Today on the blog, Morgan talks about exercise. NO…WAIT! Don’t close the screen out! This blog is not that way! There is no lecturing or shaming, we promise! It is about her relationship with movement as a larger woman and the thoughtwork she has done over the years regarding it. From elementary school gym class to a session in body positive weightlifting, it is a pretty great ride. And if you want to do some work on your own thinking about your own relationship with your body with two rad women who are professionals at self love, sign up for our October retreat ASAP!
You guys. YOU GUYS! I took an “Intro to Weightlifting” class! It was the first of 4 class series at body positive gym here in Portland called Health Club. This act was miraculous for at lease two reasons. The first is I went to a fucking weightlifting class…by choice! The second is that, despite being nervous, I enjoyed it.
I hated gym as a kid. I was never good at anything even when I was just a tiny bit larger than my classmates. Instead of realizing that when you are new at something, you usually suck at it, I cowered because I was convinced it was because of my weight. Like, who throws a ball well in first grade? My thinking was screwed, in part because the teachers did not encourage me the way I needed due to their own biases, but that is another story.
Because of this, I never participated on in the local girl’s softball league or any afterschool sports. I didn’t learn to ride a bike until I was 10, which seemed ancient at the time. My family summered on a lake in upstate NY and in 10 years I never once water skied. I even considered whether or not a physical education was a requirement when looking at universities (though it was not a decision maker!) My self-consciousness and shame fed on itself; I never wanted to try because I wasn’t skilled. I, and countless teachers and classmates, attributed my lack of skill to my weight, not my lack of experience.
My thoughts and emotions about my body and all of this ran so deep that I began to dislike any activity where people could see me. I felt an objectified but not in the sexual sense. I felt like a freak to be mocked. I cannot begin to count all of the opportunities for fun and personal growth that I gave up because of my dread and potential (seemingly imminent) humiliation.
As I got older and more into body acceptance, I began dipping my toe into more physical activity. Not with the goal of weight loss (usually not although at some points it definitely was) but for the desire to be more fit. Some of these experiments were disasters, like the nameless the chain circuit gym for women that is run like a cult and owned by a man in Texas who funds pro-life groups. Some have been awesome and life-changing, like an intuitive yoga class that I miss sorely when the instructor returns to her homeland of Lithuania every summer.
The weightlifting class is something different, though. I always had an interest in yoga, and the like but weightlifting was for “other people” for sure. So much focus on form, shape, and strength. The people who lift are tough! Like…even a little scary. But this class was so different. The instructor is named Wren and she is completely body positive and believes in the right of joyful movement for everyone. The gym is not intimidating and the other people in the class were like me; they want to learn in a safe space and help themselves get stronger.
Here is why I am telling you this. There is a trope that fat people don’t exercise, don’t move, and don’t want to do either. Some people are like that, I am sure. But lots of us haven’t been involved in these activities because of fear holding us back; we have a fear of judgment, fear of failure, fear of looking like an asshole. But just try it if it is something you want to do. It is worth it. I worked on my thinking to get myself into these places and am still working on it to keep me there, but I am so glad that I am finally doing these activities for myself.
I am lucky to live in a place that is touted as the most body positive city in the nation and have access to plus size yoga classes, all bodies welcome swim events, and fat-centric modern ballet class. Even if you don’t, see if you can find a friend who wants to do some of these things with you. If all else fails, there are exercise and activity videos all over the internet specifically made for people of size. Write to me and I will give you some resources. It is something you should do not to get thin or have a “perfect” body but for yourself so you can feel good in your current body. Even if you have issues with your body where things like “strong” or “healthy” will never apply, doing something that stimulates you in a different way is exciting and liberating, and it feels really good.