How Fitness Isn’t Necessarily Healthy

Fuckable is often highly correlated with Eatable. Photo by Lorisha Bühler Ferrara

When I started lifting weights again I felt great, until I noticed a third testicle popping out of my groin. It turned out to be a hernia. I had to get surgery in the middle of a pandemic and then not even lift my kids for months. When my wife started Bharatanatyam it enriched her life in many ways, but the constant stomping wreaks havoc on her knees and joints, often leaving her hobbling.

Exercise is not all about getting healthy. Sometimes it really fucks you up. Young girls delay puberty and tip into anorexia doing gymnastics. American football causes brain damage. Every sport done at a high level comes with injury. One exercise YouTuber I watched said he was lifting with a hernia, which my doctor told me to absolutely not do.

Even regular, low-level exercise comes with risks. A lot of it from bad form or whatever, but to err is human and to fuck-up is de rigeur. This is not at all to say don’t exercise, it’s an important part of our lives and more power to you. My point is that the conflation of exercise and health and, indeed, us judging the health of other people is both inaccurate and not cool.


What the western world views as an ‘ideal’ body is not especially healthy.

Having a six-pack is quite extreme, both exerting and starving your body so that it ‘looks’ a certain way. Useful as a mating signal, but we forget that mating signals are only indirectly about health. Just watch a peacock try to do anything. Surely not carrying around this giant plumage would be more adaptive, but that’s what many animals do. There’s one theory that these signals show that “hey, I can survive despite this obvious disability, my genes must be extra good.” This is called the bad boy theory of evolution.

Being very skinny is also not necessarily healthy. Just look at the people we consider ‘models’, who are eating a few cucumbers slices to make it through Fashion Week looking ‘good’. Black people have valiantly resisted these standards of beauty and now the idea of ‘thick’ women is popular, but then people get butt fillers that explode. Like any animal trying to communicatefitness, we take everything too far.

The point is that the communication of fitness and actual fitness are two very different things, and both moving targets. Animals evolve all kinds of dumb shit in the race to reproduce, and humans do too. We can transparently see that its huge tail just makes it harder for a peacock to fly and easier for them to get eaten, but our own delusions about fitness are opaque to us.

Not Cool

Today we don’t say people are ugly, we just say they’re fat and act like we’re being helpful. People are like “look at these studies about what extreme weight does to you!” but being extremely underweight is bad too. And either way it’s none of our fucking business. There’s no other health issue where public shaming is considered helpful, but for weight it’s somehow a societal obligation.

And, like I said, weight or even activity aren’t necessarily indications of health. People are just saying “I think you’re disgusting” and acting like there’s some scientific reason for simply being rude.

I’m all for healthier diets and exercise but these are diverse and culturally defined things, not personal failings. Personal shaming certainly doesn’t improve anyone’s health, and the fact is that we simply cannot know what anyone else’s metabolism, actual health, or life is like. It’s best to just leave people alone.

Even someone that’s obviously exercising all the time is not necessarily healthy. They might be ‘hot’, but that’s not the same thing, just ask the peacock with his feathers stuck in a leopard’s jaw. Shunning creatures for not being attractive is older than the human species, but dressing it up as ‘health’ and ‘science’ doesn’t actually make it more intellectual. We’re also diverse enough as a species that everybody is fuckable to someone, so that’s not really the problem.

I personally don’t like having belly fat cause I don’t like it, but the idea that I should be shaming this in other people is just rude. And if I frame it as concern about their health, it’s still rude. I notice this because nobody comments negatively about my exercise, but that’s actually caused me more health problems than sitting around. I’ve had to get surgery. I’m not saying do or don’t exercise, that’s up to you. I’m just saying maybe shut up about it with other people. We can’t know someone else’s health, but we can certainly affect their mental health by being uncool.