Monday, 30 March 2015

The fitness fantasy - Fit vs Fiction

btw Fit vs Fiction is already a website and I stole their name for that so check it out.
I am now pretty much working full time as part gardener/ part urban farmer. This means on most days I am out and about pruning things, weeding, digging, planting - generally hanging out with plants and sometimes animals.  I have had quite a few responses to my new line of work but a really common and really annoying one is..... 'You must get SO FIT'.
And why should I be annoyed about this? Isn't it good Talia to be fit because doesn't that mean I am healthy? Isn't that part of the anti-obesity campaign? Except fitness in this day and age no longer just means 'healthy' and everyone knows it including gyms and the multi-billion dollar fitness industry that doesn't use fit, healthy models to promote their products; it uses slim, toned, lithe i.e. thin 'toned' models with glossy hair, perfect makeup and botoxed foreheads.

In actual fact, what the fitness industry does not say is that you can be super fit and shock horror above your BMI. That's right - not just not thin but bigger than western ideals of 'health' would have you believe.  This little fact is super underplayed because in reality the fitness corporations thrive off the same multi-billion dollar industry the weightloss companies thrive off- Bodyshaming;  that racist, sexist, horrendous, twisted, oppressive subjugation of women and men all over the shop to fit in to a generally white, extremely specific body shape which is anyway created by computer graphics or a shit ton of money (plastic surgery, gyms, specific clothes, toning shoes, injections, weightloss pills, steroids, speed, insanity...) 
Now I know that when people of the world say to me 'you must get so fit gardening', what they want me to do is get involved with them and the big fitness marketing vampires and collude in the idea that fit is the kind of fit that boys used to call girls when I was a teenager, i.e. Jessica Alba. They are expressing a bit of envy that my job will get me the body of my dreams, even if they are doing it subconsciously. But it wont be the body of my dreams, because 1: my dream is to love the body I have and 2: because fitness does not mean what you think it means! Yes I will be fit and yes I might be able to squat longer than the average joe due to excessive weeding but that is about it because unless you train 10 hours a day and stick to a spinach diet, that body you are dreaming of is Unattainable! Saying the 'fit' comment to me reminds me of the pressure I fight and sometimes lose to everyday that I need to fit the stereotype, that there are bits of my body I have been made to hate by lies. Saying it to me makes me feel I need to work even harder so that when we hit the beech I have met everyone's expectations of all of a sudden rocking the athlete figure.

I only too well understand the pressure to fit the body stereotype. I know what it is like to lie to myself over and over again about the idea of getting 'fit' in order to be 'healthy' when really I just want some more abs definition.  I know so incredibly well how easy it is to fool yourself into trying (And often failing) to lose weight for 'health' reasons by exercising or cutting out food groups. Once I went through a whole stage of pretty much only eating cantaloupe - a specific melon....and I struggle with fighting the media and making myself ok with my body every single day and have done for years and years and years.  I can and I will win in the bid to be happy in my skin but it is really, really hard for me to do it when others expect me to collude with them in the world's fitness fantasy. 

I just want to say that do whatever you like, diet, don't diet, jog, don't jog, gym everyday, gym never, feel like you need to exercise because you sit at a desk all day so take up the triathlon, or exercise because you think you need to change your body, do what you gotta do at this moment in time but don't get me involved. Don't make me agree 'yeah, it is so good to do spin class because I really feel the health benefits' when what you are trying to say is I want to be healthy but also have a super hot bod for the summer. No, I just do not want to talk to you about it. And maybe it isn't clear cut because guidelines on what is a healthy weight is so complex.  Being over your BMI decreases your chances of osteoporosis (little known because Osteoporosis is not a a huge corporate machine so can't get advertising space like weight loss can) and in case you get ill it is often good to have a bit of so called 'extra' and depending on how much over your BMI you are and what your general body shape is, it has absolutely no health problems whatsoever - so yes it is complicated and yes maybe it is a bit of both, fit, healthy, slim. whev. I don't really want to talk about it. Unless you want to have a good old rant about how body shaming oppresses people everywhere and you want to get together and plot about how we can throw the shackles of body oppression from the media, food industries, all adverts, internet, tv off our backs and kill it for good - then I am the person for that and let's rant away. 

This post doesn't even begin to cover the moral judgements we put on people with different weights! (how eating certain foods is bad and naughty and how we judge people of all weights all the time)  that is for next time, but I do want to quickly bring up eating disorders - something probably 60% of the people I know have dealt with in their lifetimes, maybe more.  When you talk about your fitness and eating regimes, you may not realise the effect they have on people with eating disorders and LOTS of people have eating disorders that you would never ever know about so just be sensitive when you decide to get in to details about how and why you eat and exercise how you do. There is more info on how to be an ally to people with eating disorders here - some of these rules you should just use with all people because you do not know their history.

And another cool article I just found on this topic
Loads of the image are from this place which is a great facebook page!

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