My Experience of Fatphobia in Fitness

WAttending SoulCycle as a fat woman was one of the most isolating experiences of my life. Despite the lovely lemon-scented candles and peppy people, my friend and I found ourselves not only the biggest people in the class (that was about 100 pounds ago for me), but definitely two of the most lost. .

We were barely acknowledged at the desk, and left to fend for ourselves as we clipped away. When the lights dimmed and the slender instructor yelled, “This is your family” in a dark, technology-laden room, we fell right back. No one defined hand positions, got us used to the levers that changed gears or helped us set up the bike. It was unwanted, and unkind. It took a few years and a lot of coaxing before I tried another cycle class. (I have a love for it now, thanks to friends who showed me a different way.)

If I don’t ignore the fat body when I walk into the fitness studio, I’m being patronized or ridiculed. I’ve heard it all; A whisper at the front desk “This is a challenging class so feel free to be in kid pose” or an instructor loudly proclaiming from the stage “You are so inspiring to come today” with laser focus on my stomach.

And no, they don’t tell everyone that. It is abundantly clear to me that my body shape often makes fitness professionals uncomfortable. Their industry is built to “look good” according to certain ideals, so why not?

It is abundantly clear to me that my body shape often makes fitness professionals uncomfortable.

Even studios claiming inclusion often celebrate a certain kind of aesthetic. I was once a dance fitness instructor at a company built on inclusion. It’s my favorite thing I’ve ever done. Yet the CEO once told me not to make being a big girl “my brand” so I wouldn’t get stuck in one type of thing. Meanwhile, every other instructor was asked to find their unique voice and encouraged to develop it through social media.

Fat bodies are seen as the enemy of fitness – something to be solved. Food is not fuel or evil or carefully regulated, enjoyable or full of culture. How sad is that? What could happen in our studios and gyms if we embraced the idea of ​​moving our bodies for pleasure, endorphins, health and fun?

I love to dance. I love good music in a spin studio. I even came to enjoy a hot yoga class (but give me more yin for those aching bones). I am a runner. I love lifting and lowering heavy things. When a fitness community is good, it’s so good, full of lifting each other up and challenging each other to do harder things.

Recently, I ran/walked my first 5K. It was the weekend of my 37th birthday and I had been training for what felt like forever. I hired an incredible coach who gave me a training plan and accountability, but who reminded me that injuries and life are going to happen. I have a run crew (check us out on Tuesday nights—anonymous is the first black-led run group in Boston) that was a consistent group of cheerleaders. My friend and ultra-trail marathoner Julia drove 50+ miles to be my hypewoman as I ran through the streets of Ipswich, Massachusetts. This is the fitness community we are all deserved

So, how can the rest of the industry fare better?

Start by offering variety for people of all body sizes. Encourage people to do what feels right for them. Sure, we go into a workout for a challenge, but everyone gets hurt—thin or thick—and gives us direction to push ourselves. safely A great way to make sure you’re taking care of your clients.

And when you do a lot of business, don’t deal with exclusive brands (spoiler alert, sizes XL don’t stretch). Consider that some brands have a serious history of fatphobia and are now expanding their sizes because it’s trendy. Also consider the durability of your equipment for larger organizations.

No, you don’t know what my body can do. When I enter your studio, greet me as you would a paying customer. A smile and a welcome is great. If it’s my first time, ask if I want help finding or setting up the bathroom. Don’t make any assumptions or try to tell me what I can or can’t do. Sounds like what you would do for someone, right?

I love to move. My fat friends do too. We deserve studios where we can feel accepted, included, even celebrated. With the rise of amazing women like Jessamyn Stanley, Ash Pryor, and Liz’s Big Grls, it’s nice to see the big companies’ longstanding isolation from cracking fitness open up a bit—check out these athletes in action! Notice that they are as confident in their abilities as you are. Support us, hire us, let us represent all types of organizations for your brand. Let us find joy, and you’ll see what we can do.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.