I’m Fat. And I’m Not Proud of It.
I’m a personal trainer. And I’m fat.
Since officially presenting myself as a fitness coach who approaches exercise from a place of joyful movement and using it as a tool to empower women and foster confidence through energy and strength gain, I’ve been getting a lot of comments.
Well, I always got comments, but these are different.
Instead of laced with support and encouragement, they’re dripping with skepticism and cynicism.
When placed at the receiving end of these dialogues, it’s easy to find myself feeling offended and hurt, undermined and uncertain. It doesn’t matter if those comments come from close family or friends, social media followers or random internet naysayers. Either way, words have enormous power.
What I’ve come to realize though, is that more than anything else, these words depict ignorance.
So, I no longer try to defend my stance or prove the validity of my perspective.
Because that’s not my job. My job is to keep the lines of communication open and invite others to the conversation.
And that’s what I’d like to do here.
I’m here to explain the perspective that I use to coach my clients and hopefully help you gain an understanding of why I’m so passionate about this. But it’s totally ok if you still disagree with me or need some time to wrap your head around these concepts.
I will put forth my truth and you do with it what feels right to you.
“BOPO, HAES, Weight Neutral… Huh!?”
I’m fat. And I’m not proud of it.
I’m also not not proud of it.
There’s a lot of speculating and assuming that goes on when people hear the terms “body positive,” “weight neutral,” and “Health At Every Size,” among others. So I’d like to first define these concepts and then discuss what they mean for us as a frum community.
“The Body Positive Movement is a movement that encourages people to adopt more forgiving and affirming attitudes towards their bodies, with the goal of improving overall health and well-being… The body positive movement focuses on building self-esteem through improving one’s self image.” (Wikipedia)
Basically, it’s suggesting that instead of hating our bodies for all the things it doesn’t do that we wish it did and for all the ways it doesn’t look that we’ve been told it should, we accept every part for what it is – the physical home which we were given to live in for the duration of our time in this world.
And we do this from a place of self-love.
Despite popular belief, being #BodyPositive (or #BOPO for short) does not just mean celebrating all body types while ignoring the way we treat them. It means celebrating all body types while learning to care for them in a manner that supports health at every size.
Health At Every Size advocates don’t claim that you are healthy regardless of your size. They do however suggest that you can be healthy independent of your size. Rather than focus on traditional methods of promoting weight loss through dieting and exercising, we recognize that health is not synonymous with a specific number of pounds or body fat percentage.
We believe wholeheartedly in the value of nutrient-dense foods and we strongly promote joyful movement. But it’s with a mindset that combines not just the scientific, physical aspects of these foods and exercises, but how the whole you processes them.
“The weight-neutral approach acknowledges that body weight is determined by a complex set of genetic, metabolic, physiological, cultural, social, and behavioral determinants, many of which individuals cannot change.”
We recognize that you can’t dissociate your emotions from your physical actions any more than you can separate your software from your laptop’s hardware and expect it to do its job. It’s not enough to look at the nutritional value of a food and solely use that information in deciding whether to eat it or restrict it… It’s not enough to join a gym and go three times a week if you dread every session or find yourself resenting it.
When I throw out these terms, all I’m trying to say is that what I do has nothing to do with weight loss and that how much you do or don’t weigh doesn’t affect your ability to work out.
Now, before you start getting all excited and throw out “eating disorders” as a reason that I should actually care if people who want to exercise weigh too little and may be triggered or, on the flip side, mentioning obesity as a reason I should care if people weigh too much because they may do damage by going too hard too soon, let me clarify one more time: neither of the above issues are directly related to weight or dress size itself.
A woman with an eating disorder may be gauntly thin, pleasantly plump, or even plus-size.. A woman who is technically “obese” may be in far greater shape and physically healthier than someone half her size.
I absolutely take into consideration current habits of health (or lack thereof) and any medical conditions which could affect a potential client’s training in any way.
But based on lots of evidence-based research and the experience of thousands of women I know that size just is. It’s not within my jurisdiction to make calls about whether a woman should or shouldn’t be eating a specific food or performing a specific exercise based on how she looks.
And it’s not within yours either.
So what does this mean for us as a community?
We’re quick to recognize the value of the Torah’s guidelines and we adhere to a standard that has been set for us. We know that we’re here with a purpose to serve and a mission to achieve and we strive to fulfill that duty to the best of our abilities with the tools that G-d has given us to use.
The body being one of those tools.
We know that health is of utmost importance and I know that we seek guidance in understanding what that means for us. However, sometimes we get so caught up in the aesthetic aspect of it all and we find ourselves behaving in ways that not only don’t support health, but actively destruct it.
Sometimes we realize the damaging effects or our behaviors and sometimes we turn a blind eye. Sometimes we process the information given and allow them to inspire positive changes and sometimes we prefer to remain within the comfort of our current practices.
Use this article as a stepping stone. It is not a comprehensive, everything-you-need-to-know type article, but it’s a start. I hope that you’ve read it with an open mind and I implore you to give it some time to process these ideas.
You might find yourself surprised at what you discover about your own views on weight and dress size if you just grant yourself permission to go down that road.
The body I was born into is not something I chose. My genetics, predispositions to diseases and personality traits, growth pattern and physical reactions to outside stimuli were all predetermined. They weren’t up to me to pick.
Me having a higher body fat percentage than most others my age from the time that I was a toddler is not something that I decided I wanted and actively sought out.
As such, how can I be proud that I am fat?
I am proud of my body insofar as I take pride in how I take care of it.
So how can I not not be proud?
It’s like I said:
I’m not proud of it.
And I’m not not proud of it.
It isn’t a good thing or a bad thing.
It’s simply a body type.
And I will do my absolute best to do right by the body that is the vessel of my soul.
You can too.