Damned if I do, Damned if I don’t

So, I was sitting here eating a Hostess Ho-Ho and reading my Facebook friends feed (umm, no, really — does that make me a “bad fatty”?), and came across a link from a friend.  The link was for a place that sells women’s chest protection for fencing.  Basically, think a hard, plastic front of a model looking thing that you wear to keep yourself from getting hurt while fencing.

I’ve thought about picking up a blade a time or two.  Conall’s been doing SCA fencing for about 3 years now, and really enjoys it.  It looks like it could be fun, and is not near as rough as the heavy fighting is (those people beat hit each other with sticks rattan “swords” and require much heavier armor than fencing requires).

However, every time I’ve looked into fencing, I’ve been disappointed to find there’s nothing that fits me.  The link my friend put up went to “x-large”, with no measurements or other indication of just what they consider to be extra large.   Places I’ve seen in the past only go up to a 36 D.

This always comes back to the whole “why don’t fat people exercise” question.  Many people assume all I do all day long is sit on the internet (or watch TV) and eat Twinkies (or, in my case, since I admitted to eating one up there, Ho-Ho’s).   However, when we try to get exercise, we typically have two problems:  1) we are ridiculed for any attempt we make, whether it be walking or bicycling or swimming or joining a gym, and 2) there are no clothes that fit us properly, doubly so if we go into a specialized sport, such as fencing, or karate.

It’s extremely frustrating and disheartening to find a sport I like, only to find that I have to make my own clothing.  A specific case is the karate I’m doing.  When I joined, the Gi’s only went to a unisex size 8 (obviously, these sizes are NOT standard US sizes).  A size 8 Gi top does not close on me, however it does at least do the crossover tie.  Where it’s supposed to tie all the way at the sides though, it only overlaps by about 2 inches.  The pants didn’t fit at all.  The dojo special ordered a size 9 for me, hoping it would fit better.  It did, and didn’t.  I could squeeze into the pants (if I held my breath), and the Gi jacket now almost made it to the sides.  The problem with the jacket was that the shoulder seam came down to my elbows.  Not something I could actually, you know, fight in.

Next week Conall and I both are entered into the this Dojo system’s state Competition (and how we allowed ourselves to be talked into it, we’ll never understand), and I have to make myself a Gi jacket I won’t be embarrassed to compete in.  Because, of course, they still don’t make any jackets that might actually work for a woman over a conventional size 14.

So, a lot of times when I hear from trolls (both online and in real life), “Just exercise more, fatty!  Stop playing video games so much and eating Twinkies all the time,” I think about the challenges that face me when I do exercise.   It’s a good thing I know how to sew and make a pattern, otherwise I’d not have agreed to enter competition no matter how much Sensei tried to convince me it would be good for me.   Unfortunately, since I don’t know how to mold plastic to make a formed breastplate for myself, I’m not going to be trying fencing any time in the near future.

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13 Responses

  1. I’ve been wanting to try fencing for years as there is a fencing academy just a few blocks from my house. I have not done it, though for just the reasons you stated. Also want to try Krav Maga but was told I should get in better shape first ( also a pilates teacher told me that).
    It’s like – we should exercise more but not where they can see us.

    • I have been very lucky in that the Kenpo system Conall and I are a part of is *very* accepting of my weight. The only problem I’ve had is the non-fitting Gi (and that’s not necessarily their fault, just the fault of the suppliers).

      I so don’t understand this whole “You must get in shape to get in shape” idea. Yes, if you have lived a very sedentary lifestyle for a long time, it’s going to take a while, but any exercise program (including pilates and Krav Maga) should be able to tailor beginning/slow and personal classes for anybody.

      I mean, what do they do to the skinny and normal sized people who’ve not exercised in 5 years? Tell them to get in shape first?

    • I fenced in college—I was captain of the women’s team (which sounds better than it was, as there were only three of us and it was nonvarsity). And even then, I was close to a E cup size.

      When I fenced, we tucked round, rubber-rimmed metal chest plates into our bras—or into the pockets we sewed inside thick jersey shirts (got mine at Wal-Mart). They also tucked into our fencing jackets—I special-ordered one and added two gussets, but before that, I just wore a back-fastening jacket and left it open.

      I’ve been trying to find those individual plates online, but I’m sure you could find something similar. Even small plastic frisbees would work—in fact, our club had no money to buy more, so I used those once or twice.

      So, please don’t give up! Fencing is empowering, even without the uniform.

  2. Interesting post. I understand your frustration. I can’t help but point out, though, that if you are not of an “average” size most manufacturers (and certainly small business) cannot afford to easily produce outlying sizes. I do understand what you are saying about it limiting your options for physical activity. And maybe someone out there should consider whether there is or is not a market for different sized athletic equipment. But the only question I can’t get past is whether or not larger people actually do want to participate in physical activities. You do yes, but are there enough others to really constitute a market?

    • Actually, there are a lot of fat people who do participate in physical activities, who have to deal with this type of situation (either being ridiculed for attempting it in public or having inadequate gear to do the exercise they are wanting to do — from swimsuits that aren’t made for actual swimming in after a certain size, to breastplates that don’t go past a D cup, to biking shorts/shirts not going past a size 16 and more).

      The fatosphere is full of stories like mine, of people frustrated because they can’t find the proper gear to exercise in. I’m just one of the voices in the chorus right now. 🙂

    • Junonia has built their company on providing activewear for sizes 1x-6x. Swimsuits, ski pants and jackets, tennis skirts, yoga pants, padded bike shorts, zip-off convertible hiking pants/shorts — they have all of these, along with the “simple” leggings, knit pants, shorts, tops, and sports bras.

      But not Gis or fencing uniforms. Sigh.

    • “But the only question I can’t get past is whether or not larger people actually do want to participate in physical activities.”

      Well, why not? We make workout clothes for skinny people out of fabric that absorbs more sweat, cools you off, and prevents chafing. Fat people certainly sweat, overheat, and chafe too– and in my personal experience, sometimes more than a thin person in the same circumstances.

      If we could sell just basic workout clothes, then more fat people would feel comfortable working out and building muscle. And once you get some experience with physical exertion, you can be more confident that you might like some other kind of physical exertion, meaning you’ll be more likely to fork out the more money it’ll likely cost for a custom-sized piece of equipment as needed.

    • Hi, I’m another plus-size fencer. And I do yoga, and bellydance, and… Yeah, there are more than just a small handful of us.

      Also, above a women’s 14 is not an outlying size. 14 is about average. So, a range based on average might go from a women’s 6 or 8 to a women’s 18 or 20. And yet, there’s no shortage of workout gear in size 2 or size 0.

      Point being, it’s not about large sizes being such a tiny niche market, but about a self-perpetuating perception that fat people don’t exercise.

  3. Also, I don’t know what kingdom you’re in, but it’s possible to fence without the plastic chest protectors. I use the one-size individual cups from Zen Warrior Armory, and they work okay for me at a 38D/40C.

    Depending on your kingdom rules (and your pain tolerance, because chest shots aren’t pleasant), going without the plastic and just using the fencing jacket might be okay too.

    • I’m in the Outlands, and while Epee is the default, most people use Schalgers. And honestly, I don’t want to just fence with no chest protection against schlagers.

      At a 42 F (or DDD in some places to make me feel better about myself), there’s no way I can fit into a D cup, even the single ones.

      • Okay, so by fencing, you’re talking about SCA swordfighting? I do foil with plunger tips and touches , but for anything tougher, I guess plastic frisbees aren’t the answer . . .

        But I’ve seen large women fighters at faires wearing padded canvas brigandines, with metal and hard plastic plates (not molded, as far as I could tell) over strategic areas—they were explaining their protective clothing before an exhibition battle.

        Would something like that work?

    • Actually, I’m the friend who purchased the chest protector, and it’s for heavy fighting. 🙂

      I don’t have to wear rigid protection over my breasts, but I’m not so keen on the gals getting bruised. 😉

      I’m going to take some measurements when the plastron gets here, and report back. I’m a 38F/40DD, so I’m certainly not totally confident the plastron is going to actually fit me. We are splitting it down the middle, for a corrazina, though, so it might work.

  4. […] A Day in the Fat Life: Damned if I do, Damned if I don’t […]

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