Fitness is a status symbol, not a lifestyle

My first fitness sheet for tracking workout days.

This Christmas marks 5 years of working out – a few weeks ago, I just went to the gym for the 700th time in that period. When I first started working out, I hated it and have been told so many times since then “oh you’ll learn to like it” As of present day, fitness doesn’t do it for me – I still hate working out (I find it to be a massive time sink and also extremely boring).

But if you hate it, why do you still go? Simple, because attractive people are treated better in life (studies prove that, from friendlier customer service, to more salary/promotions and higher quality and quantity of dates, etc.) Fitness is part of the criteria that defines an attractive person. Therefore it seems like a good investment for better quality of life.

It’s like being peer-pressured to owning a luxury sports car and having to fork over ownership and maintenance costs because you work a job which requires projecting success and the car indirectly helps improve your living quality, not because you truly enjoy the car.

Chances are I’m the first person you’ve heard talking about it so openly, but rest assured I’m far from the only person who got into fitness, not because it’s fun, not for health reasons (though that is a side benefit), not because I “enjoy the journey” (or equivalent bullshit), but because of its value as a status symbol.

Hearing so many people out there just lie through their teeth (it’s obvious, to me at least) about their so-called “passion for fitness” and start spouting off garbage about how it’s part of their lifestyle now and that they only do it for themselves is extremely cringeworthy.

I think the number of people who are truly that into fitness for no other reason than actually enjoying it as a hobby is incredibly low, so low that we’d probably rarely ever meet someone who talks about it or posts some “fitness meme” on social media.

So here’s the incredibly superficial truth behind a lot of people into “fitness”.

It’s definitely a status symbol

A status symbol is something to indicate a person’s position in the figurative ladder of social hierarchy. Status symbols can manifest in many forms – it can be material like a luxury car, expensive handbag or designer outfit. It could be rank, like a prestigious job title or recipient of some award. It can be specifications of the human body itself, such as height and weight.

Fitness is definitely a status symbol. At one point in history, some societies actually considered fat people attractive, because that meant they were connected and wealthy enough to maintain their surplus of body weight in times of food shortage and wars were breaking out. Times have shifted, for both men and women, that today, being physically fit is the new indicator of wealth and success.

For some odd reason, people these days tend to hide and/or deny that fitness is a status symbol. They come up with all sorts of poor reasons and outright lies, like “fitness is a lifestyle, not a hobby” and “no, you totally should get into fitness for yourself, your health, not to impress people around you, dear no, how can anyone do that?” in apparent attempts to hide, what I presume to be, narcissism and boastful pride they secretly enjoy.

Why is it a status symbol?

What’s made being physically fit so appealing to so many today? First, let’s define physically fit – this is generally the state of being athletic looking, usually and ideally with visible muscle mass. For men, it’s the arms, shoulders, chest and abs. For women, it’s abs, legs and glutes (butt).

Now let’s move on to the big reasons:

Health and performance

The first and most obvious reason is fitness indicates good health (supposedly), but it’s a display especially for the gender you’re trying to impress. For that specific group, it’s not just about “candidate quality for reproductive purposes and offspring” any more (that criteria is as old as mankind itself) – many also use physical fitness to judge potential performance in the bedroom, which is unfortunately superficial but I guess that’s why humans are animals.

In the case of males, there’s also the other reason that a big* muscular man is desirable so he can apparently protect his mate from the ferocious hungry men and other dangers in the world out there! Not sure why this still gets parroted around so much since it sounds like something from the caveman times – not very relevant, in my opinion, considering we now live in an era with lawyers and airbags.

*Not too big though, as there is a point of diminishing returns. At some point, an overly muscular man is also not desirable

Dedication and discipline

There are not a lot of physically fit individuals out there, as a percentage of society. So the logic is that getting into a physically fit state must be difficult to accomplish, otherwise majority of society would have those kinds of bodies. Hence, people who are fit are perceived to have great dedication and discipline.

Financial status

It’s also a proxy for financial status in the case of men. The effort to maintain a physically fit body involves at least 3 or 4 times a week of working out, consistently, for years. That’s an hour per session plus commute (15 minutes each way if you’re lucky to live close to a gym).

That’s 4.5 to 6 hours per week; as an employed person, that’s 11-15% of your free time per week. Assuming you weren’t very or at all athletic to begin with, you’ll have to keep up this “investment” of 13% of your free time for at least 4 years for visible results (people only started pointing out “you’ve been working out” some time around my 3rd year of working out) and even longer to maintain.

Assuming everything is done naturally (i.e. without PEDs) and during adulthood (no puberty to accelerate the process), it would take closer to 7-8 years to achieve peak physical fitness; as in looking like someone out of Magic Mike.

Just so you know, if you made 10,000 USD a month after taxes and put aside 13% of that for 4 years, you’d could get yourself a nice Mercedes C43 AMG Coupe. If you were to double that to 8 years, you’d have a drop-top Mercedes SLS AMG in your driveway.

Just like being able to afford a luxury sports car, if you didn’t have at least a decent job, it would be difficult to keep up that investment of time to get into shape and stay that fit.

Never leave home without it

There are various benefits to possessing the status symbol we know as physical fitness. It is an incredibly portable, versatile and visible as status symbol.

  • You’ll never be caught without it, since it’s always on your person, unlike clothes or property.
  • It’s clear-cut and obvious; there is no knowledge prerequisite (unlike material status symbols where you have to rely on people knowing the brand if the logo is even visible) or need to explain it (unlike a prestigious job which you’ll have to talk about).
  • It’s constantly visible (even when fully dressed, it’s possible to tell just by the shape of your face) unlike a watch which might be too small or a car that you can’t bring indoors.

Fitness also lacks the negative “show off” stigma attached to more traditional status symbols. This is thanks to the sheer population of bullshitters spreading “positive vibes” and outright lies on social media and real life on their “fitness story”. The ones who aren’t in the business of manufacturing fairy-tales also tend to stay silent because it’s socially unacceptable to come out with such superficial-sounding facts.

People are completely fine believing that you, the couch potato who never cared about sports, got into fitness because it’s an amazing journey that you want to be The Best Version of Yourself (TM) and you’re only doing it for you.

But using that same reason for other status symbols and see how many people believe you. “I purchased this gorgeous 2-seater supercar because it makes trips to the grocery store amazing. I’m totally doing it for myself, and I’m totally a car nerd, definitely not trying to impress anybody”.

Just like owning a supercar is highly impractical for anything other than showing off (it can barely fit anything aside from some groceries and one passenger), there is little practical reason to be physically fit as defined above, other than as a status symbol, of course!

One could argue “health reasons” but basic research reveals neither the truly healthy nor strong (look at how people working hard labor look like) would look like today’s mainstream definition of a physically fit body.

A status symbol of its own class

The other reason fitness is such a popular status symbol is that it’s:

  • Affordable since you only have to have one of it (your body), compared to having to maintain a collection of something like designer footwear
  • Attainable regardless of income bracket since the financial bar is extremely low (groceries and a membership to a gym or sports club)
  • Its own narrowly-defined category of status symbol. Much like the job title category, there is no substitute for fitness. This is unlike material status symbols which cover a vast area, making comparisons easy and upkeep tedious “So if this person dresses fancy, do they also have a nice car and place too?”

Honesty would be nice

Nothing against working out or being physically fit in and of themselves, but what disappoints me are the liars and how we’ve come to a point where lying to be not seem superficial and seem like an upstanding person is more acceptable than being honest and admitting we’re just doing what humans/animals are programmed to do.

Fitness is a very dishonest status symbol because many people who possess it try so hard to downplay and deny that it is in fact a status symbol. On top of that, you’ll hear lies related to “no judgment” in regards to the physical fitness of a person (or lack thereof), when in fact, many people are obviously biased towards those who possess this status symbol.

What is being said (that it’s okay to have any sort of appearance) is not in-line with the reality that people who are tall, attractive, fit, etc. will always receive better treatment and more success in life. Basically winning is the way to keep winning. Fitness might be a hobby, but it is an invisibly-mandated one as part of the many criteria that define an “attractive” person, which leads to being treated better in life.

I’ve spent upwards of 1,000 hours and $2,000 on fitness, and I’ll gladly continue investing in this status symbol. But that’s exactly what it is and what I will call it because I don’t believe in lying.

As for “you’ll learn to like keeping fit”? Another piece of motivational BS that is untrue. Five years later and I still hate working out. If it wasn’t such a necessary investment, I would be spending the time, money and effort on other things, such as a real hobby that I would actually enjoy.

Just because you own an investment doesn’t mean you have to like (or will ever like) the investment itself or what it stands for.

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