Fat On Fat Crime

When I was much younger I babysit almost every Saturday night for a family whose son loved watching Planet Of The Apes. I’d watch it with him because what babysitter would make the children watch HER shows? And I will admit, I found myself counting down until he would go to bed so I could watch something else, or even turn the TV off entirely. And don’t get crazy, moms, on many occasions I asked if he’d prefer to play a game or do something else. But he loved the show, and had no restrictions on TV.

At one point I started paying attention and realized the show was much deeper than I gave credit. I don’t remember a direct quote, but it’s  suck with me over the past seventeen or so years. One of the apes denounced humans for being violent inside their own species. Talking about wars and other species-destructive activities. I’m not privy enough on animal history to know if we are the only species who harms ourselves, one of the few, or if it’s because we are so evolved in other ways he couldn’t believe how willing we were to hurt each other. The point is, it was that moment I realized how hurtful the human race is, and how you don’t see the same culture in other species. And then, with bigger eyes, saw the silly stuff we disagree and kill over. But that’s a post for another day, and another blog.

I also remember watching a Tyra Show about black on black hate/racism, discussing how there are different “shades” of black. I had no idea there was even such a distinction. I won’t get into the details of the show because I’m obviously uneducated on the topic. But I was shocked that as we (or maybe it’s more appropriate to say they, although I do try to do my part, as small as my impact may be) still struggle with racism, one race would fight within the group other over something they want to end between larger groups. It was all very interesting to me.

And then this weekend I saw a post on Facebook by Workout Girl asking for feedback on how we (her fans, supporting her weight-loss journey) would react walking into a group workout to an overweight/obese instructor. Would we think twice about the class. And then tacks onto the end, almost as a side note, but clearly the reason for her question, that she’d like to be a group instructor. I read the post before anyone replied and assumed everyone would throw support at her, encouraging her to conquer her insecurity, noting a class isn’t more or less effective based on the size of the instructor but her skills and personality, reminding her that teaching a class will allow her to keep her personal intensity up and meet her goals even faster, discussing how newer or insecure potential clients might be more comfortable with someone going through the same process as them, and ultimately pointing out how inspiring she’s been (she has over 1,000 followers) and what a positive perspective and great personality she has.

Some people said just that. But I was surprised what percent were discouraging either directly saying they would question someone’s abilities based on appearance, or more passively said they think many people feel that way. I mean, it’s definitely one thing for someone who’s never struggle with their weight or always been active to think if you’re fat you can’t possibly keep up with someone thin. But for a group of women who are likely going through the same struggles as Workout Girl to apply the same stereotypes was sad. So say, “I might think that for a second, but you could prove me wrong.” I feel like as a woman who has been at the low end of my BMI and even creeped over into obese, and have friends and family of all sizes, I know size doesn’t prove ability. When I was at my thinnest, I wouldn’t have been in any shape to lead a class. Now, at my heavier weight, I am much mroe qualified. And not only that, I know how I’ve pushed my body to see changes, I know what’s encouraging when it come to form, and modifying in those beginning stages when everything’s hard. Would I ever lead a class? No. But that’s purely because I’m so shy and don’t exude the same energy Workout Girl does. She has been tackling her weight loss head on. And I’ve seen some of the best success stories with people who make fitness a part of their life, not just a workout.

The great thing is, she was so open-minded and such a great sport thanking everyone for being honest. But I hope she still does it. There is a woman at the YMCA where my friend trains. After she lost over 100 pounds, she got certified to be a trainer. She stepped in for one of his small group trainings when he was out of town and I will tell you, she pushed me a lot harder than he did. She was very encouraging but said, “I know you have three more in you.” She kept saying, “These last three is what will count the most. When you feel like that, that’s when your body’s changing.” She trained me before I knew her story. About three months later she was featured in the paper and I realized the reason she knew what I was going through was because she went through it. There are different subsets of people a the gym. Sure there are those who are in excellent shape and take classes to keep that shape. They will naturally find ways to push themselves. When I was in my best shape I took a kickboxing class. The instructor would give little hints of ways to make the workout harder, and many ladies did those moves and even added more in, even though he didn’t ALWAYS do the same moves. I know he could do them, but I believe he wanted to show the workout to all levels of the group. And those of us who were used to the workout or more confident in our skills could modify to make it even more intense. And he also took time to remind those new to the workout or still getting their footing alternatives for some of the moves where you were getting up and down, were very high intensity or the footwork was tricky. He would do those moves sometimes, but not always.

The best instructors are not the ones who are show-offs in class. They’re the ones who have been there, and can be compassionate to every station in the workout world. He or she can also see, especially in smaller classes, when you’re feeling like you can’t do it, are discouraged, or something is particularly tricky. When someone says, “I hated this move until I really got it down, now it’s my favorite” that makes me want to get to that same place. And I don’t care what the instructor looks like. I don’t care if she’s old or young. I don’t care if she’s waif thin or crazy toned or overweight. If the instructor has the personality to motivate me and present the class in a way I can gain from, I’ll keep coming back. My three favorite instructors were people who got into leading classes because they loved doing the class or it helped them on their weight-loss journey. What size they were doesn’t matter. Assuming I know how motivated, smart or capable a person is based on looks, whether those looks are skin color, race, fashion choices, or hair color is absurd. Why is it OK to assume someone who is overweight is incapable?

And why would women who are or were overweight further promote this stance? It sucks for people to look at you and assume something based on your looks. Assume you’re lazy, assume you’re less than worthy, assume you’re unhealthy or eat a truckload of food. In many cases none of these things are true, but for some reason it’s acceptable to say or think them. I’m not saying there needs to be a movement to make it OK to be overweight. But I also don’t think weight determines what you’re capable of doing. And by perpetuating such a statement, all we’re doing is self-hate. And that’s not OK, either. What happened to understanding and compassion? What happened to seeing a person for who they are? I wish we would all care a little bit less about what’s on the outside and a little bit more about what’s on the inside. I would join the gym Workout Girl taught at just to get in her class! But I guarantee if she ever teaches a class, and I hope she does, I’ll have to fight to get into that room.

Good luck, Workout Girl! I’m cheering you on! Your attitude and approach to getting healthier  is inspiring. And many women, me included, are already motivated by you. I hope you continue looking into certification and someday soon are leading a class. Or many classes! You rock!


3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. reparteexmoi
    Sep 05, 2011 @ 11:39:33

    I suppose you can’t blame people. It’s not like once they see a stranger, they can instantly assume the instructor has capability. Appearances are always the first judgment, and that’s how all people work. If you invested your time and money into making a life change, and then you see an overweight instructor, it instantly makes you think twice. Your work is what you display. We think, “If the techniques really work, they should work on the instructor.” That’s why Julian from Biggest Loser is such a hit! She once was and now is reborn. Once people invest into something, they don’t want to waste time trying give a person a chance and it turns out that the person is a delusional lazy person. Ever heard of human beings react to tragedy? Human beings have the tendency to make decisions once they are in despair. Once they make the decision, they just don’t want to waste the energy and time.

    Now, you pointed out different types of skinny. As you noted about different “shades of black,” there are different kinds of skinny people. There’s the “fat sknny,” the people overweight people commonly despise. The ones that can eat anything without exercise and stay slim. Would I want this person to teach my class? No. There’s the skinny where they once were fat but applied hard work and knowledge to achieve their body. Teach my class? Yes. So honestly, there are different types of fat. Ones that can do much, and ones like me, where I can jog 6 miles straight and go through 4 hours of intense workouts at 5’7″ and weighing 185 pounds.

    As for the race thing, all races do it. I’ve traveled to enough countries to see that there’s racism every at many different degrees. In South America, the people judge others by skin color. Not how we have this inter turmoil about white vs. black, but against South Americans who have darker skin. They even have different types of labels for people with different shades of skin. Asians are racist against each other. The Koreans and the Japanese think they are better the Chinese but all three – the great Eastern Tri-Powers as they are often called – agree they are “higher” than the rest of Asia.

    x Lola


    • stumbletowardhealth
      Sep 06, 2011 @ 11:14:42

      I guess I didn’t do a very good job of making my point. My point is if we are offended when others judge US based on what we look like, then OUR perspective has to change. If we judge others based on outward appearance, how can we be upset when others do the same to us? Change starts with us.


  2. Trackback: “Shake Them Haters Off” « Stumbling Toward Health

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