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Athletic Isn't (And Never Was) a Body Type

Athletes need to do only one thing to get recognition: successfully demonstrate physical ability. Their looks, intelligence, and personality are irrelevant. Yet despite this literal definition, online dating sites quietly redefined the term "athletic" to mean skinny so much so I now hear it used the same way in regular conversation. From Match to OkCupid, individuals who have (or believe they have) a skinny body with some tone classify themselves as "athletic."

Using the word "athletic" to describe a person's physique is the ugly cousin of "S/he takes care of him/herself." Both are tactics and secret code to distract from the genuine sentiments: fat shaming and shallowness. Don't insult our intelligence with diplomatic semantics. Just say the word "fat" because you know that's what you really mean.


Body physique doesn't dictate specific physical abilities nor health diagnosis. You can be over 400 pounds and considered obese by BMI standards or you could be 115 pounds and have a normal BMI. One body is that of a professional athlete and one is of an individual with a long history of smoking and substance abuse. BMI numbers aside, which one has a better chance of receiving a healthy diagnosis from a doctor?

My intention is not to pit skinny people against non-skinny people. I'm emphasizing the devious and inaccurate ways that a skinny body type is ideal, not because it's healthy, but because of pure aesthetics and nothing more.

That's why the People magazine cover, "Best Olympic Bodies" was complete fat-shaming bullshit and irony. Olympians are the best because of what they do, not the size they maintain. Mary Lou Retton didn't win the gold medal because she had a tiny body; she won the gold medal for being a dedicated and skilled gymnast and she happened to have a small frame.

If being skinny is all that is required of an athlete, then the Olympics would only ever have one body type all the time.


Consider Australian swimmer and three time Olympic gold medalist Liesel Jones. In 2012, despite her athletic accomplishments, prowess, and abilities, the Melbourne Herald Sun wondered whether she was "fit enough" for her fourth Olympics. Yes, that's right. Because Jones didn't possess what is supposed to be an athlete's typical ripped body, a newspaper thought she was out of shape yet it was too cowardly to call her fat. The Melbourne Herald Sun couldn't know that she would go onto win a silver medal at the 2012 Olympics, but what they did know was that she won her first silver medal at 15 years old and she was the only Australian competitor ever headed to her fourth Olympics. A newspaper, out of all arbiters of truth, should be able to look beyond what's on the surface, but the question for an ideal swimmer's body proved to be too much of a distraction.


Here's my suggestion for the cowards who equate athletic ability with a single digit dress size: compete fair and square at a physical competition with the person you're fat shaming then let's see who wins.


Being athletic is something you do, not something you physically embody. That's why calling your body, and not your skills or hobbies, "athletic" is a misuse of the word at best and total ignorance of what it means to be truly healthy at worst. Ignorance is the most unhealthiest habit anyone can have.

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