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Fat Shaming and Fitness Elitism

  |   Rants   |   2 Comments
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It’s been a while since my last post. Life got in the way — I was married, bought a house and had a child (in that order). I’m at the peak of what I like to call ‘adult responsibility’ and feel (as most people at this point in their lives do) that my perspective has ‘changed’, giving me an improved ability to accept people for who they are and to place HIGHER priority on things which were previously of lesser importance (read: family).

I’ll freely admit—perhaps I’ve softened a little; I’ve certainly never publicly humiliated anyone for being obese, however, nor have I gone out of my way to controvert it.

I felt it was my God-given right to disapprove of anyone else who didn’t have the guts, the will, the inclination nor the drive to do what I had done.

My reasoning way back when, I felt, was simple – I had taken the vow of elitism ‘body improvement’ to turn my own metaphorically ‘flabby frown’ upside-down; I felt it was my God-given right to disapprove of anyone else who didn’t have the guts, the will, the inclination nor the drive to do what I had done. Perhaps this is the mentality of someone who’s a little immature, a little naive but perhaps mainly inexperienced in ‘life’.

Inspiration via nudity can be detrimental

Turning around my own narrow-minded views towards those with extra body-weight has been a real eye-opener — my peers were quick to point out the fact that perhaps appearing shirtless or scantily-clad on ones fitness website wasn’t (and perhaps STILL isn’t) the best method for attracting those that are looking to shed a few pounds. Quite simply, it’s less inspiring, and far more intimidating than most of us want to freely admit.

I had always felt that by revealing to the public that I was once fat, and ‘transformed’ myself over a period of years into a reasonably fit adult, was going to inspire a whole slew of people to do the same — this however, is not always the case and I’ve found it can be quite daunting for a lot of people.

elitism-poster

Shunning junk food has to end

Much in the way ‘fitspiration’ on Facebook is met with a collective groan these days – folks have grown tired of fitness models and celebrities trying to compare themselves against the general population and thus shoe-horn them into an unachievable mold.

Whilst I’m all for the supposed sentiment and advocate inspiring methods to achieving physical and mental greatness, this kind of image of near supermodel-esque status, is nothing more than a proponent for poor body image, self loathing and more importantly: a pre-cursor to dysfunctional eating (aka eating disorders) in general.

Shunning ‘junk’ foods (or any food group for that matter) is something that I deplore as it belies the belief system for which I strive towards each and every day— which is improving one’s life through experience. I’m talking about any life experience here; sight, smell, touch or by any other sensory means.

Remove the joy. Remove the ‘life’

Take away life experiences (in whatever form) and suddenly you’re left with a very pale, boring and hollow existence. Sure, you may have a year-round six-pack — but can you really say you’re truly happy BECAUSE of that fact? Do you have a beer with your friends, order a slice of cheese cake every now and then or devour an entire pizza (if the mood calls for it)? Are you denying yourself the ability to be social? Then are you really living at all?

I understand there are ‘different strokes for different folks’, but when such ideals alter ones mindset forcing you to lampoon those that don’t think the way you do (to the point of ‘shaming’), fit-folk in general then tend to appear ‘elitist’ and turn-off those they ‘think’ they are supposedly inspiring.

‘Thinspiration’ is equally to blame

My wife is a frequent Instagram user and was quick to point out a variety of trends she sees within the circle of models and celebrities that she follows. ‘Thigh Gap’ and ‘Bikini Bridging’ (pictured) immediately come to mind.

For a celebrity, there’s a very fine-line between being inspirational and being elitist— there’s a very real chance that those viewing your feed have some form of body-image issue. Are you truly helping or perhaps harming?

Bikini Bridge & Thigh Gap

The ‘Bikini Bridge’ & ‘Thigh Gap’ are perhaps doing more harm than good…

Enter The Biggest Loser

Are we not breeding an entire generation of ‘elitist’ fitness folk by using popular media to publicly shame those which have a harder time of losing weight than the rest of us?

Some of us, without the hindrance of morbid obesity, can seemingly mock those less fortunate up there on screen doing their very best to improve their quality of life.

Arm-chair ridicule may appear harmless at first—but you could compare it to being racist behind closed doors. Sure no one will hear it, but it will likely ooze out into the public sphere ESPECIALLY if there are children present to bare witness.

Fat shaming on a larger scale

What’s even worse, is that in the most recent series of The Biggest Loser (of the Australian version) an entire TOWN (which shall remain nameless) was publicly shamed as the ‘fattest’ town in Australia. To anyone that lives there, I am truly sorry for what is more than likely going to be many years of ridicule. Deplorable is the only word to describe this form of humiliation.

Inspiration is detrimental if it uses smoke-and-mirrors to validate impossible outcomes.

We’ve already discovered the truth behind the ‘fake scales’ and other falsities such as weekly weigh-ins that are actually two or more weeks apart thanks to a previous Biggest Loser contestant blabbing about it via a news site — but that does little to thwart the fact that thousands of obese people are still subjected to the series year after year, increasingly disheartened at their own lack of ‘miracle’ results.

Placing a morbidly obese contestant on a fake set of scales (in most cases shirtless) does nothing more than perpetuate fat-shaming in general.

Placing a morbidly obese contestant on a fake set of scales (in most cases shirtless) does nothing more than perpetuate fat-shaming in general.

The answers to the fat-shaming issue are not that clear-cut

What then, are the answers? — Perhaps if we remove the need to spotlight those at the extreme end of the body spectrum, we’ll stamp out the elitism that has spawned in it’s prescence. Perhaps not.

I can’t help but feel that the rise of social media coupled with reality television are the main culprits.

Who do you think is to blame? Post your comments below.

AUTHOR - Clint Nielsen

Clint is a dad and husband trying to stay in shape. He's also a highly opinionated fitness enthusiast and author of Reveal The Steel. Follow him on: Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Google+

  • Neti

    I don’t think we can place the blame on any group of people, because that leads to the same problem as fat-shaming. Any time you lump a group of people together like that, it has negative repercussions. The people who are to blame are exactly that: the people who are opening their gargantuan mouths and saying what needn’t be said to people who don’t want to hear it. It is sad that it is so accepted.
    That said, I have definitely seen a lot of fat shaming, and have even participated in it myself, though usually at my own expense. This article was a real eye opener. I’m going to be more careful in the future. Thanks.

    • http://revealthesteel.com/ Clint Nielsen

      Thanks for the feedback – glad you enjoyed it :)