Dear Narrow Minded Yoga Dude and Other Fat-shamers at the Gym, You Suck

Me Doing Yoga circa 2002

Me Doing Yoga circa 2002

Recently, I took a private yoga class with my family – mom, uncle, husband, father – we were all there. I haven’t taken a whole lot of private yoga instruction in my life but I have been practicing yoga on and off for a number of year, so private instruction sounded like a good time. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the case. Basically, this yoga dude showed up to our hotel room, stripped down to his skivvies and proceeded to tell us that most people practice yoga for all the wrong reasons – which in all honestly is probably true – but his presentation of these ideas was off putting and a little pretentious – mostly because he presented himself as a yoga genius and treated us like idiots. Because of his belief in a universally flawed perception of yoga – this dude would not lead us through a series of asanas. Instead, we had to start from scratch and re-learn the poses we already knew with him as our guide. Fine.

My Bulging Tricep

My Bulging Tricep

After a few rounds of sun salutations, which honestly felt the same as all the other times I’ve preformed sun salutations, we moved on to warrior pose and the yoga dude explained that the first sign of aging is the flabby wings that we get under our arms (<— not true), and that obviously, we all fear this flab (<— not true x 2). His “solution” for this flab was flexing one’s palms towards the floor so as to tighten the triceps – he explained that he practiced by pressing against the shower soap dish for years and now his arms aren’t flabby. In response to this explanation he asked us all to flex our arms and he went around touching our triceps, proving that “horrible flab” was easily eliminated.

Eliminating the flab under my arms, which by the way is unnecessary, cannot be accomplished by flexing my triceps. In family – I am the fattest; I am also the most fit. I work out all the time – I train 3 times a week for an hour and I do cardio on the other days. I am super strong and while they are covered in fat I have huge bulging triceps, which regularly sling stuff around. When the jerk-faced yoga dude got to my tricep – he pinched the fat under my arm and said “I don’t think there is a tricep in here.” Fat-shaming douch-bag.

News flash: Fat people work out too. Just becasue I’m fat doesn’t mean I lack muscle tone or that I don’t go to the gym to work on my health. (Check out these awesome images of fit fatties!) My health is mine to define. Fat can be fit or maybe it isn’t but either way another person’s arm flab or level of fitness clearly none of yo’ business. Furthermore, shaming me in from of my family or shaming others wherever isn’t doing any good. It’s clynically proven that fat-shaming does not encourage this fat person to become less fat.

Fat Gym Rat

Fat Gym Rat

Clearly, this yoga dude – is just one jerk but this is not the first person to give me a hard time about being fat and wanting to exercise my body. Regularly at my gym strangers come up to me to express their joy that I’m working out. “Good For you,” they say – which really means “Good Job Fattie – proud to see you trying to overcome your fat.” Another comment I hear frequently, is “You really work hard” expressed with a startled awe. Whether they know it or not these beasties are expressing their hard held beliefs that if your fat you must be a lazy, un-fit slob who sits around and stuff your face all day. This is fat-hate and their comments are fat-shaming because they believe that a fat person is only valuable when trying to get thin. To be clear – I’m not trying to get thin. I’m trying to stay fit. I go to the gym because it makes me feel good. I go because I know that pursuing fitness will help me live the life I want to live. Despite this choice that I make for myself – no one should tell you how to care for your fat body. It’s yours to do with as you please.

27 responses

  1. Michelle – It’s a weird situation – he was suggested by the hotel but doesn’t work for them – he’s independent. I told the hotel but not much else to do. And the hotel was awesome so I don;t want to slam them….

  2. “When the jerk-faced yoga dude got to my tricep – he pinched the fat under my arm and said “I don’t think there is a tricep in here.”

    You’re a better woman than I. I don’t think I’d be able to hold back the torrent of bad words that such an ignorant comment would ignite.

    I’m sorry you had such a crappy experience. I don’t know how fat-shaming somebody is yoga kosher at all — I don’t know a lot about yoga, but I do know it involves gratitude for your body!

  3. I sympathize…get these comments all the time…especially when I run 5ks or tell people I’ve run them. (They get that startled expression like “YOU? You…run?”

    Sigh. Sorry that happened to you.

    • Ya know – more than I feel bad I feel angry. I feel shocked that people feel that they can scold me because I don’t fit their image of ideal. I feel annoyed that our culture tells them that they have a right to critique my body. That said, it’s annoying – so thanks for your support. And of course you run 5Ks! Why wouldn’t/couldn’t you? 🙂

  4. This guy sounds like a jerk and a half. And can I point out the irony of him starting off his presentation with “most people don’t do yoga for the right reasons” (i.e. they aren’t spiritual about it) and then going on to talk about your arm flab?

    I think that Mr. Highly Evolved Yoga Dude may want to take his own advice, as it seems like doesn’t do yoga for the right reasons, either.

  5. I’ve had a neighbor yell (when I ran by) “Good for you! and you’re a big girl, too!” Sigh.
    And I know all about the surprised face people make when I tell them about my exercise regimen; like when I have to do the intake questionnaire with a new doctor, for instance.

    Also, I am way jealous of your sneakers 🙂

    • OMG, I am in love with my sneakers. Thank you!

      Years ago – before I embraced my body size I was in a diet program and not losing weight and I complained to my “diet” counselor about my lack of weight loss – saying “I exercise all the time and I’m eating on the plan.” Her response was that if I was following the plan than I must not actually be going to the gym. I turned around and told her to slap my glutes and then tell me again that I don’t workout enough. Her response to my “proof” of activity was that must not actually be following the plan. Clearly, no understanding that the body could reject weight loss!

  6. Oh, gracious. I’m a yoga teacher and I would never in a million years talk about arm flab in class. It would never even occur to me, no matter what size you are. In yoga teacher training we were taught to help people find proper alignment, for their own particular range of movement by offering adjustments, alternative poses and props. We were definitely NOT taught to comment on body types. Yikes. What a twit.

  7. I totally feel your pain. I’m a weights girl by preference and rather strong. When I work out, I work very hard (treadmill on hill, rower set high,,,). If it’s not hard it’s boring.
    I’m not sure why, but I get looks rather than words in general. I have had the pleasure of responding to one guy who thought he was the stuff – look him up and down, then, “meh, I could bench-press you, you’re about 200, right?”
    I tried yoga while working at a non profit. Most of the employees were women and of the cheerleader type. My invading their Lululemon space with my XL sweatpants was not well-received. Especially when I wouldn’t hide in back. There were a few poses I couldn’t do, but I rocked others. It was unpleasant enough, though, that I didn’t continue past a year.

  8. Question: Those of you that commented on this post today – how did you find it? In other words where did you refer or link from?

  9. Facebook. A friend had your blog entery on their wall; its being shared and viewed and will probably continue to be shared/viewed for a while.
    I recently got into yoga and it took me a little while to gather the courage to even try; but I will admit I did alot of research into WHERE I was going to be courageous. There are a handful of places where I am located that offer yoga and I read their websites in depth and yes I came across on very pretentious establishment that went on and on about who takes yoga and for what reasons; and of course I decided NOT to go there as I am not looking to be lectured/shamed/guilted/etc. Yoga is supposed to be about re-energizing, connecting with onself on a spiritual and physical level; the reasons one chooses to try yoga and practice it can be varied, so long as they are benefiting from it on a personal level and feel that their lives are improved because of it, who cares why and what brought them to trying yoga! Its not the yoga instructors job to be the judge.
    I am so glad I found an establishment that has a very open acceptance of all yogies; it doesn’t matter what size you are, what you wear, what brought you there or what keeps you there; its all about enjoying the moment, focusing on oneself, and leaving the practice feeling better. I hope that this douchbag doesn’t ruin the yoga experience for anyone and that they see past his own egotistical arrogance… good grief all we needed was a ‘MTV Jersey shore’ yogie…. sigh*
    Honestly though, I commend you for holding back. I am not one to hold back, I don’t unleash entirely of course, but I can tell you right now he would not have been walking out dressed nor would he have completed the ‘lesson’ and I can guarantee you that the only person walking out of the hotel room feeling any sort of shame would have been him!
    Hope he reads this btw!

    P.S.: You’re awesome!

  10. Pingback: arm flab, fat-shaming & the most clueless yoga teacher in the world (reblog)

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