Pretty Good for a Fat Girl: What Liberation Looks Like

"Your poses are just so awesome," you said as we passed by each other.

"I'm sorry, what was that," I asked, as I hadn't caught what you said.

"I said your poses. They are awesome. They are beautiful and graceful. They just amaze me."

We lock eyes while I consider what it will cost me if I decide to help you understand the weight of the way your shared sentiment lands inside of me.

I wonder, for a split second, if I was the only one who heard the thing you didn't say:

"Your poses are just so amazing"... for a fat girl.

Right, I know, that isn't what you said. I know that you were attempting to be encouraging, complimentary, maybe even expressly kind. But here is what I can't get past.

If you didn't mean to imply "for a fat girl", then what's with the amazement?

I have practiced for years, uniting breath and movement on my mat for more hours than I can count. I have learned to move into poses I never thought possible, accessing them inch by inch, over a patient practice of many months. My body has responded to the required rigor with a reckless abandon, the way that bodies tend to do when they are invited to participate in something they love. And now we've learned to dance, this body and this spirit.

And yes, it's beautiful. And yes, it's graceful. It was meant to be that way.

But it isn't any more or less amazing than every other body in the room.

So help me with that.

Are you amazed by the thin body that seems to defy gravity and float on the hands? What about the older body that lifts into backbends, releasing a lifetime of wisdom with the opening of the hips and the curvature of the spine? Are those bodies amazing? Maybe you DO find them amazing. But do you stop them on the way to the bathroom to tell them about it?

Probably not.

So here you and I find ourselves, eyes locked, and I have a decision to make about how much weight I want to bear. Should I hand you back the heaviness of what you have implied? Because I'd really like you to take it back...

But then I remember that it's really not your fault. Your amazement is the product of cultural conditioning that has led you to believe that fat bodies are less capable than thin bodies. Deeper than that even is the belief that it is a good, kind thing to praise the fat body when it shows any sign of physical prowess. After all, a fat body that breaks from the "lazy and undisciplined" stereotype imposed on it should be encouraged to keep going. If it is not encouraged, then how could it ever be expected to produce the coveted outcome of thinness? 

And so I choose to thank you for the compliment, bearing the weight of what you have implied in my own body, a space that is quite accustomed to extra weight, because it isn't your fault that we have ended up in this particular moment.

I mean, let's just tell the truth - you and I are not that far apart on this particular topic.

I have spent my entire lifetime swimming in the same messaging that led us to this place. The only difference between us is that while you might have only implied a bias about my fat body, I don't bother with implication. I just say it out loud. Every chance I get.

In the mirror.

In my mind.

To anyone who will listen.

One time, I actually said it to a trainer who was working with me. I'd just completed this brutal shuttle sprint holding medicine balls of increasing weight (because it's not hard enough to sprint with 250 pounds on your body, clearly 45 lb. medicine balls are warranted). My finishing time was right in the middle of the group who had gone before me and I said, "That's not bad for a fat girl."

Do you know what that beautiful woman said to me?

She looked me squarely in the eyes and said, "That was great for anybody. Any. Body. Get it?"

And for one split second, I did get it. I understood that I had become a victim of my own oppression.

Actually, I just realized another difference between you and I... at least you expressed amazement. Even in my most accomplished moments, the most that I could muster was some acknowledgment that I'd done the thing, but probably not done it as well as a thin person.

And so that's kind of the sweet spot for me in this story - the realization that the things you imply do not oppress me.

I am my own oppressor.

And I am also my own liberation.

I spent weeks thinking about our exchange, turning it over in my head, letting it dig at my insides until it uncovered the thing that required uprooting. And now we have arrived here, at this sweet spot where I am reminded that I am the path to freedom, the keeper of my right to reclaim the space this body requires to move in the world with substance and with strength. 

Which is what I intend to do.

To move with substance and with strength.

I will step into a space that knows that the same arms and legs and back and belly that are capable of lifting 

 into this


Really look like this from a different angle


And that it is the same beautiful, strong, powerful, grounded, rooted, weighty body that moves in both photos.

 And so I refuse to hide this body any longer.

i am done being bound by my own perception that this


is any more beautiful than this


Because this body has never abandoned me. 

When it twists and bends and folds and lifts

it reminds me that together, we have survived.

And that is sacred.

So very sacred.

For anybody.

For. Every. Body.

Get it now?

Good. Now that we both know better, let's both do better.


Sarah Stevens