personal stuff – randomness

What it’s like to be the big girl at the gym

Today I want to talk to you guys about my experiences as the fat girl at the gym. I’ve been exercising my whole life, and for the past few years I’ve been running and going to the gym. I’ve noticed a lot of fuller girls are hesitant to hit the gym, saying they could never do it, and when I asked them why it became clear to me that it’s a combination of fear of hitting physical limitations and a fear of being laughed at by fit people.

You know those fears we have sometimes that turn out to be completely untrue and that exist only in our minds but not in real life? Well, this isn’t one of them. Being the fat chick at the gym is not always easy or pleasant.

First off, there is a disgusting amount of fatshaming going on within the fitnesscommunity. I follow several fitnesspages, looking for daily inspiration, and encounter offensive stuff aimed towards fat people on a weekly basis. Being a body activist and a feminist, I’m aware that I’m perhaps more sensitive towards these kind of things, but nonetheless it’s safe to say that there are a LOT of (fit) people who think fat people are disgusting and are not afraid to voice that opinion. Proudly. Another thing that tends to happen a lot when you’re fat: people assume you’re lazy and unhealthy and spend your days eating junkfood on the couch. Trust me, as someone who has experienced bullying in the gym firsthand, the judgement and shaming gets pretty frustrating and demotivational pretty quickly.

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yeah, this is posted on a fitness motivational page. Lovely.

There is one general exception to this rule: if you’re a fat person at the gym who is there to lose weight. Which brings me to my second point: I don’t workout because I want to lose weight.

I like my body and I like my size, and if weightloss would be a natural result of what I do then so be it, but it’s not the goal of why I work out. I just like to get stronger, faster, more flexible and more stable. I do it because I enjoy it and because it feels good. Basically, I work out because I love my body, not because I hate it… and that is something that a lot of people don’t seem to understand (because if you’re fat, how could you POSSIBLY not centre everything in your life around weightloss?)

Thirdly, working out requires a certain amount of body awareness. You’re wearing something that doesn’t make you feel very attractive, and moving your weight around causes all sorts of jiggle that can make you feel extremely conscious of your body (for instance, even though I’m generally happy with my body, I can NOT run in short shorts, because the jiggle of my upper legs and the chubrub would drive me to the verge of insanity. This is why I Always wear long leggings, even if it’s a billion degrees.). Chances are also there will be a lot of mirrors and even if you avoid looking at yourself as much as possible, you WILL occasionally see yourself mid-workout and it will probably not look very charming. For girls who are not (yet) very comfortable with themselves, this can be so confrontational that they might want to avoid the whole experience altogether.

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total babe at the gym. ahem.

On top of that, exercising as a bigger girl can have its physical limitations (especially if you’re new to it). There are ways to get around that and I’ll discuss this in a different post, but just keep in mind that it’s hard walking into a place with no idea what to do or knowing that you’ll be the worst one of the class.

Last but not least: a lot of people will respond to do this by saying “well haters gonna hate, just let them talk and you do your thing!”. That is certainly one way of approaching this, but this isn’t just about me anymore. Ignoring the haters and just doing my thing isn’t going to change anything at the core, and that is where things should change. It’s not just about me ignoring them: it’s about them learning that it’s not okay to be this disrespectful towards people. It’s not just about me having the right to feel comfortable with my own body, it’s for all women to feel comfortable and safe in theirs. That’s the ultimate goal here.

Do I think it’s still worth going to the gym? Absolutely. Not everyone is like this, and working out is awesome, and it’s something I enjoy doing so I don’t intend to stop anytime soon…but it’s definitely not always easy. I really hope that one day we can evolve into a society where there is respect and understanding for all people, from all walks of life. Let’s lift eachother up instead of tearing eachother down!

 

How about you, what are your experiences with working out? I’d love to know!

dear body

Women love to bitch about their bodies. It’s true. We take pleasure in getting together and one by one, list all the things we don’t like about how we look. We take comfort in it. We think it’s normal. Well, I hate to break it to you girls, but it’s not normal. Or at least, it shouldn’t be. It’s exactly this kind of behavior that keeps us small and hating ourselves… and why would we want that, when it’s so much more fun thinking you’re an awesome babe who kicks total ass? Just saying.

So here’s a thought: how about we list all the things we do like about ourselves?

For all you lovelies in desperate need of some hardcore bodypositivism (so ehm, basically, all of us), I suggest a good way to start is by writing a letter to yourself… Here’s mine!

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Dear body,

I called you fat. I sat on the floor, my expanding thighs pushed against the floor, my belly sticking out, pinching and squeezing every inch of you I hated. I looked at the bumps on my thighs and the stretchmarks on my hips and hated you for it. I looked at you in and cried.  I called you disgusting, even though none of this was your fault and you did nothing wrong.

I called you weak. Too weak to stick to diets that were exhausting and confusing you. Too weak to keep pushing when I had already pushed you too far. Too weak to be something, someone, you were never supposed to be.

I called you worthless. I never said thank you. I never said I love you. I hid you and covered you up because I was ashamed of you. I was embarrassed to be seen with you. I judged you. I took everything you ever did for me for granted.

Dear body, I am sorry for the way I treated you. There isn’t a single person in this world that I have treated worse than you … and yet you carried me through all of this.

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Now I see your beauty. I see how long your legs are and how you arch your back. I see your scars and stretches and freckles, and they each tell the story of how I became the woman I am today. You are always a work in progress, but you are beautiful and perfect in every way.

Now I see your strength. You are strong and fast. You can run and you can swim and you can climb and you do everything I want you to, and you know how to push yourself without breaking. You still get stronger every day. You are a warrior and a survivor and perfect in every way.

Now I see your worth. You love and laugh with all your heart. You try and see the best in people, always. You lift other people up instead of pushing them down. You are warm and smart and patient and kind. You are amazing and perfect in every way.

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Dear body, I love you.

What would you say to your body?

pictures by arno nieuwhof, 100% retouch-free