It’s just kind of a long walk to the store.”

He.  Finished.  A.  Marathon.  How dare anyone think that they have the right to dole out the title of “athlete” or try to belittle his accomplishment?  According to several sources I looked at, only 0 .1% – 1% of people in the US have ever completed a marathon.  I don’t care how much he weighs, or how long it took him – he is in ELITE company and Rick Chandler can go straight to hell.

Of course, nobody is obligated to be an athlete, but I hope that these kinds of attitudes don’t discourage people from pursuing movement options that they love or want to try. And if you identify as an athlete then I believe you and I support you –   athlete to athlete!

If you are interested in a weight-neutral discussion about fitness (for people of all sizes and abilities) you can check out the Fit Fatties Forum at www.fitfatties.com.

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80 thoughts on “Hell Yeah 400 Pound Athlete

  1. I don’t even understand this quote:

    The energy expended in his bid to have others qualify/validate him would be better spent improving his circumstances and his physical health.”

    Running a marathon certainly counts to me as something that IS ” improving his circumstances and his physical health.” These comments are idiotic and just highlight ignorance.

  2. “People are stupid. They will believe a lie because they want to believe it’s true, or because they are afraid it might be true.”
    ― Terry Goodkind, Wizard’s First Rule

  3. “But taking half a day to finish a marathon, and walking the great majority of it, is not really a sports accomplishment, is it? It’s just kind of a long walk to the store.” – This just makes me so angry. So the whole “the important thing is that you finish” only matters if the person is skinny? People, ugh.

    I guess Olympian record holders should look at 4h+ hour marathoners, who take double the time it takes them to run the same course, and go “Whatever, I could have done that in half the time”.

    Kelly Gneiting is amazing. An amazing marathoner.

  4. He can’t win whatever he does. If he didn’t do the marathon, or other visible form of exercise, he’d be a lazy lard-arse. But if he does get out and do something, he’s an object of derision. If it were me facing that choice? I’d go for what I wanted to do. Which for him seems to be the marathon. Good for him.

  5. If I did the maths correctly, he marched at a very respectable 2,67 miles per hour, for over 9 hours! I love hiking (you know, the kind of “walk” with a rucksack a.k.a. backpack?). And any hiker who just called it a day after over 9 hours at this pace certainly has my respect! Even if he did not “run”, he did a great job. Just a “long walk to the store”? No way.

    1. My guess is that Rick Chandler has never walked even a half-marathon. If he had, he’d know how difficult it is.

  6. Kudos to Kelly! Mad props to him for completing not just one, but two marathons.

    And now to the rant part of my comment – if it had been someone who weighed half his weight, none of these comments would be made. The bigots making these comments are doing so solely based on his weight. Just a few words for them – Get. The. Fuck. Out.

    Completing a marathon, whether walking it the whole way or running the whole way or some mixture of both, is an AMAZING accomplishment. Stop with the whole damned if he does/damned if he doesn’t scenario of telling him he needs to move and lose weight but slamming his accomplishment when he does something active.

    In the meantime, all of us fabulous fat people will celebrate his accomplishment and the fact that he just blew the fat and lazy stereotype out of the fucking water. Kelly Gneiting FT-MoFo-W!!!

  7. One more. Another poster basically called him an “attention whore” (slur intentional as that’s what the poster probably would have said if they’d been brief):

    “The energy expended in his bid to have others qualify/validate him would be better spent improving his circumstances and his physical health. ‘Nuff said.”

    You finished a marathon, but you REALLY should have been doing what *I* want you to do.

    1. What I don’t get is how completing a marathon doesn’t qualify as improving his health, at least in Random Poster’s world. If he were being forced to exercise for 9 hours straight on “The Biggest Loser”, these idiots would be applauding him.

  8. I walked a marathon for charity once. I was thinner then, but not an elite athlete and still fat. It was tough–26.2 miles ain’t a picnic–and I had muscle soreness for days after. Anyone who can walk a marathon deserves respect. Would they be making nasty comments if he had some kind of disability? I don’t think so–I think they’d be celebrating the fact that he finished. People be stupid.

  9. “Fortunately, as far as I know, he didn’t incur any injury. But what if he had? A potential lawsuit against the organizers for letting him go through with it? It’d be kind of like suing a tobacco company because you got lung cancer after smoking for so many years.”

    So…Gneiting finished in good health, but we’re going to assume he *should* have been injured, because clearly we all know more about his health and his body than he does. And then we’re going to invent a scenario in which, unlike other (thin) runners who hurt themselves, he’s going to sue the organizers (so he can stand as a symbol for rapacious greed, as well as ill health). And then we’re going to mock him for an imaginary scenario we created that never actually happened, while simultaneously being horrifyingly judgmental and acting morally superior to smokers? Who ARE these people?

    This is like a demonstration of why concern trolling is so pernicious and harmful.

  10. I hope these shitty comments don’t deter Kelly from his athletic endeavors. God, I hate people.

  11. How sad is this? Society seems to have redefined exercise as “stuff that makes you thin.” Train to run a marathon, then run it, but don’t lose weight? It wasn’t exercise. Spend 3 hours a day dancing, but don’t lose weight? Not real exercise. Ride your bike the 14 miles roundtrip to and from the office, but don’t lose weight? Well, then, why didn’t you spend that energy trying to catch mono instead? That will help you lose weight!

    It’s so ugly to see such a blatant, blind example of confirmation bias at work here.

  12. Let’s see, he’s a sumo wrestler who has just completed his second marathon, dropping TWO HOURS off his previous time.

    Sounds like an athlete to me.

    As far as I’m concerned, learning to sumo wrestle is being an athlete, too. Doing it professionally? Yeah, that’s what I call a professional athlete. Because you know what? He’s getting paid to do athletics, just as much as any professional football player, basketball player, figure skater, skier, gymnast, runner, dancer, or ping-pong player.

    It’s the activity that makes the athlete, not the measure of the waistline.

    The marathons I prefer to participate in usually involve Star Trek or The Twilight Zone and, hence, are not athletic, unless you count the commercial break bathroom sprints. But the sort of marathon where people run or walk over twenty-six miles? Yeah, if you make it to the end of one of those, you ARE an athlete, no matter your size, shape, time, or public persona. I don’t care how many people write on internet communities that you aren’t, they’re just wrong.

    1. The marathons I prefer to participate in usually involve Star Trek or The Twilight Zone and, hence, are not athletic, unless you count the commercial break bathroom sprints.

      *gigglesnort* Twistie, this was too priceless for words!!!

    2. Well, depending on the marathon (e.g. Doctor Who or Firefly), I’ll get plenty of exercise Kermit-flailing at my favorite scenes.

      1. (facepalm) I cannot believe I forgot to mention Kermit flailing!

        See? My kind of marathon can involve an upper-body workout, too!

  13. I did a mile long swim many years ago. Actually I did it twice. Many people were at a loss for how to judge me on my time as nobody was familiar with how long it “should” take an “average” “athelete” to swim that distance. (I put all those in quotes you know why)
    OK, the winners finished in 17 to 20 minutes.
    The majority of the pack took about 30 minutes.
    Me? 55 minutes the first year,
    down to 49 the next year.
    I wish the event were still financially viable for the sponsors.

  14. People’s response to this guy show their prejudice for what it really is: not concern for fat people’s health, but rather a bid for social status. This is what it comes down to, every time – they are not concerned about us, they are not even really concerned with “health care dollars” or whatever other bluster they put up to mask their bigotry – they care about proving that they are superior and fat people are inferior, period.

    1. Yes Yes and… a loud resounding YES! You’re spot on, and that’s the first time I have ever seen anyone say it in such a straight forward and clearly worded manner. This is exactly what it comes down to with the VAST majority of the people who act concerned about fat people and our “health”.

      Don’t get me wrong, I think there ARE Some people who actually want to “help us” and believe our weight means we can’t be healthy, and that if we were somehow smaller that would make us healthy. SOME people are actually concerned and want to help us to be healthier in the way they have been brainwashed to think of as “healthy”. But I think most of the “concern police” are exactly what you’ve said they are, bigots who LOVE that fat people are (by our cultural standards) considered “inferior”. It amounts to them feeling good about themselves because they can look at a fat person and feel superior, giving them a moral high ground, an elevation in their own self worth. Take that away, and many of them don’t really have anything about themselves to feel good about.

      Most of the bigoted and fat phobic comments toward fat athletes are born of fear, fear that the weight bigot may, in fact, have absolutely nothing at all to feel superior about. And we can’t have that, can we? Society would just fall apart if people came to realize that fat people where no better nor no worse than people of other sizes. I think of the multi-billion dollar weight loss industry, the war against “obesity” (read “fat people”) task forces and ad campaigns, the shear amount of money, time and energy that goes into creating a society and culture of fat phobia and body hate is just mind blowing. It is almost beyond comprehension. If all that time, money, and energy were spent on actually improving society, what a great society we could have.

  15. Hey, I DO weigh half what he does, and I could NEVER (I mean, ever) run a marathon. Not even a half one…my boobs are too big, and I’d wind up with blackened eyes. Plus I really, really hate running. The only way I run is if someone in a white coat is chasing me with a BMI chart and screaming there’s no way I should be doing this because I’m too obese.

    Are people forgetting this dude is a Sumo wrestler?? He is not unfamiliar with athletic conditioning and training. I don’t know about you good people, but I would hesitate to mock or otherwise demean a Sumo wrestler on account of him being able to lift me up and chuck me through a window on a moment’s notice. Bloody fucking hell, the Cult of the Willfully Ignorant is really active here.

    1. The only way I run is if someone in a white coat is chasing me with a BMI chart and screaming there’s no way I should be doing this because I’m too obese.

      ROFLMFAO…that is priceless imagery there. 😀

  16. Watching somebody complete a 9-hour brisk hike and responding that obviously he’s so fat he can barely walk? It’s like they’re not even thinking. It’s the Star-Bellied Sneeches seeing Sneeches with no stars on thars do awesome things and immediately flocking up and clucking to each other that it’s obvious that they’re just so incapable and contemptible because, hey, no stars on thars.

    Fockmall. My fat ass and I are going hiking on the mountain later today.

  17. I trained for a half-marathon to get back in shape post-baby. I didn’t lose an ounce, yet I was in great shape. I’m 5’7″ and a size 14–which is a fine size for me but is classified as “clinically obese”. I have a healthy diet and exercise regularly. People are so judgmental and misinformed, and pardon me for saying so, but they can fuck right the hell off.

  18. Props to him for taking two hours off his time as well as finishing his second marathon!

    But those comments made me want to just hit my head against a brick wall over and over again.

    1. Does hitting your head on a brick wall count as “exercise”, if it does than obviously you “shouldn’t” be doing it!!! LOL It’s amazing to me how “thin” or kind of “thin” people think of people that don’t fit their idea of what “healthy” really means! These are people that snack on calorie-less rice cakes and drink flavored waters! The star-bellied Sneeches need to stick to their own kind and leave us Sneeches alone!

  19. Awesome that he did this, and I totally agree about the lose/lose nature of the silly claim quoted from the forum that at his weight he shouldn’t be doing ANY sort of physical activity.

    But this:

    “he is an athlete of the same caliber as anyone who finishes a marathon.”

    No, I’m sorry. By this logic, with my modest middle-of-the-pack amateur finishing time, I am of the same caliber as Kara Goucher or Rita Jeptoo or Jason Hartmann. Or anyone who hits a home run in their company softball league is the next Mark McGuire. Let’s not get carried away here.

    1. Thanks for your comment Thomas,

      I think you are misunderstanding my point, I think that the way I stated it might be confusing. I’m suggesting that finishing a marathon puts someone at a certain caliber of achievement. Above that there are certainly other designations (elite being an obvious one) but there’s a baseline level of achievement for simply completing the distance.


      1. Fair enough. Sorry if my comment came off as snarky. As for the commenters on the forum you linked, I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt and say their remarks come more from ignorance than malice, but who knows…

  20. ” It’s a courtesy to them. I’m not asking for their approval, I am doing them the favor of providing them with an opportunity to rethink their stereotypes.”

    I appreciate you SO MUCH! It’s a privilege to me to have access to your blog and your opinions on all of this stuff. I fly under the raydar of the bigots for the most part, but I am an avid cyclist and I by no means fit the cyclist stereo type.

    You are awesome!

  21. Kelly Gneiting is totally inspiring. Going for a walk/run now; a 5K in 8 months seems a lot more doable compared to 26 miles!

  22. I can’t read the comments on that forum – they are just infuriating. I heard similar whispers when I did a half marathon at 340 pounds. It took me 4 hours and I finished nearly last. I’d invite the naysayers to head out and walk a half or full and then report back on their un-accomplishment.

  23. I saw Kelly Sumo wrestle at an event in Seattle 2 days ago and I was really impressed with him. The man is really cool. He works on a Native American reservation as a statistician at a hospital, he has a masters in Geology, is a four time US Sumo Champion, and is planning on swimming the English Channel this year! This guy clearly doesn’t allow anything to stand in his way. He seemed really nice and genuine. As a fellow marathoner I was super impressed with him.

    1. Oh, but clearly Kelly can have accomplished none of those academic, professional, and athletic units of Awesome because fat people are so undisciplined and lazy! (See fat-shaming “professor” Geoffrey Miller…) #HeadDesk

  24. This story brought tears to my eyes. I don’t understand people. Do they not recognize the willpower and stamina to continue for that long? And who does it harm for him to participate? He should be applauded for his courage not mocked for his size.

  25. The bigots attitudes are the same against women, non-whites and disabled. I really hate the level of stupidity, but I don’t know how to wipe it out. I suppose the people that do races in motorized wheelchairs don’t count as athletes either.

    1. We wipe it out one person at a time by teaching our children that this behavior is not OK, not accepting it ourselves, and working to change policy where we can. Change like this takes generations. Just ask Susan B. Anthony.

      1. My children grew up with me being fat, and at one point I was over 400 lbs. at 5’10” and it was NOT a healthy fat. I had just been diagnosed with a disabling disease and was sitting in my recliner feeling sorry for myself downing Cokes like there was no tomorrow! My kids cannot stand the way people are about fat people and it really burns them if someone, even a friend, makes a comment about their mom or their sister being fat so I feel that I’ve put 4 adults into the mix that think that fat can and still is beautiful!

      2. I can attest that my son, who is 10, is very, very astute and finds the notion that someone is less than equal just because they look different absolutely repellant. We’ve been strangers in strange lands and know how it stings to be judged and condemned without a chance to explain what we are…that kind of thing NEVER leaves you. When the time comes, I will do the same thing with my daughter (she’s 3).

      3. The message is starting to get through, little by little. At one of my classes tonight, we were broken up into groups (and of course talking about anything but what we were supposed to be discussing), and the conversation came around to “fat girl problems.” None of the young women referring to themselves as fat were out of straight sizes. I said, “Hey, skinny doesn’t mean healthy, and fat doesn’t mean unhealthy, right? Y’all are fine.” None of them shouted at me, gave incredulous looks or side-eye, smirked or laughed. Instead, we actually had an honest conversation about the B.S. we’ve all gone through to be skinny, what it can cost, and whether or not it’s worth it to stay on the hamster-wheel of dieting. Whether the diet industry likes it or not, the truth is starting to get out, and people are starting to think for themselves.

  26. If I want to call myself an athlete because I exercise regularly, then I can, if I want to call myself a dancer because I put on tap shoes for two hours a week and tap around my game room in my giant tutu, then dammit, I’m a dancer. Now, if I want to a professional athlete/dancer, then I’ll solicit outside opinions, but until then, everyone other than me can shut up.

  27. Does the person who thought his time could be better spent working on his physical health and getting in shape understand what a marathon actually is? People train to GET to the marathon. It’s not where anyone BEGINS, so clearly he had to be working on his physical health and stamina beforehand. And anyone who can do anything for 26 miles – whether it’s walking or running, has got to be in pretty good shape. Someone who was actually in poor health wouldn’t make it to the finish line no matter how much or little they weighed.

  28. I recently completed my 10th half marathon – as a walker. I get out there and walk those 13.1 miles as fast as I can. And yet, to many people, I haven’t really done anything remarkable because I didn’t run. And runners sometimes complain that walkers get in the way and make races difficult for them. No, we do not – we’re in the very back of the pack, so we aren’t anywhere near you. The truth is, they hate that we are even allowed out there on the course, because apparently my accomplishment diminishes them.

    My dream is that more races will open up their finish times and embrace half and whole marathon walkers. Think of the money to be made… and all the elitist and biogted heads that will explode!

    1. Take heart BFD, you will probably be able to compete for many more years than your average marathoner, as you will be less prone to the injuries that are so common among the runners.
      But kudos to all participants, be they walkers, runners, crawlers and enthusiastic supporters!

    2. Then that means a walker went a longer distance. Seems unfair to compare 2 distances as the same.

  29. “I won’t speak for other fat athletes but when I use my platform to point out that I don’t fit people’s stereotypes, it’s not a bid for their validation. It’s a courtesy to them. I’m not asking for their approval, I am doing them the favor of providing them with an opportunity to rethink their stereotypes.”

    I love you. No really, I love you! You are awesome, Ragen! Most fat people have been so brainwashed into thinking we have to defend our very existence, to have to give an explanation as to WHY we are not *input stereotype* or try to convince other sized people that we aren’t really different from them, it’s such an amazing life-affirming breath of fresh air to hear you say that you don’t use your platform to try and bring validation, but as a way to help others address their own stereotypes. That’s awesome, and you have, once again, made me rethink my approach in how I deal with fat phobia, prejudice, and bigotry. I learn so much from you, every day. And that means more to me than you’ll ever know!

    Also, this is my first time reading about Kelly Gneiting, what a great inspiration he is! I love that he’s not let our screwed up culture tell him what he can’t and can’t do. Reading about people like Kelly and yourself makes me so angry about how held back I’ve been in my life. How many times I’ve been told “no” simply because of my size. When I was six I wanted to join gymnastics. There was only one class within driving distance of where we lived. The instructor took one look at me when we entered the building and told my parents that I was “too fat”. That he’d be happy to let me join once I lost weight, but until then I wasn’t allowed. This broke my heart. And it set a precedent to how I was treated in just about every area of athletics, until I believed that I just “couldn’t do it”. You can only be told only so many times by so many adults (and kids are taught that adults KNOW, that they are the ones that are smart and know better than kids) that you “can’t” do something, before you believe you really can’t. I wonder how different my life would be if I hadn’t been brainwashed into thinking that I just can’t be athletic.

    Well, no more. I see what I can be, who I can be, when I look at people like you and Kelly and the other fat athletes and today I’ve drawn a line in the sand. I won’t let ANYONE tell me that I can’t do something. Not ever again.

  30. Somehow I think those that do nothing but concern troll on the Internet spend more time running their mouths and pounding their keyboards then doing anything else!

  31. Holy crap! I should NOT have gone to read that tread, that was pure vile bigotry. One asshat actually went into a rant, questioning Kelly’s personal relationship status, economical status, mental capacity, and in essence, stating that his reason for doing the marathon was an attempt to prove to others that he wasn’t a complete failure in his life. Oh God, I feel sick.

    1. Enormous and extremely strong man who won the national championship–three times–in tipping other enormous and extremely strong men ass over teakettle, and oh by the way can also do that thing where you stand on one leg and make a right angle behind you with the other one, decides to switch to marathons. How is this a shock to anybody? Yes, I know, anti-fat bigot enjoys flourishing hatred in order to prove standing among The Right Kind of People. But dipshits aside, considering what this athlete used to do professionally, what else could he do to push himself that much (since this appears to be why he did it)? I mean, what, that one rodeo clown they always send in when the bucking bull is really mad? Juggling motorcycles? The only porter for a 40-man expedition up Kanchenjunga? Bouncer at the Steelers’ favorite bar?

      Seriously, the only relatively widely available fun thing that is anywhere near as challenging as sumo is probably marathoning. Maybe caber tossing, although they might have to extend the field of play a considerable distance because somebody that big can build up a huge amount of momentum and a standard caber weights a measly 175 pounds. He could probably make it do like a javelin.

  32. The nastiest and most uncivilized people lives in the so-called advanced world! Millions of people have never attempted taking part in a maraton and now their opening their stinking mouth to criticise someone who have taken part in this remarkable event. Say something positive or keep quite and save your energy!

  33. Sooo what are we suppose to do? In one instance we’re too fat for exercise, but the next they’re telling us to exercise as much as possible so they won’t have to see us fat anymore. Then they’re saying we don’t need to do exercise that’s too strenuous because there’s just no way a fat person’s body can handle athleticism of a certain level, cause being athletic fit and healthy at a high level is only a thin person thing **sarcasm** But then at the same time, they tell us we’re not exercising hard enough and vigorously enough if we’re not getting thin.

    What in the hell are we suppose to do, just stand still and dissipate?

  34. Well now, Jen H, I am a woman Scottish Highland athlete and can tell you that it’s no easy feat to pick and toss a caber. Typically, the event is done after you’ve hurled big rocks, swung heavy weights for distance and whirled & tossed heavy hammers around, all in the elements. So you need strength, endurance, skill and nerves of steel, since all eyes are you on as you make your caber toss attempt. Oh by the way, the caber is usually between 13-15 feet tall. Many people might be able to manage lifting a 175# barbell but factor in the height…whole ‘nuther ballgame 🙂

    1. Can we toss those cabers in the direction of the asshats who diss fat athletes? I wanna see how fast they can run when one of those cabers is coming toward them.

  35. “when I use my platform to point out that I don’t fit people’s stereotypes, it’s not a bid for their validation. It’s a courtesy to them. I’m not asking for their approval, I am doing them the favor of providing them with an opportunity to rethink their stereotypes.”
    This is the best thing I have read all year.
    You were sent to teh internetz by a divine force and you have helped and inspired SO MANY OF US OMG I CAN’T EVEN. YOU DON’T EVEN KNOW!!!!
    *gush gush gush*
    FANGIRL #1
    PS Thanks so much for everything, keep it coming!!!

    1. I totally agree. Straight from the all mighty to our interwebz. heheh 😀 WE are so blessed to have her.

  36. ” It’s a courtesy to them. I’m not asking for their approval, I am doing them the favor of providing them with an opportunity to rethink their stereotypes.”
    You invited me and I have changed and am greatful every day. Today I walked a half a mile up hill to a castle and when I got to the top I was the last one up there. I reached the top and was looking out at the view and thought “Wow. I just did that. My amaizing body just did that.” And I thought of you and how you inspire me all the time. Thank you and thank you again for helping to realize what an amaizing fat body I have.

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