I’m a big fan of exercise. I love to feel my body move and sweat, the power in my legs as I jump, squat, and run, and my muscles working to support my body. There is no better feeling than collapsing onto the floor after a super intense but super fun workout. I exercise every day – some days it may be yoga or Pilates, but I love to move my body.
Unfortunately, in a society such as ours, exercise seems to be synonymous with being skinny. I am fit, but I am also fat. I am a size 12-14, and I have a belly and a very large butt. My thighs rub together and my arms will always squish against my side, despite all my efforts to make them look smaller. As I wait outside the studio for a group fitness class, you would walk past me and most probably assume I am “beginning my fitness journey”, to quote every gym instructor ever.
This morning I took a combat class with an instructor I’d never seen before. He’s a “Master Trainer”, i.e. he trains other instructors, and he pushed us hard. I was loving it, punching and kicking my way through, until I heard him yell:
“Your body is a direct reflection of your self-discipline!”
“Punch harder, get smaller! Fat is unhappy!”
My movements became smaller and less intense as I mulled over his words in my head, then became more powerful as I started to get angry and imagine his face with every roundhouse kick.
That is not ok. A small body does not mean that your self-discipline is perfect, and my muffin top does not mean that I lack discipline. Also, what is discipline? If it involves disordered eating and turning down experiences in favour of an extra workout or two, I’m happy not to have it. Furthermore, is there any sort of consideration for some of the issues that people in the class could have? For people that have an unhealthy relationship with their body, food, or exercise, a statement like this is reinforcing that self hatred, and crazy triggering if you have an eating disorder!!
As an aside, would he have any idea how difficult it is to juggle a condition like type 1 diabetes with exercise?! The fine balance of maintaining a blood sugar level that is not too high (so your workout is hard and/or harmful) or low (so you don’t pass out) is a never ending challenge, one that all of us are constantly refining. The lows that you sometimes cannot avoid mean that although the calories I’ve burnt in a workout may be redundant, my fitness is still improving every time. I look fat, but I’m fit as hell. My fat means that hypos follow me around, but it also means that I go out for dinner with friends, I sit around a table with my family and laugh, and I eat intuitively and naturally. I could show you my perfect blood work, but why should I need to?
You cannot tell my level of fitness, my diet, or my relationship with my body simply by looking at me and evaluating the amount of fat peeking over my leggings.
I finished the class, taking inspiration from the multitude of different body shapes around me. Thin women, fat women, muscly women, gangly women, curvy women – all there to get fit, have fun, and get endorphins pumping.
Go screw yourself, fat shaming instructor. Our bodies do not reflect discipline, the only thing they show is our humanity.