Yesterday a Facebook friend of mine posted a video of a fat woman doing some seriously difficult workouts, including box jumps (standing in one place and then jumping up onto a box – remember this, it will become important in the near future.) I’m not going to post the video here because it was posted by her trainer and I don’t know the situation with permission. Just trust me that she was fat AF and she was killing those workouts!
As always, and I don’t care if people get sick of my saying/typing it, nobody of any size is obligated to participate in fitness. Fitness/exercise/movement/health/body size are not obligations, barometers of worthiness, entirely within our control, or guaranteed under any circumstances. Running a marathon and having a Netflix marathon are morally equivalent activities. The Good Fatty/Bad Fatty dichotomy needs to die.
That said, there are a couple of interesting things I noticed right away. First of all, nothing in the video or the description said anything about weight loss. (The video was posted by the woman’s trainer and the caption was simply “Negative comments will be blocked from all my posts!“) But sweet fluffy lord the comments.
There were plenty of positive comments, which was nice. No negative comments (in my experience that means that her trainer has been doing the deleting he promised to do, so good for him.) But despite the fact that none of us know what her goal is, SO MANY people assumed that it was weight loss.
So. Many. People.
People were assuring her that she would lose the weight (some seeming to suggest that it was ordained by god?) People actually asked for before and after pictures. We are so brainwashed by fatphobia that many of us literally can’t imagine a fat person working out for any other reason than to lose weight. People can accept that a thin person might workout to gain strength, stamina, and/or flexibility, to improve at an activity they enjoy, to reach a fitness goal, fatphobia tells us that if a fat person is at the gym, they could only be trying to manipulate their body size,
But that’s not all, because fatphobia also tells thin people that a fat body is a sign that the fat person occupying it needs to be given a heaping helping of paternalism and unsolicited advice. On my friend’s FB page, one of the first comments said something like “but at her size, isn’t jumping up on the box bad for her knees.” (I’m paraphrasing because the comment has since been deleted and I neglected to screen shot.)
I replied something like “I know you mean well [Of course I don’t know that, but I try to give the benefit of the doubt] but please don’t do this. A fat body is not a sign that someone needs paternalism, fat people and the trainers we choose are perfectly capable of making decisions for our knees.” The comment, and my reply to it, have been deleted, but I’m not sure if it was by the OP or the author of the comment. Either way I am grateful. (If you’re curious about fat people’s knees, I wrote about that here.)
It’s one of the ways that people maintain their fatphobia, even when fat people are participating in “good fatty” behaviors. Since they can’t say “That fat person needs to exercise” (and, of course, that fat person does not need to exercise) instead they say: “Fat people need to exercise…but not like that!”
But it’s not just among fat athletes. Everywhere a fat person goes, they are likely to experience this kind of paternalism and concern trolling. Sometimes it’s comments on food “You know, if you order that sandwich wrapped in Kale leaves it saves blahbbity blah calories.” As if most fat people haven’t been subjected to constant, harmful diet culture our whole lives and don’t know how to count calories faster than your fancy app.
Sometimes it’s about clothes – people trying to “help” us by insisting that the focus of dressing ourselves should be creating some kind of optical illusion that we are thinner/differently shaped (aka “flattering.”
Regardless of the subject, fat bodies are not a representation of failures, sins, or mistakes. Fat bodies do not exist to be the subject of public discussion, debate or judgment. Fat bodies are not a signal that we need help or input to make decisions about our health, or lives, (or knees!) Our fat bodies are the constant companions that help us do everything that we do every second of every day and they deserve respect and admiration. If you are incapable of that, then at the very least please keep your thoughts to yourself and those who have actually asked to hear them.
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