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I’m not here for your thinspiration

January 13, 2015

Fat HealthExerciseMy Boring-Ass Life

Trigger warning: Discussion of exercising.

Oh the campus gym … what an interesting place for people watching.

I debated whether or not to blog about this, but part of me feels like it’s important to call attention to things when I can. My ambivalence really revolves around the impact this could have on someone who is already uneasy using the gym … in the end, I think the tl;dr message is akin to Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” (here’s the video and since it’s not captioned, here are the lyrics … I really wish people would realize that D/deaf people like music too!).

Anyhow, going to the campus gym with my scooter involves planning (but hey, because of the scooter, it can actually happen, so yay!). I’ve started changing in a spare office space at work as the locker room is that delightful level of barely-accessible that really isn’t accessible in reality.  So I leave the administration building donning yoga pants and my PhD department shirt (wicking fabric + kinesiology department pride = yay!) and zip to the rec center.

The check-in staff no longer look at me funny when I come in on the scooter, so I head to the recumbent bikes. Say NoBecause of a comment card I left a few years ago, they’ve put the recumbent bikes in a spot that a wheelchair or scooter user could park and bike. I park, get settled with my tunes and the game I’m going to play while biking (light workout day, as I have a cold and want to take it easy — plus the semester is over, so I don’t have to read and bike). Lords of Acid Pandora station rocking with a random game of Evil Apples … fun ride.

About 10 minutes in, a young, thin woman (traditionally-aged college student) sits down at the bike next to me. I don’t think anything of it as I’m a pretty seasoned gym rat with about 15 years of gym-going experience. I’m also a big fan of “my workout, my business.” In between rounds of Evil Apples, I notice out of the corner of my eye that every minute or so she’s staring at me and pedaling intensely. Every time her RPM goes down, she blatantly stares at me and pedals faster. When I up the resistance on my bike, so does she.  If I pedal faster (I tend to pedal by music beats unconsciously), she pedals even faster.

I stifle a giggle.  Holy shit, she’s using me as real life thinspo! WTF?! My fat crippled body is her reason for working out! She sees my scooter and assumes that I’m gimpy because I’m fat!

Once I get over the ridiculousness of the situation (I’ve never had anyone stare at my while I was working out … ever), I wonder what’s going on in her head. I think about how schools are teaching kids to be afraid of being or getting fat. I wonder if she’s a freshman and has gained the “freshman 15” and is afraid to go home for fear of ridicule from her family. I think about the different ways that shape our future adults’ beliefs about bodies and physical activity, and how those beliefs are impacting the people who will become our doctors, physical therapists, nurses, and researchers.

I think she eventually noticed that I saw her staring as she got off the bike and cleaned it in a hurry. I shook my head at the ridiculousness and kept on pedaling.

The title of this post was inspired by Stella Young‘s TED Talk entitled “I’m not your inspiration, thank you very much.” She was a disability rights activist, journalist, and comedian who recently passed away and will be sorely missed for her funny and poignant insights.

Casey Sig

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11 Comments leave one →
  1. Stacy permalink
    January 13, 2015 10:35 pm

    “I think about the different ways that shape our future adults’ beliefs about bodies and physical activity, and how those beliefs are impacting the people who will become our doctors, physical therapists, nurses, and researchers.”

    That’s going to me up at night. What is being created today is the most weight bigoted and fatphobic generation that we’ve ever seen. And these are the people who will be the decision makers and leaders of tomorrow. THAT is enough to give nightmares.

    • January 14, 2015 9:59 am

      It frightens me too. I proctored an oral exam for my advisor’s undergrad sport/physical activity & social issues class (we talk about sociology, race, class, gender, sexuality, et al) for kinesiology majors…so sports medicine, exercise science, pre-physical therapy….at least half of them thought that obesity was a social problem akin to racism in the US, even after taking that class (and my advisor tries to get them out of that thinking). When I guest lectured, I had trouble getting them to realize that healthism is a bad thing 😦

      • LittleBigGirl permalink
        January 14, 2015 5:18 pm

        They think being fat is as bad as being racist? God that makes my heart (and head) hurt. Never mind the fat phobia that intersects with racism…smdh.

        • Dizzyd permalink
          January 29, 2015 6:48 pm

          It would be cool if by saying that obesity was a social problem akin to racism, they meant that fat hatred was as bad as hating someone, say, for being black or gay or female or what have you, but that’s probably not the case.

          • January 30, 2015 3:27 pm

            It wasn’t, and I wish it was…especially from students wanting to be leaders in fitness 😦

  2. Isabel permalink
    January 13, 2015 10:46 pm

    I think this generation is less fatphobic than mine (gen x). There’s hope!

  3. January 14, 2015 5:01 pm

    It is as if being FAT is the worst thing in the world. It’s the oogaboogadeathfat mantra that our entire culture chants! I’m glad you found the humor in the ridiculousness of that woman’s assumptions.

  4. January 14, 2015 11:37 pm

    Well, I’m glad to read that the scooter is working out for you the way you’d hoped earlier, stitch. Even if the human company around you leaves something to be desired.

  5. Luis permalink
    January 15, 2015 2:05 pm

    BRAVO!!!!

  6. January 24, 2015 6:59 pm

    I don’t see the problem. She was inspired by you. Take it as a compliment. I know you have likely gone through some horrible situations, but don’t let it make something innocuous into something it is not.

    I was at the gym today and was going to stop running, but I was inspired by the super fast guy next to me who wad going 8.8 mph. And guess what? The woman next to me when she ran for a few minutes, put her treadmill on the same speed as mine. That’s the beauty of a gym. We inspire each other.

    You can inspire too!!

    • January 30, 2015 3:43 pm

      Inspiration is a tricky thing sometimes, and there’s a huge difference between what happened & what you are referring to. When I did triathlons, I took a lot of spin classes….as a community, we worked together to push through bad days, tough days, and shared in each other’s good times. That’s awesome. Staring at someone intently, looking disgusted, and not verbally communicating (what happened) is icky. It’s also problematic to use disabled bodies as inspiration porn (the “if the crippled kid can run, what’s your excuse” type crap that circulates the internet)….Stella Young, a wonderful disability activist & comedian that talked & wrote about this pretty extensively, including a TED Talk that is hilarious & informative.

      It’s ok to be inspired by someone in the gym….if someone looks like they’re kicking ass & taking names, tell them that they’re killing it! Just don’t stare or make assumptions, and certainly don’t use a person for this “what’s your excuse” crap that pops up around fitness & disability! I talk about my gym experiences & my fitness adventures to let people know that they aren’t alone in their experience and to know that it’s ok to be different…and that includes recognizing that the gym isn’t all sunshine, roses, & bunny rabbits 🙂

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