This post originally appeared on Role/Reboot and is republished here with full permission.
Because I’m a bigger girl who regularly exercises, seeing a skinny girl struggle gives me a small thrill. But just as fat doesn’t necessarily mean unhealthy, skinny doesn’t mean healthy.
And every body deserves respect.
Confession: Sometimes, when I see skinny girls struggling with exercise, I gloat.
I’m not proud of it, but I can’t help myself. I pass a sports-bra’d runner with twiggy thighs on the lakeshore path — yes, it’s true, some people run slower than I do — and the gloat bubbles start to fizz in my belly. The pixie chick next to me in kickboxing needs a water break before me, and my inner cheerleader cartwheels with glee. I hold my plank a few breaths past the long and lean lady on the adjacent mat, and I grin in victory.
I know, I know, it’s not my best quality.
We live in a world that assumes you can tell how healthy someone is by their jean size. We assume that skinny = healthy, fat = unhealthy. How one got to be skinny is beside the point, as long as you’ve made it to the promised land. Instead of looking at a set of behaviours — exercise, diet, sleep, stress, smoking, drinking — we look at a single number and assume we know everything that matters.
Intellectually, I’m aware that my workout has nothing to do with those exercising near me, but as a big girl that exercises, I feel an extra pressure to be the visual reminder that the correlation between weight and wellness is very, very loose. So when an opportunity arises to illustrate the Big-Girl-Got-Game phenomenon, I revel in it — there’s just something fundamentally invigorating about confounding expectations.
The problem is, my attitude sometimes extends beyond “Look what I can do!” into the “Look what she can’t do”, and that’s just mean-spirited. If I want to banish the expectations people have about my body, I have to recognize that the expectations I have about someone else’s are likely to be equally misguided. This would be my attitudinal cross to bear (and overcome), except for one little twist: I’ve decided to become a yoga teacher.
Letting the “skinny girl bias” percolate in my brain was one thing when I was a solo exerciser, but now that I’ll be responsible for guiding the workout of others, it’s got to go. It’s time to squash the bias and begin the challenging work of re-training my brain towards more productive, generous, compassionate thinking.