Diet & Weight Magazine

What Fat Olympians Prove (And What They Don’t)

By Danceswithfat @danceswithfat

Nothing to proveAs the Olympics happen, we’re seeing athletes of lots of different sizes compete and win, which is super cool! What follows is a lot of people trying to interpret what that “proves” which is often super not-cool. While almost all are well-meaning, some of these interpretations end up being healthist and problematic for lots of reasons. So I wanted to look at some of the claims that I’ve been seeing and break them down.  I’ll also point out that a lot of the mistakes that are being made are mistakes that I’ve made in the past, and my pointing them out are the ways of honoring the people who were kind enough to educate me.

This proves there’s no excuse not to be fit at any size

Nope, nope, nope.  Nobody of any size is obligated to “be fit” by any definition.  Nobody needs an excuse to make choices about their free time that don’t include fitness, just like nobody needs an excuse to make choices about their free time that do include fitness.  This whole “no excuses” fitness culture is a steaming heap of bullshit. Everyone should have the opportunity and access to participate in fitness if they want to, nobody has an obligation. People who participate in fitness are no better or more “moral” than people who do other things with their time.

This proves that anyone of any size can be an Olympian

Slow down there sparky.  Becoming an Olympian requires a combination of physiology, opportunity, privilege, and hard work. There are many, many people who have the  work ethic but don’t have the combination of physiology, opportunity and privilege required. When we gloss over this we ignore the fact that these opportunities are not accessible to everyone who is interested in them (and how that is often expressed in ways that are racist, classist, sizeist, ableist and more.)

This proves that everyone of every size can be healthy

This one is a problem for a lot of reasons.  First, don’t confuse athletically successful with healthy.  Many athletes push far beyond what would most support their bodies’ health – risking  and getting expensive sports-related injuries that they wouldn’t otherwise be at risk for – in order to be successful at their sport.  They are absolutely allowed to do that – their bodies, their choice (though that doesn’t meant that we shouldn’t be asking questions about the way that sports are managed/judged and what is really “required.”)  Moreover, health is difficult to define, multi-faceted, not an obligation, not a barometer of worthiness, and not entirely within our control or guaranteed under any circumstances.

This proves that anyone of any size can be an athlete

This should be true, and it would be true in a world where people had the same levels of access to the athletic endeavors that they are interested in, and didn’t deal with sizeism as an excluding factor (along with racism, classism, ableism, ageism and more.) Unfortunately that’s not the world that we live in.  Fat people regularly have terrible experiences within the fitness world, from people abusing them, to coaches refusing to work with them unless and until they become thin, to people insisting that no matter what they achieve they can’t be an athlete until they are thin.

This proves that we shouldn’t make assumptions about athletic ability based on body size

This one I can get behind, though I’d point out that we shouldn’t make assumptions about anything based on size.

In general, I think that if you want to celebrate fat athletes, that’s awesome, but be careful not to celebrate in ways that end up hurting others, and consider not letting your celebration get in the way of asking critical questions about how people are oppressed in the world of athletics, and how athletics are used to oppress people.


This year we have a kick ass line up of speakers talking about everything from Re-Imagining Fashion from an Inclusive Framework” to “Activism for the Introverted and Anxious” to “Building Fat Patient Power While Accessing Healthcare” and moreThis is a virtual conference so you can listen by phone or computer wherever you are, and you’ll receive recordings and transcripts of each talk so that you can listen/read on your own schedule.  We also offer a pay what you can afford option to make the conference accessible to everyone. The Conference will be held September 23-25, 2016

Click Here to Register!

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

Check out the Body Confidence Blog Carnival! Eleven days of awesomeness

Like my work?  Want to help me keep doing it? Become a Member! For ten bucks a month you can support size diversity activism, help keep the blog ad free, and get deals from size positive businesses as a thank you.  Click here for details

Book and Dance Class Sale!  I’m on a journey to complete an IRONMAN triathlon, and I’m having a sale on all my books, DVDs, and digital downloads to help pay for it. You get books and dance classes, I get spandex clothes and bike parts. Everybody wins! If you want, you can check it out here!

Book Me!  I’d love to speak to your organization. You can get more information here or just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org!

I’m training for an IRONMAN! You can follow my journey at

If you are uncomfortable with my offering things for sale on this site, you are invited to check out this post.

You Might Also Like :

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog

These articles might interest you :

  • NHS at 70

    This is the script of this morning’s Thought for the Day on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme:As we approach the 70th anniversary of the founding of the National... Read more

    12 hours, 30 minutes ago by   Nicholas Baines
  • John Cale: Antwerp 2018/06/24 Setlist

    John Cale: Antwerp 2018/06/24 Setlist

    John Cale performed at Ppenluchttheater Rivierenhof, Antwerp, Belgium - - June 24, 2018. The band: John Cale: vocals, electric guitar, keyboards, viola Dustin... Read more

    13 hours, 19 minutes ago by   Hctf
  • Josie at the Beach

    Josie Beach

    Read more

    13 hours, 21 minutes ago by   Vickilane
  • Communication Lessons

    What is the one question that almost all human beings seek the answer for? For most of their lives? Yeah, I know, there are those strange beings who want "Who a... Read more

    15 hours, 59 minutes ago by   C. Suresh
  • Take Five with Sonny Dhanowa

    Take Five with Sonny Dhanowa

    Photo credit: Hans van der Linden Meet Sonny Dhanowa from Trowbridge in the UK. After studying Biological and Medicinal Chemistry at the University of Exeter,... Read more

    16 hours, 17 minutes ago by   Nessascityblog
  • Daughter of Madness by Amanda J. McGee

    Daughter Madness Amanda McGee

    GUEST POST5 Favorite BooksWhat author doesn’t like to talk about her favorite books? My problem is narrowing it down, honestly, which is a problem I’m sure... Read more

    17 hours, 51 minutes ago by   Lauriej
  • Like the Famous Flour Bakery Banana Bread - HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

    Like Famous Flour Bakery Banana Bread HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

    version;I'm sure that many enthusiastic bakers would have known or baked this highly reviewed Flour Bakery bread recipe from the book, Flour by Joanne Chang or... Read more

    The 24 June 2018 by   Zoebakeforhappykids