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Fitness Philosophy

In 2008 a computer-animated science fiction film titled WALL-E was released by Walt Disney Pictures and Pixar Animated Studios. It is set in the far future, where mass consumerism has depleted the planet of its resources and humans inhabit a massive self-sustaining spaceship that can keep them alive for as long as necessary. Technological advancements allowed humans to automate virtually every aspect of life, allowing them to develop an overreliance on technology. Following the principles of pursuing pleasure and avoiding pain, the humans have succeeded in eliminating discomfort and maximizing leisure. With no need to protect personal property, no actual communities are formed as each individual human is fixated on a personal video screen and is completely oblivious to one’s surroundings, and the ship’s autopilot artificial intelligence system who wishes to maintain the current state forever, represents the sovereign, the collective will of all the people. Humans float around in comfortable hovering chairs with unlimited access to feeding tubes and electronic entertainment. By removing the incentive to work or perform anything, humans virtually have no meaning or identity, and end up in a constant state of leisure. The lack of necessity made each human morbidly obese and incapable of the most basic physical tasks.


Also, WALL-E took his kind's body parts and wore it as his own, essentially making him a robot Buffalo Bill. But that's for another time.

Several groups have of course spoken out against the portrayal of humans in the film, however it has been suggested that if current trends were to continue, by year 2030 86.3% of American adults will be classified as overweight or obese, with 51.1% being obese. Projections translate to as much as $959.9 billion in related healthcare costs. Albeit grossly exaggerated, the film may very well be considered a rather accurate representation of the current state of physical fitness today. As of 2008 an estimated 68% of the population in the United States was classified as overweight or obese, with 33% classified as obese. Being overweight is therefore statistically normal for a person living in the United States. Physical inactivity has long been linked with obesity and it has been estimated that more than 80% of Americans do not meet the minimum guidelines for physical activity.

Obesity of course has been linked to both physical (e.g. diabetes, coronary heart disease, hypertension, stroke) and psychological (e.g. depression, disordered eating, poor body image, internalized weight bias) negative consequences, with the Center for Disease Control estimating $147 billion dollars spent in obesity-related medical expenses in 2008. The value of the weight loss market was estimated by Marketdata Enterprises Inc. to be $60.5 billion in 2014, and the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery estimates 179’000 surgeries performed annually. Culturally there have been negative connotations attached to it as far back as the Hellenic Era, when physical fitness was viewed as a virtue. Socrates famously quipped, “No citizen has a right to be an amateur in the matter of physical training…what a disgrace it is for a man to grow old without ever seeing the beauty and strength of which his body is capable” and his student Plato said that, ”In order for man to succeed in life, God provided him with two means, education and physical activity. Not separately, one for the soul and the other for the body, but for the two together. With these two means, man can attain perfection.”

Greek Philosophers

Weight bias is culturally ingrained, and negative connotations are attached to being overweight, as we like to attribute the state of people's BMI to their disposition rather than situation. They are viewed as “unmotivated” or “stupid” in the same way that poor and homeless people are called “lazy.” They are usually portrayed in media as lacking in self-control or motivation, always being shown eating some sort of comfort food. It may be intuitive for some to believe that overweight people merely lack the motivation to lose weight because they have not been shamed enough to take action; they are either too lazy to implement, or too stupid to comprehend the concept of “eat less, move more” and “calories in, calories out” and must be threatened with social exclusion in order to spur action. Studies suggest however that this merely leads to disordered eating, and avoidance of, or even further reduction in physical activity, which merely compound the problem rather than solve it. Rather it may be more productive to view the issue of overeating as an addiction rather than a lack of self-control and address it as such, one step at a time. In 2014, 54.1 million Americans belonged to at least one health club nationwide, however an estimated 67% of members did not utilize their memberships. It may be inferred that many Americans are not ignorant and are making attempts to take steps towards a healthier lifestyle.

Being a fitness professional, I am supposedly expected to preach about how good gymming and dieting and fitnessing is. (At least that's what Instagram tells me.) Fitnessing pays the bills. I'm supposed to pontificate about the evils of obesity and how gymming is awesome--how you should squat and do HIIT and eat kale. I'm supposed to ridicule "lazy" people for their excuses, take pictures of my abs, upload some motivational quotes on social media, tell exercisers their form/program is wrong, demonize carbs, and yell at people to "push themselves" at the gym. But I don't feel comfortable doing that all the time (only sometimes). We are all adults in a free country; none of these are requirements. I grew up in one where apparently a career senator legislated laws against internet libel because he claimed to be cyberbullied on the internet. They can tell me how non-free the Land Of The Free is, but I have seen and lived in worse.

Ron Swanson


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