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Could fat shaming be making us more fat, not less? The science from experimental social psychologists seems to back the idea up.
I talk here a lot about body acceptance. This is not an accident. This is not dogma, this is a necessary starting point for a realistic fitness journey.
I’m not a religious person, but the Serenity Prayer has a message even for someone who is agnostic like me. Let me rephrase it a little.
Let me find within myself the serenity to accept what I cannot change, the courage to change what I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
We cannot change our genes. A fair amount of what controls our metabolism and our body type is genetic. Ectomorph (skinny, non-muscular) parents tend to have Ectomorph children. Endomorph (fat) parents tend to have Endomorph kids. Mesomorph (Average build) parents…you get it. Parents whose ancestors had to deal with food insecurity a lot tend to have slow metabolisms that hang onto calories. In turn, they have kids with similarly slow metabolisms. Those whose ancestors lived in relative plenty tend to have quicker metabolisms. Why do Frenchwomen not get fat? Why do we look at Greece and Rome for our body ideals instead of Poland, Hungary, Ukraine or Russia? Again, you got it. The more science looks at the connections between heredity and weight, the more it seems that our results are at least partially written in our genes rather than completely a matter of effort. This is something the American psyche rebels against, kicks against these goads until it bleeds, but it’s truth.
However, there are things we can change. We can get more active. We can eat more real food, more plant-based food. We can stop doing things that work against our health. We can control stress. We can get enough sleep. Ultimately it’s not going to provide the kind of OMG WOW results that you see all over the place in the media, but it will at least mean you will be a stronger, healthier person who will likely live a longer life than those who tend to not pay attention to things like that.
So yeah, let me find within the serenity to accept what I cannot change; (my body type) the courage to change what I can change; (my health habits) and the wisdom to know the difference.
This is priceless.
This article might be specifically about binge eating, but the advice in here is good for just about everyone. Including me.
I began writing this on a bus headed for the Rose Bowl. Ali Vincent led a walk there, and I got up at absurd o’clock to get there in time for the event.
I have nothing but respect for Ms. Vincent. After she won, she has been strongly advocating health over simple weight loss, although if pressed she’d likely not agree with my advocacy of health at every size, and my evidence-based opinion that fat and fit is possible.
One need only look at Sarah Robles. She’s big. But she’s also able to lift many times her weight and is currently the strongest woman in the Western Hemisphere.
As you can see, she does not exactly look like a supermodel. But would you say she’s unhealthy? An unhealthy person can’t compete as a world-class weightlifter. And yet, one of Sarah’s teammates in 2012, Holly Mangold, is headed for The Biggest Loser this year. The reason she wasn’t competing in the Pan Ams this year was because she was prepping for the show.
Scale weight is not a great gauge of overall health. It is notoriously bad for differentiating the athletic and massive from the obese. Michael Jordan in his prime had a BMI that put him in the obese category. And there are lots of people who are ideal weight and sickly. There are also the “skinny fat,” people who weigh normal on a scale, but have a high percentage of body fat and a goodly amount of visceral fat.
So why not create a competition that uses several metrics to judge the health and fitness of the contestants? Not just scale weight, but blood pressure, metabolic blood panel, fat to lean ratio, and performance tests like how fast you travel a mile, be it walking or running, how much weight can you deadlift, and so on. It would be rigorously monitored by doctors, exercise physiologists and physical therapists.
It would be visual, too: the best way to find out body fat percentage is an underwater weighing. Imagine how that would look on screen! The tank of truth. The winner of this contest would be the most improved over the most metrics. You’d probably want to weight (no pun intended) some of those metrics a bit: someone reversing their type 2 diabetes would be a more impressive feat than someone who can box jump higher than the rest, or had lost the most scale weight. A broader set of metrics would mean more size diversity on the show. You might see a big person win this contest. It would be a very important message to send to people: fat does not necessarily equal unfit.
I’m giving you a gift, TV industry. Call this new competition Survival of the Fittest. I guarantee it will be a hit.
Jeanette DePatie says it for me. Exercise success is as personal as the person doing the exercise. When health is the main goal, wins are everywhere. When thinness or looking buff or whatever is the main goal, you are going to be disappointed.
Strong is the new skinny, skinny is the new fat.
I love this article…really, if you only follow one fitness website, I’d say Greatist is the one to follow. Yeah, I know, I have this blog and Otagenki, but seriously, they have some great writing going on there.
I’d say the only thing I differ with the author here is that I really don’t have the competitive gene. The only competition I’m really interested in is the classic geek “beat your high score” game. Being that I have gotten into Crossfit now, there is a definite player-vs-player competition thing involved at boxes that I just can’t get into. And of course, in the higher echelons of Crossfit, there is real competition involved.
But everything else, I can totally get behind, most importantly kicking the scale to the curb.
Let me introduce you to someone: she’s Sarah Robles. She placed 7th in the London Summer Olympics of 2012 in the super-heavyweight division of Olympic Weightlifting. She’s definitely fit, she’s definitely strong…arguably the strongest woman in the United States. However, she’s also a big person. This has meant that the kind of endorsement deals that go to more conventionally attractive female athletes elude her, and since the US women’s weightlifting program is so small and underfunded, she has had to struggle to survive and be able to train full-time. She has both the Pan American Games and the 2016 Olympiad in her sights, and she’s still getting stronger. One thing that hasn’t happened: she hasn’t lost weight. She’s still big. AND THAT’S OK.
I know I have spoken badly about certain aspects of the Health At Every Size movement. I am not an HAES fundamentalist. I like how I feel at 194 pounds (give or take) better than I liked how I felt at 218. I feel better wearing size 16 and size 18 women’s petite clothes than I did wearing a size 24 women’s petite. I feel stronger and healthier now. But I have no illusions: I will never be skinny. I will never be in the ideal range in the BMI. I will never have that “bikini body” people are chasing after. The fact is, not many women do, and we shouldn’t get down on ourselves for it.
Getting stronger and healthier is the important thing. Everything else is secondary. That’s where I’m at, I’m sticking with it, and nobody can dissuade me. I have found that the people who agree with my stance on fitness tend to be people I’ll hang with and be friends with. People who have a hard time with it…I don’t need ’em. I don’t need someone telling me I’m no good because I can’t wear Abercrombie and Fitch clothing. I don’t need someone telling me that fitness is not ladylike, weightlifting will make me look like a freak, or that distance walking/running is stupid and women who do it are ninnies.
I think I’m getting closer to what will best work to keep my conditioning regimen on track. There’s still much trial and error ahead. But one thing I’m pretty sure about, my attitude about what’s important is right on the nose.