Fat Women Can Be Physically Strong

That’s Tristy. Watch her video. I plan to, anytime my confidence or dedication feels at a low ebb.

Know what my favorite part is? The grin on her face every time she lifts something heavy. That’s pure joy. And it isn’t reserved for skinny folks who fit the mold society has marked “athlete.” You don’t have to lift something heavy to feel that way. You can swim further than you thought you could, or walk a little faster, or dance a little harder. It doesn’t matter what you do, but after you’ve done it–that grin. It’s what happens.

Now, you might be thinking–sure, Tristy is a fat athlete. Look how much she can do. But guess what–and this has always been my point: what got her to the point that she can lift all that weight and do all the other things she does in this video is what makes her an athlete. She was an athlete the first time she decided to try lifting weights.

She talks in the video about how she loves her wide  shoulders and big thighs and butt, that there is strength in her big body. That is maybe the most empowering thing I’ve heard in a long time. We aren’t athletes despite our big bodies. There is strength in us. And if we haven’t tapped into its potential yet? Well, it’s there, waiting.

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Filed under body, mind, spirit

11 responses to “Fat Women Can Be Physically Strong

  1. Thank you so much for this amazing post! It made me cry! It took a lot for me to create this video and even more to be brave enough to post it and show the world my body in all its jiggles and curves. And YES! I do smile when I make a good lift! I didn’t even notice that! And when I first started lifting, I was really intimidated. I had never done weight training of any kind. But I was ready to work my body and find my own path to health. I’m so glad I did and that I’m still going and getting stronger every day! Hooray for Defiant Athletes!

  2. Chutti

    Thanks to both of you for sharing this.
    I really appreciate all the work so many are doing to normalize images of fat bodies by putting themselves out there in cyberspace.
    I’ve got issues that preclude my being public online, but this is one of the rare times I was tempted to want to participate in a public way.
    I don’t think I want to see headless fatty swimming and hiking, so I am not going there.

    But the two of you are very much onto something. This is inspiring in a very un-Hallmarky way. It’s great to see you enjoy using your body this way, as well as to hear the guy type comments in the background.

    My mother LOVED to swim when I was a toddler. I’ve been trying to get her in the water for over 15 yrs. She absolutely will not consider wearing a swimsuit or even a more modest garment in public. She’s older and smaller now, but I think topped out around 320. Definitely not the biggest person in any of the pools I frequent. She’s in her 80’s now, so I’ve pretty much given up on getting her comfortable with this.

    Folks like my SisterInLaw, who is at most a size 12 or 14, will not be seen in a bathing suit either. Perhaps the more of this imagery of fats working out we can get out there, the more likely I can get someone like her comfortable enough to get in with her kids. I’ve pretty much given up on converting the older generation, but there’s got to be hope for some free and confident movement for the rest of us.

    I hope we can hammer away at these stereotypes so folks can feel comfortable enough to enjoy moving their bodies in public.
    You’ve made a great start; thanks!

    • Chutti–you have illustrated really well what I tried to say the other day. We each do what we can. You work on getting your family comfortable. That’s something that’s hard for me. I deal with some stigma in my family as the “fat one.” I find it hard to confront them about certain things. I do my best, but it’s not what I’m best at. But I’m comfortable putting myself out there more publicly. If we all do the things that we are comfortable doing, and push ourselves a little in the areas that won’t hurt us, we will get the message out there. I know it.

  3. Chutti

    You’re absolutely right. … Ways and means, ways and means.

    Funny thing is, I’m not the least bit shy about being fat at people in public, whether I know them or not. I’ve had some bad experiences with anonymous and domestic harassment in the past that keep me from being public on teh webs, as well as being in a pretty conservative industry and having an unusual name that makes me imminently searchable. I can’t afford it professionally to have a full out flame of harrassment online.

    So your comments are really helpful. Part of me wants to just get all activist online, but part of me would really regret losing my anonymity.
    At our house, we talk a lot about the curse of social anonymity and how it feeds our poor public discourse, but that is the one area where I am not comfortable sticking my ample neck out.

    Thanks for reminding me that the personal and political are equally valid. Yep. Should’ve remembered that all along. But you two are having so much fun doing this-part of me wants to play in your sandbox!

  4. Patsy Nevins

    I am sorry, Chutti, that if your mother used to love swimming she will not do it anymore. That is so sad that she is missing out. However, I noticed something significant in your comment, especially in light of all the myths & lies which are force-fed to all of us in our culture about fat. Your mother is fat, has been very fat, topped out at 320, as you say, but she is also ‘in her 80’s.’ Even if she is not on board with us & what we are doing, she is doing a bit of fat activism just by being alive, as did my fat mother, who lived to be 85, her fat mother, who lived to be 90, Pattie Thomas’s grandfather, who died at 99 weighing 300 pounds, & so many more of us. “Fat kills” indeed. And good luck reaching your family members & doing your part as you can.

    And thanks for sharing, Shaunta, that is a great image. Tristy, you are amazing. I used to lift weights with my son & have often used dumbbells some, but my cerebral palsy limits how strong I am able to be. My mother was as strong as most men I knew most of her life, fat people are indeed strong.

  5. Chutti

    Oh, Yes. I definitely hear you on my mom. We laugh all the time that she is the only one of her friends who doesn’t have issues with bone density; we’re convinced this is a combination of never having been on a diet and doing all her own housework and gardening. Most of her friends have dieted themselves into poor health, one in particular on what we call the “cokes and smokes” plan.
    I come from a family where the fat women all live to a ripe old age, but the fat men, not too much. Mom has never bought into much of the health scare crap, and I feel really thankful I was never put on any kind of diet as a kid. Her mother was just naturally lean and athletic, and would have LOVED to put me on one.
    Mom has a very extensive sense of what is proper for fat ladies in terms of dress and sports, but not really in other areas. I hated the way I was dressed as a kid-the false modesty was really frustrating. Many was the time I was told what fat girls can’t wear: Her ability to take my pattern for a short halter dress and turn it into a turtleneck maxi is legendary. But in terms of our actual place in the world, she is pretty fearless about being fat. This was QUITE confusing for me as a young adult, I can tell you.

    I now think she feels pretty safe as long as she puts on her approved fatty uniform, but is completely afraid outside her safety zone. I just wish she could enjoy swimming again. I know she’d love it if I could get her to try.
    I’m so lucky to have had fat ladies raising me who mostly felt we could do anything. I’m not at ALL surprised to see them humming along.
    I sure would love to see more examples of these fat forebears reflected in statistics and the general view. I think your folks and mine are likely not that unusual, to tell the truth.

    • My mother was the same way. She had very distinct ideas of what she could wear. She was a betweenie most of my life and maybe just barely a real fat (maybe a size 18 at the biggest) before she got breast cancer. She would not only not have worn a swim suit in public, she would be mortified if I did now. I wish I had grown up with strong, fat women who loved their bodies, mostly because I wish that for her.

    • schmemily

      OMG, me too on the mother with fat-clothing rules; my father is the same way. The REALLY obnoxious thing about my mom’s rules is that they don’t really have any basis in reality. For example, according to her, fat women should wear small patterns to make themselves look smaller, when most advice is the opposite (and also: WHO CARES?). And If I had a nickle for every time I’ve heard, “It’s better to wear clothes that are a little big on you.” Or the word “slenderizing.” *Shudder*

  6. I absolutely adored the video! Thank you so much for sharing, Shaunta and Tristy. You have greatly inspired me. I’m awed by your strength and by the fact that you can do lunges and squats. I’ve always thought that I was too heavy for that.

    I have to add that I have absolutely no problem with wearing a bathing suit in the pool at gym – and I don’t cower under my towel either until I hit the water. I’m somewhere in the 330’s and people just have to deal with it.

    • Hanlie, we’re about the same size. And I’m SO looking forward to swimming when I get moved to Carson City. Nothing will stop me, not even the fear of someone seeing my fat. You’re right. They just have to deal with it.

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