It’s hard to be fat.
Most LGBTQIPA+ people know how painful being different can be; how people treat you, and how you move within the world. Of course, all variations from the assumed norm (cis-het, white, able bodied, thin, rich, male) carries certain dangers. Personally, I’m only just beginning to understand the true social impact of being fat. Many consider being fat a choice, or a moral failing. But who’s choosing it?
Consider that 95-98% of diets fail. The only thing fat people have in common, is that we’ve dieted. For most, five years after a diet, the likely outcome is that we will have gained weight. But society will tell fat people they need to lose weight and to diet. Fat people are treated as though they are just failed thin people. It feels like the odds are against fat people.
I’ve been fat since I was a child. I’ve joined weight loss groups, tried fad diets, and been stuck in a cycle of restriction and binging. The latter led to unhealthy relationships with food and bulimia. None of those things made me thin, and they certainly didn’t make me healthy. Most importantly, they made me unhappy. Only when I began to accept myself, as fat, did I begin to feel healthy and happy.
We’ve all heard the facts; weight doesn’t equal health, BMI cannot measure health (and was invented by a mathematician and used to fuel white supremacy). Healthy habits are better indications of health. But how many healthy habits are kept out of the reach of fat people? Looking at exercise, fat people are faced with restricted equipment, improper gym attire, intimidation and bullying across sports and exercise spaces. Exercising while fat can be harrowing. If healthy habits determine health, and yet fat people cannot access them, how can we expect fat people to be healthy?
And a note here, we don’t owe anyone health. Health means different things to each person, many conditions of what we deem ‘good health’ are ableist. Not everyone’s ‘healthy’ will look the same., and being ‘healthy’ isn’t a prerequisite to your worth. If you’re only interested in respecting the rights of ‘healthy’ people, that says more about you, than the people you’re being disrespectful to.
In terms of my own feelings toward exercise, I love it (now). But in the past; I’ve been intimidated and made fun of in gyms, in exercise classes, even running the street. I know how painful those things are, but I also carry privilege as a white cis man who’s able bodied. This has made some challenges easier to overcome. I’ve managed to find the joy in running, swimming, and yoga. I’ve been able to enjoy a dance class, or a weight class. Through luck and perseverance, I’ve been able to take up space in places that aren’t meant for me. Good for me. But what about the other fat people who deserve to feel the same? I questioned how I could use my privilege to help others…
This is why I created Fat Athletes – a community for fat people who want to exercise. We don’t support weight loss, I’m not a personal trainer, and I don’t know what’s better for you than you do. I can’t teach you anything about exercise that you don’t already know. What I want to offer people, through Fat Athletes, is a way to exercise that doesn’t feel scary. Where exercise is social, and dare I say it, fun.
I can’t change the world, certainly not on my own. But what we do have is safety in numbers -that’s the idea behind Fat Athletes. Everyone is welcome, and nobody gets left behind.
We’d love you to join us at Fat Athletes! If you have a specific need, or you’re nervous about exercising for the first (or thirtieth) time, my DMs are always open. We always train as a team, and you’ll get all the back-up you need, physically and emotionally! Want to jog with us but fear you’ll be too slow? Not possible. We walk, we jog, we stop. We work up a sweat, but we go at the pace that everyone can work to. The thing you need to understand about Fat Athletes is, we’re a community.
It may be easy for society to put down a fat person, but a fat army? That would be pretty much unstoppable.
Author: Martin Dixon, Fat Athletes
Titles: Gay, Runner, Fat Athlete