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Fat and the Fear of Movement

I want to direct your attention to this fantastic post at Fatshionista about how we as fat people cut ourselves off from sports and other physical activities because we see them as things fat people aren't supposed to do. I have experienced this a million times in my fat life and I'm betting some of you out there can relate. I can come up with a whole list of physical things I have avoided at times in my life because fat people "don't" or "shouldn't" do them:

Riding my bike (this is a big one that still gives me trouble...I have an irrational fear of being mocked on my bike)
Walking around my neighborhood
Running in my neighborhood
Going to the gym
Joining a community sports team
Learning to salsa dance

I'd like to say I've consistently ignored the fear and accomplished all of these things, but there are a few on the list I'm still a little reluctant to try because of those irrational thoughts. It's a process.

Are there things you have avoided or flat out not done because you are fat? Let us know in the comments!

Paul Campos and America's Moral Panic | Ye Olde Double Standard

vesta44's picture
August 27th, 2009 | Link | I used to avoid swimming

I used to avoid swimming because I didn't like the way I looked in a swimsuit and because of the redness on my lower legs and I didn't want to hear other peoples' nasty comments about any of it. Then I got to thinking, why should I avoid doing something I enjoy just because other people might not like looking at me in a swimsuit? After all, I can't see what I look like in one (unless I look in a mirror, and I'm getting used to that, so it doesn't bother me as much any more), and most of the time, I'm swimming in motel pools, and I'm not going to see those people ever again so who cares what they think. And if they have the nerve to say something to me, I can certainly tell them where to shove their opinion (and if I don't, my husband probably will). I now swim every time I get a chance, and as soon as I get a new suit, I'm getting a punch card so I can swim a couple of times a week at the local motel pool where I live (there isn't a city-owned indoor public pool, other than the one at the high school and that one has limited hours in the winter time).

WLS - Sorry, not my preferred way of dying. *glares at doctor recommending it*

richie79's picture
August 27th, 2009 | Link | There's a theme in many of

There's a theme in many of these: 'being publicly visible'. Fat people often relate tales of feeling 'invisible' in social or other situations, but the truth is that in a society where absolutely everything seems to be about fat and obesity we're more conspicuous to those who would mock than ever.

Add the physical activity aspect (the idea that fat people aren't supposed to run or otherwise move quickly, coupled with the fact that most sports clothing, where available in larger sizes, is far from flattering) and it's not surprising that people might feel so self-conscious they think better of it. Hence where fat people do exercise, whether for pleasure or as part of their assumed duty to lose weight, it's often in the safety of their lounge with a workout DVD or surrounded by others in the same situation at a WW or similar meeting.

Personally, my dislike of exercise has less to do with this fear of ridicule than a pathological dislike of getting hot, sweaty and achey for no apparent good purpose (give me a DVD, a book, or a few hours on the net any day) but I do still occasionally cycle (as a means of transport rather than for fitness / weight loss purposes) and must admit to feeling very visible - and vulnerable - out on the road.

"The reward for conformity is that everybody likes you except yourself" - Rita Mae Brown

worrier August 27th, 2009 | Link | "Riding my bike (this is a

"Riding my bike (this is a big one that still gives me trouble...I have an irrational fear of being mocked on my bike)"

While I think it's true that many fat people feel "funny" about exercising (I can't think of a better way of putting it), I don't think a fear of being mocked while exercising is irrational. It's a very realistic fear. I have been mocked while going for walks around the streets. I think we should still do the exercise we want to do, I'm a believer in the "feel the fear and do it anyway" concept.

But I really, strenuously disagree with minimising the predjudice and ridicule that us fat people face. If that's the kind of treatment we receive then I think we should acknowledge that as the reality of what we experience. But I still go walking around the streets. The nasty shits can go and fuck themselves. Everybody is going to have to put up with the fat chick, I'm not going away, I'm not going to diet, I'm not going to stop going for walks, I'm not going to pretend I "just ignore it, just don't let it bother me" when I get nasty comments, and I'm probably not going to do anything else that people tell me I should do.

Hasta la vista, baby!

Bree's picture
August 27th, 2009 | Link | At this point in my life, I

At this point in my life, I could care less if people see me swim or dance or walk or use exercise equipment. Fatphobes rant and rave about fat people not exercising, yet when we try to do it, those same people rant and rave because they don't want us doing it in public...obviously they don't see the lapse in logic.

CarrieP's picture
August 27th, 2009 | Link | I think, for me, the fear is

I think, for me, the fear is irrational because most of the people in my neighborhood are very friendly and wouldn't mock anyone on a bike, even a fat person. It'd be a rational fear if I'd ever seen it happen to someone else, but I haven't. I just assume there's someone out there waiting behind the bushes to point and laugh at me and that's the part that's a little far-fetched.

vesta44's picture
August 27th, 2009 | Link | I didn't have anyone say

I didn't have anyone say anything to me about my size when swimming, but one man told his wife that if she ever got as fat as me, he would kill her (I didn't hear him say it, my daughter-in-law heard it and told me later on). We were at the pool at a motel and they were in the pool area watching their young son swim (the man was drinking beer in a glass bottle and eating cheetos and his wife was reading, their son was probably 4 or 5 years old). I told my DIL that if I had heard him say that to his wife, I would have told him that she should divorce someone who was shallow enough to care only about what her body looked like, especially as he wasn't partaking of the most healthy type of snacks that exist (after all, if he's going to judge my body without knowing anything about how I eat or exercise, then I get to judge him only on what he said and what he's eating/drinking right then, seems fair and equitable to me).

WLS - Sorry, not my preferred way of dying. *glares at doctor recommending it*

Keechypeachy August 27th, 2009 | Link | Horseriding. I have been a

Horseriding. I have been a horserider all my life, but am feeling like at a short aussie size 22 I am just too big to feel comfortable. My vet assures me I am not too heavy for my chunky horse and I still ride with good balance and feel, but I just don't feel comfy doing it any more and feel it just looks so inelegent as nearly all my weight is on my boobs and stomach. It is sad because I feel that being a horse person is in every cell of my body, it is like a soul-deep need, but despite the association people have with big girls and horseriding, in fact most riders are very slim. I just feel I have passed some sort of line where it is no longer a sport I should be doing, especially since it is such a public sport and folks like to call out, a lot like bike riding, except with a horse they can imply you are being cruel to ride the horse as well. I am in the middle of a huge existential crisis on this one, so can't tell you what solution I have come up with. I'm not there yet!

Viola's picture
August 27th, 2009 | Link | I swim in public, I've

I swim in public, I've joined gyms, I walk around my neighborhood, I may even possibly run in my neighborhood if I have to, although I'm a supporter of racewalking over running because of back and joint issues. I attempt bike riding, but I can't get up my hills without my chain slipping, and I feel like I'm rupturing something in my behind from the uncomfortable seat, so I don't really like to bike.

Unless there is a yoga for fat people, I don't really want to do it. I find it strains things in ways that aren't good for me. But I've only done videos, although I have done aerobics classes in the gym.

I tried to use my size to get out of riding a camel once, because I was actually afraid, but the handler assured me that the camel could easily support my weight, so I had to do it.

I actually feel like I have tried to be more visible about the exercise I do, just to make a point. But sometimes I just don't even want to go out in public. The other day I had workout clothes, and my kids wanted to go to the park, but I hated going there in them. But I felt like I just had to, since I needed to get my exercise in, so I did some walking and jogging in the park. I walked out to the street, only had to be on the public street for about 30 feet, and doggone, a car drove by and a young man hung out the window and yelled at me. I've also been followed around by a guy and his girlfriend who actually pulled over to tell me I was the fattest person they had ever seen--I was pushing my 3 year old in a stroller and was about 8 weeks pregnant at the time, so I called my husband to come get me. And then I went back outside to conclude my walk, but I carried a hammer with me, just in case the car came back.

As a teen I avoided so many things, however. Wearing shorts, wearing a bathing suit in public, dancing in front of people, eating in front of people, being in social situations with guys. I wish I could take my 40 year old brain back to my teens and tell that girl to buck up.

Bilt4Cmfrt's picture
August 28th, 2009 | Link | Ahhh, the bicycle thing.

Ahhh, the bicycle thing. When I was less ancient, bicycling was my main mode of transport and I used to love riding. You get to see more, can access more places, the wind on your face, that sort of thing.

A while ago, on this very site, there was a forum post regarding big folks riding their bikes. There was even a link to a website featuring bikes designed for heavier people (sturdier frames, better wheel configs. The wider / more comfy seats are what caught my eye). The bicycles they were selling on that site do tend to be a little. . . Well, a LOT, more pricey actually. But, if I'm not mistaken, they also had a section for accessories that could be retrofitted to regular bikes.

I've got a serviceable mountain bike sitting in my shed that's seen more use from the inhabitant spiders and crickets than it has from me. I suppose the excuse would be, 'Once I get that seat fixed, I can hit the road'. More likely it's more about what people will think about the gigantic fat guy riding around the neighborhood on that poor little bike. Now I'm getting pissed. This might prove to be a good thing.

Learn how to logic- Lesson #4
Obesity is NOT caused by food addiction.
Stop smoking / drinking entirely and you can go on with your life, smoke / drink free. Stop eating entirely and you starve to death. Death is a problem.

Moody Blue's picture
Moody Blue
August 29th, 2009 | Link | The last time I rode a bike

The last time I rode a bike was when I was first married. I was about 100lbs lighter than I am now. I was riding around my neighborhood when some ignorant teens in a passing car made elephant & cow noises at me. I rode home, put the bike in the basement and never rode it again. I miss it because bike riding was one of the great joys of my life since childhood.
I have a laundry list of things I no longer do. I used to love to play baseball with the family, but now just don't feel comfortable doing it although I was darn good at it. I no longer go swimming either. I was going to join Curves until I saw their new commercials and how they no longer cater to women like me. Now, I exercise in the comfort of my own home. Not so much for weight loss, but it keeps me mobile and feeling well both emotionally (I have anxiety issues) and physically.

Keechypeachy August 30th, 2009 | Link | For those wanting to do

For those wanting to do non-threatening yoga at home, there is a DVD I heard about through Shapely Prose, called "Just my size yoga" by Megan Garcia. I bought it and really like it. I find it very peaceful, and just the right amount of exercise and stretching without knocking my body around too much (although I do skip the second run through of the standing poses if my fatigue illness is playing up) and Megan is a fat girl herself and so nice to watch and listen to, and she has a bit at the end you can go to to see alternatives ways to get the poses if they aren't comfy.

pani113's picture
August 30th, 2009 | Link | I adore swimming in Lake

I adore swimming in Lake Michigan. What I love is that my size 18, padded on the outside, muscled on the inside body is very cold resistant. I LOVE being able to withstand very cold water. I love even more that every time I go in, some idiot man gives me a look like if SHE can do it, I can do it. Then they go in and often go out screaming and shivering. When they ask me how I can stand it i say FAT and give them a brief lecture about the genetic cold tolerance superiority of fat women. I then stare at them so they know I am not kidding! Lord who knew being a bully could be so much fun. Should have tried it in grade school!

"I have never had a problem with my weight that wasn't caused by other people."

CarrieP's picture
September 2nd, 2009 | Link | pani I am loving your sig

pani I am loving your sig Smiling

JennyLinsky September 12th, 2009 | Link | For me, it's more of a

For me, it's more of a coordination issue. Gym was nothing but a big waste of time for me, because I could never catch, throw, or hit a ball. Aerobics was also a waste of time because I have two left feet. I was bright enough not to even bother with step aerobics, because I would probably fall off or over a step and sprain my ankle.

On the other hand, I love to swim and can go forever in the pool.

secondhelpinglaura's picture
September 22nd, 2009 | Link | The only thing on this list

The only thing on this list for me is bike-riding. I need a bigger seat! Not worried about being seen in public, because eff 'em.

GenXer's picture
January 4th, 2010 | Link | Shocking pics of me doing 'active' things!

Despite both of us being shy, self-conscious, and easily intimidated, my husband and I end up doing all kinds of these things. This is a link to some pictures from our recent trip to China, where we were surrounded by thousands of very skinny people. These are pictures of me climbing to the top of Moon Hill (which was very hard; I had to rest several times but I made it), riding a bike in the countryside, and climbing on the Great Wall (which was very steep and long, but we had SO much energy that day and we ended up covering a huge portion of the wall). I am 5'2" and weigh about 235. We did get stared at a lot but there was no way to no know whether it was because of our weight, ethnicity, or whether we were just weird-looking (lol). Likewise, we went to Malaysia three years ago (also surrounded by skinny people) and no one stared at us at all, so it may just be a China thing.


Tzipporah January 7th, 2010 | Link | Riding a horse

True story: I have always been a little afraid of horses even though I rode a few times as a child and my cousins keep horses. Three years ago I convinced two friends to go riding with me to help me get over my irrational fear of horses (it's not really a phobia so much as an extreme discomfort with them). That was the first (and so far only) time I've ever been discriminated against for being fat. The three of us arrived at the ranch and I could tell we were being sized up by the look on the creeps face. He turned to the tall male in our group and actually asked him how much he weighed. He didn't ask me but I knew I was the real issue here. At 5'6" I weighed the same as my 6'3" boyfriend (did the nasty horse guy know that?) so if he was too heavy to ride I supposed I was too. We were turned away because I was fat. It was absolutely devastating. That night I went home and seriously considered WLS. This idiot had actually convinced me that I was too heavy to sit on a freaking horse! Later, logic set in. I googled images of fat people on horses and was outraged to discover that not only were there many pictures of fat riders but also there were photos of horses carrying two big cowboys or entire families on their backs. When I asked my cousin if I weighed too much to be on her horse she giggled and pointed out that to a horse the difference between a fat person and a thin person is like the difference between a fat cat and a thin cat in my arms. Does it make sense to say I can carry a ten pound cat but not a twenty-six pound one? OY!

And no, I have never dared to ride a horse again.

greywolf January 9th, 2010 | Link | Tzipporah, I've had the

Tzipporah, I've had the similar experiences to riding. I loved horses as a kid and would love to go to one of the local parks that has horses, but I'm just (ok, 30 lbs) over the weight limit they set. I always figured that it had to do with the breeds of horses available. I suggest that you check around if there are more places to see if they have larger breeds available. The last time I was riding, they had one of my relatives (who is a rather tall, broad guy) on a draft horse (bred more for pulling large loads, i.e. Clydesdales) and everything was fine.

Tzipporah January 10th, 2010 | Link | Thanks for the tip

I had attempted to ride in Norco. I don't really know anything about horses or what is available in my area. But my cousin (who lives eight hours away) thought I would be safe on her Tennessee Walkers which are smaller than Clydesdales (I know at least that much). The thing is I never really *wanted* to ride for fun so much as for therapy--still kind of afraid of horses. Being told I was too fat to ride was just discouragment on top of discouragment.

GenXer's picture
January 12th, 2010 | Link | It totally depends on the

It totally depends on the place... call ahead and ask them straight out about their weight limit. I've spoken with places that flatly state a limit, and I've also spoken with places that laugh (in a good way) when I tell them my weight and "of course" I'm not too heavy for the horses and they would be happy to have my business. So go for it!

One time I had a chance to ride an elephant, and I was worried I would be too heavy. I went up to do it anyway and they ended up putting two other people on the elephant with me! Great day!


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