Measuring Fitness – Rant Warning!

Man I’m feeling *so* cranky sitting here reading a couple of blogs that it’s time I started making some noise about this nasty distortion!

Backstory: I bought the wondermachine, a Thermomix, a few months ago – finally. I’ve wanted one for a couple of years and if you read my blog regularly you know that I had a big wake up earlier this year and as part of my ‘life is too short to…’ attitude, I decided life is too short to hanker after something so great and not have it to use.

And so I bought one, all $1997 worth of Thermy goodness, and I use it every single day, at least once, usually way more often. It’s replaced about nine other machines in my kitchen and is so powerful it even makes a green smoothie with zero chewy bits! I make my own bread from whole wheat, my own butter, chopped salads in minutes, hot scrumptious soups in 20 minutes etc – it’s a wonderful thing, I’m completely in love with it and feeling great because it’s that much easier to eat fresh food.

Most days I find a recipe for something yummy on one of the many thermomix blogs and forums and usually nip straight into the kitchen to make it, without closing the tab in my browser (hello forty tabs slowing down my computer). (Oh last night: Nigella’s chicken nuggets royale – you start with chicken breast soaked in buttermilk – woah!) This morning I sat down to start work and had to close some of those tabs to get some speed on the old machine and you know, just read a little bit of a great blog. This blog is really popular, has thousands of facebook followers and I completely agree with the main writer’s nutritional views.

One of the side menu links was to another article called ‘Fall Fitness Challenge’ by a different author, and I should have known what it would actually be about when the first pics on the page were of the first participant’s before and after pics. But like watching a train wreck I kept reading. (Yes I know there’s no link to the page, and there won’t be unless I stop fuming by the time I get to the end of this rant.) The woman wanted to gain weight and also reduce her body fat percentage. Now this was a thin woman, like 98 pounds. Anyhoo you know it’s her body, and she reported feeling a lot stronger after the 30 day challenge, and she reduced her body fat percentage. I don’t remember the other two participants’ stories because by the time I got to the end of th page I was irritated about the emphasis on weight loss and how it was actually framed as ‘fitness’.

And then I saw the picture that had me feeling like wacking my fist through the page on the screen, because it makes such a revolting distortion of meaning. Here it is:

Remember, this is a Fitness Challenge. Let’s look at what exercise scientists call fitness (taken from here):

  • Strength – the extent to which muscles can exert force by contracting against resistance (e.g. holding or restraining an object or person)
  • Power – the ability to exert maximum muscular contraction instantly in an explosive burst of movements. The two components of power are strength and speed. (e.g. jumping or a sprint start)
  • Agility – the ability to perform a series of explosive power movements in rapid succession in opposing directions (e.g. ZigZag running or cutting movements)
  • Balance – the ability to control the body’s position, either stationary (e.g. a handstand) or while moving (e.g. a gymnastics stunt)
  • Flexibility – the ability to achieve an extended range of motion without being impeded by excess tissue, i.e. fat or muscle (e.g. executing a leg split)
  • Local Muscle Endurance – a single muscle’s ability to perform sustained work (e.g. rowing or cycling)
  • Cardiovascular Endurance – the heart’s ability to deliver blood to working muscles and their ability to use it (e.g. running long distances)
  • Strength Endurance – a muscle’s ability to perform a maximum contraction time after time (e.g. continuous explosive rebounding through an entire basketball game)
  • Co-ordination– the ability to integrate the above listed components so that effective movements are achieved.

Of all the nine elements of fitness cardiac respiratory qualities are the most important to develop as they enhance all the other components of the conditioning equation.

 I don’t know about you, but I’ve never ever thought that the way to measure any of those elements of fitness, is with a measuring tape around your waist – particularly such a slender one.

I get that the broader definition of fitness by the World Health Organisation is “a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”. And that for those of us in the midst of the War on Obesity and struggling with the idea that body fat is bad, mental and social wellbeing are very very connected to the stories around what healthy weight actually is.

The thing that is really frying my face right at this moment is the way that the weight loss and fitness industries tie being thin to being healthy and fit.

I’ve said it before, and the Health at Every Size (HAES(R)) Movement says it over and over, and I’ll no doubt say it again many times – and I hope you’ll start saying it every chance you get as well – thin does not automatically equal healthy, and fat does not automatically equal sickness. I will always maintain that every woman has the right to do with her body as she desires, and she desires to change the amount of body fat then that is her right. Go for it, I say. But don’t do it because you think more body fat somehow makes you less fit.

Now it could be that the person who actually put that pic in the article was looking for the quick fix. But it’s way more likely that they are unaware of this massive, destructive distortion, that they really think fit=thin. And so they automatically found and added a weight loss image to a fitness article.

AAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH!

I hope you visit my blog because you’re waking up to the lies that fill the media about health and weight so that you will decide you are not good enough and you will buy the junk they’re selling with the promise that with their product you will be good enough. Because I’m so sick of hearing the lies over and over again. I want you to know this:

You don’t have to buy a single thing to look, feel or be good enough. You only have to decide that you are good enough.

Follow the HAES (R) Principles and your health and happiness are almost guaranteed to increase as you nourish your body with real food and strengthen your mind by letting go of body hating thoughts and feelings.

And you most certainly don’t have to measure your waist to check if you’re fit, ffs.

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2 Comments

  1. Andy on July 14, 2015 at 5:10 pm

    I love this blog post. Well said! I hate it when fitness is being put into the weight loss pot.
    A very annoying thing happened to m at my local gym last week. I had scheduled a session with one of the gym instructors and wanted him to show me the free weights section. One of his first comments when he saw me was: “But you are here to lose weight, aren’t you? You should mainly stick to the cardio machines and maybe do some sit ups and use some of the strength machines. No need to start using the free weights section.” Say what? I explained to him that I wasn’t there to “lose weight” but to get fit and stay healthy. Then I asked him if he’d show me some exercises on free weights or if I had to book a session with another instructor and make an official complaint. Only then I got a proper training session and I had to fight hard for it.
    I still can’t believe this guy! I brought it up with management anyway. Still waiting on their reply!
    Anyway, sorry for the rant! Again: Great post! 🙂
    Andy

    • Sandy Ross on July 15, 2015 at 2:18 pm

      Andy – so many personal trainers have a biased lens I think – everyone “should” have x% body fat, therefore everybody wants that. Good on you for challenging that automatic thinking – maybe shook the trainer’s blinkers a little 🙂 I know a number of personal trainers and 2 out of 3 of them have very rigid ideas of body image. Projection, much? Thanks for commenting.

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