I like to meet other people who work in health and fitness – especially those who work from a Behavior-Centered Health model. A friend of mine, Dave, once tried to introduce me to the owner of a gym, we’ll call him Gary. Dave described me including the fact that I’m a fat athlete.
Gary was apparently confused about why we were being introduced and immediately said “We wouldn’t want a trainer who was really big” because I would be a “poor example”. Dave told me the story and I shrugged it off – certainly not the first time that I’ve been told that being a successful, healthy, happy, fat athlete is setting a bad example.
That same night I was at one of the Eating Disorder Facilities where I taught dance classes. I found out that the girls had named me to their list of Role Models. One of them told me that I was her hero. These are girls who have body dymorphia and an irrational fear of being fat. And I, at 5’4 284 pounds, I made their list of role models. It took everything in my power not to cry – not just because I was honored but because those women inspire me. They fight against near-impossible odds, they fall down over and over and they just keep getting back up.
The moral of the story here is that we don’t get to decide to whom we are an example, to whom we are an inspiration, or when. We can only decide what we are an example of, and what we want to inspire.
I’ve written before about my feelings on inspiration. Basically, that I believe that the only way you can inspire by someone is presenting a new option – then they have to choose to walk toward or away from that option. Just the other day I was watching Coach Carter (I have an unabashed love of all sports movies) and was reminded of this Marianne Williamson Quote:
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
So, may I suggest that it can be kind of fun to ask yourself: If someone were watching your life – if they were looking to you as a role model – what would you give them permission to do? Are you proud of what you are an example of?
I don’t ask this hypothetically… I can assure you that someone is looking to you. For whatever reason – someone you know is relating to you right now and looking to you for inspiration. What are you inspiring them to consider?
I think that one of the most revolutionary acts that we can commit, at any size but especially as fat people, is to publicly with unabashedly love our bodies. Sadly, in this culture if you wake up and don’t hate yourself you are committing an act of revolution. If you can model not hating yourself, you are a full on revolutionary, and you give other people permission to consider that their bodies just might possibly be amazing and worthy exactly as they are.
Love your body, and you give the world the chance to change.
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21 thoughts on “Big Fat Inspiration”
This was a great wake up, good mood, good morning post. I love reading your blog. I am trying to be an inspiration to others and yet some days, I have to be honest, I don’t like myself very much. Some days its a struggle. I can’t say that I am happy being overweight because I don’t feel healthy. For me, I have to lose some of it so that I can move, get around, and start feeling better. I get your message, and I am learning to work with where I am. I think its important for me to share that truth about myself too.
“If someone were watching your life – if they were looking to you as a role model – what would you give them permission to do? Are you proud of what you are an example of?”
This sent shivers down my spine. I’m going to put this on a card and carry it with me. Thank you.
This whole post was so quotable that I had trouble not re-posting extracts from it all over the place–mostly so I could re-read them myself, over and over.
Love it! Thank you for posting this!
Absolutely Beautiful!!! and YES!!!
I just realized recently that this is true, even for me. Someone is watching me and being inspired by my actions. I’m very pleased to say that I AM an inspiration 🙂 Nice post.
Ragen I should tell you – you honestly inspire me. I am marrying my partner after years of putting it off for fear of “looking fat” at wedding. You have made me realize that life is for living, not waiting to live, and people who judge people on their body size are to be ignored and not kowtowed to.
Now, yes, I can’t say I’m a “true believer” yet. I still work to change my body size and use it as a barometer of how healthy my habits are in terms of eating whole unprocessed foods and exercising. I still like watching scale go down, even if i know longterm “success” is unlikely.
But I have begun loving myself thanks in no small part to your blog.
This is amazing! I’m so happy for and proud of you. I’m also really glad that I had the opportunity to support you in some small way as you did really difficult work. Congratulations on your wedding. You are an inspiration 🙂
Big Fat Hugs!
Wow – that’s the second time in the last hour that same quote came across my screen. As far as messages from the universe go, it is a really important one!
And by the way, thank you for being a significant part of the inspiration that took me out of just believing my personal philosophy for myself and into saying it out loud for others to hear.
I have a disability as well as being fat, the two arent directly related. I have recently got myself a personal trainer who specialises in rehab, and seems to be very size positive. I am enjoying the work I do and I am going to the gym and/or pool most days. I wear shorts, vests, swimsuits etc without embarrassment. Since I started doing this, I am surprised at how many friends who are not fat or disabled, or are fat but not nearly as fat as I am have started going to various classes, gyms, pools etc. I meanwhile, having been size accepting for many years am now struggling to accept myself at a reducing size. Reducing wasnt why I went, I want to be able to propel my own wheelchair instead of being pushed!
Liz – great post! All the best to you. I have vision issues and have noticed the same thing – when I get out and about – others do the same! Everyone has more fun.
I write a blog about my struggles with Bipolar Disorder, learning to love my fat body (it started as a wt loss blog over a year ago but morphed when I decided that was hogwash), & running, & about how all those things intersect. I write it for me, but along the way have been told by a few people, mostly friends of course, that I inspire them & some of them who are also larger women are thinking of taking up running themselves. My advice is always you are never to fat to run & don’t let anyone tell you different!
But yesterday I got called out by a blogger at a much larger running blog as one of the blogs she likes to follow. She told me in a comment on my own blog later that she shares my blog with people she works as a way of showing someone who is living & running successfully with challenges. That touched me so much that even writing about it now I am teary eyed.
It is very motivating to know that what you do inspires other people, especially knowing that part of my shtick is falling down on a near regular basis, but always getting back up. KInda takes the pressure off to be perfect which normally dogs me when I think people are paying attention.
You really are an inspiration. Were it not for your blog, my mind would still be trapped in the quagmire of “I’m just not doing enough to be a culturally acceptable size.” Now, I remind myself that my body *is* a wonderful, beautiful thing and nobody is allowed to tell me different. I still have days stuck in the quagmire, but since I met you, they’ve been fewer and fewer. Not only that, I’ve started telling my other friends (of all sizes) about HAES.
I will remember to shine the light in the darkness. 🙂
I have a geniuine question, and am not trying to troll. When I see that this quote is from Marianne Williamson, I immediately think of her recent weight loss book. Do people find it hard to hear the message of a quote that otherwise is inspirational, if they know the person saying it is part of the weight loss/fat is bad world that perpetrates body stigma? I do, and so for me, that quote just reminds me of how resistant otherwise thoughtful people are to the message of fat equality.
I struggle with that dichotomy sometimes too. I found Julia Cameron’s ‘The Artist’s Way’ and her other books hugely inspirational, and still do…but she’s also written a diet book, based on the notion that fat = writers’ block. Since her previous books helped me undo a bunch of negative messages from the past that were largely along the lines of ‘never mind creative, why aren’t you thin and pretty?’, that hit me particularly hard. In her case, at least, I blame Hollywood – it spews that poison into the minds of anyone who spends much time around its ideals.
This leads to a picture that reminded me of this blog, and I’m glad I checked in. I have been really hard on myself this week, and I’m just starting to step out of it. Thanks for all you do to help the world be a happier place:) When I was younger, want to be a plus-sized model. Now I’m trying to be a plus-sized role model, by not hating (ideally, loving) my body, and enjoying life on my terms!
I just wanted to say thank you for this blog and your book. I can only hope that I can inspire those around me in having self-acceptance in the present moment. I haven’t always felt that way but I’m evolving. The process of not listening to what our culture says is “ideal beauty” can be a daunting task. I’m ever so grateful for hearing the voices on this site.
THANKS FOR NEVER PLAYING LIFE SMALL!! YOU’RE VERY INSPIRING!!
I thought this was a lovely post, and I’ve been enjoying thinking about it. It seems to me that acknowledging that others may be inspired by you can be another way of loving yourself. Hats off to you!
Random moment: I was at a party with some fellow recent HS graduates, who i hadn’t seen all summer. One of them came in wearing a loose “wife beater” shirt that showed his arms and chest hair. This classmate (who has never given me any problems about my weight, btw) really hated the character of Piggy in “Lord of the Flies” when we read it, and was “glad he died.” This kid spent the party telling people how all he had done all summer was work at his job and work out, and how he wanted to be in shape for college. At one point, he complained jokingly to the host that there was “food everywhere.” When he started talking to me about it, I nodded and replied, “Yeah, I’ve been working out, too,” and told him the name of my gym. I was so glad I said something, and I had to tell someone, even though this wasn’t “inspirational.” I wouldn’t have said anything (and I probably wouldn’t have worked out nearly as much this summer) if not for this blog. It’s the perfect antidote to weight loss marketing, body-shaming and fatphobia. Thanks!
PS: I saw him eat a normal amount of food, so I’m not worried about disordered eating or anything like that. I just looked back at my comment and realized someone could draw that meaning from it. I don’t think he had that problem, though (don’t worry).