Despite the gym boom we are fatter than ever.

This piece from Mark Dapin in the SMH details how despite the growing number of gyms in Sydney the population is still, statistically, becoming fatter. Usually I like Mark Dapin’s writing, it is funny and usually about himself and his experiences as a father, husband, writer and lover of roundabouts (the ones in the middle of the road). But this isn’t one of his good ones. There are too many things just accepted as fact that aren’t. Perhaps because Dapin is like me and isn’t a fitness expert. But then again the people he talks to for this article are supposed to be fitness experts and I would question that too.

According to the founder of gut busters being thin nowdays is simply proof that you can afford someone to help you to be thin in a ‘obesogenic’ age. Which, quite frankly is crap.

Then Dapin meets Michelle Bridges. As two of his friends have recently lost a significant amount of weight using her new diet she obviously knows what she is on about. I disagree. I could write a restrictive diet and sell it and people would lose weight. I have absolutely no qualifications but with a smattering of googling you bet I could come up with something that helped people lose weight – short term just like Bridges does. It doesn’t mean that I have any idea what I am talking about. It doesn’t mean that the people who have lost the weight are in any way better off either.

Bridges: “As I said to one of my contestants, You’re standing on the corner of Man-Up Road and Pussy Street. Which way are you going?'”

I’m going down ‘F you and your sexist crap’ Way.

Out of all of this I think this is what I found most disturbing:

Bridges: “And a lot of exercises that used to be contraindicated are now the latest fad,” she says, “like burpees. Once upon a time in the fitness world, people were like, ‘Don’t give anyone burpees: they’re so bad for you.’ Now, I prescribe them in the newspaper.”

Now I prescribe them in the newspaper. For people I have never seen, for whom I am not there for to ensure they are doing it properly and not doing themselves an injury. I wonder if they are able to sue if they do get injured?

Luke Istomin: …even rolling the ab wheel is back. “That was ruled out a couple of years ago because people thought it was too bad for your lower back,” he says, “but if your core strength is fine, you can do that.”

I’m assuming that this guy works at a gym where they check that people’s core strength is fine. I certainly hope so. Where is this blase attitude about people’s bodies coming from? Is it be thin at all costs including your bodily integrity?

Shannon Ponton from TBL, scarily, comes closest to making sense.

He says people always ask him, “What’s the easiest way to lose weight?”

“There is no easy way,” says Ponton, “and the more fads and gadgets people come up with – the Abdomenizer 1000, 2000, 3000 or 4000, where you can get abs in three minutes a day – it makes business better for us.

“Because people know that once they’ve come home at three o’clock in the morning, drunk, and bought an Ab Sculptor off infomercials and it doesn’t work, that they’ve really got to come in and do some hard work.

“It takes commitment, it takes consistency and it takes discipline, which, at the moment, rules out about 85 per cent of our population because they’re just soft.”

Unfortunately he is also caught up in the thin is beautiful. What is wrong with being fit? Just being fit, as fit as you are able to be in your personal circumstances? Why are people soft if they don’t enjoy punishing workouts? How about trainers take up the challenge of making exercise fun before telling everyone they must do it? How about making it possible for everyone who wants to, to exercise? Or would that mean too much hard work? Who is soft now?

This comment also really pissed me off:

“In Australia we have an obesity crisis. We don’t really have a flexibility crisis.”

We don’t have an obesity crisis. We have a fat hate crisis. If everyone got over this ‘fat is bad m-kay’ reflex and concentrated on letting people live their own lives then we wouldn’t have a crisis. Personally I’d much rather be flexible than thin. I don’t care that pilates won’t make me thin because it makes me feel stronger and more flexible and more comfortable in my body. My fat body.

But how are we ever going to get any sort of acceptance of people’s bodies if we have this crap circulating constantly in the media? As a good friend of mine said “If you are looking for your business you won’t find it on my plate” to which I’d add “or on my body” unless of course I choose to share with you and that is strictly invitation only.

Categories: health, media

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14 replies

  1. ‘obesogenic’ ROFL
    I don’t have anything else to say because the OMG FATTIES EVERYWHUR paroxysms in the media are so commonplace now, but are you aware of Exciting Fat People!? That and This is Thin Privilege are my preferred methods of dealing with the war against my body and others like it.

  2. I resent the implication that unless you are going to the gym and working out a lot you are somehow ‘soft’. For some just getting out of bed and being functional is a massive effort of willpower.

  3. I tried to deal with that in the post Angharad, if I failed I am sorry. If going to the gym is so important then I think it is up to trainers to make them accessible, affordable and able to cater for the wide range of needs of different people.

  4. Oh yeah, sorry I missed that bit. I guess I had a rage induced reading fail :-).
    I totally agree on the making it fun for everyone. I hate ‘exercise’ but I love yoga and dance and gardening. And apparently if you tell people that housework is good exercise and good for them they actually get fitter while doing it (well this experiment was actually done with hotel cleaners, but I figure the same would apply).

  5. This is ridiculous. Any reasonable look at the situation would indicate we should encourage people to be as physically active as is appropriate, and to eat as health as possible within time and money restraints. That’s what would make us a healthier nation. And even then, if someone wanted to have a sedentary lifestyle and eat one type of food all day, it wouldn’t be any of our business. The major reason that we don’t have that as a social consensus is because there is so much money to be made in making us feel bad about ourselves.

  6. “Despite more people going to the beach to get wet, towels for drying are selling more than ever!”

  7. “What is wrong with being fit? Just being fit, as fit as you are able to be in your personal circumstances? ”
    THIS. So much this.
    Anecdote time: I’m bigger’n I used to be, what with middle age and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. I was managing it well enough by cutting out a few more sugary foods and getting in a fair bit of walking (I do about 45 minutes every morning just commuting). I recently thought, having seen a new bra shop in town for D-cup and up, that I should get measured, since it’s been a while. I was surprised and pleased to find that yes, I am now a D-cup (and splurged more money on a bra than I’ve ever done in my life).
    Thing is, okay, I’m taking part in the “bigger boobs are good!” thing, I know that, though I don’t give a stuff whether any man save my beloved notices them – in fact I’d rather they didn’t. But I look at myself now, nearly fifty, probably carrying more weight than is really good for me, but happy with it: I don’t want to lose weight. I look damn good, as far as I’m concerned (ditto the only other person whose opinion matters).
    The only thing causing me concern about my weight is that I’ve damaged my knee somehow – torn meniscus, cartilage fissure – and I’ve had to cut my walking right down. Does that mean I’m going to diet or look for non-knee-ruining exercises to maintain my current weight? Nope. Screw the diet industry and the exercise industry and all their garbage.
    Hmm, that was a rambling tl:dr – hope someone got something out of it (other than me venting).
    Seconding about Mark Dapin, Mindy. Why can’t he write about roundabouts? I loved his articles about roundabouts in Good Weekend, when he was nine centimetres tall!

  8. I signed up to Michelle Bridge’s thing online (one friend was had signed up in person and was encouraging me to, then another was raving about the good results on FB, then I got tipsy and thought “whee! what a great idea! *click*”) I was put off on day one when her welcome video said something about it being crazy not to have a shower every day, and exercise is the same, you just need to get in the daily routine. Screw you, Michelle Bridges. Some days it is almost impossible for some of us just to get out of bed, let alone have a shower.

  9. Thanks for writing about this. This piece made me so annoyed when I read it, the point where I couldn’t read it again to analyse it. Thank you for saying everything I thought!
    Exercise isn’t about looking good, it’s about feeling good and that’s what all these trainers don’t understand.

  10. Frances – not to mention that their notion of “looking good” is extremely narrow even within this time and culture. Me, I think someone with what I’d call comfortable flesh looks a whole lot better than the taut or overmuscled (again, describing my taste only) gym-inhabitant types.

    • I find the very taut and muscly bodies of dancers and acrobats and tournament martial artists highly aesthetically attractive because of the way those bodies move. Bodies which have been sculpted specifically with an eye to looking good in photographs/poses I tend to find far less attractive, since many of those bodies seem to lack much in the way of litheness and agility.
      I would go so far as to say that it is actually the litheness and agility that is the aesthetic which really appeals to me, and I’ve seen many fat bodies which have that and many thin/taut bodies which do not. Also at the end of the day, it is just a level of aesthetic appreciation, and it says nothing at all about character or worthiness.

  11. Kitteh’s unpaid help, I have just overcome a knee crisis with the help of a physio, and can I derail a moment to say that physios are AWESOME, and if you aren’t already seeing one it will probably make things a hell of a lot better. Sorry for the shillin’, but I really am on a high because my knee is so much better and this time 6 months ago I could barely walk. It does a bit extra for your general all-over wellbeing doing all those exercises, too, I think.
    Angharad, I’ve long suspected that doing more than our share of housework might be one of the factors behind women living longer than men. Even if you’re just wiping bench tops or sweeping, you’re up and moving about rather than just sitting for significant chunks of time. Yet another reason why men should assume a more equal share!

  12. Physical activity in many ways is not a good predictor of life expectancy. The people with the lowest life expectancy tend to be men in manual jobs, who are often getting more than their fair share of exercise by any measure. They are also more likely to be exposed to toxic chemicals, dangerous machinery, and other health hazards; have a greater risk of suicide; and be more likely to be victims of violent crime than non-manual classes. Moreover, although this isn’t something that’s really discussed anymore, there used to be considerable concern that such men were ‘wearing out’ their bodies, as they often had chronic illnesses by middle age. My father, a builder, for example has severe arthritis in his hands and knees, which makes doing his job very difficult. It’s hard to know whether that’s genetics, bad luck, or the nature of a job that took its toll on those parts of his body (or a combination of all of the above).
    In contrast, perhaps including some of the most sedentary occupations, professional men and women both live longer than anyone else, but professional women live longer than professional men. Whether housework explains that gap is hard to know, but, the suspects given the blame are usually that men are more likely to smoke and drink more alcohol. This is now changing, however, so it will be interesting to see how this alters in the future.

  13. Helen, really glad to hear that! The dreaded Dicky Knee stuffs everything up, doesn’t it?
    I’ve been seeing an osteopath for months, and it was because my knee didn’t respond that she sent me off for an MRI and now to the surgeon. It sounds like the meniscus tear is something that’ll fix itself eventually, but the cartilage fissure needs to be glued back together, or something along those lines. Fingers crossed this proves to be straightforward and not hyper-expensive! It’s the wallet repair that’s most on my mind. 😛

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