Fat and Fit, or Not

Ragen Chastain 5'4, 284 pounds.  Photo by Richard Sabel.
Ragen Chastain 5’4, 284 pounds. Photo by Richard Sabel.

I’m going to talk about fitness and movement, and some cool things that are happening with the Fit Fatties Forum, so I want to preface this by saying that movement/fitness/whatever you prefer to call it is an option – it’s not a moral decision, it’s not a social or personal obligation. Choosing to be physically active, or to not be physically active as someone is able doesn’t make someone better or worse than anyone else. People choose lots of levels of physical activity, or lack thereof, for lots of reasons, including various abilities and disabilities, and all of those are completely valid.  [Edit: a blog reader let me know that my use of the term “choice” may be feel excluding for those who are disabled.  I apologize if it felt like that for anyone.  She suggested that I dd the phrase “as they are able”  which I have done.  It wasn’t my intention to be excluding but it seems that was the the result – I apologize.)  It’s not for anyone to judge anyone else’s  movement/fitness/exercise etc.

While I am adamantly against suggesting, in any way, that fat people (or any people)  have any sort of obligation to participate in fitness,  I think it’s important that fat people who are interested in fitness have the opportunity to speak about it, because we face everything from being ignored to being shamed and stigmatized, to being completely shut out just because we want to participate in movement while living in a big body.

This can be such a difficult and complex issue.  For example, I typically use the word “movement” because “exercise” is just too triggering for too many people.  In fact many fat people tell me that they resent the very idea of movement or fitness because it gets shoved down our throats as something that we “should” or “have to” or “need to” do to be a “good fatty,”  or because movement was used when they were kids and even as adults by authority figures as a punishment for being fat (because that’s the way to develop a lifelong love of learning? Wankers.) Gyms, diet companies, and the media can’t stop telling us that we aren’t “doing movement right” unless it makes us thinner. Meanwhile fat athletes are told that, like so many rainbow pooping unicorns, we don’t exist, or that our accomplishments mean nothing if we aren’t thin.

And while it’s totally cool if people know their options and opt out of movement for whatever reason, I get e-mails almost daily from people saying that they wanted to dance, or hula hoop, or take walks or whatever, but didn’t think it was an option for fat people at all until they heard about or saw other fat people doing it.  Meanwhile if you are fat and involved in movement and want support for anything from training programs to injury prevention it’s almost impossible without also getting weight loss talk and advice which can do everything from massively annoying you to making you want to quit altogether.

It’s one of the main reasons that I co-founded the Fit Fatties Forum.  I wanted a place where all kinds of people, of all abilities and movement types can talk, and get support without weight loss or diet talk.  Last year my forum co-founder, and super awesome fatty Jeanette DePatie (aka The Fat Chick), had an idea that we launched today: Fit Fatties Across America!  The idea is that forum members who opt to participate can send in their time or distance each week for whatever movement they are involved in, and then we’ll pool it and see how long it takes us, as a group, to travel across the US with fun graphics on the page to track our progress.

I’m excited about it for a bunch of reasons – it’s an opportunity for Health at Every Size activism,  it’s free, people of all sizes and abilities and movement types can get involved whether they are taking a 2 minute walk or running marathons, it creates a bunch of role models for people who may want to try out movement but think it’s not for them because of the constant drumbeat that fat people people don’t have a place in the fitness world, and did I mention we get to do fun graphics around it.

If this interests you, I hope that you will consider becoming involved  (if you aren’t a member you’ll be prompted to join at the link – it’s free and doesn’t commit you to anything)  Fit Fatties Across America  launches officially on January 1.

Also launching on January 1 are, by member request, training and support groups.  There are groups lead by fat certified fitness professionals for people of all sizes, abilities, and goals.  There is a group for those with a goal of 150 minutes of activity a week,  a group for those planning to participate in a fitness event this year, one for those who want to enjoy movement without tracking or structure, and then there’s Team Zombie.  People can join as many groups as they would like.  There is a small fee to be involved but it’s pretty cheap and it will be awesome.  You can find out more info here. (if you aren’t a member you’ll be prompted to join at the link – it’s free and doesn’t commit you to anything)

If these don’t appeal to you, of course that’s totally cool, just know that whatever movement you are doing or not doing is completely valid, and if you find that you are interested in movement from a weight-neutral perspective then you can  find support on the Fit Fatties Forum for free anytime.

Last thing about the forum, – More of Me to Love, an awesome company that sells fatty-focused products from the useful to the whimsical, and who you may remember because they were the $5,000 sponsor of the Georgia Billboard Project, has come on as the title sponsor to the forum.  We’ll be adding other sponsors as well throughout the year. This is awesome because we’ve been paying for the forum and development costs ourselves so far and this allows us to keep it free to all the members, to spend more of our time working on the forum, and to keep expanding to do more things. If you’re interested in being a sponsor, you can e-mail me.  If you’re interested in supporting the people who are supporting the forum, you can check out More of Me to Love.

Finally,  I do sometimes get questions and push back about things that I charge money for so I wanted to address it up front.  I blogged about that here if you are interested.

Now, speaking of wankers who are ruining fitness for kids,  we’re over 1,500 signatures and going strong on our petition to keep kids off The Biggest Loser!  Please consider signing the petition to keep kids off The Biggest Loser and re-posting it.

Like the blog?  Check this stuff out:

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These are the final days of the holiday sale!  You’ll get 20% off whatever you buy (Book and/or the DVDs) plus an upgrade from media mail to priority shipping in the US.  Support my work, get cool stuff, win-win.  Click here to check it out.

The e-book is still name your own price

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I created a membership program so that people who read the blog and feel they get value out of it and want to  support the work I do can become members for ten bucks a month  Members are the first to know about new projects, get to see things before they are released, get “Member Deals” which are special deals to my members from size positive merchants. Once you are a member I send out an e-mail once a month with the various deals and how to redeem them – your contact info always stays completely private.  Join Now!

23 thoughts on “Fat and Fit, or Not

  1. Hi All, Thanks for reminding me to go back to fit fatties and post. What I really want to say today is that I got a big load of Weight Watchers in my face lately trying to watch some of my favorite shows: Runway Allstars and Top Chef, and that was despite having them recorded. It’s their time and I wish we could bang some pots and pans and remind people that WW is selling shame and dissappointment.

  2. Is it wrong of me to want to join Team Zombie and then go around humming Time of the Season and She’s Not There?

    1. I dressed up as a zombie bride for Halloween. Shredded, bloodied dress and veil with a tyre mark across them, twigs and dirt in my frizzy wig, white, green, grey and brown face and blacked out tooth. On my way to the party (on foot), I sang, Get Me to the Church on Time every time I passed someone.

  3. I was mad as a wet hen when this sanctimonious asshat managed to shame a friend of mine into a vicious downward spiral that ended her up in the E.R. Said Sanctimonious Asshat shared a link to one of those lame pseudoscience articles stating that social networking makes people fat. Sanctimonious Asshat made the statement “in other words, get outside and move!”
    My friend, who is new to Facebook (and may never use it again) has a history of borderline personality disorder, bulimia, and body dysmorphic disorder. She is new to the game of body acceptance. She shared the link with the statement “or maybe some of us are just fat. I exercise and am still fat.”
    She forgot to remove the original poster (aka Sanctimonious Asshat’s) name from the link. Sanctimonious Asshat responded that my friend needed to stop “playing the victim” (absolutely the wrong thing to say with someone who has borderline personality disorder) and that if she was fat she needed to “do something about it.”
    Sanctimonious Asshat went on to say that as a nurse she sees the “damage” that being obese does to people and that her fiance died young because of his obesity.
    As a nurse myself, I say that I hate when I get people like this as my nurse. I have worked as a CNA and then as a nurse with the geriatric population. Yes, Virginia, there are fat old people.
    Is there a point when someone is carrying around an unhealthy amount of weight? Yeah, when they can’t even get out of bed or clean themselves. But is shaming them going to help? Absolutely not. Also, nobody ever thinks about the fact that there is some sort of co-morbid condition going on in these cases. Teh fateez shud just stop eatin da Kentuckee Fried!
    Being extremely skinny is also unhealthy, but people don’t tend to shame individuals in this category in the same way. There tends to be more sympathy for them.
    I’m extremely upset that there are people in the health care profession who completely lack even basic compassion for others, and also appear to understand absolutely nothing about mental health. Although it surprises me not at all.
    Thanks for letting me rant!

    1. Well, who is to say they can’t get out of bed and/or clean themselves because they are fat and not because they are old. My grandmother is 92 and she can’t hardly get out of bed, she can’t care for herself, she can’t clean herself, but she is rail thin and quite frail. The doctor keeps pressuring family to force Ensure drinks down her throat, but Grandma refuses to eat saying she “isn’t hungry” so what can we do? But she isn’t shamed for being rail thin and frail. That is only reserved for the fat people who have “brought it upon themselves.”

  4. Fit Fatties Across America? Really? I assumed Fit Fatties would be welcoming Fats from all over the world. Guess not. I’m disappointed that you either didn’t think of being inclusive or chose not to be. Maybe I got the wrong impression about the site and it was always intended for Americans, but in any case, I think it is bit of a missed opportunity.

    1. Hi Alexandra,

      Sorry about the confusion – America is representative of the geographical distance we plan to “travel”, not of the nationalities of people we hope will be involved. It is open to all forum members and we do have a number of international members. If this effort is successful we may well do Fit Fatties Around the World next time (though no matter what route we choose we’ll leave out countries and possibly entire continents of people who we hope will be involved), maybe someday we’ll even do Fit Fatties to the Moon. With this first effort we thought that America represented a respectable distance but not unattainable (though it will entirely depend on participation of course) and since Jeanette and I live in LA it will end in our hometown where we can host a celebration that we can livestream around the world. Hope that makes more sense.


      1. Ragen, I too am sorry about the confusion. I did not mean to sound so harsh or angry. I’m not angry, but (especially) judging by the comments below I did not succeed in getting my point across very well. I do not expect my or any particular other country to be on the list. It is just that it would have been nice if it had been more explicitly open/inviting to fatties everywhere. On the Internet wording may be even more important than it would be in real life, because of the lack of body language and the language and cultural barriers. I have been reading your blog for quite some time and I think you usually go out of your way to make people feel welcome, so I hope you will continue in that vein, and from time to time remember your international readers as well. It may already be obvious from my use of language here, but English is not my first language and that (plus the fact that others often feel that people from my country are quite ‘blunt’) makes it kind of hard write a response that perfectly captures what I am thinking.

    2. This is the single most passive-aggresive comment I’ve read on the internet, ever. I’ve only been reading this blog for a few weeks, but nothing I’ve seen has given me the impression that it is any way exclusionary.

      1. I know Ragen tries her best to make everyone feel welcome here. I have seen evidence of that on numerous occasions. Does that mean she is perfect and can never be criticized for anything? I do not think so. Overall, I think that Ragen does a really good job here, and if I have any regrets, it is that I have not said that to her before.

        I still stand by the gist of my original message, which is that ‘Fit Fatties Across America!’ does not come across as very inviting towards international members of that forum. That is just my opinion though, and not everyone may agree.

        Just in case it is not clear yet, my original comment was not meant as an attack on Ragen. I probably should have worded it differently (without the “Really?”‘s and “Guess not”‘s). Calling my comment “the single most passive-aggresive comment I’ve read on the internet, ever” seems a little over the top to me though.

    3. Alexandra,

      I would encourage you to read this blog post and check out the site before making assumptions. NOWHERE does Ragen ever say that participation is limited to Americans. This tracking/race activity is simply from New York to Los Angeles (virtually).

      Take a deep breath. No one is excluding you or anyone else.

      1. “Take a deep breath.” is a pretty condescending thing to say… at least it is where I am from.

        I’m not angry, but I do want to point out that not explicitly excluding anyone is not quite the same as being inclusive. This has been discussed in the Fatosphere before, so this should not be new to people who were there at the time. However, I realize that ‘getting it right’ for everybody is not that easy. It may not even be possible, but based on what I have read on this blog before, I did (and still do) have the impression that Ragen is interested in attempting to create/maintain/grow a community where all feel welcome. If that had not been the case, I would not have bothered to comment at all, there would have been no point.

  5. Hi Ragen,
    Long time lurker, first time poster here!
    This is a great post and I really wish that there was a physical fit fatties community in Western Australia (where I currently live). I am an ex-dancer and dance teacher and would love to find adult classical/jazz classes that are fat-friendly, as I really love and miss dancing. However I am far too aware of the general attitudes over here towards fat people to consider attending any adult classes as a fierce fatty. Perhaps I should lead the revolution and start my own casual dance classes for fellow adult fatties!?
    Please keep up the fantastic work, I thoroughly enjoy all of your material and plan to buy your book on payday 🙂
    Chelle xx

    1. Hi Chelle,

      I’m so sorry that you don’t have more support in your community. I think it would be super awesome if you started classes in your community – if there is anything that I can do to help or support you just let me know.


      1. Thanks Ragen!
        I spent a bit of time today thinking and writing about this, I would really love to run my general ideas by you, is there anywhere I can email you to rap some ideas at you? I’d really like to provide this avenue for movement at every size and I want to make sure that I present it the right way. I know that you would be the perfect person to gain perspective from, it would be so helpful. I can’t wait to initiate some HAES dance movement in this backwards little town!!!

  6. I’m confused about the groups… Are they online only or in person? I would love a way to connect with other FF members who live near me but can’t seem to figure out a way to do that on the site.

    1. Hi Rosie,

      The groups will be virtual, they will include both a private mail listserve and a private facebook page where people can interact. We are also encouraging people to create meet-ups in their areas. The LA Fit Fatty meet-up already exists. Hope that makes sense, if not just let me know!



  7. Ragan, you are the best at making us less than mobile fat folks feel comfortable with the fit fatties folks. I chuckled when I saw that we could join with a two minute walk, as I sit here with my oxygen and thinking about going to the living room or just remain here at my computer desk. I believe that would probably be a 30 second walk. Dry humor. When the gym re-opens after a two week pool cleanup, I do plan to get back to my water therapy classes, and I will definitely include those. Thjank you for the loving encouragement for all of us.

    1. Water workouts are the greatest! I have fibromyalgia and sciatica. I move better on land since I started working out in the water (after many years hiatus) this past summer.

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