Diet & Weight Magazine

If Fatty Can Do It, So Can I

By Danceswithfat @danceswithfat
Photo by Substantia Jones for the Adipositivity Project

Photo by Substantia Jones for the Adipositivity Project

There’s a phenomenon wherein people use fat people as fitness “inspiration” thinking, or even saying to a fat person,  “I saw you [accomplishing some fitness thing] and I just thought, if she can do it, so can I!”

That is not a compliment, and it’s not ok.  Fitness, like health, is multidimensional and not entirely within our control.  (Also, like health, someone prioritization and path to fitness are not a barometer of worthiness, not an obligation, and not anybody else’s business.)  There are genetic components, past behaviors/habits/injuries that can make things easier or harder, our current dis/abilities, what we prioritize and where we are currently on our fitness journey – and that’s for people of all sizes who are working on fitness. Fat people are not automatically the low bar when it comes to fitness and assuming that we are – just like any time we make guesses and judgments about people based on how they look – is stereotyping and bigotry.

Let me try to illustrate how ridiculous this idea is:  I can do the front splits – it took a shit ton of work but it is also because I’m genetically able to stretch in that way.  The fact that I can do it does not mean that anyone who weighs less than I do can also do it.  On the other hand, I cannot do the side splits.  I worked on them for an hour a day for a year and I went from tragically horrible to horrible – I was so far from the ground that you could drive a car under me – at that rate of improvement I was looking forward to celebrating my side splits with a senior-discounted meal. A Pilates instructor finally broke it to me that I simply don’t have the genetic capability to do it – it’s never going to happen.  It’s not because of my size and we can’t assume that because I can’t do it nobody who is bigger than I am can either.  Size does not equal fitness, or fitness capability.

I think that a lot of this comes from misinformation that gets spread (often by people who make their money promising to make people thin) that being thin makes you magically more fit/mobile and is, in fact, the only path to better fitness/mobility.  I’m always frustrated with people who insist that movement will be easier with the same muscle mass but less weight (typically ignoring the fact that weight loss causes muscle loss), but insist that it’s completely impossible that movement will be easier at the same weight but with more muscle mass and/or flexibility.  This leads to fat people getting horrible advice like “don’t lift weights because you don’t want to put anymore weight on.“  It also leads people to think that that they have the capability to do anything that someone larger than they are can do.

The idea that “if [whoever] can do it so can I” is a complete fallacy no matter what we’re discussing, but when applied to fitness – as in “If fatty can do it, so can I” – it becomes not just ridiculous, but insulting as well.

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