“A cultural fixation on female thinness is not an obsession about female beauty but an obsession about female obedience.”
― Naomi Wolf
Sometimes I get body shamed.
At the time of this writing I am just shy of 5’2”, 43 years old, and 138 lbs, which is on the upper side of what is considered “normal” for my height. I have a lot of muscle—I can load up the leg press with 700 lbs and still get a good range of motion for 10 reps. I also have some fat. I eat pretty clean, but this is what my body does unless I am working out like a maniac, which my coaching doesn’t give me time for, and starving myself, which I refuse to do.
I am thick.
Despite the recent trend towards thickness in the media, the fitness world is still hyper-focused on skinny. I have been body shamed by producers and promoters who wont hire me, an agent who dropped me once I got a little older, casting directors, coaches, colleagues, and a marketing person who told me that she didn’t think I was representing my company well. I have even been body shamed by family members, who worry that I’m not going to be successful because I’m “overweight.”
I’m not overweight. I am healthy. This is how my body is built, and I love my body.
I love my body because, over the years, we have really gotten to know each other. We have worked hard together, through times of health and strength and through times of illness and injury. Through my training, we have learned to communicate. And after my younger years of punitive hardcore workouts that treated my body like a bad machine, I have learned that I must listen to her and respect her if we are going to get along for the rest of our time together.
A key part of loving my body means accepting that she is not built to be skinny. I let go of that random, externally imposed demand and we are able to achieve health, flexibility, and a sustainable performance.
Our minds have been conditioned to see health and fitness through a certain lens, that we are all striving for that thigh gap, those rock hard abs, the muscle striations and complete absence of cellulite. But for many of us that body type requires unhealthy choices.
In all my years as a performer I have seen countless women (and some men) battle shame and eating disorders brought on by unrealistic expectations for their bodies. For a wonderful article on body issues in the circus world check out Rachel Strickland’s blog post about auditioning for Cirque du Soleil when you’ve got a booty. (http://madamerex.blogspot.com/2017/02/my-big-buttand-other-reasons-i-dont.html)
I’ve also had so many people tell me that they would love to learn flexibility but they are “too fat.”
So it is important for me, both for myself and for everyone else who is struggling with this pressure, to emphasize that Fit & Bendy is for all body types.
Flexibility Fitness will get you in kick-ass shape. It will increase your range of motion, give you healthy stable joints, increase your muscles’ ability to contract, help to balance your nervous system, and help you perform better in everything else you do from putting on your shoes in the morning to advanced circus skills. It may even make you lose weight, but that is not the goal and it is not necessary to get the benefits from the training.
Because health and size are not the same things. Eat well, work your body intelligently, drink water, sleep, love your body. That is health. That is a revolutionary act of self-care.
Fit & Bendy classes welcome all bodies. We welcome all sizes, all skin colors, all interpretations of gender and sexuality, all fashion styles, all faiths, all abilities.
What we don’t welcome is shaming of any kind.