Sign of the Times

Y’all, let me tell you about this sign I saw at the gym today:

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(Warning: There’s gonna be some shouting.) Yeah, how about no, LA Fitness? How about FITNESS IS NOT A BODY TYPE. How about FAT DOES NOT MEAN UNFIT. How about THIN DOES NOT MEAN FIT. Everything about this sign is offensive and wrong.

When I came out of the locker room, a guy was smiling and taking a picture of it. So, being the activist that I am, I went to the front and asked to see the person who had written it. I was directed to a thin young woman sitting at a desk nearby. I told her that I found that sign extremely offensive. She, quite shocked, told me that many people had come to tell her HOW MUCH THEY LIKED IT.

I said, “I have been coming to this gym for three years, and for all of them, I’ve been fat.” (And now comes the part that made me cry rage-tears on the way home.) She looked me up and down and said, “I wouldn’t call you fat!”

ARE YOU KIDDING ME RIGHT NOW? I am ABSOLUTELY fat. In no world am I not fat. Not according to my weight on a scale, BMI, fat percentage calculators, my pants, every store that I can’t shop in (which is most stores!) AND EVERYONE’S EYEBALLS. I am UNDENIABLY fat.

Maybe she thought it would make me feel good, to be called not-fat? Maybe she was thinking of all the negative traits we associate with people we call fat, like unhealthy, unloveable, unworthy, gluttonous, stupid (to name just a few), and a quick up-and-down magically told her I’m not those things? Whatever her reason, it certainly wasn’t because of what her eyes were telling her.

The conversation continued, with her agreeing with me that not all thin people are fit, not all fat people are unfit, fitness comes in all shapes and sizes. Honestly, I don’t even care that she agreed with me. Because if she BELIEVED those things, she wouldn’t have written that garbage sign in the first place. She said, laughing, that she changes the sign every day, so I definitely won’t see it there again on Wednesday. NOT THE POINT. I can’t imagine how people who are less accepting of their body size than I am felt when they saw that sign, even if it was “only” up for a day.

I cried angry, angry tears on the way home because her comment was erasing a critical part of who I am. I am not JUST fat, of course, but it’s a HUGE (pun intended) part of who I am. It’s part of who I am as an athlete, a trainer and coach, a gym member, a swimmer, a half marathoner, a woman, and a human being. Being told I’m “not fat” isn’t just inaccurate, it’s invalidating.

Since “I” seems to to be the letter of the day, let’s end with a vocabulary lesson. This sign is insipid, ignorant, and irresponsible. Class dismissed!