Advocacy / Arthritis / Arthritis Ashley / Autoimmune / Awareness / chronic illness / Entertainment / Fibromyalgia / invisible illness

#BeMoreHuman & Celebrate Everyone’s Fitness Choices and Abilities

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While I enjoyed the commercial, I joked last night that “Welp, I’m not human,” after seeing Reebok’s #BeMoreHuman Super Bowl commercial. They replied on Twitter by telling me, and I quote: “Not with that attitude.” (As a follow up, it’s worth noting that Reebok also clarified, saying that #BeMoreHuman is about being your Best You, whatever that may be, and I totally get that. I love it, and that’s the message that I’m ALWAYS trying to send, so hear, hear!)

Of COURSE the original tweet convo was all in good fun; I was joking, they were joking. That said, a part of me, if even on a subconscious level, realized that there were many people in the arthritis, autoimmune, and chronic pain communities that may not be so pleased with the #BeMoreHuman commercial.

I GET IT – I totally understand the positive message that Reebok was trying to send. They were trying to be motivational, encouraging, and inspiring: LOOK AT ALL THE AMAZING THINGS THE HUMAN BODY CAN DO.

Except, when it can’t. 

Are people who cannot achieve certain levels of athleticism not as human as those who can? Could I be MORE human if I had a better attitude or better health?

Let me say — I honestly was not personally offended by the commercial: I even shared it on a few of my social media pages because I liked it. My tweet was all in good fun, because I said the exact thing to my husband when the commercial ended and he laughed out loud (which is rare. I don’t think that he typically finds me to be all that funny.)

But, I am a person who does well with positive encouragement, as I’ve discussed on this blog before. I like to see people thriving and doing well. I especially liked that Reebok did  include a differently-abled athlete in the ad, which was an especially touching and poignant moment. (So kudos for that.)  I love to see that kind of thing: A person with RA doing a triathlon or climbing a mountain? AMAZING! A wheelchair-bound kid with juvenile arthritis completing a marathon? AWESOME! A woman with prosthetic legs playing volleyball? A guy with cancer winning a lifting competition? A 90-year-old lady still able to teach fitness classes? I LOVE IT.

… I just know from experience that some people with certain types of conditions feel that messages like that are discouraging, and a slap in the face. Not everyone loves it. And on certain days, I may not love it, either, depending on how I’m feeling.

On this day, though, the tweet from Reebok (which admittedly annoyed me at first, despite being in good fun,)  got me thinking about a larger conversation, way beyond a single commercial and a single company.

I’ve noticed a lot of fitness professionals and health aficionados who almost bully others into their way of thinking. It can be highly detrimental. And so on that topic, I’ve got more to say:

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Fitness food for thought: 

Before I go further, let me say that I see NOTHING wrong with sharing your fitness journey, encouraging positive lifestyle choices, or with educating people about certain dietary approaches or exercise methodologies. That’s fine, in fact, that all is more than fine — it’s wonderful. But, there’s a lot to be said for tone, intent, and respectfulness in delivering said messages.

One of my least-favorite types of humans/brands/companies are the “health and fitness trolls” — you know, the ones that shame you because whatever you’re doing isn’t good enough, or tough enough, or cool enough, or edgy enough, or impressive enough. It may be too easy, or too girly, or too mainstream, or too old-school, or too trendy, or too fluffy, or too hipster, or too hippie.

They’re the people who proclaim they want to help others better themselves, but then at the same time mock people who are trying their best, whether that’s at home or at a big-box gym or at a boutique gym or personal training center.

They’re the ones who pit runners against Crossfitters against weight-lifters against golfers against yoga-doers against barre-enthusiasts against kickboxers against Zumba-dancers against kettlebellers against cardio bunnies against fitness-bootcamp-doers. (Why are we all in competition with one another, by the way?)

They’re the ones who think there’s some hierarchy to health and fitness and nutrition…

… The ones that boast that paleo or gluten-free or vegan or eating-clean or doing Shakeology or following a FODMAP or ketogenic diet or low-GII or dairy-free is THE WAY TO BE and THE ONLY WAY TO BE.

… The ones who guilt you if you skip the gym for a few days or a few weeks.

… They’re the ones who, despite what they profess they believe in by way of encouragement and inspiration, are, at the same time, betraying their words by making fun of someone for only using 5-lb weights or belonging to a certain gym or color-coordinating their workout outfits or documenting their journey on social media or taking photos of their foods to keep themselves accountable or considering dance classes or physical therapy in a pool to be exercise.

… They’re the ones who act like your’e not tough enough if you don’t do a mud run or train for a marathon or who will chastise you for slipping up on your diet, and they are the ones who will shame you if your “lunch” isn’t 1/8 cup of almonds and some water.

… They’re the ones who tell you you aren’t thin enough. You’re not big enough. You’re not small enough. Your muscles aren’t defined enough. You’re not trying hard enough. You aren’t pretty or handsome or sexy enough. You have love handles not abs. You aren’t determined enough if you’re not able or willing to do what they do. They’re the hypocrites who want to encourage healthiness and strength but they forget about also cultivating inner strength and emotional healthiness. They’re the people who will motivate (?) you by telling you aren’t training hard enough or that you must not want it badly enough.

… They’re the people who post #fitfam and then take a picture at the gym and post it to social media making fun of people for using a piece of gym equipment the wrong way, instead of showing them how to do it properly. They’re the people who will make fun of girls for preferring cardio, not stopping to think that maybe those girls can’t do more intense things because of physical problems.

… They’re the women who make fun of other women for lifting weights, or the girls who blindly think that “toned” means thin and skinny with no muscle and no strength to speak of. They’re the men who negatively bait and challenge other men: “LIFT BIG, GET BIG, bro.” They’re people who are all “BEAST MODE” at the gym and “RUDE MODE” outside of it.

… They’re the Planet Fitness commercials making fun of Lunks. Likewise, they’re the fitness buffs making fun of people that go to Planet Fitness.

… They’re the people with closed minds, closed hearts, and a lack of education about the many, many types of fitness and nutrition options out there. They’re the people who don’t stop to think that we are all bio-individually unique and all require different health and fitness plans to thrive. They’re the ones who have not faced physical struggles and who don’t realize what others may be going through. Or, they’re the ones who simply think certain distasteful things are funny and are too ignorant to know better.

… “They” is not one specific person or group of people. They are all types of people of all shapes and sizes.

… They’re the women’s health magazines with photo-shopped covers.

… They’re models and celebrities in said magazines acting like they don’t work their asses off to look that way (Photoshop aside.)

… They’re men constantly being put up against one another and being told that this is manly and that’s not.

… They’re the judgmental bros and the mean girls of the world.

… They’re the people who act like fitness is a cult and that if you’re not a part of it, you suck.

… They’re the people who put appearance and performance before health. They’re the people who measure value based on physical ability.

… They’re ALL the people who are detrimental to a loving, nurturing, all-inclusive version of health and fitness.

… They’re the people who think their way is the only way. They’re the people who, if they disagree with you, automatically think you’re wrong. Just because you disagree with something, doesn’t make it wrong or “less than.”

… Yeah, some people are amputees and yet can still run a marathon on prosthetic legs. That is amazingly inspirational and motivational and simply awesome & worthy of celebration. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t plenty of people WITH legs who have valid reasons why THEY can’t run a marathon and it doesn’t mean those folks aren’t trying or don’t want it as bad. Physical limitations look and act different from one another.

… No, I may not feel like trying my best at every second of every day. And that’s okay. I’m human.

… Yeah, some people choose to join a cheap gym with average trainers and lots of cardio machines. Those people are doing their thing and maybe that’s all they can afford and maybe that’s all they are comfortable doing. Maybe that’s what they like. And maybe that won’t get them on ESPN for a Crossfit competition but they’re doing their thing and living their life and they’re trying. That’s more than can be said for a lot of people. And yeah, some people thrive by doing workout videos and drinking shakes that REAL fitness people make fun of.

…. And on the flip side, there are some people who eat clean 100% of the time, and whose full-time job is crafting their body and getting strong and doing bodybuilding competitions and that’s absolutely fine. That’s their prerogative and it’s amazing. GOOD FOR THEM. Just because you wouldn’t want to devote your life to fitness doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with it. At all!

… I’ll personally never hate on someone doing old-school workouts in an old-school weightroom, nor will I hate on someone doing Pure Barre or Soulcycle, or someone on the treadmill at the gym, or someone doing kettlebell or Crossfit or interval training or MMA or mall walking or tai chi or what have you. I may eat and live a certain way and I may talk about it and explain my reasons why I do it, and I may share health and fitness information and tips, but I will never think that I am better than anyone else, or that I have the right (or the audacity) to mock or joke around about or belittle someone’s efforts to make positive health changes in their life – regardless of what that looks like, or how it fits in with my personal practices and beliefs.

Just remember: we don’t know how hard people had to fight to get to where they are in their journey, and we really have no right to judge that journey, whether it’s our style or not. And, yes, before you say it, maybe I’m ALSO being judgmental in writing this post, and I’m self-aware enough to accept and admit that, but I just don’t see how excluding or mocking or belittling others is in any way positive or beneficial to one’s health and fitness journey.

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PS: HAPPY RHEUMATOID AWARENESS DAY! 

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