Where do I even begin?
I will start by saying that I have long since lost interest in trying to convince people who aren’t interested of why they should want to train, or why they could be successful if they tried. There are things I’ve been quite passionate about in my past that I’ve moved on from, and I get irritated when people try to pressure me into “getting back into it and giving it one more try”. I can only imagine how much more irritating it would be to be trying to live your life and pursue your interests and mind your own business, and to keep hearing “ok but you’re a fat person and you should try not being fat anymore, you could not be fat if you really tried” as if nothing else you do counts if you don’t and as if it’s any of anyone’s concern in the first place.
I will continue by reminding you that I have written countless blog and social media posts to the tune of “quit acting like training makes you better than everyone else. You took an interest in something, gave it a try, found that you liked it, and now here you are” especially in response to those obnoxious “what’s your excuse?” type posts that go viral for all the wrong reasons every once in a while. What’s their excuse? Why do they need an excuse for not pursuing something they don’t have an interest in? Why do they owe you a justification or explanation? What’s your excuse for not knowing how to rebuild an engine or play classical piano?
No one is asking “what’s your excuse for not knowing how to play an instrument?”, but on the other hand no one is telling the serious musical enthusiast who learned the theory and practiced the technique for hours every day to “acknowledge their musical privilege” even though others might not have been so fortunate as to have access to a good teacher or to afford a decent instrument. Because to do so would be ridiculous.
I think it is probably important that people in the fitness industry acknowledge that weight stigma is a thing that people experience and probably only the tip of the iceberg. This entry does not deny or mitigate the fact that weight stigma exists.
Fit Privilege though? Really?
The way I’m reading into this… it’s as if the suggestion is that the only reason anyone is in “fit” shape is because that was always the most likely thing for them, and that they’ve had an easy time of it all along, and if anything should probably feel a little embarrassed and a little bit guilty about how much harder other people have got it.
Really though? That’s a load of garbage.
People get into fitness for different reasons. Perhaps they got started after a health scare and on doctors orders. Perhaps they just decided one day “I don’t suppose I’ll be very good at it or very successful at it, but it’ll be nice to have something to do after work other than just veg out in front of the tv”. Often people have become passionate about fitness because it was something that got them through a dark chapter of their life when it seemed like nothing else was going right for them. Perhaps unemployed, bereaved, following a difficult relationship breakdown, while struggling with poor mental health, or any combination of these and other issues.
If you’re someone who has used an interest in fitness as a coping mechanism when you were unemployed, unloved, trying not to give in to depression and despair, and trying to channel your energy into and focus upon some positive outlet… to be informed that “you have fit privilege” is incredibly insulting and offensive.
“Acknowledge your privilege?” How about acknowledge that you could have just as easily turned to self destructive behaviours, could have taken your issues out on others in an abusive or manipulative manner, and quite possibly might not have overcome those hardships at all?
I would suggest this applies to many, many people. And even to those that it doesn’t apply to, how is it in any way helpful to insist that they “acknowledge their privilege” as if they are selfish and their interest and success in pursuing their fitness goals is something they are undeserving of?
That’s how it comes across to me anyway.
Now, the issue here isn’t that everyone has to be impressed by or give credit to people for pursuing their fitness goals. I feel like most fitness enthusiasts aren’t actually asking for that. I feel like most people just want to be left in peace to pursue their interests without the uninvited negative opinions of others trying to rain on their parade, and that applies to people of different sizes with different interests as well. Regardless of your shape, size, education, economic status, whatever… there are certain people out there whether strangers, on social media, or people you are acquainted with or related to, who just do not want to see you happy on your own terms and who want to control how you see yourself and how you feel about yourself. Anyone who has achieved any level of success in anything or any level of happiness in general has had to deal with and over come this.
That said, this notion that anyone who is in “fit” shape as an adult must have been someone who excelled at and was encouraged in sports from a young age, who never experienced difficulty around “healthy eating”, never had a medical or mental illness that would preclude them from being successful… I can assure you I’m the opposite of all of those things.
Why this really matters though is not about me or about other fitness enthusiasts being given credit for trying their best and overcoming adversity in their lives. It is actually about the people who might like to take an interest in training but lack the confidence or the belief in themselves to do so.
Splitting people into groups of “people who were always going to end up in fit shape because it’s easy for them” and “people who were never likely to end up in fit shape no matter what” only discourages those who are interested and could benefit from encouragement. It disempowers those who need to be empowered. It will be one more young woman who started out thinking she wanted to lose 5kg who by the time she comes to me is more like 30kg overweight with a binge eating disorder because she identified as a “fat person” rather than a “fit person” and so believed she would need to restrict her intake to a half or a quarter of what would be minimal for someone else with the same goals. Or something like that.
I probably didn’t even say half of what I was thinking on this topic but I suppose 1150 words is plenty.