Do Tell, Michelle: Fitness, Body Positivity And Where People Get It Wrong
For this week's column, I thought I would tell you a story of what happened to me yesterday. It's something that happens to me often, and frankly, is something I find that I'm losing patience with.
Yesterday, a fitness blogger contacted me with suggestions of a collaboration. Yesterday also happened to be the day that I decided to make a concerted effort to reply to all emails, whether it's a student wanting a quote for an essay, or a brand that I don't want to work with. For the latter, I wanted to start replying with no, instead of just declining in my head and forgetting to reply.
Yesterday was the wrong day to decide this, namely because of this fitness blogger. I'm already skeptical when someone claims to be a fitness blogger, but I like to remain hopeful because fitness was a huge part of my body positivity journey and I don't believe that fitness and body positivity have to conflict in the slightest. His email involved something about how he became passionate because men were underrepresented in body positivity. Whilst, at the time, that made me optimistic, that's actually what should have warned me off as a big 'MALE PRIVILEGE' sign.
I read his website. It turned out that representation was actually to do with weight loss, and his tagline was simply 'get off the couch'. It's this mentality that I really want to discuss. It's this oversimplified, there is only one version of health, it's just that simple, calories-in-versus-calories-out mentality that is so damaging to everyone's thinking as well as being hugely ableist. I responded with a polite email declining with a few explanations why, but it was his response that astounded me. What saddens me most about all of this is that his mentality is probably quite a common one, so with that I'm going to quickly address a few of these misconceived notions about fitness, bopo, and where the two meet, with the help of a few of this blogger's own words:
'It's a shame that 300,000 deaths in the United States are due to preventable death, think about that number for a moment. [That's like] if every one of your followers (for example) and more passed away from the disease that is costing them their own ability to make smart and conscious choices about their food choices.'
Stop quoting obesity statistics to an obese person. We have all heard them over and over and the 'just think about that number for a moment' is an unnecessarily patronising addition.
'I also suffer from chronic back pain so I disagree that I'm being dismissive about the portion of the population. Excess weight is a simple matter of eating more fuel than it takes to fuel your day to day activities and bodily functions.'
I had said he was being ableist with his implication that it was as easy for anybody to just get off your sofa. Also, please don't compare my 15 surgeries to your chronic back pain. It's really not the same thing.
'[T]o label "body positive" as yet another excuse to live life above the body fat percentage of what would be considered medically sound is not what the movement is about.'
I didn't realise I needed an excuse to live life, let alone live life fat. And actually that's exactly what body positivity is.
'Body positivity is about loving your body 100% at each stage in the journey and loving yourself enough to put your needs of health above other things that would generally get in the way, like too much ice cream.'
Again, only one idea of what health is. My health is respecting my 15 surgeries over weight loss.
'To carry excess weight is to reduce mortality, increase risk of disease and overall living a less fulfilling life. Body positive is to love yourself, love life and health is key to that life.'
Reducing mortality? Yes, I agree with that. Avoiding diet culture will reduce your mortality. Maybe use a dictionary next time. Again with these broad assumptions; I live an extremely fulfilling life, one more fulfilling than when I was diet obsessed, thank you very much.
'It seems we have reached an impasse.'
Finally, something you've said is actually accurate. Yes, we have reached an impasse. Good bye.
I get this stuff a lot in my comments, but it's different when someone brings it directly to my inbox, especially after I've said no. It's the professional equivalent to when you're out, you reject a guy and he says, 'you're fat anyway'. As one of my lovely followers, @Macgyver_It put it, 'I'm body positive, as long as your body meets these narrow standards of acceptability based on aesthetic and/or if I can use you for fame.' Let that be a message to other body-positive-but-not-really brands and bloggers that want to try and explain to me how my idea of body positivity is wrong.
Oh, and in case you were wondering, I've gone back to not replying to every email. If you don't get a reply, blame him. He ruined it for everyone!