There is a disturbing trend appearing in the health and fitness industry and that is fat shaming fellow gym goers. In recent months we have seen competitive body builder, Dianne Andrews, share a body-shaming photo of a fellow gym-goer and model Dani Mathews posting a naked photo of a woman in a gym changing room.
Fat shaming is the act of bullying, singling out, discriminating or making fun of a fat person. The reality is fat shaming is an individual bias against people who are perceived as lazy or lacking self control.
Fat shaming is a vile and cruel reality faced by a lot of gym goers.
For many, attitudes to fat are such that we perceive things like wearing bikinis, revealing clothes or going to the gym off limits for fat people - these are healthy things reserved for healthy people!
Fat bodies are believed to be lazy, ugly, inactive, unattractive, unhealthy, unsuccessful and unhappy. Even though we expect fat people to want to lose weight and be healthy, many face ridicule from doing trying to so in public.
Fat people are regularly mocked and shamed if they do healthy things, appear confident or comfortable in their own skin – photos are taken, comments that can never be taken back are made and articles are written that shame.
But it’s not just the physical act of publicly singling out someone that constitutes fat shaming.
Signs that you are fat shaming include feeling superior in comparison to overweight or obese people, viewing leanness as an attribute of self control and health, being critical and judgmental of others by assuming weight is a lifestyle choice or looking down on others because they are not eating clean, dieting, counting macros etc.
And what is worse, many people will act as if their judgemental and hurtful comments are fair because they are performed under the guise of helping the person who is overweight/obese realise they are unhealthy. Whatever your opinion of fat shaming is, the research is very clear that stigma and discrimination against overweight people causes major psychological harm and makes the problem worse.
When you engage in fat shaming behaviours you are sending out the message that you feel, by virtue of your leanness, superior and that fat people are forbidden from enjoying their bodies in the same way.
For those of us who are not natural gym bunnies or bro’s the gym is a scary place. Not only can the equipment be intimidating, but the gym-goers themselves can make you feel insecure and uncomfortable – are they judging you or worse, making fun of you and taking photos to share with friends?
I believe that bodies are more than objects to be made skinny, lean and pretty and I would like to be the sort of person and trainer that supports women and men feel beautiful, regardless of their size.
Fat shaming is a sad reality, faced by many. But what can we do about it?
We should be supporting anyone who is getting fit, whether they’re in the gym or somewhere else.
Always remember, the gym has many benefits including a positive impact on our mental health. Exercise makes you less likely to get sick, helps you sleep better at night and will boost your confidence and self esteem. Exercise is one of the most powerful tools to increase your happiness, energy levels and wellbeing. These motivations are universal!
The gym is a place to celebrate what our bodies can do, to improve our self-esteem and confidence and to create and reach new goals. The narrow mindedness possessed by some who treat the gym as a shrine to work on their perfect body (and shame every one who doesn’t look like them) is a very sad reflection of the health and fitness industry all together.
When you walk into a gym, regardless of your size or your goals, you have a right be there, to celebrate your body and feel good. Either we support our fellow gym goers to celebrate their unique bodies and honour their health, fitness and strength, or we keep our mouth shut.