Growing up as a clueless chubby kid, I had to learn about physical fitness in the most agonizingly slow, socially painful way possible. Armed with only a slow metabolism and a love for Taco Bell burritos, I guess you could say that I hadn’t quite grasped the concept of what causes weight loss and, since my family didn’t have the Internet until I was 14, I turned to the only source of fitness knowledge that my family had kept around our house at the time: Richard Simmons’ Sweatin’ to the Oldies (On VHS!)


For a time this was my Kama Sutra of health and fitness knowledge.

If you’ve never seen these videos in glorious motion, allow me the chance to make (or probably ruin) your day:

Yes, for a few short years I thought that the best technique for getting into shape was watching a white, be-afroed effeminate man in short-shorts and a skimpy tank top wiggle his ass to all sorts of 60s, 70s and 80s pop music. The fact that I’m only slightly insane as a result of this prolonged exposure to flamboyant pretend workouts can only be explained by my refusal to ever try to lose weight again. Thankfully, I did eventually discover that Richard Simmons wasn’t quite the fitness god that I had imagined everyone else in the world thought he was, and so one day I just decided to go outside and run instead. Surprisingly to me, and no one else in the world, this impromptu exercising tactic seemed to work wonders on my blubbery, fattened exterior.

Even though I did eventually discard the notion that Richard Simmons could ever get someone who wasn’t medically confined to their bed—out of sheer fat-assedness—to lose weight, I did come to learn a whole lot of exciting facts about fat people from watching his workout videos throughout my youth. Given the fact that in the next few decades the United States will probably look like a giant SeaWorld whale tank, I feel confident in telling you that the knowledge I’ve gathered on the subject will soon guarantee me a spot in this country’s leadership.

Anyway, to demonstrate my expertise on the topic, I’m going to try to break down some of the more intriguing observations I’ve made while watching Richard Simmons prissily dance around on camera.


1. Fat People can Only Make Rudimentary Movements


This observation can be easily spotted by the very nature of Richard Simmons’ workout program. Watching Richard take his gaggle of fat humans through a regiment of basic arm movements and shimmies, it becomes clear that if they were capable of absolutely any more physical movement then it would probably happen at least at some point. The people that think Sweatin’ to the Oldies is an effective exercise routine tend to be the same people who think that playing the Wii for more than an hour is strenuous cardio: in other words, nobody alive, ever. Fat cells feel the same way about Sweatin’ to the Oldies as they do the Shake Weight: though they might feel slight sexual confusion, they tend to remain relatively unaffected by the whole ordeal.


Noticing a trend, the fat cell community has responded with outrage.

If the fatty human body was capable of any more physical propulsion then you can be sure that Simmons would have incorporated it into his workouts and it, in turn, would be at least semi-effective at inducing a little bit of weight loss in someone, maybe. Then again, to get really fat you have to have some physical laziness just to make it into the club, so maybe what I’m observing is not a real fat people limitation but is instead an example of Richard Simmons knowing his audience very, very well—well enough to know that the people who buy his videos want to only feel like they’re doing something to lose weight. You see, actual weight loss usually takes a little bit more than just shaking it to some Motown songs in front of your TV, chicken leg in hand. Losing weight involves making an actual change in your living conditions. You have to make an effort to consistently take in fewer calories while also burning a considerable amount more through real exercise.

But hey, why put in effort when you can just join a group of like-minded fatties and start wigglin’ your arm-folds to “Great Balls of Fire,” while Richard Simmons loyally demonstrates the exact amount of physical exertion it takes to fulfill the legal definition of “working out”? I know that must sound much better than any real results.


2. Fat People Love Group Humiliation


Speaking of joining a group of like-minded fatties, another very noticeable characteristic of the Richard Simmons workout videos is just how much fat people love to be humiliated with other fat people. I’m not too sure whether fat people prefer to be laughed at or if they think that the other bulbous dancers jiggling around them are making their fat seem less apparent to onlookers, but whatever the case may be, my brain seems to have the uncanny ability to spot every single one of them at the same time. Maybe I’m alone in my strange power to perceive every fat person dancing in a room, or maybe the fatties are signing up for these things for another reason. Think about Zumba, for example: if you’ve ever had the misfortune of accidentally watching a group of people do a “Zumba workout” together then you already know that about half of the people doing it tend to look like they’ve waddled straight out of a parallel universe where the only difference was that the Earth’s gravity pulled horizontally.

My theory is that the overweight people who willingly participate in these group exercises are looking for some sort of solidarity in their obesity—a mentality that says “hey, I’ve got man-tits and you do too!” if you will. If I had to sit down right now and explain to you why a morbidly obese person would ever leave the house for the sole purpose of dancing publicly in spandex, I’d only be able to whimper and mumble something about life not being fair sometimes. Regardless of whether or not it makes sense, the fact of the matter is that chubby motherfuckers of all varieties seem to have a common goal that makes them want to share this experience—of both horrible music and horrible belly-jiggling—with other people who look like them.


This picture was one of the first Google search results for “Fat people dancing”. I am just as confused as you are.


3. Fat People Don’t Understand Clothes


Okay, here’s the thing, I know that your average person doesn’t have an incredible fashion sense. Hell, I’m lucky if I can make it through a week without accidentally wearing a pair of socks that are on the precise opposite positions of the color wheel from each other. I get it. What I don’t understand, from watching Sweatin’ to the Oldies, is why fat people seem to lack any conception of either what clothes do or what they are capable of. Now, I don’t want to seem cold-hearted here: I am completely sympathetic to those that have reached the point where they no longer fit the species-wide description of how large humans can become under natural circumstances and, as a result, they just can’t seem to find fabric that wasn’t originally intended to hold potatoes or other industrially processed goods.

I understand that when you have to start buying clothes that can be nicely described as “a large sack” but more accurately called “a pool table cover”, that you’re pretty much beyond the point of caring whether the sack that you’re wearing matches your shoes or not. I completely expect an obese person to wear clothing that isn’t quite in vogue; I expect fat people to have to wear clothes that are boring and colorless. Having stated my feelings on that, let me ask you a question, my dearest reader: why the hell would anyone choose to wear a neon, tiger-striped potato sack if they didn’t have to?


This woman was later arrested for stealing a Jackson Pollock and fashioning it into a hilariously gaudy poncho.

Using Occam’s Razor, we should all be forced to come to the same conclusion: no sane person would ever wear something that absurd unless they were forced to. Whether they are being forced to wear the silliest clothing since Joseph’s father gave him that multicolored please-make-fun-of-me-coat, or whether all of the fat people in these videos happen to be ex-Mormons who are going through their “rebellious stage”, the fact of the matter is that no one that has ever lived on this planet wants to watch them dance around in those clothes—or at all.


4. Fat People are Allergic to Effective Workout Routines


There’s a certain point that any normally functioning person comes to while watching Richard Simmons where they realize that what they’re actually observing isn’t so much an exercise program as it is a choreographed fat-people-celebration of being fat people. When the world of bullshit workouts meets the world of people who really need to lose weight, well, you can be pretty damn sure that the effectiveness of the product is going to be about as low as a 5-year-old’s alcohol tolerance. I’ve already explained how these sorts of fake, money-grubbing workout products tend to be about as effective as drinking a Slim Fast with your Double-Whopper that’s soaked in maple syrup, but in reality, they often do more harm than many people realize.

The more that people buy into the things that don’t actually help them when they really, really need it, the more likely it is that they’ll continue to avoid the things that will actually make them healthier. Eating less and doing exercises that go beyond making you feel accomplished (in other words, workouts that hurt) aren’t as easily marketable as just stamping “sweatin” on the cover and buying a music license from a few aging artists. Publilius Syrus wrote 2,000 years ago that “everything is worth what its purchaser will pay for it”, and that holds as true today as it did in the past. The market for this stuff exists, for the most part, because we want it to. The guy who weighs 400lbs might know that he has a serious problem, he may even realize that it’ll kill him soon, but that doesn’t change all of the contributing factors that lead him into his french-fried-fate to begin with; in fact, all of the root-causes are going to remain there until he takes the serious measures required to combat the deadly and debilitating disease that he has.


It’s like Polio, only with more cheeseburgers.

The diseases of affluence are many times fed by a lack of the one thing that will often cure them: motivation. Motivation, in our world of relative ease, is seen as a luxury in and of itself and unfortunately, it’s one that many people do not value. That’s why it sometimes takes a brush with death before some of us will take the measures necessary to change our situation. Our society has reached a point where we’re almost allergic to taking proactive steps that aren’t sold in a marketable, brightly colored package. Whether these things are related to our advancing technology and how it’s increasing convenience or not, we can all be damn sure that almost all of us have the tools we need to fight obesity—and believe it or not, no trendy diet, fad workout program, or flamboyant dancing men are required.

For actual tips on fitness that will genuinely help you lose weight, check out our health and fitness site, Athleticka.

  • sweatin’

    And yet, Richard has been in business how long? He’s helped how many people lose how many pounds? Your article makes it sound like his routines are not effective. I beg to differ. I lost 153 lbs on his plan. I respect your right to your opinion. His plan may not be attractive to all and if it isn’t your style, I encourage you to seek help from a different program but the idea that it’s some goofy, humiliating program is incorrect, in my opinion!

    • Apollyon

      Thanks for the comment. Yeah, I suppose that if you take anything seriously enough it can maybe/probably/somehow make you lose weight. I’m glad that Richard’s program worked for you. Personally, (and as I said in the beginning of the article) I prefer to do it the hard and more effective way of literally running my ass off.

      But then again, I can understand how Mr. Simmons’ bodacious charms and delicious fro could inspire motivation. I will definitely have to keep this in mind for the sequel. Thanks.

  • Guest.

    I remember watching the commercials for his routines on tv when I was little. I thought it was strange and not effective. But I could be wrong.

  • Jake

    What is this trash that i just read? and who the hell is Apollyon?.. sometimes i hate where reddit takes me, but now that i am here i will give you a “review” on this article. I am not fat, nor have i ever been. That being said, i felt extremely offended while reading what you wrote. On top of being offensive, it was biased, generalized, and full of misinformation / lack of thought. While those “bullshit workouts” aren’t as good for burning fat, they do improve your cardiovascular strength, which is much better than losing some unhealthy weight. People that are legitimately overweight also have a very difficult time running due to the stress on their joints. Think of the Richard Simmons type shows as a baby step into a solid workout plan/life style. Finally, put some thought into your writing before spewing garbage on the internet. Thank you, have a nice day.

    • Apollyon

      I am Apollyon. Richard Simmons is fairly useless. Have a nice day.

    • Evelyn

      Jake – thank you. The point of the videos is that a person gets up and begins moving, even if it’s dancing like in the videos. No it’s not running a marathon, but if someone is not moving at all, or very little, even doing this will help burn calories.

      What I thought was most offensive was the comment about fat people humiliating themselves by working out together. I would gladly walk into any gym that was full of fat people. It’s humiliating to walk into a gym full of thin people. Whats even more humiliating is listening to those thin people complain about how fat they are.

      I think Apollyon just wants to bash Richard Simmons and is a fat person basher – which is interesting considering this person said they themselves were overweight – how can you say hurtful things like you did – do you have no empathy? Can you not see that these videos can and DO help people?

      I’m sad that you felt it necessary to bash these videos, but mostly, I’m sad that you have no compassion – this article is sad and the fact that you have no room in your heart or mind to allow for the fact that people are helped by these videos is beyond sad – I can’t even think of the word to describe how sad it is.

      • Apollyon

        I apologize that you are so crestfallen over my quips. It really has made me rethink my stance on how hilarious bulbous man-bosoms are. Thank you for this eye-opening experience.

  • Bill

    Apollyon, I’m as cynical as they come. I piss and moan about the inequities that I notice day in and day out. They usually just get me a few laughs and a few spirited conversations and occasionally some well deserved resentment from others. Richard Simmons; he is someone beyond reproach. I don’t know how but he is. He has his heart in the right place. In his many decades in the public eye his behavior has been nothing but compassionate and helpful.