Being Fat While Exercising
In my early 20’s, I used to be a gym rat. Weight loss, booty building and generally looking sexy were my goals. Now, as a 300 lb. person merely seeking to be active for mental health and life longevity– everything’s changed.
Why senior citizens seem to be the only demographic cornering the market on mall walking is beyond me. Air conditioning, security guards, lots of pleasant distraction and no dog-doo landmines – we should all be mall walking.
This morning, I grabbed a coffee and decided to take my morning walk at the mall. I normally take 45 minutes on the treadmill at my apartment gym, but maintenance seems to be preoccupied with my complex’s white paint + desert plant exterior renovation so both of my treadmill options are kaput.
There’s a walking trail near my home as well, but I’ve seen too many film adaptations of Gillian Flynn novels (fun fact, I love writing but have little patience for reading) to be fully aware that any isolated jog on a trail leads to a secondary location and dismemberment.
I’ve worked retail a great portion of my life, and nothing was more intimate, special and sacred than opening the store in the morning. Heading to a mall in the early morning light, chugging a can of Starbucks Espresso, and gnawing on a gas station taquito – there’s a special tranquility I’m sure only matched in some far away mountain-top buddhist temple. Shopgirls and shopguys with clear backpacks heading into darkened storefronts, the rumble of the morning trash-cart run, the smell of industrial floor cleaner — in a word, heaven. I’ve left the retail world, but it’s never really left me. Mall walking is a fun dip into nostalgia for me, and if you stay long enough for the stores to open, it can end with perfume samples. What a finish line.
Today I was on my hustle, enjoying the You’ve Got Mail soundtrack (Meg Ryan circa 1998 has always been hallmark of accomplished adulthood, in my earnest opinion) and feeling a light sweat. On my third lap, it happened.
As I rounded a corner, a mall cop was grinning at me, cheering me on as if this leisurely mall walk was the hardest undertaking I’ve ever accomplished. He may as well have had a foam finger.
Thins – (if you are below a size 12, this is how I address you) I know what you’re going to say. But before you say ANYTHING – lemme slap ya with some facts!
- There were at least five other middle aged women around me, all varying sizes. Some even a little bit plus sized.
- Yes, positivity and kindness are wonderful.
- I am a bit of a cynic.
- I AM PARANOID THAT EVERYONE NOTICES ME AND MY FATNESS AND THAT THEY HAVE AN UGLY ASS OPINION OF IT.
All of those things are very true – yes, but so are my thoughts and feelings.
I’ve mall walked since I was a size 14 and 180 lbs. Now I am a size 24 and 300 lbs – therefore every time I : wear a bathing suit, eat a salad, kiss my partner, have sex, smile and stand up straight in public, or move – it’s a goddamn miracle worthy of a heartfelt episode of This Is Us.
That very thought is what has kept me from regularly exercising in a way I authentically enjoy (group setting, pop music blaring, going hard and PUMPING) for the last 20 or so months.
The last boutique exercise group setting I went to was almost two years ago when I was decently physically fit – yet 250 lbs. It was aerial hoop class – one I signed up for after seeing a particularly inspiring burlesque show.
I usually call most exercise locations prior to my visit.
“Is there a weight limit?”
“Oh, I don’t know – but I’m sure you’ll be fine.”
“I’m 250 lbs.”
“Um okay, hold on let me ask”
I had this same conversation today with a cycle class instructor, only my weight is now 300 lbs.
Can I just say this and be super snotty? If you are a fitness instructor you should KNOW the answer to these questions. It should be a non-negotiably memorized fact ever-present in your mind.
And then I realized something – fat people don’t go to these classes. I myself had not gone to one of these classes in the last couple of years. Am I afraid to physically move my body? No. Am I incapable of moving my body? Nope. I’m afraid of the individualized attention. I am afraid of the confusion. I am afraid of the “HELL YEAH, YOU GO GIRL” when the instructor immediately assumes I’m day one of my BIG WEIGHT LOSS JOURNEY.
Two years ago I was a size 20 and went to three spin classes a week. Anytime there was an instructor who I had never met before, she would always come up to me and say, “Is this your first time?” or “Do you want me to help you lock in?” and then after class would immediately “Wow! Way to keep up girl!”.
I am sure there are people who are extremely motivated by this kind of language. I’m not.
You know why I love spin class? Because its a room with the lights off and a bass so loud you can fart, cuss out your ex and cry without anyone ever hearing you. It’s essentially a sober West Hollywood night club with an endorphin hangover. Duh, doi — I love it.
I also love being a fit person. YES — you heard it here first, you can be FIT AND FAT, SIS.
The “thinnest” I ever got (when I was actively trying to be thin) I was jogging mountain trails of the greater Los Angeles area. I regularly ate shit and scraped up my knees. I hungout and trained with roller derby girls. I lived with a crossfit instructor. I drank protein shakes. I counted calories and macros. I had an intimate relationship with a 25 lb kettlebell and yeah – the TINIEST I ever got was a size 14 (and not even in jeans, in dresses so you know that’s a dangin’ lie). I outran my girlfriends in sprints around the neighborhood, I murdered my bff in the gym with my HIIT workout when she stayed the weekend with me. And all of this was okay – as long as I squarely had the mindset of weight loss.
I felt great physically, but I still wasn’t good enough. People still came up to me at the gym and said “You’ll get there”.
Where the fuck was I going?
If you’ve found this post via my instagram page – you know I’m a plus size influencer and with that comes certain perks. I just signed a deal with ClassPass and I am about to embark on two months of group exercise classes. To say I’m terrified is an understatement. I have been on the phone all morning asking about weight limits. I’ve been thinking about how things are just well, different now. How I’m currently at a shape and size that begets ugly looks at the grocery store (a very new place to be). How if I show myself exercising that I will immediately and gently have to preface my desire to do so by repeatedly explaining that I’m not fatphobic or becoming a weight loss account.
(And just so I’m being clear, if you drop into my inbox and tell me something about my own body and what I’m allowed to do with it, you can kindly fuck off. When did the body positivity community become so against bodily autonomy?).
I miss moving with a crew. I am ready to sweat. I’m getting bored of solitary exercise. I wish there was a body positive place for me to sweat nearby. I wish that people won’t see me as a before photo. I’m sad that someone will ride harder in my spin class when they see me – purely out of the fear that they could potentially become me.
But I also have to create my own Utopia. I have to be the badass fat girl in the workout class. I need a FAT AND FIT t-shirt yesterday.
I invite you to come back and follow up with me here. I will be as honest as possible with my experiences as I combat my own fears.
Physical activity was something I joyfully found in my twenties. As my body became more politicized, it became harder to participate. Example? The ugliest glares, comments, online trolling often come when I am wearing workout clothes.
I’m ready, bitches. Stare all you want.
Also – once I had an orgasm on a spin bike so I am very excited about that potentially occurring once again.