May 29, 2012 | life

Does My Bum Look Big in This Gold Medal?

Olympics mania is well and truly upon us. Try to avoid it if you wish, but it’ll be hard what with the barrage of advertising and the stressing about whether you’ll have to barricade yourself in your house for a couple of weeks/go on holiday while its on. It’s probably no secret that as a runner, I’m very excited about it all. I can’t wait to see all these world class athletes battle it out (while trying to remain not bitter about the fact that I didn’t get tickets to anything). I’m loving all the emphasis on sport and getting active because heck, as a pretty unhealthy country, that’s what we need. So I’m all excited, then all of a sudden, some dopey UK Athletics official decides to drop a clanger last week when he declared that Jessica Ennis is fat. H’excuse me?!

Are we talking about the same Jessica Ennis here? She of rock hard abs and perfectly sculpted body? The Heptathlete who is insanely skilled in seven different athletic disciplines and leaves competitors eating her dust? Yeah, that Jessica Ennis? Then I’m thoroughly confused. But I guess I shouldn’t be. Far be it from me to think we were turning a corner, that women in sport were being taken a bit more seriously, that we could finally focus on their abilities, rather than their bodies. But it turns out, that was just stupid of me. That UK Athletics official has brought us all way back down to earth. I notice how there are no reports of the men being told to slim down a bit and shed a few. But it’s never been a level playing field on that front, let’s face it.

As sadly unsurprising as this nonsense is, it’s made all the more confusing by the sponsors for the Olympics being McDonald’s and Coca Cola – neither of which are exactly known for their healthy or slimming qualities. So what kind of message are we trying to send here? Jessica Ennis, world class athlete who is in perfect shape is told she’s too fat – she’s competing in an Olympics where spectators are encouraged to gorge themselves on Big Macs and Cokes between events, which will further contribute to the growing obesity problem we already have in this country. So what is Miss Ennis supposed to do? Slim down? For whom exactly? She is quite literally the poster girl for a healthy, active lifestyle and I’d be willing to bet any money that we won’t find Mickey D’s or Coca Cola anywhere in her food diary.

There are women (AND MEN!) in this country who are legitimately, and in some cases dangerously, overweight, who may well be trying to turn their lives around. For them to see that world class athletes who are at the peak of physical fitness and healthy living are being written off as ‘fat’, heck, who can blame them for not seeing the point? The Olympics is a wonderful opportunity to encourage people to be more active and a platform on which to emphasise that fitness does not necessarily come down to body shape. It might be worthwhile getting some people on the Olympics and UK Athletics committees who can communicate these messages properly without inducing a media train wreck.

Personally, I wouldn’t be hurling insults so readily at someone who is so handy with a javelin.

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8 Comments

Angel Dee

I am still pissed about this. This ties in with trying to encourage our girls who lose interest in sports back into exercise.

Angel Dee

Typing on my phone, sorry. If Jess Ennis is now considered fat, then what hope do we have in retention of those girls who look up to her and may have seen her win medals and carried on exercising where they may have previously pitched it because girls don’t sweat.

Am in a good mood so will leave this here .. Am totally pissed though.

Lex

Jess Ennis is a lean, mean, gold-medal winning, competition-crushing badass. Fat, she ain’t. I hope she laughed out loud (flexing her washboard stomach) when she heard his comments.

Elizabeth Holdsworth

Couldn’t agree with you more – Jessica Ennis couldn’t be a better role model, I think she’s incredible (plus, she get extra points for being from Yorkshire!) I hope she treats the ‘fat’ comment with the contempt it deserves. Cannot wait to see her in action at this summer’s Olympics. Despite the fact I’ll only be watching it on TV, I am excited. I’ll be watching it with my young kids in the hope that they see these incredible athletes as far superior role models than what they’re usually bombarded with.

Jane

As much as I love Jess Ennis (I do, I love her a lot) I sort of felt like this official’s comments were taken out of context. As far as I’m aware, what he actually said was that Jess was “carrying too much weight” which I took to mean that she was getting too heavy (not fat) to compete at her best in her discipline. She’s a really petite girl who obviously carries a LOT of muscle and this could be holding her back in a event like the high jump where surely it would be an advantage to be lighter, especially since she isn’t very tall. I’m not hating on the way Jess looks, I’d kill to have abs like hers and I think she’s a great role model for young women, but that’s just how I understood the official’s comment.
Totally agree with the weirdness of using McDonalds and CocaCola as official sponsors though; next thing they’ll have Usain Bolt on the side of a bus, claiming that he fuels his body with Big Macs…

Tim

I have to say I’ve not seen anything reported about those comments re Ennis being fat (and I spend a lot of time Googling her) and clearly if the actual quote was about weight without using the word ‘fat’ then I’d be inclined to agree with Jane there, not the blog.

Anybody can see just how fit and in great shape Jessica Ennis is – her physique’s been on enough TV adverts and billboards this year – so hopefully there won’t be any confusion as to whether or not hers is a body to aim for (if you are looking for an image role model).

I’m really not keen on the tone of this blog, actually. Drawing attention to the athletics/fast food partnership is great and a far more worthy topic, but this is the first piece I’ve seen about the Ennis remark, and completely sensationalises things to back itself up: comments like ‘Media train wreck’, ‘hurling insults’, ‘written off’ are as wide of the mark in describing the situation as ‘fat’ is to describe our great heptathlete hope.

Although I appreciate it’s not a direct comparison, you’ll find plenty of footballers being told to slim down very publicly!

Bangs and a Bun

ANGEL – Yeah, the effect on young girls is what scares me. All these mixed messages are confusing, overwhelming and disheartening.

LEX – Absolutely!

ELIZABETH – Yeah I really hope more young people see the strength, determination and beauty in what these athletes do and look up to it.

JANE – Agreed, I think this is why it’s so important for people in these organisations to be careful about the way they say things. Jessica’s coach took it as him saying ‘she’s fat’ – whether or not he said those precise words, we’ll never know. I agree about the technicalities of her body weight being an issue in certain aspects of her event. Oh and I think Usain Bolt was already quoted as saying he eats chicken nuggets a lot or something – the mind boggles how he still manages to be so fast!

TIM – Hi Tim, when I heard about the comments and Googled Jessica Ennis, the first several links were about this story, from news institutions ranging from The Guardian and Huffington Post to The Daily Mail. Those are reputable publications with massive audiences – clearly I’m not the first person to cover it or take an interest in it. I don’t mean to be hyperbolic in my language, it’s just that it’s a topic that’s close to my heart and makes me a little angry! I appreciate your comment though. Thanks for taking the time to read.

kath @mummywalker)

Harry Aikines-Aryeety was referred to by Denise Lewis as too bulky while on live TV. That was from one of our best known Olympians and Harry was a bit upset about it at the time. I can see why she had that opinion but maybe it would have been better to talk to Harry directly first. But somehow this didn’t get picked up on as much. Men and boys suffer from eating disorders too and it’s on the rise.
Having been in an athletics environment myself from a young age I have to say that male coaches and officials don’t always seem to have the best way of approaching topics of health and well being with girls. I don’t know if this guy was one of the blazer brigade of old but it would be nice if UK athletics came out and did something more positive about these reports. Heck if only Charles Van Commenee would say something rather than leave it to Louise Hazel and Tony Minichello.
Women in any sport tread a fine line regards their health. The female sporting triad is a documented condition and one that poor Hollie Anvill obviously experienced. Maybe coaches and teachers need to be better educated in this condition and how to prevent disordered eating, cycle disruptions, depression and problems with bone density rather than worrying that athletes are carrying extra weight when they clearly are not. Oh and more female coaches and female mentors would help too.
Bit rambly there, sorry!

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