Intersections – All the words for fat
By Nicki Salcedo
There’s a reason why women aren’t interested in the “Sports Illustrated” Swimsuit Issue. It isn’t jealousy. It isn’t the fear of competition. It could be the blatant objectification of women. It could be because we have seen our fair share of other women in swimsuits and bras and panties. This isn’t a novelty for us.
I travel with my own set of boobs. I have sisters and girlfriends and I go to the gym so I’ve seen every variation of saggy, skinny, sexy, and fat on a woman’s body.
I am fat. It is a crime to say the word “fat,” but all it means is that I weigh more than I’d like. If you use the word “fat,” people jump out from behind bushes and trees and start throwing euphemisms at you.
You are stocky. Healthy. Sturdy. Robust. Big-boned. Solid. Hearty. Most of all, you are beautiful just the way you are.
Based on that description, I’m a cute farmhand if you ever need one.
You can’t tell this from looking at me, but I like to exercise. I have a ridiculous number of friends who are fitness people. Elite runners, yogis, boot campers, and competitive athletes. I’m that unlikely person at the gym or boot camp who isn’t trying to get bikini ready. I’m that strange fat person at the gym who isn’t intimidated by the ultra-fit people.
But I want to change. I am fat and I don’t want to be, so I go to the gym. This is where I met Shana Alverson, the owner of Move Functional Fitness in Decatur. She’s been teaching exercise for 21 years, which is weird since she looks like she is 20 years old.
“The word ‘fat’ is taboo,” Shana said. “Calling someone fat is derogatory and will probably get you labeled as a fat-shamer. It’s rarely used without some type of judgment attached even when we use the word to describe ourselves.”
Shana and I are on opposite ends of the fitness spectrum, but she says exactly what I am thinking.
“I don’t think I’ve ever said ‘I’m fat’ about myself and meant anything positive by it. And nothing productive has ever come of it,” Shana added. “If I’m saying it to myself, it’s being disappointed in myself for not being leaner. If I say it aloud, it’s meant to solicit some type of opposing argument. ‘Oh, no. You’re not fat. You look great.’ I’m seeking external validation to soothe my own self-worth issues.”
I admit that I have my own body issues. On the day my parents got married, my mom weighed a whopping 100 lbs and my dad weighed 125 lbs soaking wet. I come from svelte people. Thin, slim, petite, small, lithe. My family is filled with people who are slender without effort. I’m the anomaly.
Shana suggested that we reframe it. “We are letting ‘fat’ define us. What if ‘fat’ was neutral? What if we treated it the same as needing a haircut? Some of us have managed to accumulate some extra stored fuel on our bodies.”
I don’t do New Year’s resolutions, and I don’t start diets in January. This year I’m going to plan for grief and lethargy and stress in my life so I won’t be derailed when they pop up on my fitness journey.
I’m looking for motivation everywhere. Shana’s favorite quote is this: “I work out because I love my body, not because I hate it.”
I’ve never thought of it that way. Shana added that healthy eating is a reward not a punishment. I’m going to reframe my thoughts on “fat” and exercise and nutrition. It might take me awhile to reduce the stored fuel in my body, but I’m excited about banishing the word “fat” from my vocabulary. Not because it’s a bad word. Hopefully I won’t need it anymore.
Shana Alverson is a nationally certified personal trainer and award winning athlete with over 21 years of exercise and coaching experience. She enjoys helping people empower themselves through exercise and lifestyle management at Move Functional Fitness, the home of CrossFit East Decatur and the World’s Best Bootcamp.
Move Function Fitness is having a Grand (re)Opening on February 27 from 12 p.m. – 3 p.m. There will be prizes and giveaways (including a free gym membership). For those interested in getting stronger, faster, and healthier check out Move Functional Fitness online or on Facebook.
“Intersections,” the book, is a collection of columns from Decaturish.com and beyond. It is now available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Nicki Salcedo is a Decatur resident and Atlanta native. She is a novelist, blogger, and a working mom. Her column, Intersections, runs every Wednesday morning.