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Category Archives: Fat

Exercise and Assumptions

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I used to work out regularly. I was younger, didn’t have a job at the time, had plenty of free time, and had a membership to a gym paid for by my mom, who went with me. I felt great. I was still fat-oh so fat!-but I felt better. I felt stronger than I do now. I probably weigh about the same as I have for years (I have a Winnie the Pooh t-shirt I’ve worn since middle school that can attest to that) but exercise made a difference in how I felt. As I’ve gotten older and busier, exercise has become less of a priority for me. I can’t afford the gym membership, am afraid to take walks around my neighborhood because I don’t want to be verbally harassed, and my body is usually so tired after work that the last thing I want to do is force it to do more work. But lately I’ve felt like crap and I’ve decided to work out more at home. I have no weight loss goals and do not own a scale. I have no desire to be a fitness blogger. I want to be able to get through a work day without my back aching or my knee twinging.

Exercise plan in mind, I took to Target for some at-home workout gear. I started simply with a resistance band. As I was checking out with my boyfriend, the clerk, a woman shorter than me but about my size otherwise, saw the band and said “So I take it like me you’re trying to lose weight?”

Hmmmmmm. Yes, this was an odd moment for me. I answered her honestly; I shrugged and said nope, I just want to feel better. My boyfriend said he might even use it too. I said I’m fine with my size. She looked at me and said “I’m not. I don’t like the size of my body.” She looked so damn sad when she said that. I wished her luck in doing whatever she needed to do to find happiness with herself, and I meant it.

As we walked out of the store we discussed this strange and rather sad exchange. I felt so bad for the woman. I saw that pain in her eyes, and I recognized it. It’s the same pain I’ve seen in my mom’s face over many years. I know the eyes of a woman who hates herself, who thinks she is ugly and unworthy. My mom couldn’t find that peace and love for herself until she lost weight, but I’m just glad she found it at all. I just refused to wait. I want to love and accept myself now, not twenty or fifty or a one hundred pounds from now. Today. Right this second. Finding the fat acceptance and body-positivity community helped me realize that I actually am not required to hate myself just because I am fat.

I discussed with my boyfriend how it kind of annoyed me to have someone assume I wanted to lose weight because I was buying a resistance band. Fair enough assumption, yes. I’m a big, fat woman, buying exercise equipment. There is just something about that assumption that makes me feel like I’m being watched as a fat person. It’s the same feeling I got when a co-worker once mentioned how good I was being when she saw my eating raw veggies at work. Can’t a woman just eat some damn cucumber slices because she wants to? At the same time, I know this cashier was looking for solidarity. She saw in me someone who can identify with her struggles. And she’s right, I can. I struggle to find clothes that fit, I struggle to find doctors who will diagnose my symptoms and not my size, I struggle to walk down the street after having someone in a moving car “moo” at me one too many times. And like just about any human being with a body, I struggle with loving, or just accepting, myself.

Our world makes it hard to love yourself. I support people doing what they need or want to do to take care of themselves and reach a place of happiness. My goals are probably not what people think they are, or should be, given my size. I hesitate to mention exercise around anyone, lest they think oh, of course she wants to lose weight! Finally! My path to health and happiness is mine, and I wish luck to anyone in theirs.

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I Think You Forgot To Mention Something

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Do you ever experience a moment when it seems like someone is on the verge of a truth but they end up just skirting around it? It seems like that happens often around issues of weight. We hear a lot of talk about how horrible life is for fat people and we activists sit there, mentally filling in the blanks; “Yes, life is hard for us because people discriminate against us!” Unfortunately, many people never seem to reach that logical conclusion. Instead, it’s “Doctor’s treat fat patient’s poorly, so you should lose weight.” “Kids bully fat people, so you should lose weight.” “Airlines kick fat people off of flights, so you should lose weight.” And on and on it goes.

Last week I was sitting at the break table at work, flipping through the most recent issue of Mental Floss magazine, and I had one of those “avoiding the truth” moments. The magazine included a feature on how the seven deadly sins may not be so bad for you after all. I mostly skimmed the article, but of course I wanted to see what they had to say about gluttony. Now, I don’t really need a magazine article to give me permission to practice some good old fashioned gluttony. I don’t believe in attaching moral value to food or drink anyway, and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that indulging in something you enjoy makes you happy, so just enjoy it already!

Even though I wanted to see what the rag had to say about gluttony, I didn’t get very far, because right at the beginning of the section was a parenthetical that warned against being too gluttonous, because heavier people (their words) tend to get raises and promotions less often. Hmmm. Mental Floss, I feel like you’re missing something.

See, this is true. All of us fat activists know this is true. Apparently the writers of Mental Floss know this is true as well, because they threw it in as a little tidbit in an article about why it’s okay to indulge (but not too much, I guess. Don’t over-indulge that indulgence, folks). The thing is, I don’t think it’s particularly helpful to include this fact without bothering to talk about why it’s true.

Being less likely to be hired, promoted, or given a raise is not some odd little side-effect of being fat. It’s not a coincidence. It’s not an unavoidable trait. It’s discrimination. Fat people are discriminated against. We are less likely to be hired, promoted, or given raises because the people in power see us as lazy, unintelligent, or just ugly. The article in Mental Floss mentioned this fact of discrimination against “heavier people” so casually and quickly that it wasn’t clear whether or not they actually see it as discrimination. Reading that line I felt like saying “….Yes, and?”

The thing is, it’s not our fault. It’s not our fault we are less likely to be given these opportunities in the workplace. It’s not our fault we are discriminated against. To throw this fact out there so casually, and then not explore it, makes it seem like this is just an interesting and unfortunate side affect of being fat. What it really is, is a side affect of living in a society that views fat people as lesser beings. We are headless blobs on the evening news, miserable bed-ridden guests on Dr. Oz, reality show contestants desperate to lose weight in order to “take our lives  back.” I don’t know about anyone else, but I just want to be a person.

Yes, fat people are less likely to be given raises or promotions. And that is fucking unacceptable. 

My Experience of Flying While Fat

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I recently went on a trip and I thought I would share my traveling experience.

Throughout my whole life, I’ve only ever flown Southwest airlines and had no issues with the staff. I find this amusingly ironic considering how often they make the news for harassing someone based on weight or dress. I do not fit comfortably into their seats but I find that as long as I check in online as early as possible, I am able to board early and avoid sitting next to anyone. For me, the worst part of flying is having to sit next to strangers. I feel obligated to squeeze myself into as small a space as possible so as not to end up on the wrong end of an angry blog post about how HORRIBLE it is to fly next to fat people, so I basically spend a couple hours being extremely uncomfortable unless I sit alone. Luckily for me, unless a plane is full,  no one willingly sits next to fat people!

Unfortunately on this last trip, I had to fly United. Now, I can’t speak for the airline as a whole, having never flown with them before, but I can say that the two planes I flew in were about the size of my apartment and about as uncomfortable as my apartment would be if you filled it with sixty strangers and couldn’t open the windows. On the first plane, going to my destination, I was one of the last people to board the plane as we were called by boarding group. Sadly, unlike Southwest, we had assigned seating. This meant I had no choice but to be wedged next to a stranger who was probably none too happy to be sitting next to the fat person on the plane. Since I was one of the last to board, my seat buddy was already in place, so she had to move while I did my best to load my luggage, and myself, without elbowing anyone in the face. I spent the ninety minute flight leaning as far against the window as I could.

On the plane ride back, I caught a bit of a break. Even though our boarding passes were labeled with boarding groups, we were called to board the plane all at once. I got my butt on that plane as early as possible and I beat my seat buddy to our aisle. I was able to situate myself and my bags comfortably and get settled in before the neighboring passenger arrived. This would be my number one tip to my fellow fat flyers: board as early as possible! Check in online as early as possible and get to the gate well before they start boarding. As a fat person, I can say I always feel like I’m being judged and scrutinized by my fellow passengers on public transportation. Even if I’m just being paranoid, that feeling is still a result of the fat-phobic  society we live in. That being said, getting on the plan as early as possible eases that feeling a bit, since there are fewer eyes on me and fewer people that have to move out of my way.

While I was as uncomfortable as ever on this particular trip, I can say no one was rude to me, no one made comments to my face or tried to make me buy two seats (as these planes were full, my main concern was getting kicked right off). The United planes carried seatbelt extenders so I was as safe as I could probably be. I’ve been lucky in that I haven’t faced any of the bullying or discrimination that other fat flyers sometimes experience. The fact that I consider this lucky is sad indeed.

I wanted to talk about this experience to draw attention so something that doesn’t always get talked about during discussions of flying while fat. People are quick to point out how horribly uncomfortable it is to fly next to fat people. They might have to touch a fat person’s arm or thigh with their arm or thigh, the horror! Sometimes those fat people might be sweaty, or smell bad, oh no! Of course, if it’s a thin person who is sweaty, or not so great-smelling, or maybe hogs the armrest, that experience isn’t used as an example of how gross thin people are, how they should be forced to buy two seats, how they should just be banned from flying entirely. What I really want to talk about, what I really want you to understand, is that flying is infinitely more uncomfortable for the fat person in question than for anyone else on that plane.

We have to deal with the mental and emotional stress of worrying that we might get kicked off the plane, or asked to buy a second seat that we can’t afford. We have to be the recipient of dirty looks. We have to wonder if every time a part of our body makes contact with someone else’s, if that person is going on an inner rant about how they had to touch a gross fat person. We have to be extra conscious of how we smell or how sweaty we are, lest we be labeled a gross smelly fatty. Never mind the fact that travel is always stressful and airports often include lots of walking while carrying heavy bags, heaven forbid we break a sweat. You might have a little bit of your seat taken up by a fat person, but that means we take up our entire seat and then some. How comfortable do you think that is for us?

The next time you travel and start to feel annoyed by someone near you on the bus or plane, ask yourself, are they doing anything they can control? Are they blasting music through their headphones, wearing far too much perfume for an enclosed space, or kicking your seat? Or do they just have a body type that you are uncomfortable with?