Does My Inner Goddess Look Fat In These Jeans?

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Using the yoga yamas and niyamas to learn self acceptance.

I’ve never been on the fat girls team. Then again, I’ve always been on the outer edges of the skinny girls team.

I’m the girl who has been called thick, big boned, muscular, athletic. I’ve never been called waify, dainty, delicate or petite. Through sheer determination, very strict food rules and fear of what others think of me, I’ve managed to keep my place on the skinny side.

And then I got kicked off the team.

I gained one pants size.  The equivalent of about 10 pounds. There are reasons I gained the weight, but those reasons are irrelevant. I’m a yoga teacher / personal trainer and in an industry where looks matter, what matters is the 10 pound gain.

“Why would you hire her? She’s too fat to be a personal trainer”.

Apparently when you gain 10 pounds you suddenly go deaf and can’t hear what’s being said about you, to your own client, that you are standing less than five feet away from at that moment.

A 10-pound gain also must mean my qualifications, education and intelligence got lost somewhere deep down in my fat cells and I no longer am capable of understanding the needs of a young woman with an ACL injury and therefore have no idea how to modify her physical activity.

I’m very grateful to my client for defending my skills, and my size, yet it sent me flying to a place of self-doubt, insecurity and self-loathing.

We live in a society where according to a poll by Fitness magazine, 51% of women would rather be skinny than sexually satisfied.  And Kirstie Alley goes on Oprah to announce she is losing weight because she doesn’t want to have “fat sex.”

What the hell is wrong with us women? We value skinny over smart and satisfied? Thin is in. And no one gives a shit about smart. Are we really willing to throw away our infinite potential for skinny jeans?

I began my career in the fitness field teaching high impact cardio classes. I wrongly believed I had to be pounding my joints, even if it meant causing stress fractures in my foot, to be healthy and fit.

Eventually I found my way to yoga and I got smart.  The yoga asanas provided me with the physical workout to help keep my body on the skinny team. The yoga meditation and pranyama gave me the self-esteem to realize that up 10 pounds or down 10 pounds, my body was the outer shell for my real self inside.

“It is through your body that you realize you are a spark of divinity.”  — BKS Iyengar

Through yoga I’ve learned I may feel temporarily good about myself when I hold urdvha danurasana longer than the person on the next mat, but I love myself even more for laughing when I fall out of bakasana.

As a yoga teacher studying yoga therapy, I feel smart and confident assessing a client and prescribing a program to heal an injury or relieve chronic symptoms. I’m rocking my brain not my body. And I feel pretty damn sexy doing it too.

I like being thin and fit and wearing cute yoga clothes. But, I want to be known for being intelligent and kind. Call me fat and I’ll sulk for a little while. Call me stupid and you’ll get a lesson in feminine empowerment.

So if I want to be known for being an educated, strong woman, why does image bother me more than intelligence? Why did one comment,  from someone who doesn’t even know me, set me into such a tailspin?

Even at my thinnest I don’t fit the image of a stereotypical yoga teacher or personal trainer. At 5”9’ I’m a pretty standard size 10 jeans. Not fat by any standards, but not Shape cover model size either.

The irony is, 99% of the time I’m ok with that. I’ve made my peace with the fact that Yoga Journal isn’t going to come calling for a photo shoot. I’ve worked hard to get to where I am in this industry. I’ve studied and educated myself to a level beyond many of my peers in my area.

I’m a damn good yoga teacher and I’m proud of it. I’m a damn good personal trainer too. I approach my personal training sessions with the yoga yamas and niyamas in mind –  ahimsa (nonviolence), Satya (truthfulness) and santosha (contentment):

  • Don’t harm your body with unhealthy diets or inappropriate exercise.
  • Be truthful with yourself about your motives and desires.
  • Embrace yourself with love exactly where you are.

When meeting for the first time with a new client I begin with an approach of you are perfect exactly the way you are. Now where would you like to go from here? And together we plot the path to get you there.

For a brief moment I forgot to apply those principles to myself. I forgot I am perfect exactly the way I am now.

Ten pounds be damned. Inside me is a spark of the divine.

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anonymous May 12, 2011 1:35pm

This is much appreciated. My own body image/weight issues can be so intense at times that I struggle for the words to describe them. A very heartfelt thank you for this post.

anonymous May 11, 2011 5:25pm

This was very inspiring. Thanks!

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Bob Weisenberg May 4, 2011 11:27am

Just posted to "Popular Lately" on the Elephant Yoga homepage.

anonymous May 4, 2011 7:49am

I love your article. I too am a fitness/wellness professional that does not look like the cover of yoga journal. And you know what? I think my yoga students, clients and group fitness participants like me because I am not the typical size or shape of what our western world considers a yoga teacher, personal trainer, group exercise instructor to look like. Thank goodness for the yoga philosophy and idea that "you are not your body". Love, knowledge and compassion come in all shapes and sizes. Namaste!

anonymous May 3, 2011 7:30pm

Beautifully written.I am also someone who once longed to be in the skinny girls club, but finally accepted that I have a Kapha body , curves and big bones and all. I love my thighs, my baby bearing hips, and the belly swell that comes from having my kids. When I am practicing yoga, it's just me, my body and my breath..and no one else matters. But beyond that, outside of my yoga practice, I am so much more than a body; I have a Masters degree I busted my ass to get, I am going for my Radiant Child Yoga cert… and I just took my first intense Kundalini class and made it through without passing out. I refuse to allow the judgments of others to affect my own peace of mind anymore. One of my favorite professors said it best, "We would all stop worrying so much about how we look and how we appear to others when we realize how infrequently people do it".. anyone that does judge is ultimately judging themselves and holding their own insecurities up for glad to see you have it together. Thank you for a great post.

Bob Weisenberg May 3, 2011 7:10pm

Just posted to "Featured Today" on the Elephant Yoga homepage.

anonymous May 3, 2011 7:04pm

It is through posts like these that we will change the world. One person at a time – knowing that we are more than our weight is a step closer towards treating ourselves and others with compassion. And soon people will be too immersed in love to worry about a few pounds. GREAT POST Jen <3

anonymous May 3, 2011 6:44pm

great post.

Bob Weisenberg May 3, 2011 6:43pm

Hi, Jennifer. You continue to shine and your articles continue to sparkle. And I love the way you through in an unannounced video at the end. With your articles I've gotten in the habit of always watching them.

Posting to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

Bob W.
Yoga Editor

anonymous May 3, 2011 5:49pm

great article Jennifer. Thank you!!

anonymous May 3, 2011 1:57pm

Standing ovation for you my friend! Yes yes and yes! ♥♥♥

anonymous May 3, 2011 12:12pm

lovely jennifer!!

anonymous May 3, 2011 12:10pm

Love it, Jen!

anonymous May 3, 2011 11:44am

*WILD APPLAUSE* AWESOME POST, Jennifer!!!!!!!!! 🙂 🙂 🙂 This is full of empowerment. Go get 'em!

anonymous May 3, 2011 7:22am

as a dancer/instructor i deal with this all of the time. this article struck a chord with me. its nice to know i’m not the only one to feel this way.

anonymous May 4, 2011 6:40pm

Oh, 13thfloorelevators, I so agree!

Having someone honestly compliment me, IS like reaching the 13th floor as labeled (love your name!)

You can't win for losing. After keeping off well over 80 pounds, for well over 7 years. Battling – getting close to winning – a compulsive overeating disorder. But nobody cares … unless I buy–in large quantities–the nostrum they are selling, of course.

(So, it's a little easier on those with deep pockets. And the ass that looks a little too big, may once in a while get kissed.)

In general, everybody has to keep you off balance and not give you the time of day. In America, it sells.

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Jennifer Williams-Fields

Jennifer Williams-Fields is passionate about writing, yoga, traveling, public speaking and being a fabulous single momma to six super kids. Doing it all at one time, however, is her great struggle. She has been teaching yoga since 2005 and writing since she first picked up a crayon. Although her life is a sort of organized chaos, she loves every minute of the craziness and is grateful for all she’s learned along the way.
Jennifer was a featured speaker at the 2015 inaugural CourageMakers Conference and is a regular guest speaker for local media outlets. Her motivational talks on gratitude, addiction and self care have been called “inspiring and life changing.”
She has had her essays featured on Yahoo!, Dr. Oz The Good Life and Scary Mommy. She is a regular writer for, YourTango and YogaUOnline.
Follow her on Twitter, Facebook, her blog or website.