Prescribing Exercise

Earlier today I saw an article on Facebook about doctors prescribing exercise to treat various conditions. While I’m not exactly opposed to the idea of discussing exercise as a way to maintain long term health, I’m concerned about what implications the idea of prescription could have. 

I’m wondering about the classism, ableism, and sizeism that could emerge in this. If someone has a chronic condition (mental or physical) that makes it hard to move, prescribed exercise might not be possible. And I know a doctor SHOULD be able to adjust for a patient’s specific needs, but there are too many misunderstood conditions and too many doctors that don’t want to put forth the effort or time to figure that out.

Even if someone is physically and mentally healthy, if they are living in poverty that can throw up more barriers. Someone working three jobs doesn’t exactly have time to go for an evening jog. Low-pay jobs are already more often physically taxing, will physicians count that as exercise or still demand more, which someone might be too busy and exhausted to do?

And of course, this could have horrific implications for fat people. There’s no control on applying this prescription equally. I would be unsurprised if doctors “prescribed” exercise at higher levels and frequencies in fat patients, or even accused them of lying regardless of hard data to back it up. I’m not saying exercise can’t be helpful in maintaining health for people of all sizes, but I don’t trust doctors to not be discriminatory in the application. 

For example, I had a doctor ask me about my exercise, which, fine, that’s something she could be asking everyone. But then the second I started explaining it she interrupted me to tell me how exercise works and how you can’t just stop when you get tired and how you have to gradually increase the amount. All basic stuff that she assumed I wouldn’t know, AFTER she hassled me about not wanting to be weighed. It was clear from her words and demeanor that she was reacting to my being fat. If a thin patient had said the same things she probably would have listened and believed them. 

(The kicker is that I grew up with a certified aerobics instructor/personal trainer for a mother so I probably learned more about exercise just sitting in the back of a class after school than she could imagine.)

So I’m not convinced that this is a workable thing. There’s nothing wrong with recommending exercise for long-term health, but there are too many variables for unequal application and discriminatory behavior to make prescribing it a good idea. 


Real Life and the Good/Bad Dichotomy

I’m not a good fatty. I’m also not a bad fatty. I’m just a fatty. 

Like anyone of any size, my habits vary. I’ve written about this before: some days I live off veggies, other days it’s pizza. 

Sometimes I talk about exercise. Because it’s part of my life. The issue that comes up a lot when a fat person talks about exercise is that they’re promoting the dichotomy between good and bad fatties. 

I don’t want to do that, because the idea of being a “good” fatty is extremely damaging. No one should have to exhibit specific behaviors to be given respect. However, what I eat and what I do are both important parts of my life. 

So just know that when I post about exercise, it’s not promoting weight loss, nor is it implying that doing the same thing I do is some sort of requirement to be worthy of decency. But I’m also not going to stop talking about my own life. 

For good measure, here’s my lunch. It’s probably not “good” by some people’s standards. 


Whole New Levels of Creepy

If anyone reading this (either of you?) is familiar with Ragen over at Dances with Fat, you probably know that she has been training for an IRONMAN triathlon. This past weekend she did a test run, an IRONMAN 70.3 (which is half the distance of the main race), on the same course she’ll be on next year. 

Why am I writing about someone else’s endeavors? Two reasons: first, it didn’t go well, and second, trolls. 

The first point, that it didn’t go well, is an important one. It’s ok to fail. It’s even ok to fail at a physical endeavor when you’re fat. Really! I will let you read Ragen’s own words on the race at her blog, but I wanted to say that there is no shame in trying something new and having it go badly. Anyone who tries something new and challenges themselves is still a rock star in my eyes. 

To the second point: trolls. Ragen has been dealing with them for years, but they have gotten virulently awful since she started training for the IRONMAN. They are sending the usual threats and nasty remarks, but it has gotten more personal. They have threatened to show up while she’s training or racing and physically hurt her. 

And they did show up. Fortunately they didn’t harm her, but someone actually came to the race and took pictures of her, only to gleefully post them later and announce her DNF status. 

I would assume most reasonable people would understand how this is not ok, and how it’s a level of creepy. Actually, creepy isn’t strong enough. This is harassment, plain and simple. Even if they did not engage with her there, and even if it was an event that’s open to the public, the fact remains that at least one person went there simply because she, a fat person who does not hate herself, was competing. Their intent was to belittle and humiliate her. Online after the fact, of course. I’m sure they don’t have the courage to face the consequences that come from doing anything in person. 

But it only takes one deluded creature to carry something out IRL. 
I’m not sure what the solution is. When all they do is mock and take photos, two legal activities, there isn’t really any recourse. I wouldn’t want people blocked from photographing their friends or family in a race because of these losers. But we need to make sure the world is aware that this happens, and that it is a direct result of a culture that prizes thinness and hates fat. 

These people will lose eventually. Fat bodies will be normalized, people will accept that we don’t need to change, and we will triumph. But until then, we need to keep calling out scumbags, blocking them from interacting with us, and making sure our fellow fats are ok. 

I’m Not Trying, I’m Doing

One of the (too many) times I’ve had trolls come after me was when I posted a picture of myself all sweaty and gross after a boxing class. It wasn’t the hateful bigots that bothered me, though. It was some of the people trying to “defend” me.

While there were plenty of awesome people who would just tell the troll where they could stick it, there were also many who said it was ok I was fat because I was “trying.”

There are a few layers to peel back here.

  • I’m only worthy of defense If I’m attempting to change myself. Someone made that comment (basically). They said I should be left alone because I’m “trying” to lose weight/”get healthy”/”improve myself”/some other horrific euphemism and I replied that I practice Health at Every Size. This actually led to them commenting that they would no longer defend me. So I am not a human being worthy of dignity unless I am engaging in some fruitless attempt to make my body more socially acceptable (something that isn’t possible long-term for almost everyone who tries)? Apparently.
  • I must not be an expert at anything physical because I’m fat. I must be new at boxing, new at running, new at swimming, new at Aqua Zumba, and so on. Now, in some cases that’s true. It was an intro boxing class. But I didn’t mention that anywhere. That was an assumption based solely on my appearance. Which was barely visible in my picture, but whatever. The assumption is that I’m trying any physical activity I partake in, not that it’s something I’ve done for years. They’d make the same assumption if I was poolside, and I was on swim teams from elementary through high school.
  • That I must “undo” my exercise somehow, probably through food. Yeah. There have been comments that I must immediately drown myself in ice cream the second I finish a workout. If I did that, what difference would that make? Would that mean I deserve abuse? After a grueling expenditure of energy, my body needs fuel. That’s just how it works. So yeah, some days after I work out I want to eat everything that isn’t nailed down. And I listen to my body for cues about food. I’m not going to deprive it of nutrition when it needs it most.

The takeaway is that you can’t assume you know anything about a person’s lifestyle or habits from their appearance. They could be a size 2 couch potato, a fat marathoner, or anything in between. It doesn’t matter. There’s no excuse for harassment.