I’m in the gym on the spin bike doing pretty hardcore intervals. There’s a dude in the room who keeps waving at me and giving me thumbs ups. Whatever. He’s finished with his workout before me, he cleans his bike then walks over to me. I gird my loins (I’m honestly not even sure what that means, but I feel pretty sure it’s what I did.)
“I’m so proud of you!” he gushes. I roll my eyes, but he is undeterred. “We’ve all got to start somewhere right? You won’t be a before body forever, keep going like this and you’ll have that after body in no time!”
Insert record scratch noise.
The way he said it was so practiced that I immediately felt like this was not the first time a fat person had been subjected to this little diatribe. For that reason, I really felt like I needed to shut this all the way down in a way that would hopefully ensure that he never says it again.
“Don’t make guesses about people based on how they look. I’ve been an athlete all my life, played sports all through school, and as an adult I’ve done competitive ballroom dancing, marathons, and a triathlon. This IS my after body. ”
He kind of stammered “I’m sorry, I just…” and then I put up my hand and used one of my favorite phrases in situations like this:
“I’m going to stop you there. I’m sure that you meant well, but that matters less than the fact that you are operating on stereotypes and commenting about my body without any kind of invitation. Don’t do that.”
He apologized and walked away.
As I continued my workout (which he had interrupted with his unwelcome wild guesses about my abilities and goals) I started thinking about how often fat people are only seen as “before” pictures, and I realized just how much this is my “after” body.
After all the failed diets (which, had I bothered to read them at that time, every study about diets would have predicted.)
After trying to end the fatphobia I experienced by trying to become thin (even though I know better – since I would never have tried to end the homophobia I experienced by trying to become straight)
After giving so much of my time, energy, and money to the diet companies who make more and more money every year selling a “solution” that is such a failure that they are legally required to tell us that it doesn’t work every time they advertise it.
After learning not to care about the opinions of people whose opinions don’t matter.
After hating and blaming my body for refusing to conform to some manufactured stereotype of beauty.
After discovering Size Acceptance and Health at Every Size.
After using them to heal my relationships with food, movement, and my body.
After shutting down some dudebro in the gym who thought he had any right to talk about my body.
This is my before body.
This is my after body.
This is my only body, and I will love it, care for it, give it my full-throated support, and wield it as a beautiful, unbreakable weapon against fatphobia.
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16 thoughts on “This Is My “After” Body”
OMG. One of your most brilliant posts ever. I want the whole world to read this. It’s a manifesto.
Gosh, what a patronising arsehole. That he felt entitled to come up to you and say anything at all about your body is astounding. Basic manners, even.
Bingo. It’s just plain rude. If he really felt the need to, he could have just left it at a compliment about working hard, which is about what Ragen is DOING and not about her body. (Though I think it is best to simply not interrupt someone’s workout). Something like “I love to see people working hard in this gym. It inspires me to do the same!” But no, it has to be his baseless assumptions and projections. You know what really kills me? If we’re lucky, he got the message and will rethink his assumptions, or at least refrain from doing that to someone else. But the world probably isn’t that lucky. He probably left offended that someone chewed him out for offering a compliment, and what’s wrong with her?
“and wield it as a beautiful, unbreakable weapon ”
I love this turn of phrase; I love your straight out “let me stop you there” speach (which I hope I can remember for the next time someone oversteps with me, as a more intelligent come back than my usual “Fuck off” response. ;-))
Oh this is so what I needed to read today. I LOVE your posts.
Great piece today. Thank you!
I have quarterly appointments with my current doctor, who, at my last appointment, told me that her patients who have had WLS are doing “very well.” This after I have told her specifically from the beginning that my weight is not something I want to discuss.
My current doctor is more effective than my previous doctor. I probably never would have brought up the post-menopausal bleeding with my last doctor.
However, where my last doctor might have occasionally aggravated me with the old “if you’d just lose five pounds your life would become a miraculous utopia with unicorns farting rainbows and glitter through your windows” bullshit, he never, ever, not even for a minute, suggested WLS. He also never tried to push me to take a medication that I truly felt was a bad fit. My current doctor does.
My son suggested that I go to the October appointment which I have scheduled with my current doctor and, if she pushes discussion of my weight again, go back to the old doctor. It enrages me because the reason I went to this woman in the first place is that she promotes herself as providing a “safe space for GLBT and people of all sizes.”
S’amazing what some people consider “safe”.
Preach! This was a very inspiring and insightful post. I’m going to cut it out and put the bottom half into my journal, so I can refer back whenever I’m told (by someone or by that little voice in my brain) that I need an “after body”.
One of the reasons I quit the gym was lack of privacy. I wasn’t especially fat when I was going, and the gym I chose had male days and female days, which meant I didn’t have to share the space with jocks sniggering or whispering (which I’ve seen). The gym has since stopped doing that, which is more equitable to trans and nonbinary folks, but makes me want to avoid it even more because of the defensively rude and masculine crowd.
I was never harassed at that gym, though once a trainer pleased me by pointing me out to his client as an example of good form! But passive/aggressively “kind” or “helpful “ comments suck, and I’m enough of an introvert that I don’t want even comeraderie in a fricken exercise room. If I even feel I’m being watched I get self-conscious and lose focus. My brain fills in things they might be thinking g about me.
I was able to put a weight bench and an elliptical in the basement (when I had money long ago), and that suits me fine.
Absolutely brilliant. You are my hero, Ragen!
This is something I think about a lot, because this particular bit of diet culture mythology – this idea that if a fat person is “good,” he won’t merely lose weight on his current body, he’ll be gifted with a *completely new body*- is one of the more insidious ways society justifies and excuses the violence it does fat bodies. “It’s okay for me to mock, abuse, neglect, or even destroy your fat body, because as soon as my Tough Love brings you to your senses, you will receive a new one! You’ll get an after body, a *revenge* body, and none of the scars or damage I’ve done the body you have now will carry over onto it!” Except, you know, it doesn’t work like that at all, and until the day we can download our brains into robots, it won’t. Before bodies are after bodies are the ONLY bodies.
Absolutely! I am gonna torture you into the person I will accept. They don’t even see that do they? Or do they?…
Thank you for this 🙂
As always, I learn from your posts. Thank you. In the spirit of giving back, to gird one’s loins is to prepare and strengthen oneself for what is to come. And ma’am, you do that like a BOSS!
I enjoyed reading this so much. It was so beautiful to read. This is something that I feel always face. Maybe not from the public, but like the comments from my loved ones. But someday, I hope to be like you! I honestly really absolutely love this!