The body-shaming that, unfortunately, goes down on social media all the time can be so frustrating that it makes your blood boil. On the bright side, though, for every awful troll on the internet, there's an incredible woman who's ready to put that a-hole in their place — with effortless class, grace, and intelligence, no less. Take Michelle Elman's Instagram about fat-shaming at the gym, for example. In her post, Elman, a body confidence coach, addressed a different social media post she'd seen online, in which someone said that people should "never laugh at the fat person in the gym," because "they are bettering themselves and that should be encouraged." Ugh.
While Elman's post is definitely calling out a SMH moment, the body confidence coach decided to use the opportunity to show her Instagram followers that, while the sentiment in this other post she saw was, perhaps, attempting to come from the right place, it still missed the mark. Elman wrote,
1) Never laugh at a fat person. Full stop. Not in a gym, not anywhere
2) Never laugh at a person ever.
3) Never laugh at anyone in a gym ever.
Elman also took the time in her Instagram post to point out that not every single person — and, more specifically, not every fat person — goes to the gym to lose weight. "Because you have used the word fat and not unhealthy," she wrote, "you have already made the assumption that every fat person in the gym is there to lose weight.
Elman also wrote in her post,
When you oppose fat and "better", in a sentence like that you have already made the assumption that the person is unhealthy. Health is not an appearance.
Unfortunately, there are way too many people in this world who assume that "fat" is equivalent to "unhealthy," even though this is simply not true — and yes, there's research to back that up. One study, for instance, published in the medical journal JAMA Internal Medicine, looked at the relationship between weight and cardiovascular risk factors in a sample group of over 5,400 adults, and found that "a considerable proportion of overweight and obese US adults are metabolically healthy, whereas a considerable proportion of normal-weight adults express a clustering of cardiometabolic abnormalities," as per the research paper. In other words, a person's weight, as a singular factor, cannot predict or shed light on their overall well-being.
Having said all of that, it's possibly even more important to say this: Someone else's health is not your concern. And, IMO, fashion model Tess Holliday illustrated this point perfectly in an interview with SELF back in June:
By telling people that you see a doctor, and telling people that you're healthy, it's perpetuating the abuse against bigger bodies and the mindset that we owe it to people to be healthy. The reality is I don't owe you sh*t and I don't have to prove that I'm healthy or not, because it is nobody's business.
Jumping back to Elman's Instagram post, the body confidence coach also made sure to expand on the point that people go to the gym and work out for so many different reasons, and weight loss doesn't necessarily have to be one of those reasons. She said,
And here is what CAUSES a lot of problems for fat people in the gym. Some go there for fun, some go there for health but because everywhere is so weight loss focused, it becomes this exclusive club where the people who have not achieved "results" do not feel welcome.
Fat or thin, working out for aesthetic results is one of the things that cause an unhealthy relationship with your body. It will result in overriding your body signals to stop and rest, it will mean you undernourish yourself and it will mean that you devalue any movement you do that doesn't result in a skinny waist, big bum or abs.
From Elman's perspective, working out can, and should, be something that helps you cultivate a positive relationship with your body, and the gym can, and should, be a place where you have fun. It's not about punishing yourself or your body, nor is it about trying to achieve an arbitrary number on a scale. As Elman said in her post, working out is a "chance to connect with my body and FEEL my body!"
I'll leave you with Elman's last paragraph in her Instagram post, because truly, I couldn't have said it better myself:
Stop categorising certain types of movement as a “proper workout”. Stop measuring how long to work out by the number of calories you’ve burnt! And finally, PTs especially, stop assuming every fat person wants to lose weight!