Body Positive Health and Exercise

05'Jun-Prom1

This is me at my graduation prom ’05. I was 19.

Today, I want to talk about something that is only very marginally connected to writing (or less marginally if you are a follower of the idea that a healthy mind only comes with a healthy body — a maxim I have often tried to ignore). They do belong together though, especially for writers who’s profession demands a lot of time sitting in front of computers. And it is important especially to me, because I am a woman of size, a fatty, a full-figured woman or whatever description springs to mind and sometimes I need a little more in terms of impulse to get moving than a skinny body (See what I did there? heh!).

I have spent most of my life in this body that has waxed and waned (more waxed than waned recently) with the years but I have never been thin. Maybe some other time I will go into what that does to someone psyche – living in a beauty and health-obsessed society looking like me… but today I actually want to talk about something else.

This is me at choir rehearsal in '09.

This is me at choir rehearsal in ’09.

All these years, and still today really, I have considered myself lazy. That is an easy conclusion to reach, considering that is all I ever hear about fat people. It was also easy because while I had times where I managed to visit a gym more or less regularly, I never really kept that up. Hence: lazy, right?

Maybe not. At least no more than averagely lazy. Because looking at it today, it doesn’t feel fair to compare my commitment to fitness to someone who already looks like they belong in a gym or in cute yoga pants. People who when they jog through the park, their boobs don’t bounce over a foot up and down, hurting something awful, people who are treated with respect by trainers and other patrons, people who don’t feel stared at and all wrong in these places when trainers don’t know how to address the needs of their bodies.

Maybe it wasn’t the exercise that ended up keeping me away. Like maybe it isn’t the outside that makes me sometimes break out in panic, but the people there who follow me around calling me hippo or stomping their feet like I might cause an earth-quake.

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Early ’11 in an impromptu photshoot with my brother.

I have always felt attracted to eastern health ideas – not sure why. I am not religious or esoteric and that part interests me little but the way yoga for example seems to take care of the body feels like the right kind of idea to me. But like many women my size, we try a yoga video (because, lets face it, it takes a tremendous amount of guts to walk into a course at the gym knowing you won’t be able to do any of it) and all the girls who do it have perfect bodies that move and turn and twist in ways mine could never go. If just because there’s fat in the way, literally. And they talk about body-consciousness and breathing and feeling your body in a way that doesn’t seem to include my body at all.

My point is, that this morning, maybe initially in a bout of self-contempt, I googled “yoga for fat beginners” — and then I ended up crying because what I found moved me so deeply. What I found were women who looked like me — except, they were smiling at the idea of exercise and their faces were alive and beautiful and open and awake. There was nothing of the dejected sense of giving up that looks back at me so often, or I see in other women my size as they walk along the street or a supermarket isle. You see, just because I am big that doesn’t mean I am blind, I often find myself just as cruel in my head as some people are out loud to me – and all I see is fat, too, not woman. But looking at these, ALL I see is women, and they happen to be big. They aren’t fit and skinny women, telling me that years ago they looked like me – no, they are people like me who are smiling and in beautiful voices, looking happy and content, telling me about how to treat my body.

And this was New Year's Eve 2011/2012 with some wonderful friends of mine.

And this was New Year’s Eve 2011/2012 with some wonderful friends of mine.

And they language they use and the way they talk about themselves makes me feel safe. That was when I started to cry because I’d never felt that way in relation to exercise. Not once. I always felt like the odd one out, the ugly girl, the fat girl, I felt like I was doing something that everybody told me to do, but nobody wanted to see me doing. I have seen videos of trainers who are trying to talk to me as a big woman, but all they talk about is how to loose weight, how to make my body different and at the time trying to tell me to love my body. You look at their faces, and it’s not their fault, but you can see how uncomfortable they are, that they don’t know what words to use, what will make me feel bad and how to make me feel better when they have no idea.

I mean, really, look how fucking cute she is! And not in a patronizing way, just in a wow-she’s-gorgeous-and-intelligent-and-I-am-crushing-big-time kind of a way.

Not these women who do yoga for plus sized people. They seem to speak to me and it kind of blew me away. I tried some of it today and my body feels nice and elastic and I think the moment I’m out of debt, I want to buy their DVD’s and work on this harder. I don’t have something like plus size yoga in my town but maybe I can try it on my own. That’s another reason I put it here – to hold myself accountable, but also because I know I am not alone in a body like this (seen liberally peppered in pictures all over this entry) and if you feel at all affected by what I wrote, you should check it out too, and see if maybe we can all alter our sense of self and idea of exercise together.

Here are some links!

One Comment

  1. Wonderful post, Laila. I’m cheering you all the way. I loved seeing the photos of you in this post — you are a beautiful woman. Enjoy your yoga. 🙂

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