I am on the mailing list for the IDEA Health and Fitness newsletter. I think that I got signed up automatically when I renewed by fitness pro certification but I don’t really know. Usually their stuff is just low-level annoying but today’s subject line read “Obese Clients: Are you Meeting Their Real Needs?” Covering my eyes with my hand and peering through my fingers I clicked on the link. (TW – the quotes from the article, which may be triggering for all the reasons you might imagine – are indented.)
It started with a thud
We talked to obese (and formerly obese) consumers—and the fitness pros who work with them—to find out how they feel, what they think of the fitness industry and how we can better help them become healthy and vibrant.
Maybe let’s not start by assuming that fat people are not healthy and vibrant when they walk in the door. Plenty of people, of all sizes, choose personal training to enhance an existing program. If my goal is to increase my bench press by 30% and my new trainer’s goal is for me to become vibrant (whatever the hell that means in the fitness world), we’re going to have a problem, though not as big of a problem as we’re going to have if they think that they can ascertain my level of health from my body size.
Few [Fitness professionals] understand the powerlessness experienced by those who are more than 50 pounds overweight,” says Lisa Williams of Lawrenceville, Georgia. “I think it’s difficult for them to realize the self-talk that goes on in an overweight person’s mind [and] that constantly keeps them in a defeated, negative mindset.
What with the who now? Unless Lisa is psychic, then she is just making assumptions and wild guesses about how everyone who is more than 50 pounds “overweight” feels and why, and that’s just a horrible idea. First of all, plenty of fat people feel powerful and aren’t constantly in a defeated, negative mindset. For those who do feel powerless and constantly in a defeated, negative mindset, blaming it on their weight is a convenient if completely fallacious way to shift the blame away from the tremendous amount of shame, stigma and stereotyping that fat people have to deal with – plenty of which is at the hands of the fitness industry and fitness professionals.
Gwenevere Bridge of Asheville, North Carolina…says. “Most [Fitness Professionals} have always been athletic, and their bodies are light and strong. They spend their time either trying to top their own fitness, by tricking out their routines, or just blithely maintaining a [fit] lifestyle, which is where the overweight person would like to go.” Bridge, who is working with a personal trainer, believes fitness professionals should look at obese bodies as “injured” because of “restrictions” caused by excess fat.
It seems like Gwenevere is making the super common mistake of assuming that her experience being fat is every fat person’s experience. Fat people’s experiences are as varied as any group that shares a single physical characteristic and a ton of stigma, stereotyping and prejudice. Gwen’s experience is not so statistically significant as to be extrapolatable to all fat people. So we can’t assume that all fat people aren’t athletic, aren’t trying to top our own fitness, or aren’t blithely maintaining a fit lifestyle. Also, while Gwen is allowed to do anything she wants with her body including trying to lose weight and suggesting that people see it as injured, it would be great if she did not recommend that all fat bodies be treated as injured, or assume restrictions due to size.
Manning says being obese is like “starting at the bottom of the mountain.” “You make slow gains and most likely hit obstacles and have a few setbacks,” he says.
Oh holy crap. Being obese is like having a certain ratio of weight and height as defined (and redifined) by the BMI chart – that is what obese people have in common. Apparently IDEA doesn’t know it, but there is actually a super secret club for people who make slow gains and most likely hit obstacles and have a few setbacks in the pursuit of fitness goals, it’s called “Everybody Who Pursues Fitness Goals” and they meet in the locker room.
Nobody, of any size, is obligated to pursue fitness at any level for any reason ever. People who choose fitness as a hobby are no more laudable than people who choose anything else for a hobby. If you want to pursue fitness and you want to work with a trainer, then you deserve someone who will work with you on your fitness goals, not try to be a therapist or a psychic, and check their own stereotypes at the door. If you are interested in talking about fitness from a weight neutral perspective, in a group that would only use the phrase “run to the couch or the cookie” as part of a delightful scavenger hunt, you can check out the Fit Fatties Forum www.fitfatties.org
You can comment on the article here (I certainly did!)
Like my blog? Here’s more of my stuff!
Become a member: For just ten bucks a month you can keep this blog ad-free, support the activism work I do, and get deals from cool businesses Click here for details
Interviews with Amazing Activists!! Help Activists tell our movement’s history in their own words. Support In Our Own Words: A Fat Activist History Project!
The Book: Fat: The Owner’s Manual The E-Book is Name Your Own Price! Click here for details
Dance Classes: Buy the Dance Class DVDs or download individual classes – Every Body Dance Now! Click here for details
If my selling things on the blog makes you uncomfortable, you might want to check out this post. Thanks for reading! ~Ragen