Sometimes I kind of live in an Operation Move bubble. And I think that whatever running or fitness groups you are in or pages you follow all support what we do which is all about appreciating the body for what it can do, not what it looks like. I like a gun show and progress photos as much as the next person but we don’t do body shame. Ever. Shame doesn’t motivate people.
Not that long ago I got sent some prospective copy for one of our website pages and it had a bit of body shame about it in the tone and I cried for two days. And I felt physically ill over it. It’s not some kind of ideal or abstract concept to me. It is really personal. Because I was that person. I know how it feels for people to judge what you eat based on how you look. Or to sneer at you because your face goes beetroot in the gym. Or look at you with contempt because of the way your clothes look. I know all of those things. And if those people knew half of the courage it took me to even be in a gym or outside on a run in the first place, they might rethink it.
But every now and then somebody sends me something that is like a slap in the face. In the real world, especially in the fitness world, body shaming happens all the time. Sometimes it is subtle and insidious and sometimes it is all out, blatant shaming. But it is there and it is abhorrent.
The goal of fitness advocacy or running advocacy or weights advocacy is more people in the sport. Not less. We don’t want to foster some kind of exclusive club that you only get to be a part of if you look a certain way, or you dress a certain way or you body is a certain shape. That is not a club I want to be a part of.
I am in the business of telling people that they can. Sure there are obstacles but there are ways around them. If you can’t run, you can walk. If you don’t have dumbbells – you can use cans from the kitchen. If you are not ready to go to a gym – there are things that you can do at home. I am not in the business of ridiculing people who are being brave.
Accessibility is everything. It doesn’t take much for me to give a fellow runner a big smile when our paths cross on a morning run to let them know I am on their team. It doesn’t take much to support people in their achievements. And if you are passionate about fitness that means fitness for everyone, not just some small subset that you deem are worthy enough.
So the next time you see someone being body-shamed, because they are too big to be at the gym or they are wearing the wrong clothes, don’t ignore it – stand up for that person. Because you have no idea how much more challenging there world is. You have no idea how much judgement they have already absorbed. You have no idea what they are capable of. You have no idea what their history is. And you want that person on your team.