Fat & Proud Athlete ( YES ! You Can Be All Of Those Things)
Posted on April 26 2019
CONTENT WARNING: This blog post contains mentions of bullying, fatphobia, violence, suicidal feelings, depression, anxiety, panic attacks, dieting, and weight loss.
When I think back on my childhood one thing that always showed up was that I was so active and always involved in sports. This was of course before diet culture had me in its clutches and “exercise” had turned into a means to an end: the end being me being smaller(read: thinner), to burn more and more calories and to burn all the fat away, to obsess over the amount of exercise I’ve done to the point it was no longer enjoyable, and for exercise to turn into just another way for me to participate in a culture that did not value me and only valued me if I changed and assimilated. And mainly if I was not FAT. But during this time before diet culture found me, I played basketball and softball on teams at school. I remember having so much fun and I remember what it felt like belonging to a team. I also remember not one bit of that activity was tracked by a FitBit or Apple Watch or activity tracker(none existed then lol). I just did it for pure enjoyment and the love of the sport and getting to hang out with my teams and also to make friends.
But something happened along the way that made me stop enjoying sports and caused me to turn inward and isolate myself. You see my family moved, which meant I had to go to a new school, with all new sports teams. It can be both exciting and fun to go to a new school but it can also be terrifying. I am an Army brat and so we moved tons and this should have been no big deal but this move shaped my life and it is where trauma entered my life for the first time. This is where I experience depression and anxiety for the first time, something that I have dealt with since that moment. When we moved making friends was incredibly hard for me and kids did not like me at all. I am an introvert. I was then and I still am now. But I was also quiet then too(not so much now) and I guess they took all of my characteristics to mean that I was stuck up or thought I was better than them. I have never been the person to randomly strike up conversations. I initially thought it was “the new kid at school” effect. It wasn’t, though, because it just got worse and turned into bullying, both verbal attacks and physical violence that I endured.
This is also the first time I ever heard comments about my weight and being called “fat” and different names made up about me that were associated with my fatness. As many people I grew up in and around diet culture through the media and my own family such as my mother who was always on some diet and never seemed to be happy with her body. I thought at the time fatness was bad. Fatness meant morally I was a bad person and had no self control because that is what diet culture, white supremacy, fatphobia, and cishetero patriarchy taught me.
When people talk about bullying people cannot seem to understand how this is not something that someone can just let go of but that it is traumatic and harmful and dangerous to the individual experiencing it no matter if it is verbal, online or physical violence. So there were points where I tried out for the schools sports teams but then I just gave up even trying because the bullies would not give me a moments peace and ruined that for me too. They obviously didn’t want me there and I internalized all that to mean the team did not want me and no team would ever want me so I should just give up now.
The bullying got so bad by the time my parents found out, I hated school and I wanted out now. I refused to go back. My parents opted to homeschool me, which turned out to be a lifesaving decision because my depression and anxiety had gotten to the point I was suicidal and I was having panic attacks. I home schooled and then did activities with our church youth group. I got to be involve with sports there and at summer church camp with people who cared and were friends of mine. But that childhood trauma to some extent never completely healed or left me. I carried it with me but especially in the sports arena. Joining gyms can be so horrific for most fat people because of diet culture, fitness culture, fatphobia, and just plain unwelcome feelings from all the above reasons. I joined plenty of gyms and hated them. I found dancing too, which I loved and still love to this day.
But I had become obsessed with “weight loss”at this point. I’ve had issues with eating disorders, disordered eating, and a bad relationship with food since childhood. I still struggle with all of those to this day. I thought losing weight would solve it and started a weight loss journey. I lost a lot of weight but mostly I lost ME. I was unrecognizable on the inside. I hated myself more and more each pound I lost and each pound lost was never enough and I kept trying to lose more and gaining it back and feeling like a complete and utter failure each time. I wish I knew then what I know now: DIETS DON’T WORK!! And I was literally punishing myself with diet and exercise for not fitting the “European beauty standard”, not realizing first of all you ain’t white. 2nd of all you are both Black and Hawaiian and your body… your everything is different. But I still tortured myself for nothing. Once I finally got my mind right, which has only been in the last year or two I decided no more diets… no more intentional weight loss. I was DONE!
January of last year I joined a Crossfit box with the initial intent to keep with my plan: no dieting and no intentional weigh loss. Let’s work on our strength and have some fun and try something new. I had to talk myself into walking into the box because I was so fearful I not only would not enjoy it but I, myself, would not be liked or accepted there. But I gave myself a pep talk and I went to what turned out to be my box. My box was amazing because I was never approached about diets or weight loss or scales or measuring tape. They wanted to know how I felt and they helped me to become a better athlete everyday. This was the first time anyone ever called me an “athlete” and it took me a long time to believe that because of my life experiences and my inner fatphobia telling me I couldn’t be fat and an athlete. Of course that was all bullshit.
My box had Olympic Weightlifting classes and I was afraid to join because I did not believe in myself. I asked all these coaches at the box and they all had such positive things to say about me as an athlete and how I was a perfect fit for it. So I decided to join the classes and fell in love. One of my coaches called me ” one of her Olympic Weightlifters” to someone else and I was like “no not me I’m not a weight lifter”. And she looked me straight in the face and said “Yes you are so believe it girl”. And at this point I still didn’t believe in myself. I would perform these lifts knowing I could handle more weight but I would purposely do a lower weight in fear or failure due to my lack of confidence and the way in which fat people are treating in this world. The oppression we face… the fatphobia is palpable and it affects you everywhere and in everything. But knowingly choosing those lower weights until a coach started noticing and she called me out on it. She started selecting my weights to lift because she knew I could do it and she was right. I made those lifts! At this moment things started to click for me. I was an athlete. I belonged in that box. I was meant to lift those weights.
When I left Virginia to move back to Oklahoma one of the hardest things for me was leaving my box. The fear that I would not find a place that I belonged was so deep for me. But not surprisingly I found a gym after about 6 months break, which was exactly what I needed. I needed to make sure I wanted to return to the gym for the right reasons and for me and after doing some soul searching I realized I was and it was time to go back. The gym I selected is a perfect fit for me. Still no diet and no intentional weight loss. I am on my first block of training, which is a combination of Olympic Weightlifting and Powerlifting and also some functional fitness. It’s so challenging and it’s killing me haha in good way and I love it. I love being pushed and most of all I’m having fun. I do not track my calories of what I eat because anti-diet. I do not track how many calories I burn in my workouts again anti-diet and all of this is so good for me. If I need time off of the gym…. I TAKE IT! I used to guilt myself to go to the gym and made myself feel like shit because of that BS “no excuses” gym culture. Eff that! REST is vital and taking care of myself is the most important thing for me so if I need time off I am taking it and do not provide explanations.
But what does all this have to do with anything? People make so many assumptions and have so many biases against fat people and in doing so they implicitly say that it is ok to fat shame us, bully us, health concern troll us, and project a vitriol of fatphobia onto us. People question you being fat and an athlete because of fatphobia and diet culture. I must be training this hard to lose weight or because aesthetics, which is complete BS! I definitely ain’t doing this for that! If these same people took any time to listen to fat people they would see we do the same stuff as them, which includes lifting heavy shit, dancing our asses off, walking our dogs, going to hang out with friends ,reading books, going on dates, having sex, buying clothes, being cute, etc. We just want to exist in peace and not have to defend our right to exist or our right to space.
I have always complained about fitness spaces being more inclusive to not just Black, non Black POC, and the LGBTQI community but also people of all body sizes and abilities. This includes fat people! But to be more inclusive much work needs to be done not just in those spaces but with people personally. I will work on another blog post how spaces can be more inclusive later. People must address their issues with diet culture but they also MUST address their fatphobia and the biases they hold against fat people. Fatphobia is inextricably linked to white supremacy and people need to address this and decolonize themselves and their spaces. Someone like me, a fat black womxn, will never look like a thin white womxn and I should not have to to be seen and heard and valued in this world. We must address why white thin womxn are seen as more valuable than BIPOC(Black, Indigenous, & People of Color) womxn. The biases, racism, anti-blackness, and fatpbobia must not only be addressed but it must be confronted from every angle. Start there and address the root of the problem and the roots of systemic oppression then come talk to me about inclusivity because then I know it is real and not performative activism.
Fat people EXIST. Fat people are ATHLETES. We are HUMAN BEINGS! Fat people are AMAZING and have always existed. We ain’t goin anywhere! We do not need to explain ourselves to you or explain our health. We do not owe you health. And we do not need your health concern trolling as it is ineffective and also causes us great pain. We don’t need you to see the worth in us because we already see the worth in ourselves. WE are valid as human beings no matter what. LET US LIVE!! I plan to see you on a platform in the near future and when that happens I’ll write about it. If you love this post please share it via social media or re-blog it and like it and leave me a comment. Also please answer the question below for me if you would like to:
Question: How are you challenging fatphobia and diet culture? Are you working on this internally too?
Thanks for reading! Catch y’all next time with a new post! Have an amazing Weekend loves!
Article By : Kanoelani