Looking at the CrossFit discussion boards and some of the articles, you find a lot of people and comments that will piss you off as a fattie. They just don’t get it. My husband’s advice: Ignore them. There are more people who will support you than won’t; the people who assume you’re lazy or uncommitted either lack empathy or prefer to throw stones at the challenges others face rather than looking at their own shortcomings. Or, I suppose, it is possible that their experiences with overweight people trying to overcome their eating and fitness issues are largely negative … but they’re still likely judging an awful lot of people on relatively few experiences.

And, for me, it’s hard not to project my own insecurities onto others when I don’t feel good about the way I look.

But you’ll also find people with great comments and suggestions for coaches working with the obese or the obese CrossFitters themselves. In one thread, Susie Rosenberg, who has been there, says:

I’ve got a growing interest in this area myself. I guess it comes because I’m a person who’s lost almost 100 pounds … “I’ve come a long way, baby!” When I hit my heaviest, I couldn’t stand at the sink long enough to dispatch a sinkful of dishes and I couldn’t walk a half-mile without stopping to rest. Man, EVERYTHING hurt: My back, hips, and knees ached all the time.

I started my journey back to health and fitness very slowly. I began with simple aerobics (stepping, marching, sidesteps, kickbacks to music) plus simple exercises with light weights. (DB curls, overhead presses, lateral raises)
Not more than a half-hour in duration. Initially, I had to take the next day off to recover; eventually, I was able to do this for an hour at a time, almost every day.

After losing about half the weight, Jason Ackerman (Albany Crossfit) got a hold of me and after that there was no turning back. Spin class with high-intensity intervals, lots of work with weights and body weight exercises, and eventually Crossfit WODs … heck, this past year I was in the best shape of my life. At 52, thank you, Jason, very much.

I work with the obese now. One client I have walking for a half-hour 3x/week alternating with a very short routine working with a pair of 8 lb. DBs. It’s all about building the exercise habit. This woman got fairly winded from doing a set of 5 overhead “squats” onto a low chair with the DBs, so she’s to start with 2 sets of 5. Once she gets a bit more used to moving, I’ll bring her into the gym and keep her moving. Farmer’s walk, SDHPs, squats, overhead presses and push presses, step ups onto a low box/step, short sets of walking lunges … it doesn’t take much to be “a good workout” when you are massively overweight and terribly deconditioned. How well I remember.

There are things to keep in mind. First, one’s abdomen gets in the way with certain movements. (It can be hard to breathe with a big belly when you are doing situps or trying to forward bend and reach your toes!) Second, the center of gravity is shifted, folks have to lean back to compensate for the weight in the belly, so you get an exagerated lordosis–hard on the lumbar spine–and you have to be careful with heavy weight overhead as a result. Alignment is critical, and folks need to really concentrate on tucking the pelvis under and lifting the chest.

[Jodi, aka CrossFit fattie, gives Susie a standing ovation.]

Laura Rucker had a great comment in another thread:

[Y]ou scale the workouts down so they can complete a workout and get some satisfaction out of it. That will keep them coming.

Many of us in the Brand X box would have been considered obese. We were also committed to sticking to the program, and too stubborn to quit, even though we could not run 400m, we walked some of it, and we couldn’t jump on a box but we could step up to it and even though we could not do a pull up, we could do ring rows and jumping pull ups and work our way into them. Take me, for instance. You would not think it to look at me now. That’s because it DOES work for the people you are asking about.

Scale it down and any obese or overweight or unfit person can do this. And then some.

[Jodi gives Laura a standing ovation.]

And kudos to Mike Miner, who looked for help in training a friend who weighed in at 430 pounds and is still working with obese clients when he’s not being a hoss on the competition circuit. He’s another who talks about the positive community at a typical CrossFit group:

One of the reasons why CrossFit works so well is the community. The sense  of camaraderie, the feeling of belonging. That band of brothers, or sisters, type feeling you get from sweating, grunting, and lying exhausted in a pool of drool and sweat after a Grace, or Fran workout. It’s cheering till the last one finishes, and then giving them a sweaty ol’ hug when they PR. It’s screaming as a 60-year-old lady pr’s [hits a personal record] on her deadlift and hits 135 for the first time. It’s cheering for the guy who’s beating you in the competition, and then congratulating him for kicking your ass. How sick is that? It’s the CrossFit community. It eliminates assholes and terminates douchebags. It strengthens the weak  and lifts up the wounded. It’s a feeling you cannot find at any other type of gym, no p90x class, no zumba, no GLOBO will ever be able to come close to duplicating it. In my opinion it is the most important element of the CrossFit experience.

Think of it this way: If someone wants to lose weight or quit smoking, do the doctors tell them to try it alone? No. They try to get them to go to a weight loss group or a smoking cessation class. It’s the same principal. If you want to get in shape, be healthier and enjoy life, find a CrossFit gym. And get in on that community love.

[Jodi gives Mike a standing ovation.]

So, fellow fatties, we are not alone and we are not without support. So get out there and change your life — it’s hard, but it’s not impossible.

  1. Colline says:

    I agree with your husband. Focus on those who give you encouragement – and what you know you have achieved. Know that you have the right to be looked at with respect and that you deserve support for your attempts at changing your life.

    • Thanks for the words of wisdom; you’re absolutely right. My husband is great about stuff like that; I grew up with the “Let’s be cattie” mindset and he has done a really good job of rehabilitating me.

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