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Weird News —

March 16, 2012

Apart from having one of the greatest names ever, Holley Mangold is an Olympic athlete, as erylin shared with us on Monday. In response, Holley’s teammate, Sarah Robles, and former coach, Dan Bell, have commented (Sarah asked that her post be removed due to inaccurate information regarding the scholarship status of Holley, which we have clarified).

Both Mangold and Robles appear fat:

Yet both are incredibly talented athletes.

I say “yet” not because I’m confused by the concept of a fat person being in Olympic shape, but because the rest of the world seems to be.

Take this Huffington Post story on Mangold’s bid for the US women’s Olympic weightlifting team, which she recently one.

The June 2011 article by David Moye is fairly done and even includes a nod to the fact that people can be fat and fit:

Of course, that will happen when you’re a 323-pound woman in perfect physical shape, who is highly favored to compete on the 2012 U.S. Olympic weightlifting team.

But the comments include no shortage of haters and doubters who insist that Mangold cannot be healthy because… because… well, just look at her! I mean, does this look healthy to you?

The answer (though we are under no obligation to answer such ignorance) is yes, you thick-headed turd polisher!

Holley Mangold and Sarah Robles are healthy, athletic and strong, and just because you can’t get past the amount of mass these women possess does not diminish their accomplishments, their talents, or their health in the slightest.

But this is just one of the toxic consequences of living in a weight-based health culture (WBHC), where health is something you wear on your sleeve for all the world to see. What is even more toxic is when people internalize the belief that they can’t be healthy if they are fat, as in the example of Stormy Bradley and the WBHC.

Stormy is the mother of one of the Strong4Life “actors,” and despite being incredibly active, she continues to focus on losing weight, rather than referring to her athletic achievements as evidence of her health.

Stormy has done some incredible stuff in her life, even recently, including “repelled off a 50′ tower (1987), been in a fist fight (1988), earned Masters Degree in Education Training & Management Systems from University of West Florida (2003), climbed Mt. Hood in Portland OR (2006), climbed 50 floors to raise money for American Lung Association (2009-2010), completed to (sic) 5ks, (2009-2010), and climbed Stone Mountain in Georgia.(2010).”

The only difference between Stormy and Holley is that Holley seems to have reached a level of comfort and acceptance of her body that allows her to enjoy her accomplishments without feeling as though she has to weigh some arbitrary amount to suddenly trigger “health.”

This is the message that needs to be spread throughout the world, and especially to young girls who have been snared in the WBHC: if you want to be healthy, then do healthy things, but stop expecting thinness as a result.

It’s pretty simple premise and we’ve got oodles of research backing it up, but the world just can’t stand to hear anything but “Thin=Healthy/Fat=Imminent Death.” Any story that suggests that a fat person can also be healthy is treated as weird news, as evidenced by HuffPo’s placement of the Mangold story:

Hey HuffPo, I got news for you: women’s Olympic weightlifting is a sport and it’s my understanding that you have a functioning Sports Section. What is weird about a 323-pound female weightlifter? Aren’t there male weightlifters who are members of The 300 Club?

Take a page from Sports Illustrated, which covered Mangold’s accomplishments without the snide swipes.

There’s absolutely nothing weird about Holley or Sarah. What is weird is living in a culture that puts a greater emphasis on appearance than accomplishments. How many of these sniveling smartasses could qualify for an adult kickball league, let alone the fucking Olympics?

We need to see more of Holley and Sarah. We need to share their stories with our daughters and our sons to show them that being fat is not the end of the world, let alone the end of your health.

A great place to start is this episode of MTV’s True Life all about Holley’s meteoric rise through the challenging world of competitive weightlifting (although you may want to watch first before sharing with your kids, as there are some minor adult themes). You also get to meet Robles and Bell along the way.

I, for one, will be paying attention to the Olympics for the first time since… ever. For once, there are some athletes whose personal success I feel compelled to follow. Robles is the seasoned veteran, while Mangold is the brash, young upstart, and both are poised to make big waves this summer in London.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. LittleBigGirl permalink
    March 16, 2012 2:18 pm

    “Oh sure they qualified for the Olympics, but they *still* can’t *possibly* be healthy because of their physical appearance.”

    My head hath cleaved my desk in twain.

    Denial – not just a river in Egypt. I wish I could understand why people cling so desperately to this of all things. People who would scorn racism, sexism, ageism, just about any other kind of intolerance still refuse to give up their “fatties are bad” security blanket.

    The greatest miscarriage of social justice to me is the smokescreen of Health that has been put up to hide pure Vanity. If you can be fat and be an Olympic athlete then how, HOW can any sane logical person possibly argue that fat is unhealthy? Fat has been made an aesthetic issue by people who are in the business of creating aesthetics and then selling them back to us. Saying someone should lose weight is the same as saying they should dye something or bleach something or nip/tuck something. Now to hide the shallowness they put up their hands and say “Oh, but it’s for your *health* darling!”
    Bull. Talk to me about my “health” when you aren’t trying to get my money.

  2. vesta44 permalink
    March 16, 2012 3:09 pm

    Great post Shannon!
    LittleBigGirl – you nailed it when you said “talk to me about my ‘health’ when you aren’t trying to get my money.” Truer words were never spoken.

  3. March 17, 2012 10:10 pm

    And I wonder how many of the haters who commented can even lift the BAR in that picture of Robles, let alone all the weights she has added to it! I hope I live long enough to see the end of so much ignorance.

  4. faycinacroud permalink
    March 23, 2012 2:16 pm

    How thick do people have to be not to get it? These are strong, powerful, healthy people. Jeeeezzzz…..

  5. March 27, 2012 10:39 pm

    Play by your strengths and advantages

  6. SteveInDallas permalink
    August 7, 2012 3:22 pm

    STOP IT. Stop drawing a parallel between “athletic” and “healthy.”

    Some of the most athletic people I know have serious health problems. My niece does marathons and 50-mile “adventure runs,” and her ankles are about to crumble — in her 30’s. My stepson is a gym nut whose knees and elbows are a recurring source of pain. One of my friend’s profession is doing health consulting for ex-NFL athletes — many of whom enter their 40’s and 50’s with serious, chronic health problems.

    Meanwhile — some of the healthiest people I know – like my 96 year old uncle and 103 year old aunt — never ran a race, vaulted across a floor, or lifted anything heavier than a 50 pound sack of grain.

    Athlete does NOT equal healthy. Google Jim Fixe if you like, and get back to me.

    • August 7, 2012 4:33 pm

      You are correct. There are people who over-train and can do damage to their bodies, and professional sports push the human body to its limits. However, I should clarify that the “healthy” I speak of in this context is largely metabolic health, and it’s a bit lazy to equate metabolic health to overall health, but since our blog deals largely with fat people, metabolic health is typically what people are talking about.

      And all of this doesn’t even touch on the phenomenon of thin athletes dropping dead in their 20s and 30s, which seems to happen with disturbing frequency. There’s more to health than being an athlete.

      That being said, I would venture to guess that most Olympic athletes, of whatever size, are metabolically healthy. They engage in cardio and strength training, which are the two keys to improving one’s metabolic health. So, a 40-year-old who runs marathons may have an 80-year-old’s ankles and a 20-year-old’s heart. There is a middle ground, obviously, but when people seriously train, there are trade-offs in health.

      So again, health is about more than any one metric, but for the purposes of this blog, when I refer to health, I am typically referring to metabolic health and the variables that we can influence.

      Thank you for the comment, and welcome to Fierce Fatties.


  7. vesta44 permalink
    August 7, 2012 3:31 pm

    Okay, SteveInDallas, so athletic =/= healthy, fat =/= healthy, thin =/= healthy, sedentary =/= healthy. Is there any state of being that equals healthy? Ya know what? I’m going to say no, no there isn’t. All there is, is a state of being as healthy as we can be in the body we have right now and that has to be good enough because every one of us is going to die sooner or later, no matter what we do to delay the inevitable. So get off your high horse and quit being a piss baby about this whole “healthy athlete” thing, ok?


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