Is fat shaming good motivation or tough love gone too far?

There are about as many theories associated with getting people motivated for the gym as there are actual workouts that can be done while you are there. And as part of the research element that goes with writing these blog posts, you are often exposed to the most weird and wonderful motivational methods out there. 

One that I am increasingly seeing pop up, whether it is in other blogs, on You Tube or in the gym itself, is ‘fat shaming’. The idea is to take a drill sergeant like approach to motivation and convince overweight people that the reason for their size is down to their laziness and lack of self-discipline. But does this blunt-force trauma method really work?

Well I guess we should look at the people who are saying it. In general, we are looking at fitness fanatics, for want of a better word, who choose to share their ‘secrets’ with the world through the internet medium. But two people can both look healthy and have similar bodies despite starting from completely different points. Some people train because they are overweight, some people train because they are underweight and a lot of people just train because it makes them feel good about themselves.

All people will be motivated in different ways, so for me to come out and say this method won’t work would be wrong. Some people will watch a video or read an article that tells them to be ashamed for the way that they look and that is exactly how they will feel. Then that provides the push for them to really commit and change their lives for the better.

Is there something that we are missing here though? Just because a particular method works doesn’t mean it should be encouraged. Let’s not forget that we are constantly reminded that we are part of a ‘gym going community’ and for any community to exist positively all forms of persecution should be eliminated.

What is clearly emerging here is a blurred line between tough love and abuse. Society has been seen to embrace the idea that everybody is beautiful regardless of their size and shape and that gets some people’s backs up. They work hard to look the way that they do and resent people who can’t do the same. This small percentage of people have the wrong idea though.

Tough love should refer to seemingly harsh behaviour that exists to promote a positive change. Sitting in front of a camera and venting some irrational hatred of people who don’t look exactly how you think they should does not qualify as tough love.

Now don’t get me wrong, I firmly believe that motivational practices that are most effective have an element of tough love to them but we need to be careful that we don’t overstep the mark. Let’s be honest, we don’t want a world full of people who are in great physical condition as a response to the bullying that they have received previously.

There are a number of reasons why people find themselves in an unhealthy position and laziness is not the sole cause. Some people can’t afford to maintain the ideal lifestyle that they would like and others have genuine physical conditions that make that same goal impossible to reach.

Like I said before, this a community. And what needs to be encouraged is support for everyone within it, as well as respect. At the end of the day, if somebody chooses to live their life in a certain way then bellowing at them through a camera is going to do little good. All that these aggressive stances do is make the gym seem like an intimidating place that newcomers won’t want to get involved with. If these so called fat shamers really want to promote a healthier way of living then their responsibility is to make the gym seem like an approachable and friendly venue, not somewhere they should go because they are ashamed when they look in a mirror.

Ollie Lawrence
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