Run, Fatty, Run.

It’s been said before but it needs repeating until it hits home. Fat shaming does not help the problem. There’s the problem of feeling bad and maybe emotionally eating to the reaction. But there’s also the fact that being fat in public is a shameful thing.

I’m a fairly active person when I’m emotionally healthy (or else I run the risk of not leaving my room/home except for the absolutely needed). I fence, when I’m not fencing, I run. I play DDR. I walk places. I don’t go to gyms. Gyms are scary, scary places. Playing Fattest Person in the Room is hopeless because if I am, oh shit. If I’m not, it doesn’t matter, because I’m sure not the skinniest. I’m in a public space and people judge. The last time I went to a gym, I made a beeline for the elliptical, spent a few minutes trying to figure it out, and then I felt shame. Every time another person got on one of the ellipticals near me I’d try and match their speed if not go faster even though none were on the machine as long as I was, but I had to prove I was better. I had to prove I wasn’t just that pathetic fatty at the gym. In shorts and an oversized t-shirt I was probably the most clothed woman there*, and that was shameful. I felt shame about sweating; I felt shame about being out of breath when I finally stepped off the elliptical one hour and a little over five miles later. I felt shame about never going back, like somehow the people there were going to remember me and think that they never saw me again because I was fat and couldn’t handle it.

I don’t own an elliptical, a treadmill or a stationary bike. So when I want to do cardio I can either DDR or run. Since DDR requires a TV and volume, when someone else might be disturbed by the noise or presence of me flailing in the space with the TV. So, that means running outside. I only run outside in the summer in my neighbourhood and even then I try and do it in the morning, when it’s raining or at night. Obviously there are practical reasons for this like heat. But it’s also because I see fewer people and therefore fewer people see me. I jog at a pretty slow pace. I tend to do about three miles in a half hour, which is about the pace of a powerwalk. To me this is laughably slow and my neighbours are going to look out their windows or pass me while walking their dogs and see me and thing “Run, fatty, run.” And this has stopped me from running (by myself) on my campus because the people who see me might actually interact with me beyond waving and asking how my mother is doing. I might see friends, classmates, TAs, professors and this scares me.

I like swimming too, but hello swimsuit. Enough said there.

This idea of being even more ashamed while exercising probably has something to do with the fact that exercise tends to involve clothes that aren’t always good at covering or flattering. But I think a big part has more to do with the fact that there’s so much pressure. In a public space, if I can’t run as fast or as far as another person, I feel like I just let down all the fit fat people by reaffirming someone else’s expectations. I also feel like people are judging me more. This might be because I’m already uncomfortable or the fact that I don’t make sense. I’m in “deceptively good shape” in that my shape is deceptive, in that I’m more fit than one would guess by looking. And maybe that unsettles people by bucking at things they thought they knew. I don’t know.

I do know that when I’m confident, I don’t mind the stares as much. When I fence and I beat someone and they’re surprised, I feel more triumphant. I don’t know if it’s just because I’m confident in fencing that I’m able to do it so boldly in public. I have had this body since I’ve started fencing (give or take) and I wasn’t always confident. I think part of it has to do with the fact that to me it’s not exercise. It’s not something I do because I feel like I have to. It’s something I want to do. I have to think on this more.

*There was a girl who later came in wearing a t-shirt and capri-cut yoga pants. She was heavier than me.

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April 6, 2010. Tags: , , . Reflection.

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