Fat Kids Can’t Jump

by Sarah on November 29, 2014

In grade school, we used to have to do this thing called the President’s Physical Fitness Test. This was generally sprung on us with no warning, twice a year, and we would suddenly have to demonstrate and be evaluated on our ability to do sit-ups, push-ups, pull-ups, a standing broad jump, and a run.

Please note that during the rest of the year, we did absolutely no training or conditioning or anything that would help us improve at any of these activities.

The kids who did well at this would go on to various competitions at the county and state levels, and the rest of us would experience varying amounts of shame and stigma for a week or so while this went on and then try to forget it ever happened.

To me now, this seems patently absurd – the equivalent of testing kids on their “innate ability” to do long division twice a year, without actually ever showing them how it works or providing any opportunity to practice.

While I like to think that I’ve always been inclined to movement of various kinds, my innate strength was limited and my body weight was always in the 99th percentile, so I had more work to do than most. Except, we weren’t being tested on our ability to train to do something – we were just being tested on our ability to do it. The rest of the year, we mostly played sports.

What I took away from this was that I can’t. I can’t jump. I can’t run. I can’t be strong. And since nobody really ever expected anything different of me, there wasn’t much need to try or even to care.

So when one of my parkour coaches looked at me yesterday and said, “I think your jump has doubled since I’ve known you,” and I replied with, “I just had to cry out all the years of people telling me I couldn’t jump,” I wasn’t really joking.

Now that I’m an adult who has spent a long number of years learning to love and accept her body, I can approach this all with a very different mentality.

Now I’m curious about what my body can do with training and practice and commitment, and as a result, I’m getting stronger every week.

Now I don’t say, “I can’t,” without amending, “yet.”

There’s no reason I couldn’t have done this same thing twenty years ago with any kind of inspiration or guidance or direction, but for a fat kid, there was none of that to be found.

I’m grateful, as an adult, to have cultivated the ability to say, “Fuck everyone’s expectations,” but I also ache for the kid who never knew how to do that and who thought lack of “innate ability” to jump meant that she couldn’t jump.



{ 1 comment }

I Did a Thing

by Sarah on September 26, 2014

Eleven weeks ago, I tried my first parkour class.

Seven weeks ago, I decided to sign up for a weekend long parkour event happening in Boston. I also made a commitment to myself that I would go to three classes a week between then and the event. I would give my training my all and focus on doing my best.

Now I’m here, on the precipice of the event, and I’m realizing that I did it. (WOOT!!)

I have 21+ classes and a few extra training sessions under my belt, and I can honestly say that I have done the work to be as ready as I can for this weekend.

I am feeling incredibly proud right now. Not only did I meet a challenge, but this is the first activity I’ve taken up (besides dance, which has always been a constant in my life) since adopting a HAES (Health at Every Size) approach to life.

Additionally, this is the first time I’ve entered into any kind of physical activity with a positive mindset, feeling confident in my body’s ability to eventually learn these skills. It’s the first time I’ve focused on exploring my own capacity and building my strength rather than trying to forcibly alter my body to meet some arbitrary goal of a number on a scale.

Having spent a lifetime being told that I was not supposed to enjoy physical activity and that I was definitely not supposed to be good at it, and having internalized those messages so many times over, these first 11 weeks have been a real challenge. I think all of my coaches have seen me cry at least once, often the result of weird and traumatic flashbacks to grade school gym classes. I still have a hard time trying new skills when people are looking at me. I still worry that I’m holding someone else back when we do partner exercises. I still rush through whatever I’m doing or skip parts of an exercise if it looks like the class is waiting for me.

And yet I’m finally actively fighting these things. They ‘re not going to disappear in 11 weeks after a lifetime of social conditioning, but I’m working on them. And I’m letting myself believe that I actually belong here, in this community and in these classes.

Three years ago, when I ran my first 5K, I started to realize that many of the things I had been taught about my body were wrong. I felt then, and still feel, a lot of anger at a culture and a school phys. ed. system that immediately labeled me as unfit because of how my body looked and that immediately rejected me if I couldn’t do something rather than actually teaching me how to do it. A system that had me managing the sports teams rather than playing on them, even as it told me I needed more activity. A system that threw me out into a field once a year and told me to run a mile without any training. A system in which I was made to feel ostracized and excluded because I was always being picked last because of my appearance and not my ability.

(Proof positive that I actually wasn’t bad at sports – in high school, when my gym class was made up of all the nerdy honors kids, I remember getting picked first or second for a game of flag football and at the look of shock on my face, one of my co-nerds telling me that he knew I was actually really good at the game.)

Anyway, the point is, the system is fucked up. And it’s going to take more than 11 weeks to undo 30 years of internalized bullshit.

But I’m finally coming to realize that I’ve always loved to move my body and that there is no reason why I shouldn’t feel that way. I’ve always loved to play and explore what I can do – to dance, and stretch, and flip, and roll, and run, and balance, and move. And I’m discovering that although I spent many years being actively discouraged from pursuing those desires, that love is still there.

So I’m going to show up at the night mission tonight and the workshops tomorrow. And I might be a little slow, and I might need some extra help, and I might cry once or twice, and I’m probably going to be hella sore by Sunday night. But I’m going to show up, fat body and all, and show what I can do.

Because I know I’ve got it in me.


How to Treat a Fat Person in a Fitness Class

September 23, 2014

Body image and fitness are so intertwined in the general consciousness that some truly bizzare things can happen when a fat person sets foot into a fitness class. Fat people are often encouraged to work out (which is problematic for many reasons, but not what we’re discussing here), but when many fitness environments are basically […]

Read the full article →

On Intersectionality and Stuff

August 28, 2014

I was all set to kick up the frequency with which I post on here a few weeks ago… …and then Michael Brown (an unarmed teenager) was shot and killed in Ferguson, and I’ve been sick to my stomach ever since. Yes, there is a war on fat people in our society. Yes, married people […]

Read the full article →

Fat Parkour

August 9, 2014

Me: I’m not sure if it’s lack of strength or fear. Coach: Welcome to parkour. It’s probably fear. In case it is not evident from the title of this site,  I am fat. I have been fat my entire life. It wasn’t until two years ago that I stopped thinking of fat as a bad thing, […]

Read the full article →

Subverting the Stereotypes

July 16, 2014

There are a lot of negative stereotypes out there when it comes to singles, and the more confident and vocal I become about relationship issues, the more I find myself able to engage with them out in the wild. Which I have to admit is a hell of a lot of fun. Today, at work, […]

Read the full article →

Singles and Healthcare

July 2, 2014

Since my social media feeds are blowing up with comments about the shit-tastic SCOTUS ruling (and Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s rockin’ dissent) I thought I’d take a moment to talk about singles and how our relationship to healthcare is different and more challenging than coupled folks, and why this decision is extra-frightening for single people in […]

Read the full article →

The Courage of My Own Convictions

June 10, 2014

When you believe a thing that is very different from what most of the world believes, it can be hard to hold on to that belief. And this feels especially true when that belief is so big that it becomes an identity. There seem to be only two good options: silence or flag-bearing. I started […]

Read the full article →

Re-Examining Relationship Anarchy

February 21, 2014

Relationship anarchy, as far as I can tell, is not particularly well defined nor widely documented, but the little I’ve read about the idea has always called to me. I think, in essence, it says that when two people are in a lower-case “r” relationship, that relationship does not have to fit into any pre-existing […]

Read the full article →

Fat Bodies Can Do All The Things

February 19, 2014

I went rock climbing tonight with a friend, and I had her take pictures, but I was debating whether or not to put them up on Facebook. I was worried that it was narcissistic or that I was just trying to make my life look super-cool or whatever. And then I also start to obsess […]

Read the full article →