Tag Archives: lingerie

Fit Mom Vs. The Fat Chick, The Cage Match Edition

MamaCatThe online world is absolutely full of people arguing with Maria Kang alternatively known as “fit mom” or “what’s your excuse mom”.  She stirred up a whole lot of controversy with her picture showing her teeny tiny sports shorts and perfectly toned abs next to her three children along with the headline, “What’s Your Excuse?”  Naturally this photo infuriated a lot of women who didn’t feel they should need an excuse to not look like Maria Kang looks.  And there were plenty of women ready to point out that Maria has no right to make assumptions about their lives and their priorities and their choices, based on the fact that they fail to look like fitness magazine cover models.

She stirred up a whole other hornet’s nest of controversy recently by speaking out against a Curvy Lingerie company.  Curvy Girl chose to help boost women’s self esteem by asking their customers to post pictures of themselves on their Curvy Girl facebook page.  Curvy Girls touted this as an opportunity for average women who have NOT been airbrushed or spray tanned, surgically altered or photoshopped to show off their sexy selves including stretch marks, bumps, scars and rolls.  Naturally, Maria couldn’t stay out of the fray and just had to say something about how some of those women (based on some criteria known only to her) should not feel good about themselves because they just can’t be healthy looking that way.  The owner of Curvy Girl then got Maria kicked off facebook, at least temporarily for engaging in hate speech against those who submitted pictures to the Curvy Girl site.

And of course, I can’t sit just idly by.  Oh, honey, no.  I have to jump in here and say, that this is an absolutely perfect, text book demonstration of why I choose to call myself “The Fat Chick”.  Maria describes herself as a fitness trainer.  Maria even looks like our American stereotypical ideal of how a trainer should look.  She also conforms to many stereotypes regarding what a fitness trainer should think.  But I think many of the notions that she has tried (in her not particularly clear way) to articulate during the many multitudes of media interviews are not only flawed but dangerous to her clients and to the world at large.  So, if y’all will bear with me, I’d like to take a quick look at some of them right here and right now.

1.  Everyone, if they tried hard enough, could look like Maria Kang.  Um, no.  There are many, many factors that go into how a person looks including age, race, gender, socioeconomic status, genetics, fitness level and so on.  The vast majority of people in the world could do situps until the end of time and squats until their bums fall off and they will never, ever look like Maria Kang.  I’m not saying that Maria doesn’t work very hard to look the way she does.  I’m sure she spends an enormous amount of time, energy and money making that happen.  I am saying that she is coming from a different starting place from many of us,  I think this may be a case of “born on third and thinks she hit a triple”.  I have participated in many running races and track events in my life despite the fact that I am not naturally gifted with any athletic talent for running.  Despite a serious training regimen and a lot of determination I think Usain Bolt’s record is safe from me.  That said, he probably can’t hit a high “C” or sing the soprano role in a French Opera like I can.  I think that’s true even if Mr. Bolt really wanted it and trained for it.   He just doesn’t have the right kind of body to accomplish that.  And that is OKAY.

2.  Well at least all fitness teachers should look like Maria Kang.  Again, no.  A thousand times no.  Fitness teachers work with all different kinds of people.  Therefore, fitness teachers should look like lots of different kinds of people.  Some students will be extremely motivated working with a teacher like Maria.  Some would be put off or even terrified in working with somebody who looks like her.  One very important reason I call myself “The Fat Chick” is to get across the notion that while some fit people look like Maria, plenty of others look more like me.  In fact, on the Fit Fatties Forum, there are THOUSANDS OF THEM who look more like me.  There is not just one way to be fit.  There is not just one way to look.  Maria looks like a fitness teacher, but SO. DO. I.

3.  But some of those women just don’t look healthy.  Um, how the heck do YOU know Maria.  You absolutely, positively, truly cannot look at a person and determine if they are healthy.  You cannot look at a person and determine if they have healthy habits.  You.  Can. Not.  As my dear friend Ragen Chastain says, the only thing you can know for sure when you look at a fat person is your own bias towards fat people.  This notion that you can tell that fat people are unhealthy by looking at them has caused untold harm to people of size in this world.  Because it’s not just attention-seeking personal trainers who harbor these biases.  It’s also doctors and nurses and college admission officials and tenured professors and office health care managers.  It’s our mothers and fathers and second cousins who all feel that our size should generate concern which in turn generates the need to generate unsolicited advice.

4.  But saying that fat people are unattractive and unhealthy doesn’t mean I’m a bully.  I hate to burst your bubble Maria, but that’s EXACTLY what that means.  You are taking a stigmatized group and you are using faulty logic to justify your attempts to further stigmatize them.  Yup.  That makes you a bully.   Even if you don’t believe you are being a bully, and even if you take care to point out to anyone that will listen that you are not a bully, you are still being a bully.

5.  But Maria is just trying to help.  The question I have here is, “Help who?”  Clearly Maria is trying to help herself.  No doubt that she will enjoy a certain notoriety for her part in this whole brouhaha and her facebook and YouTube hits are no doubt off the charts.  But if you are going to help people, if you are going to help normal, everyday people get fit, it’s important to do your homework.  You should know as a fitness instructor what is likely to hurt (shaming your clients) and what is likely to help (encouraging and empathizing  with your clients).  When you are responsible for teaching others, it’s so important to read the research and really understand what is happening rather than simply repeating something you heard from somebody somewhere.

In a way, I am extremely grateful to Maria.  She’s made the dialog come to light, she’s made the bias come out in the open, and she’s contrasted my own approach to fitness in such a clear way that my role as “The Fat Chick” has never been clearer.  As a fitness teacher or trainer you could always take the tack of asking people, “What’s your excuse?”  But I’ve always found it quite a lot more effective to ask, “What do you need?” or “How can I help?”


Jeanette DePatie

AKA The Fat Chick

P.S. There is a lot of great advice about how to go from zero to moderately active in YOUR life in my book–The Fat Chick Works Out!  Now get both the book and DVD for only $25.

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Now Trending on facebook: Mannequins that Look Like People


Late last week, these lovely ladies started going viral on facebook.  Apparently a shopper named Rebecka, took pictures of these mannequins at a store in Sweden and posted them on her blog.  This image was picked up by Women’s Rights News and posted to their facebook page with along with the statement, “Store mannequins in Sweden. They look like real women. The US should invest in some of these.”  Since then, the photos have been seen by over 600,000 people and have become something of a worldwide sensation.  There was some initial confusion.  At one point, someone suggested that the mannequins were being displayed at H&M.  When H&M denied that the mannequins were theirs, some media entities (including the Washington Post) declared that the whole thing was a hoax.  But Rebecka assures us that the mannequins are real and are currently on display at a major Swedish department store called Åhléns.

So why such a fuss over a couple of clothing dummies?  It seems some of the excitement stems from the fact that these models seem to have bodies that are at least a little bit closer to average women around the world.  So often store mannequins are proportioned much closer to the tall and thin range of the human weight spectrum.  While some women are six feet tall and a size 4 or 6, this is certainly not average.  The Åhléns mannequins are a little softer and rounder.  Maybe they look a little bit less like the personification of a media ideal of creatures who wear fashionable clothing and a little more like, you know, people.  (Frankly, I adore the fact that they are wearing socks along with their pretty undies.  I mean it gets freakin’ COLD in the winter, ya know?!)

It’s interesting that these mannequins have attracted so much attention.  I mean they aren’t sporting alien antennas or tentacles.  They were not launched with a smug press release or a huge fanfare.  They were simply displayed, wearing socks and undies in a Swedish department store.  And just because they look a little bit less like an “ideal” and a little more “real” to many people, they have been viewed over half a million times since last Friday.  One would hope that other clothing stores and fashion designers and advertisers are taking note.  What is the dollar value of the marketing that this department store in Sweden is receiving just for taking a chance on giving its customers something for which they have obviously been waiting?  Is somebody taking note of the fact that there is a lot of pent up desire for seeing clothing displayed on a variety of body shapes and sizes to which more than just a very select few women might possibly relate?  Good heavens, I certainly hope so!

The last five years have not generally been kind to retailers.  And while it seems that sales are starting to pick up, I don’t think many would suggest that business is booming.  So it’s especially important now for retailers to focus on what customers want.  And it seems to me, what customers want, is to see clothing displayed in a way that reminds them a little bit less of some industry-driven ideal of how they should look and a little bit more of themselves.  Here’s hoping the message is finally getting through.


The Fat Chick

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