Football Players and Fat

It’s September and the American football season has started.  Considering how fat people are reviled in America, it’s fascinating how the biggest football players still receive the cachet of being professional athletes.

I started thinking of this when I realized that the treadmills at Fitness World* allow me to enter my actual weight.  Then the mini-gym at work replaced its treadmills and they don’t top out at 330 or 350 either.  I’m wondering if the fact that more pro athletes are hitting 300+ might be part of the treadmills being built for larger people.  What American treadmill company would want to tell an NFL or college football team, “Oh, no, our machines aren’t sturdy enough for your players”?   This feeds into what’s sold for gyms that aspire to attract athletes as well.

Then I run across this gem in an article discussing how American pro football players are larger than they used to be :

Not everyone in the NFL welcomes the increase of hefty players, mainly because of the health and safety risks involved for human beings who in some cases fit the medical definition of morbid obesity.

In some cases?

This surprised me.  I ran some numbers using William (The Fridge) Perry as an example.   At 6’2″ and 370lbs, his BMI was 47.5 — officially “morbidly obese”.  However, he’d have been obese by current standards at 235, and morbidly obese at 315.   200s are probably more common than 300s, so yes, probably most players are still not officially “morbidly obese”.

Ah, some say, but it’s the body fat that matters, not the muscle.  Doesn’t matter.  The medical definition of obesity *IS* the BMI.   Height and weight.  Popular opinion seems to think it’s a factor of  height and weight and physical condition.  Or height and weight and amount of visible fat.**  Or, to be more pseduo-scientific about it, heigh and weight and percent body fat.  Not according to the CDC.

I do not intend to suggest that pro linemen live in a weight-neutral utopia.  One, players have their weight scrutinized and published.  Two, they’re strongly encouraged to manipulate their weight up and down by coaches and families; they deal with weigh-ins and fines for being too large.  (I think that consciously trying to change one’s weight should be done very cautiously, if at all).   Three, weight cycling in athletes, such as to make weigh-ins, is still weight cycling — which is associated with long-term weight gain, among other things.

But I do find it interesting that a man my height and weight is seen as “strong” and “intimidating” while I’m seen as “matronly” and “weak”.   Men are assumed to have more muscle*** — and to be more willing to use it.   I’ve had tall, fat men tell me that they’re careful to act jolly so as to appear more “Santa” than “intimidating”.  Meanwhile, I sometimes have trouble being taken seriously.


*”Fitness World” == my gym.

**Many doctors also choose not to worry about treating obesity if someone has little visible body fat and/or is very active.  Again, doesn’t affect the official definition of obesity.

***As a group men average more muscle than women do.  Doesn’t say diddly about individuals.

5 thoughts on “Football Players and Fat

  1. Interesting post – people do forget that BMI does not take into account muscle vs fat.

    Since I am tall as well as fat and have a fairly forceful personality, I am often told by people that at first they were “afraid of me” – I attribute it more to my personality than to my size, but perhaps it is a combination of both.

    But if people realized how much muscle it takes to move our fat bodies, perhaps they’d be more pleasant around us – out of fear, if nothing else.

  2. tanteterri – I’ve been told I’m frightening/intimidating a lot, too. I’m a tall fat woman, and I really think that my body size and shape has a lot more to do with people finding me scary than my personality does. I identify a lot with a line about Hagrid the giant in the first Harry Potter book: Harry says that Hagrid looks “too big to be allowed,” and that’s pretty much how I feel most people react to me.

    This post resonates a lot for me because I often think that if I were a man, my considerable strength and girth would have been an asset athletically and socially. It pisses me off that football players are the stars of college campuses, getting pampered special treatment (golf carts, the best dorms and best food on my campus), but that men with the same BMI as I have can look at me and deride me for being fat. They are stars, while I am reviled for teh fat.

  3. Pingback: Symptoms of Fat People « Living ~400lbs

  4. Pingback: Tweets that mention Football Players and Fat | Living ~400lbs -- Topsy.com

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