By Jessica Moss, with direct permission. Bonus, eloquent comments on r/yoga:
Select comments by the author: “I really wish there were more overweight women in my class. So I’ve decided that if I’m in there, maybe someone else who is overweight will walk by, see me, and think “Well hell, if she’s in there, then I won’t be the only one, so maybe I’ll join too.” And that would make me feel great…
Dear Second Fattest Girl in My Yoga Class,
I don’t know you, but you know me.
I’m the girl who walks into the class and lets you sigh a breath of relief. I am here to make you feel better. My presence releases you from the shame, guilt, and mental difficulty of being the Fattest Girl in the Yoga Class.
When you try to flow into a side plank, and feel the shame of thinking you are going to be the only one here who has to put her knee down for support, feel free to look over at me. I’ve already got my knee down, I’ve already accepted that I will need to modify poses.
So it’s okay for you to do it too, because you won’t be the only one.
When you lean over for downward dog, and your face flushes because of the hanging belly you fear everyone will see, just take a peek over at me. There’s my belly. Yours isn’t as big.
When we go into child pose, and you can’t get down as low as the svelte yogi beside you and you start to feel self conscious, just gaze my way. I can’t lean down half as far as anyone else—my thighs and gut are blocking the way.
When we move into the first pose, and we face the front mirror, and you run your eyes over everyone else and feel paranoid that everyone has already categorized who is the fattest one in the room, who will struggle the most, take comfort in the fact that no one noticed you, because here I am. Right in the middle. Fattest girl by far. I’m impossible to miss!
You don’t have to feel guilty for taking comfort that I am there to take on the role of fattest girl for you and everyone else. I don’t know who you are, because just like you and everyone else, I’m focused on me being the fattest girl in the class—not on you being the second fattest. No one notices the runner up. But don’t feel bad for me. I know everyone has their hang ups, and everyone is self conscious to some degree. So I like to think that my presence brings you comfort—whoever you are. And that makes me feel better. I like to think that no one resents my presence, but instead is happy I am there, even if I am dripping sweat, even if I’m making modifications, even if I am chuckling at my complete inability to lean over during pigeon pose. I’m not here to look pretty, because when I leave the class, I always feel ugly—but I have enough perspective to know that no one who matters thinks less of me for it.
And remember that if I’m there, and I’m making it through the class, no matter how silly I may look doing it, I had the guts (mentally and physically!) to be here, so you know that you can do it too.
The Fattest Girl in Your Yoga Class
Author’s Note: Thanks for all the great responses. I have always had a lot of anxiety about fitness classes, which I feel has really held me back, and made me miss out on a lot of great activities and experiences. I just started going to yoga classes regularly, and I feel so out of place. I wrote this in an effort to try and make myself feel brave instead of insecure. Instead of focusing on how I’m the fattest girl in the class, I wanted to instead force myself to recognize that A) it’s likely no one else cares and B) if they do, I am going to tell myself that maybe I can be an inspiration to others instead. Or at least just have a sense of humor about it 🙂