the HAES® files: Fit or Fat – Can You Be Both?

by Health At Every Size® Blog

by Dianne Bondy, E-RYT 500

I am a fat black woman. I am used to discrimination in everything I do, as well as the criticism that follows when I speak my truth about my experiences. I have been raised in a white, supremacist culture that continually reminds me I am less than the white norm.

On a regular basis, I am told that some bodies are worth more than other bodies within our culture. Thin and fit bodies are far more beautiful and valuable than fat bodies.

I know that my body is not worth much when it is held up against the impossible standards of white, European beauty. It does, however, hold its own when compared to the standards of beauty native to the continent my people came from: Africa.

Despite the messages being sent, I honor my body because I know deep down that it is valuable and worthy. My body allows me to experience life, pleasure, creation, and joy. No one can take those experiences away from me. Sadly, our culture has put a price on beauty by setting unrealistic standards for us all to endure.

As a woman of colour, I know that my life doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things. The recent “BlackLivesMatter” movement is a constant reminder of the world in which we live, and our duty as people of colour, to draw awareness to injustice.

I have been raised to be ashamed of my skin colour, my hair texture, my gender and the shape of my body, by a dominant white culture whose ideas of race and ethnicity are derived by slavery and capitalism.

When we say white supremacy, people automatically think of the KKK, a group of cowardly, ignorant people who hide their faces while running with burning crosses and disseminating hate and violence against anything that isn’t white. The truth of the matter is that white supremacy is when white culture is considered the norm and everything else is considered “other” or “exotic.” White supremacy creates and sustains the divide between “us” and “them,” while also perpetuating unfairness and inhumanity among human beings.

Most of us know that race is a social construct. It is a way to create a division among people and cultures. Race creates a caste system, and through this socially constructed hierarchy, the system remains evident right here in North America. This dualistic way of thinking has inspired the hatred and injustice I have witnessed in all aspects of my life and the lives of people of colour everywhere.

As a black woman in a larger body, I have come to expect judgment in all situations. My skin colour makes me suspicious, different and lesser than. I have accepted this reality as the norm for most of my life, without raising my voice or provoking the status quo.

Now, it is time to speak up. I have been teaching and practicing yoga for the better part of 40 years, and it has changed my life.  When people come to my classes and see me as the teacher, their reaction ranges from surprise to downright disgust. People automatically assume that I am unfit and unhealthy.

Little do they know, I walk between 30 to 45 minutes per day, I practice a strong and physical yoga asana 5 times a week, and I am very active with my two young boys all the time, playing soccer, basketball, and bike riding. I may not look like I am athletic but I am. My blood pressure is low, my energy is high and I am strong!  Whenever I have a check up with my family physician, he is always surprised by my health. My size does not inspire chronic illness. I can proudly say I that I have been to the doctor 2 times in 3 years for mandatory checkups and not for prescriptions.

Throughout the course of my life, I have learned that just as skin colour doesn’t determine intelligence, weight doesn’t always determine health.

Sadly, this inner strength and deeper awareness of my capabilities versus my perceived “inabilities” came only after years of trying to fit in. A great deal of my life was wasted dieting and hating my body because of what society told me to value. My pain and humiliation fueled a 25+ year spiral into and out of disordered eating and compulsive exercising. There was a time in which I succeeded in creating the ideal body, but it came at the price of my health.  At times my life would hang in the balance at the sake of becoming society’s ideal of beauty, health and self-worth. Eventually, there comes a time when you have to call a cease fire and decide what is possible for you.

I decided to do my best with what I had, and it began with a commitment to loving myself just as I was – fat and all. I decided to redefine myself, by changing my inner self-talk to reflect that: “I am fit and I have fat on my body, but I am working at being healthy exactly where I am.” This self-talk replaced the hateful and discouraging words that told me I was lesser than or incapable of doing all the things I desired to do.

I am grateful to Linda Bacon of the Health at Every Size movement. I signed the pledge to honor the health of my body at any and every size. Linda shines a light on what most of us in larger bodies know: that fitness and fatness can coexist.

I will not be defined by the diet industry or mainstream culture. I am healthy, strong, capability, athletic and beautifuljudgments be damned!

DBondyDianne Bondy – Writer, Motivator, Educator, Yoga Teacher, and A Leading Voice in the Diversity in Yoga and Yoga of Inclusion Movement. With over 1000 hours of yoga training in diverse modalities such as yoga therapeutics, restorative yoga, meditation, and Anusara Yoga – Dianne truly believes that yoga is for all! She is passionate about creating a more diverse playing field in the yoga community and is a highly recognized voice in the Diversity in Yoga and Yoga of Inclusion movements – where all shapes, sizes, ethnicities, and cultural backgrounds are recognized, celebrated and embraced both on and off the mat. Dianne Bondy is an E-RYT 500 with Yoga Alliance, with extensive training in yoga therapy and yoga for larger bodies.  She is a regular columnist for Yoga International, Do You Yoga, and Elephant Journal and has been featured in Yoga Journal magazine.  She has appeared as a guest author in the books: Yoga and Body Image, and Yes Yoga Has Curves.  She is the founder and Managing Director of Yogasteya online yoga studio that specializes in creating an inclusive safe space for students of all shapes, sizes, and abilities to practice yoga. The goal of Yogasteya is to empower people through the practice yoga. Dianne has developed Yoga For All Teacher Trainings which seeks to educate and empower teachers on how to teach to different body types, abilities and ethnicities. Dianne facilitates inspiring and empowering retreats and workshops internationally. She is one of the founding board members of the Yoga & Body Image Coalition. To learn more about Dianne, check out her website http://www.diannebondyyoga.com and connect with her at Dianne Bondy Yoga on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.

9 Responses to “the HAES® files: Fit or Fat – Can You Be Both?”

  1. I am disturbed by the “good fatty” tone of this post. It’s OK for the author to be fat, it seems, only because she is lucky to be healthy. Should her health take a turn for the worse, will she revert to self-hatred?

    Fat bodies are good bodies no matter the owner’s level of health and/or fitness. Healthism is not an acceptable substitute for fat hatred.

  2. It’s SO challenging to make that move from disordered eating and compulsive exercising into a more loving and respectful relationship with our bodies when our bodies don’t ‘fit’ our culture’s expectations in multiple ways. I’m looking forward to hearing more from you about your work and how HAES is helpful to you.

  3. It’s so important to point out over and over that white supremacy is so much more ingrained in our society than just the surface level KKK stuff. Minnesota is progressive and liberal, yet based on quality of life statistics, it’s the second worst state for blacks to live. Way worse than the outwardly racist South. In many ways I’m a white supremacist, or at least benefit from our system of supremacy. It’s just admitting to obvious reality of our current society. What you’re saying needs to be said so we white folks can keep working to ensure all people enjoy the same unearned privileges we benefit from. Anyone who would unfollow because of your post probably wasn’t really an ally to begin with.

    • I understand your point about white privilege, Alec, but I take issue with your statement that “all people [should] enjoy the same unearned privileges.” If you mean the privilege of having a home and access to education, health care, and quality food, I would agree with you. But privilege goes far beyond that and endows people, in particular white males, with the right to threaten, assault, rape, and murder whom they choose, often with very little consequence. Privilege based on sex or skin color creates an oppressor class with depraved and violent values.

  4. I support your truth. As you move through this space, I support your journey. Let me know if you need anything.

  5. Thank you everyone who took the time to read and weigh in on my blog. It was an emotional place to write from. My relationship with my body has been a love/ hate for most of my life. Mostly hate I am afraid to the point it almost killed me. Sharing this story was so raw and personal. Thank you for your perspectives, your support and understanding. It means a lot to me that you took the time to share your thoughts and experiences. This is how we grow and start a movement. Thank you for caring.

  6. Hi Dianne, thank you for your post! It must take a lot of courage, self-love, self-care, and instinct for self-preservation to write this. Kudos to you for all that you do for your health. I hope that includes down-time as another aspect of self-nurturance 🙂 I look forward to reading more from you.

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