It’s been a few weeks since I was one of the subjects in a story in the Wall Street Journal, Weight Loss or Not, Exercise Yields Health Benefits. The story was inspired by this recent study, which showed the importance of exercise instead of just weight-loss for long-term health, Lack of Exercise Accounts for Twice as Many Early Deaths as Obesity.
The reporter from the WSJ contacted me directly after reading this blog and really liked my fitness journey, and asked to photograph me for the story at my gym, CrossFit Hells Kitchen (CFHK). I was excited and nervous. I was excited to be photographed for one of the most widely read papers in the nation, and to be part of a story that provides an alternative perspective on exercising for health and not just for weight loss. I was nervous because I knew that public ridicule of larger bodies was not new, and this would create that platform on the internet. After thinking for a day, I decided to do it! I wanted to show others that big people can be athletic, active, and live happy and meaningful lives.
After the story went to print, I was excited to share it with friends, family, co-workers, and all those who had eyeballs. I received a lot of positive feedback and excitement. The story was actually one of the top five most read articles online in the WSJ website that day! It was even re-posted on the CrossFit Facebook page! I was famous! Even if it was just for a few days.
But, I started reading the comments and encountered my first online trolls. People commented that the story promoted obesity, that I lived an unhealthy lifestyle, and that I should get my weight under control. I was upset at first and couldn’t tear myself away from reading these comments in the beginning. Then, I realized that these people do not know me. They do not know my story, my journey, and who I am as a person.
There were people who took the story out of context and said it promoted obesity because the other fat athletes and I did not exercise for weight loss. People are more comfortable with shows like The Biggest Loser, where it promotes the shaming of fat people and the illusion that losing weight will change everything from bad to good. Some people become discouraged to exercise when they do not meet their weight loss goals, this means that they also lose out on the many benefits of exercise. It is about more than just losing weight and the number on a scale. It is about being active and healthy at any size, age, gender, ability, etc. We need to spend more time encouraging each other to be at our best than to try and break each other down because we do not fit the same standard.
What made me unique for the story was that I am a fat person who exercises not for weight loss, and I actually enjoy it and do it consistently. But, I think I am normal and that exercising for health regardless of your size should not be unique in our society.
I am fat. I exercise. I eat. I live life. I promote health and fitness at any size.
So live your life and be kind to yourself and others.
More pictures from the Wall Street Journal photo shoot below, enjoy!