Babes. Hey. So, if you have been keeping up with my blog life from the start you know that I have been working out at my local gym now for a few years. And in a lot of ways it is the total best thing in my life. I am there easily 4 times a week. They know my name which is charming as fuck. I do cardio and recently, a smidge of circuit training. I am still fat. I go to the gym cause moving my body and getting sweaty makes me less crazy and it feels good. I do not have a weight loss goal connected to my working out, nor do I ever intend to. This makes me a fucking unicorn in the world of gyms and muscle heads. I am usually super fine with my gym role as Our Lady Of Perpetual Fatness, but lately I have noticed that I am developing a bitter resentment towards gym culture. I mean not to go all conspiracy theorist on all y’all but I am basically sure that gym culture is all built on massive lies that are messing with me and my fellow fats. No, fer real.
And the biggest lie is this: HEY! GUYS! GYMS ARE FOR EVERYONE!!
Bull to the motherfucking shit.
Gyms are deeply and committedly not for fat people. From the physical space to the attitudes that abound. Sure there are fat people in gyms, but we are having to hold down space for ourselves on the regular and it ain’t always easy. More importantly we shouldn’t have to steel ourselves to use a goddamn elliptical machine. The truth is this: Fat people have to do about a million times more emotional prep work just to walk through the fucking door of a place that is supposedly for everyone. So I have been feeling like I deserve the mother load of cookies for going as often as I do. And yes, I mean both actual cookies that I can eat and the righteous cookies that feed my soul. What can I say, babes, I want it all.
Instead this is what I and my fellow fat people get from gyms:
NO FATS NO FEMMES
Not a single staff person who works in the actual gym portion of the Y looks like me. Now I know for a fact that there are fat people who do gym shit for a living (or they would if we could lose our craptacular attitude about fat) so why are my people never represented? Hmmmmmm? If we know that dieting is a failed experiment and weight maintenance is what all the kinesiology academics are talking about as a realistic goal, then why can’t fat babes see other fat babes as boss fat trainers? I mean babes really, its science. And while there are some people working the ‘front of house’ who look like they are not hard core gym bunnies, they are most certainly not fat. At least not in the conventional sense (like they probs think they are fat, but they are tops a size large in straight sizes).
PETITE POWERLIFTING ONLY
Nary a fat person working out on the free weights and weight training equipment. This is what is giving me the most rage cause I wanna use that stuff – I want to learn to power lift that shit. And I will, but currently the intimidation factor is greater than my rage fueled sense of fat babe entitlement. Look, maybe all those buff people are the sweetest in the world (the trainer friend that I know and love is – she just wants everyone to feel good and work it out – bless her), but I don’t know for sure and gym culture means I am way too intimidated to risk it. Cause gym culture is super clear on who should be lifting shit and it ain’t me. We generally have two groups of people at the gym feeling entitled to dead lift: 1. ripped motherfuckers (as in ‘holy shit you are a ripped motherfucker). 2.brahs (as in ‘brah! spot me while I bench press the shit out of this weight). Surprise. Not fat people. Babes, I’m not saying ripped motherfuckers and brahs should not have access to equipment – of course they should, but do they have to get all of it?
PRETENDING WE ARE NOT FAT
PSSST, babes. Its not a secret, amiright? Pretending like all bodies have the same workout needs and that we are all intimidated by gyms in the same way is just as bad as telling me I shouldn’t even bother. Yesterday, for instance, I watched as a very skinny gym attendant oriented a very nervous looking fat couple to the gym. I could feel their unease as they were shown around by a well-meaning, but totally ill equipped gym babe. She was super friendly and I heard her say ‘with a membership you have access to all of this equipment!!!’ All I could do was smile encouragingly at them while sweat poured off all of us. Now obviously I don’t know what was going through their minds, so let me just spell out how this experience has played out for this fat babe at the gym, yeah?
Here are the pressing questions I have had as I was oriented to a new gym – will I be able to use the equipment as a fat person? Will I fit? Why are the cardio machines squished so close together? Will I fit? Can I take a class and keep up? Are there other fat people who go here? What if I sweat more than the skinny broad next to me? Will she notice? Are people in the lockers going to talk about anything besides how they hate the fat parts of themselves, and how many calories they burn? Am I going to break the equipment? Am I going to break myself? How the fuck do you use this shit? Is this stuff safe for me? Are they going to whisper about me? Do I shower naked? Are there stalls? Will I fit? Are people here going to be kind to me while I learn to love my body with exercise?
Here are the answers that I am given in response to my unasked questions: Here are all the activities that you can do here! Everything here works for everyone! Welcome to the gym!!! GYMS ARE FOR EVERYONE!!
Y’all, fer real, the exclamation point does not make it so.
Here is the truth about many gyms: The cardio machines are too damn close together and squeezing by people working out is humiliating. My legs don’t fit on every single machine cause these thunder thighs are next level glorious. People in the locker rooms almost exclusively use body shaming as small talk with one another and we have to hear it. Sometimes classes are too fast for me and I can’t keep up. Instructors that are not fat are terrible at developing adaptations for fat bodies. No one talks about how exercise just makes you feel good. Sometimes I get hurt because fat body expertise is not something that trainers learn (Which is totally fucking wild cause the entire world just wants fat people to stop eating and work out – EXCEPT WE ARE NOT WELCOME). So a big hearty fat babe fuck that to fucking hell, fer fucks sakes is clearly in order.
Gyms are not for everyone (even though they damn well should be). Saying that they are just invisibilizes all of the bodies that don’t easily fit into the perception of gym culture. And that invisibility means that these spaces don’t take us into account. And really, they don’t take a lot of bodies into account. Queer bodies, Disabled bodies, Trans bodies, BIPOC bodies, femme bodies – None of us are centered at the gym. Not surprisingly because gym culture is just a more intense and like, steroid addled version of the fat hating, body shaming, cis normative, white supremacist world we live in. It sucks because moving our bodies in a way that feels good, that tires us out, that makes us sweat is a sweet sweet gift we give ourselves.
And this is where I have found myself recently – a kind of pissed off fattie that works out at a gym that doesn’t quite meet my needs. And if that is true for me – a privileged, albeit fat as all get out, white, cis, mostly able bodied woman then I feel super confident in saying that there are a bunch of us who are feeling a certain type of way.
But babes, What if the lie wasn’t a lie? What if gyms actually were for everyone?
What if they were spaces that warmly welcomes all bodies, but especially bodies that are not privileged in regular gym culture? A place where the locker room talk is never about how much we hate ourselves. Where exercise goals are not linked to weight loss, but to strength, endurance, having fun, sweating. Movement for the sake of movement. Nothing more. Where getting a milkshake after a work out is as celebrated as a protein shake. Where I learn to dead lift without feeling shitty about being fat, and where my fat body is honoured for being able to move serious poundage! Where the pictures on the wall are of us – fat babes getting sweaty together, dancing, lifting weights, running, lunging. And where the staff step into things with you, where they work to ensure the most welcoming, body positive, diet-free, unintimidating, fun, goddamn workout of your life. I would so fucking totally go there.
Now, every time I work out, I spend a significant chunk of my time fantasizing about a gym for fat babes, for all bodies. Look, not every fantasy can be a throw down, hot for teacher scenario, ok?
I have a friend who loves to say ‘mass moves mass, baby’ about her fat babe workouts, and maybe she is right. Maybe if we demand that our bodies be honoured in the gym. Maybe if we refuse to let gym culture mess with our chance to move our bodies. Maybe if we hip check ourselves into position in front of a mirror with some weight to lift. Maybe we can get there together.
Hell, who knows? Maybe I will open a fucking gym. Its not like I’m doing anything else.