Tag Archives: fitness

Even Skinny Girls Deserve Compassion

As you may or may not know, I began yoga teacher training a few weeks ago. This is part of an ongoing “plan” (I wish it were as organized as a plan) to diversify my income, learn more about yoga, give back to the yoga community I love so dearly, and get way more OkCupid responses (because seriously, dudes go nuts for yoga teachers… they think we’re super bendy.)

It was only on the first day of training that I realized, OMG, I’m going to be teaching beginners…. Somewhere along the line I had let this small fact slip away. I had envisioned myself designing killer sequences and deep, thought-provoking themes. I didn’t so much visualize the part where I’d be teaching people for whom “square hips” doesn’t mean anything, for whom “mountain pose” and “chair pose” are new concepts. Don’t get me wrong, I’m super pumped for the challenge, it’s just a different challenge than the one I’d been planning for in my head.

Part of training is observing other teachers as they teach the beginner sequence. In one such observation, I became supremely focused on one Barbie-like girl in the back who, in full make-up, was seriously struggling. Instead of feeling compassion or observing the teacher’s directions aimed at helping her, I felt a little thrill. It’s embarrassing, but sometimes when I see thin people struggle with exercise, I gloat.

As a non-thin person, I routinely face assumptions about my exercise habits that are patently false, and I’m regularly reminded about how little we can tell about someone’s fitness and wellness just by looking. So, this week for Role/Reboot, I wrote about my own struggle to be a little less judgmental, a little compassionate, and give the same benefit of the doubt to the skinnies as I expect given to to me.


Related Post: Obesity is a problem, so is body-shaming.

Related Post: On wrinkles and love your body day!


Filed under Body Image, Republished!, Sports

Obesity is a problem, yes, so is body-shaming.

This week for Role/Reboot I wrote about Maria Kang (aka “What’s Your Excuse?” fitness mom), this phenomenal piece by a Karen Hitchcock, “Fat City,” and the challenge of holding two seemingly competing ideas in our heads at one time. I contend that obesity-is-a-crisis and body-shaming-is-n0t-helpful are not, actually, competing ideas, but two separate, related problems that need big, multi-faceted solutions.

I really appreciate this comment from the always on point Marianne Cassidy:

Reducing obesity and ending body shaming are not opposing or even parallel goals. They’re the same goal. They want the same things – a healthier, happier population. They can be achieved the same way – by encouraging people to take care of their bodies and giving them the education and resources they need to make informed healthy choices.


Related Post: 1 in 4 women don’t exercise because they’re unhappy with their looks. 

Related Post: Can I have fat pride without throwing thin women under the bus?


Filed under Body Image, Media, Republished!

1 in 4 women don’t exercise because they’re unhappy with their looks

This week for Role/Reboot I went back to basics on body image and exercise. Inspired by the Sports Bra Challenge, I wrote about the damaging and oddly pervasive idea that exercise is only for people that are already fit. 1 in 4 American women don’t exercise because they are unhappy with how they look (in addition to other things they don’t do with the same rationale, like apply for promotions, talk to new people, go to parties)

. This is a thing, and it makes no sense to me. The last time you should feel self-conscious about your body is when you are actively trying to treat it well.

Screenshot_4_11_13_1_50_PMRelated Post: Why is it okay to put 16-year-olds in lingerie ads? It’s really not.

Related Post: Model behavior and a train of thought.


Filed under Body Image, Republished!

With a Cherry on Top

Do you remember that gym I almost joined and then didn’t? Well, I went back.

I’ve been feeling a little lackluster in the exercise department these days, just stuck in a rut and in need of a boost. The gym was offering a free week and I figured that if I wasn’t giving them my money, I could sleep easy despite the damaging “Look Good Naked” messages they were broadcasting.

What they want, what all gyms want, is to sucker you in with a low rate and a good deal, and then sell you on how convenient/luxurious/intense/life-changing it is until you can’t help yourself and you fork over your credit card.

It almost worked. The classes I took were great. The facilities were lux (shampoo and conditioner?). I felt rejuvenated. Muscles I haven’t touched in a while were worked and strengthened. Maybe I could do this, I said to myself. Exercise is important to me, after all, and the convenience is hard to beat. Should I compromise my health and fitness goals to make a political point about body positivity?

Yes, yes I should. On my last free day, I noticed a new promotion in the lobby. It’s a large cardboard display with a cut-out where you can put your face:

Oh hell no. Is this what I’m supposed to want to look like? Is this what I’m sweating and panting and squatting and jogging and hurting for? Should I fantasize about the day when someone will want to cover me in chocolate and put a cherry on my head?

I could write a whole thesis on all the things that are wrong with this image, but I think you know what it would say. It’s a beheaded, naked, high-heeled woman covered in dessert toppings with her legs in the air. Can there be a more egregious conflation of the pursuit of health and the pursuit of being sexually desirable? Also, let’s just note, there is most certainly not a comparable naked dude in a whiskey tumbler.

So yes, it would be awesome to have a gym just a short elevator ride away. But it would not be awesome for my self-esteem to walk by this hot mess of a poster every day. I know that this calculation, of convenience vs. principle, is not going to come out the same for everyone, and that’s just fine. As we’ve discussed, we all make patriarchal bargains based on our values and our needs. This is just one bargain I will not be making. For sure.

Related Post: What is my body for? How Title IX changed my life.

Related Post: “Your body will get the recognition it deserves.” Say what?


Filed under Advertising, Body Image, Gender


So remember my squeaky, sexy, humiliating/empowering march across the gym floor? Remember how I said there was a photographer present? Rest assured, he captured everything.

When I got the link to the Facebook album full of evidence, I cringed. I was in a bar bathroom, and I was sure that what I was about to see documentation of my poor dancing skills, lack of coordination, and unseemly spastic movements.

There’s also the danger, with events like this, of a jarring confrontation with your true image. This is not a Photobooth session, where you can tilt your head just so, add a sepia filter and presto change find the best version of yourself to share with the world. This album is some objective shit, in-the-moment, candid as can be, and you better believe I approached with trepidation.

I skimmed, looking for my tell-tale neon orange t-shirt and found this:

Photo: African American Leadership Council

And I’m like… okay, that’s not too terrible. I don’t look too off beat, too out of step. Obviously, I’ve got nothing on the adorable 5-year-old on the right. But then there’s this:

Photo: African American Leadership Council

And I’m like… oh, hell no. Do I really look like that? I’m never leaning over again. Or wearing that shirt. Or going out in public. And there’s the same child putting me to shame! But then there was this:

Photo: African American Leadership Council

And I’m like… dammmmn, that’s what I was hoping I looked like! This is me, alone in the middle of gym, grooving out. I look ridiculous, but I look healthy and happy and strong.

Related Post: National Love Your Body Day

Related Post: Bikini love


Filed under Body Image, Sports

Sunday Scraps 59

1. WEIGHT: Michelle Obama takes a rare misstep with her support of The Biggest Loser. Ragen Chastain and Virginia Sole-Smith (Beauty Schooled) explain why.

2. KICK: New York Times has a kick-ass interactive graphic mapping the fundraising efforts of kickstarter drives over the last three years. What gets funded, and why?

3. GAY: Comedian Rob Delaney explains where homophobia comes from, and it isn’t pretty.

4. THRONES: My writer crush Emily Nussbaum at The New Yorker covers Game of Thrones in all its nude, violent glory and explains why patriarchy, in Westeros and L.A. both, is what it’s really all about.

5. FOOD: Besides Guy Fieri, have any winners of The Next Food Network Star done squat with their title? NYMag breaks it down.

6. PSYCH: Fabulous, fascinating, chilling article in the New York Times Magazine about recent studies in psychopathy in children. At what age can we detect a future psychopath, what does it mean, and what can we do about it?

Related Post: Sunday 58: Alison Bechdel, boy-free prom, 10 most read books

Related Post: Sunday 57: nudity in Central park, David Brooks on higher ed, child stars


Filed under Body Image, Food, Hollywood, Media, Politics, Really Good Writing by Other People

I Will Not Be Joining Your Gym

This is not the gym I visited, but it is pretty emblematic of the “fitness” attitude that I dislike.

Yesterday, I thought about joining a gym. It’s in my building, group classes, shower access, blah blah blah. I went to investigate and it turns out, I will not be joining this gym. Here’s why:

The scene: The lobby of the swanky-swank, fancy-schmancy gym (or “training gym,” as our tour guide kept emphasizing).

The Characters: Our trainer/guide, equal parts super white teeth and commission-based enthusiasm. Me and my very tall, very leggy, very lean friend. Just a reminder: leggy, lean, and tall are not adjectives used to describe me. 

The trainers asks us about our current exercise habits. I answer truthfully (yoga and elliptical-based cardio). My friend scoffs and confesses that, despite being a former athlete, she hasn’t worked out in a year. He tells her that she “looks like she’s in good shape.”

I should tell you a few things about this gym. The motto is “Look Good Naked.” They have classes like “Pain and Pleasure,” and “ASSolutely ABBulous” (Note: I have no idea why they capitalize the second B). The trainer, in his reiteration of the gym’s training focus, referred to helping clients “achieve a certain aesthetic vision”.

I should say right now that this gym is probably perfect for many people, and more power to them. Many people do work out specifically to “achieve a certain aesthetic vision.” From a use-case perspective, this aesthetic pitch is probably dead-on 85% of the time. But for me, it did nothing but convince me that this is really not a place I want to spend very much time.

I want my body to be healthier and stronger, and I measure that by achievement. Run longer, run faster, do more push-ups, hold hurdler’s pose an extra two breaths. I’m not saying I don’t look in the mirror every once in a while and wonder what life would be like with a body different than the one I have, I do. But then I remind myself that this is the body I’ve got, and it’s actually pretty fucking awesome and I smile and move on with my day.

On a broader note, the comment about “looking like you’re in good shape” drives me up the wall. In one sentence, it encapsulates our general conflation of thinness and fitness. What you mean when you say “You look like you’re in good shape” is “You look thin.” I do not look thin, therefore I do not look like I’m in good shape. This is NOT a criticism of my lovely friend, but criticism of the attitude of the trainer and the gym that the only metric for exercise success is weight and/or waist size. He’s a fitness professional who, presumably, has had some considerable training in exercise and nutrition. He, presumably, is aware that some big people can run 5Ks and some thin people can’t climb a flight of stairs. It’s a measure of his, and probably his employer’s, priorities that the illusion of  fitness (as indicated by dress size) is prioritized over cardiovascular or muscular health.

I did not enroll.

Related Post: Amy is afraid people won’t want her as a running coach because she doesn’t look the way a lot of running coaches look.

Related Post: A yoga studio that bans skinny people? Yeah… no.

Related Post: Don’t take my picture! Come on, you’re at the beach!


Filed under Advertising, Body Image, Sports