Dear Fitness Police,
Every single person has one of you in their lives. You are the person who believes it is your business to comment on another person’s lifestyle no matter how little you actually know about that person. You are the person who makes fatphobic comments all over the internet under the mask of “caring about someone’s health.” You are the person who feels the need to remind someone how awful what they’re eating actually is for them because clearly reading an article on the internet makes you an expert nutritionist. You are the person who plasters images of half naked photoshopped men/women with slogans like “No Excuses!” and “Do you really want to eat that cookie?” all over your Facebook/IG/Tumblr feed. Let me tell you one thing. I am fed up with it. In order to properly shut you up, this letter will present the “Fitness Police” mentality and why it is problematic, dangerous and simply wrong.
1. “No Excuses! An hour workout is just 4% of your day! If you don’t exercise, you’re lazy!” This is the most popular saying I see in the fitness community. Not only is it extremely judgmental, but also inaccurate. For a person who needs 6-8 hours of sleep to function, has a standard 9-5 job and a family to care for, an hour can be a huge chunk out of their day during which they could be doing something else that has a higher priority in their lives than fitness. For a minimum wage worker who works 12 hour shifts to get by and has to take care of a family, it can be even harder to get any sort of activity in. There is also the issue of accessibility. Not everyone can afford a gym membership. When you are in survival mode, a gym membership is probably not what you’d want to be spending money on. Some Fitness Police try to make the case that you can run or walk outside or create some of your own workouts in the comfort of your own house/apartment. What about the people who live in bad neighborhoods? When I lived in Orlando, if I wanted to venture out of my little community, I had to drive 30 min to a trail because some of the areas weren’t safe to be running alone in. Not everyone has that luxury. Finally, not everyone wants to get into the fitness world. I know it’s hard for some people to believe but not everyone wants to workout. Some people would rather do other things that make them happy and that’s totally fine. Respect their choices and realize that one’s respectability does not depend on how fit they are. There are plenty of shitty people in the fitness community just as there are plenty of great ones. Working out/eating healthy does not make you a better person. Stop the “No Excuses” mentality.
2. “Gluten, Wheat, Sugar, Fat, Dairy, GMO, Non-Organic are all bad for you! There are articles on the internet about it that have suddenly made me an expert!” I’m sure we all know some people who have to remind you that the wheat bread you’re eating is the spawn of satan and gluten is what makes Americans fat and sugar is addictive, etc. We’ve heard it all and it’s all BULLSHIT. Note: I’m not saying there aren’t people who have food allergies/intolerance/etc. I’m talking about the people who feel the need to comment on what you’re eating because they heard on Dr. Oz or read on the internet that it’s bad for you. Everything in moderation is essential for a healthy diet. Cutting out food groups is a one-way ticket to disordered eating. With all the false information out there, one could argue that everything we eat that isn’t grass is bad for us and should be avoided. Not only are these claims extremely inaccurate, they are also incredibly classist. Okay, so you can afford to get your Organic fruits and veggies from Whole Foods along with your gluten-free bread and vegan chocolate. Good for you! If that’s what makes you happy then fine. My issue is with people who think that everyone should adhere to these rules. First of all, it’s expensive. Second, you don’t NEED to cut out food groups in order to be healthy and finally, healthy eating is a privilege that not everyone has. People like to think if they don’t see something happening that it doesn’t exist. There are plenty of low socioeconomic groups in this country who are barely surviving. Be thankful that you can afford to eat healthy and be critical of internet articles that try to instill fear in you for what you eat.
3. “Fat is unhealthy. Strong is the new skinny! Healthy is beautiful!” These sayings are usually posted on pictures of very photoshopped fitness models and are thrown around on posts everywhere. First of all, fat people are PEOPLE who deserve basic human respect and the right to exist in this world without the message that their bodies are wrong. When I hear someone make a comment about a fat person or when someone takes a picture of a fat person at the gym and posts it to facebook, the only thing it is really saying is how much of a complete jerk they are. When you make comments about someone based on their appearance, you are judging their whole story based on nothing. Yes, I said nothing. Because being fat does not say anything about your health. I know fat marathon runners and fat powerlifters and fat yogis and fat vegans. Here is a great article that goes more into depth about that topic. The second statement, “strong is the new sexy,” is also problematic because it is sexualizing strength. Being strong for the sake of being strong is a great thing. Not everyone who lifts heavy and eats “clean” is going to get a super chiseled body and bulging muscles. Bodies are incredibly diverse. No body is wrong and no body deserves to be shamed.
4. “Eat Clean! Abs are made in the kitchen!” While there is no doubt that nutrition affects performance, “clean eating” is a very dangerous mentality that leads a lot of people to orthorexia. A healthy diet has a balance of healthy foods and not so healthy foods. Click here for another great article on clean eating.
5. Fitspiration My biggest issue with the fitness community is the promotion of fitspiration or “fitspo.” It really does set people up for failure. Images of perfectly tan and fit bodies really tend to mess with your mind after awhile. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but realistically, most people will never look like the people in those images. Those images are heavily photoshopped and do not tell us anything about the people in them which reduces them to their looks only. However, because there are some awesome people on the internet, there has been a movement called “Reclaiming Fitspo” which focuses on athletes for their abilities. Here is an awesome link to reclaiming fitspo.
So, my dear Fitness Police, I know you are probably fuming after reading this but I feel like it needed to be said. Overall, I hope what you take from this is that health is not black and white. Health comes in many different sizes and all are perfectly fine. Also, do not give unsolicited advice to people at the gym. Mind your own business. Seriously. If you’re spending all your time at the gym watching others and passing judgments, you’re a jerk. Focus on your own workout and let others be. If they ask you for advice, go for it. Eat delicious food and find activities that make you happy and be kind because everyone is fighting their own battles.
A frustrated runner.