Obesity is Not the Opposite of CrossFit

Reality and PerceptionReader Dan sent me an article from Huffington Post called “CrossFit Bashers, Can You Be More Constructive?”  The piece is written by a Eva Selhub, a “Medical Doctor, executive coach, motivational speaker,” who does crossfit, in response to those who believe that there are issues with the safety and efficacy of crossfit (like this, for example).

Unfortunately the first point that the she chooses to make is “I’ve been practicing medicine for close to 20 years and none of us have figured out a way not only to get people motivated to exercise and get fit, but to stick to it. CrossFit is not the problem folks, obesity is.”

Then, as is usually the case when “obesity” gets used this way, she goes on to quote a bunch of “everybody knows” statistics that aren’t supported by actual evidence.   I’m going to go go a bit off topic because this is just a terrible argument – first of all crossfit isn’t the first workout with a – let’s call it enthusiastic – following and it won’t be the last. In the past she might have written the same thing about Step, Spinning, Tae Bo, Zumba and any number of other fitness trends and yet fat people still exist, including those of us who did, do, taught or teach those workouts including crossfit.  Crossfit is hardly the only type of workout that people find motivating.  Not for nothing but maybe if doctors stopped lying to people and telling us that movement will lead to a specific body size, and that if we’re not getting thinner we’re not getting healthier, people might be less likely to only engage in activity to try to manipulate their body size and quit when they don’t get thin but that’s a whole other blog.)

People are allowed to do crossfit, I haven’t researched it extensively and I’m not making an argument for it either way.  That’s not my issue with this.  The problem is that “obesity” is not the opposite of “crossfit”, and “obesity” is not the opposite of “longterm motivation and fitness” and responding to arguments from fitness professionals about issues they perceive with the safety and efficacy of crossfit by pointing and yelling “BUT FAT PEOPLE!” is irresponsible, illogical, and does nothing but try to distract readers by calling upon, and adding to, the tremendous amount of stigma that a group of people face in society for how we look.  

If the detractors of crossfit to whom Dr. Selhub is directing her piece are correct that there are issues with the safety and efficacy of crossfit, no number of fat people who exist will change that.  There is no number of “obese” people, that is people whose weight in pounds times their height in inches squared times 703 is greater than 30, that will change the safety and efficacy of crossfit.  The existence of fat people does not justify a workout that isn’t safe and/or effective.

It’s not just this misguided doctor and her article defending a workout that she likes.  This is the same logic that’s used to justify recommending intentional weight loss to fat people, even though the research shows that it has the opposite of the intended effect the majority of the time.  It’s the same argument that’s used as justification to force completely untested interventions on kids to try to manipulate their body size.  Sometimes it’s done for profit, sometimes for power, sometimes for justification, sometimes for bullying, sometimes all four and more, but it’s always bullshit.

To co-opt an adage, many people seem to have decided that when the facts are on their side, they argue the facts. When logic is on their side, they argue logic.  When the facts aren’t on their side and logic isn’t on their side,  they shriek “I SEE FAT PEOPLE, THEY’RE EVERYWHERE” and hope everyone forgets that they don’t actually have a cogent argument. Fat people have the right to exist without shame, stigma, bullying, oppression or being used as a distraction, including and especially by people who lack a cogent argument.

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32 thoughts on “Obesity is Not the Opposite of CrossFit

  1. Here Here!! Also, FAT does not mean lazy. I may do some sort of physical activity —or not— (I’m typing on the computer, aint I?)

    But one can’t say that seeing a person of girth means s/he is one who refuses to move.

    1. Yet, that’s what they assume. I go to the gym 4-5 days a week and I get my doctor telling me to “walk 20 minutes 3x a week” which I also do when I can at lunch or in the evening. I’m changing doctors but I like that my gym has an app that now keeps track of which days I check in at the front desk. At the very least I can show that I walked through the door… but I shouldn’t have to prove that I’m going, my word should be enough.

      1. Your word should be good enough indeed. Also, it is nobody’s business whether you exercise or not, including a doctor’s. They are mostly NOT fat friendly, look for easy, comfortable, unchallenged things to blame for anything that is wrong, & pass out the same old, same old advice, often without knowing whether or not that advice applies to the particular patient. As I saw in a news story recently, they misdiagnose & mistreat quite often, they are NOT gods, & they are our employees, not our bosses. Glad to hear that you are changing doctors. As someone who has been very active for over 55 years, doing as many different things as I was physically able to do (I have cerebral palsy), spending years pushing myself to exercise four hours per day, & as someone who still walks virtually every day, both as exercise & as transportation, since I have neither license nor car, & who has logged around 70,000 miles so far, I do NOT appreciate a line such as “Have you ever thought of exercising?” or “You could try to walk 20 minutes three times weekly”, especially since, even now at nearly 65 I stilll walk usually 250-300 minutes per week, sometimes more.

      2. Sisi, I once “knew” someone online in the early days of Prodigy, back when I was going to OA. The Sisi I knew was my online sort-of-sponsor for a brief time. Once she called me and I thought her name was pronounced Sissy and she corrected me. I don’t do OA anymore. I wonder, could it have been you? If so I sent you a long screed for my fourth step explaining how my overeating (which I now think was regular eating in my then size 14 body) had caused all the people in my life who had hurt me to hurt me. It was quite the masterpiece of the wrong way to do the 12 steps. She called me to respond but it was a bad time and I don’t think we ever did talk again. It would be interesting if you were that same Sisi to compare notes now. I often think of my time in OA. I think 12-steps can work for some people and some addictions but it doesn’t seem a perfect fit with food. In any case, I wasn’t there because of a behavior, I was there because of a body size. Thanks to Ragen for making that distinction. I just can’t help wondering if the Sisi I knew had a similar journey.

  2. I’m not even sure what Crossfit is. In this GA heat, the only exercise I can take outside is early in the AM…in the evening you will get your face eaten off by bugs and possibly leaped upon by coyotes.

    I do Zumba on the Wii, and I love it, mostly because I’m woefully uncoordinated, and crashing into things is the norm for me. I also take nature walks with my daughter…we can go for miles. Isn’t MOVEMENT the most important thing in exercise??

    I was recently given the name of a gyne in town whose focus is health and mental and physical well-being. The lady who gave me his name swore up and down that he really knew how to listen to women and treated each person like an individual. I thought, that’s fabulous, I’ll go check out his website.

    So I did, and guess what I found? A link to “Medically Supervised Weight Loss”. On the forms I had to fill in, there was no section for weight and height, which I found encouraging, but there was a question asking, “Are you happy with your current weight?” and “If not, would you be interested in medically supervised weight loss?” Truth be told, no, I’m not happy with my current weight because I’ve gained this last month, and when I do, it aggravates my arthritis. So I’m going to take some off in the next few weeks. But the second question didn’t have room for me to write, “HELL F*CK NO, YE SCHEMING BUNCHA BASTARDS”.

    I’m going to the appointment anyway, and I don’t care if I’m spread-eagled in the stirrups…I will shoot that speculum out my Fun Zone like a slingshot and run down the hall leaving a blobby trail of KYJelly if he even mentions a concern with my weight. That’s how done I am with the whole topic. My hoo-hah is his only concern, not my rolls.

  3. About CrossFit, you wrote:

    “I haven’t researched it extensively and I’m not making an argument for it either way. ”

    And later,

    “…there are issues with the safety and efficacy of crossfit,”

    Which one is it? Can you justify your claim about CrossFit having “issues”?

    1. Hi Russel,

      I’m approving this comment so my readers can see some of the ridiculous bullshit that I have to deal with on a daily basis and because I think it’s kind of hilarious. I didn’t make a claim about crossfit having issues. In your choice to quote me thus: “…there are issues with the safety and efficacy of crossfit” you conveniently truncated my quotes to destroy the context so that you could make an argument that has absolutely no basis in reality. I wrote “…there are issues with the safety and efficacy of crossfit,” twice:

      “In response to those who believe that there are issues with the safety and efficacy of crossfit” (emphasis mine)

      If the detractors of crossfit to whom Dr. Selhub is directing her piece are correct that there are issues with the safety and efficacy of crossfit” (emphasis mine)

      Just a suggestion, but it often helps my reading comprehension to read each sentence from the beginning all the way to the end. Of course, your mileage may vary.


    2. Russell honey, you are WAY out of your league in trying to troll
      Ragen. She has more intelligence, honesty, charm and integrity than you could ever dream of possessing.

      Perhaps some therapy could help you.

  4. Before I started reading this blog I was very depressed about my weight and impatient with weightloss. I was considering surgery. I wanted to be so skinny that I’m anorexic. Now I’m learning that I’m not weird. And that I am normal.

    1. Welcome to sanity! Glad you could make it! 🙂 There’s still more growing to do, I’m sure, and I hope you enjoy your journey!

  5. Hazzah! I am considered morbidly obese however I do Zumba twice a week, lift weights three times a week and I’ve walked marathons. At this point in my life its ‘their’ problem that they judge me as lazy/gross/not clean/ect. I don’t have time for those people. I am beautiful, I am healthy (and getting healthier), and I can benchpress you any day!

  6. I don’t do CrossFit. I don’t do Zumba. I don’t do any program with a name and a copyright.

    Neither do I sit on my butt all day eating baby-flavored donuts. I just happen to prefer to take care of my exercise by doing things that I enjoy doing (like walking) without a lot of fuss, feathers, music, or coaches. I take my efforts at my own pace, for my own goals. I am fat. I am strong. I am going to spend most of 24 hours walking one day later this month for the American Cancer Society Relay for Life.

    Some people enjoy exercising to a set program with others. I am not one of those people. But I’m still moving my fat ass regularly. And doing so does make me feel better physically and mentally.

    1. I sit on my butt all day eating potato chips.

      It still doesn’t have any relevance to the efficacy or safety of Crossfit.

  7. Like Twistie, I do not enjoy exercising to a set program with others. I try not to worry about other grown adults who do exercise to a set program for which I there is evidence that there is a safety concern, because: UNDERPANTS RULE!

    I do work with a lot of military and ex military. There are a number of cross-fit gurus. What gives me pause is that they have a cartoon character Uncle Rhadbo for Rhabdomyolysis a potentially lethal condition. I don’t know about the next guy or gal, but a fitness regimen that has a cartoon of a buff clown hooked up to monitoring systems bleeding with his innards coming out is not something that’s inspiring.

    And so I’ve googled it, and read up on it. Rhadbomyoloysis is not a common injury, here are the common causes: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rhabdomyolysis#Common_and_important_causes

    Even in crossfit it’s not like Rhadbo happens all the time, but what frightens me is the blase attitude towards it by some:

    60-70% of those who are diagnosed fully recover http://rhabdomyolysis.org/pages/treatments_rhabdo.html,
    But what about the other 30-40%? I have read articles depicting muscle death for the particular body part that was over exercised, continued trips to the hospital for dialysis…

    I’m not about to get into someone’s chili just because they choose to do crossfit, there are a lot of good reasons this person chooses not to do it. And not because obesity is the opposite of crossfit, for we know it isn’t. I move around when able and am staying as fit as I am able. I do not owe anyone a particular level of fitness. 🙂

    1. BTW, I’m not saying people who do crossfit WILL get rhadbo, I’m just saying that it is something that does happen… And my cross-fitting buds and I have talked about it, they are all fully aware and seem to understand the seriousness and have not had it befall them. It’s with any fitness regimen that is THAT gung-ho, one has to be conscious of their abilities and take precautions.

        1. Rhabdomyolysis is a breakdown of muscle tissue that releases a protein called myoglobin into the bloodstream. It can cause kidney damage and is not to be taken lightly. One of the causes can be strenuous exercise but just being immobilized for hours can also bring it on. When I worked in an ER we saw many (usually) elderly people who had fallen and lain on the floor for a long time come in with it.

          1. That sounds awful!!! OK, something else to be aware of, but I don’t think my current movement regime would cause it really.

            1. If you look it up rhabdomyolysis… my link for the causes has a good overview. It is a rare condition. But a lot of healthcare providers rightly worry about extreme workouts where people disregard their body’s signals to stop. Sometimes “pushing through” a painful workout can really hurt you. Especially if you have some of the underlying conditions that can exacerbate it.
              This is not restricted to just Crossfit, it’s just that in comparison to other extreme workouts, there is an apparent greater than normal percentage of diagnoses to the point that some call it “the dirty secret” of crossfit. I am at work and don’t have the time to research the articles where I read this… but I did read them about 6 or so months ago.

  8. I crossfit,and I LOVE it. I saw the article in question this morning and the quote you are talking about instantly invalidated her article for me-Obesity has nothing to do with why people ‘bash’ crossfit and was just completely irrelevant. It came off as a self righteous rant.

      1. That is so cute! I hope you do well with your designing career. We need more people who are talented enough to create real clothes for women of all sizes.

        1. Thanks Sisi. Just to be clear, the link is not connected to my own work, but that of a very talented friend of mine.

  9. Hang on…I’ve been around military types for the last 13 years. I thought CrossFit was a military training programme designed to prep folks going into physically demanding arenas?

    1. It may have grown from that, I don’t know it’s origins, but CrossFit is not just a military training regimen.

  10. [“obesity” is not the opposite of “longterm motivation and fitness”]

    Word. I hit my 5-year anniversary of powerlifting in April. 3 times a week, for the last 5 years. Add to that regular yoga and conditioning sessions. At the weekend I did my first strongwoman session. I am also obese (BMI-wise) and “overfat” (% wise). Neither of these things stop me being motivated and awesome.

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