The Big Girl in the Room

fat yogaI smiled, maybe a little too widely, at the woman who walked up to the barre to take the spot next to me. She had a poochy belly, like me. Her face, lovely as it was, showed a softness, contrasting with the cheekbones and lack of a double-chin in the other women around the studio. I felt a kinship with this person who was also wearing a loose top without a lululemon logo. It didn’t take long for me to realize that she was actually five months pregnant. With her third child.

I’m mostly comfortable being the chubby girl in the room. As a sturdy child, I grew up with a sister whose wispy frame sometimes prompted calls home from teachers concerned about her health. I am also very realistic about my half-hearted struggles with my weight. Don’t blame the hypothyroidism, folks; it’s the extra slice of chocolate chip banana bread. All that to explain that I’m mostly comfortable. Mostly.

A friend in town owns a barre studio, and I’ve been attending classes since it opened. At first it was often just me, one other friend, and the teacher. Nowhere to hide, but surrounded by people who knew me, I enjoyed the classes. Now that the studio is up and running, the classes are busier and filled with people who are working on their already-toned physiques. And thanks to the mirrors that help us check out our spinal alignment, I know I’m the only one who chooses to wear baggy t-shirts over her yoga pants.

In between quivering thighs and core strength shudders during class, it dawned on me that for years I had avoided classes like this because of my discomfort with my body. Looking around at the 11 other women in the class, it was clear that this self-fulfilling prophecy is not mine alone. Most women don’t look like these lithe and sleek creatures surrounding me. And when I go to classes at the YMCA, there are people of all shapes and sizes and widths. I’m comfortable there because I blend in; it’s like an invisibility cloak for the gym.

In my stubborn way, once I admitted to myself that I was feeling out-of-sorts amongst the sleek yoga half-shirts, I resolved to make it to class at least once a week. I faced that often, when I wasn’t up to going to the class, it wasn’t actually my body holding me back — it was my self-defeating mind. Because it’s about strength, both inside and out.

Looking for an appropriate image for this post (because I am NOT comfortable enough to post a photo of me in barre class!), I came across a wonderful blog post: Fat Girl, Hot Yoga. And Jessamyn Stanley has this great video: An Open Letter to the Fat Girl I Saw in Hot Yoga. Check them out!


About That Unique* Weblog

Adjusting to car culture, dealing with leaving a career I loved, and spouting off along the way. Do The Most Good.
This entry was posted in Beating Back the Aging Process (ha!), random observation, yeah write and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

32 Responses to The Big Girl in the Room

  1. outlawmama says:

    I am so scared of barre classes for exactly this reason. Superb post.

  2. I think you found a great image for the post. My 16 year-old daughter is struggling with the same issue. I wouldn’t even call her chubby, thick might be a better description, a characteristic that she inherited from both her parents. We don’t want her doing any crazy diets, so we decided, as a family, to rid the house of all junk food and focus on healthy eating.

  3. Amy says:

    More power to you sister! I’m currently taking a yoga class where I’m the most gigantic, least flexible lady In the room. But taking the class reminds me that I have a body, and I need to take care of it. And it has also taught me that I have a third eye and need to care for it too. Namaste!

    • I am afraid of yoga. I have always been seriously lacking in flexibility — and I’m not into the spiritual side of the yoga. Or meditation. Hala from Boone tells me I really need to take yoga to make up for the contractions and strength in barre. I have promised her I’d do it. PROMISED!

  4. Mical Moser says:

    I loved this posting! When you said you were going to a barre class, I imagined doing that myself and immediately concluded that I’d be too uncomfortable. And then I rethought it and rethought it and weirdly then saw an ad for one and kind of shuddered at the prospect. My loss!, I concluded, and then rushed on to the Co-op.

    For whatever it’s worth, I never thought of you as chubby. I’ve always thought of you as so beautiful. And as much as I thought of your size, I always thought of you as healthy.

    I’d probably really enjoy a barre class and you’ve emboldened me to take another look for it next time I pass.



    • She thinks I’m beautiful! 🙂 I’ve ping-ponged between the various levels of overweight on the BMI scale (not that I think that’s the end all, be all) since I’ve known you. Even my goal weight would be the top of what is considered “normal” weight. I truly am big boned. No, really! 😀

      I highly recommend trying out a class. Although it depends greatly on the teacher. What I like about barre is that it relies mainly on holding strength poses — and you DEFINITELY feel it working. For days! I’m so much stronger, especially in my legs and core (I think I said that in an earlier comment). But I need to work on cardio and staying away from chocolates and black licorice. Ahem.

  5. Stacie says:

    Yay, go you! I’m totally intimidated by yoga, although I think I should give it a go. I’m afraid I won’t be able to do anything. I’m so inflexible (physically, that is!).

  6. C.C. says:

    Great post and the image you found to go with it is just perfect!!

  7. wcdameron says:

    You are so right. Even the most physically beautiful people can be riddled with insecurity about their looks. We can never measure our beauty against anyone else, because each person is beautiful in their own unique way.

  8. Natalie DeYoung says:

    I relate to this so much. It’s how I felt at my first zumba class last year, like the one graceless giant in loose-fitting clothing. Once I started focusing on the fun, not how I looked, I felt better about myself and just had fun.
    Loved this post. 🙂

  9. I remember being so shocked when I finally let a friend talk me into my first 5K that most of the runners there looked very average. I was afraid that they would be all this long-legged racehorse types. Sprinting ahead. Much to my relief everyone was pretty average.

  10. writerthereseoneill says:

    Next post: talk about why a woman trying to hard to love herself can’t feel comfortable posting a picture . Do you fear readers will say you’re unattractive?

  11. This is superb. I have avoided any kind of group exercise class for years because the idea of standing in that room with so many women, surrounded by mirrors was so intimidating. But after reading this, I think that long awaited spin class is finally in order.

  12. nikkiana says:

    I could definitely relate to this. It took me forever to get up the courage to start going to yoga classes because I was afraid I was going to be the only fat girl with crap for flexibility or balance. As it turned out, both of my neighborhood studios ended up having a really diverse population in terms of both body type and age, and the teachers are all really excellent with finding poses to sub if you aren’t able to do something.

  13. Rachel says:

    You have PROMISED to do yoga??? Do Bikram, Kristin, pretty please!? I would love to read your blog post about it so much.

  14. When I saw that image I wanted to cheer! Then I wanted to go buy some to put in my new library where I am considering adding a barre, since it is mine, mine all mine. Like you I struggle and like you I am mostly comfortable but not always.

  15. Hala says:

    Thank you for the very valuable blog – for anyone dealing with self image issues whether they are a size 6 or 14. In my work I see women of all sizes and shapes dealing with that even those who you least expect. What I find really helpful is if women focus on their strength – and not their shape. How many squats you can do without feeling like your legs turned to jelly and how many push ups you can do before you kiss the ground. That should be the measure of progress and not how small your waistline is. I refuse to demean clients by taking before and after pictures or advertising that this exercise will lift your derriere. I really try hard to keep telling my clients instead its about the strength you are building on the inside and outside. Owning your body starts with modifying any exercise – whenever you need to. You have to be comfortable doing it, going at your own pace in a group. Do not feel pressured That helps you claim and own your body by listening to it and respecting its range. I hope we can continue to inspire you to show up to class and do the work. Thank you.


    Boone Studio
    40 Church Street

    • Absolutely, Hala! Boone is a great place! What I tried to convey is that the individual and her perspective is what creates the barrier. Other people can affect it, but in the end only one person chooses to show up.

      Those of us who have struggled with body issues (on either end of the scale) have found creative ways to hide, whether it’s loose tees, long sleeves, or staying out of the public eye. In the end, it’s health that needs to bring joy, not the mirror.

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