I’ve got a bit of a confession to make, I really like food. I mean I really enjoy the mass consumption of yummy things. Sadly this has lead to a problem I like to refer to as Flesh Abundance Tumidity, or as it is more commonly known, FAT.
The trouble is that people have quite a few unflattering assumptions about those of us suffering from FAT. Primary among those is that we are lazy and have zero self-control. To be fair these labels can be just as true of slender people, but at some point in our evolution we just began to equate size with our measure of health. It’s utter bullshit, but that’s where we are at.
At several points throughout my adult life I’ve decided to do something about my ampleness, with mixed results. I’ve come to accept that I’m never gonna be one of the naturally slim or fit people the media tells me are the ideal and I’m fine with that, really stop asking. Recently I broke down and signed up for a gym membership.
For those of you uninitiated, gyms can be a little intimidating for newbies. It’s a bit like being a lone gazelle lost in the Serengeti. You know there is a place for you, but you aren’t sure where it is or how to get there. You kinda just have to wander around and hope you don’t put yourself into a dangerous situation. There are plenty of lions roaming about ready to eat you alive if you break some unwritten rule of gym etiquette, so it’s best to start slow and feel your way around, at least that’s how I’ve approached it.
I started out on the treadmill and slowly made my way to the elliptical. Occasionally, I’d peek around to make sure there were no predators looming about before sneaking over to try out a weight machine or two. Lions tend to frequent the free weights. In the end I always return to the safety of the cardio area.
I’m luckier than some because I am not the only member of the FAT club who attends my particular gym. This keeps me from feeling completely out of place in a land of beautiful athletic people. Often as I’m working away, sweating through my clothes as my legs slowly go numb, I notice another card carrying FAT member venture in and climb on a treadmill.
‘Oh good,’ I think, ‘someone else is FAT, it’s not just me. We can be FAT together.’
My feeling of solidarity lasts just long enough for her to set down her big gulp and pull out a magazine to read as she leisurely strolls in place on the treadmill. Suddenly any kinship I had felt for this person is dashed upon the rocks as I watch her make seemingly no effort whatsoever to be uncomfortable enough to garner results. I now feel like I have to work twice as hard to make up for this member of my clan who clearly embodies all the negative things people think about our ilk.
There are things we as FAT people tell ourselves and each other to make peace with our place in the world. Things like, “any effort is better than making no effort,” and “don’t push yourself too hard.” Friends I am here to tell you, we are doing ourselves a disservice when we do this. Going to the gym or starting an exercise program is a great first step, but that’s all it is, one step in the long arduous trek towards physical fitness and social acceptance. When you’re FAT you start this trek at a keen disadvantage already since everyone expects you to fail and console yourself with a quart of deep-fried pudding.
Is this fair? Hell no, but since when does fair enter into the equation? People are a judgy lot and when you’re killing yourself to meet a goal it’s comforting to see someone who you are clearly beating in your quest. It doesn’t matter that they probably have very different goals and challenges, you just need to convince yourself that there is a reason you had to turn down the cookies that Betty brought to the office on Tuesday. You have to trade cookies for sweat stinging your eyes because you don’t want to end up like that poor slob who thinks watching Duck Dynasty while he crawls along at a snails pace is fooling anyone. (Watching Duck Dynasty is a universally horrible idea for anyone, just saying.)
As FAT people we owe it to ourselves and our fellow pudgy-inclined brethren to put forth extra effort when we go to the gym. We don’t have the luxury of being lazy, we gave that up when we decided that we did in fact need a second helping. It’s not enough just to show up and go through the motions, you have to make up for all the preconceived notions of the fit and healthy. I’m not bashing, I reach just as fast for another slice of pizza as the next fat girl, but you can bet I make myself pay for it when I lace up my gym shoes. I don’t foresee myself giving up the Nuetella anytime soon, so it’s likely that my gym trips will continue to be an uphill battle, but you can be damn sure that when I’m there I’m going to give every appearance of someone who thinks physical fitness is within their grasp.
For those preparing their torches and pitchforks, calm yourselves. I know that everyone’s body is different and that people have different levels of fitness. I’m firmly mixed into that lot, but if you are going to go to the gym and have convinced yourself that you are working to improve your life than it would be nice if you actually, you know, worked.
I like to imagine that when people see me in there awkwardly panting and staggering through my workout they think, “yeah, she’s big, but at least she’s trying to do something about it.” This puts my mind somewhat at ease with the fact that I haven’t seen any automatic and fantastic results thus far. When I see another chubby person come in and not even break a sweat while they exercise all I can think is that they have ruined all the progress I’ve made in convincing people that we don’t all fit the stereotype.
I don’t enjoy the fact that my mind is wired to judge people this way. I’d like to be all sunshine and rainbows when it comes to my fellow man, and especially towards the groups which have enough external pressures to conform to societal norms. Wouldn’t that be a better place to be? Sure, but I’d be there alone so I’ve pretty much scrapped that idea. New idea, if you’re not willing to make your particular marginalized group look better at least do the rest of us a favor and don’t make us look worse.