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November 04, 2011

An Open Letter to the Fat Girl I Saw at Hot Yoga in New York City

Ftk fat girl yoga 1Joshilyn Jackson

Dear Fat Girl I Saw at Hot Yoga in New York City,

Perhaps I should call you OTHER fat girl at Hot Yoga, as I was there too, easing back into my Fat Down Dog, forward to Fat Plank, then melting and pushing up to Fat Cobra, etc etc, all the way through my big fat hot Vinyasa flow. (This should be a movie title---my Big Fat Hot Vinyasa Flow---I would SO go to see that.)

Is it wrong that I am half in love with you? For being fat and at Hot Yoga? For shaving your legs and getting a GOOD pedicure and putting your big ol’ ass into the second largest pants that Lululemon, may her name be forever exalted, makes ? For unrolling your matt and claiming your space, a rounded duck standing defiantly on one squatty leg among flamingos.

Tlc lululemon

Were you as happy to see me as I was to see you? I think you were. You kept PEEKING at me, under your armpit and between your thighs, when you should have had been looking at your Drishti, only to find I had abandoned MY Drishti and was misaligning my spine to peek at you.

We both tipped over out of tree because of it. But it was okay. We were a secret club of Fat Girls at Hot Yoga. We understood each other.

I miss you, now that I am back home in Georgia. I am ALWAYS the only fat girl at Hot Yoga. I am sure it is exactly the same for you----You might think there would be more of us fat girls here in Quasi-Rural Georgia than in New York City. Well, okay. There are, actually, but I am the only one in CLASS. We sometimes have one girl who THINKS she is another Fat Girl at Hot Yoga. She is not, God bless her. She is only mentally ill. At my Hot Yoga here, all the regulars are very beautiful and sleek, like otter puppies.

Tlc otter puppy

Yoga people. Honestly. They are long and loopy and bendable and glorious. I wish I was one, but I froth and churn and fail at cleanses.

They seem so at peace with their physicalness, living inside bodies that look like loops of strong ribbon. Meanwhile, I am at war. I am at war with my body.

Oh Fat Girl at Hot Yoga in New York, are you at war with yours, too? Has it let you down? Are you angry with it? I am. Righteously furious, actually.


This stupid body that has failed me in so many ways these last two years. It has been endlessly sick. It has required surgery and bed rest and vicious medication that got me well, but made me feel sicker.

I AM VERY ANGRY WITH IT for being sick, for getting fat, for not doing what I SAY.

But I am nice to it anyway, three times a week, at Hot Yoga.

Ftk fat girl yoga 2Fat Girl, I saw you in New York, and I thought, GOOD FOR YOU. You are trying to find a way to be stronger, to live in yourself, to like your body enough to give it that seventy-five minutes of movement and acceptance. To just take care of the damn thing, even if you ARE mad at it. To treat it like an exasperating, ugly, ill-tempered little child---one you secretly adore.

At the start? Every time? I set my intention and it is this: For the next 75 minutes, don’t look around, don’t compare, don’t list all the ways you are not good enough to be here, and don’t hate yourself. Just Breathe. Just Breathe. Just Breathe. Just be in your body and remember how good a place is it to be, really.

For the first half of class, I remind myself that this body is not some shabby rental. It is home. No matter how mad I am, it is home.

By the second half, I always come to understand that it is more than home. It is more than where I live.

It is me.

I am it.

I remember my husband likes it. A lot. I remember it twice performed a function that was nothing short of miraculous, growing two exceptional babies entirely from scratch. My brain is a piece of it, and my brain is where the stories come from.

Tlc duck

This is what I get from Hot Yoga, Fat Girl. I am not sure what you get. I hope the same thing. I wish ALL the Fat Girls would come to Hot Yoga and get this, get these minutes where we forget ---if only for a little while--- that our value as people doesn’t go down when our pants sizes go up.

And also? Selfishly? I DO wish at least one more would come, so I would have someone to peek at under my armpit, to give that little tip of the chin, that little nod.

Fat Girl at Hot Yoga Solidarity, baby. We aren’t perfect, but we are HERE, in our second-to-largest size Lululemon pants, ducks among flamingos, trying to take care of ourselves.

Namaste fricken DAY,

The Fat Girl You Saw at Hot Yoga in New York City


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Oh Joshilyn, this is sooooo great. And I soooo needed it. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! I love Fat Girl at Hot Yoga. I love you for loving Fat Girl at Hot Yoga in New York. And I don't even know what Hot Yoga is. And I love Lululemon, and I never heard of Lululemon before. And I read this. And at first I couldn't stop laughing. And now I can't stop crying, because I would give anything to be the other Fat Girl at Hot Yoga with you in Georgia. Amen.

Wow. Not what I was expecting this morning, but absolutely beautiful, Joshilyn.

Despite rumors to the contrary, men go through the same thing, we just cannot admit it as openly. The past four years, I've accepted some things, and that's that.

I've said before it stuns me that the movie stars of yesteryear, the ones I grew up thinking were the very definition of the word 'sexy' would be considered overweight by today's standards. Still don't agree with that, but when did I ever 'run with the pack'?

So yeah, I'll say it. There are no Fat Girls here at TLC. Some I know better than others, but each and every one is a sharp intelligent beautiful woman who can make me laugh (or cry), but at least make me think on a daily basis. Personally, I'll take that any day....

Hooray for athletes who don't fit the mold! Fat Hot Yoga Girl, meet Fat Cycling Girl. I hang with strong ribbon people clad in spandex. I look nothing like them in my own spandex, but when I'm out there pedaling, none of that seems to matter. Rock on, Joss and the other Fat Hot Yoga Girl!

Joss, this is so wonderful.

Joss, you are such a treasure. You always make me laugh and cry and think and love you.

Ah...and I'm checking out Lululemon now. (Even though I can't do yoga.I tried, but I always think: Am I good? Am I doing it? Am I the best? Can we hurry? Very un-yoga...sigh)

Anyway--you're amazing.

I am the Fat Girl just off the treadmill and too winded to talk, but I can type. Good stuff, Joss. This one needs a wider distribution, TLC friends. How can we get more readers for Joss today? Email your buds. Post on FB. Send a note to your listserves. This lady is a poet!


Well said, Joss!

Great stuff!

Bless you, Joss. This is beautiful!

Now I am BLUBBERING. I am the fat girl at keyboard full of Cheez-It crumbs and I am BLUBBERING. Thank you for this.

Oh, Joss, you found me out. I am Mentally Ill Girl at Hot Yoga in Southern California Who Thinks She's Fat Girl In Part Because It's Southern California and I'm sitting here crying over this blog like someone just died.

Possibly because I've eaten nothing but my children's Halloween candy for 3 straight days.

And more likely because you're brilliant.

Great, great post. I have the opposite of anorexia, that I'm always thinking I look hot, even when my belly is spilling over my jeans and I'm the biggest girl on the hike. Its hilarious, but theres the truth. Love my tummy. Love my legs. Love all of the things this body does, and I'm grateful. I'm so used to going to a class (yoga, Zumba, strike , etc) and seeing that dismissive glance, that raised brow. And then I SHOW them! Hahaha! Would love to go to hot yoga with you.

Sorry you've been. Sick.

so amazingly written and wonderful. I salute you, and us, and hope I can one day be that fat girl at yoga too, instead of the fat girl who holds our couch down.
love love love this!

The woman in this video would be considered 'fat' by today's standards. Explain THAT one to me:


Wow. You cannot know how much I needed that. Thank you, Joss! If I still lived in quasi-rural Georgia (oh, heck, who am I kidding? I lived in Atlanta...) I would totally come be the other fat girl at hot yoga with you. Instead, I'm gonna take this and go be the fat girl in a yoga class here in Raleigh.

Barbara, that's the thing, isn't it? To be grateful for the body that carries you, and allows you to do all the amazing things humans are capable of.

It never occurred to me to be grateful to my body until I took part in an early morning yoga class at a conference, back in the early 90's. The instructor told us to think of how grateful we were for our feet that took us to wonderful places. They do, don't they? Why shouldn't we show them gratitude? It's such a simple thing, but we tend to take them for granted until they fail us somehow.

It doesn't do to make assumptions about people, either. Each of us is an exquisitely special creation, with infinite potential. You just never know what talents reside in which human shells.

No, William. Emma Peel would not be considered fat by anyone's standards. Ever.

You need to hang around with more normal people, it seems. LOL


Amen, Amen, Amen, Amen!!!!

This is fantastic, and I'm sharing it on FB -everyone else should too.

I love being fat. Many reasons why, some are okay and some are psychologically bad ways to handle bad shit. Don't care. Being fat provides me with more freedom than you can imagine.

But Mother Nature seems to disagree. The older I get, the more it seems to interfere - but that is another blog.

For now, I have to share a conversation I had at Homecoming this fall:

Weird Chick who is dating an old classmate and I don't like her on sight, but she is trying to be nice in a creepy syrupy way: "So, do you do yoga?"

Me: (avoiding the classic spit take due only to my lifetime mastery of the gag reflex): "WHUH?! Honey, do I LOOK like I do yoga? Hell, I don't even eat YoGURT."

Happy Friday to all the Fat and Thin and in between!

I love you. That is all.

"Fat" isn't my body-image issue, but-- Okay, I lied. It's simply only one of them.

But I know these feelings. Intimately.

Sharing this elsewhere.

I have discovered that there are two groups of larger women. There are BBW's, Fat Girls at hot yoga, who love or at the very least have made peace with their size. They dress as they want to dress, do what they want to do and surround themselves with people who love who they are. They get nakkid with people who would be afraid of breaking "a twig". They strut their stuff on the dance floor and wear yoga pants.

Then there are is the other group. The ones that make the diet industry a billion dollar a year rip off. The ones who wear "mumus, kaffans, and the Hindenburg line." The ones who hate themselves and drown that hate in sneaked cookies.

Here is to being happy with yourself.

Lovely post, Joss. I am so tired of curvy women branded as "fat."

When I went to my first women's martial arts conference, I was literally stunned at the number of fat women I saw walking around. How, I wondered, could these be martial artists? Then I saw them in action. Rolling without a sound. Falling like leaves in the wind. Moving with grace and power. Unbelievably fierce. Unbelievably whole. It changed my life forever.

I am now the fat woman doing karate and jiu jitsu, and I am sharing this blog. Thank you, Joss!

Nice! One must love one's body in order to take good care of it. I once sent measurements to buy period-appropriate bloomers for Ren. Faire, and added, "I'm no Scarlett O'Hara" to the note. The lovely gentleman replied, "Scarlett O'Hara lacked womanly curves."
Hurrah for all who make the effort to be healthy!

That really, really moved me. Thank you.

Joss, you are brilliant and funny. This such a great blog.
Validation is the name of the game.
I am guilty of looking at others for inspiration that says it's okay to have your middle not where your middle used to be.
It's okay not to have a nice waist definition.
And oh ya..do you see that lady over there?
She has wrinkles.. lots of them but she came over to me and remarked on my grandchild in the stroller. Then she limped up to her house and I say to myself I want to be her when I get a little older. She is my hero.

This is fabulous. I love yoga, and I am not even close to being the long and loopy and bendable and glorious one in the class. But apart from making me feel better physically, I love yoga because of the rules: Listen to your body, no competition, no comparisons, do what you can and what feels right. And yes, every class we thank our body when we're finished. Plus, you get to take a short nap at the end. ;)

I am lucky, in that my class is taught by a woman in her 50s, and is full of middle-aged women and men of all sizes and shapes and degrees of flexibility. We have all teetered over during tree, or had to do the modified poses. But it doesn't matter, we're there.

I don't mean this to be a soapbox on yoga - anywhere we can find ways to love our bodies, accept ourselves, stop trying to look like the younger, thinner, stronger girl in the room - it's important to find that. And accept it. Some days this is easier than others.

I'm so sorry you've been sick, Joss. I hope your body is mending. Obviously your spirit is thriving, and you're helping ours do the same.

Left me with a great big tear-filled grin on my face. Thank you for this post, it is nothing short of magnificent.--Mario

Ah. Wonderful. Makes we want to drag my currently-being-Atkins into disagreeability body out to plump yoga. Instead, I shall try downward-facing face toward keyboard and try, with admiration for YOUR writing, to do something with mine.

You go, girl!*

*an expression women can use with each other without being demeaning.

TESSSSTTTT why are my comment snot posting???

REALLY Mr Typepad? three lost actual comments and 2 tests later, you aloow THAT....sigh.

I am up in the mountains on retreat with Lydia. wrote all mosrnign, and then we hiked up and down this mountain for three hours. I am sweaty and happy and about to go write more, but I had to say THANK YOU for these really lovely comments.

I saw her almost two months ago and have been trying to get the courage to post this letter ever since. Was worried about the response or that i was being too overexposey. THANK YOU for your MASSIVE kindness.

This was perfect. I cried. Thank you. Share with others who need it as much as I do.

shareD. past tense. as in "I already did share it" not a command that you should share it, although, yes, that too.

*more coffee needed before posting comments, thankyouverymuch

Just substitute "old" for "fat." I am the only "old girl," let's say senior, at my hot yoga. Once in a while another appears. I say, "can she do it?" "How is her back?" "Don't we get to sit out the second set ... without shame?" I was a flamingo once. But now I am happy to just stand there an sweat.


That was my point, Karen...:)

I love the fat girl at hot yoga. I love all the fat girls who do their proud thing, dressed to the nines. The other day I saw a fat girl jogging. She was out there in a coordinated Lycra ensemble, looking more spiffy than I do in my ragged t-shirts. More power to her!

You wrote this: don’t look around, don’t compare, don’t list all the ways you are not good enough to be here, and don’t hate yourself.

I read this and immediately thought of my writing life. Thanks for the reminder!

Brilliant and Beautiful. Thank you.

I eagerly await the day "Fat Girl at Hot Yoga" becomes a book. If nothing else (and there is SO MUCH else) it's a GREAT title.

I'm old and fat and angry about both. I feel older than I am because of chronic illness. I am fatter than I should be because of the medications for that illness.

I so needed to read this blog today and some of the comments of the back bloggers really cheered me.

I have found a Wellness center just around the corner that offers Geezer Yoga (as opposed to Hot Yoga) on a daily basis. I have been wanting to go but couldn't quite get up the nerve.

OMG, if you can then I can.

Wonderful, and inspiring. You are feeling better, and living life-and that's what I'll tell this body that seems to be fighting me all the way. You really can write!

Thank you for this. I am a fat girl in regular yoga and have been for five years. Never once have I been made to feel inferior, except in my own mind.

I live a block and a half from the original Lululemon and in a neighbourhood full of skinny yoga women and men and yes, skinny 'I just had a baby' moms. Sheesh.

I was sick a year and a half ago and am still recovering. I was recently told that if I wanted I could find a seniors water aerobic class and do 1/3 of what everyone else is doing . . . I am frustrated with being middle-aged, slow recovering and 20 pounds over where I like being.

I get out and walk every damn day, I do my physio exercises and I use strict portion control. Enough already.

Thanks for this! From a chubby ex-weightlifter in Vancouver. This month I turn 52 and I swear I will keep working on the body image stuff and enjoy being on 'the right side of the grass'.

Good one, Baby!!
I am not really fat, I'm just bulbous!! Filling out a Large, doesn't make one FAT! But 75 minutes?? How does one hold out for 75 minutes? Do they serve refreshments? Maybe little petite cakes? Iced, of course! I think I would have to give up if it took over 6 months. I can't stick to an eating regi
mine for 6 months. 'Course, I don't eat much. I just don't exercise. It's too tiring!!!

Sometimes life does present obstacles that make even walking every day a challenge
Case, in point..my DH who has diabetes and neuropathy.
Walking a mall length can be excruciating for him.
I started walking with the baby in a stroller lately and realize that I should be taking better care of myself. My innards sometimes scream from lack of use. But I try to keep a positive outlook.
My husband is my hero as is all who keep on keeping on even in the daily struggles of life.

If we stop doing things because we're "too old", or "too fat", or "too" anything else, you know what? We will stop being ABLE to do them. I see people much younger than myself unable to walk across a parking lot, and largely because they convinced themselves they couldn't do it.

Anyone who stays active deserves a pat on the back. It's no easier to make yourself work out than it is to glue your butt to a chair and write a book or three.

Lisa, you are a genius. I never thought to apply that inention ANYWHERE but hot Yoga, but maybe I shoudl say that every time i do ANY DAMN THING AT ALL.

Aren't we just the most lovable huggable group here at TLC?
Group HUG!
Nicely expressed Joshilyn!

Just read the whole thing again and ALL the comments again and am wowed...

Love, love, love this. I should be a Fat Girl in Yoga Class instead of a Fat Girl Complaining, about be tired, about my pants not fitting, etc. Thank you for giving me some inspiration to start taking better care of myself.

Natalie, I am ALSO complaining, regularly, about a HOST of things, my ass included.

Hank you are so nice to me, all the time. And to other people too. The amount of lovliness you tote around and disperse is a RIDICULOUS amount of lovliness.

I started Tai Chi at the Y yesterday. Our instructor has many health issues of her own, and keeps reminding us to adapt as needed. We give similar reminders in the aqua-aerobics class; it's not competitive, and one should listen to the body's messages.
Big hugs to all!

This may be the best article I have EVER read! You rock!

I guess I should get myself to Hot Yoga (even though I can't do yoga), because I am so pissed off at my body I am not even speaking to it. But I suppose I could find a way to give it 75 minutes of my time. Thanks for the inspiration, because this post was so wonderful.


I want to be you. I want your ease with words, I want your incredible spirit, I want your gift for seeing into the hearts of all women. Thank you for this beautiful post.

This is great! From one fat girl in (not hot) yoga to another.

So late, I know, but I have been very busy today and just now finally had a chance to respond.

THANK YOU! In the past eight years I have tended to be an exercise fanatic because I have been trying to avoid additional spine surgery. The problems have been worse in the past year and I have needed to cut back on my exercise program. This makes me feel terribly guilty. I've gained a few pounds. Now, my doctors do not have a problem with this, my physical therapist does not have a problem with this, and they all tell me that I'm being too hard on myself. I still get frustrated, though. Your blog today did SO much to encourage me to JUST TAKE CARE OF MYSELF, even if it means modifying my exercise and putting on a few pounds. I have to remind myself that the anorexic-looking twenty somethings at the gym tend to disappear after a few months. I don't know if they have finally wasted away to the point that they are invisible,or if they have gotten too frail to do much anymore. I'm going to remind myself to be happy that I am alive, and honor my body by being kind to it.

Thanks again Joss!!

Thank you, Joshilyn, for using the word fat without shame. Fat isn't evil. Fat doesn't make me a bad person, undeserving of pretty much anything good. It's a shape, a collection of cells. Whoopty-freakin'-do. I struggle with hating my body because of the way it looks, and loving it for the way it feels and what it can do. When I love it I'm willing to treat it better, so I try to love it more often. There's no Hot Yoga here, but I was Fat Girl at Tai Chi and now I'm Fat Girl at Water Aerobics. Actually, I'm one of many Fat Girls at Water Aerobics, which is comforting because being the only Fat Girl is much more difficult in a bathing suit.

I loved it! I am the fat girl too afraid to go to hot yoga! Thanks for the encouragement!

I have been the fat girl at Hot Yoga. Shit - I AM the fat girl at Hot Yoga. And I cried after reading this.

Thank you. :)

I love you. [holds arms out wide] thiiiiiiiiiisss fat fat fat much.

Love, your way fatter friend who is about to join yoga in New York.

And I am the fat girl who was always REALLY happy when the Long, Lithe, Goddess Girls weren't NEARLY as flexible as me in yoga. Which wasn't nice of me at all. I love yoga. And I loved my yoga instructor who is not longer instructing. . .because when we used to go into some pose that involved my belly coming into direct contact with my thighs, she would say, "Do not hesitate to make room for your anatomy in this pose." Which meant, "Spread those thighs girl and let yo' belly hit the flo'."

This is genius. . .and reminds me so much of another post you wrote regarding your body image--the words you penned then have stuck with me--about how wonderful are these bodies we have that connect us to our husbands and bring forth beautiful children and live and move and house our being. Thank you for saying it and even more for sharing it.

You are beautiful. This post made me cry because we are all hard on ourselves and your poured it all out here. I just want to give you a hug. Namaste.

It's all of us, isn't it? My body also doesn't cooperate with me, and my mind is worse...NYC is not as bad as Southern California for this, but it is still difficult to be the fat girl with the mediocre career in spinning class. One moment at a time, right?

I love this so much.

pure awesomeness, as always.

I just read this, following a link from an unrelated blog. Beautiful, wonderful words, expressed in both the post and in the comments. I woke up yesterday feeling proud of my fat body and the ways it can move. (I can shake stuff that some people don't even have!) Reading this further inspires me to keep moving, be proud, and live strong. I don't need to wait until I reach a number on the scale to live my life. I don't need to hide until I reach a certain size. Thanks for the inspiration, from Fat Girl Dancing With Her iPod because she's too afraid to dance in public!

I LOVE this! Thank you for posting it!

A friend shared this on FB and I had to read it. Beautiful! I love it.

I don't even do yoga, and I love this article. I don't do yoga, for all the reasons in this blog, and more. But I do, now, regularly go to the gym in my condo building, and I have to screw up my courage every time, for the same reasons. So thanks for your "don't look around" mantra. And I love your honesty about the complex and contradictory emotions we have about our bodies. Solidarity.

And to the rest of you, who look sidelong at us big people in the class/gym, with that "What are you doing here?" look, do you really want to make it that much harder for us? Remember how much we have overcome just to walk through that door. We're not trying to offend your sleek sensibilities. We already imagine what you're thinking, you don't need to make it worse. Try solidarity with a smile instead.

While I loved the article, I was surprised at how small the size range was for yoga pants at Lululemon. The sizes I saw went from 2-12, with size 12 being listed as "XL." The "average" size of 14, attributed to more than half of women in the US, isn't even an option. What a sad commentary about how clothing designers continue to ignore so many of us who don't fit the model size, but still want to remain active.

So, if you can fit into the yoga pants from Lululemon, then I'd encourage you to redefine your definition of "fat". I'm not saying you don't or can't feel it, or that your body hasn't changed in a manner that has you at odds with it; I just wonder what type of stick-figures you're comparing yourself to.

At size 22 (down from a 28, then a 26, then a 24, with many more sizes to go), I know what it's like to be The Really Fat Girl at Yoga. I hope you can find peace with your body, no matter the size; we only get one.

Yuliah a 12 at lululemon is not a 12. The sizing is not American.

The sizing chart for Lululemon shows a 12 as a 40-32.5-43, in inches. That equates to a size 12/14 at Lands End, which is a company based in the United States. I imagine that for most women who have suffered the effects of bigotry because of their size, for a woman who still fits into "straight sizes" to self-identify as being part of the "Fat Girls Club" might be a bit galling. But it is a great illustration of how restrictive our cultural perception of "good body" has become. Really pretty much any recognizable deposits of fat on the body other than in the breasts earns one the label of "fat". It's whacked.

I am the Fat Girl in my hot yoga classes here in Kentucky, and I only WISH I could wear Lululemon sizes. I've been begging them for a plus size line forever - size doesn't limit fitness! I'm sorry, but if you are a size 12 in Lululemon, I wouldn't consider you a fat girl.

In any case, this post tickled my heart, because I completely relate to it. Whether it's the fat girl in hot yoga or the fat girl in the gym, I always secretly fall in love.

Ummmmmm the second to largest size sold by Lululemon is a 10 as far as I can tell. A size 10 is not fat,,,, talk to me when you hit a size they don't sell anymore. I personally find that horribly sad that someone thinks a size 10 is fat.

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