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Doll Revolution —

December 3, 2012

Pop quiz!

Based on the information in the photo below, would you say this is a man who is healthy or not healthy?


How about this guy? Healthy or not healthy?



There’s no way to know for sure since health is about more than what you look like.

However, there are some clues that might fill us in a bit. The fat guy on bottom is Kelly Gneiting, whom you may recognize from the header of our site. Gneiting is a sumo wrestler (hence the undergarment) who became the heaviest person to ever complete a marathon — the Los Angeles Marathon (LAM). Gneiting is now training to swim the English Channel.

The thin guy on top is Justin Jedlica, who has been described as a human Ken doll. In an interview with ABC News, Jedlica explains how he’s undergone cosmetic surgery at least 90 times to achieve his chiseled physique:

Reporter: Those 90 procedures have transformed Justin into a living sculpture of silicone. Nearly every inch of his upper body bulges with implants.
Jedlica: I started with my glutes.
Reporter: What did you want done?
Jedlica: Perky, high, tight.
Reporter: He has a ledge to rival Kim Kardashian’s. But it didn’t end there.
Jedlica: Then after I did the chest, people used to come up to me and say, “do you just work out your chest, because it’s so amazing, but you have no arms. So I ended up going and, uh, was looking for a doctor then who would do bicep-tricep implants.
Reporter: Let me throw out a crazy question. Why not just work out to get biceps and triceps?
Jedlica: That is so not exciting, not glamorous or fabulous.

So here we have two extreme examples of people whose bodies do not match our expectations for those bodies. I call them extreme examples because I don’t believe most people who look like Jedlica have done so through cosmetic surgery or that most people who look like Gneiting are secret marathoners.

What I do believe is that Jedlica and Gneiting demonstrate what is possible for those body types.

In Jedlica’s case, it is possible to look physically in shape without lifting a finger. It has cost him over $100,000, but he got the results he wanted, so he’s happy. But without doing the hard work that is required to naturally create that look, simply having silicone pecs does not make one healthy.

On the other hand, Gneiting is a relentless athlete who has been busting his ass, as well as the stereotypes surrounding his ass, by training his body to endure grueling feats of strength and endurance. After all, 150-pound marathoners are a dime a dozen. How many of them could run the full 26.2 miles with an additional 250 pounds on their back?

Yet the unfounded assumptions about Gneiting’s health has plagued the comment boards of any article he’s in. Gneiting’s accomplishments don’t count, we’re told, because he both ran and walked, which meant that it took him nearly 10 hours to complete the LAM. It’s moments like these that make me scream through grit teeth, “WALKING 26 MILES IS AN ATHLETIC ACCOMPLISHMENT TOO!”

And yet you never see the concern trolls swarming around the comments of Jedlica.

Hmmmmm… why do you think that is?

Simple: healthism has become a proxy war for looksism.

You see, people still criticize Jedlica for his looks. They say he looks creepy and plastic-y (for obvious reasons), but what they don’t say is that he looks unhealthy, which is weird because he openly admits that health is not only not his goal, but that it’s something he’s personally opposed to. Jedlica only wants to do glamorous and fabulous things, and training for a marathon is anything but.

Meanwhile, Gneiting could hand you a copy of his perfect medical chart and post videos of his rigorous workout regimen on YouTube, and there would still be people suggesting that he’s on the verge of a heart attack. Why? Especially when Gneiting has obviously invested so much time and energy into these athletic endeavors.

The answer is that there is no amount of proof, no definitive evidence you can provide to these skeptics which will ease their weight-based assumptions. Put Gneiting and Jedlica side by side and the concern trolls will point to the Ken doll as the clear winner in the Great Health Contest.


Because that’s what health has become in this country: a contest. It’s not about the behaviors that we engage in that may reduce our individual risk profiles; it’s about who yields the most superficial results.

It’s like that time I interviewed Michael Karolchyk (the Anti-Gym douchebag) and his argument on health devolved into a manic challenge to find a fat person who could “run a marathon in under 3.5 hours, that can bench press their body weight times two” or do “25 pushups in 30 seconds.”

But here’s what I didn’t fully realize at the time: none of these things is actually an indicator of health. Perhaps they are Karolchyk’s personal goals for clients, but if a person runs a marathon in 4 hours, or even 10 hours, they haven’t magically missed the benefits of training for that marathon. Likewise, if it takes me two minutes to do 25 pushups, that doesn’t mean I’m not healthy. It simply means that it takes me two minutes to do 25 pushups.

And the whole “bench press their body weight times two” thing is ridiculous. Who ever said that benching twice your weight is a marker of health?

When I posted an interview that I did with a local television station on YouTube, I got a few expected snarky comments, including, “Careful lifting those heavy weights, don’t want to get too bulky!”

It does not matter what you do for your health because there will always — ALWAYS — be some interfering assholes who will want to tell you why you’re doing it wrong and why they are doing it right. Except if you’re trying to get healthy, then the results you’re looking for won’t necessarily be evident to others.

If you’re a fat marathoner or a fat weight-lifter or a fat walker or a fat dancer, then someone is bound to either scoff at your claims, or else offer you advice on how to really overcome your weight “problem.” Because, let’s face it, if exercising and eating a healthy diet doesn’t lead to chiseled abs and toned arms, then what’s the point, right?

This is why we don’t judge a person’s healthy by their outward appearance. If you must judge others (and it’s worth bearing in mind that nobody must judge anyone), then perhaps you should wait until you have a copy of their medical records so that you can have something a bit more definitive than chiseled abs or a jiggly ass.

Because looking like a Ken doll is not the path to true health. Engaging in healthy behaviors is.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. vesta44 permalink
    December 3, 2012 12:24 pm

    Because that’s what health has become in this country: a contest. It’s not about the behaviors that we engage in that may reduce our individual risk profiles; it’s about who yields the most superficial results.

    The sad thing about the above statement is that when all those healthy behaviors don’t produce the touted results (lean, muscled, chiseled, whatever), a lot of people will stop the healthy behaviors because they don’t think they’re getting “healthy”, not realizing that “healthy” isn’t a look, it’s those lab/test results from your doctor that show if you’re healthy or not. This emphasis on looks over health is doing a huge disservice to everyone, not just fat people, but even thin people who think they don’t have to worry about their health simply because they’re thin.

  2. December 4, 2012 8:13 pm

    You were right about the myofibrillar/sarcoplasmic distinction in your first comment on that video.

    But, this is backwards >> “You build lean through lower weights and longer reps, and bulk through heavy weights for shorter reps.”

    Low/moderate weight & high reps, performed slowly = what you were doing in the video = bodybuilder training = sarcoplasmic hypertrophy

    High weight & low reps = strength athlete training = myofibrillar hypertrophy (what you refer to as “lean muscle”).

    You obviously like doing your own research, if you look into the training methods of bodybuilders vs. olympic weightlifters or powerlifters the difference is pretty stark.

    Hope this helps

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