What Is Toxic Fitness Culture?

Posted by Ilya Parker on

So a couple of years ago I coined the term: "Toxic Fitness Culture". It is important for me to name this, as often the work of Black and Trans folks gets co-opted, erased and whitewashed within paradigm shifting movements as the movements begin to grow. In this current moment the world of Inclusive Fitness/Wellness is beginning to gain momentum and it's very important for me to make sure I carve space and let folks know that I am one of the pioneers of this movement. I firmly believe that we need to celebrate the lives and work of Black Trans folks while we are living especially considering our life expectancy is so low. So make sure when you are engaging with and sharing this term that you are specific in honoring that a Black trans person (Ilya Parker) is the creator. 

Here is the definition:

Social characteristics, language and habits that promote/reinforce ableism, fatphobia, racism, classism, elitism, body shaming/policing, LGBTQIA+ hatred under the guise of fitness and wellness.

Toxic fitness culture relies on two distinct groups to be situated on opposite ends of the fitness spectrum. One group consists of the able bodied, thin/toned, (edit: conventionally) attractive, young, cisgender, heterosexual people who are assumed to be the gatekeepers of what it means to engage appropriately in & embody fitness.

The other group consists of folks who carry marginalized identities that drastically remove their bodily agency limiting them from accessing fitness in ways that meet their needs and feel supportive to them.

Toxic fitness culture is rooted in white supremacist ideals regarding health, ability, size, gender, age and beauty. Toxic fitness culture and diet culture are intertwined, with both placing blame on an individual for the ways their body shows up in this world.


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