CrossFit Has a This is Us Problem, Not the Other Way Around

This is Us has been the go-to show for ugly cry and heart-warming moments, going on four full seasons now. As someone who actively watches news sites for headlines about health, fitness, and CrossFit, I saw (and ignored) something interesting a few months back: This is Us took one of their characters and gave them a CrossFit obsession. 

Now, I am a sucker for a good chick flick, so I definitely watched the first season of This is Us when it premiered back in 2016. Also, the last year I had a cable TV subscription. The people raved about how good it was, and I can’t say “no” to the people. In the show, among countless abnormally good-looking humans (which is a whole other “bad for public image” story I refuse to unpack right now) was the story of Kate, the overweight sister. By the end of the season, Kate had found Toby, an equally overweight boy toy with a binging problem. That was it. I wasn’t going to watch anymore. The show was superficial, overly-dramatic and was stereotyping weight problems into their deepest, darkest moments and making a mockery of it.

Fast forward to season four, and apparently Toby made his season debut at a drastically-lighter and, most importantly, healthier weight (both for the character and the actor). What had got him there? Well, Toby became obsessed with CrossFit in the invisible months of the offseason. 

And that’s where CrossFit’s This is Us problem starts. The writing room and showrunners have decided CrossFit should be the dividing wedge between Kate and Toby. On the surface, it sounds really dumb. But what they’re doing is creating negative emotions around a guy becoming healthy. And that’s disgusting.

Here’s a snippet from People Magazine’s fall finale summary, which I think fully captures the absolute grossness of Toby’s fit-shaming:

“Everybody should have hobbies. Everybody should enjoy a workout every once in a while. But Toby, your wife is home alone all day with your baby and you’re doing Crossfit! Idk what to tell you, dude! You have become the worst kind of person! 

In fact, Kate said it best. 

‘I hate Crossfit Toby,’ she admitted to Beth while they were sharing their worst thoughts. So do we, Kate. So do we.”

I’m not for one moment going to second-guess how important it is for Toby to spend time with their baby, but there are three primary bones I have to pick with this whole thing:

  1. As a father and mother, Toby and Kate need to set a healthy example for the children they raise.
  2. As a mother and father, Kate and Toby need to keep themselves in a healthy physical state so they can continue to raise their children.
  3. And as a father and mother, Toby and Kate BOTH need to allow each other time for themselves for emotional health, outside of work and parenting. 

If Kate’s full-time job is as a stay-at-home parent, Toby needs to give her equal opportunity to rejuvenate herself, even if that rejuvenation comes right back at home, spending time with the baby. I would be making this exact same argument if it were Kate who lost 100 lbs and needed an hour at a CrossFit gym each day after work to keep herself sane. Let’s be clear: Toby and Kate are clearly not approaching their relationship correctly. But let’s not blame this on Toby’s weight loss, Toby’s mental health, and for sure let’s not blame this on CrossFit as the modality which helped Toby break through an unhealthy lifestyle and eating disorder. That’s why CrossFit has a This is Us problem, and not the other way around.

Thanks for listening to the rant. If you’re looking for your normal news about CrossFit, here are your headlines:

As always, you can find links to these stories in my show notes. They’re all well-worth the read.

And that’s it for news about CrossFit on Wednesday, November 20th. 

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Thanks for listening. For WODDITY, I’m Ben Garves. We will chat tomorrow.

By Ben Garves

Ben Garves is a digital product expert, author, entertainer, and activist. His portfolio of thought leadership in digital marketing and web experiences has included major clients like Microsoft, Google, Twitter, eBay, and Facebook. He’s also a freelance health and fitness journalist with over 400 stories written since 2018, a podcaster with 200 episodes to his name, and runs a YouTube channel with over 100 fitness and activism-oriented videos and live streams. Ben has founded the Fitness is for Everyone™ initiative to raise awareness about social injustice in both racial inequality and socioeconomic disparity in access to quality fitness and nutrition options around the globe.