I feel like there are certain things we need to come to terms with, if we want to improve our condition in this life.
But if you feel like you have to do these things, if you feel coerced, forced, manipulated – it only breeds resentment and that leads to resistance and well, cutting off your nose to spite your face. The truth is – we’re all in the same boat. There is no place for bullying and manipulation, for “your own good” or not. And we must end it, first with ourselves – bullying yourself into training or “eating well” never works, so we must stop it. Hold it lightly. Do only what enables. You never need to force it.
Fitness is not about thinness, it’s about mobility and activity. It doesn’t matter if you’re fat or thin, fit or not, if you don’t practice mobility, in time you will become immobile. Taking a weight-neutral perspective does not play one human off against another, it is one of equality – if you want to be able to move well in old age, then practice moving well, as you can, very simply – this might mean sitting on the floor more often, rotating your shoulders and stretching every time you yawn – and don’t judge other people because they were unable to make the same choices or enjoy the progress and development you yourself experienced.
And of course the irony is – sometimes we have to resist the temptation to always be working on something, we have to relax and remind ourselves that it also requires effort to stop trying to do all the things. Laziness isn’t laziness. It is necessary to sit the hell down, but it requires a strange kind of work to make time to not work.
And if you want a better life, invest in hygiene. Clean yourself. I can’t tell you how many times I see people working hard at the gym, and then failing to wash their hands. Afraid of chemical pollutants? Don’t use them. Use clean water if you can get it. If you can’t, then do what you can, because there is of course the very real caveat that chaos exists and once we accept that most things lie outside of our control, it frees us to simply do what we can without judgement. This can still be confronting, because in your life you will absolutely come up against shit that other people do not have to deal with, ever. Yet the simple fact that this happens to everyone is the divine leveller. All people must learn to cope with life and live. Judging someone as more or less fortunate than yourself, or less dedicated, serves no true purpose. Not one of us truly understands another person’s lived experience, unless we have shared in it, and even then we experienced it only from our perspective.
One of the things I value about body positivism is the acknowledgement that we are all in this together. We are all blessed and cursed with mortal bodies, and when people talk about longevity and health – well, everyone dies. The world is chaotic. I still fear death – not as much as I used to, and if confronted with the inevitability if death in an immediate sense, I’m not confident I could go peacefully. But the truth I see now is this: we all die, and it’s more important to me to have a good life and a good death (whatever that means), than it is necessarily to steal an extra couple of years from the clutches of that grim spectre. I’m not sure I could do it, but I understand now why people die for a cause. We all have to die. And we need to believe in something. And longevity? A few more years… But what’s really worthwhile?
Knowing and accepting that we all die frees us to think about the life we want to live. I had a thought a while ago – I don’t want my tombstone to read “he lost weight and kept it off”. It’s not that my choices will now be ruled by the fantasy of a legacy I could perhaps leave – but knowing that we will all die, what is the true value in life? Knowing it is futile to try to escape death, sickness and suffering, how can we learn to cope and enrich our lives, instead of living in fear and denial?
My brother said something once, about the fantasy that life gets easier or better as you go along – life might not get better, but you get better at it. We can develop coping skills as we go on, if we want.
So the idea of “taking care of myself” has started to take on a different meaning recently. If I want to have a good life when I’m old, fitness is important, but thinness is not. I don’t want to be depleted and exhausted all the time from numerous dieting attempts. I don’t want to be perpetually burnt out and powerless because I’m training all the time and not eating enough. I know fat immobile people, and thin immobile people, and it’s pretty damn clear that the reason for their immobility is not weight. Their mobility might be within their control to a point – they may have been able to train in the right way, and avoid injury – but it might be that their immobility is not something they could have controlled – cartilage problems, injury, diseases like arthritis and osteoporosis. And it might be that there are things they can do to improve their condition, and it might be that there aren’t. And maybe they did try “all the right things”, but for them it worked out wrong.
Maybe they were told lies, they made uninformed choices – which to be frank, don’t really count as choices if someone else is manipulating you into making them. And of course it’s not just immobility – I see fat people with diseases, and thin people with the same diseases, and I question the propaganda we are sold by people with hidden agendas. If you’ve got heart disease – why prescribe weight loss, when there exist in the world thin people with heart disease? What are we seriously trying to achieve? Are we all expected to abandon reason when an authority figure tells us what to do? Why not try to treat the actual heart disease, instead of the body shape?
Acceptance of chaos and death, acceptance of our own realities, acceptance of the truth that all people struggle, this frees us from prejudice and hatred, it frees us from resentment and resistance, and it frees us to do what we can, to sink our teeth into what’s worthwhile, rather than to judge and to blame, crying out from a place of fear, a place of naivety and delusion where we cling desperately to the belief that we can control this, damnit, we can change it all with the power of our will!
I don’t buy it. The fantasy. The reality is that what we can change is much greater than what we think, but it’s totally different as well – we cannot change the fact that one day, we’ll get sick and die, but we can change our relationship with our bodies, we can change our perception of chaos, we can be at peace with ourselves and the universe and death, we can free ourselves from prejudice and hatred, and then we are free to work on something truly meaningful and we can change shit that is worth changing. But our shape? It amounts to what in the end? A life spent in the service of who, exactly?
Don’t fear fatness. Fatness isn’t the enemy. Prejudice and hatred are the enemies. If you want to move more, move more. If you want to eat better foods, work on finding better foods. If you want the desperate masses to be less fat and more healthy, work on changing policy and making better foods more accessible, work on making training programs and facilities more accessible. That’s stuff that can be done. But hand-wringing and complaining about the weight of the populace – am I supposed to believe that gets us anywhere at all? It’s not the weight. If you care about people being more active, make active life more accessible. If you care about good quality food, make good quality food more accessible. If you care about poor people and their health, don’t blame them for their plight, do something to make the world a better place. If you care about health, provide health care. And if you can dedicate your efforts to making the world easier and kinder and more tolerant for people who are abused and marginalised, you will have achieved a change much more meaningful than losing weight and keeping it off.
2/23/2014 10:58:54 am
Awesome article Chris! Love (aka don't love) how it's always the people moaning about people who don't exercise being unhealthy and "draining their tax dollars" who are the first to make anyone who isn't already a fitness expert or doesn't fit into their idea of who should be visible in public feel uncomfortable when they are exercising, so they can complain again that those people don't exercise. The answer isn't more gyms, it's less douchebags :D
2/23/2014 11:59:19 am
That's the thing, isn't it?! Accessibility isn't about more gyms, but it is about less douchebags. :)
2/25/2014 08:05:44 am
This is a really good article! I've enjoyed the whole website so far, actually, but I don't think I'm going to spam comments everywhere. Body-positivity and fitness are two things I really wish I could see in the same place more often, so it's been a really refreshing and encouraging read thus far.
2/25/2014 08:43:25 am
2/26/2014 11:52:28 am
I agree with the concept here 100%. I think being heavier does carry certain risks that don't exist at lower weights. However, I have to wonder if the recommendation of weight loss does anyone any good, given the fact that there is no proven method of weight loss that works in the long-term. Ideally, an overweight patient with heart disease should try to reduce the stress on their heart. However, if the prescription of weight loss ultimately results in weight cycling (which it does in most cases), wouldn't it be better to implement dietary and exercises changes that minimize risk as opposed to prescribing something that frankly doesn't work for the vast majority of the population?
2/26/2014 05:29:57 pm
Yes, that is the conundrum, isn't it? I sometimes find it very hard thinking about risks. People don't talk much about the risks associated with weight loss attempts, not really in the mainstream, anyway. Knowing that risks exist, but not always knowing what those risks are, or being pressured and seeking to escape stigma, and not necessarily heeding those risks - it certainly messes with your ability to make good choices. But I don't think I'm adding new insights with these observations!
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