I am sitting on a bench crying, shaking, puke all over the floor and me as if I was smashed in the face by Thor’s hammer. I am humiliated and ashamed more than words can describe. The year is 2002, I’m 16 years old and in grade 11. I’m nearly 300 pounds, or 136KG for those in Europe. Why am I crying and covered in vomit? I just got done with a fitness test during gym class. Step-ups on a bench, agility sprints around cones, a good old-fashioned Harvard fitness test. My body couldn’t take such a simple task.
This is not The Biggest Loser. Jillian Michaels is not yelling at me. I pushed myself to the limit for a few drills and was found wanting. There was no football or rugby program at my school. No strongman team. I had no financial or social reason to be overweight. Years of oversized XXL sports jerseys could not hide solid evidence of my physical deterioration.
I am telling this personal story because of what I just read from Bulimia.com. They look a bevy of famous video game vixens and made them “realistic.” They photo shopped them to look like the average American woman. Fat.
I am telling this personal story because I was just that, the average North American. I was fat. I was ugly. I was not the first choice at the dance. The key word is was. I am no longer fat or unattractive. I’ve worked hard to get to a toned, muscular 185 pound physique. I am literally a shell of what I once was, replacing those XXL jerseys with mediums that sometimes are too big.
I can understand what Bulimia.com wanted to accomplish. They want people not to kill themselves by sticking a finger down their throat, puking up their meal and stomach acid, and wasting away as a pile of bones. What I take objection with is they are doing it backwards—body shaming success. Instead the message I get is don’t improve yourself. It is okay to be fat and out of shape by normalizing fatness as acceptable. It is okay to be the average.
Maybe the male mindset is different than a woman’s, but when I see the buff video game heroes, the Commander Shepards, the Chris Redfields, I get inspired. The difference between when I was 16 and now is I stopped being lazy. I stopped fearing the pain of gasping for air when running down the track, or lifting that set of weights. I stopped fearing other people judging me as I realized people judged me anyways. What would be the difference between walking up a flight of stairs, out of breath and pathetic looking, in public or at the gym? Both places you are seen. Both places you’re climbing the stairs, real or on a machine. The difference is the fear of failure and being different. At a gym you can see success being performed. It can’t be hidden. You can lift the weight or you can’t. You can run the mile or you can’t. You can’t hide in a crowd. You can see the differences in people’s fitness success the moment they enter the doors.
When critics and organizations talk about unrealistic body images it makes me laugh now. Here is a picture of She-Hulk. Yeah, she looks pretty buff. Now here is a picture of Pauline Nordin, the same woman, minus the green paint job. What is called unrealistic is the choice not to be anything but average. Yes, those photo shopped pictures of the heroines depict the average North American, but do we play games to look and experience the average, the normal? We have our everyday lives for that. We play video games to escape from normality, to enter fantasy, and accomplish things we cannot do in the real world. Those bodies though are still achievable. Hard? Of course. Impossible or near impossible? These women sure missed that memo.
A person’s body is just like anything else a person gets in life. The harder they work on it, the better it will be. If anything, the women used in the article are not shredded enough considering what they do to make them quote “realistic.” Instead of normalizing fatness and making people feel good about accepting their overweight physique, Bulima.com could use those images to explain healthy fitness habits. They could use them as a positive example, instead of a negative, to educate what it would take to safely achieve that body if someone wanted it. Again it must be my male mindset. As a man I’m inspired by Chris Redfield to get fit but for a woman a picture of Jill Valentine makes them feel ashamed and uninspired?
Beginning soon I want to change the so-called norm, the culture that has so many people, especially gamers, choosing unhealthy lifestyles. Please make sure to come back to TechRaptor for my new column called The Gamer’s Guide to Fitness, where I take the traits that make gamers so dedicated and successful in their hobby and show you how to utilize them to get healthier and fitter. If gaming has taught me anything, it is that if you can be dedicated and successful in one activity you can be the same in another.
Do you think the video game characters are perpetuating an unhealthy obsession with body image in today’s youth? Do you find them a motivation or are demotivated?