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The Plight of ‘The Fat Yoga Teacher’

in YD News

trina-hall-yoga

Yoga teachers are all skinny models, right? Not even close. But that’s often what people come to imagine a yoga teacher to look like, and the mass media machine is doing anything to help (see: yoga magazine covers and most yoga ads). Oh, but we can fight back, and many already have with missions and missives and big FUs to the cookie cutter stereotypes.

One teacher in particular recently took it upon herself to put her body in judgment’s way by shedding her ‘fit’ yoga teacher image and gaining 40 pounds to prove a point. A brave and noble experiment or a condescending journey to feeling ‘fat’?

Trina Hall was, by definition, a naturally fit yoga teacher from Dallas, Texas who ate “for health.” When a friend called her crying and unhappy about her current situation in life, saying ”I don’t want to be known as the fat yoga teacher,” Hall decided to commit “career suicide” and go on a diet to prove to her friend that it’s not all about what you look like but what’s inside that counts, she explained on her blog. This diet of eating “anything and everything” led Hall to gain an extra 40 pounds in just 4 months, plus a whole load of guilt and self-doubt.

She ate “bad” foods and felt “bad” about it.

I did feel bad about it, because I had always eaten for health, and your body feels good when you eat that way. You’re nourishing your body and giving it fuel. I was turning it into eating for the sake of eating, and I definitely felt like I shouldn’t be doing that. You know, it’s bad to eat a bar of chocolate every day.

And when Hall reached her peak of ‘fatness’ the doubt and judgement creeped in:

I thought this would be an experiment in empowering people to love their bodies and not try to fit society’s mold. Instead, reality of my latent insecurities came like a football team’s kicker being put in as the center (my identity was pummeled).

The stories I made up about what people thought of me were changing and I was emotionally affected. Suddenly, my self-worth was proving to be connected to how good I looked wearing spandex – something I completely denied giving a shit about before this experiment – and that pissed me off.

As the pounds were coming on, I was learning that I had fears I wasn’t aware of. I was afraid that I would be judged based on what I looked like. And I learned that I was judging myself when I would look in the mirror, and I would create this idea around: No one will love me this way. I always had this idea that, “Oh my gosh, everyone should look more inside because that’s what it’s all about.” But I discovered that I was just as guilty as the next person of being obsessed with my external appearance.

Yoga, with its overall theme of positivity, tolerance and acceptance, is not devoid of darkness, fear and doubt. We all know this. We also know that yoga, as a growing part of the fabric of many of our lifestyles, can not escape the trappings of societal misgivings and general issues of identity, body image and disempowerment.

Since the experiment, or what Hall refers to as an “art piece” open to interpretation, ended in July, she’s been back to eating “healthy” and it’s more or less back to life, back to reality, with possibly a new (or renewed) complex about her bodily appearance.

While I could never discredit her efforts, her compassion or her personal experience, there’s something that just doesn’t sit quite right with me.

Gaining weight to feel what ‘fat’ feels by eating tons of “bad” food, then stopping it all by going back to eating “healthy” is not a luxury we can all afford. Hall is, of course, free to do what she wants with her own body and feel whatever she feels, but I wonder if her public story of personal disempowerment due to weight and body image issues is a great triumph in unmasking what many others feel inside their skin, or demoralizing and insulting to those with larger bodies who are trying to lose weight or who otherwise feel completely comfortable and confident exactly where they are.

This is ripe for discussion. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

[NY Daily News]

image via News & World Report

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Earlier

143 comments… add one

  • Nancy

    EXTREMELY insulting. As a lifelong fat person, I think this is something like fat person blackface. Ugh.

  • This is misguided for sure. I felt the same way when a wealthy couple at the height of the recession “decided” to see if they could live on 30K per year. well, they could and then presumably went back to their wealthy lifestyle. while on one side it’s admirable to try to understand other peoples’ perspectives-they had their education, their intelligence, this experience of being priviledged before they “decided” to be poor.
    I feel the same way about this woman. How can you understand the years of torment, shame, and struggle that some people experience by “deciding” to put on a “fat suit”? There is a whole pyschology, genetic disposition, and family history that leads up to us being where we are. It is naive to think that we can re-create whole sets of circumstances in a kind of social laboratory.

  • Carla

    I feel what she did is a pretty remarkable thing to do… I admire that she took a totally opposite lifestyle onto herself to actually place herself into the shoes to truly embrace her experiment. She achieved her goal of feeling what its like to be fat.

    I dont believe that she was pointing her “candy bar a day” example to every fat or unhealthy person that struggles w their weight; I think she was only sharing that she was doing this herself.

    On one hand, I admire people who have extra pounds and are completely happy with themselves, on the other hand I can sympathize with people who have extra pounds and are absolutely disgusted with themselves.

    I am looking forward to her success story on losing the weight through diet and Yoga practice, I believe it could be a very encouraging and uplifting story to so many discouraged people in this world.

  • Mark

    Have you considered losing weight?

    Your weight is ENTIRELY your responsibility. If you’re fat, it’s because you choose to be fat, you make all the decisions that result in being and remaining fat. Either accept how people respond to that, or do something about it. Seems simple enough, right?

  • S

    lollll really?
    Until I was in my twenties I was always thin, I was put on medication that cause severe weight gain and developed hypothyroidism. I gained nearly a 100lbs. I never asked for this. I never made the decisions to result in fat(Unless taking necessary medication falls in that category).

    It hurts to see how people respond to my weight…but apparently it’s all my fault so I better just accept that people see me as a lesser woman because I am fat.

  • E

    While medication can in fact lead to weight gain, the results will ultimately be minimal in a healthy eating environment.

    Now, if your diet (meaning eating habits) leading up to you taking medication had been poor, and you didn’t change how you ate, of course you would gain that weight. You didn’t give yourself a fighting chance if you were put on this medication and were consuming a terribly unbalanced meal plan.

    In the end, calories in versus calories out- and the nutritional content of those calories- far outweighs any other predispositions; after all, a genetic order cannot break the laws of thermodynamics and create matter, can it?

  • Vision_Quest2

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_6-A0iHSdcA

    and the remaining 6. Double blind studies …

  • KayJay

    Funny- you can CHOOSE to be a jerk but it doesn’t seem to inform your decisions… Must be harder than it looks, huh?

  • Marie

    I don’t choose to be fat, my body doesn’t work like the average persons doed. Don’t presume to be all knowing. PCOS. Google it…

  • Justine

    I can’t believe how utterly offensive this is. Fat person blackface? Grow up. And by growing up, take responsibility for your own body. Jeez.

  • Emma

    Blackface? Seriously?! Why do people always respond to ignorance with even greater ignorance?

  • Jessica

    This sat badly with me. It is insulting and degrading to people who actually have body issues. Not to mention, when she was “fat” she felt terrible about herself, therefore saying that all fat people feel bad about themselves? I’m a fat woman and I feel great about myself most days – I eat well and do yoga regularly and do the best I can. When I lose some weight, its great, but I DO NOT walk around wondering how I am being judged and I have NEVER been judged by one of my yoga teachers – EVER. I am blessed to have some of the best and most open minded yoga teachers. This woman makes me angry and I’d like to talk to her about what her actual point was here, its shameful and hurtful to those with weight problems. Maybe she should have spent her time promoting self-love of our bodies instead of trying to insult an entire demographic? Ugh. I am so pissed I don’t even have the right words for it. Disgusting.

  • Go Yoga Girl!!

    i hear ya.

  • I’m a fat yoga teacher. No excuses, no apologies. I’ve had people leave because they didn’t think they could learn from me. I’ve also had people stick around and say what I taught was unexpected, and how much they got out of it. I have a lot of tricks and tips from living with a debilitating, progressive autoimmune condition. I do not have another single second to waste hating my body. I am really freaking happy when I get up and my ankles work. Really. I enjoy handstands and backbends, but it’s stuff like being limber enough today to type this message that gives me pause and deep gratitude for my breath, for the times I can touch the floor, for the thousand small miracles that happen in the minutia of my daily life.

    I’ve gotten a lot of officious people off the street, in my classes, who feel it’s their right and obligation to come up to me and tell me there are WAYS of getting rid of my weight. What I’d rather be rid of was their projected judgment, sanctimony, and amazed wonder.

    In a community that professes fierce love of your body, we still see students and teachers AMAZED that a fat person could be joyously embodied, be present, and have a beautiful practice. We see a lot of value placed on their “success stories,” where they have lost half themselves and become yoga teachers to share their joy. We undertake ridiculous experiments and pat ourselves on the back for the bravery of “career suicide” to “understand fat bodies,” when all you need is to respectfully use your training, curiosity and a sense of human decency. A fat student can tell you through posture that their belly is impeding their forward fold. A manual self adjustment (lifting from pelvic creases upward) could CHANGE THEIR LIVES, and your expectations. Teach that adjustment as an exploration of extreme Uddhiyana Bandha and you’ll teach anyone with a belly how to be a better steward to their practice without singling them out.

    Watch your students. If you’re really curious, offer someone who needs a lot of in-class adjustments a free private lesson and allow both of you to teach the other. It will be more priceless than rubies to both of you.

  • Eva

    Deidra,
    Your response was so moving. I have goosebumps from your beauty, humility and strength. Your students are lucky to have you….
    Namaste

  • Go Yoga Girl!!

    You go girl!!

  • Deirdra,
    I’ve already learned from you in just one short and very moving response – thank you! Please continue to teach all of us: large small wide narrow more less tall short… so that we can continue to learn from and teach each other.
    Kindly,
    Kerry

  • Jessica

    Deidra, your response is so beautiful and so touching. Blessings to you and I wish Yoga Dork was posting stories about people like YOU who have inspiration and kindness to bestow upon the world. Namaste and Good Luck to you in ALL that you do. Peace and Love!

  • Sam Louise

    Deirdra,
    Thank you so much for this moving persoanl story. You have inspired me to be content with my self and body.

    Blessings
    Sam Louise

  • Amber

    Hey there Deidra! I’m a fat yoga teacher too. We’re not a rare commodity. Mad props to you for saying what those of us with bigger bodies already know – YOGA is for EVERYONE. Sat Nam/Namaste!

  • Abby

    Deidre, If Yoga Dork had any business sense, they’d contract you for a blog on big girl yoga.
    I am so sick of instructors who cannot fathom why I have challenges in certain poses because my fat gets in the way. I literally have had to grab my belly and shake it at them to get them to understand…. They arent able to offer any insight other than “just do what you can”.
    Ugh!

  • Wendy

    Beautifully articulated! ♡
    Thank goodness there’s wisdom in experience :-)
    Bless you and Keep on Inspiring
    ~ Namaste ~

  • Daphne Sullivan

    Ummmm….no! Highly un-yogic! Don’t even know what I would say to her. Shameless self-promotion and ego driven stunt. Would never want to roll out my mat in her class.

  • Vision_Quest2

    Me either, and I’ve been weighing a person more than now; and spent many years weighing over 200 pounds (stably) … oh, this happened to me–a wizened 70 year old OLD SCHOOL hatha yoga teacher told me I should “go on a diet” and that “there are eating proscriptions in yoga” … back well before the boom. Thank you very much! (NOT!)

  • Adri

    This is so misguided. I’m overweight despite the fact that I eat healthy, cook often and stay active– it’s just my body type. Does she assume that all overweight people are unhealthy and eat whatever they want and sit on the couch? Because that’s how it comes off when she eats a load of “bad” food to try to identify with fat yogis. Besides it being unhealthy, her temporary experiment cant possibly replicate how a person feels being large their entire life. There’s no need to “try on” someone else’s life in order to empathize

  • Thank you! Not every overweight person eats chocolate bars every day and not all skinny people are healthy. Weight is not the only determining factor in health. Certain people truly have heavier bodies. I have a friend who always exercised more than me and NEVER cheated on her diet and has always been on the heavy side of the scale. I also was SUPER skinny for years and never really had an exercise routine for years. I am heavier now, but my habits are so much healthier than they were when I was literally “model” skinny.

  • Monica

    It is so much more than just body image. It is about self compassionmand acceptance. Yoga Asana is about the body. Thats all that can be said. The rest of yoga are the fruit of this practice.
    A person that has body image issues, in this case wieght, cannot manipulate them the way she did. Women with wieght issues are on diets a huge amountbof thier times. They do not always eat junk, but they tend to feel bad aout their food and bodies anyway. They also tend to keep these feelings around even if they lose wieght.
    It is about ahimsa and our dharma. If we can accept others we may learn tomrespect ourselves.
    Did his feel like it was full of acceptance or self compassion?

  • TMY

    I think this was a very interesting, and not insulting!, thing to do. If you are offended by this.. then you need to look at why you feel that way? Where are those negative feelings coming from? Why does this upset you?

    as a naturally thin yoga teacher, who has only been more than 125lbs twice, thats while pregnant. I struggle with knowing how it feels to have extra weight on. I wish i could know how it feels to do the poses for people who are much bigger than me. I have had open discussion with bigger students and they say its like doing it with a tire around their waist. something Ive only known when pregnant.
    Maybe if i knew more of how it feels to be a bigger person, I would have more knowledge to teach bigger people. Same with people with injures.. I dont always know how it feels for them and I always wish i did.
    I think it is a very interesting thing shes done. to see how it feels.
    I dont know what it is like to have a lot of weight and being unable to lose it. I am on the other end, I cannot seem to gain weight, (and believe me! being as thin as i am, there are just as many or more! stigmas attached to being this thin!).. I would have to eat a lot of food everyday to gain 40lbs! I cant even imagine being able to!

    I think if someone changes their eating habits and their exercise levels. then yes, they will either gain or lose weight. (im sure if I ate a lot of crap, and snuck in bars and fastfood everyday I would gian weight.)

    I went on a few different tangents there lol

  • Louisa

    Your response is rather patronizing. Why do you assume that people who are offended by this are having a kneejerk reaction? I know exactly why it bothers me and don’t need to be told to figure out where those feelings are coming from

  • Amy Dobek

    If you want to know what it’s like to be a fat person, ASK a fat person. Don’t presume that your body will feel the same way as mine does if you gain weight. That’s like being a tourist for a few weeks and thinking you know what it’s like to live there. It’s pure, privileged bullshit.

  • Kate

    If she’d focused more on what it’s like physically for an overweight person to practice yoga instead of dredging up psychological issues that she may or may not share with overweight people, then I’d give her more credit. Understanding what a student is experiencing in order to better address it and work through it is a valid exercise for a teacher, and for that she could just as easily have donned a fat suit for a week.

  • Amy Dobek

    NO. No, she bloody well could not. That’s like saying she’d know what it was like to live as a black person by putting blackface on for a week.

  • Bryn G.

    What you’re completely missing about this and the main part of the ‘experiment’ that bothered me personally [as a bigger girl] is that so many ‘fat’ people do NOT EAT JUNK, like you seem to believe. They aren’t just neglecting their bodies and in fact, many of us work our asses off trying to counter thyroid issues and ‘fat genes’ that give us serious disadvantages from the start.

    There are some women and men who are ‘fat’ and are perfectly happy and confident in their own skin and I think that is wonderful. I can often look at a fellow chubby girl and say “My god, she is gorgeous!” but I’ve never been able to see myself the same way. Ever.

    I think you don’t see this as condescending or offensive because you aren’t fat, and as you’ve stated, have never had any idea what it is like. If you are SO curious as to what it feels like in a purely physical way to do yoga with extra weight on your body, then yes, perhaps gaining fifty pounds would allow you to do that…. But here is the real problem, a simple three month experiment of being ‘fat’ will NEVER be an equal experience to someone who has struggled with weight for years or a lifetime. There is an entirely different psychology in the brain of a person who has grown up fighting body weight issues and your fun little ‘fat suit’ experiment will never ever show you how that psychology works or help you to understand it.

  • Beth

    “What you’re completely missing about this and the main part of the ‘experiment’ that bothered me personally [as a bigger girl] is that so many ‘fat’ people do NOT EAT JUNK, like you seem to believe. They aren’t just neglecting their bodies and in fact, many of us work our asses off trying to counter thyroid issues and ‘fat genes’ that give us serious disadvantages from the start. ”

    I agree completely. For another thing–and ESPECIALLY for another thing–women who are overweight and still take yoga? Are the least likely of people to be eating all junk food, because they obviously care enough about their health to be taking yoga, for heaven’s sake.

    I am really offended by this article and by this “experiment.” This woman doesn’t feel well while she’s fat because she ate crap and treated herself like crap while she gained weight. OF COURSE she’s going to have body issues if she treats herself like crap.

  • Vision_Quest2

    No, you still have thin privilege. As a newly wasted-due-to-disease skinny person, I command you to go eat a sandwich. I can’t … it could make me sick.

    [And I thought I was so over that ... well, it's baaaaaack!]

  • Sam Louise

    TMY, you come off as quite snarky. Clearly, you do not have a clue why people may be overweight or obese. If you did, you would not have jumped to wag your finger and admonish us to find out why this upsets us.

    Poor eating habits are only one way of being fat. Genetics, thyroid, auto-immune issues, other physical health problems, stress (releases too much cortisol) can and often are part of it. Therefore, reading about a yoga teacher that cheerily gained 40 pds. by eating crap is frustrating and hurtful. You seem to have the same misunderstanding of how people may be fat.

    Additinally, your statement that “being as thin as i am, there are just as many or more! stigmas attached to being this thin!).. ” is ludicrous and disingenuous. Ignorance and discrimination against fat people is not even in the same ballpark as a stigma against thin people. Give me a break.

    Here’s hoping you educate yourself.

  • Vision_Quest2

    Right on, Sam Louise!!

  • moodler

    If you think there is just as much or more stigma associated with being a 125 lb woman rather than a 180 lb woman you are totally delusional – and perhaps that is your big issue (no pun intended) with relating to larger people, and not that you’ve only been over 125 lbs twice in your life (good for you! excellent plug there).

  • SaraP

    Nice humblebrag. “Oh, gosh, I just CAN’T gain weight! I *wish* I could so I could understand you poor fatties better lol.”

    This is why you’re getting backlash.

    As for Trina Hall’s project…I have really mixed feelings about it. At least she did put on the weight (as opposed to a fat suit), and there are some interesting explorations of thin privilege in her post.

    What bothers me is that she put on the weight by eating badly and overeating, since it implies that ANYBODY can be thin if they would just do/eat/believe XYZ and that fat people only get that way by not caring for themselves and eating candy bars every day. That’s really deadly. I mean that literally–doctors tend to see fat as the cause of illness rather than a symptom and so major illnesses are misdiagnosed, diagnosed late, or not at all. That’s if the fat person in question is brave enough to go to the doctor and risk getting fat-shamed in the first place. I don’t doubt Ms. Hall’s good intentions (or yours, for that matter), but the project is still highly problematic.

  • Rae

    Some women always have their nails perfectly manicured. I am not one of those women. However, I do watch what I eat and exercise vigorously, in addition to yoga. I like my body to be a certain way. Some women would not think of going out of the house with the way my fingernails look half the time. Some people prefer their hair to be up-kept regularly, others let it grow.

    My point is, I am happier with myself when I am lighter. I am also happier when I have a fresh manicure, but it is not that important to me, so I rarely have one. I know what is important to me, not only being physically fit, but spiritually as well. I try not to judge others for what is important, or not important to them. Fit,fat, whatever, just know what makes you happy. I gained 10 lbs last year and I could not do some of the poses as easily as I once could, I grew out of my favorite jeans. I did not like this. Am I bad because I have these preferences?

    I don’t think so. We are given this embodiment to celebrate it. Some do this by running many miles a week, some celebrate by enjoying delicious foods. Just don’t project what makes you happy onto someone else. Even if they want to smoke themselves to death, as long as they are happy with that choice, then it is their life. We should be more worried about the choices we are making in our own lives, and if we are truly happy about those choices.

  • Angie

    Yes! So much this!

  • Wow. Is that woman really even serious? As “unyogic” as it sounds, I kind of want to smack the crap out of her for being such a condescending idiot. I’m a chubby yoga teacher who has NEVER ever worried about how my students perceive me, and in fact, my outward appearance (as well as my sassy personality and commitment to keepin’ it real, I’m sure) has actually drawn students to my classes who might not otherwise have tried (or stuck with) yoga because I look like them. Sure, I don’t fit the teacher “type”, but I don’t want to, either because that’s not me. I come from sturdy stock; I’ll always have some chub. And I’m so fine with it.

  • DC

    What I wouldn’t do for a Yoga instructor such as yourself! Living in a rural community with limited choices for anything and everything is difficult when one wants to try new things, but hesitates because of the judging eyes of others. My journey to health would have been far less bumpy and a whole lot more interesting if there were more folks like you in it.

  • Amber

    Comments like these make me feel like we should do an online yoga course for people of all bodies.

  • Amy Dobek

    Holy Macaroni. How DARE she?? I’m so angry I can hardly type. This post is the *PERFECT* definition of thin privilege. It’s the equivalent of her leaving her comfortable home to go live somewhere else for a few months and then going back home and telling people how HORRIBLE her life was while she lived there. How insulting is that to the folks who, you know, ACTUALLY live there??? Here’s the thing – when you go visit another place? YOU CAN GO HOME AGAIN. You STILL have no idea what it’s like to actually LIVE there.

    Gah. I’m so mad I’m using capspeak. ><

    This is beyond insulting. It is an act that is utterly bereft of compassion, no matter what the supposed intent was. This is the epitome of hubris, condescension, and arrogance.

    Her short-term tourist experience as a fat(ter) person does not mirror the experience of anyone who actually lives in a fat body. You can't tell me what it's like to live my life when you have not lived my life. I do not need my life "thinsplained" to me or anyone else. I'm absolutely disgusted.

  • Meaghan

    You speak of her lack of compassion, may I ask, where is yours?

  • Amy Dobek

    Really? My compassion is with the already-marginalized and oppressed fat population upon whom she has heaped additional insult.

  • Suzanne

    I love your comment, Amy! It is so true that people who want everything to be “pretty,” who want to shut off the dialogue and tell people that they do not have a right to their feelings, their anger, are also closing the door to listening and being available to hearing another’s just-as-valid story. When someone is continuing to be oppressive, often times it comes in the guise of “what are you complaining about?…why are you so angry?” True compassion is being able to listen to another without judgement of how they “should” respond, and to bring in empathy, not further oppression. Compassion isn’t about sitting back and taking it with a smile, but about being with all of the messiness and the unfairness and everything, and being willing to stand with others who are in it and say, “I’m listening…I’m here for you.” …Thanks again!

  • Amy Dobek

    Thank you.

  • Oh my. So angry. Must be very immature in your practice.

    I feel you must not have any true grip on any reality but your own. You come across angry and judgmental. Good luck on your yoga practice.

  • Amy Dobek

    There seems to be some weird misconception that anger is unacceptable. Anger is a valid emotion and I am very angry. I see a lot of injustice in the choices she made.

    As for judgmental, perhaps a mirror might help you see what that looks like. I did not denigrate the woman herself. I expressed what effect her actions had on my emotions.

  • moodler

    Insulting her yoga practice on a message board? Really? Must be very immature in your own practice. Good luck with that.

  • Stephcosmos

    Oof– and you are clearly sanctimonious, patronizing and full of yourself. Good luck with your LIFE. Yikes.

  • Marjorie

    In the “made for TV movie” version of this story, she’d have found that people treated her badly and poked fun at her and she’d have found one guy who liked her just as she was and then she’d lose the weight and they’d live happily ever after. In the real version of the story, she found out that the only person treating her badly was herself. She said she did this “to prove to her friend that it’s not all about what you look like but what’s inside that counts” and what she found was that she had a lot of insecurities on the inside.

    I think this shows that we all have the bad self talk within us. For some of us, it’s weight that gives it a voice (like with Hall) and others can be overweight and not have it.

    I question her reasoning for doing something so drastic, but I’m not insulted by it (as an overweight person). I don’t think what she had to say means that all overweight people have this negative self-experience. It’s just what her experience was.

    (From her blog) My most shocking discovery through the process is that I’m afraid of not being loved. I noticed the self-talk was that my beauty is only on the surface. I feared no man would want me this way and that I would die alone, probably from choking on a potato chip. There was a war going on inside of me and neither side was winning. Once I unraveled the fears and self-assaulting language as irrational, they no longer had power over me and I began to relax into my new found “goods”.

  • christina

    This is the best comment I’ve read thus far. i feel very similar about this woman’s experience. its interesting and has opened up the floor for discussion on this topic.

  • Just thinking of gaining 40 pounds to prove a point is a point within itself. There’s nothing to prove. People are who they are. The goal is to embrace the self, as is, and work with it for oneself. On it’s face, her actions sound like a stunt. But, as anyone who overeats knows, there are emotions deep inside that are driving her that might not look very loving and/or smart and certainly do not care about proving a point to anyone. An act of solidarity with a loved one, like shaving one’s head when a friend is suffering through chemotherapy, is a loving act of kindness, but, in the end, what does such an act even prove? Each person has her own journey, and we can honor it by being present, not turning our heads away, and acknowledging the whole person.

  • Suzanne

    It reminds me of the movie decades ago, “Black Like Me,” when the main character “becomes” black in order to find out what it’s like to “be” black. But can he truly ever know? No, because he is able to take the blackness off and return to his racially privileged status. I think we need to open a dialogue and truly listen mindfully to the “other” to hear their story, instead of assuming that we can know it better, more completely, by taking on their status (which is another privilege). Celebrating our diversity trumps the privileged assumption that we should all just be “blind” to whatever makes us uncomfortable. If we are colorblind, gender-blind, able-blind, size-blind, socioeconomically-blind, then those who have privilege are the ones who are choosing to do the not-seeing, because they can. I feel like those of us who have privileges in our society are obligated to acknowledge them, and that instead of feeling guilty, the best thing that we can do is to offer something back by creating an open and present space for all of us to be heard, with the same level of safety, empathy, and respect.

  • Beth Ramsay

    Although I see her intent, it’s not enough to just eat a bunch of food and gain weight. For the overwhelming majority of overweight people, it’s not about food, it’s about emotion, pain, coping, denial, subterfuge…for her to truly understand what it’s like to “be fat” she would have to undergo the journey it takes most people to get there, which involves a lot more than just stuffing your face for a few months.

  • Bryn G.

    Agreed.

  • Hannah

    Her experience is hers alone and to say she is somehow less of a yoga teacher for truly walking in someone else’s shoes and owning her emotions is sad. How we each feel at whatever weight we are is perfectly okay. Saying that her feeling bad is somehow saying that all overweight people feel bad is just a poor argument to make. That would be like me saying I feel bad after I eat 2 slices of deep dish pizza knowing that it’s not healthy for me so everyone who eats deep dish pizza feels badly afterwards.

    Let us all not forget the Yoga Sutra ‘Satya’ or non-judgement! Yoga is after all more than just a series of physical poses.

  • Amy Dobek

    Actually, she did not “truly” walk in anyone else’s shoes. As I said above, she was a tourist who now thinks she knows what it’s like to live here. She still has no clue.

  • Bryn G.

    Agreed, Amy.

  • Maggie

    Judge not, lest thee be judged.

    We have no more right to judge another’s journey, how she got there, or her feelings than I do to make a personal attack on you.

    We all have a choice to take the higher ground and choose loving words rather than hate. Amy you still have that choice, I hope you can find it somewhere in you to hate the sin(as you may see it) but love the sinner.

  • Amy Dobek

    And Maggie, I hope you can find it somewhere in you to understand that the point I was making was about a terrible choice she made and its impact on a marginalized and oppressed community, not on who she is (which is the definition of hate the sin and love the sinner). I am, in fact, certain that she is a lovely woman who simply did not consider the full import of her actions and the impact they would have on so many individuals. Clearly she did not intend harm, but just as clearly her lack of forethought or awareness of her own privilege did breed a very poor choice.

    Somewhere we adopted the notion that anger is wrong or that it’s too strong and we should fear it, but anger is not wrong nor is it anything to fear, and it is not necessarily lacking in love. Anger at injustice, in fact, is a completely appropriate reaction based in love for the victims of the injustice.

    Please don’t confuse taking “the higher ground” with silence. Silence in the face of injustice implies consent. Oftentimes taking the higher road means standing up for what you believe to be right in the face of opposition. Excusing bad behavior is not OK. We can strive to be better than that.

  • At peace

    Well put.

  • Meaghan

    I find this story incredibly interesting. I also completely enjoy reading the comments. We must look at intent for ones actions…it doesn’t mean that intention will eradicate peoples feelings about why she did this, but seek to understand why….that is the root of compassion. If you are angry at this woman for doing what she did, take a look within, say thank you for showing me that I am limited in my capacity for love and then soften your judgements of her not having compassion…for you do the same thing you are accusing her of. We all have the right to feel what we feel and having compassion doesn’t mean you condone someone’s behavior.

  • Vision_Quest2

    Hey, guess what?

    Try having been fat – and not the kind of fat person who takes no S##t, who is so INYOURFACE that she intimidates you … that you practically have to imagine is so…. NOTFAT, or she will CUT you … and that was many of us …

    Then one day … I got down to inbetweenie size a few years ago … and felt thin, and lovely … and I said to myself. The next person who gives me any grief or lip about my weight, is really gonna get it from me.

    Guess what?

    It had been a yoga teacher …

  • Suzanne

    Most often times weight is a side effect of deeply seated emotional, environmental, and/or biochemical challenges, and so by looking solely at the weight as being “what makes someone fat,” so many dimensions are missing. Therefore, one cannot “know” what it’s like to be overweight just because they choose to take on extra weight as an experiment. Patterns that have been ingrained sometimes since birth and are continually conditioned by various often subconscious triggers, are what’s more likely to be at the root. If you want to truly understand a result, you have to understand it’s cause (which is not exclusive to a behavior of eating “bad” food). This “experiment” may have been approached with a true desire to learn and understand, but coming up with the same result leaves out an entire organic process that she can never know. For example, can a man who “dresses up” like a woman and takes on the socially approved norms and ideas for what a woman is supposed to look like and how a woman is supposed to behave, truly know what it is like to be a woman? Do outside appearances and assumed mannerisms make him really understand women?

  • Meaghan

    Absolutely.

  • Take a look at a REAL woman who is fat do yoga, instead of this fake one.

    http://www.mindbodygreen.com/1-10907-1/i-am-a-yogi-gorgeous-slideshow.html

  • chubby vegan yogini

    this was beautiful. thank you for sharing this.

  • Elizea

    Thanks, I needed some thinspo.

  • not fat

    I think the practice of yoga does promote health. You can’t be a fat healthy person. You can’t be a balanced fat person.

    Fat people are fat because something is not right with their mental states, making it to easy to make poor dietary decisions. Fall into a pattern of gluttony and laziness.

    A yoga instructor is someone to aspire to, to their ability in yoga, they need to be the vision of health, an instructor is a role modle.

    I’m not looking for a role middle to eat poorly and sit on the couch.

    Yoga is about focus and mental stability. Not lack of self control.

    Be fat and happy! Enjoy your over indulgence but don’t try and fool yourself that you look like you’re healthy.

    I think she was brave trying that stunt. I wouldn’t have.

  • Amy Dobek

    You seem to have several misconceptions about fat people. Yes, we absolutely CAN be fat and fit, fat and healthy, fat and balanced. We fat folks have incredible amounts of self-discipline, willpower, and strength. We have to live in a world that hates fat people, denigrates us, mocks us, and tells us every day that we are damaged and defective, which is emphatically not true. We’re intelligent, well-spoken, literate, happy, colorful, whimsical, loving, sparkling people. Are there lazy fat folks? Yep. Are there lazy thin folks? Yep. No one is immune. Fat people are just like everyone else.

    Take a look at the Health at Every Size initiative (www.haescommunity.org). Fat people are not emotionally damaged wrecks in need of being saved from ourselves.

  • not fat

    Every human is born with a clean well functioning body and mind. As infants it is monitored to make sure that our parents are applying us with the right diet and mental stimulation. Then we grow up and I’d we hadn’t learnt how to nurture our body in our environment once those trainer wheels have come off. We damage our bodies by the types of fuel we put in our mouths and experiences we expose ourselves too.

    Fat is a negative reaction to how you decide to treat your body.

    You probably have a wonderful disposition and are bright and sparkling. As long as you’re happy with you.
    But a doctor would tell you to lose weight to be at optimal health.

  • Colleen

    I find your comment incredibly offensive. I am a vegan, the majority of my diet consists of fruits and veggies, I run, I ride my bike instead of driving, and…. GASP! I am fat! I have been to the doctor. I have zero health problems and my numbers are perfect. No, my doctor doesn’t tell me I need to lose weight because I am incredibly healthy. I think you need to check your own insecurities instead of putting them on other people. Just saying!

  • not fat

    How are your knees? I guess they’ll go first.

  • Elizea

    So you’re still eating too much. Why is this concept hard for some people?

  • chubby vegan yogini

    so being fat means you’re unclean and nonfunctional? cite your sources please. i demand science.

    also, i was fat by the time i was a toddler, and i ate the same and moved as much as my peers. nothing different about my upbringing.

    just like some people are incredibly short, or incredibly tall, some of us wind up fatter than others. i eat a low fat vegan diet (and gluten-free since i have celiac), and i love to move my body. i just happen to be fat. just like some people eat garbage and live like sloths, they somehow manage to stay thin their entire lives…. being fat is just another phenotype.

    these hateful ignorant completely FALSE comments are exactly why i don’t venture out into the yoga communities (online OR offline) and stick to my amazing wonderful yoga teachers in my amazing accepting yoga bubble. i’m grateful i have this good fortune, but i’m disgusted that the ignorant yogis of the world are scaring away all the great fat yogis-to-be with their ignorant hate and judgment.

  • Amy Dobek

    I love the idea of a yoga bubble. What a lovely thought. It makes me think of Glinda the Good. :)

  • Colleen

    Would you ask a tall, muscular football player who weighs more than I do how their knees are? Probably not. They are strong, healthy, and athletic, and so am I. I am sorry you have such low self esteem and body image issues, but that has nothing to do with us. There are plenty of online and offline support groups for people with body image issues though. Peace and Love!

  • Suzanne

    If someone is poor, for example, is it their fault? Does it just mean that they are lazy, need to pick themselves up by their bootstraps and work harder? Perhaps Rush Limbaugh would say so. He might also say that everyone has equal rights, but because he is privileged, oppression (and certainly not empathy) is not in his experience. Sizeism is discrimination just like racism, classism, genderism, ableism, and so many others. If it was so easy for doctors to tell their patients to “lose weight” and people “just did it,” then there would not be an obesity epidemic across the world. There is no easy solution, and there is not a one-size-fits all approach. If someone doesn’t know what it’s like to have a particular struggle or challenge, it can be easy to point fingers and say that the answer is obvious. I don’t know what it’s like to be overweight, and I therefore can’t tell someone else what to do about something that I know nothing about. But I do have struggles, and that is a common ground.

  • Bryn G.

    I think the ignorance and obvious prejudice in your statement speaks for itself, I just hope you find a way to stop projecting your own issues onto others.

    It is perfectly possible and not even uncommon to be ‘fat’ and healthy. You are uneducated and self-righteous.

  • not fat

    I hope you’re right. I have birthed two babies. Have arthritis. Have an under active thyroid. I was never raised to exercise. My parents are fat and lack the ability to turn off the gluttony valve. That’s who raised me. I learnt at school about sports and nutrition. I have also learnt through trial and error. I am 33 and am still learning how to expect my body.

    Making my body fat is not respect. It is not smart either. I know what healthy feels like because I have felt what unhealthy feels like.

    Fat is not the healthy!

    Thin is not healthy!

    Balance, knowledge and practice.

  • Colleen

    Given the fact that you have arthritis, your knees are probably a lot worse than ours. Projecting again…

  • Colleen

    Especially because my knees are healthy in the first place… just saying…

  • Sam Louise

    Ah! Now we’re getting somewhere! Your parents “are fat and lack the ability to turn off the gluttony valve.” and you have taken their example and generalized for all 7 billion people on this planet.

    BTW: your description of your parents is insulting, judgemental, and disrespectful. You are quite full of yourself.

  • Who are you kidding, Not Fat

    Not Fat, I feel like this statement was made in an effort to back track, or perhaps come across as someone we can emphathize with, but unfortunately, your previously made comments are nasty and snarky, and shed some light on your true thoughts. You say that “Fat is a negative reaction to how you decide to treat your body,” and I find myself asking then what does your your mean nature say about the things we cannot see in you? What is that an adverse reaction to? I hope that in addition to your yoga practice, you are also learning to balance some of the negative emotions that you are projecting and hurting people with. It is unfortunate that you made such comments because while yes it is important to respect your body, it is also important to respect other people as well. Good luck on that journey.

  • Vision_Quest2

    Right said!

    Have had it up to here with self-righteous yoga people who JUST DON’T KNOW…most not even MDs

  • AshleyDee

    You sound like those beach body magazines, it’s either ‘eww gross disgusting fat whale, I see cellulite’ or ‘eww gross disgusting skinny beanpole, I see hip bones’. How about trying ‘that’s a cute swimsuit’ or ‘that beach looks amazing I would love to be there’ instead of spending your time and energy policing other people’s bodies THAT YOU CAN”T DO ANYTHING ABOUT. Unless of course I missed that memo that fatshaming actually works…

    Now excuse me, I have to go eat an apple in downward dog so I don’t offend people with my fatness.

  • Sam Louise

    Wow,
    You are utterly clueless about humans and weight. You state, “Fat people are fat because something is not right with their mental states, making it to easy to make poor dietary decisions. Fall into a pattern of gluttony and laziness.” You have really absorbed the ridiculous and harmful information about weight and have managed to deliver your ignorance with quite the patronizing flair. I’m neither a glutton nor lazy, thank you. All my “numbers” are good (cholestral, blood pressure, etc). Bad health is not equal to fatness. You may be surprised to know that many so-called “healthy thin” people eat crap, don’t exercise, smoke and drink.

    “A yoga instructor is someone to aspire to, to their ability in yoga, they need to be the vision of health, an instructor is a role modle.”
    I’m guessing you have never encountered an overweight doctor, naturopath, dentist, physiotherapist, massage therapist,etc, etc?

    Get off your high horse.

  • Elizea

    Hey, there’s plenty of healthy smokers and even more completely healthy functional alcoholics! FOR NOW. Think about the long term, though, and you’ll reach the end of that train of thought.

  • Jeffrey

    I like the article because it made us all think. As a lifelong thin person, I had the same thoughts as she does. To me there is no doubt being abese is a decision.

  • chubby vegan yogini

    really?

    what is abese? i’d like to know so i can decide if it’s right for me.

    and seriously though… to me, there is no doubt you’re an ignoramus.

  • Sam Louise

    Jeffrey,

    ” To me there is no doubt being abese (sic) is a decision. Another lifelong thin person who is completely clueless about weight issues and thus forms an opinion based on ignorance.

  • jules

    Because this was her PERSONAL quest to see what it felt like inside & out to be one size or another, as a yoga instructor, I found her desire to gain insight applaudable. I went to read more on her blog and ended up tweeting the one page this article references – IMMEDIATELY upon doing so, I get a reply from “a Twit” who insists they can help ME lose 92 pounds in 27 days. Really?! So… does this go to prove that our society is hung up on outward appearance? heck yeah, it absolutely does, in my opinon… and that’s just plain sad.

    Bottom line… be happy in the life you are living. It’s all about choices.

  • chubby vegan yogini

    i second the comment that this is the fat equivalent of blackface.

    this person’s little “experiment” couldn’t get any farther from the philosophy of yoga unless she actually DID do blackface.

    what an epic fail, completely lacking in compassion and common sense.

    if this were my yoga teacher, i’d run away and never look back.

  • Vision_Quest2

    In a weird way, I’d found my actual fat phobic yoga teacher (referenced upthread) more authentic than THIS … because – you know – restrictor eating disorders, they proudly own up to … it’s set forth in the Yamas and Niyamas, after all …

    Of course, after enough of insults/assaults by same, I hightailed it to a place run by someone who celebrates life, food, laughter and joy in their teaching yoga …

  • Kat

    I am 45 years old. I have a mostly negative relationship with food due to lifelong issues with digestive disorders that I still have no cause for. I am overweight. Twice and mostly by accident I lost 30 pounds, both times during difficult periods in my life. Ultimately, I gained some or most of it back.
    How I wish I could simply gain or lose weight as “an experiment” or art project or whatever she’s calling it. I can’t. Not easily. Not like this.
    While this young woman might think her foray into fatness will somehow help sort out some situation in the future, the only impact I see it having right now is to all but make fun of those of us who have difficulty where our weight is concerned. Where is her compassion for those struggling?
    I was once a regular practitioner of Yoga and am missing it terribly. Ironically it was this article that made me realize I’m avoiding going to classes because I’m not whippet-thin. I feel like the elephant in the room when I go and the absence of my former teacher, a beautifully curvaceous woman who dubbed her technique “Yummy Yoga” hasn’t helped. I miss doing Yoga with someone who “gets it.”
    This chick doesn’t.

  • Amy Dobek

    Kat, I hope you can find a way back to a practice you love. I would love to find such a place where I live.

  • Amber

    Awh, my dear Kat. I’m a chubby yoga teacher and my class is a judgment-free zone. I do an online class that’s donation only if you’re ever interested. I do wish you were close to Baltimore! Don’t give up on yoga – there are lots of us out there with different bodies doing our thing. Sat Nam! <3

  • JessieSrividya

    You know what? I’m over this whole fat or not yoga thing. For the record I am a “curvy yogini”. I know what it feels like to show up to teach a yoga class and know the new students are wondering where the real teacher is. So, what. I am bored reading about what a big deal this is. I no longer think it is blog worthy to bitch about how yoga journal models are too perfect. Or, rant about how yogis come in all shapes and sizes. Or, what elite bullshit Lulemon is. There must be something much more interesting about our yoga practices, our contemporary yoga cultures, and our yoga bodies to think about. I might even go so far as to say this constant framing of yoga culture as fit yogis vs fat yogis is reifying the very negative body nomativity it is trying so hard to overcome. Yoga is yoga. It’s bigger than the asanas. We know that. We are still human and we all have our ” does my ass look fat?” moments. We are all different. We can all do yoga. We get it. I get it. I really do. Can we talk about something else now?

  • kourtni

    exactly!

  • Joe

    I hate fat people.

  • Amy Dobek

    I hate trolls, so I guess we’re even. ;) Have a great day!

  • Sam Louise

    Word.

  • chubby vegan yogini

    speaking on behalf of all fat people everywhere:

    fat people hate you too, Joe.

  • Michelle

    I teach Yoga in a new studio. They started with the idea of Yoga and Pilates but the clients wanted circuit and etc. Yoga was getting pushed out and we were loosing clients. The big idea do an add with a “normal” looking woman sitting in lotus… The other non yoga instructors sucked in a breath and said they would never take a class from a “regular” looking lady, someone that was not in tip top shape. I replied then you would never take a classes from me!

    Yoga has changed my life, I am happier and healthier than ever but a size 0 (how can that really be a size?) I will never be.

  • Vision_Quest2

    “They would never take a class from a “regular” looking lady, ”

    Hah! … can’t wait to see MY favorite larger-than-a size-2 subbing the yoga class again. I know how she teaches when she subs pilates.

    I can tell potential, and it comes in every kind of size …

  • Rainbow Patchouli Bracelet

    Love it, what a terrific insight for the person to study upon themselves.

    Anyone doing yoga a lot had better either be already thin, or get ready to cut back A LOT on eating the usual healthy foods (smaller portions), otherwise, be prepared to NOT lose weight. “The Science of Yoga” goes through this in detail– the best part of the book I think. Yoga decreases one’s metabolism.

    So, I have had to begin using chinese herbs to speed up the body a bit. As I am now never thirsty, very limited appetite, and the heart pulse down to the low 40′s, blood pressure also low.

    I bet this person gained a lot of insight into the illusion of ego. Shapeshifter, what an experience.

  • Wendy Nichols

    This story feels kinda icky…
    I’ve always been shapely. A little small chested, very small waist, and round booty with shapely dancer limbs. Not skinny ever. But roughly an old size 4/5, at 5’7″.
    As a once, full-time yoga teacher, (1999-2008), I was fit and confident and my good ole fun-loving self. After a move across the country to the desert left me feeling isolated, alone and misguided I put teaching on hold due to most studios looking to “certify” me before hiring me. (?) No thank you, I paid plenty for my Kripalu Certification.
    After working a seasonal part-time job a few months I accepted a full-time, (10 hour days), isolated, desk job for a local rental car company. I got good at it but it also was icky and I quit at 1 year 7 months. Not too long after I became withdrawn, depressed…didn’t realize it at the time but I was going through peri-menopause and all the exercise I did was for naught. I gained probably 40+ lbs. without a word from my husband, or small circle of friends. I literally had no idea how bad I looked. Or, did I? None of my beautiful wardrobe fit any longer…more depression. Moved back across country, found a wonderful yoga studio up the road that I’ve been attending 4+ days a week since January. I’ve changed how my body looks a little. (I feel) While others at the studio have commented on how much weight I’ve lost and how much my body had changed. (scale shows nada) I still don’t fit into my “nice” wardrobe, and my family hasn’t acknowledged any change, but my hubby has :-)
    Now I work at a Spiritual Gift Shop where many a yoga teacher, reiki practitioner, meditator, Costa Rico retreat buyer, etc. come to shop. The few times I’ve mentioned that I’m a yoga teacher it’s truly amazing the different reactions I get. Some that look me up and down (I’m an hourglass *wink*) and then others who share openly about places to check out, books, etc. I’ve learned many a lesson going through this change in my life. When I was young, I used to think if you ate very badly, never exercised and perhaps were lazy that’s why you would be fat. As an almost 48 year old woman I now know what it feels like to be heavier than I’ve ever been. It’s uncomfortable. But I do not eat poorly, or too much, I exercise and practice compassion. Not only for myself, but for others who might judge quickly. What I do know is that I never get sick with colds or flus. I am healthy. And I’m happy to say I’ve been asked to teach at the yoga studio several times now. {{{Huge Smile}}}
    Yoga teachers come in all sizes and shapes. Thank goodness.
    ~Shanti~Ahimsa~

  • Wendy Nichols

    Rainbow Patchouli Bracelet,
    That sounds very interesting. I think I’ll check that out.
    For the past year or two I hardly had an appetite, but I was not practicing yoga-on-the-mat. I would eat maybe one meal a day. Drink only water & occasionally organic tea. I lost no weight during that time, just gained.
    The only real change I noticed for myself is when I made myself drink protein shakes twice a day and eat the one meal along with yoga on-the-mat 4+ days a week.

  • Sam Louise

    You sound like you have an eating disorder.

  • Wendy

    Response: Recently I had a physical. Blood tests showed hypothyroidism. Most symptoms I was presenting now made sense.
    I eat fruits & vegetables, make homemade hummus, drink fresh green juices, water, tea, yogurt/granola, salads, protein shakes, etc.
    Which eating disorder is “that”?
    *I said: during peri-menopause/menopause I didn’t have much of an appetite. (I sometimes felt nauseous, or food would upset my stomach)
    Hence, it was a symptom for me. Only eating one meal a day was what I could manage, and the weight kept rising.
    Happily I can say, in my community (kula), my classes are expanding.
    This life is experiential.
    Good Luck to all & I wish you infinite blessings. ~ Namaste ~ ♡

  • Wowser! Whoa there, judgy wudgies!

    Whoa! Who switched all your Lulus with meanie pants?

    I’m really disappointed to see how many people jump to the conclusion this was misguided or as easy as some accuse. To act as if she’s terrible for admitting that she felt that way is crazy. She admitted her plan fell short. She was honest. Why are so many people judging her for being so? Being overweight doesn’t feel good. I honestly think anyone that says it does or says they TRULY don’t care is either lying or in denial. I’m not saying they aren’t happy or confident. I’m just saying it doesn’t feel good. I’ve been fat. Real fat. Twice. And, I’ve been fit. Real fit. I know how bad it sucks to tuck in rolls, to have muffin tops, to not own a pair of jeans because they’re uncomfortable, to literally feel the heaviness of my legs, hips, and arms as I moved or got out of the water, to not even be able to find cute pumps because my feet were too “plump”. Too much fat is a BURDON on the body that prematurely ages it. FACT. IT DOESNT FEEL GOOD!

    She attempted to feel how someone else might feel that was different than her. Not by imagining, but by actually doing it. Did she, or anyone else claim that getting “back to normal” was easy for her? Did she ever claim that staying fit or eating only for health was easy? Did she say that she never craves a sweet or that her will power is made of titanium? As a woman who has gained and lost upwards of 100lbs, twice, I speak from experience when I say, “Getting, being, and staying at an “ideal” body weight is freakin’ HARD!”

    Can people be overweight and happy? Yes. Should they be? Yes. Is that really hard to do in this society? Yes. Can a yogi be a great teacher and be fat? Yes. (My yogini idol is) Can a person be fat AND be hot, sexy, and attractive? Absolutely!! However, is it truly healthy to be overweight? No. Just as “skinny” people can be horribly unhealthy if they eat crappy food. What if I eat really healthy food and am still fat? Can I be healthy? According to some blood tests, maybe. But come on, get real. Stop the whole, “My doctor says I have great blood pressure and cholesterol and move like a gazelle” crap. So did my overweight husband until 43.

    Being pudgy, overweight, curvy, or whatever you want to call it should NOT have bearings on how you judge your self worth. However, to act as if you should be satisfied with yourself staying that way, for healths sakes, is not okay! (If you have a real medical condition that affects your ability to do so, don’t get all offended because you know it’s not your fault.) Much of this can also pertain to people on the opposite end of the spectrum. Those who want to be bigger, or those with eating and body image disorders. The goal should be to be healthy, and not delude ourselves into thinking something is that isn’t for the sake of making us feel better about ourselves. If we are striving to be the best we can, are being kind, and are honest with ourselves and others, there should be no reason for self loathing and judging of others.

    Work toward the balance. “The trouble with always trying to preserve the health of the body is that it is so difficult to do without destroying the health of the mind.” -Gilbert K. Chesterton

    I just feel that many people took this in a way that was not really intended.

    Stepping off soapbox.

  • Trish

    Let me know when she figures out how it feels to do yoga when you’re in your 60′s.

    And if you think fat is the only acceptable prejudice I would enlighten you all – ageism is way more ingrained. So much so I bet you’re surprised to have to consider this.

  • Vision_Quest2

    Damn. I just turned 59. Now a diabetic (got a severe case at being at a low BMI – FOR YEARS and have to be Beaching it), I can’t even eat birthday cake without grave consequences.

    This thought is dedicated to all those yoga teachers who thought they were preventing this …

  • Vision_Quest2

    Oh, gawd, this feels so Vaness Minnilo from P.M. magazine or Gwyneth Paltrow “fat suit” to me. There really should be a way to give these natural skinnies a big dose of insulin resistance and fat genes. Oh, it wouldn’t hurt if they get PCOS, too; and develop a female facial shaving habit …Then and only then will they get what it really feels like.

  • I personally wouldn’t try to gain weight on purpose….unless I was Robert DeNiro trying to method act Al Capone….At 43, it is difficult enough to maintain weight, fitness, etc. That is the luxury of the naturally slim and those of high metabolism.

    It seems a flighty thing to do, though she might have thought her intentions were deep. It is somewhat condescending. Perhaps, she learned something from it.

    We all have different bodies and body types and many are in between the “skinny” and the “fat” types or variations on them both. The paradigms our society and culture present can be oppressive, whether one is a yoga teacher or not.

  • Ml ou

    Interesting discussion. I have always been naturally very thin, regardless of what I ate. A few years ago I developed multiple food intolerances. Since then I have completely changed my diet. I now eat NO processed foods . My diet is the healthiest it has ever been and I weigh more than I ever have.. My point is, we can’t presume to know how healthy a person is and how well they care for their body based on their weight. That said, I think most people that teach yoga are pretty concerned about their students. So, I think the yoga teacher in the article had good intentions. It’s hard to remake our physical bodies as she tried to do. The best we all can do is work with what we were given and support each other.

  • Janice

    I practiced yoga for 10 years, while I was not stick-thin by any stretch of the imagination and would never have the body of a swimsuit model, I was strong and healthy and at peace with what I looked like.
    I attended a regular yoga studio for 3 years and developed close, platonic friendships with some of the instructors there and even went on a few yoga retreats with one of them. They never commented on my looks or body type and always helped me with adjustments when I needed it without making me feel any less capable or able bodied.

    All that came to a grinding halt one day when one of those instructors, while drunk, assaulted me in a foreign country. I let them know that whatever friendship there may have been was now over and I looked for ways to go to another yoga studio so that I did not have to see this person again. I guess that instructor also ticked off other patrons because a few months later, someone broke into their email (and his ex-girlfriend’s) and posted their emails on an anonymous blog and it came out that he referred to me as a “pudgy little troll” and some other girl as a “despicable bitch”.
    This was a yoga instructor with over 10 years experience, quoted the Gitas, was super-vegan, who until then I thought was a pretty good instructor and was supposed to be living his life according to the rules of ahimsa. Well the blinders came off, that’s for sure. Being publicly called a pudgy troll publicly with nary a defensive response from anyone else in the “yoga community” was a serious blow to me and my self-confidence to say the least. I realized that there really is no real “yoga community” at all but rather a bunch of people who are all trying to further their own interests and lifestyles. I got depressed and stopped going to yoga classes. No one chastised that yoga instructor and in fact he now instructs at high end spas and hangs out with socialites and media personalities.
    So for all this talk about fat-shaming, body acceptance, yoga community, and ethics, I know from first-hand experience how shallow and empty and morally vacuous the group really is, despite all the talk.

  • Vision_Quest2

    I’m right with you on that score.

    And for this very reason I call BS on this yoga teacher’s experiment.

    Cannot blame them for making me chronically ill. But heartsick, yes …

  • Amy Dobek

    Oh, Janice. I am so incredibly sorry to hear that you had to go through such a dehumanizing episode. What an awful situation. I’m especially appalled that his comments went unchallenged. That is truly ugly. To know that one person out there thinks this way is disheartening. To find out that more folks let it pass as if they condone it is just sickening. This is what I meant when I said that silence indicates assent. There is so much power in the way words affect us. I will pray for love and healing for your spirit.

  • Lala

    Trina Hall is lying. Every adult, fat or thin, has had some insecurities about their appearance. I can’t believe that none of those insecurities had ever surfaced prior to gaining the weight.

  • kourtni

    I can not believe so many people are criticizing this lady. I think it is a great thing she did. Aside from actors/actresses who get paid millions to gain weight for roles, very few thin people would do this. It’s brave and compassionate.
    I am disgusted at the commenters comparing this to race. No one can change their race or ethnicity or gender, but we are all capable of changing our bodies on some level and feeling what is it like to be thinner or thicker. I am currently 120 pounds. However, from 18-24 I was bulimic and my weight ranged from 130-155. Even 25-30 pounds on a person of small stature is enough to have made me feel like I was ‘heavy’. It didn’t feel natural on me, and obviously I had a lot of internal turmoil aside from my weight.
    Having finally found a balance and found a place where I can love myself, my weight never fluctuates and I eat what I want, when I want.
    You don’t have to be a heavy person your entire life to understand the pain of weight issues. When that weight is on it feels like it will be there forever. It may not be the same level of pain, but who honestly cares? That’s like telling me that my friend dying isn’t as important as your friend dying. Instead of being so cruel to one another can’t we applaud and be thankful for each others attempts to understand one another?
    She probably had a lot of internal issues come up, not necessarily because it was specifically weight change, but more so, because it was change. Period. Humans, by nature, do not like change. 40 pounds in 4 months is quite significant and hard on the body and mind.

  • Vision_Quest2

    She probably had a lot of internal issues come up, not necessarily because it was specifically weight change, but more so, because it was change. Period. Humans, by nature, do not like change. 40 pounds in 4 months is quite significant and hard on the body and mind.

    And just think about the young yoga teacher who thinks you can master (close to full expression of) handstand (from not doing any yoga at all, and not having been athletic previously to taking yoga) at any [reasonably young] age in just 4 months … who promotes lettuce binges (that’s what had happened in my case) with their attitudes. In the throes of a restrictive diet for two months–characterized by lettuce binges, is the one time I’d gotten any positive acknowledgment from my yoga teacher … saying that “I brought a much stronger energy…” (whatever THAT’S supposed to mean.)

    I remember overhearing this same yoga instructor talking to his class “pet”, saying that he’d never noticed over 55 pounds off of her at that time … and she’d been able to afford and go to regular group class sessions with him, and even on some retreats once in a while…

    And I and her are just part the subset of overweight individuals who have ever even CARED about outside corroboration … even from a non-drilL sergeant gym personal trainer …(a drill sergeant yoga teacher who makes the masala bhangra teacher [of late, anyway] who also now teaches at that same studio, appear downright benign in comparison …)

    And just think about what the media bombards all of us every day …

    And just think about what is wrong with this instant gratification society, in that people will judge you before they EVEN GET TO KNOW YOU..

  • Vision_Quest2

    Correction: Not overweight any more due to disease and management of same.

    I did write in my nutrition blog about what the “halo effect” does to certain yoga teachers … suddenly they want my “energy” in their class and have made overtures … far cry from how the (still healthy) me had been treated before by (well, one of them had actually been the same teacher; though she hadn’t been prejudiced like the male teacher, just a little indifferent)…

    So, big deal, I could “race some of them to the finish line” doing fast sun salutes better than I’d done before … is that what they really need? A “running partner” now that they’ve switched from sports to yoga?

  • chartnett

    I think many missed the point. I you are thin, wealthy or in the upper middle class by becoming the antithesis even for a short time, you can never really replicate all the feelings and nuances people have in the replicated situation. At most you and each of us, if read carefully, gain insights, understanding and perhaps empathy. If we can translate this into helping someone usually indirectly then the project had value. And the total value is never measurable.

  • Mandy

    I’m a large lady currently around size 18 (Aussie sizing) and one of the reasons why I stopped going to yoga classes (besides the cost factor) was that I was getting too uncomfortable with being in a class full of skinny ladies talking about how you should love you for you.
    I would really love the chance to go to a yoga class with a teacher who is larger simply because the level of understanding is a little better. I’m very flexible and have been for pretty much my whole life but I can’t lay my head on my knees in a seated forward bend because my stomach gets in the way, so teachers pass this off as me being inflexible and they seem unable to grasp the concept that my body is actually preventing me from getting deeper in the pose.
    I have to say that I find this sort of ‘experimenting’ extremely condescending, for most of my life I’ve been a vegetarian and roughly 3 years ago I had to stop eating lactose and other high fat foods but despite this even more healthy diet I’ve not lost any weight. It ticks me off that these people who have been naturally skinny for most of their lives think that if they gain a bit of weight and shed it again they’ll be able to connect with larger people but it doesn’t work like that. It’s easy for them to go back to their skinny body because that’s what their body is use to, whereas people like me who’ve been large for most of their life really struggle to get rid of weight even when eating right and exercising. I often think of this sort of thing as a pathetic publicity stunt and I can find it quite insulting.

  • Dana

    I think that is just weird. I was a “fat” yoga teacher – about 25 lbs overweight. Lost 30 pounds and couldn’t be happier. My students didn’t seem to care what my size was, but I know that losing the extra weight is healthier. Yoga is harder when you are overweight, but I was trained to teach poses I myself can not do. I don’t know this seems a little bit too planned for me. Doesn’t seem very sincere….

    A good yoga teacher should be able to teach all sizes. I don’t think there should be a need for classes for different sizes. One of the things that motivated me to lose weight was the desire to take my yoga practice further. I don’t know….just my thoughts.

  • Vision_Quest2

    Let me help you parse this so that it makes sense. MAY I?!?

    “A good yoga teacher should be able to teach all sizes. I don’t think there should be a need for classes for different sizes. ”

    This is one reason why mellow hatha and “old school yoga” are making a resurgence …

    “One of the things that motivated me to lose weight was the desire to take my yoga practice further.”

    Asana being a very infinitesimal part of what yoga really is. If you want to take your yoga practice further, the prerequisites are not: arm balances, inversions, shazam-looking gymnastics or pretzeling into tomorrow …

    ” I don’t know….just my thoughts.”

    And the best thing about what you just said, is that you seem humble …

    Makes a lot of sense NOW …

  • Dana

    I can’t tell if you agree or disagree, but was just adding my thoughts. I actually can’t do any arm balances. I just had 2 babies & got in shape again. I hope to be able to do one oneday. I have real experience being a “fat” yogi & also being a pregnant yogi. I have a valid perspective.

    If someone is overweight & feels the need to take a special class geared towards overweight people, than so be it. My point is that a good teacher should be able to teach all sizes & a good overweight teacher should be able to teach all sizes….even if their weight/size prohibits them fom doing poses that they are teaching.

  • Vision_Quest2

    Well, actually; so do I. I have taught myself yoga at sizes all over the scales … and even in classes … where the thoughtless teacher would never pause to give modifications … I’d given him a pass only because English is not his first language; and he had not seemed fat-phobic – Oh, precious memory – he paid attention only to the future yoga rock stars; AND he had been the one who yelled at me because I did not execute a fairly complicated vinyasa transition gracefully enough and dared to fall …

    Offered to teach me in a private session …

    Can we say I did not take him up on any offers?

  • Vision_Quest2

    UPDATE: I wasn’t even going to post this … so disgusted at doing all this, when I have my own BLOG to do it in!! But I’d run into him just the other day – after years … and he remarked on how much weight I lost… and I told him how happy I’d been with my weight at the time … AND as a then-non diabetic (yes, in my world there IS something wrong with scrawn) … A naturally lanky teacher–I’d never thought he’d been fat phobic at all. Turns out he is. [There is a thing called "pushing 40" ... and it does happen to male yoga teachers, too] … Well, it’s not the diabetes itself – it’s forsure being underdosed on oral-only medication and having to manage it with low-carbing that a young, slothful type would lie, cheat and steal for … (yet having to do intense cardio besides) …

    So he said something about his guru and my karma and please come back to my class …

  • E

    She should probably just work on her standing bow a bit more and shut the fuck up.

  • Bo

    I’ve been practicing yoga for 18 years and I’m a quintessential chubby yogi. I wear spandex without reservation because I don’t like my clothes to move around on me when I practice. Am I self-conscious? Not in the least. I’m not really thinking about my muffin top when I’m in hanumanasana. I’m now consistently one of the older and least fit *looking* in most advanced power yoga classes. I love my body because of what it can do and how strong it is. If Trina Hall’s experiment was to determine what fat feels like, she failed. Most of us happy, athletic chubsters don’t get to take off our fat suits that easily and so we look beyond what society says and revel in defying everything people think about us. Ms. Hall also fails to mention that if she felt judged while fat and she judged herself, inevitably she will unfairly judge her “fat” students.

  • Nikki

    Naturally skinny people fight against the idea of “healthy fat” because they like to believe that their genetics make them better people – more disciplined, healthier, whatever their particular form of self-righteousness is most delicious. They think they “earned” their skinny bodies, but they inherited their skinny body types, just like I inherited fat genes/body type.

    Skinny isn’t morally superior, but judging by these comments, you’d think it was.
    It’s thin privilege, just like white or wealth privilege. You think you earned it, and you look down at people you think who haven’t. Well, you didn’t earn anything. So stop telling me how to live.

  • Elizea

    You’re the one fighting against the idea of health, since you’ve deluded yourself into believing that your behavior is not the reason you are overweight. It’s not your fault, you just inherited “fat genes/body type.” Well, no. You ate more than you needed to eat, and you moved less than you should have moved.

    I also inherited ‘fat genes/body type,” am on a medication that caused a significant amount of weight gain, have a chronic illness that fucks with my joints, and I STILL managed to lose about 50 pounds in the course of six months and keep it off for going on 3 years now. It doesn’t take much – you can use apps like LoseIt! to track your calories, and strength train to boost your BMR.

  • Em

    Wow, this is so interesting to me. I conducted a similar “experiment” completely involuntarily. Several years ago I became very very ill with an autoimmune disease and like this woman, gained 40 pounds in the case of 4 months. I had to wear that weight around for another 6 months until I found a doctor who put me on the correct medication and the weight came off as mysteriously as it appeared. Like her, I was doing yoga the entire time– unlike her, I was *not* eating candy bars. In fact, I was so sick I could barely eat at all. My body had gone completely haywire. While I have “traveled” back to the land of size 6 privilege, the experience left me with a constant awareness that if I go off my medication or become more severely ill again, anything could happen with my weight. I am now a guest in my old home country, subject to deportation at any time. ;) It is NOT in my control even with all the fancy diets in the world.

    Even before this happened to me, I tried my best not to make assumptions about people’s weight– a fat person might overeat, or they might be perfectly healthy and happy, or they might be terribly ill as I was. A thin person might be naturally thin, or anorexic, or they might be undergoing chemotherapy. You simply have no idea what they are doing or feeling. Now I know it on the deepest possible level. I was amazed by how people treated me — doctors now listen to me politely again (since I am thin, I guess) but when I was heavy, they assumed I was lying about my eating and exercise- I have the medical records to prove it! Most men ignored me of course. People criticized what I ate, which was amazing when I could barely eat anything– the worst was someone who asked if I was going to “eat myself to death.” Yes, people say things like that! And I remember the struggles of finding clothes or bruising my hips on airplane armrests, etc., aching feet and ankles. All that with only 40 lbs! I never got bigger than a (badly distributed) size 12 and it was a misery, although of course I was ill as well. I wish she had simply focused on gaining grace and compassion from this and perhaps physical tips for her practice. But perhaps this could have been achieved simply by learning from heavier people and listening to them with empathy?

  • Mary Lou

    Hi Em,
    Very Thoughtful post. I had a similar experience with an autoimmune disorder, except I lost a lot of weight very quickly. Within minutes after eating I was doubled over in pain, so, of course I didn’t eat. People also began treating me differently and some of my coworkers approached me about the possibility of an eating disorder. My doctor was not very helpful until I had an attack of pain in her office. Then she became my biggest advocate. . We found the source of the pain and now, Two years later and I am fine and even putting on a few extra pounds.

    My yoga class is a mixture of all different ages and weights. I think we are pretty supportive of each other. Ive always been pretty nonjudgemental about weight as my sister and brothers weight also varies quite a lot. Since being ill, I have an even greater understanding of what we can and can’t control. One can be overweight or underweight for a whole variety of reasons, some physical and some psychological. Regardless, we should care for and support each other. I hate to sound preachy, but the best part of yoga is the part that comes with acceptance and compassion.

  • Michael

    So making an attempt to understand what it’s like for overweight people is worse than making no attempt to (viscerally) understand that situation at all???

    Don’t get me wrong, I agree with many posters who have said that she is a “fat tourist” and that she cannot possibly understand the plight of fat people in yoga because she is “privileged” enough to go back.

    You’re right. She couldn’t.

    However, gaining weight, along with open dialogue with overweight practitioners gives her SOME insight—at least more than she’d have by ONLY talking to other “fat” yogis. In fact, she says so herself, that she was surprised at how it affected her.

    I know, I know, of course she felt like shit eating shitty food. As has been mentioned, that’s NOT the only way to being overweight, and commonly is not the primary factor (if it is a factor at all, which often it’s not)—but for someone who is genetically thinner, that’s how she had to do it. I did not at all get the impression that she’s suggesting that fat people are fat because they eat crap food. Maybe that’s because most people I’ve known who struggle with weight eat quite healthily. But clearly, aside from genetic or hormonal modification, eating crap foods was the way for her to get there.

    HOW she did it aside, she gained further insight into HERSELF. That’s one of the ultimate goals of yoga, and we can all say, “oh, it doesn’t matter what size you are or how you look” but until we experience something different, we can never know how we really will feel.

    True, as a “fat tourist” she cannot possibly know what it’s like to be you… or me… or anyone else. Can a privileged person understand the poverty of India, where people live in roadside shacks no higher than my knees? No. Will they have a better understanding of that reality, and therefore more compassion for it by being a tourist in India, rather just being told about it by people who have seen or lived it? Or more frivolously, can you appreciate the Majesty of the Grand Canyon from pictures and friends’ testimony, or going and seeing it yourself, even if only for a day? The latter, obviously. Will you understand the FULL majesty of the Grand Canyon from having visited it for a day? Well, no.

    Ultimately, NOBODY can HAVE ANYBODY else’s experience. We all suffer. Some more than others. Some suffer physically, some mentally, some emotionally, some financially, some socially, some intellectually. Some suffer little in their lives, while others suffer from birth to death. It’s not a competition to crown the One Who Suffers Most.

    Her ability to do a yo-yo experiment may be a problem of privilege, but how dare you try to take away someone’s attempt to step out of that reality to at least marginally experience another’s—especially with the intent of improving her teaching and ultimately furthering her practice in understanding herself?

  • g

    I just wanted to add that I am shocked that anyone would fat-shame a woman who gained weight while on medication. that is ignorant, insensitive, and cruel.

  • g

    on the fat/thin privilege thing:

    I’ve been on both sides of this one, and neither are good. if one is too thin, then one is accused of eating disorders, if one is too fat, one still comes under a lot of scrutiny, is fat-shamed, and so forth.

    what I want to know is why it is anyone’s effing business what we weigh. because whenever I’ve gained or lost weight, someone in my life has had something to say about it. they care more than I do, and I don’t know why. for me, my weight gain or loss has always been due to health issues, and I could really give a flip whether I’m “hot” or “anorexic” or “heavy” because I just want to feel okay. it’s not a cosmetic thing, and I sure as hell don’t give an flying eff whether some dude thinks I’m hot or not.

    as to the chubby ladies on this board, I feel your pain, because I have been there, and done that; my mom would literally starve me growing up so that I would have a more “acceptable” weight; I got exercise equipment for my birthday, and then, when I began to waste away due to an autoimmune disease, crappy, fattening foods so that she wouldn’t have to feel threatened by me being “hotter” than her.

    I want to know why the people in my life are so stupid and shallow that they are only concerned with how fat or thin I am at any given moment. we ladies are judged almost solely on how physically attractive we are, and this is so damaging. why are we hating on some woman because she is thin? let’s turn our focus to the oppressive patriarchal system which dictates that we are only so valuable as our “fuckability”.

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