The Debate: Can You Be Fat and Fit?

November 6, 2014 Fitness,Holistic Health,Weight Loss
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gomukasana

Last week I had my most successful blog post ever! I wrote about acing a fitness test, yet being  told I was over the recommended body fat percentage.  XOJane published the post and holy moley, the comments sparked quite a conversation. I’m reposting some of the highlights and sharing my responses:

First, I got so much love, especially from my peeps on Facebook. I can’t tell you how much this fuels me to write my next submission. (Yep, I’m looking at you, HuffPo!)

Several comments asked about personal trainers shaming people for their weight loss goals:

I noticed how reluctant they (personal trainers) were to accept any of my fitness goals that directly targeted weight.…Some trainers are becoming too kumbaya for my taste when it comes to weight loss. 

Thanks for posting this. As you may have already guessed, I lean more towards “kumbaya,” but I have also been through a major weight loss. I understand how personal weight gain/loss is, and I would never assume my clients should walk my path.

As a trainer, I would have a hard time getting on board with a weight loss target for one simple reason: It’s not a promise that I can guarantee. There are too many variables involved to base my professional success (and your self-esteem) on achieving a goal weight. I wrote a post entitled, “Why I Never Promise Weight Loss” about this exact issue.

I think it’s great that you have found comfort in your skin—I applaud that!

It’s also great that your goals for fitness and exercise are so clear (flexibility and movement). But I also know lots of men and women who eat “right” and exercise do so primarily to lose weight/maintain weight/get and stay toned and that’s OK too!

I remember two years ago going to a “women-focused” gym for the first time and the trainer asked me what my fitness goals were. When I said that it was to tone up my arms, to lose about 5 pounds of “wine weight” I had put on and maintain that weight loss, I was told that “[they] don’t do that there [at that gym]” and that a “proper” fitness goal was to run a half marathon or to chase after my kids/nieces/nephews without getting winded. It was certainly odd being a 32 year old woman and being told that my fitness goals were “wrong.”

Here’s my take: I think that wanting to feel hot is a perfectly acceptable fitness goal. I learned sexy, confident, and skillful movements in pole-dancing, kettlebell training, and yoga. If training for a marathon doesn’t light you up and make you feel good, then it doesn’t sound like the right goal for you.

Here’s a question about whether size alone can determine health:

How do you reconcile the fact that some sizes (i.e. those where movement and function are inhibited) seem inherently unhealthy? I understand the goals of the movement, and like the author, am far more fit than my “size” would indicate. But isn’t there a threshold where size alone is unhealthy?

Good question. In the post, I was trying to point out how much weight-loss hysteria has hijacked the fitness industry. As a trainer, I want to help all my clients to move more skillfully in the body they currently inhabit. Regardless of our size, we are constantly told how we might be damaging our health. Bigger folks hear this message even more. My job as a trainer is not to shake my finger at someone and tell them that they are too fat. My job is to make exercise more practical, accessible, and joyful.

And this was my favorite comment:

I’m not clear why the author even agreed to take part in this test, being educated in HAES and knowing that body-fat measurement is not only useless, but that its use contributes to perpetuating falsehoods about the relation of weight to health, and adds to the stigmatization faced by fat athletic folks….

 She agreed because she had lulled herself into a false sense of security..her personal standard of health is just that..personal.

 I took the test because I really wanted to have my fitness measured. I was also critical of fat caliper testing, but wanted to experience it directly to have a more informed opinion about it. I would not have been able to write this piece if I wrote off the whole test as nonsense-I learned a lot from it.

My bottom line: Pinching fat is not how I measure my personal or professional success. We have plenty of fat shaming that mires folks of all sizes. Feeling crappy about ourselves drives us into distorted eating and extreme exercise measures. I’d rather expand mobility, strength, and enable folks to find freedom from the scale.

Sadie has a way of helping my body close the gap between how it is moving and how it should be moving, helping me become a better athlete, co-worker, and friend.

Jessica C.

Sadie puts the fun in hard work! She pushes you to limits you didn’t think you could achieve while offering an upbeat and encouraging atmosphere. I LOVE Sadie!!

Cait S.

Sadie brings extraordinary dimension to her teaching. Her deep knowledge of anatomy combined with her vibrant sense of humor leaves you walking out of each class feeling lighter, moving better, and just plain happier!

Erin D.

Sadie has a passion in what she does and has pushed me to do things I never thought I could. Workouts with Sadie are always fun and full of sass!

Darcy C.

Sadie brings extraordinary dimension to her teaching. Her deep knowledge of anatomy combined with her vibrant sense of humor leaves you walking out of each class feeling lighter, moving better, and just plain happier! – Erin D.

Erin D.

Sadie has a way of helping my body close the gap between how it is moving and how it should be moving, helping me become a better athlete, co-worker, and friend.

Jessica C.

Sadie puts the fun in hard work! She pushes you to limits you didn’t think you could achieve while offering an upbeat and encouraging atmosphere. I LOVE Sadie!!! – Cait S.

Cait S.