Home Workouts Are Fatphobic?

posted on April 24, 2020

EDIT: You can also listen to this blog as a podcast here.

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If you’re following any fitness influencers right now, you’ll have probably noticed the huge spike in home workout routines being plastered across social media. This, of course, is due to the fact that the entire world population has been asked to stay at home due to the Covid-19 virus. 

If you’re also following any body positive influencers or mental health activists, you might have seen a response generally discouraging people to do these home workouts because they’re toxic.

Here’s how I feel:

It’s never been more important to look after your health. We know for a fact that obesity is linked with health issues such as diabetes, CV disease and hypertension, and from the data that we have so far, we know that the people who are suffering and dying from Covid-19 are those with underlying health conditions such as this. I’m also advised by a friend of mine who is a front-line NHS worker, that the (very few) young people who are sadly losing their lives to Covid-19 in her hospital have all been very overweight, and this appears to be contributing to difficulty in breathing on the ventilators. 

I listened to a recent interview with Dr Spencer Nadolsky, an obesity (and meme) expert, who said that we really don’t have enough data about the virus yet to come to conclusions. We can, of course, make assumptions based on pre-existing knowledge and how we have seen the virus behave so far. 

As a fitness professional, my view is that it’s reasonable to encourage people to be active at the moment, which could include home workouts, or walking/running outside if their government guidelines allow it. However, it’s important to remember that having the time, resources and mental capacity to exercise right now is a privilege and there is a right and wrong way to encourage movement. Guilt tripping, fear mongering or blaming people for being ‘lazy’ are not effective forms of motivation even when there’s not a global pandemic.

Here are some of the comments I’ve seen across social media about home workouts and my response.

“All these home workouts are triggering for those suffering with body image issues or disordered eating”

As somebody who has gone through a journey with both of those things, I completely agree with this point. Even without a pandemic, seeing constant videos of beautiful people doing jump squats in slow mo on the beach, and then fuelling up on an asparagus burrito bowl is triggering AF. This is heightened by the fact that people are stuck inside without their normal coping mechanisms which for a lot of people may be the gym. The sheer amount of home workouts is quite overwhelming at the moment, and if you’re following that content and feeling stressed, then my advice is to make adjustments to your feed. Unfollow people who are making you feel like shit about your current activity levels and do what is possible for your health each day. 

“Home workouts are fat phobic” 

Saying that home workouts are fat phobic suggests that people are working out for the sole purpose of preventing or losing fat which isn’t true. Obviously lots of people workout to change their body, but should they be labelled fat phobic because they don’t want to gain fat? The word phobia means an irrational fear… is it irrational to fear fat when we know there are health issues linked with obesity? Or does fatphobia stem from being conditioned to see fat as unattractive? I think it’s a combination of both, but I also think it depends on each persons’ view, for example, somebody who fears becoming a size 12 because their thighs might jiggle has been conditioned by society to believe that jiggling thighs are an abnormal flaw which need elimination in order for them to become attractive and successful (cue the fitspo influencers to pray on you with their ‘quick fix’ products). But in reality, having jiggly thighs doesn’t make you an unhealthy person nor an unattractive one. However, somebody who fears becoming a size 22 because of the effects it might have on their health is different. 

By saying that all home workouts are fat phobic makes many assumptions about the person both delivering and partaking in the home workout. 

“It’s too much of a stressful time to be thinking about home workouts. The fact that the world is obsessing over exercise right now shows how obsessed we are with our appearance.” 

I agree with this to a degree, but again, it assumes that people are working out solely for how they look.

In truth, the majority of the population right now is not exercising or even thinking about it. Looking at social media and making a blanket statement about ‘the population’ based on your followers doing home workouts reminds me of when every millennial thought that Labour was going to win the election. All we’d seen for months was memes about Labour winning because we were only looking at a blinkered reality through our phones. Labour was absolutely annihilated in the election and it came as a shock to people using social media as their main source of information.

It’s important to remember that any fitness professional is going to be posting live workouts right now because they are using it as an opportunity to engage with their audience, win new clients and keep putting food on the table for themselves. 

I think the conflict between these two parties is due to these blanket statements which have no place in the fitness industry and I feel as though this is where the problem lies. Everybody has different experiences and circumstances so it’s impossible to say what’s right or wrong for everybody. 

So why all the bold statements? One word… engagement. Some of the most successful politicians and influencers in the world have as many haters as they do supporters. That’s because you’re far more likely to get people to love you if your captions contain extreme, clickbaity shit. Nobody likes someone who sits on the fence. Of course not everybody is deliberately pushing a narrative for engagement, some people have had experiences which they’re very passionate about which drives their content, however, I guarantee that the leaders in both the fitspo and haes spaces know exactly what they’re doing.

I cannot put myself in one camp or the other.

I feel all of these things;

 

  • – I love fitness and exercise
  • – I think it’s important to move our bodies daily 
  • – I think it’s essential for everybody to partake in resistance training
  • – I’m passionate about functional movement and pilates
  • – I enjoy keeping my body toned and muscular
  • – I think that weight management is important and we shouldn’t ignore the risks associated with obesity.
  • – I think it’s important to hit our daily protein target and eat plenty of fruit and veggies

But also

  • – I think it’s important to listen to your body and move for enjoyment
  • – I think beauty standards take up way too much of women’s time and energy and challenging this by celebrating different shapes and sizes is extremely important
  • – I think that diet culture is a little bitch and has caused so much disordered eating 
  • – I think we should be able to enjoy chocolate not as a monthly treat
  • – I think health can be achieved at a range of sizes

 

What are your thoughts? I’ll also be doing this blog as a podcast for those who want to listen instead of read!

@hells_fitness