I’m aware that our thin-no-matter-what culture has negative effects that go well beyond the fat community. Still, some days I have moments when I’m struck with a blinding flash of the obvious about just how bad it can be.
I was at the gym doing leg presses with 470 pounds on the rack. While I was working two women walked up and decided to wait for the machine. They were both thin, college age. They are apparently bartenders (which is weird because this same thing came up last week in another conversation) and one of the women was telling the other that a customer was getting rowdy last night and she couldn’t find anyone to help her, and that she was often really scared when customers get drunk and disorderly because she could “barely lift a pint, let alone fend off a big guy”.
I finished my last set and hopped off. As they came over she said “wow, that’s a lot of weight” (not in a complimentary way). I asked them how much weight they wanted me to to rack. She requested that I remove all of the weight. As I cleared my side, she was still struggling with one of the 45lb plates. We finally cleared it and she said she wanted to rack 20lbs. I picked up a 20 to put on one side and she said no, she meant 20 altogether, 10 on each side.
As I walked away she commented to her friend “See, that’s what I mean about not lifting heavy weights so you don’t bulk up”.
And that was the blinding flash of the obvious. This woman was so afraid of looking like me, of being fat, that she was willing to sacrifice her sense of personal safety and strength.
First let’s be clear: I believe that nobody deserves violence, if someone attacks you it is their fault and whether or not you can protect yourself has nothing to do with the fact that they are 100% wrong. This is not a blame the victim situation.
What I am saying is that this woman has concerns for her physical safety every day at work, and from what she said it sounds like the only reason she is not addressing those concerns by becoming stronger might be the (completely irrational*) fear that she might look fat.
*Completely irrational: She is small framed and just as no amount of dieting could make me look like her, no amount of weight lifting could make her look like me. (Especially since I am a combination of a lot of muscle and a lot of fat). Even if she did steroids I think she would end up looking like a strong little dude and not at all like me.
It also made me wonder how much the popular photoshop removal of muscles (creating that oh-so-realistic “I’m Gumby Dammit” look) makes women afraid of having visible strength.
I have to say that one of my favorite things about being me is my strength. I can always lift whatever I need and I’m never physically intimidated. I have the calm awareness that I can handle myself in almost every physical situation. I can open my own jars. That’s not to say my experience will be anyone else’s experience or that every should be like me. It’s just that to deny yourself the option because of an irrational fear of being fat seems like a shame to me.