3 Reasons it’s Hard to be a Fatty on the Move

fatties on the move

Contrary to popular belief, many fat people are physically active, and enjoy sports, dance, yoga, Pilates, and other forms of exercise. I like canoeing, and ballet, and walking around the city. I like to go to shows and dance. With the amount of criticism fat people receive for allegedly not caring for our bodies, coupled with the good ol’ calories in/calories out oversimplification of metabolism, you’d think society would welcome fat people into the “fitness” fold and offer encouragement and support. I have found it to be quite the opposite. Let’s look at a few examples.


#1: Gyms are the WORST

Ever been a member at a gym? Many fat people have, including me. Why did I join a gym? It certainly wasn’t to feel good. I wasn’t there in the best interest of my health, I was there to get thin because I was insecure. Nowadays, I might actually reconsider and join again, but only because I have enough self esteem now to navigate the DEMORALIZING MINEFIELD that is your average neighborhood fitness center. Sights are targeted on fat people as soon as they walk through the door. Nutrition counseling is almost always offered; the immediate assumption is that a fat person isn’t at a gym to build cardiovascular endurance, or swim, or do yoga, or build core strength — they are there to LOSE WEIGHT. Very fat people at the gym receive judgmental stares. It’s assumed we don’t know what we are doing, and that we are just in the way.

This punishing, aesthetic-driven mindset creates an atmosphere of body competition, and the endless walls of mirrors don’t help. I would go into the gym and do the same exercises as those around me, and I would sweat. I would breathe hard, harder than those around me, and rather than think “Whoa, I am working hard! Awesome!” I would think that I was somehow less than the two ladies on the elliptical next to me, chatting about their evening plans, without a drop of sweat running down their carefully made-up faces. Hard work doesn’t feel like hard work in a big gym setting; it feels like public humiliation.


#2: There is a scarcity of supportive, fashionable athletic wear

Society screams at us to be thin and “fit”, yet there is very little exercise attire designed with our bodies in mind. Not only are there a dearth of options, but some companies flat-out refuse to carry bigger sizes (I’m looking at you Lululemon) or even shame our bodies in the process (still looking, Lululemon). When I go looking for plus size exercise outfits, I am met with a sea of black polyester and spandex. I usually emerge feeling more like a stack of car tires rather than a sporty jogger or graceful dancer.

Like a ninja, only not cool.

Another consideration is that we have a larger proportion of jiggly bits, and those jiggly bits, if left to jiggle unsupported, cause discomfort and sometimes pain. Let’s take me as an example: I have a large chest (38GG) and those puppies need to be strapped down securely before running and jumping anywhere. Retailers take regular sport bras, increase the dimensions, and just assume that something of a larger mass and volume will somehow magically bend the laws of physics and stay securely in place. My bras need underwires, and much more rigid fabric. An XXL sport bra at Old Navy is far to loose in the band to provide any support, while my cups spilleth over. Tops need to be longer, and pants need a higher rise to avoid ride-up/slide-down while in motion. And would it be too much to ask for patterns? Colors? Interesting details? Uncomfortable, ill-fitting and unstylish workout gear is antithetical to overall body positivity.

Working out when you feel ugly and are in pain creates an aversive relationship. I dug around and scrounged up some brands and prints I like for your consideration:

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#3:Scales

Oh the scale, implement of self-castigation for people of all sizes.

Scales are inextricably linked to exercise because society conditions us to associate exercise with weight loss. Fitness and wellness then become something measured with an arbitrary number system that actually provides us with very little information about how healthy we actually are, and those data are then combined with height to determine one’s Body Mass Index. BMI is a notoriously poor measure for fatness and health. I have friends who have had the luck to meet really thoughtful, body-positive personal trainers who de-emphasized weight loss as an ultimate fitness goal. One of my friends was told she wasn’t supposed to even step on a scale until after she’d been working her plan for a month, but even then the scale was used as final proof of improved health overall.

scales are bad

Scales are a constant reminder than we aren’t meeting a goal set by a society that determines our status and worth. I used to own a scale, and I would check it every day, celebrating every little dip and bemoaning every tiny increase. I used to weigh myself in the morning, while I was still dehydrated from sleep, after I peed but before I showered so that bladder fullness and wet hair wouldn’t add ounces to the readout. What I didn’t understand back then is that my celebrations and failures were fueled by bias, and rooted in discrimination. I don’t have a scale in my own home now. I resent “compliments” like “Have you been working out? It looks like you’ve lost weight!”, because they imply that the number, not the person, is the valuable variable in the equation.


Bottom line? My body is fine. Whether I work out or not is no one’s business. When I DO workout, I deserve the same resources and positive experiences normally associated with joyous physical activity. Want me to love my body? Then let me do it without judgment.

Why I Haven’t Written My First Fat Blog

Marianne

I’m too busy. It’s conference week. I’m working through some family stuff.

The truth is, I don’t like the word fat. When I saw the web site up, IT, FAT, had the ability to shock me. I found I didn’t want the word associated with me. It surprised me how strongly I felt. I was feeling uncomfortable with the political tone, the “right speak” that some of the articles had for me. I felt stifled explaining why. I LIKED what Jennifer Lawrence said. She’s not stupid. She knows laws won’t be changed. But calling people fat and remarking on evening wear based on how they fit is mean spirited and should be stopped. She’s annoyed that so many of her interviews are based on body image and frankly she seems bored and would rather talk about something else. I found the phrase used to introduce the piece, “I love you, now close your mouth” really condescending. Is there only one correct way to support body positivity? Are we going to say close your mouth if someone is approaching the topic from a different angle?

I live in my big body every day. I enjoy adorning my body with fashionable clothes. I get tattoos regularly and am comfortable with dropping trow or unbuttoning my shirt, as the occasion requires. I found exercise – dance classes that I enjoy. I didn’t always do these things.

I had a horrible break-up and in that period of reinventing, I found I put most of my joys “on hold”. When I lost more weight, I would get a tattoo. When I could fit in a leotard, I would find a class. I found I was doing nothing. I changed my no to yes and my later to now. This has stood me in good stead; all that saying “yes” has developed into a pretty positive attitude. I think that’s why Shiloh asked me to join this blog.

Yeah, I live with my fat, I dress to flatter my fat, I exercise to keep my fat healthy, but I don’t think about my fat daily and I found I don’t like to TALK ABOUT MY FAT! Well, hell, why would I be writing a blog? I have bright pink hair that I wear curled in a Marilyn bouffant everyday. I don’t go out without my eyeliner and fuchsia lipstick. My demeanor says, look at me! I’m definitely not a beige plus-size matron.  More importantly, my demeanor says, define me by something other than my weight. I’m saying it, I don’t know if people are hearing it.

The day the first Spanx article came out, I had just received a package of really sexy, really comfortable shape wear, real “date lingerie”, (I’m an online shopper extraordinaire.) Usually, I’d pop in to Shiloh, and show off my swag to the appropriate oohs and aahs. Now I find I’m editing myself, are Spanx not cool? Is shape wear not ok if I’m body positive? I LIKE shape wear. I don’t wear it because I feel bad, or I am trying to fit into a fashion mold. I want to wear a favorite piece of clothing that clings and I think looks better over a smooth layer. I’m not fooling myself into thinking I look significantly smaller.

I enjoy following haute couture. I subscribe to Vogue.  When I see a look or a trend works on a tall thin model, I either, as a consumer, decide that look is not for me and move on; or as a designer and seamstress, I change it and make it work for me. I don’t feel anger towards the industry that they idealize young, thin, tall models. I don’t feel old, fat, and short. I’m looking at the clothes, the drape of the fabric, the artful photography, and the lush surroundings. Do I celebrate when they use a big model? Sure, but I won’t like her ad or the clothes she is advertising any better, if the skinny model’s clothes are better designed or that spread is better photographed. I personally feel excited and inspired when the big September issue comes out. When on vacation in New York, I like visiting the big name boutiques. And you know, the sales clerks treat me with respect, even if I can only fit into the handbags and scarves. I don’t feel unwelcome. I’m a consumer; they are the product providers.

The last “fat issue” I want to touch on is weight loss. My size travels between 18 and 24. When I’m at my best, running up and down stairs, sleeping well, good skin tone, standing straight and proud; I am exercising regularly and I am eating less-processed, nutrient dense food. When I’m at a low point, I’m too busy to exercise and I’m eating junk. I could be PC and say that at my smaller size I just feel healthier and happier, but you know? I also think I look better. I want to be smaller. Is it ok to admit that? I like big, bountiful curves, rather than floppy, bulgy bulges. But I don’t want to wait to do anything until I slim down. I’ll continue to say “Yes, now!” instead of “Later.” I want to talk about healthy lifestyle choices on this blog without fat-shaming or skinny-shaming, and to exercise the option of not really caring about it at times.

I think I can add some badass fashion, food, and positivity articles to this blog. Does my viewpoint gel with you? I don’t know. Does my viewpoint sound modern, cool and politically correct? I don’t care. Will I research numerous articles and cite experts in the field? Uh, no, not even a little bit. I want to be the Do It Now Girl! Try something new! Have fun! Look fierce! Give yourself a break! Yes! Yes! Yes!

Whitney Thore is My Fat Girl Soulmate

You may have seen posts lately about Whitney Thore, a fat and fabulous body-positivity activist with an inspiring series of YouTube videos entitled “A Fat Girl Dancing”. She has a great new campaign to spread her body-positive message, called the No Body Shame Campaign.

Her homepage sends a resonating message that I don’t wish to paraphrase:

Preach it, Sister.

A little background about Ms. Thore: She is a current radio show producer and personality. She started gaining weight in college around the time she was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. She has dealt with self-esteem problems. She has travelled the world. She is a FIERCE dancer. 

Check out her videos. Here’s my favorite:

What is extra exciting is that Whitney will be on the Today Show on February 28th talking about her campaign. I love seeing a fat, beautiful, charismatic young woman such as herself on the public stage, proud, unapologetic, and flat-out amazing. My dreams are smaller. For example, I’d be happy just being able to have her as my Twitter follower.

Fierce.