MH: So much of it is about who has power in a situation. I think most of the messages people have received on this subject have been misrepresented to them like that. As soon as you start talking publicly about this stuff, someone will say to you, “Well, what about the fat activists who think going to the gym is fat-phobic?” That actually happened a few weeks ago. Some random person on a talk show – I think she was about 19 – said it was fat phobia, doing CrossFit or something. And the thing is, she’s in college, she’s experimenting with ideologies, but that turns out to be like 55 YouTube video essays [saying] “Fat activists don’t want you to go to the gym.” That being said, I think individuals should be kind to others, I really don’t have any individual recipes for anyone. And what we’re trying to change is how these people with power harm people in measurable ways.
AG: It’s extremely ineffective to try to get a few individuals to change their individual behavior and only expect societal change from that. That’s how we came here. It seems much more important to me that when we’re having a conversation about training, we’re having a conversation about how bodybuilding culture and training have been used to promote something like organized white supremacy. That feels a lot more interesting and fruitful to me than arguing with someone about whether or not it’s okay for them to go on a low-carb diet.
What do you think of cultural shifts like the body positivity movement and efforts to combat fat phobia?
AG: As a fat person, I’d say the primary effect I’ve noticed with body positivity is a false sense of security in people who aren’t fat that they’re doing the right thing because they’re telling people they’re theirs body should love. It doesn’t require people to think about their own behavior. Much of the body positivity movement focuses on moving the goalposts ever so slightly, slightly expanding the goal of who we consider to be an acceptable body. If body positivity exploded our understanding of beauty, it would look really different, we would have more people who are visibly disfigured or disabled, we would have more people my size or taller, like very fat people, we would have more people with similar skin problems or acne.
We also have a similar type of transformation in the world of weight loss, where it’s all about getting changed and putting on a fedora and those glasses with a nose and a mustache. Like, “We’re Wellness now,” you’re like, “Oh, it’s still Weight Watchers, it’s still Nutrisystem.” It’s still absolutely the same product and playbook.
Why are health myths and misinformation spreading so rampantly?
AG: If you can remember the first few months of the pandemic, the number of people I know who are amazingly smart people who would call me and say, ‘Hey, I heard that if you can hold on Hold your breath for 10 seconds, you definitely don’t have COVID.” I think what advertising health, wellness and weight loss products does is fear mongering. At this point, you don’t have to do all that gibberish about diabetes and heart disease and all that stuff to get people to say, “Hey, being fat is bad for you.” You just have to say, “Is is it good for you to be fat?” And I’m going to say, “No.” That’s kind of all it takes.