About three years ago I wrote a blog piece called Confessions of a Fat Yogi. I told the story of my lifelong struggle with body-shame and how yoga helped me overcome it. It was by far the most popular thing I’ve ever written. Thousands read it. It was shared by several major yoga social media platforms, and it garnered our little-known blog* lots of attention, catapulting us out of obscurity and onto the newsfeeds of yogis across the world. The yoga community ate. it. up.
I wish I never wrote it.
The piece is no longer available as my fellow blog-mates and I have moved on to new adventures, but honestly, that’s for the best. While I do wish it were available for reference for this specific piece, I am glad it isn’t around to cause more damage than it already has. You see, I wrote from the perspective of a fat person, but I am not fat. I said as much at the time, knowing that while I wasn’t skinny, I wasn’t obese by any standard. But I nonetheless tried to draw an equivalency between my experience as a small but insecure woman to that of an actual fat person who suffers discrimination in ways I didn’t even have the imagination to understand. That was wrong and damaging, and I apologize for my blatant ignorance and hurtful disregard.
At the time, I was completely unaware of my privilege as a straight-sized person. In fact, I only recently learned the term “straight-size,” if that tells you just how clueless I was. I was under the impression that because I had long suffered from eating disorders, body dysmorphia, and crushing shame about my “extra” weight, that I was essentially just like all the other girls whose bodies didn’t fit the typical yoga ideal. I assumed there were two groups: skinny and not skinny, and I included myself in the latter because my privilege allowed me to be blind to the struggle of those who suffer from actual body discrimination, which differs significantly from simply carrying a few vanity pounds.
In reality, there are layers upon layers of issues regarding body shame and weight discrimination. There are those us of like myself, who are not size zeros, but have never worn plus-sized clothing. We were maybe teased about our thighs by a mean boy or had our cellulite snickered about by catty women, but we remain firmly in the mainstream. Sure, our body type isn’t as well represented in the media as our more lithe sisters, but we never have to shop at speciality stores. We never have doctors treat us with little to no dignity because of our weight. All chairs fit our bodies. We never get passed over for jobs because of our size. We can walk down the street without being stared at and judged for our bodies. While there are parts of our lives that have been emotional troubling, we have never dealt with true weight stigma, and that’s a much bigger difference than I ever imagined. I co-opted the language of fat folks to address the separate issue of body insecurity. I drew imaginary parallels between my life and the life of someone whose size has been a source of true discrimination.
I now understand that while our struggles intersect in some ways, there is a distinct difference between being insecure about your body and being discriminated against because of your body. Insecurity is painful. It is damaging. The struggle is real. But it is a completely separate problem from real weight discrimination. Every time a straight-sized person uses the word “fat” to describe themselves, they center themselves in a fight in which they are not the victim and become, in fact, the perpetrator. It minimizes the challenge and pain of those whose weight frames almost every interaction they have with society. It trivializes the very real, life-altering stigma that plus-sized people face. I conflated the two in a way that erased that unique struggle.
The point of my original piece was that yoga can help us overcome our insecurities by teaching us that our bodies are meant for DOING good, not for LOOKING good. My intentions were to help, and I know I did help some of my fellow straight-sized-yet-not-stick-thin sisters feel empowered. They told me as much. For months I got comments and messages telling me how helpful the piece was. I’m glad I was able to alleviate distress for them. But I did it in a way that was harmful and trivializing to my bigger-bodied sisters, and I’m sorry. Impact is ultimately more important than intent. I could have written a different piece about using yoga to overcome body insecurity that didn’t de-center fat people in their own struggle. I could have and should have known better. I wish I had taken the time much earlier in life to listen and learn. I know I hurt people. I know I set the clock back in my little corner of influence.
And while I do believe that yoga can help anyone regardless of body size find more ease in and appreciate for their body, I am certainly not in a position to speak about how that works for those in plus-sized bodies. I apologize for speaking on behalf of issues about which I hold absolutely no authority. I am sorry for being yet another small, well-to-do, white lady making shit about her. Everything is already about us. Big-bodied women are constantly being de-legitimized in every area of life, and I took what should be a healing practice and erased their struggle and centered my own. This was negligent and ignorant, and I deeply regret it.
I know there is much I don’t know about those who struggle differently and more severely than I do. I know that I am in a position of great privilege in my body, and that the power I hold means that my ignorance of other’s people’s challenges can and does contribute to real harm against their communities. My ears, eyes, and heart are open and ready to learn. I hope to do better in the future.
Thank you for your patience as I grow.
*FindingIsvara.com is no longer in operation