I understand that people may not look at me and get that I am very much interested in physical fitness. Generally, we don’t see fat people and believe that they care about their bodies. However, it is true that I have dedicated pretty much my entire life to learning and thinking about my body.
At first because I hated it and blamed myself for the shape my body. This started at the age of 5. I remember being in kindergarten and my friend Shannon and I were wearing the same dress. I looked at her skinny legs and I looked at my big legs and felt ashamed.
Just 6 years later I was in my first weight watchers meeting. What I now understand is that an 11 year old girl has no control over the shape of her developing body. Nor should she. I wish someone had told me at the time that an 11 year old girl is hungry, growing, changing and needs nourishment and patience. An 11 year old girl should be dreaming and playing and learning and testing her power in the world. I should have been marveling at the magnificent changes happening to me. Instead, I was trying to make people approve of my body while at the same time hating myself for not being able to control it make it submit to the expectations the world had for it.
I felt shame constantly. Sometimes by many of the women I loved and trusted the most. They loved me, but were afraid for me. People were urgent with me about solving the problem of my fat body.
Y’all, I wasn’t even that fat. WTF ever that means.
Ironically, to solve for that I started doing things that actually were bad for me. I starved myself, I stayed up late at night running on a treadmill punishing myself for eating. I was afraid to eat in public. I smoked. I ate fake, chemically processed low sugar low fat food. I deprived my body of nutrition. I tried to not notice that I even had a body. I tried to work harder and get approval from people by making them more important than me. I drank. I took drugs. I didn’t sleep.
I didn’t believe that my body, the very thing that carries me through his life, was valuable.
I lost sight of my own preciousness.
I lost a lot of weight once for a few months in my early 20s and it was terrifying. People wouldn’t shut up about it. Men, wouldn’t stop looking at me. I had a teacher at the time that felt particularly dangerous and creepy when he looked at me or stood behind me. I didn’t know what to do. I had been desperate for people to approve of my body for so long, and now they did and I hated it. No thanks. I gained the weight back and with it more shame.
The majority of my life was a cycle of that, gain weight, feel ashamed, get scared that I am spiraling out of control, loose a little bit of weight, can’t sustain it, gain more weight feel more shame…..etc.
Over these years, I read all the books, I did all of the things. I got a lot of information. Through all of the good and bad info, trial and error, I came to know a LOT about nutrition. I took it all in and listened to my body. I know so much about the body.
I know so much about my body. There are still mysteries left, but not many. I have built a feedback loop that I trust.
I will do almost anything to not go to a doctor. Almost every doctor I see will identify fatness as the root of every illness. instead of a symptom of abuse of which I am blameless for. Which means, they turn out to not be helpful identifying real problems and solutions.
Once a doctor told me that I was pre-pre-diabetic. Meaning my blood sugar was almost on the high side of normal. I think that is still called normal. That is medical code for fat.
I have said a thousand times, that if given the option, i would have chosen thin-ness and complicity. I tried with all my heart and with excessive discipline to loose weight. I am not like bravely IDGAF fat. I actually don’t know if anyone is.
I would have traded everything I loved for it. I have made so many deals with the devil that compromised my actual health and also my integrity. I have made decisions that were designed to devalue my very being.
Now I am in my forties and working hard to reclaim the time I lost trying to escape my body. I am trying to reconcile the moments adding up to years where I was paralyzed by not being worthy. I am collecting the debt of time where the world made me feel that I was too broken to accomplish anything. I want back every minute of every gym class where I was too afraid of being embarrassed by being noticed to try to have fun or notice my own physical power.
I moved my life forward by toggling between two states of being. I would ignore everything and bulldoze my way into spaces I was not welcome and pretending it was fine. Alternately, I would examine every little detail of myself, building a massive taxonomy of traits that were on a spectrum of acceptable and unacceptable. I would re-write the criteria continuously. I would build new categories between truth and fiction, human and inhumane, changeable or static. I moved toward the light while everyone wanted me to stay with them in the dark.
It is through that fire that I walked to arrive in this place. And this is place where I fucking belong.
If I had lived with the privilege of unearned social acceptance, I would not have realized the glorious fruits of all that labor.
The truth is, I have moments now (long ones) where I forget that I am fat. I am not in a constant state of terror with my internal voice screaming at me things like “Change! You are not ok! Nobody could love you! You are dying, stupid!” You don’t deserve help!” “Don’t let them see you!”
Those recordings show up sometimes, but they don’t run me.
I have enjoyed lots of different types of movement and exercise. Pretty consistently, it was humiliation around my body that stopped me from pursing any of them in the long term.
Throughout the last 17 years, I hung on to yoga. I would practice, get discouraged, get busy, stop practicing, come back, repeat.
After having a baby, my body was so destroyed it took me about 2 years to return to my practice. I had no choice and it was almost impossible to practice.
I was enormous, swollen, enflamed and immobile. I just grit my teeth and did it anyway. It was sometimes peaceful, but mostly it was physical and emotional torture. In those days, my practice was all about showing up to the mat. It is a noble practice. In the end I didn’t have the strength to stay in my practice. So, I took a break and went to the gym.
At the gym I pushed myself with cardio, which I hate but continue to engage in (in moderation - for balance). I also learned about lifting weights.
For me lifting was the antidote to all of the inadequacy and discouragement I had been plagued with. I was immediately good at it. Before I knew what I was doing or how to properly move, I was unbelievably strong. This was an absolute revelation. I was unbelievably strong.
Here is an example. I can remember the first time I did a bench press. I slowly built up the bar with to maximum weight recommended for the women and tried to do the prescribed max reps. I did this slowly, because I didn’t imagine that I could be as strong as the strongest in my group. The other women I was lifting with were fierce and I looked up to them. None of these women hit the weight that I did and they could at best accomplish 3-7 reps. It was confusing to watch, I had never been physically the best at anything. At the maximum weight, I got up to 10, 15, 20 and then just stopped, because I was wasting our time. It was way to light.
I remember that day and think about how grateful I was to be with those supportive badass ladies in the gym. It would have been so easy to make me feel shitty or lessen my accomplishment - but they didn’t. That too was new.
I began to learn how to move smarter, find my alignment, work on my mobility, and get stronger and more confident. Now that I had strength, I went back to yoga.
I went back to yoga so big time, I went to a teacher training and now I teach it. The main thing that get out of yoga, and that I teach in yoga is listening to the body. I want all of us to find the safety and presence of mind to stay in a moment and listen to our bodies enough to make good decisions about how to best serve our bodies. Our bodies hold our consciousness we need them.
Now, I am so very in my body all the time. I practice yoga even when I can’t stand it and my body gets in the way. I stay there on my mat until I can dissolve the ideas I have about my body being unworthy of this kind of loving attention.
I connect to my breath.
I notice it running trough my body.
I close my eyes and explore every energetic pathway inside my skin.
I travel these pathways in mind looking for places that feel unhealed or un-nourished.
I keep my attention and energy in those places as long as I can and go back as often as I need to. Because that is yoga. It is not turning away from yourself.
I lift. I lift as much as possible as often as possible because I like being strong. I lift smart because I am a yogi and because I am smart.
I like spending time noticing the strength that was given to me by god. I think it would be a sin to not accept and enjoy that gift. In many many ways, the gift of strength saved me. My physical strength lends me emotional strength regularly. My physical strength allows me to walk through the world less afraid. My strength makes me large. My largeness insists that others make space for me. This is space that I decide to be unashamed claiming as often as I can.
The very idea of women being as small as possible is a bullshit proposition created by sexism and maintained exquisitely by capitalism. Fitness is important to me. Health is important to me. Strength is important to me. Peace is important to me.
I will not force myself to be small. This commitment is one that I make for myself. I hope that this commitment serves others in reminding them that they have options in how they live their life.