Run Fatty Run

My goal is to live authentically and honestly in all aspects of my life.  Today I was reflecting on places where I still live like I have something to prove. I realized that most of them have to do with not living into the stereotypes of fat people.

What started me down this train of thought was being really physically tired and crossing the street.  I started running, even though I was really tired and everyone else in the crosswalk was walking.  because I didn’t want the people in cars who were waiting for me to think that I’m lazy because I’m fat. (This is not full proof – a couple of days ago it inspired a driver to roll down his window and yell “Run Fatty Run”. That inspired me to slow my pace to a crawl until he missed the light, then jog off down the block to my inner monologue cadence of “Wait Jackass Wait.”)

I tend to park as far away from a store as possible.  With my workout schedule I don’t need the exercise, and with my life schedule I could use the extra time that close-in parking would afford me, but I want to make sure that people see me walking so they know that I’m not lazy.

As a dancer I live in constant fear of being “heavy”.  A “heavy” follow is one who expects the lead to hold them up and move  their weight.  As someone who also leads a little, I can tell you that  it has nothing to do with the dancer’s actual weight.  In dancing you can be a 98 pound Mack Truck or a 300 pound Ferrari, it’s all about your technique. Just so you know it’s not entirely in my head -  a very famous master dancer gave a workshop that I attended.  He danced with every student in the class but me.   When I pointed it out to him (gently and in private) he apologized and said “I would have been happy to dance with you, but I have a bad back”.  What with the who now?  I am certain that the other girls in the class exacerbated his back condition far more than I would have, but he had taken one look at me and made a determination.

Most of the time I’m able to live authentically so these are exceptions,  but  I honestly don’t know how I feel about them.  In some ways I think it’s good to buck the stereotype, in other ways it bothers me that these behaviors are more affectation than authenticity which falls outside of the bounds of where I want to live.

I’m not that excited about living in a state of trying to anticipate what people might be wrongly thinking about me and figuring out a way to act that would prevent them from thinking that.

I’m curious if other fatties out there do this too, or if this is just my personal little neurosis?

Margaret Thatcher said “Being powerful is like being a lady.  If you have to say you are, you aren’t.”  Maybe this is like that?  Maybe I have nothing to prove.  Maybe if I just live honestly and authentically people will figure it out. Or maybe these kinds of blatantly non-stereotypical acts are important and help people question their stereotypes about me and people who look like me.  I don’t have the answers, just the questions.

Published in: on March 16, 2011 at 11:40 am  Comments (29)  

29 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. This post speaks to me so much because I do this ALL THE TIME. In the most extreme form, I have it with *breathing* – when I’m walking, or climbing the stairs, I get anxious about people hearing or seeing me breathe heavily (even when I’m not), because then they might think ‘Oh, a fatty who is out of shape!’ Of course, being anxious about that is what makes my breathing more difficult in the first place. As soon as I start thinking about my breath, I have more difficulty breathing (that’s why those meditation exercises never work for me, either). If I don’t worry about it or I’m distracted, I breathe more naturally and as a result am less out of breath when walking quickly or climbing the stairs. Sometimes I wonder if I just get winded from the stairs because I’m so anxious about being an out-of-breath fatty.

    I always walk faster than necessary across a crosswalk, too.

    • I do that too! Also, the interval training that I do is designed to make my body more efficient which means it sweats earlier to keep cool – that’s great for exercise efficiency but I’m worried that in the rest of my life I look like a fatty who sweats over seemingly nothing. Thanks for sharing this, I’m glad that it’s not just me!

      ~Ragen

  2. I *definitely* do this! The breathing heavily thing, I completely identify with that. For me though, where I feel it most is eating in public. I’m notorious for not getting up in time for breakfast, so I’ll often grab something on the way to work… And even though I’m famished, I’ll wait til I’m alone/unobserved to eat it. So people don’t think “fatty can’t resist stuffing her face”.

    Also, I always order salad with things when I eat out even though I rarely actually eat it (I’m just not a fan of it)… So the waiter doesn’t think I eat badly. It’s somewhat shaming to admit that, actually…

  3. Interesting post, as ever.

    I have to say, when I was younger, I used to try to keep up with thinner people when we were walking together, even though it might have been painful to do so, which in some respects is like your running on the crosswalk or parking further out. Nowadays, if the people I’m walking with don’t moderate their pace to match mine, I simply think they’re rude, if I even think about them at all. I usually just walk.

    There’s a lot of peace to be had in just doing one’s own thing, regardless.

    Although having said that, I appreciate what you’re doing with challenging stereotypes, and especially your reaction to the jackass in the car. :)

  4. I’ve never consciously thought of this! I feel the same when I stick a treat in my grocery cart. Do the people around me think, “Oh Fatty needs a bag of Oreos?” I think it when my rheumatoid-like arthritis acts up and it hurts to go up and down the stairs. In fact, I even think it about myself, even though I know on most days I can fly up and down (albeit while winded because I’m not in the best shape!) but on days when it’s bad it really hurts!

    I just concluded that I worry entirely too much about what people think about me. And need to work on that!

    xo Susie

  5. I get what you are saying. This could be true for someone who is “fat” or someone who is “blonde”. I appreciate your insight on this topic, I think you nailed it.

  6. At times I do become self conscious…like when I’m dancing with my best friend who is a lot thinner than I am (and she is a better dancer– she inspires me so much!). When I’m eating out I also become self conscious.
    What I try to remember is what other people think of me is none of my business. I’m not a mind reader. I don’t really know what the person waiting at the stoplight is thinking (more than likely they’re thinking about something else entirely). When I go to the pool I just remember that every other woman (and some of the men) are more focused on their own self consciousness about what everyone thinks about how they look to really be paying attention to the fattie wearing the uber cute plaid two piece swimsuit.
    I also know that walking with good posture, confidence, and a smile make a huge difference in how I’m perceived so I try to do that as well. Am I breaking any stereotypes? I don’t know. I’m more focused on living my life.

  7. Can’t help but put my two cents in. This may be cold comfort, or no comfort at all, but I am not “overweight” by any measure but I am most definitely self-conscious about appearing out of breath in public and eating in public. I also “sneak-eat” and never let my husband or my colleagues see me eat a cookie or chocolate bar lest they think me gluttonous or unhealthy.

    I always thought is was a woman thing not necessarily a weight thing. I read this blog because it helps me with self-acceptance; maybe I need to make a conscious effort to curb the sneak-eating- it can’t be healthy.

  8. I’ve never been anything approaching the definition of “ladylike”, and if anyone ever described me as “graceful” it would usually follow with “like a brick”. With the exception of a few hardcore partying years in my teens, I have always been…fat. And I have ALWAYS overcompensated by acting extra tough. Yes, I am significantly stronger than the average skinny chick, and I can physically out-do most women that match my build and stature (if not my weight). But it always seems like I’m going out of my way to PROVE that even though I am a fatty, I can totally take you- and you- and you- and hey over there! Yeah you!

    I also avoid eating in public if I can, and I’m always “on a diet” when I have to. I order half-orders, insist on sharing, and on the chance that I actually do order dessert, I take tiny bites and leave most of it on my plate so people don’t think I’m a pig.

    It takes a lot of energy to haul this carcass of mine from A-B, and I hate feeling like I have to justify my behavior and eating habits to strangers so they don’t judge me. It’s depressing.

    “Underneath this Fat Suit is just another Fatty trying to feel good about herself”

  9. I had one of these days yesterday! Usually I try not to worry about it, but yesterday I wasn’t feeling completely well. My son has an obsession with elevators. When I say obsession I mean OBSESSION, lol! He even has a scrapbook of elevators he’s been in recently, elevator facts, and all that fun stuff, which is really fun. This also means that when we go someplace like the mall, it means we have to ride in at least 1 or 2 elevators even if we don’t need to go to a different floor. We went to the mall yesterday for a short trip we were in a department store and we were trying to find the elevator. We ended up having to ask one of the employees where it was. I had a moment of instant panic when we did so, that the guy (who was super helpful btw) was thinking, “Oh look at those fatties who are too lazy to even take the escalators that are right there!” I almost explained to the man why we needed the elevator and had to stop myself. I wasn’t being a “bad fatty” I was being a good mom.

    I’ll admit though that the only reason I park further out is actually out of laziness because I don’t have the patience to look around for a closer spot.

    • Your son is probably too young for it, but you might be interested in the novel The Intuitionist by Colson Whitehead. It’s about intrigue in the Department of Elevator Inspectors.

  10. As much as we’d rather not be, we’re all concerned with how people see us, and we all have behaviors that are based entirely on how we want people to see us, whether we’re aware of it or not. When I identify a behavior like this, I examine it to see if it has any other benefit; if not, I try to break the habit. It doesn’t always work, but I try.

    I do love what you did to that guy in the crosswalk. He needed to be taught some manners. You had no obligation to hurry through the crosswalk, and he was making fun of you for doing so; it seems to me he shot himself in the foot, there. I tend to hurry through crosswalks to show gratitude to the people who actually bother to stop!

  11. I’m too old to worry about stereotypes or to even care if people think I’m a stereotypical fatty anymore. I’m disabled and use a mobility cart when I’m shopping and I could care less if someone thinks it’s because I’m fat and lazy. They don’t know me or my health and they don’t want to know me, all they want to do is be judgmental asshats. Fine with me, I don’t deal with them, I ignore them. Same thing with dining out – I can’t eat salads, fruits, vegetables, or anything greasy when we eat out because of digestive issues (to put it politely), so any meals I have don’t look very nutritious or “healthy” or like I’m dieting to lose weight. Anyone who had the nerve to comment on my meal choices would get a TMI earful that would embarrass them no end and they’d probably never comment on anyone’s meal choices again (they’d probably also not want to finish their meal….lol).
    As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned that the people who moo at fat people, make nasty comments about what fat people wear, what fat people eat/don’t eat, etc – well, they’re just like the trolls we see on the internet. You can’t reason with them, you can’t enlighten them, you can’t change their minds – all you can do is live your life the way you want to live it in spite of them and ignore them. Flipping them the bird occasionally does help my peace of mind, though ;) metaphorically or not.

  12. I will ‘fess up to doing this same thing, and especially recently. I hurt my back last week and have been having lots of trouble walking upright. Then I hurt my knee by using it overmuch to compensate for my hurt back. Although I’ve been to the doctor and been diagnosed with an actual injury (she was very nice and respectful, and she *helped* me!) I am super-conscious about “walking like a fat person” and do my best not to limp in public so no one can see me and blame my fat for my injury.

  13. I definitely do this. I run up stairs and then control my breathing even though I just RAN up stairs. I park far away (mostly just cause I enjoy waking though). I make sure to run faster than the thin people who only go to required gym classes and never do more during warm up laps in gym. I hold my yoga poses longer than the thin people and never do the modified versions. Most of this could be seen as just being healthy, but I do it consciously just in case others are watching me. I’m not sure if I’m trying to prove to others that fat != unhealthy or if I’m still trying to prove it to myself.

  14. This has been me all my life. I am not only fat, but have been disabled since birth with cerebral palsy & of course have developed some osteoarthritis over the years. I am very hyper, very active. I do not own a car or have a license, never have, & except for when a family member takes me grocery-shopping, walk everywhere on errands & walk for exercise. I hurry through crosswalks so that I will not have to keep the drivers, who of course MUST be more important than I am, waiting long. I have spent much of my life exercising compulsively, 3-4 hours per day, trying to measure up to naturally thin &/or athletic people & to compensate for being disabled. My whole life has been about showing that I am as good as anyone else. For years after I became involved in fat acceptance…& I have been at this for some 31 years now…I spent a lot of time & energy, especially in online fat communities, proving that I was a ‘good’ fat person, that I ate ‘healthy’ foods (& I have come to understand that that is a myth, ALL foods are ‘healthy’ & have a place in the diet unless you are allergic to them, do not like them, or they are spoiled/contaminated in some way), & exercised a lot, & that it was not my ‘fault’ that I was fat, which indeed it is not, since body size is at least 80% genetic, but even if one does not exercise & eats ‘too much’ (What the hell ever THAT means, especially since my one thin brother has always eaten two to three times as much as I do), that does not change the fact that we are all human beings & entitled to respect, full access, & protection under the law. But, yes, I have spent a great deal of time in my life trying to ‘prove’ myself to people who are unworthy of my time & trouble, trying to measure up to society’s expectations, trying not to be a stereotype. Does it help? Not a bit. Fat hatred & discrimination have increased dramatically in the years since I discovered fat acceptance, & now our First Lady leads the way to validating & encouraging fat hatred, discrimination, bullying, & she targets the most vulnerable among us & reinforces the worst stereotypes & myths about all of us. So, I guess as my joints ache, my knees wobble, & I limp worse the faster I walk, I may as well take my time crossing streets & use the elevator if I need to. I will be caring for myself at least, & doing otherwise will not change the opinion of one bigot.

  15. I do this too, although I try to avoid it. Three things:

    1. The kind of people who are virulently anti-fat are not the kind of people who will change their mind about us based on how we walk, how not-sweaty we are, or how controlled our breath is.
    2. The kind of people who are virulently anti-fat are not the kind of people who will change their mind about us no matter what we do, so that t-shirt listing your excellent blood pressure, resting heart rate, and cholesterol levels won’t help either. Neither will running in place while you counter their argument. Neither will a full inventory of all of the fruits and vegetables you ate last year.
    3. The other kind of people are too absorbed in their own lives to worry much about what’s in your grocery cart or how your clothes are fitting you today.

    I go about my business not worrying too much about what other people are thinking, because I safely assume that few of them are concerned with me. I may share public spaces with a handful of people who judge me based on my size, but again, there’s little I can do to change that. So it seems best to ignore ‘em and get on with my life.

  16. I run marathons. I’m also fat.

    However, if you train for marathons, no matter what you weigh, there will be times when you walk like you’ve just run 20 miles. (This will be because you’ve just run 20 miles.)

    After my last marathon, I was staying in a hotel that had no lift, but had stairs. I was not able to carry my bag down the stairs. I had to ask for help. I spent the entire time explaining that normally, stairs presented no problem, I had just run a marathon.

    (My personal peeve is if waitstaff comment that I must be hungry, if I order a large meal. Yes, I am. I also just ran in excess of 25km, this could explain it. First meal of the day, as well. Also, have we ever heard of the concept of tipping a percentage of the bill? Mate, it’s in your best interest to do let me order what I want…)

    Yes, I do it all the time. Sometimes, it’s fun. (Like when people ask me what I did on the weekend. I ran 29km, how about you?)

  17. A long time ago I decided that the only opinion of me that counts in my universe is mine. When I’m in integrity I am enjoying life and happy. Living to please, satisfy, alter or change anyone’s opinion of me puts me at the effect of circumstances outside myself. Not a very powerful or primary way to live for me.

  18. Every day at work, I have to take two different escalators to get to the lobby of my building. I always walk up the moving escalators, even when I’m exhausted or am carrying several bags in my arms, instead of just standing there and letting them do the work of carrying me up several floors. I do this because I assume that people think I’m lazy if I just stand there. I don’t think this about “thin” women who stand on the escalators. How is this miniscule right something that is not afforded to me but is given to others?

  19. I think we can all use this:

    “Don’t let others rent space in your head for free.”

    I don’t know where it came from, but I heard it recently and love it when I remember it.

    I hope all of us are nicer to ourselves today!

    xo Susie

    • Susie, I believe I am guilty for bringing that one up. I was part of a message board many years ago and that was a motto we adopted. Several of the former members are friends of mine of FB and one of them brought it up and well, I passed it along here at one point. I wish I could take credit for the actual quote, but alas I am just someone who took it and ran with it…so to speak. :-)

    • “Don’t let others rent space in your head for free.”

      This is beautiful!

      Since my knee surgery, I pretty much always take the stairs instead of the elevator at work (where I am in a two-story building), but back when I took the elevator all the time I almost always felt compelled to mention my knee problems if I was riding with someone. Blargh! Now I take the stairs and try not to pant when I get to the top. Sigh.

  20. Couple of things:

    I would rather stab my eyes out than drive around looking for a parking space. Something about being at my destination, but no no don’t go inside yet we have to find a CLOSER SPACE, just makes me postal. Plus, it’s a huge waste of gas & time. I don’t care if someone thinks “Fatty trying to lose weight by walking further” because I’m thinking “I’m at the store and I’m not so aggravated I want to stab someone’s eyes out.”

    For things like stairs, I take them, although I hate them, because my old trainer told my stairs are good cardio and being a martial artist my mission in life is to have better cardio (helps you fight longer!) I know you workout like crazy but I’m a firm believer in the “every teensy bit helps” mentality.

    For the crosswalk, I consider it common courtesy to hurry a little when cars are waiting. It’s just a general way of saying “I know I have the right of way but I will make your wait a little less. Cheers from one non-douchebag!”

    So my point in all of that is that there are other good reasons to do those things that have nothing to do with what people think of you. So maybe if you change the underlying reasons WHY you do them, it would be more authentic?

  21. Eh, I’ve have so many moments of inauthenticity over a lifetime I can’t think about it without cringing.

    Thank you for writing this. It’s a reminder that the only one I have to prove anything to is myself (and most of the time, these days, I do feel like that) but also that nobody has to prove anything to me either. I know I’ve had many moments of judgment toward others throughout my life and that makes me cringe even more than my moments of inauthenticity.

  22. This just put me in mind of a tiny NPR article on a 400-lb sumo wrestler who just ran the LA Marathon.

    “Big people,” he says, “can do the unimaginable.”

    Article here: http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2011/03/21/134740369/400-pound-sumo-wrestler-finishes-l-a-marathon

  23. I wish I could be one of those folks that dance and run marathons. Sadly, my body has a lot of glitches. I have sciatica and fibromyalgia. My brain also has a lot of glitches. I have bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. I struggle with hoarding. Sometimes just getting out of bed is a struggle. I live with suicide ideation every day of my life, which is by no means a bowl of cherries. I live in a place that does not even have running water. I am alone most of the time now that my son has moved out–which I encouraged him to do. To top it all off, I have a degree of urinary incontinence which I am ashamed to even tell the doctor about. But one thing I am not is lazy, although since I’m fat, no-one will ever believe that.

    • Faycin,
      It breaks my heart to hear you say these things. First off, talk to your doctor about the incontinence. It sounds like it could be caused by whatever is causing the sciatic pain. It’s possible that both problems can be relieved and you’ll feel so much better about yourself!
      Next, what’s up with living in a place without running water? That’s actually a health code violation and you need to get that fixed– if you have a landlord, that person needs to get it fixed NOW.
      I have suicidal tendencies and I’ve fought depression since I was four…as well as low self esteem– even when I was thin! I also have pain similar to fibromyalgia. I don’t let any of those things stop me from doing the things I love to do. I love belly dancing. I choose to live passionately and do the things I love to do because whether or not I believe it, I deserve to be happy and the only one who is going to make that happen is me. So quit isolating yourself and start living again. NONE of the things you’ve mentioned are good excuses to not dance and live passionately. Heck, the dancing will take your mind off the pain. Research is also showing that yoga relieves some of the fibromyalgia symptoms. Also, you may benefit from some of the exercises in the Feeling Good Handbook for depression. ;)

  24. Ragen, your transparency, vulnerability, and honesty in this post is really beautiful. So is the way you wrote strict train-of-thought and mused. It was personal and contemplative, even intimate. I really enjoyed it.

    Perhaps this will have as much effect on you (and the other posters here) as it did me:

    “I can’t use you when you’re in bondage to other people. Let go.” — God


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