Excerpt from Deconstructing the Fitness Industrial Complex

Posted by – May 02, 2023
Categories: Excerpt Fitness & Sports Society & Politics

Redefining Fitness

The fitness-industrial complex defines and maintains power over our bodies through patriarchal, white supremacist culture. These mainstream ideas teach us that the white, cisgender, heterosexual, non-disabled, middle-class, and thin body is the standard that needs to be aspired to in the interest of perpetuating a society based on a social caste system, thus creating the image of the “productive citizen.” The fitness-industrial complex is maintained by private companies that make huge profits from diet and fitness culture, given that through white supremacist body culture no one will truly attain these standards, and this failure is required for it to perpetuate. The fitness industry becomes a space to attempt to rehabilitate “non-desirable” bodies, or ones that do not fit the image of the productive citizen, thus damaging our bodies, our relationship to our bodies, and our mental health. 

Opposing the monolithic and oppressive ideals upheld by the fitness-industrial complex, the body positivity movement is led by BIPOC disability activists, and it’s time that we uplift that narrative. As members of the movement, we challenge the idea that fitness belongs to only one body type and that there is only one way to be fit. Because fitness is for all bodies and the personal is still political, we fight against the false messages and body-shaming beliefs promoted by the fitness-industrial complex.

Today’s fight for Fitness 4 All Bodies includes coaches and trainers who are often seen as gatekeepers and spokespeople for the fitness industry. As agents of this industry, we can take action to support our clients and contradict the harmful messages that the industry perpetuates in order to make profit and perpetuate this impossible idea of the “fit body.” Even further, we need to deconstruct the fitness-industrial complex by using our own stories and experiences of the fitness industry. In order to eradicate the fitness industry, we must be connected through our differences to build an impenetrable armor to protect us as we change the narrative of what fitness means for all bodies.

Deconstructing the fitness-industrial complex is no easy task. It is not enough to try to amend or accessorize these spaces with missions of “inclusivity” or “diversity.” Rather, as activist Roc Rochon of Rooted Resistance shared while participating in the August 2020 Fitness 4 All Bodies panel, we must first recognize the way gym spaces and fitness perpetuate these dynamics on a systemic level, then deconstruct it by building from the ground up spaces that center and prioritize different values such as fat, queer, BIPOC liberation, and disability justice. Fitness 4 All Bodies is not a commodity, but rather a liberation movement for all our bodies.