Category Archives: fat shaming

What I Think About While I’m Biking (Hint: Not you!)

I have been biking quite a lot recently. I try to get out at least 3-5 times a week. I have even biked to work, although I do not do that often. I’m often hot and sweaty after I get there and the ride home, while primarily downhill, is mostly on city streets and is kind of brutal and scary.

A few months ago, a friend of mine, or maybe someone I know only slightly posted this meme oh Facebook:

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I think the person was trying to be encouraging by showing how judgy they are not by posting a meme on Facebook. I was slightly offended by it and became more so the more I thought about it. I’m not upset with the person, just the idea. The idea that there are good fat people, those who exercise or do something other people deem to be healthy. And bad fat people. To me, this is just another form of fat shaming.

The idea that my health, my appearance somehow belongs to other people is offensive to me. If I do what you think is the right thing, I’m worthy of praise, and if I do not, I deserve derision.

Now that I am biking myself, I’m here to tell you that while I’m biking, none of that matters. Here’s the secret. Fat people bike for the same reasons skinny people bike…because they love it. Yes, it is exercise and helps to build muscle mass and burn calories, but that is not my primary motivation.

So I thought I’d share some of the things I actually think about while I’m biking. (hint: those thoughts have nothing to do with you or what I think you think I look like!)

  1. Balance! Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! Whoa Whoa! Don’t fall! Don’t fall!
  2. I put my feet not the pedals! Whoo hoo!
  3. OK, pedal, pedal! Don’t fall!
  4. I’m biking! I’m biking!
  5. OK get to bike trail…
  6. Big hill! It’s downhill, you can do this!
  7. Holy crap here comes a car! It’s OK! It’s OK! They’ll go around me.
  8. Whew, they went around me. Catastrophe averted.
  9. I made it to the bike trail! OMG, it’s uphill! At least it will be downhill on the way back.
  10. On the way back: How can the bike trail possibly be uphill in both directions?? Seriously? Who designed these trails?
  11. OMG, my legs.
  12. OMG, my butt hurts.
  13. OMG, I cannot breathe.
  14. Just breathe!
  15. OMG, I think a bug flew up my nose!
  16. Now my nose is itchy!
  17. Can’t take hands off handlebars to scratch nose.
  18. I have to scratch my nose.
  19. Scratches nose. Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! Don’t fall!
  20. Making bike trail part of the sidewalk…not a good idea!
  21. Case in point…who decided to put a lamppost in the middle of the bike trail/sidewalk? WTF? img_1858
  22. Bike around lamppost by railing and risk running into the railing and possibly tumbling down the embankment and into the creek? Or bike around lamppost street-side and risk tumbling into traffic? Nice.
  23. Preparing to bike up a short, but sharp hill. I can do this. I can do this. Uh oh, someone is coming downhill fast in my lane! He’s not looking up. Look up, look up look up! “Hey, look up! Coming towards you!”
  24. He moved, thank God.
  25. Lost momentum. Great, now I have to walk up the hill.
  26. OMG, I didn’t know I could sweat this much.
  27. Family with kids, “I’m on your left!” Please, God, don’t let the kids run out in front of me!
  28. Did the runner I just passed going downhill just pass me as we are going uphill? Holy crap, I’m slow!
  29. When does this get easier?
  30. Does it have to be so hot out?
  31. When does this hill end?
  32. Breathe! Just breathe!
  33. You can do this!
  34. Home at last!
  35. I so totally rock!

I do not think about what other people think I look like. Not at all. I think about safety and the other people I see on the trails. I do not want to put myself or anyone else at risk.

A friend of mine recently asked me that since I live in an urban area and I bike on the streets a lot if cars scare me. The answer is, they terrify me. I have a healthy fear of cars. Every time I have to cross a street or bike on the street, I’m terrified. I know most drivers are cautious and do not want to hit me, but in that moment, all I can think about is trying to avoid being hit. I yield to everyone.

But here’s another secret, I spend most of my time on my bike being terrified. Terrified I’ll fall. Terrified I’ll run into a pedestrian. Terrified of going uphill. Terrified of going down hill. Terrified of going too slow. And terrified of going too fast. Still, I get out there.

So, why do I do it? I do it because I have to. Not because I’m required to, or that the doctor told me I must. I do it because I love it. When I’m on my bike I’m not concerned about what I look like or what anyone else thinks of me. It is the only time I feel free from the judgment of other people; free to just live in the moment. I think that more than anything gets me out there on the trails as often as possible.

I see people of all sizes on the bike trails. Some a much smaller than me, some much bigger. One girl in particular stands out. I saw her this weekend and I think she was biking with her boyfriend. She looked like she was struggling. Still, she was faster than me. The two of them whizzed by me without a problem. I later caught up with them as they had stopped for water. She saw me coming and smiled. She looked just as hot and sweaty as I felt. I smiled back and gave her the biker nod – the nod many bikers have given me. A nod of recognition; of camaraderie; a welcome to the club. I hope she sticks with it and loves it as much as I do.

The Fat Pejorative

You really want to insult a woman? Make her feel like she’s nothing? Let her know that no matter what she’s accomplished in her life, the only thing that matters about her is her outward appearance?

It’s surprisingly easy. Just tell her she’s fat.

Here are a few other ways to cement the idea that she is fat, and therefore not really worthy of any other consideration in life:

  • Question her every time she eats -“Are you eating again?”  “Are you really going to eat that?”  “Should you really be eating that?”  “Try an apple instead.”
  • Giver her unsolicited food or exercise advice.
  • Talk to her only about her weight, the food she eats, whether or not she exercises, or her “health”.
  • Take pictures of her eating and put it on the internet with what you view as funny, albeit mean slogans.

What brought this on today, you ask?

An old high school friend of mine posted this picture of Michelle Obama on Facebook.

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Now, this is not a political blog, and I do not wish to delve into politics here. Certainly, anyone is free to disagree with the president or any politician of any persuasion at any time for any reason. That is a right that is protected by the constitution. This picture is also protected speech, however repugnant it may be.

That said, I was outraged by this picture. The politics of it are inconsequential. What has me angry is the message it sends about women, food, fat, and shame. It says that no matter what a woman has accomplished in her life, that her outward appearance matters more than anything.

She can’t be caught doing anything unattractive, certainly nothing as unattractive as eating. Heaven forbid. That is immediate grounds for mockery of the highest order.

This whole episode has started me thinking about the use of the word “fat” as a pejorative. I cannot tell you the number of times I have been called “fat” as an insult, even during times in my life when I was clearly not fat. And it has clearly had a deleterious effect on my life.

What bothers me now is not how being called fat or being mocked because of food affects me, because I’ve learned more constructive ways of dealing with that. I am worried about the message it sends to young girls. Young girls are bombarded with wildly inappropriate images of unattainable airbrushed beauty. They are sent contradictory messages from the food and diet industries…consume, diet, consume, diet. Eating disorders are on the rise. Childhood obesity is at epidemic levels. All of this worries me.

I have a 6-year-old niece who seemingly knows nothing about food issues apart from her allergies. Here is what she knows. When she’s hungry, she eats. She does not worry about the number of calories in something. She doesn’t worry that it will make her fat. She just eats when she’s hungry. When she’s not, she doesn’t. Furthermore, as far as I can tell she has no self-esteem issues whatsoever. This is the kind of life and self-image I want for all girls.

I never want to see her change. In fact, I do not ever want any girl to ever go through what I have been through. It makes me sick to think that society will push her into obsessing over food, what she eats, how much and how often, and basing her value solely on her appearance.

I can assure you, it is no way to live. Mocking pictures like the one above, only perpetuates the notion that eating and being fat are the worst possible crimes a woman can commit.

Until we change that notion, being fat can and will always be used as a pejorative to bring and keep women down by people who are not smart enough to disagree with you more intelligently. We need to recognize that food is for nourishment and everybody eats. We need to recognize obesity as a medical condition and treat it as such. We need to recognize that women have value because they are people and as such deserve respect.

But mostly, We need to stop giving the trolls the power to control how we see ourselves by using fat as a pejorative. That is truly the only way things will change for young girls in the future.

An Open Letter to Fat-Shaming ND Woman

Dear Fat-Shaming ND Woman,

I understand your concern about the health of American children and childhood obesity.  I understand that you feel you need to take a stand on a holiday that is all about the candy.  Having struggled with obesity all of my life, I really wish that I had learned and appreciated the benefits of healthy eating and the dangers of fat, sugar, and salt earlier in my life.  I disagree, however, with your fat-shaming tactic.

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Handing out candy to some children, the thinner, and in your estimation, more deserving children while handing out fat-shaming letters to children you alone determine are carrying a bit too much weight, is absolutely disgraceful.  You should be ashamed of yourself.  Does it make you feel better about yourself to pick on children you view as moderately obese?   What have they done to earn your ire?  I have to wonder what is wrong with a person who has to make themselves feel superior by picking on children?

I think it would be one thing if you refused to hand out candy to all of the children, but by choosing to hand it out to some and not to others because they are what you view as moderately obese, is wrong.  Are you a medical professional?  Are you a nutritionist?

It is people like you who have gone out of their way to make me feel bad about myself my entire life.  Don’t you think that overweight children feel badly enough about themselves without being singled out by you?

You do not know a particular child’s situation.  Maybe the child you view as obese has another medical problem and candy has nothing to do with it. Maybe they will simply grow out of it.  Maybe that child has recently lost weight and their parents are trying to teach them to be responsible about candy and other treats.  Having the treats around and learning eat them sparingly and in moderation is a good lesson to learn.  Who are you to try to supersede a decision a parent might make about their child?

There are many ways to attack childhood obesity without attacking the child or their family.  I will give you some positive suggestions that can encourage good food behavior instead of attacking children with your divisive fat-shaming letter.

  • Do not hand out candy at all.  Keep your door shut and do not give candy to any kids.
  • Work with a local farmers market to hand out a coupon for a piece of fruit.  You pay for the coupons and hand them out to kids in lieu of candy.
  • Hand out silly, cheap toys instead.  Buy a big bag of plastic spiders or something.
  • Hand out tiny boxes of raisins.
  • Hand out pencils.
  • Hand out erasers in fun shapes.
  • Hand out Playdoh.
  • Hand out glow in the dark sticks – kids love these!
  • Hand out balloons.
  • Hand out fun cards with puzzles or pictures that they can color in.
  • Hand out crayons.

You can do any number of things that does not involve handing out candy laden with sugar and fat, and does not include a fat-shaming letter.  You can then feel secure that you are doing your part to combat childhood obesity by not handing out fattening treats.  You will also have the added benefit of not being viewed as an evil, horrible, judgemental, self-righteous witch that the village now wants to burn at the stake.

Happy Halloween!

Sincerely,

The Skinny Girl Inside.