I had a PT a little while back who was a lovely dude, but seemed slightly insulted when I implied that he – who had never been anything but athletically muscular – wouldn’t really understand how exercise feels if you’re fat. In his defense he was a qualified physio among other things and he might have had a very developed sense of empathy, but even if his imagination were up to it, I daresay being a fat lady and being a fat dude are somewhat different.
(He was also somewhat right-wing. We got along fine as long as he didn’t discuss Muslims, so I’m not really betting on the empathy bit. Was it Dee who pointed out to me that most personal trainers are right-wing? The pattern is holding true).
The short version is: it’s god-awful. You’re out of breath very quickly, sweating very heavily, and also having to stop and periodically adjust clothing. In addition, if you’re in public, you WILL assume that someone is laughing at you. I’ve never had a cardio session where I didn’t feel like I was dying, and my anxiety issues play into this as well – if getting your heart rate up feels EXACTLY like a panic attack, then getting your heart rate up is extremely undesirable. I’m also low blood pressured so if I try to run I will faint. Interestingly my issues with exercise go all the way to primary school, and I only became fat in my early 20s, which is a very – very – minor consolation.
This is all an involved way of explaining that it can be really difficult to impress on someone how things change for you as a fat person if they have never been so. In my case, communicating this to my tiny, very petite mother has been the eternal struggle.
I wrote an article for Lip Magazine a few years back about the emotional cycle that considers obesity a shield from sexual attention, which is here. (I was at LEAST 20kgs lighter when I wrote this than I am now) It’s flippant, but my basic point remains. It was a big relief for me in my early twenties to have all unwanted attention suddenly switched off.
I’m very sure she didn’t get it from me, but this idea is a big part of Hunger by Roxane Gay. (Which I wholeheartedly recommend, by the way. It’s my first book of hers and I’m definitely going to read more). Gay’s obesity is directly linked to an incident of trauma in her young life, where mine was not, but on so many other fronts this book hit very close to home. I occasionally had to pause the audiobook and go pat my cats or something. Gay writes about the way she is treated as a WOC and a fat person, and it’s enlightening and heartbreaking. If you’ve ever struggled to understand a fat sibling or friend, might I suggest Roxane as a starting point?
Leading on from that, and a little closer to home – Rebecca Shaw (or @Brocklesnitch ) is an Australian writer who discusses the Freedman-Gay incident – and a WHOLE lot else – in this article here. (If you don’t know about the Freedman-Gay incident, consider yourself lucky – I will personally avoid all mamamia.com produce forever and ever. If you’re morbidly curious, the New York Times summarizes it fairly well.) Rebecca is, in many ways, what I want to grow up to be – hysterically funny, twitter-famous and a fantastic writer. I love her. If I could bear to bake a cake right now I would send one to her.
Where might one secure this tshirt?
I do wonder where the fat male writers are sometimes. Perhaps it’s just not a similar social impediment for them, but considering general anti-fat vitriol that seems very unlikely. Will someone tell me if they know of some? I like to read around (great female ones are welcome too, obvs).
And don’t read the comments after Bec Shaw’s article. Or maybe do, for a pretty succinct image of aforementioned anti-fat vitriol.
IMPORTANT NOTE: I am not on a diet because I hate being fat and want to escape it. I am on a diet because I am too fat to effectively exercise, which is affecting my health.