Fitness advice from an ‘unapologetic fat girl’

And as a self-described queer woman and “proud fat girl,” she says she “understands the physical and emotional roadblocks that overweight women face in the world of exercise.”

But there are options, she stresses, from WiiFit to extreme sports, as well as menus to follow for proper nutrition — all of this without the fat-bashing prevalent in our culture.

She answered a few questions ahead of her visit to Atlanta, where she lives part-time with her fiance.

People don’t always tend to see fat as being physically fit. Your book looks to debunk this. You are a personal fitness trainer. How can you help people understand this?

Fitness is not a size! It’s a state of bodily vigor and strength, capability and robustness. There is no size or shape of human being that is automatically, uniformly vigorous and robust. There just isn’t. There are plenty of small or thin people who are nowhere close to it. There are plenty of big or fat people who are actually a lot more physically vigorous and robust than you think.

Size or weight aren’t very accurate ways to tell someone’s fitness level. There are actual formal tests — VO2max, the Wingate Test, goniometry, all kinds of scientifically valid measures — that do a much better and more accurate job of that.

As a movement coach — I actually hate the word “trainer,” I think that word applies to people who work with animals — what I try to do is encourage people to do things that make their bodies more vigorous and robust, regardless of their size or shape.

Anyone, at any size or shape (and even at many levels of dis/ability) can do things to help themselves be more physically strong, capable and robust. This approach to improving fitness is based on the approach to general health that Dr. Linda Bacon calls “Health At Every Size.”

Our society does not embrace people, especially women, who are fat. Why should we change this attitude and how can we do so?

Fat people are human beings. Human beings deserve human dignity.

It’s really that simple. No one’s asking for any kind of special treatment here, just to be given a share of the same thing that everyone else on the planet should get.

How can you do so? The same way you refrain from treating anyone else badly: treat them as a valid human being, just like you. You learned this one in kindergarten.

Why are you unapologetic about being a fat girl?

Why should I apologize? Why should anyone apologize for being embodied in the particular way(s) they are?

The problem isn’t that human bodies come in an amazingly diverse range of forms and sizes and colors and metabolisms and body compositions. That’s the nature of our species.

The problem is that we’ve decided culturally, in a way that is not arbitrary but rather deeply racist and sexist (among other things), that only certain types of human bodies are “good.”

Do you ever wish you were skinny?

No. I regularly wish that the world I live in were more inclusive of all the different bodies that live in it, though.

How did you come to love your body as it is?

I don’t always love my body. It is my experience that not very many people do, regardless of their size or shape. What I do do is respect my body.

I think respect is much more important than love in this context. Respect will get you through times when you cannot love your body… and all other times as well.

What are some things people can do to be more accepting? Our society seems to train us from a young age to not like fat people.

Two things — and they’re both hard, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

First, cancel your assumptions. Every person you meet is at least as complex and multi-faceted as you. Finding out what’s actually there is always more interesting than assuming you already know.

Second, in the words of the immortal Wil Wheaton, don’t be a dick.

You are a part time Atlantan. What is it about this city you like?

My fiance is a philosophy professor here, which is what brought me this way initially. Atlanta has really grown on me: The relaxed pace and lack of arrogance, in a city where interesting things still happen and important things still get done, is really enjoyable.

Top 5 things EVERYONE (fat or thin) should know about movement:

1. Some movement is better than no movement as far as your body and your fitness is concerned. It all counts.

2. When you move, do what feels good to you, not what you think you “should” do. You won’t exercise if you’re miserable, anyhow, so why not skip the miserable part?

3. You’re allowed to have your own reasons to move your body. Changing your weight does not have to be on the list unless you want it to be.

4. Movement is not a magic flying glitter rainbow pony that will fix your entire life. It’s still worth doing.

5. “No pain, no gain” is a lie. Pain is not what makes you more fit, increasing your physical capacity over time in response to increased demand is. If what you’re doing hurts, back off a bit. (See #2.)

Top photo: Hanne Blank (Courtesy photo)