There has been a lot in the press about Fit Shaming and Fat Shaming. When I first heard about fat-shaming I naively thought it was just a socially acceptable way of having a pop at those who work hard at their training and post the results online. Then I read more into why this has become a thing, and here are my views on it:
1. Fit/Fat Shaming is taught as the standard way to win business
As a personal trainer (and the same goes for any health professional) we are TAUGHT (yes, taught by marketing pro’s), to use phrases like “beach body bootcamp” because terms like this are easily recognised by those who want to join a bootcamp. We are TAUGHT that giving a bootcamp a name like “Bodyweight Bootcamp” (in other words, something more accurate to the description) is not the way to sell our classes or sessions. Why are we taught this? Because the marketing industry knows that there are very few things more powerful than using fear or playing on insecurities to sell (read the book Brandwashed, you can find it on Amazon). The supplement industry knows this very well, which is why we now believe so heavily and with such conviction that in order to stop feeling tired (tiredness is an example I am using here), we must self prescribe and stock up on Vit C, Vit B, and Iron rich supplements (i’m not saying don’t take them, I’m just get some advice from GP first, and no supplement can cure a routine of poor sleep, or a diet which lacks in vegetables and adequate hydration). This has been the case for years, and I fully agree that it is wrong and shouldn’t be allowed. It’s not going to end anytime soon, but it’s great to see that people are standing up to those who wish to play on our fears and insecurities in order to make a quick buck or two (and yes I once gave this a go as I was told that is what I HAD to do in order to sell my Personal Training when I first started. I struggled with the idea but I was told, and convinced that if I wanted to make a living then I need to use the “right language” to push peoples buttons in my marketing and ad campaigns)
2. Shaming needs to stop targeting the individual
What I mean is, Fit/fat Shaming is not an excuse to have a pop (or literally downright abuse, which I have seen in some cases) at those who train everyday to achieve a goal that means a lot to them. I would encourage anyone to read about just how hard those who do have ab’s and lean bodies have worked in order to get them. They do not come easy. Some people may argue that they (the person criticising) also train hard too, and I whilst I don’t doubt this, I promise you that it takes a very high level of intensity and consistency to achieve the definition that makes the covers of fitness magazines. It takes practice to work out how your body reacts to different types of training and what works best for you. It takes a very strict diet and recovery plan, and a lot of self discovery to find out what works, because we are all different.
3. Shaming needs to stop altogether
Fit-shaming, fat-shaming, thin-shaming, work-shaming, lazy-shaming – I’m sure there are many more, but the whole shaming thing needs to stop as it is nothing more than destructive. It’s great to have an opinion and be open about your passions, that is not shaming. Bragging about how well you have done is not a form of shaming others. Telling people that they NEED to be like you or NEED to be or look a certain way (i.e. you NEED to be thin or have abs) is unhelpful at the least. We all need to be healthy, but do we all need to be 6 pack abs or olympic athlete healthy? Maybe, maybe not, but that’s down to everyones own individual ambitions. If you want to go for a big fitness goal, then go for it! If you want to write about your journey, then do it! I for one won’t be accusing anyone wants to step out of their comfort zone and then shout from the roof tops when they achieve their goal.
4. Setting a challenge (or throwing down the gauntlet) is not Shaming
If I were to release an advert saying “Can you burn 500 calories a day, every day, in less than 20 minutes” in order to get people to sign up to the challenge, would you call that fat shaming? I know the challenge itself can be done, and I know you can do it too – is that statement fat shaming? Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. But in order to grow and develop as individuals then we do need challenges! I always say, ‘the greater the resistance, the stronger you will grow’, a statement which can be applied to anything. But I am not trying to make anyone feel guilty! I want them to challenge me and beat my times, healthy competition amongst friends, nothing more, nothing less.
So to wrap this up a bit, can we just cut out the shaming part altogether? Can we continue to allow others to challenge our perspectives and encourage us to try new things (without making them feel guilty, fearful, or insecure). Can we encourage those who do decide to work hard and get that lean fit body? Can we celebrate and congratulate those who have achieved their goals? And can we just meet people where they are at in life and be supportive? If you are overweight or unfit then the last thing I would ever do is take off my shirt and say “you need to achieve this or you will suffer”, which is what marketing needs to stop doing. But when you decide that you want to do something different, make a change, and beat a target, then I would hope that a Personal Trainer or health company will be there to listen, advise accordingly, and be a great resource to set you on a path towards being a stronger version of yourself.