Fat People Claiming Our Place

Design by Kris Owen
Design by Kris Owen

People choose lots of different hobbies. for many fat people our choice of hobby can mean extra work and/or activism on our part. For those who knit or sew it can mean having to learn to make their own patterns since patterns in their size may not exist. For those who like to travel it may mean a fight to get the same service that everyone else on the plane gets (travel to their destination in a seat that fits them). The world is set up in ways that exclude fat people and that can make everything from going out to dinner to going on a cruise to sewing a dress more difficult.

Some of us choose fitness/athletics as a hobby.  Sometimes people suggest that fat people who participate in fitness deserve to be treated better than those who don’t.  This is often called the “Good Fatty/Bad Fatty Dichotomy” and it is complete bullshit and it needs to die.  Participating in fitness does not make someone better or worse than those who choose different hobbies, or no hobbies.

That said, being a fat person in the fitness world can mean dealing with frustrations including a lack of clothing and gear that fits you, and everything from online bullying to physical violence from people who believe that we don’t belong in “their world” or who have issues that are triggered by fat people living lives that we love and taking up space in public.

As a fathlete this is something that I’ve been involved in fighting for a long time. I co-created the Fit Fatties Forum and Facebook Page with Jeanette Depatie to have a place for people of all sizes to talk about Fitness from a weight-neutral perspective (without weight loss talk, diet talk, negative body talk, or food moralization).  I’m also working with Candice Casas, Courtney Marshall, and Jeanette DePatie to put together an anthology of stories of fat people in fitness (if you’re interested in doing a first person story, academic paper, poetry, art, being interviewed, or joining the newsletter to be kept posted on our progress check out the website here)

Recently the members of the Fit Fatties Forum created this video to remind the world that, while nobody is obligated to participate in fitness, the fitness world is for Every Body who wants to participate. You can check it out below (I was involved in making it and I still cried the first time I saw it so I want to give a big fat thank you so all the awesome people who let us use their amazing photos.)

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11 thoughts on “Fat People Claiming Our Place

  1. The lack of clothing options is one of the more irksome things. I’m happy but sad this is more ubiquitous than I thought. I usually resort to Lane Bryant which is painfully expensive, but has the best quality clothes.

    1. And those only work for a certain percentage of bodies. You get above a size 28 (I’m a 34/36) and the number of available stores plummets. Beyond my size, there are only a handful of specialty shops.

  2. I have to admit that most of the time when I see something about fat fitness or fathletes I feel more than a little twinge of guilt and irritation. I know thats ONLY because I have been exposed to the good fatty/bad fatty dichotomy my whole life.

    So THANK YOU for noting that there is no obligation to be fit or athletic. That disclaimer let me look at the pictures and enjoy the message and get the nice warm fuzzy feeling that’s thus far been missing whenever I’ve seen similar stories and pictures of fit fats. I’m inspired by the bravery and dedication it takes to be a fatty in that space, and it’s great to be able to feel that. 🙂

    Thanks for not making me feel like the bravery I show and minor activism that I do just by being a visible “bad fatty” isn’t important or isn’t as good. It’s still hard for me to really internalize that, but I’m trying. The next time I’m at a restaurant or in a food court or on a scooter in public (because, you know what? Sometimes I need one, and I deserve it just as much as anyone whose disability isn’t *supposedly* made worse by their weight.), I will remember the fact that there ARE “good fatties” who are NOT ashamed of me. I’ve gotten the sense, and even been told outright by other fatties that they wished I would eat “better” and “try a little” because I’m “making the rest of us look bad”. That HURTS. I DO NOT make fatties look bad. FATPHOBIA MAKES FATTIES LOOK BAD. And ONLY fatphobia. Thank you, all of you fit fatties who don’t see me as a bad example or a weak link or a black sheep. I am happy that you enjoy physical activity, and I will stick up for you too whenever I hear bullshit directed your way.

    1. I can understand what you are feeling & identify with a lot of it. I was born with cerebral palsy, now have arthritis, & my always bad balance is getting worse. I have been very active all my life, much of it probably TOO active, often pushing my body to work out 4 hours every day for years at a time, trying hard to ‘prove’ myself to the able-bodied & especially thin world, but mostly, of course, to myself. I still walk, but I cannot push myself anymore, & I use a rollator walker. One day I expect that I will move up to a motorized wheelchair or scooter. Even after all these years, I will admit that sometimes reading about fit fatties (I also have a lower level of genetic fitness, so I can exercise until I drop & not achieve the level of fitness of some of my peers with much less exercise) triggers feelings of guilt in me, a feeling that I have never been enough or done enough, that maybe I should try harder & haven’t tried hard enough. I need the frequent reminders that the able-bodied fit fatties are not telling me that I need to do more, the only voice that says that comes from inside me & sometimes from the general culture around me. And indeed, it is fatphobia which makes ALL of us fatties look bad. WE are awesome. The culture is messed up.

  3. I’m a fat ice dancer who has gotten good at dressing myself for competitions and tests but I can’t do any group routines with my rink because no skatewear company makes dresses anywhere near my size. Women who wear M in street clothes stuff themselves into XL dresses that wind up looking hideous.

    I have to ask, what’s hard about cruising while fat? I’ve run into lots of fat people on ships.

  4. SO MUCH AWESOME!!! Thank you to each and every one of you who participated. AND thanks again Ragen for all that you do.

  5. Ironically enough, I’m late commenting on this because this weekend was a very busy one for me. I was doing the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life for my city. So I spent most of the weekend walking the track, as well as putting up my team’s booth, running our activities, and helping Mr. Twistie haul in all the sound equipment for the event… and haul it out again at the end of the weekend.

    Yep, I didn’t comment on this fathletics post because I was too busy being fathletic! LOL!

    Anyway, the event went well, we raised a lot of money to fight cancer, and now I get to see this fabulous slide show which makes me feel like I’m part of something wonderful.

    To Klara and Patsy Nevins; We had two participants on the track in scooters, as well as a couple wheelchair users and one or two with canes. Plus at least one participant who didn’t feel able to walk the track. She stayed in her team booth and sold handmade items all weekend. I didn’t hear anyone make any comments about any of these people to shame or make fun of them. This is particularly important to me because every one of them happened to be fat. In fact, there were a lot of us fatties on that track. All in all, I find this event to be pretty inclusive on the ground.

    Oh, and everyone, good news! I’ve been doing Relay for six years now, and this was the very first time I walked the track without seeing a single sign admonishing me that my risk of cancer would reduce if only I got thin. The signs talked about getting tested for certain cancers, how keeping active at least 150 minutes a week is healthful thing, how to protect myself against skin cancer, how a varied diet rich in fruits and vegetables can improve my chances of avoiding or recovering from certain cancers… but not one telling me to lose weight or die of cancer! That’s a big improvement in messaging. Even the quit smoking message was phrased that one can model healthy behaviors to children by quitting smoking rather than saying quit or die of lung cancer.

    SUBJECT: Love, love, LOVE the video! Wonderful images, and the song was just right. I got wibbly watching it.

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