IT'S A NIGHTMARE TO BE A WOMAN WITH A BODY IN AMERICA
We're trying to get fit in our—ahem—late thirties and early forties. This is the real shit. Don’t expect bikini selfies. We’re not doing P90X. No protein shakes. (Elizabeth, promise there won't be protein shakes!) Here's the first installment where we tell you how much we weigh. GASP FAINTS DEAD.
ADRIENNE: OK, Elizabeth, we’re just a couple of middle-aged-ish gals with full time jobs and three children between us, and my god, trying to get fit while leading a life filled with responsibility—that ish is a lot tougher than Gwyneth and Oprah and US Weekly and everyone in California would lead you to believe! (BTW I just heard on the radio this morning that Gwyneth’s former chef said she was really easy to cook for because she never ate ever and I love this transparency so much.)
So that’s the seed from which Fat Heauxs was born—average-ish people with busy lives trying and failing and trying again. And focusing on the good stuff like “When I work towards a goal I feel strong!” and not the “How fat does my ass look in these pants, let’s go on a juice cleanse!” stuff.
But let’s be real, ugh, how many times a day do I think “Do I look fat?” In the words of Charlotte York, “Every day. Not all day, every day, but every day.” Every single day for the past 22 years I’ve wished I was thinner. What a NIGHTMARE to be a woman in America. I’m a real boring product of all the messaging about how women should look or be or act and it’s not a surprise this nonsense is roaming around my lizard brain even though I don’t want it there and I know it’s ridiculous. Except then I’m watching The Bachelor and all these girls are in tiny bikinis and I’m like, shouldn’t I be able to look like that? Even though I’m 100 years old and have had a baby and they’re 22 and their wisdom teeth haven’t even come in yet! IT’S INSANE. I just want to call bullshit on all of that.
Do you remember the first time you were ever called fat or thought you were fat?
Age: 43 and ½
Occupation: miserable public servant, writer and comedian, mom of two teen gals
Weight: 180 lbs
Dress size: She can’t usually afford dresses with number sizes so XL to XXL?
Age: 37 ½
Occupation: social media, writer, single mom
Weight: 166 lbs
Dress size: 12
ELIZABETH: I don’t remember a time I wasn’t called fat. One million years ago, when I was young and crows feet were a thing I thought would be sexy, I heard Margaret Cho do a bit about her mom calling her fat. I laughed so hard because this is my immigrant Korean mom 100! Basically, the moment I flew out of her vag, my mom called me fat. SORRY FOR BEING A HEALTHY AND HAVING BIG EYES, MOM! It was hardest and most confusing when I was a teenager. Not only would she call me fat, but she would pinch my friends and say, “Why you so fat?! You hungry?” Which made me realize two things - 1. Language is complicated. 2. I was never going to have any friends.
At some point, the word became silly to me. She would say that to pretty much anyone who was over a size “skeleton.” Frankly, my mom uses whitening cream and tattooed her eyebrows, which are now more green than black, so I’m not looking for beauty advice from her.
Like you, and so many gals, whatever our size, we struggle with that word ALL. THE. TIME. I’m tired of it. Call me fat. I don’t care. I’m still sexy AF on some days, and on some days, I’m not (thank you, weird mirena periods). In the context of body image, we’re constantly battling it, right? I’m sure online, we’re opening ourselves up to be judged. People will say that we’re fat and some people will say that we’re not. Whatever they say, the truth is that we are what we are. These are our bodies. We love them, we hate them, and we feel differently every day about them. Whatever, the case, I don’t think they have the right to tell us how to feel about them as much as I don’t think people have the right to police our bodies.
This project was born out of our experience of riding our bikes for a zillion miles in one summer. We both hoped so hard that we would end up looking like smashed paper straws when we were done. Instead, we lost little to no weight and ate lots of pizza and more Olive Garden than I have in my life, and still felt amazing! We were still chubby lil mofos, but it didn’t matter because we felt strong and empowered. I want to keep that feeling going!
What about you? What do you want to see come out of this?
ADRIENNE: YES! So you started a bike team to train to ride a century (shout out Team Tuff Muff!) and one of my main goals in joining was to get to my “divorce weight.” You know, WHAT I WEIGHED AT THE LOWEST MOMENT IN MY ENTIRE LIFE AND COULDN’T EAT BECAUSE I WAS SO SAD. But I thought, there’s no way a gal can ride 100 miles a week and not become a stick! Guess what, there’s a way, it’s called being thirty-seven and pizza.
About halfway through our training when I wasn’t getting skinnier AT ALL, I felt really sad and discouraged. I felt like I was trying everything. I was working with a nutritionist, I was working out, people kept mentioning this weird thing called “cross training” to me but whatever, I was working hard and nothing was happening and I was bummed. But we kept training and slowly slowly it became not about what my body looked like, but what it could DO. That’s the first time in my entire life I’ve ever felt that way. Ever. Because this whole time I didn't think it could DO much of anything.
After we survived the century (hurrah!) I realized that that strong feeling is the antidote to the obsession with thinking “Does this make me look fat?” or “Why can’t I look like Heidi Klum?” and I just wanted it to stick around forever because I want to be strong and empowered, not insecure and anxious.
I think it’s important to note at this point that I am NOT AN ATHLETE. Like not at all, ever, and I’m terrified about how ridiculous I’m going to look on videos and pictures trying to do a pull up or letting the world look at my body. The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show this is not. But I gotta think there are all sorts of people who are struggling and just want to try too? There are all sorts of ladies like us out there, we’re just not the ones you see fitness articles or Instagrams about.
But, Elizabeth, you actually are a badass athlete! You founded Chicago’s roller derby team, the Windy City Rollers. THAT SHIT IS BADASS. Let’s talk about it, what does it mean to be an athlete?
ELIZABETH: I wish I knew! I started in derby before we knew the word “training.” For awhile it was just skating, and skating at a slow pace isn’t really athletic. Not to mention that most practices, at that time, were followed by beer and deep fried foods and whiskey shots. I will admit that the longer that I was in it, the more serious the group became about fitness. Fitness scares me, girl! Because deep down inside, I’d always rather lay on a couch eating ho-hos than walk a block to Walgreens to get said ho-hos.
What I did learn in roller derby is that lots of regular women came to the table with a lot of fear. Can I do this? And through working together and supporting each other, we could and we did, even 13 years later. We learned a lot about nutrition and working out. THERE IS SO MUCH INFORMATION and it can be very confusing, like when I’m trying to decide whether I have to skip the cheese on a cheeseburger. IF YOU SKIP THE CHEESE, THEN IT IS NO LONGER A CHEESEBURGER! Some gals excelled at training. If you did a minute of wall sits, they would do 3. Some people are born to push themselves and some of us are born to eat tacos while taking a bubble bath.
Also, I was a blocker with high penalties, so frankly, this gal was BENCHED a ton. While, I appreciate you saying I was an athlete, I was not. Many of the gals I skated with were, but not ol Elizabeth “Juanna Rumbel” Gomez, the Freakin Korican. She was mostly a chunky meatbag with skates. The definition of athlete is someone who is proficient in sports or other physical exercise. If only plucking your chin hairs was a sport, I’d be a gold medalist.
It makes me think about labels, though. How we attach so much meaning or fear to words. Like it is legit upsetting to me when you say I’m an athlete. It makes me feel pressure to be great. And you must feel similarly because isn’t an athlete someone who dedicates themselves to an activity and pushes their bodies to a breaking point? Which then means that you, too, are an athlete based on our riding experience. Amirite? Random thought - Golfers are athletes, but does that mean bowler are athletes? Even in that scenario, I’d rather be a bowler because there are french fries within 20 feet at all times.
Why do you keep saying you’re not an athlete? What other labels scare you? How are we going to deal with all the hate comments? WHAT WILL MY FLAT RECTANGLE SHAPED ASS LOOK LIKE ON CAMERA??? ADRIENNE! WHAT ARE WE DOING?? Let’s just do coke in a discotech and wear sparkly pants! I’M STILL SAYING DISCOTECH! I DON’T BELONG HERE!
ADRIENNE: For the record, I love your flat ass.
I think I am very scared of the word athlete because I’ve never been naturally athletic, naturally able to run or climb or whatever, I have terrible balance and no core strength and I get winded easily, and I think I felt a lot of shame about that growing up, so athlete to me means YOU IN DANGER, GIRL. But I all I know is in my late thirties, I just want to try. Not just athletic things, but I want to just try things regardless of outcome. I have enough failures under my belt that I think I’m finally in a place in my life where I actually believe it’s the journey that matters. I want to be present in my life trying.
I want to go back to something you said earlier about everybody having body issues. You and I are relatively healthy gals and I want to recognize that. I mean I have to take Prilosec every day for a hiatal hernia and debilitating heartburn and my hips hurt a lot and I’ve had some lower back issues and chronic constipation and I had a bunionectomy last year. But mostly every day I get out of bed, take an Advil, and join the world. So here’s my question, is it privileged bullshit for us to talk about our dissatisfaction with our bodies? I struggle with wanting to lose 30 lbs and then raging at the idea that I should ever lose any weight ever why can’t I embrace this old sack o bones the way it is? It’s good enough.
So does every person’s body story matter? Or should some people stfu and get over themselves?
ELIZABETH: Oh, man! I am not in the business of playing who gets to feel worse about their bodies. People of all sizes can find their bodies to be terrible. Half of the very good looking cast of Ally McBeal had eating disorders. HEAUX MY GOD! I just referenced Ally McBeal; that dancing baby was scary. WHO THOUGHT THAT WAS A GOOD IDEA? It’s impossible to know what’s going on inside someone’s head and how deeply they are hurting just by looking at them. For crying out loud, today, I took a picture of a cute pair of socks I’m wearing. I worked on it for 10 minutes so my feet didn’t look fat. WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME?? And FAT, I’m using that stupid word again. Right now, I’m tired, hungover for the 3rd morning in a row, and super angry that I ate a sausage egg mcmuffin for breakfast. I feel gross and look gross. But, I think that’s why it’s so important to explore this. Why do I, a 43-year-old woman with two almost adult daughters, a career, and ok sized bod, and the whole series of the Walking Dead at my fingertips have to still struggle EVERY DAMN DAY about this? WHY?!
I want Fat Heauxs to be about turning these feelings around. Why is it so hard to be ok with our bodies? Why is it so hard to be motivated to change? Why is it so hard to say no to Jet’s Pizza? What will help us shift our perception? Can we find a fitness routine that won’t kill us? I hope that we’ll find ways to respect our bodies rather than judge them for what they look like. I hope that we’ll be able to be a place where women can go to laugh and discuss real feelings about real bodies, no matter what sizes we are. I also hope that we’ll kick box so I can hit something and then get hoagies. I love sandwiches.
Before we go, tell me about what you’re struggling with currently and why you want to launch this project? And what do you hope to get out of it and what you’re most afraid will happen?
ADRIENNE: Well, when you look at all the fitness content out there, not a ton features the people you see every single day on the train and living their lives in the real world. And since Richard Simmons is missing, I guess we'll have to make that shit ourselves. I know that watching a YouTube video of an impossibly fit yogi standing on her head or a ripped dude lifting giant weights, it doesn't feel achievable for me and I want to give up before I begin. So I want this to be about real people trying and failing and getting better a little bit at a time. Because that's what I learned from the century, if athleticism isn't naturally your bag, it's gonna be a SLOW JOURNEY, even when you're working at it a lot. And if you're middle-aged and haven't gotten to the "I eat to live!" "I eat to fuel my body!" "I eat to feel great!" spot, like, fuck are you going to? I don't know that I am, but like everything else, more balance would probably be good. But you'll pry the Jet's pizza out of my cold dead hands.
So with Fat Heauxs I offer myself up as a guinea pig, not in a competition of lady parts and sizes and shapes and ability, but as a, I'm trying, it's hard, it sucks, but it's also pretty funny because life ain't so serious and I will wear this leotard to make you laugh and I hope it did.
Can I just say that I just ate an apple cider donut and it was delicious and I already have zero interest in working out like at all because it’s gray and cold outside and time to hibernate for winter?
ELIZABETH: That’s why I drink.