Peloton’s Ad Is Not the Problem, We Are
Misconceptions about health lead to confusion over the definition of being well
Peloton released a holiday ad for their luxury stationary bike in November. Just like past holiday seasons, there was backlash towards it, but just this past week it went viral and was hate-tweeted. It was a trending topic on Twitter.
In the Peloton video, we see a wife who begins to exercise with a stationary bike that her husband bought for Christmas. She chronicles her journey for a year using the bike and shows the video to her family the next Christmas. We see her at first grudgingly accept the challenge of using it each day, but by the end of the year it has become a part of her routine.
Many of the criticisms found online highlight the fact that the actress in the video is in good shape and has no need for an exercise bike because of her appearance. Others point out that her husband buying it for her must mean that he thinks she could lose a few pounds or isn’t in great shape. Stereotypes about body shapes in America are nothing new, but they have gotten worse over the years as people continue trying to define what it means to be healthy in America.
Body shaming is the practice of making critical, potentially humiliating comments about a person’s body size or weight. It is very common to see someone criticizing another for their body size. The practice is harmful in many ways and can lead to long term body image issues. The expectation that someone considered skinny should eat more/avoid working out because of their size or an overweight person who needs to eat less/focus on exercise are common place in America.
What is so wrong with an already fit person wanting to be in better shape?
Why do we assume that a skinny person is in shape/healthy, but an overweight person isn’t?
We have come to expect that the only people who need to workout are those overweight. Skinny shaming stems from fatphobia, which is fear and dislike of obese people and/or obesity. As a society, we have established expectations for both skinny and fat people based off this fear. Fat people are assumed to be struggling with restricting their caloric intake, exercise, and overall health. Skinny people are viewed in the exact opposite way. It is assumed that they have a “fast” metabolism, good control of their diet, and an established exercise routine. None of this is true. In fact, body shape is impacted by your lifestyle, but it is also morphed by your genetics. Findings suggest that over 6,000 genes contribute to help determine an individual’s body weight. There is also such a thing as being ‘skinny fat’. This happens when you are slender without muscle tone and is just as dangerous as being obese.
America has always had an unhealthy obsession with being slim. The problem is that it remains the only goal for many people. Rather than being healthy, which involves eating right and exercising regularly, the goal is purely physical. So long as I become skinny, it doesn’t matter how I get there.
Being a fit person who strives to be fitter/healthier should not be considered a problem. And being an overweight person who doesn’t exercise shouldn’t be viewed as someone in crisis who needs exercise to save them. The size of your body is impacted by many internal (genetic) and external (environment) factors. To criticize an ad for using an in shape person to showcase the use of their stationary bike over someone bigger underscores the challenges we face in defining our standards of what it means to be healthy and happy.
James is a writer who focuses on pieces about race, politics, and culture — among other topics. If you’d like to read more, please follow him at James Woods