Is It Cause I’m Fat?

I subscribe to Help a Reporter Out (HARO) It is a cool free e-mail that gets sent out three times a day that contains requests from reporters  looking for sources.  I’ve had the opportunity to be part of several news stories through HARO and I think it’s a fantastic resource and a brilliant idea.  It’s run by Peter Shankman

Every e-mail starts out with an advertisement.  Today is was from Peter himself talking about some triathlon training that he is doing.  It went  like this:

“So let’s face it – Anyone who keeps a Triathlon Training Blog called “Train Fatass, Train” – [trigger warning - fat shaming, confusing stereotypical beauty with actual beauty etc.] http://www.trainfatasstrain.com – obviously needs some help if he wants to complete an Ironman
Triathlon without, you know, dying. …I’m doing their “Tri2Lose” program, which also helps me drop weight so I don’t drown in the swim and miss the bike and run completely!”

First, let me be clear that I’m not mad at Peter for saying this.  He hasn’t made assumptions about anyone else’s physical fitness, health etc. based on their size; he is speaking strictly about himself here.  I completely respect his choice to lose weight, as I want my choices about my body respected.

So.  Maybe it’s true for Peter that weight loss will be the key to athletic performance.  But maybe, just maybe, it’s not.  Maybe it’s because he sees himself as a “fatass” who will drown if he tries to swim at his current weight.  I don’t know what’s true for Peter, but I know that there are amazing fat triathlete out there who get through events without drowning all the time.

It got me to thinking about how often I hear people say something similar:  I’m going to be able to run a mile once I drop 20lbs, I’ll be able to do those double spins once I drop these 10 lbs, I’ll be able to [insert physical achievement here] as soon as I lose [insert what is usually a completely random of pounds number here].

My question to people saying things like this is simple: Have you done everything that you can possibly do to achieve your physical goal at your current weight? If you want to run a 5k, have you found a program that starts at your current level of physical ability and actually tried to do it?  Or are you just using your “need to lose weight”  as a tool for procrastination, and as an excuse?  Weight loss is not magical, it just means that you weigh less.  It doesn’t  necessarily make you any stronger or faster or anything-er than you could be right now if you worked at it.   Do not let anyone tell you what is possible at your size – you don’t know until you’ve tried.  Of course if you’re new to exercise  (or returning after an extended break) please see a good size-positive doctor and find a program that is appropriate to your current fitness level (which is not about your weight, but rather about your actual level of physical fitness).

I’m not for or against weight loss, I’m simply suggesting that we consider weight loss a possible (but not certain) side effect of our activity and eating.  What if you just start a training program to run a mile right now?  Maybe as part of the process you’ll lose weight.  Maybe you won’t.  But you’ll be in better physical health and able to run a mile at the end of it and why isn’t that the main goal? Why isn’t that the only goal?

I think that when we make weight loss our goal, we take our eye off the actual prize – which is our health.  While your health may steadily increase during your mile run training program, it’s possible that your weight will increase, decrease, plateau etc. and you are missing the point if you ignore your actual health gains because you are focused on the scale.

Plenty of healthy fathletes are living proof that weight and health are not the same thing.  I think that the difference between us and the people who are waiting to lose weight to be athletes might be in the way that we see ourselves.  I would never see myself as a fatass and I would never assume that I can’t do something because of my size.  I consider that  a huge factor in my success.  When you take away “because I’m fat” as an excuse you are forced to look at all of the other stuff that could be going wrong.  For example, I was struggling with a sequence in my cha cha that just wasn’t working – I was too slow which hardly ever happens to me.  I could easily have said “it’s because of my size”, but since I’m only willing to consider that my size might be the issue after exhausting all possible options, I looked at my technique.  Sure enough, I found the culprit was bad technique and fixed the problem – all without losing a pound.

I read Peter’s blog and I absolutely respect the work that he is doing to prepare for the Iron Man (plus, his use of Kenny Loggins “I’m Free (Heaven Helps the Man)” endears him to me forever).

He has a quote on his blog that says:  “If you can’t run, then walk.  And if you can’t walk, then crawl.  Do what you have to do.  Just keep moving forward and never, ever give up.” – Dean Karnazes, Ultra Marathon runner.

Notice Mr. Karnazes  doesn’t say, first lose 10 pounds then…  To borrow another phrase:   Just do it!

Keep your eye on what is important – are you eating foods that nourish your body and make you happy?  Are you doing movement that you enjoy?  Do you have a plan in action to meet your fitness goals (not weight loss goals, but actual fitness goals)?  Then pat yourself on the back for living a healthy lifestyle.  If not, why not make a few choices today in that direction and see how you feel?

Either way, might I suggest that you get the hell off of your scale and go for whatever it is that you want to do right now.

Published in: on May 14, 2010 at 6:08 am  Comments (7)  

7 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. There’s also the part where Peter is ignoring what he should have learned in high school physics. Fat is more buoyant than water. The bigger the fatass he is, the better he’ll float, and thus the less likely he is to drown.

    • Ha! So very true :)

  2. I’m actively trying to lose weight, but that’s simply because I’d like to shop at a normal store. I’m sick of the very limited and expensive choices that are given to women my size. I’d love to be able to go in a normal store and buy clothes off the rack. Having to go to a specialty “Plus Size” store that has very little in my size really sucks. That being said I know that size and health are two separate issues. I know that someone can be fat and be a great athlete. I also know that someone can be thin and get winded walking up a flight of stairs.

    I wish people would focus more on physical activity and less on weight as a way to become more athletic. Implying that you have to be thin in order to be an athlete spits in the face of those who are bigger and who are also athletes. Good post, great blog! Keep up the great work!

    • I totally understand what you mean. There are definitely a lot of advantages to fitting into the cultural norm and I absolutely understand when people want to lose weight to make things easier. Where I get concerned is when people are losing weight as a way to love themselves or solve non-weight related problems but it sounds like you’re already all over that. Glad that you like the blog, thanks for commenting :)

      • Oh yeah, most definitely, I believe I’m losing weight for the right reasons. I think those who try and lose weight because they hate themselves or hate there bodies are on the wrong track and need to learn to love who they are, no mater what “shell” they happen to reside in. It makes me sad to see or hear about girls who hate their bodies. After years of hating myself I learned to love myself and my body in my mid-20s and still do. In fact the happiest I’ve ever been in my life was also the heaviest I’ve ever been.

        But for me it’s time for a change. I’ve been fat my entire life and as shallow as it sounds I really want to be able to wear cute clothes and not have to pay a kings ransom for them (it’s criminal how much they charge fat girls for anything resembling fashionable clothing).

  3. i guess i’m supposed to be okay with Peter Shankman despite his comment, but i just went on his blog and he started with the anti-fat comments literally about three sentences in. yes, it’s all about him, but it still sucked to see him equate being thin with being hot, etc., even if he wasn’t as serious as, say, the people who send you hate mail. i kind of wish you hadn’t linked it; sometimes you don’t link material with lots of triggers, and this seemed to have quite a few.

    • Hi Maddi,

      You aren’t supposed to be anything, you have every right to feel how you feel. While I don’t regret linking to his blog, I am sorry that I didn’t post a trigger warning – I shouldn’t have assumed that the name of the blog being “Train Fatass Train” was enough I’ve added a trigger warning.

      ~Ragen


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