CNN is featuring the story of Drew Manning, the fitness trainer who purposefully gained 70 pounds only to lose it again, and is now promoting a book titled Fit2Fat2Fit, documenting the process. When Manning started his journey to prove that losing weight is just about diet and exercise, WHICH HE HAS DEFINITELY PROVEN FOR SURE, he didn't expect to learn that fat people have emotions, or something.
Always a fitness junkie, staying in shape comes naturally for Manning. He's that guy at the gym the rest of us love to hate, the one who likes to use his biceps for pumping iron instead of changing channels, and who prefers sucking down a spinach shake to indulging in a brownie sundae.Manning could certainly have taken a more direct route to the realization that "mental and emotional issues" around fat are "real" than gaining and losing 70 pounds. He could have tried treating fat people like human beings, listening to us, believing us, and giving empathy a shot. That he found it easier to change his body than to relate to a fat person on a basic human level, that he could not trust us to be experts on our own experiences, but had to become fat himself, underscores the depth of the dehumanization and marginalization of fat people by people with fat bias.
Because of that, Manning was a "judgmental" trainer, his wife says. "He would look at someone who was overweight and say, 'They must really be lazy.'
"I was convinced people used genetics or similar excuses as a crutch," Manning writes in his new book, Fit2Fat2Fit. "You either wanted to be healthy or you didn't."
That point of view wasn't helping Manning help his clients. When he failed yet again to push someone over to the light side, he knew something was wrong. In order to better understand the struggles his clients were facing, he had to face them himself.
He gave up the gym and started consuming junk food, fast food and soda. In just six months, he went from 193 pounds with a 34-inch waist to 265 pounds with a 48-inch waist.
Lynn saw the difference in her husband in less time than that. He became lethargic, stopped helping around the house and was less than eager to play with their 2-year-old daughter.
"He was so insecure -- saying 'I'm so fat. I look so horrible,' constantly complaining about how he looks," she said.
Manning says he didn't realize the effects of his weight gain would be more than physical. It altered his relationships and his self-confidence. Returning to the gym after the Fit2Fat portion of his journey made him nervous. The fact that he had to do push-ups on his knees was almost humiliating.
"The biggest thing [I learned] is that it's not just about the physical. It's not just about the meal plan and the workouts and those things. The key is the mental and the emotional issues. I realized those issues are real."
And now he is being treated as though he's a reliable "expert" on fatness and fat people, because we are still not allowed to be experts on our own experiences when there's a thin fitness trainer with an agenda and a book to sell, who treated gaining weight like some 17th century ethnographic adventure to exotic shores, only to return to the civilization of thinness to report his findings about the savage fatties.
It turns out they have feelings! Oh, DO TELL, Dr. Livingstone.
This was a stunt. A gross, dishonest, appropriative stunt. And the fact that Manning has tacked on an infantile moral about how he learned that fat people have emotions to his conclusion that we could still be thin if we really wanted to (because he did it! so everybody can do it!) does not turn this stunt into something profound.
He set out to prove that a thin, able-bodied fitness trainer could "let himself go" and then reclaim his rock-hard physique through diet and exercise, and that's what he proved. That's all he proved. Because not everyone's body is capable of doing what his did—not everyone can gain weight like he did, and not everyone can lose weight like he did.
This: "He gave up the gym and started consuming junk food, fast food and soda. In just six months, he went from 193 pounds with a 34-inch waist to 265 pounds with a 48-inch waist."—is not the experience of most fat people. Fat people are fat for a variety of intersecting reasons. We are not fat by virtue of a deliberate weight gain through strategic abandonment of exercise and all healthful food.
The article, of course, doesn't even bother attempting to address that not every fat person is fat for the same reason, because that would undermine the entire premise of this absurd stunt, which only works if we all buy into the narrative that fat people are all fat because they don't eat right and don't get enough exercise.
There is no acknowledgment that not every fat person consumes nothing but "fast food, junk food, and soda." There is no answer to the obvious question of what fatties who don't eat nothing but "fast food, junk food, and soda" are meant to do, since the magical solution of cutting "fast food, junk food, and soda" out of our diets isn't an option.
That's because we don't exist. Not in the world in which a thin, able-bodied fitness trainer is considered a more reliable spokesperson for fatkind than a person who actually lives life in a fat body.
Manning has "proven" that it's all just an issue of willpower to go from Fit2Fat (love how those are once again positioned as mutually exclusive concepts). Except, here's the thing about willpower and weight: It was an act of significant willpower that resulted in my most significant weight gain in my adult life. On Thanksgiving 2006, I smoked my last cigarette after a 14-year two-packs-a-day habit that I loved and considered an integral part of my identity. And after quitting cold turkey, I have since been and remain still a nonsmoker almost six years later.
Willpower is not my problem.
After quitting smoking, I did not change my eating habits, increased my exercise, and still gained weight, for reasons most likely having to do with the one billion chemicals I was inhaling on a constant basis having fucked up my body in weird ways. I am fatter now, but I am also healthier.
(Look for my upcoming book Smoker2Fatter2Healthier.)
Other than that, I have basically stayed at the same weight, give or take a few pounds in one direction or another, for more than a decade. I still have—and wear—clothes I owned when Iain and I met in 2001. During that time, I've eaten worse and better for me, exercised more and less, sometimes way more and way less, and it was only the quitting smoking that resulted in any sort of discernible flux.
My fitness changes when I eat better for me and get more exercise, but my weight doesn't.
Sure, I'm one person, but I'm not extraordinary. There are all kinds of fat people with stories like mine, whose voices aren't being heard because opportunistic showmen like Manning are given bullhorns to shout bullshit that talks about fat people like some slob monolith who just need more condescending evangelizing to inspire us.
If Manning actually cared about the emotional lives of fat people (ha ha he doesn't!), then he wouldn't be hawking some exploitative garbage book about the time he turned himself into a human fat suit for awhile. He has no idea what it feels like to live in a body you can't change, and he doesn't even believe those bodies exist.
He's going to be all over the media, peddling his book which is dependent on that belief. And he's going to be making life that just much harder, entrenching bias against fat people just that much more, while simultaneously claiming to have had a compassionate breakthrough about the difficult emotional life of fatsronauts.
What a jerk.
[H/T to Iain.]