Tag Archives: encouragement

Turtles, Penguins, Whales, Hippos and other “Insulted Spirit Animals”

As a person who previously did an awful lot of slow running, it’s hard to avoid the wonderful writings of John “The Penguin” Bingham.  At the ripe old age of 43, John started running, slowly.  And I mean slow.  John started by running down his driveway.  And every week he ran just a little further, but not necessarily a whole lot faster.  Jeff has since become a fitness icon.  He is spokesperson for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s team in training.  Early in his effort, John took on a mascot or “spirit animal” calling himself “The Penguin”.  He says he picked this animal for it’s waddling, shuffling gait.  Since choosing that moniker, John has written a column for Runners World called “The Penguin Chronicles”.  It ran for over 14 years.

I love so much about what John has to say.  He has a number of wonderful books that encourage exercise beginners.  And how can you not love his motto, “waddle on”.  But I will say that John was lucky in quite a few ways as a beginning exerciser.  He was white, he was male, he was relatively prosperous and relatively thin.  And this is said in no way to diminish his amazing accomplishments.  But I will say that he got the chance to choose his own mascot, before one was bestowed upon him by 16 year old boys as he ran down the street.

Those of us guilty of RWF (Running While Fat) have not always had that opportunity.  Some of us have been called elephants, or hippos, or as my dear friend Ragen Chastain explains, we’re called “land whales”.  Ragen says:

The thing is, there are fat animals that live on land and I feel like they’re not getting their due.   There is just no need to make up animals when you could call me an elephant, hippo, or rhino.  Or, go the extra mile and do some research (I mean, do you want to be just an adequate hater or do you want to really excel?)

Recently, on Ragen’s facebook page, some of us were ranting about the whole “land whale”, “hamplanet” and “land blimp” phenomenon and talking about how great it was if we could choose our own mascot.  Nora suggested “Flying Rhinos”, Sara developed a killer logo, and we were off to the races.  Literally.  We created a division within the Fit Fatties Forum and created an awesome new mascot, that we chose for ourselves and wear with pride.  Wanna learn more?  Here’s some details:

Introducing the Flying Rhinos

The Flying Rhinos are a way for people of all sizes who want to carve out space and obtain visibility and respect for fat people in the fitness world to be public about our involvement, show our pride and solidarity, and recognize each other when we’re out and about.

We live our mission out loud, wearing our official Flying Rhinos shirts in everything from our own movement activities and classes, to organized races, sports, and events.  We have our own group on the Fit Fatties Forum to discuss our training, get support, swap stories and race reports, talk about events we’re in and plan meet-ups offline to do events together and/or just hang out.

Our official shirts help us show our Rhino pride and recognize each other when we’re out and about. If you want to order a shirt either for you individually, or for your team (whether it’s for an organized sport, a 5k, a charity event or whatever) just e-mail ragen@danceswithfat.org.  When we have a big enough order we place it and split the cost among the people making the order.

Who Can Join?

Everyone, of every size, who participates in movement at any level and is committed to body positivity is welcome to become a member of the group, and wear the official shirt.  Wear it to yoga, wear it to roll your wheelchair in a 5k, wear it at the pool, wear it to your Krav Maga class, wear it to Zumba, wear it going around your block or in a marathon, put together a softball team or a team for a charity race and we’ll get you some shirts. Roll with the Rhinos for a fun, supportive, body positive, rocking good time.

Wrapping it All Up:

In closing, I want to encourage  you to choose your own mascot.  Don’t let some socially underdeveloped cretin choose one for you, yelling it at you as you run down the street.  I don’t care what kind of mascot you choose.  Be it a penguin, a turtle, a mustang or a flying rhino.  Just remember, that you have the power to choose how you define yourself in the world.  And remember that every animal whether it’s a turtle, a manatee or a racehorse had to take its first few tentative strokes or wobbly steps in the world at one time.  Don’t worry about wobbly, just take a deep breath and begin.


Love, Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)


Free Advice

Let me tell you a secret. This blog feeds a need in me. I have a burning need to offer free advice. I have a compulsion to tell people what to do. That seems to work okay in a blog, but in real life, maybe not so much. And lately, I’ve been dealing a lot with the nature of advice from both points of view.

A lot of people seek my advice, and when they ask for it, I try to give it. And when they don’t ask for advice, I try (but often fail) to keep my advice to myself. But it’s so hard, right? When someone comes to you, and they are complaining, or frustrated, or crying. And how often do we think we see what that person needs to do to fix their situation? It seems so SIMPLE, right? And how often do the words, “All you have to do is…” come leaping to my lips?

Sometimes I’m right. Sometimes I know what that person needs to do to make everything better. And sometimes I just DON’T. Often all I know about the situation is the little bit I’ve seen and the little bit that person has chosen to share with me. And sometimes the person I’m talking to is able to eloquently relate in great deal what is happening to them. And sometimes they are NOT. Sometimes they have furtively shown me the tip of a very big iceberg. And sometimes I think I should know just how HUGE that iceberg is before I start giving navigation directions about how to steer around that bad boy.

But I can tell you from the other end, that sometimes the last thing I want in the world is some more unsolicited helpful advice–especially from those closest to me. It’s great that they care. And sometimes, no make that often, they are absolutely right about what I need to do. And sometimes, no make that often, that is absolutely not what I needed to hear at that moment. I try (but often fail) to be grateful that they care enough to share their ideas about what they think I should do. I try (but often fail) to accept their helpful hints and mild criticism with grace. But so often I end up angry and hurt and frustrated.

I think this is because often when I complain, or express frustration what I really need is 1)assurance that everything will be all right and 2)encouragement that I already have the tools to figure out what I need to do. That doesn’t mean that I am able to joyfully and completely articulate my needs in that moment. Nope. In that moment, I am bitching about something that isn’t going right in my life and secretly hoping like hell that the person listening doesn’t feel the need to give me lots of advice.

So what’s a person to do? I guess when I’m listening, I should try to remember that I have two ears and one mouth. I need to wait and assess–is this person asking me for advice, or encouragement, or assurance, or for nothing at all but a little commiseration? And I guess when I’m ranting, I have to remember how deep and strong the urge is to tell people what to do and be glad that people care enough to want to help me. Or at least I need to learn to articulate what I need instead of being annoyed that the person I’ve just regaled with all my woes hasn’t guessed correctly which of the hundred responses is the right one. It can be downright sticky.

So my little Chicklettes, I frankly don’t know how to advise you on the issue of advice. All I can suggest is to keep your mind and heart open, and do the best you can. And when you fail (which will be often) learn what you can and move on.

The Fat Chick

The Power of a Few Kind Words


Over the weeks and months that I’ve been writing this blog, a number of you have left nice messages in the comments.  I wonder if you realize the impact you have?  Do you know how just a few kind words can be enough to make my whole day?  They make me feel important.  They make me feel appreciated.

So many of us walk around in our lives feeling unappreciated.  We feel like nobody notices what we do.  Our hearts are heavy with the thought that no one understands what we are going through.  But do you realize what power you have to change that for those around you?  Do you see how just saying sincere thanks to people in your lives, from the woman at the Drive Thru at the bank to your best friend, to your mom, to your spouse can have an impact on them?  And do you know what an impact it can have on you?

When you sincerely thank those around you, when you applaud them for the work they do, when you allow them to see that their efforts matter to someone, they feel good and you feel good.  It’s a two-fer one deal.  Now let me be clear.  This is something I really wish I was better at doing.  With my staunch Midwestern upbringing, it’s easy for me to politely thank perfect strangers, while at the same time be kind of lousy at thanking and encouraging those closest to me.  I get busy.  I forget.  I don’t like to gush.

But when I look around me at the people who are most successful and the most happy, they are also the people most encouraging to those around them.  So I am trying to be better.   I am trying to get my head out of my proverbial butt a little more.  And I am trying to verbalize what I am often thinking: how blessed I am to have smart, loving, joyful, generous, kind and awesome people in my life.  I’m trying to remember to say thanks.

So my little chicklettes, you are indeed truly awesome!  And thanks so much for listening.


The Fat Chick