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Small Steps Are Enough

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A short while ago, I was reading a discussion happening somewhere on the internet where one person was arguing that it’s not good enough to take small steps towards being more active, like taking the stairs instead of the elevator. Apparently, exercise only counts if done in long stretches to the point of dripping sweat. This is obviously an ableist way of thinking, because someone might want to be more active but is only able to move so much due to pain or fatigue. Telling people that small steps aren’t good enough isn’t going to magically make everyone start doing more, it’s going to make a lot of people give up because they can’t do more than what they’re already doing. 

I mentioned in my last post that I’m going to start exercising at home more. I can’t work out for very long stretches. I have foot pain from spending my day job on my feet on a hard concrete floor, and while I do what I can with decent sneakers and good insoles, there’s a limit to how long a person can stand on a hard floor without feeling pain. Sometimes I think it’s just because of my weight, but even the thin woman I work with say it’s really hard for them. I have to find a balance between what I want to do to feel better, and what I can physically can do. If I believed that small steps were not good enough, I would just give up. Small steps are all I can do. I already have to do some things by necessity, like stand for hours at work and take the stairs at home because we live on the top floor and don’t have an elevator. When it comes time to do the things I actually want to do, I can’t last very long, but I do what I can so that I feel good and don’t push myself to the point of injury. 

Over the last year or so there has been a bigger focus in the media about the dangers of sitting all day. Sitting in offices at work, sitting in front of the t.v. at home, sitting, sitting, terrifying sitting! It’s ironic to me, because as a fat person who doesn’t get to sit at work at all, I know that I would feel better if I had a desk job, because my feet would not be killing me when I got off work and I would be able to be more active in my spare time. As it is, I can only take those small steps. And that is enough. It’s enough for me to work out without worrying about losing weight. It’s enough for me to only exercise five or ten minutes at a time because that’s what I can do. It’s enough to take a leisurely walk in the park. Whatever you want to do, whatever you’re able to do, don’t ever listen to anyone that tells you it’s not enough. 

 

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.