Something monumental has happened in my life. I just joined the gym. This may not seem like a monumental life goal, but as someone who has an extremely difficult relationship with exercise, this is a big deal. Since about the age of 18, I’ve made a string of attempts to be committed to exercise, and all have failed miserably. My most recent failure was final year of university. I voluntarily paid for a yearlong gym membership and went twice in 8 months. TWICE. That’s bad even for me. I used to attribute my total hatred for exercise to pure laziness. Somewhat true, but I’ve come to realise that there’s also an underlying fear, and
perhaps my negative relationship with exercise is deeper than I think.
If the nerds and outcasts are picked last in PE, then fat girls aren’t even considered in the line-up. Some of my worst memories from school involve PE lesson. Even those sports that I did enjoy and do well in were never ‘advertised’ to me. I couldn’t help but feel like my ability was ignored because of my weight. Of course, the naturally slender and athletic girls were the centre of my PE teachers’ attention, but god forbid the fat girl could play centre in netball. And at my school, sports was never really about having fun, which increased the pressure even more. My earliest memories of fat shaming came from my PE teachers. I constantly received comments about how if I just lost some weight, maybe I’d be a better at sports. One even told me how much prettier I would look if I lost weight. I was 14. No wonder I grew up loathing even just the idea of exercise.
From young, we are fed the damaging idea that exercise = losing weight. Exercise is important, but it doesn’t always have to come with the pressure of reaching a desired goal weight. There is nothing wrong with having a goal weight, your body is yours to do with it what you want. Some bodies desire weight loss, others don’t. Yet, there is a common misconception that all fat bodies desire weight loss. Often when I tell people I have no desire to lose weight, I’m met with a puzzled expression, like they’re trying to figure out if I’m taking the piss or not. Here’s where I become a little puzzled.
If we’re demanding fat people exercise to lose weight, then why do we simultaneously bully said fat people when they actually make an attempt to lose weight? Tess Holliday received a swarm of fat- shaming backlash for being the Cosmo cover girl. A few weeks after the cover launched, she posted an Instagram video of her personal training session and yep, you guessed it, was still fat shamed and mocked for exercising. I’m starting to think that maybe fat people aren’t the problem here…
Let’s talk about gym-ing as a woman. The amount of times I’ve received unsolicited comments from men at the gym is shocking. And this is coming from the girl who goes to the gym twice a year. If they’re not mansplaining how to use weights, they’re taking my
tomato red face dripping with sweat is an invite to try and ask me out. No, I do not want to give you my number. Now go away and let me die on this cross trainer in peace. Being a fat woman in the gym is even more comical. No, this is not my first time in a gym. Yes, I know what running is. No, I do not need you to patronisingly cheer me on until I reach my 10 th squat as if I’m a baby walking for the first time. If we’re trying to motivate fat people to exercise, where is the representation? It’s not very realistic if every workout video only shows people with more abs than I have fingers and toes put together, is it? Finding workout clothes can be tough, even though activewear brands are slowly starting to include plus-size models, but not without huge criticism. We literally need gym clothes to exercise too. Or are you too distracted by shouting about how fat people are lazy and a health hazard to notice that I’m in the gym naked because brands can’t be bothered to make activewear that caters to plus-size bodies?
I think there can be a certain level of guilt wrapped up in going to the gym for fat people, at least there is for me. The gym isn’t just about changing your body, but I guess there’s always the underlying fear that if I do happen to naturally lose weight by exercising more that it means I am going against a body that I supposedly love. But I know this is just my internalised misogyny talking. There are so many reasons to exercise that do not involve bullshit patriarchal beauty standards. It might take some time to get me into the gym, and I might struggle when I’m there, but I will always leave feeling happier, healthier (physically and mentally) and more energised. Fat people can enjoy exercise. We can even be good at it!
I am not too fat for exercise.
Written by Maria Christodoulou – @MaaazC28xo
Illustrations by Kat Muir – @km_illustrations