Today I’m loving this post from Flintland: Hey, Fat Girl. I have some things to say about it, but you should read it first before you hear my thoughts. Don’t worry, it’s short. Go click on the link, I’ll wait.
So, I love how the writer has a completely different way of looking at the larger runner than what we typically see in our culture. I love his warm, encouraging, and supportive tone. I love how, throughout the post, he mentions several benefits of being a runner, but nowhere does he mention weight loss – only health, strength, and confidence. Yes! I hope that all the larger runners, walkers, and other kinds of exercisers out there see this post and learn that the jerks who heckle you are only a small minority. Plenty of us are cheering you on.
From a yoga perspective, this is the attitude I want to share with my future students. Yoga is hard: it takes strength and stamina and flexibility and concentration. But, like running, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it. It means, start now, and a month or six months or two years from now, look back and be proud of how far you’ve come and what you’ve achieved. I want to fill my yoga classes with all kinds of people, all different sizes and abilities. Yoga is not about size, and it’s not about judgment. Like running, yoga is a path to becoming your best, strongest, truest self.
Yes! I often feel the same way as that blogger. Sometimes I get a look of “its so easy for you” by bigger runners and I often want to say, I lost 75 lbs, but never have. Then one day when I was walking home from work, in an exercise slump, I found myself staring at this runner. As she passed she said “you can do it.” At first I was a little pissed, then I realized how much courage it took to respond and not just be in her own head. It was motivating.
I’ve often wanted to talk to bigger or struggling runners and encourage them, but I never felt like I could – I always felt like it would seem sarcastic instead of genuine, particularly because I’m slender. It’s taken a lot of work to maintain my size, but you don’t know that to look at me. I wish I could feel as comfortable anti-heckling as assholes do about heckling.
While I very much appreciate the author’s sentiment to want to encourage a struggling (and, it seems from the description, lacking in confidence) runner, I’m troubled by the conflation of that with body size. (And in fact for body size to be the primary descriptor in the title of the post.) There are thin people who struggle to build strength and stamina and fat people who’ve been working out regularly for decades.
I felt this way at first, especially as a horrifically unfit person who frequently gets told how thin I am (which, I’m medium sized, but I’m happy with my figure, overall). But … the author notes that she is struggling with her workout (her speed, her breathing, sweating, etc), and I think those elements indicate that she is new to running. I think if there was a larger person who was not struggling, he would not have the same attitude.
As Rox points out, he focuses on health and fitness, not size or weight.
At the same time, though, the author of the post chooses to emphasize body size in the title of the piece. It’s not called, “I See You’re Struggling, But–” or “To the Girl Who Never Looks Up.”
Like I said, I appreciate the encouraging sentiment in the post. However, I remain disappointed by the author’s choice to use “fat” (a descriptor of body size) as a stand-in for a descriptor for fitness or self-confidence.
I don’t disagree (and honestly I posted this partly because I wondered what you’d think of it). I do think that the post was aimed to a particular audience – the struggling larger-sized runner lacking in confidence – and I think there is a large group of people for whom that’s an accurate descriptor and for whom the post would resonate.
Definitely don’t disagree that there are strong confident larger runners and thin runners who struggle. One of the things I did like about the post was the fact that, other than the post title, body size isn’t mentioned, either as a factor in her struggle or as a goal of her running. It could have had one of the titles you suggested or even “Hey, Skinny Girl” (with a different or no photo) and still made sense. But from a writer’s perspective, I think he achieves a lot of the post’s emotion by starting out with that title, as if he’s going to yell rude things at her like she might expect or like many idiots do, and then he turns the situation around.
So from a feminist/sociological perspective I can totally see where you’re coming from, but looking at it from a standpoint of writer critique I have to say he’s done something emotionally with the terminology that would be harder to do with less harsh language. If I were workshopping the piece I might encourage him to play with the title and see if he could get at the emotion a slightly different way, but I don’t think his choice to make the post about a certain type of struggling runner (rather than about all struggling runners of every shape and size) necessarily makes the post less valid. Just, as you note, disappointing for some.
i liked this post because it was encouraging to me. I have stopped my practice because I have been sick now I feel less like practicing because my feet are swollen and I have put on more weight. It is frustrating as got so much from yoga. I just do a home practice and always have but when I studied I was fortunate to have a one on one teacher who just let me come to him home at 5 am while he did his own ashtanga practice. It wasn’t long before talking was forbidden and we did our own thing. good memories.