I have a significant love-hate relationship with fitness apps and modern fitness culture. I mean, obviously I find parts of it extremely useful. Without the community and tools available now, I would be a quite different state. I’m happier and more in-control of my life now. Thanks for the help, modern fitness culture! (Or, more accurately: thanks, Internet!)
That’s… pretty much where the love ends, actually. But it is a significant love. I’ve never met data I didn’t like, because I can then view that statistical data and parse it into actionable change when I feel it is necessary.
But spoiler alert: no one but the individual can tell when actionable change in necessary. There are a dozen different one-size-fits-all falsehoods regarding fitness and physical health. For me, there’s a lot of taking what I need and throwing out the rest. Except “throwing out the rest” is exhausting. “The rest” is often deeply, deeply problematic. And it’s hard to tell what “the rest” is until you’ve been embroiled in misinformation for so long that it feels normal.
So, with the obligatory statement that yes, these things can be very useful, and yes, I have used them to personal success, I now feel ready to discuss…
Some of the Things I Hate About Modern Fitness Culture
1. The Word “Fit”
I don’t know how to explain how much I hate the word “fit.” It leaves me feeling icky. I want to shake people when they use it, and beg them just to say what they mean. Because usually they mean, “physically ideal,” not “in good physical health,” and these two things are not synonymous.
It’s not that I have a problem with using a word that easily explains, “Hey, this person is in good physical health and relatively athletic.” We use words to mean things — I’m a writer, I get it. And I have absolutely no qualms with people who are physically fit. But I feel like at some point in the otts we decided to define “fit” as “not fat,” or “visually appealing to the male gaze.” And while I personally like being appealing to a specific male gaze, it’s not a woman’s job to be properly ornamental for the men around her. But unfortunately, we place a weird moral imperative on being compliant with fitness, thinness, and the male gaze.
When I initially started writing my draft, I was like, “Ashley, can you even prove that the word ‘fit’ is all about male gaze, rather than fitness?” So I decided to check. I started by searching the word “fit” on Pinterest, and god help me, I sort of wish I hadn’t. For one, I really hope Pinterest doesn’t take this as a sign that I’d like to see more “fitspiration,” because fuck that. A lot.
Just… scroll down for a while. Look not just at the bodies but at the way they’re being presented. They’re angled and zoomed and cropped in ways that have very little with showing the ways a woman’s body changes as her fitness increases.1 Also note: I scrolled down until I wanted to throw my computer through the screen door, and I only saw two men. And there’s only one type of body on display in these pieces. In reality, people are shaped and defined in a wide variety of ways.
But hey, maybe this is unfair. After all, Pinterest is very much a “girl” thing. So let’s go the most gender agnostic place I can think to: Google Images. And while this search reveals more dudes — equally unattainable bodies, equally guilty of only displaying one type of body2 — I believe my male gaze point stands.
Also, there’s a car called the Fit.
2. The Rampant, Depressing Sexism
The unfortunate thing about me is that engagement in communities helps me maintain interest and involvement. So I use MyFitnessPal to track my food intake — see more about this in #3 — and I unfortunately find it helpful to spend time on their horridly sexist, fat-shaming forums.
I mean, I understand why I keep going back. These are people like me, who understand me (sort of) and are going through the same life experiences as me (kind of). In real life I only recently met one of other person who had lost significant weight using the same website, and I love her because she gets my brain on these things. And she isn’t terrible! Unlike the MFP forums, which are the worst places on Earth. (Sometimes.)
Like I addressed in the depressing Pinterest thing above, weight loss is a thing directed at women through male gaze. I’m not saying that dudes come at us all “YOU’RE FAT” (even though in some cases they really kind of do). Rather, it’s that women hold themselves (and other women) to an ideal created by the Mythical Straight Man, based on what we’re told the Mythical Straight Man wants by pop culture and the sort of assholes who perpetuate pop culture. Since this is a thing passed on mostly through media, whether or not this actually defines the men in a woman’s life…. varies. (#NotAllMen)
So in addition to having men on this website give what they suppose is their best compliment — a lewd comment and a request for nudes — we have women also perpetuating this sort of body hate. The words people use to describe their bodies and the bodies of people around them is gross. It’s frustrating.3
Okay, this post is going on forever. I’m gonna make a second page!
1. Most of them appear to be THIS A ROUND BUTT LOOK AT THIS BUTT HAVE A BETTER BUTT because apparently the Internet is into asses.
2. That I guess maybe men aspire to? Guys, this one of the things I don’t know about you. I know that men feel pressure to look a certain way as well, but I don’t know what men consider their own ideal. But I’d also like to stop and say I know guys feel this pressure, but it’s not the same. More on this in another post, probably.
3. On a personal note, seeing people who started their weight loss in my goal weight range talk about how disgusting, fat, and unloveable they were? Also not a great feeling.