“Better Human” = Not Obese!

Take a lookie at this steaming pile of Healthistic smugness:

Can Running Make Us Better Humans?

Yes, it does suggest that avid exercisers are objectively better moral humans. Yes, it does suggest that fat people, who obviously don’t run, are objectively worse moral humans.

The Tarahumara, he avers, know something that those of us living in modern western culture have forgotten: we too are Running People. It is a truth encoded in every human’s narrow pelvis, upright stance, and abundant sweat glands; in our big toes, Achilles tendon, and muscular arches; and in the joy and love we feel when running as we were born to do. Honoring this fact, McDougal contests, would move us modern folk far along the path toward healing many of our most debilitating cultural ills and obsessions, from obesity to chronic depression. Running can make us better humans. [emphasis mine]

You know what would make the author of this article an objectively better human? By not, say, putting down an entire class of people as below her based on her assumption (not even reality) that they don’t engage in an activity she holds in high esteem. There are lots of things humans have Done Throughout History that are value neutral. Just because we used to cure furs doesn’t make fur-curers better people. Just because we used to migrate on foot doesn’t make those guys that walk the Appalachian Trail better people.

Stop using fatness as a scarlet letter. For something published in a psychology magazine, I’d expect a little better (though Psychology Today publishes a lot of fat-hating articles, they have had a few pro-HAES features).

After admitting throughout the article that the author injured herself while engaging in her vaunted athletic activities, she unleashes this gem (referring to immobile, sitting, lazy Westerners who are afraid to leave their houses…sigh, I know):

Riddled with injury and illness, paralyzed by fears, and dizzy with exhaustion, our bodily selves call us to remember that where, how, and with whom we move matters.

I’ll give you two guesses as to what she means when she says “riddled with…illness” (hint: It rhymes with cat!). Also, erm, aren’t we healthier and living longer than ever before? I don’t have to worry about scurvy, scarlet fever, or dysentery (for the most part). So, whatever past the author is fetishizing, I think I’d prefer to live now, thanks though.

Otherwise, the article is just fluff –fetishization of exoticism a la Eat, Pray, Love, privilege and elitism,  rank ableism (thanks to Tehomet for pointing this out in the comments), and staggeringly broad generalizations based on zilch evidence.

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6 comments on ““Better Human” = Not Obese!

  1. tehomet says:

    I agree with you that the assumptions this article makes as regards fat people suck like a hoover. Additionally, by this author’s lights, people with disabilities that affect their mobility are tarred with the same brush. What if one can’t run? What if one doesn’t have an upright stance, or has a pelvis that is different from the ‘norm’? And so on.

    So many reasons to disparage this article. Here’s another one: sheer puerility. Being able to run is the key to being a better person? Really? Not, say, compassion or intelligence or kindness or creativity or any other quality – just the ability to move (slightly) fast(er)? Wow.

  2. actually, running is an activity best left to the four-legged set. an upright pelvis is only good for seeing above tall savannah grasses, and walking long distances to find food, like scavenging animal corpses. if our human bodies had evolved for running by default, our spines wouldn’t have these ridiculous curves and be so fragile.

  3. raznay says:

    So if I don’t like running that makes me a bad human? What if I prefer walking or dancing or swimming or tennis or any other activity that gets my flabby body moving? Are those things less “human” or less good for me because I prefer them over running? Pfft. I don’t like running and I make no excuses for that. I hate the feel of it and it’s my choice whether or not I want to run or walk or sit on my fat arse watching Sherlock or The Big Bang Theory. Kudos to her for enjoying running, however that doesn’t mean she has a right to force her opinions on me.

    • bigliberty says:

      OMG I love tennis. I miss playing so much! I wish there was someone around here to play with, but my husband (who’s about half my weight, btw) likes to keep his physical activity down to a minimum, and I don’t have any other friends in the area (all up in Boston or out west).

      I also love the Healthistic assumption that ANY exercise makes one a ‘better’ person. I mean, awesome that we all have unique experiences and find different things rewarding, but am I going to start claiming that being a science fiction writer is the best way to live, and those who aren’t science fiction writers are less than human, because that (besides work) is what I spend most of my time on these days?

      Absurd.

  4. I hate running. If I’m running, it’s either part of a sport that I like (and I will still gripe about the running part after I catch my breath), I’m trying to wrangle an escaped cat, or I’m being chased by a mountain lion.

    Walking is fun and awesome. Swimming is also awesome. Dancing is awesome. Fencing is awesome. If I’m a bad person for liking to move in ways that incorporate other things I enjoy and hating movement that beats up my joints and gives me no pleasure, hey, guilty as charged.

    And this afternoon, I’m going to take my evil and immoral self home and meet up with my equally bad and immoral husband (who gets most of his exercise from yard work and building stuff) to go pick up the abused dog we’re fostering. But, sure, Mr. Article Writer, your exercise preferences and your body size make you a vastly superior human being to my size 22-wearing, non-running self.

    Can running, for a person who likes and wants to do it, make you a better person? Sure. Can you learn cool stuff about endurance and perseverance and goal-setting, and find some inner calm? Sure. But other people can learn those things and build those characteristics all sorts of other ways. I think most disciplines can be either good or bad depending on how you practice and approach them. You can make yourself a sanctimonious jerk through your exercise routine, for example.

  5. Oops, Ms. Article Writer. My bad.

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