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May 8, 2002
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Jazzercise Eats Its Words after being accused of weight bias. MeFites may recall the heated discussion this story originally garnered (and the associated firestorm in Metatalk) when Jazzercise refused to hire an instructor that did not meet their "fit appearance" criteria. They have since changed their policy "based upon the information and research that perhaps it's possible for people of varying weights to be fit." The barred instructor has gone on to start her own successful aerobics franchise based on her "fitness-at-any-size" philosophy.
posted by johnnyace (46 comments total)

 
You go girl!
posted by LinemanBear at 6:16 AM on May 8, 2002


Awesome. Thanks for the update, Johnnyace!
posted by gramcracker at 7:22 AM on May 8, 2002


Frankly, I hope she makes a lot of money with the "full figured" aerobics schtick. Furthermore, I hope she helps a bunch of people get into better shape and like their bodies better.
posted by ilsa at 8:11 AM on May 8, 2002


The best part was that they rejected her because they wanted to fool the public into believing that jazzersizing would make them look like their instructors.

I have always been amused by how the fitness community seems to woship the genitically gifted as examples of how to get fit. Most of these people have very little struggle to get fit. I want the instructors who actually overcame something not just the people born with innefficient metabolisms. That way they will understand what I need.
posted by srboisvert at 8:59 AM on May 8, 2002


Could it be there's a little less hatred in the world? A little less ignorance?

Now if we could only turn a single event into a trend...
posted by tommasz at 9:03 AM on May 8, 2002


A 5'8", and 240 pounds, she's not necessarily "full figured," even in comparison with the average American woman. Depends on her frame size. How ridiculous.
posted by raysmj at 9:08 AM on May 8, 2002


Photo.
posted by sbgrove at 9:09 AM on May 8, 2002


She is disgustingly obese, and if she exercises regularly, eats healthy, and still looks like that, she is a bizarre anomaly that is a completely inaccurate example of the affects of exercise.
posted by bingo at 9:42 AM on May 8, 2002


sigh.
posted by hijinx at 10:08 AM on May 8, 2002


Indeed, I pronounce the trend officially dead.
posted by tommasz at 10:27 AM on May 8, 2002


(am I breaking protocol by posting to a "dead" thread? It wasn't declared until after I previewed my jeremiad.)

She is disgustingly obese
In *your* opinion. To many American women, she looks just like them. And they might find that comforting, especially when looking for an aerobics instructor.

she is a bizarre anomaly that is a completely inaccurate example of the affects of exercise.

I think that you're overlooking the fact that her weight isn't going to dissuade overweight women from taking her class; it will likely encourage them to join. She proves two things: a)women her size can in fact exercise without harming or embarassing themselves and b)exercise is about well-being as well as fitness. And if, as you say, she's doing something wrong to still be so grotesque after all that exercise, that has no bearing on the people who attend her classes. They'll still get in shape, won't they?
posted by cowboy_sally at 10:37 AM on May 8, 2002


bingo: She is disgustingly obese

You could have made your claim that Ms Portnick's physiology is unusual without exposing your meanness of spirit. You would still have been wrong, but you would have avoided looking like an asshole.

tommasz:I pronounce the trend officially dead.

What, because of one little snark? Don't give up so easy! Ms Portnick is laughing all the way to the bank at the bingos of the world. :-)

Plus, on preview, what cowboy_sally said.
posted by sennoma at 10:38 AM on May 8, 2002


Let me step in with the medical opinion here. This woman is NOT healthy. Period. Her BMI (Body Mass Index) is 41.9 (overweight begins at 25). If she has a glandular problem then she needs to be treated. Ultimately weight gain/loss is a discipline issue, something that even the so called genetically gifted deal with everyday. I still overeat at a BMI of 24. I know that. I should lose another 15 pounds. I rationalize just like everyone else. This lady is very clearly either not teaching a calorie burning aerobic exercise or simply eating WAY too many calories.
posted by shagoth at 11:18 AM on May 8, 2002


Oh, heck.

shagoth: the BMI is a flawed system, and has been since day one. It didn't help that the BMIs were revised downward a number of years ago, instantly categorizing millions more as overweight. Why was it done? More people would feel bad about themselves. It works.

The BMI is irrelevant. Jennifer is overweight and fit, and many people just can't accept this. "She's not healthy!" "She must do the exercises wrong!" All of this incredible denial instead of admitting that it can and does happen: fat people can be fit.

Admitting that, of course, would put an instant stop to the barrage of anti-fat coverage in the media, and change the minds of people who are sizist.

Jennifer Portnick rules.
posted by hijinx at 11:39 AM on May 8, 2002


In the previous thread, someone determined Ms. Portnick to have a BMI of 36 -- suddenly, she's up to 41. Beware, she's the rapidly expanding fat aerobiciser! Run for your lives before she takes over the Bay Area with her massive, unchecked, unhealthy, slothful mass!!

Shagoth, you are not her doctor. You may make all of the pronouncements about her that you wish, but you are doing so from a place of ignorance -- willful ignorance at that. Pathetic.

As for Ms. Portnick herself, I can only echo LinemanBear - "You go girl!" If I were not on the other side of the country, I know where I'd be going to take part in an exercise class.
posted by Dreama at 11:42 AM on May 8, 2002


Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit. Fat is fine, but accept that it's lifestyle choice like smoking or drinking or indiscriminate sex. You know the risks but do it anyhow. Losing weight is hard. Period. I do NOT have disdain for the obese, but I do have disdain for apologists who would have the world believe that there are no options. I help people lose weight everyday. I don't badger those that don't want to, they are adults and make their own decisions.

I've made efforts to find good layperson discussions of the progression of insulin resistance to Type II diabetes and the relationship of excess fat, but haven't really found a good discussion is via WebMD and gets part of the way there and mention of the association of obesity with diabetes is at the NIH. Frankly, there's a fair amount of literature to suggest that being obese guarrantees diabetes eventually because the pancreas is unable to produce enough insulin to meet the demand of the excess tissue. This eventually kills the pancreas. It's not bias to know this and make health judgements based on it any more than knowing excess drinking causes cirrhosis or that emphysema will develop in many people who smoke.
posted by shagoth at 12:03 PM on May 8, 2002


Let me put my point of view in a kindler, gentler manner. I used to be quite obese. I'm still not as thin or as I healthy as I want to be, but I have gotten much closer with a regular exercise program, a better diet, and a number of other lifestyle choices. Some of them were difficult to make; some are still difficult to make on a regular basis.

The reason that I started exercising was to look better. I have not done a scientific survey of everyone's motivations for doing cardiovascular exercise, everywhere, all across America. But I have spent quite a lot of time around other people who exercise regularly. By and large, the main motivation for such people is to look better, and I have yet to encounter someone who gets more than 30 minutes of cardio in the right heart rate range, at least three times a week, eats a high-fiber diet, and is still obese. I'm sure that there are some such people, who have glandular or other specific problems that make it impossible for them to lose very much fat. But the truth is, verified by my own experience as well as the experience of countless others I've come into contact with, that most obese people who eat well and work out regularly, will find themselves looking less and less like Jennifer Portnick.

What's more, I've come into contact with a number of actors and models with physiques that regularly grace TV and movie screens. I'm not saying that most of them are my buddies or anything, just people I've met and hung out with a little in various capacities. And, since many of them are under contract to work out regularly, and they are of course in general concerned about their appearance, they talk about nutrition and exercise often. Far from being "genetically gifted," many such people were awkward fat or skinny kids who didn't get much attention, and have built the bodies they now have through a lot of hard work, some of which was exercise, some of which was reading about nutrition and training, and coming to understand their own bodies better. In fact, most people I know who seemed "genetically gifted" as teens are now overweight couch potatoes, their metabolism having finally caught up to them, with them having no understanding or experience with how to really take care of themselves.

Many people do, in fact, take aerobics classes because they want to look more like their instructors, or, at the very least, to look better than they currently look. And the truth is that in the vast majority of cases, this goal is possible to achieve. You may not look as good as your instructor, who in some cases exercises as a full-time job, but for most obese people, it is possible to reach a point where you look much better than you did before. And the truth is that for most people who take aerobics classes, that is their primary goal.

I would not want to take a fitness class from this woman, not because I think there is something inherently wrong with fat people (on the contrary, having been very obese in the past, and still being somewhat overweight). I wouldn't take a class from her because based on my own knowledge of and experience with exercise science, the chances that she has any idea what she's talking about are extremely low.

I have never been quite as obese as this woman, but when I was over 220 lbs. (I'm 5'9"), the last thing I needed was people telling me that I was genetically predisposed to be that way, that exercising wouldn't change anything, that I should work out just to improve my cardiovascular health, or that I shouldn't buy into the beauty myth, and that women should find me attractive as I was. I had heard too much of that stuff already; it bored me, it frustrated me, it seemed abysmally cynical and destructive, and I would never have gotten on the stairmaster that first time if I had believed a single word of it. And again, I'm not claiming that my experience in this regard is universal, but I do have a large amount of anecdotal evidence that it's quite common.

Portnick is of course free to teach her own classes if she likes, but she is really not the kind of instructor that most people who want to work out are looking for, and I'm annoyed that she is being put forth by some as the champion of obese people who want to exercise. My heroes in that regard are no longer obese.
posted by bingo at 1:26 PM on May 8, 2002 [1 favorite]


The bottom line, shagoth, is that you are not Jennifer Portnick nor are you her doctor. Thus, you can not determine if she is unhealthy. Unless you are her, or her doctor, you can not determine this by appearance nor by BMI. Period.

shagoth, you're going to get fatter. Everyone knows that people who use computers are fat. Thus, I think you should stop eating those donuts you're gulping down, get up from the keyboard, and get some exercise. Clearly, you're not doing yourself any good by sitting around all day - which is what people who use computers do. In addition, you might want to see a psychiatrist; everyone knows that people who use computers are isolated, lonely, and depressed - living in a fantasy world. Get off of your computer.

Just offering some friendly "advice".

bingo: The fallacy you're buying into is that people who exercise are all skinny or "fit" in the societal sense; that's not always true. On a semantic level, it's proclaiming Jennifer Portnick "obese"; truth of the matter is, she's fat.

I wouldn't take a class from her because based on my own knowledge of and experience with exercise science, the chances that she has any idea what she's talking about are extremely low.

I strongly disagree. As I mentioned in the last thread about her, I interviewed Jennifer; she is highly knowledgeable. She is a certified expert, no less. She knows her stuff, she knows how to exercise, she knows how to teach it, and she's fat.

Let's cut to the chase: Jennifer is teaching people how to exercise. Properly. She is a valuable resource, and yet people are quick to shun her because of a decades-old stereotype. If she was shunned because she wasn't white, you can bet your ass that Jazzercise would have been called on racism and rightfully so. But because she's fat, and because society is so very, very scared of fat, this alienates people to their cores.

...but she is really not the kind of instructor that most people who want to work out are looking for.

I'll tell you what: Jennifer has an audience ready to go. They're fat people, and they're the majority. They're "most" people. Thin people are the minority.
posted by hijinx at 1:40 PM on May 8, 2002


Wow, I'm bingo's hero.
posted by NortonDC at 1:45 PM on May 8, 2002


hijinx: there is NO argument that fat is healthy. Period. You can be an apologist for concious decisions rationalizing away the realities all you want. It doesn't wash. But that's fine. I'm prejudiced. And yes, I fight my weight daily. My choice of downtime activities works against me as it does many people but I shucked off 40 pounds and have kept it at bay for nearly 3 years. Can you say the same? No, because it's MY fault that fat people get heart disease and diabetes and high blood pressure and all the things that go with obesity. Exercise may minimize some of this risk, but it never goes away. Smoke on, eat them donuts. I don't care, but be a grown up and take responsibility for yourself. I have, Bingo has. It's your turn.
posted by shagoth at 1:46 PM on May 8, 2002


hijinx - Thin people are the minority.

Wrong. Thin Americans may be the minority, but not thin people.

And: "BMI correlates with mortality and morbidity from a number of causes, predicting among other things impaired maternal health and fetal growth, diminished work capacity and productivity and high rates of chronic disease."
posted by NortonDC at 1:48 PM on May 8, 2002


Let me also say that I would also happily choose to take classes from this woman. I do not feel inspired to exercise by watching some naturally skinny and athletic person lead me.

There are other exercise businesses that hire larger women to lead exercise classes and they are very popular with other large women.

And, don't you'all think that it's most important to encourage people who are overweight to exercise? Current wisdom is that even losing 10 pounds can help improve your health. Instead of criticizing this woman, shouldn't we be encouraging other large women (and men) to follow in her footsteps?
posted by Red58 at 1:50 PM on May 8, 2002


NortonDC: Thanks for the clarification; I did mean Americans and not Earthlings. My mistake.

shagoth: I don't care, but be a grown up and take responsibility for yourself.

Turning this into a personal attack will certainly make your argument that much stronger.

My second paragraph in my reply above was an example of the kind of "advice" that fat people are always, always receiving. It's too bad that you can't see it for what it is, and resort to an attack instead.

Feel free to look on any of my previous fat-related comments in other threads for the evidence I've presented, which has been gleaned from a variety of sources around the web; I don't feel the need to defend myself for the 18,402nd time. I take responsibility for what I say and what I do. I don't resort to insults to make my point.

Goodbye, good riddance.
posted by hijinx at 1:54 PM on May 8, 2002


hijinx: the first personal attack was yours, I was wrong to respond in kind. I apologize to the community for my actions.
posted by shagoth at 1:56 PM on May 8, 2002


hijinx: The fallacy you're buying into is that people who exercise are all skinny or "fit" in the societal sense; that's not always true.

I know, and I said so. But it is true that in the vast majority of cases, people who exercise properly and regularly, especially along with the consumption of a healthy diet, are much closer to the "societal" idea of fitness than Portnick.

On a semantic level, it's proclaiming Jennifer Portnick "obese"; truth of the matter is, she's fat.

Dictionary.com defines obese as "extremely fat, grossly overweight." How do you define it?

As I mentioned in the last thread about her, I interviewed Jennifer; she is highly knowledgeable. She is a certified expert, no less.

A certified expert in what? And if you've interviewed her, please tell us what sort of strange body chemistry she has that keeps her looking that way, despite regular, proper exercise and diet? Or are those myths that she chooses to scorn as well? Perhaps she has personally defined exercise as jumping around to disco music whenever she feels like it, and since it amuses her to do so, why shouldn't she be an exercise instructor?

I'll tell you what: Jennifer has an audience ready to go. They're fat people, and they're the majority. They're "most" people. Thin people are the minority.

No. The fact that her audience is fat, and that most Americans are fat, does not mean that most Americans are included in her audience. The minority in this case is that strange group of fat people who want to exercise, but don't care at all whether or not it will make them thinner.
posted by bingo at 2:12 PM on May 8, 2002


Okay. I have now seen the picture of her. I obviously have no knowledge of her medical history, nor any way of knowing whether or not she perhaps started off much heavier. The fact that she is this size and proportion in spite of teaching several aerobics classes a day suggests to me that she should sit down with her doctor to figure out why.

It is still commendable that she can teach those classes. It's still great that people look up to her. It's still great that there are people exercising because of her. She's still too big to be a plus size fashion model.

I know someone will accuse me of judging by appearances. There's lots of things you can tell by appearance, so look at the picture for yourself. The link is up there somewhere.
posted by ilsa at 2:14 PM on May 8, 2002


Okay. I have now seen the picture of her. I obviously have no knowledge of her medical history, nor any way of knowing whether or not she perhaps started off much heavier. The fact that she is this size and proportion in spite of teaching several aerobics classes a day suggests to me that she should sit down with her doctor to figure out why.

It is still commendable that she can teach those classes. It's still great that people look up to her. It's still great that there are people exercising because of her. She's still too big to be a plus size fashion model.

I know someone will accuse me of judging by appearances. There's lots of things you can tell by appearance, so look at the picture for yourself. The link is up there somewhere.
posted by ilsa at 2:15 PM on May 8, 2002


Okay. I have now seen the picture of her. I obviously have no knowledge of her medical history, nor any way of knowing whether or not she perhaps started off much heavier. The fact that she is this size and proportion in spite of teaching several aerobics classes a day suggests to me that she should sit down with her doctor to figure out why.

It is still commendable that she can teach those classes. It's still great that people look up to her. It's still great that there are people exercising because of her. She's still too big to be a plus size fashion model.

I know someone will accuse me of judging by appearances. There's lots of things you can tell by appearance, so look at the picture for yourself. The link is up there somewhere.
posted by ilsa at 2:15 PM on May 8, 2002


NortonDC: Wow, I'm bingo's hero.

It's true. The real dilemna will come when you release your own line of shoes, and I'll have to decide whether or not to shoplift them.
posted by bingo at 2:20 PM on May 8, 2002


Since we originally had this thread, I have gone from being clinicly obese to being merely overweight. Even when I was obese, I had no problems with exercise, I worked out longer than most people and still didn't lose any weight. The critical thing for me was diet. It turned out that I ate way too much for the exercise to do anything. Now that I've adjusted my diet, I dropped the pounds quite easily. I still ate a good amount, I wasn't starving myself by any means.

Hijinx, I'm going to say that I was fat. I was obese. I personally didn't see myself at fat at the time. I was at risk for many health hazards, not from my genetic makeup, not from any of preexisting conditon. It was all due to my weight. I had a wakeup call that scared the shit out of me, and made me want to lose this unhealthy excess body weight I was carrying. If you want to prove that obesity is totally unrelated to any health problems, prove it. Don't personally attack/insult others for believing what science has told us so far.
posted by Darke at 2:47 PM on May 8, 2002


If only science could be consistent about it's rigid definition of health. How seriously can you take something like BMI when they revise it so drastically.

Being overweight in and of itself does not make you get diabetes. However, if you are pre-disposed to get such diseases, overweight can be the stressor that brings it on. Binge and yo-yo dieting are far more risky to health than being clinically overweight.

Weight is a very emotional issue. If you've expended a great deal of effort to lose it, you don't want to hear someone tell you that maybe it's not as critical as you thought. There's a great deal of self-loathing that we are taught if we are heavier than the cultural norm. It's hard to let it go.

And maybe, everyone, this woman isn't concerned with losing weight to meet your or anyone else's ideal. She doesn't want to meet with her doctor to address her "problem", she wants to live the same life with the same choices as people who weigh less. And yeah, maybe she likes food. She's entitled to eat what she wants and do a job that she's clearly very qualified to do.
posted by Red58 at 3:03 PM on May 8, 2002


I'm reminded of a high school experience. I was obese, as was another girl. In our gym class, we were undeniably the two largest.

However, I did aerobics every day after school, I ate three meals a day with no snacking, and I was losing weight.

This girl was taking martial arts classes, and she was losing weight.

One day, our instructor popped in a military physical training tape, with a troop of well-toned army guys. Whether or not they were real arm guys, or just buff actors, I'm unsure-- either way, they were the visual definition of physically fit.

The entire class was instructed to follow the tape to it's completion, or as far as they could go (you can tell where this is leading, right?) The last two standing? This girl and I. The teacher actually turned the tape off before it ended. She was a great woman, a great teacher, and you know, I think she wanted to give both of us a, "You go, girl!"

In any event, true story. Do with it what you will. I'd personally take classes from the woman. Why she can exercise so much and not lose weight-- well, that's beyond me. I lost mucho weight on that regimen, it does seem vaguely unnatural, or at least indicative that size is more genetic than lifestyle.
posted by precocious at 3:19 PM on May 8, 2002


Congratulations, Darke.
Um, that's all.
posted by Catch at 3:22 PM on May 8, 2002


damn, sorry about that...
posted by ilsa at 4:23 PM on May 8, 2002


I think that whether or not she's fit is not the only issue here. I can't speak for others, but I would not want to take a class from her. When exercising (and I do so regularly) I need to see results if I am to continue to motivate myself to exercise. Faced with the prospect of taking a class from her I'd think: "She's been doing this for how long? ...and she still looks like that. What does this say about my chances of looking better as a result of her program?" I know, I know, she just might be an anomaly and have the weirdest chemistry known to man, but maybe, just maybe, she does not know what she's doing. That chance alone would be enough to make me not want to take a class from her, since I can find someone who looks fit to train me. I know what you're thinking, just because someone looks fit does not mean that he knows what he's doing. But, I am also convinced that good genes alone are not enough to get that nice sculpted look - someone who looks really well-built has to have done something right. So, I would not hire her to be my exercise instructor for purely psychological reasons if nothing else.
posted by epimorph at 6:09 PM on May 8, 2002


Red58: Weight is a very emotional issue. If you've expended a great deal of effort to lose it, you don't want to hear someone tell you that maybe it's not as critical as you thought. There's a great deal of self-loathing that we are taught if we are heavier than the cultural norm. It's hard to let it go.

What a strange inversion this is. Indeed, weight is an emotional issue. Indeed, I have expended a great deal of effort to lose it. But the only thing that bothers me about hearing people tell me that it's not as critical as I thought, is that I know from my own experience that such people are wrong. I wanted to look better, and now I do. It worked. Indeed, it's hard to let go of the self-loathing that comes with being fat, and for many people including myself, that self-loathing was the main motivator that gets us to change the way we look to begin with. How about that...you don't have to change your aesthetic standards so that they fit your ugly body...you just change your body so that it isn't ugly anymore! Yes, it's hard. No, you don't have to do it if you don't want to. But don't try and turn it around and say there's something wrong with wanting to be healthier and look better!

She's entitled to eat what she wants and do a job that she's clearly very qualified to do.

What job is that, exactly? To teach a style of aerobics that won't reduce bodyfat? Why is that desirable?

Besides, the good aerobics instructors I've had have all been inspirational upbeat people who say positive things about what you're doing and what the results will be. I can only imagine this woman's workout monolog:

"Okay, folks, lift those legs! Do this every day, and six weeks from now, you'll look exactly the same! Won't that be great? Who's up for Haagen Daaz after this?"
posted by bingo at 8:35 PM on May 8, 2002


Well bingo, you're missing my point. She doesn't think she's ugly. They're are lots of people who don't. Really.

I'm sorry you feel you have an ugly body. But I'm happy that you've been successful in making yourself feel more attractive.

I suspect this woman's class is more like "Lift those legs, do this every day and you'll FEEL better and have more energy. Won't that be great?"

That's her job, to get people to exercise and be more healthy. Not to meet anyone else's weight and appearance goals.

(And I would also add that I've been in the big weight struggle all my life too. Lost 80+ pounds on several occasions. Self loathing is a horrible motivator.)
posted by Red58 at 5:42 AM on May 9, 2002


I think her monologue would go more like this:

"All right, that's terrific! Do this every day, and a year from now, you'll have increased stamina, muscle tone and cardiovascular endurance!"

"Um, Jennifer?"

"Yes?"

"Well, you didn't say anything in there about whether bingo's going to find me attractive by then."

"Um. I mean, it's possible, but we like to concentrate more on overall fitness in here. You know, feeling good, preventing heart disease, that sort of thing."

"So it's possible I could do all this and bingo still wouldn't sleep with me."

"Well, I mean, you've got to remember that bingo rubs shoulders with a lot of models and people in 'the industry'...he may have a slightly different idea of beauty."

"But do you think that bingo would at least respect the effort I've made toward getting in shape? You know, like sort of admire me as a person?"

"I can't say. I just can't say. But I will tell you that it's your only chance at earning his esteem, and I begin every class with that very thought."
posted by transona5 at 10:15 AM on May 9, 2002 [1 favorite]


Since we originally had this thread, I have gone from being clinicly obese to being merely overweight.

My thoughts on reading that line:

1) Man, I thought that I read slow.
2) I've got to find out what diet Darke is on.
3) Oh, he's talking about the thread from a couple months ago.
4) Sigh, back to the carrots and broccoli.

I'm in the habit of lifting weights and running every day, so I don't think I would care to take a class from Ms. Portnick. Her regimen, as evidenced by her own appearance, does not produce the results I want. That has nothing to do with how she feels about her looks -- it's how I feel about them.

The strength of her program might be in introducing people to light exercise. As they grow accustomed to it, they might be inspired to step up to a more rigorous workout.
posted by joaquim at 10:22 AM on May 9, 2002


I don't really have an opinion about this woman, but my step instructor is what you'd call chunky, but does the hardest step class I've ever attended. I've actually been in pain the day after. Also, I've never lost so much as a pound through exercise alone and I do quite a bit. Only a very strict calorie-controlled diet has made any impact at all. But then I'm not clinically overweight so I think fuck it, I'll live with my thighs the way they are.
posted by Summer at 11:14 AM on May 9, 2002


Red58: Well bingo, you're missing my point. She doesn't think she's ugly. They're are lots of people who don't. Really.

You must know that I didn't miss this point, I just don't agree with it. First, I think that she is objectively ugly. It's not a matter of what bingo's standards for ugliness are. I'm not trying to map out any unchartered aesthetic territory here. If I had never existed, she would still be ugly. Now, you can say that attractiveness is a matter of opinion, and I can say you're wrong; we won't get anywhere.

Second, I think that she does know she's ugly. In fact, I think that this whole battle she's waging against the oh so insensitive and biased cultural norms of beauty and fitness is just a part of one big rationalization to keep her ego from having to deal with the fact that she's ugly. Some people are. It's not a reason to hate yourself. But by applying for the job she did, Portnick was essentially daring them to not hire her so that she could jump up and down (ugh...) and call them a bunch of meanies for not recognizing the inherent beauty in a porcine appearance. She got what she wanted.

(And I would also add that I've been in the big weight struggle all my life too. Lost 80+ pounds on several occasions. Self loathing is a horrible motivator.)

This doesn't really make sense. I'll have to assume that what you're saying is, each time you lost the weight, your motivator was self-loathing. Then you're saying (I think) that the reason you gained the weight back each time was because of the same motivator that made you lose it. Instead of arguing with this paradox, I'll just give you the benefit of the doubt and say that indeed, the image (not just physical, but general) that you have of yourself has to change before/during/after you lose the weight, or you may feel that you don't deserve to be thin, and you may put the weight back on. But the reason most people change (not just from being fat, but from any difficult space), when they do change, is that they don't like the way they currently are. It can be hard to acknowledge this, especially when you have to deal with it again every day while you exercise and look in the mirror and see yourself the way others see you. It can be disheartening and depressing. It can make you want to overeat, and to flee the gym, and to create a glass fortress around yourself wherein you insist that you liked yourself just fine to begin with.

And, to get more specific about people like Portnick, it's also true that everyone's body chemistry is a little bit, or a lot, different in terms of reaction to exercise and diet and mood. There's a lot of information out there, and it can be frustrating to sort through it all and find the bits that you need to apply to yourself in order to bring about the changes you want. Sometimes it's easy to stop sorting through it...to just tell yourself that, for example, you aren't losing fat with cardiovascular exercise because fat people are beautiful. It doesn't make sense, but I can see how it could be comforting.

transona5: The funny thing about your scenario is that while I'm not going to put down any women for working out, I would never harbor a fantasy remotely like that. That's because, even in a perfect bingoesque world, there would be no need for special aerobics classes catering to my taste. The aerobics classes that cater to my taste are the STANDARD kind of aerobics classes that most people do, the kind that the gym Portnick applied to had in mind when they refused to hire her. That is, classes that help their students reduce fat.

The suggestion that cardiovascular exercise should reduce fat is not a radical idea. It's what actually happens to the vast majority of people who engage in it. Your bingoworld scenario suggests that I'm advocating some sort of bizarre criterica for attracitveness, as if I'd said I like girls with broken left arms. On the contrary, I know it's a terrible thing for people like Portnick to contemplate, but in the case of cardiovascular exercise, most people who do it often will find themselves becoming more attractive to most other people, whether bingo is around to see the results or not.

Now, if you want to do another kind of exercise, a kind that doesn't reduce fat in obese people, then hey, it's a free country. But you really shouldn't call it aerobics, and you really shouldn't call it cardiovascular either. Because if you were really doing those kinds of exercise, and you looked like Portnick, and your fat level wasn't going down, then you would have very unusual body chemistry, or some sort of medical problem, and you really should see a doctor, whether you love being fat or not.
posted by bingo at 6:47 PM on May 9, 2002


Gotta love a wholly unrepentant politically-incorrect rant. It's gonna offend a great number of people... but there's a kernal of truth in it that should be recognized: Portnick isn't promoting health, else she would be effectively reducing her weight.

If that's incorrect, please point me to some authoritative data that states one can be obese and have a healthy cardiovascular system, good muscle tone, and strong stamina.

I'm casting my vote partially with Bingo.

(Where I disagree is that I don't think she's particularly ugly. Not my cup of tea, but it's a body well within the norms of human shapes. Three hundred years ago, she'd have been considered extremely attractive, in that Rubeneque way.)
posted by five fresh fish at 8:55 PM on May 9, 2002


I think that Bingo's right in that a large amount of men would dismiss her as unattractive because of her weight. That gym get up isn't doing much for her either. That doesn't make her innately unattractive, just unfortunate to have been born in a body fascist era.

Bingo also says that losing weight through exercise will increase your attractiveness. Well, my years of exercise never made me more attractive to anyone. Growing my hair and dying it blonde did wonders however.
posted by Summer at 1:38 AM on May 10, 2002


Well Summer, maybe you didn't lose enough fat to change people's impressions, or maybe you didn't have much to lose to begin with. Or maybe you look better as a blonde.

As for this "body facist era." Fat people used to be perceived as attractive in some western cultures, because fat was a sign that the fat person didn't have to work, and was therefore a member of the upper classes. Same thing with pale skin; it meant you didn't have to spend much time in the sun. Now, of course, it's possible to be poor and pale and working-class and fat, and we also know that obesity carries health risks, so the stigma has changed. Most of us are attracted to healthy looking people over unhealthy looking people. It's natural, it comes from the individual, and it certainly isn't facism.
posted by bingo at 3:12 PM on May 10, 2002


Bingo you live in a world of absolutes. As if "ugliness" is a fixed aesthetic. It's impressive how doggedly determined you are that your definition is the one. Especically when others are telling you it's not their standard.

I don't think she's ugly. We ahve no way of knowing for sure how she feels about herself, but it sure seems like she's out and happy with herself.

As for my weight loss history. I was full of self loathing, and losing weight didn't do anything to make that go away. So I eventually gained it back. Now, through other means, I have ended the self loathing. Weight loss, or no weight loss, I feel attractive, get lots of dates, and frankly don't give a flying fuck if I don't meet some oppressive standards of beauty set by people who think I'm not attractive.

I am related to many generations of women who are stout and chubby. Who live well into their 90's. And men who are slim and prone to high blood pressure and early death.

My cardiovascular system is in stunningly good shape. I'm 5'8" and 235 pounds (very similar to this woman). Cholesterol 150-160, blood pressure consistently in the range of normal to low normal. I consistently out perform others in my aerobics classes.

Consider that there may be a path and a truth other than yours.
posted by Red58 at 6:31 PM on May 10, 2002


Bingo you live in a world of absolutes.

Yeah. One of those absolutes is that we all live in the same world, whether we want to acknowledge it or not.

As if "ugliness" is a fixed aesthetic.

Actually, it's beauty that's a fixed aesthetic. Ugliness is just the shadow behind the statue. And beauty, like ugliness, can take many forms, just as, for example, there are many combinations of numbers you can add together to get 42.

It's impressive how doggedly determined you are that your definition is the one. Especically when others are telling you it's not their standard.

Thanks. What's interesting to me is your positioning of "my" standard as if it's something that I made up on my own. The notion that people who look like they get regular exercise are more attractive than people who look like they sit in a beanbag all day eating doughnuts is not exactly unique. In fact, it's the basis for most people to align their aesthetic standards in terms of seeking out a mate, or an ideal mate anyway.

What's more, while I will be the first to acknowledge that the fashion industry, movies, etc. have some degree of influence on the personal aesthetics of many people, I do not believe that there is some sort of Chomskian center of power and control that is trying to keep fat people down. On the contrary, for many of the major corporate and government interests that run the world, you'd think that a fat population would be desirable. Why risk turning customers away by promoting products they can't use, or feel guilty about using? What if the US government launched a "just support fat" campaign, or a "war against fiber" campaign? People would consume more white flour, high fructose corn syrup, and red meat. Good for the economy. Good for some industries that are having relatively tough times right now. And yet it isn't happening.

As for my weight loss history. I was full of self loathing, and losing weight didn't do anything to make that go away. So I eventually gained it back. Now, through other means, I have ended the self loathing. Weight loss, or no weight loss, I feel attractive, get lots of dates, and frankly don't give a flying fuck if I don't meet some oppressive standards of beauty set by people who think I'm not attractive.

Well, Red58. I have no idea what you look like, or what you looked like before, or how innately attractive you are, what kind of dates you get and what you want from them, what they want from you, whether they are attracted to your self-esteem or something else, etc. And I'm not saying that any of those things are my business. But they are factors that I think are quite important in terms of determining the validity of your (apparent) implication that fat in your experience is not a significant factor in determining one's attractiveness.

I am related to many generations of women who are stout and chubby. Who live well into their 90's. And men who are slim and prone to high blood pressure and early death.

You have a strange family.

My cardiovascular system is in stunningly good shape. I'm 5'8" and 235 pounds (very similar to this woman). Cholesterol 150-160, blood pressure consistently in the range of normal to low normal. I consistently out perform others in my aerobics classes.

Interesting that you would use the word "stunningly." Why is it stunning...is it stunning, considering how fat you are? Wouldn't that imply that most fat people are in much worse cardiovascular shape?

And I'm curious to know how often you attend these aerobics classes, and what exactly it means to out-perform other students within them. And I'm also curious as to your bodyfat percentage. It's possible that you've done a lot of exercise that was actually anaerobic for you, due to the shape you were in at the time, even though it may have seemed aerobic and been aerobic for other people. In such a situation, you could have put on muscle, and more or less maintained your level of fat, especially if you haven't been eating a low-fat, high-fiber diet. That's just one possible scenario.

Consider that there may be a path and a truth other than yours.

I don't think the word "truth" can really mean anything in that case. And I believe that the word does in fact mean something. As to other paths than mine, god knows there are an awful lot of those. I don't think Jennifer Portnick's is leading her to Truth, though. And I'm not going to pretend otherwise, just to avoid stepping on the sort of eggshells that I used to dole out myself.
posted by bingo at 12:36 AM on May 11, 2002


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