On Being an F.A. Missionary

When I first started training, I had the goal in mind of being ready (and able) to join a boot camp program when we move this summer. I saw it as a step toward my athletic goals.

The things I’ve learned between then and now, about myself and about FA and HAES are amazing.

The thing about learning and growing: sometimes it makes something that might have been easy two months ago more complicated.

If I decide to take part in this boot camp program, I have to step out of my own comfort zone and carve out a place for myself in a situation where I have to risk not only being triggered, but also (the reason we all hate leaving our comfort zones, right?) being uncomfortable.

On the flip side, putting myself in a vulnerable, visible position might encourage people to talk to me and ask me questions about what I’m doing.

And if they’re asking questions, it’s a good bet that they’re listening. And if they’re listening they can learn. Just like me.

Kaia F.I.T. is a women’s only functional training program in Northern Nevada and some areas of California. (WARNING: The video below has mention of weight loss.)

Basically, you sign up for 6 week blocks where you meet up for an hour a day and do interval training. They also have a running program. I mentioned Kaia F.I.T. the other day and someone posted a really thoughtful comment about how joining a boot camp might be triggering, especially because I struggle with wanting to weigh myself.

And they’re right. It might trigger me. Joining a program where one big way they measure success is with the size of my body is sure to, actually, on some level.

But is there a time when it’s okay to risk being triggered in order to put yourself in a position of possibly bringing about even a small amount of change? When you’re fighting for change, can you isolate yourself from triggers entirely?

I called and spoke to a woman who is part of the program and she spent some time answering my questions. She said that the program usually weighs and measures you three times every six weeks, beginning, middle and end. When I asked if there would be a problem with me choosing not to measure my progress this way, she said “absolutely not.” She didn’t seem to think I’d lost my mind or anything, which is a good sign.

Weighing myself is something that’s hard for me. In fact, of all the triggery things involved with joining a program like this, the weighing and measuring is my most triggery. However, I’m already triggered in this way by going to a gym that has scales in every bathroom and having a tape measure in my house.

I’m going to have to find a way to be athletic in a world that equates success with reduced body size, no matter what. I went a year without even thinking about weighing myself before two months ago, but I spent that year in my house or at my job.

I can’t live totally isolated from every scale and every mention of weight loss in the world without limiting my participation in the things I want to do. It’s access to a scale and talk of weight loss that triggers me. Maybe training without daily or almost daily access to a bathroom scale would be less triggering to me than my current situation.

I asked if there is a lot of encouragement during the workout to “feel the burn” or “burn those calories, ladies” and she said that most of the women who are there want to lose weight, and that the trainers do stay upbeat (her word) and try to push you a little harder. I tried to pin her down on whether the push was to work harder or to burn more, and was not entirely successful.

I finally asked whether someone who was there to train athletically and didn’t want to focus on weight loss, even though the trainers might assume they needed to do just that, would be comfortable in the program. If I told a trainer that I don’t want to be encouraged to lose weight, would my request be respected? She said yes, it would. Again, she didn’t sound like she thought I’d lost my mind, even when I told her how much I weigh.

The Kaia F.I.T. program also offers a “nutritional plan”, encourages a one week detox at the start and another week at the end of every six week block, and access to a nutritional expert (the woman I spoke with said she wasn’t sure if the expert was a certified nutritionist, but that she had a college degree in nutrition.)

This, I think, would be more triggering for some people than just about any other aspect of the program. And this is what made me think about the idea of sort of infiltrating a lose-weight arena, because diets don’t trigger me as much as they might someone else. I won’t look at the diet and be tempted to follow it to the detriment of intuitive eating.

The woman I spoke with said that “clean” eating is encouraged. I told her that I’d done a lot of work on learning to eat intuitively and that the detox weeks or following any kind of a diet would not be something I’m willing to do. She said that was fine and that I wouldn’t be the only one.

If you have the opportunity to join a community where most of the people don’t know the message that means so much to you, do you do it? What if that community is offering something you need to meet your goals? I’m not likely to find any kind of training program with adult women in it where weight loss is not somewhere in the picture.

But maybe I can make space for myself in one that isn’t filled with people who already agree with me, and in the process spread the word about FA and HAES and what it means to be a defiant athlete. (That makes me sound like a FA missionary, doesn’t it?)

To be honest, I’m a little scared. Judging by the pictures I’ve seen, while the group seems diverse in age and shape, I will be the largest woman by quite a lot. I’m also not good at confrontation. It freaks me out and makes me want to cry. What if I show up, and people are mean to me when I say I don’t want to be weighed or look at me like I’m crazy when I say I’m not there to lose weight?

It would be easier to stay home, to keep walking by myself at the gym or in my neighborhood, to find my camaraderie here, with you. But is that what’s best? If my personal set of triggers/hang ups/healing wounds are such that this kind of group won’t damage me—or at least that the risk of damage is worth taking for me–maybe I can find a space there. Maybe a teaching space.

The woman I spoke to said that when we go to Carson City next month for a few days, I can come to a couple of training sessions. I’m going to do it. I am going to test drive being a F.A. missionary.



Filed under body, mind, spirit

17 responses to “On Being an F.A. Missionary

  1. fatwaitress

    I’m not sure if you are familiar with it but this seems to be very similar to Cross fit, which is for men and women with the same idea. I looked into them after my friend joined because everything she told me made it seem kind of obsessive and wasn’t really inviting to people of all bodies, its boot camp mentality. They have a wiki page if you wanted to look at it, and their website has a ton of resources. I did notice that the women who started this has some affiliation with CF.

    I do hope it works out for you though, I think group fitness classes are great when they use motivation to keep people going. It just always worries me that it will be an environment that spreads body hatred.

    • Eek…CrossFit looks scary. I think Kaia FIT is at least far more woman friendly. I think that a lot of the participants are women who are not starting at super fit levels. I will report on my trial session.

  2. Kate

    Trigger warning, talk of body weight and diet days

    Good luck! I did a boot camp over 15 years ago and I loved it. That was back in my dieting days, so at the time losing weight was my goal and when I first went in, they did all the weighing and measuring stuff. One of the things I most remember is that trainer gave me an appropriate goal weight of 185, which was a shockingly high number for me to hear, and 75 lbs more than Weight Watchers had told me was an appropriate weight for my height. The trainer basically said that I don’t have a body type to be really slender. It was the first time I was ever told that not being 110 lbs was okay. That was the only time my weight was brought up, otherwise it was about the work.

    I just loved the workouts and the other women in the group. I hope you have a great experience, I can’t wait to hear about it.

  3. The questions you ask are all valid ones. The fear of being triggered can lead some to ignore opportunities, just as setting boundaries can help us heal from past harm. In the end, each person has to decide as an individual what they can handle and whether the risk is worth the potential gain.

    It sounds like you’ve done a good job of assessing the potential for triggering in this program for you. If you go forward, you have an idea of what is likely to be hardest for you to deal with, and you have the information that you can bow out of the parts you feel will do you more harm than good. That’s important.

    So if you feel up to it, then I say being an FA ambassador is a valuable thing. It may be more valuable than you know to someone who may have joined the program for all the wrong reasons.

    The thing I keep saying about FA is that we’re water on stone. One drop of water doesn’t do much to the stone, but drop after drop after drop we wear it down, and one day the stone has a big hole in it. Why? Because enough drops hit it over time. As long as we are the water and not the stone, we will inevitably change the perception of the world.

    To do that, we sometimes have to go well out of our comfort zones. Like you, I hate confrontation… but I have faced it for FA and I will face it again. It’s what I have to do. It’s not something everyone can do, and we all have times when we just can’t, but as long as enough of us keep facing our own demons, we will keep breaking down the stereotypes. We will educate people. And one day people will live in a world where size is just size.

    Best of luck!

  4. I basically agree with everything Twistie says, and I think it’s appropriate and commendable that you are thinking about it so thoroughly.

    “I’m not likely to find any kind of training program with adult women in it where weight loss is not somewhere in the picture.”

    True that. I’ve mentioned before that I’ve yet to find a yoga class that’s totally absent of weight-loss talk.

    Since you have a social work background, you are probably are familiar with the concept of “safety planning.” I think it’s a useful construct to use for anyone going into a situation in which she might feel victimized or even just really upset. What will you do if someone asks you why you aren’t being weighed? How your detox is going? Why you’re there if you don’t want to lose weight? Work through the potential scenarios and decide how you will respond to them. And remember you have the safe space of this blog for reinforcement and support. I think that’s key, too.

    I would never, ever in a million years do a boot-camp-style program … but I totally support your right to choose the training path that’s right for you and I’m behind you 100%.

  5. Lili

    Knowing what your triggers are is half the work ! It is scary but for me triggers are more dangerous when they sneak up on you.
    What Works For Me when I know that I am gonna get triggered (I am a recovered bulimic so triggers are a-plenty … ) is to make sure to go other FA 101 stuff very frequently, like Kate Harding’s diet’s don’t work, expose myself as much as I can to body positive resources like Fatshionista and various FA Tumblr ( Surprisingly or not fat unicorns works wonderfully for me 😀 ) and work hard at avoiding spending Sanity Points elsewhere.
    I find that for me one big trigger usually is not so very hard to deal with and can be dismissed with a healthy Fuck That Shit attitude but a constellation of small triggers will bring me down if I am not careful .

  6. The women in the video all look fairly slim. I didn’t see anyone who looked anywhere near “obese” [please insert your own defintion here, I don’t want to impose a physique or a number on this word]. I don’t know how I’d feel about going into such a programme if I looked significantly different from the norm.

    However, if this is something that you want to do and you feel that you have the mental strength to not be derailed by the weight loss=good health mindset, I say go for it! People of all sizes can and deserve to be fit, if that’s their goal.

    • Dee

      NewMe, not to be too didactic, but “Obese” actually does have a definition. It’s a medical term. It means having a BMI over 30. At 5′-4″ tall, that’s 180 pounds and over. And yeah, there were some women in the video who looked like they probably meet the definition.

      But, Shaunta’s is, I think, bigger than the women shown in the videos and it would be really brave of her to take that on. I understand the attraction of it. It’s a physical challenge, and bringing firm and open support for HAES into it would a challenge as well.

    • It isn’t only about deserving to be fit. If I can carve a space for myself in this place, maybe others will see that they can do the same thing.

  7. Alexie

    You might be surprised at yourself – when you’re armed with knowledge, it’s much harder to be swayed by what’s going on around you. When anybody around me talks about ‘detox’ I just roll my eyes and stay silent. I can’t be bothered explaining how bogus the whole idea is – but it also means that no matter how many people talk about it constantly and suggest doing it, or talk about themselves doing it, I just don’t care and I will not do anything ‘detoxy’ for anything.

    You might also find that far from dissing you, people are really attracted by your confidence in yourself. The other thing is, most people who are pushing themselves are thinking about themselves, not anybody else. They may not give you a second glance!

    Go and do it!

  8. chutti

    This is a really brave and good thing you are doing here. The video definitely made me a bit nervous, especially after reading comments about the CrossFit connection. Hubby has a very fit 30 yr old friend who is deep into some “caveman diet” with his CrossFit buddies that sounds very scary. Most of our attempts to talk with him about this have glanced off his radar, and he is a really smart guy.

    I’m really impressed that you want to take this on, and am using you for inspiration as I know I’ll be looking for a new place to swim when we move in a few months. I’ve had some limited success talking to instructors after class and asking them to tone down any comments about burning calories and losing weight. Once they have seen me in class as working their physical program, they seem more open to dialogue. I’m also well supported by working out with a lot of older retired women who have lost a lot of their traditional vanity. Besides, it really helps me to have someone in her 80’s kickin’ my a**. I want to be her when I grow up!

    I’m hoping you’ll be sharing your experience here with us. Have you thought about how these dialogs will fit into your academic work? I’d be thrilled to have a targeted resource I could call on when I am trying to explain why I’m not participating in things like “juice cleanse” or “food journals”.
    You seem to have hit on something really useful and important here.
    Thanks for putting it out there.

    • I think one of the trainers has been trained in Crossfit, but it doesn’t seem to me from my research that the whole program is anything like Crossfit. But I’ll find out for sure next month.

      There are women in their 80s at my gym that I want to be when I grow up, too!

      I think constantly about how I want to incorporate the conversations that happen here into my academic study. I’m a little overwhelmed by all the information and thinking about how I want to put it all into one resource. I’m taking the next semester off of school, so I have time to think about it.

  9. Seems to me that putting yourself into a non-FA environment like that is strength training of another sort, emotional/mental rather than physical – not everyone can do it (and that’s OK), not everyone wants to do it (also OK), and different folks might take a longer or shorter time to build up to it.

    And, what Twistie said. It’s good and necessary for those of us who can and are willing, to be present and visible in the non-FA world, because when none of us are visible, it’s too easy for us to be ignored. (That sounded good in my head, but when I type it out, it’s pretty much tautological. Or maybe that’s just from how culturally-endemic bigotry is; what should be so evident that it goes without saying isn’t and doesn’t, and must be explicated.)


  10. Pingback: FA Missionary Revisted | Live Once, Juicy

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