Katie McDonald

The not so unfortunate story of a large bodied athlete

Katie McDonald
The not so unfortunate story of a large bodied athlete

You are probably thinking, “Another angry fat lady who wants me to think she’s healthy when she's not.” I'm asking myself, “Why am I writing? What do I have to offer that hasn't already been said?” I’ve decided that I don't write for those who read this, I write for me. I write these words to remind myself that I am strong, and I am healthy. Society, however, might not agree.

I was once watching the bachelor with some friends when a commercial came on showing athletes who had won gold medals in the Olympics. When a large bodied female athlete came on screen, my friend commented, “She must have won a long time ago.” Having already read up on this female athlete, I said, “No, she won in the most recent Olympics for shot put.” This small interaction is an indicator of the stigma that today’s larger bodies are not considered athletic.

I face microaggressions like this almost weekly - whether it is a new coach at the gym asking, “Do you know how to do that movement?” in a condescending tone, or hearing friends planning a hike and joking, “Katie, you can stay at the bottom and hold our snack!”

I get dirty looks when I walk into my gym. The CrossFit photographer has avoided taking pictures of me. I had always believed that my larger body wasn’t meant to be athletic. Growing up, I was always chubby. Like most kids I tried out many different sports. Soccer was boring and I ended up talking to the goalie about nail polish the whole time. Swim team swimsuits gave me a wedgie, and softball pants gave me a rash.

At some point I gave up trying new sports and bought into the narrative that I wasn't meant to move my body - that my body was not built for exercise. Athletic bodies are small, toned, and always capable of dominating in a soccer game. That is what I believed - that only a very specific group of humans could be considered athletic. But now I know, and have proven to myself, that my doubts and the doubts of others don’t have to keep me from achieving my goals.

A year ago, my perspective started to shift. I first walked into a CrossFit gym after playing my first season of basketball on a church league. I had had such a good time playing on a team, pushing my body to work hard, that I started to look for that same feeling in my weekly exercise routine.

I was nervous to go to a CrossFit gym. I was afraid of being judged for my size, but I knew if I didn't give it a try I would regret it. That day I fell in love. I loved the way the workouts pushed me, and how strong I felt after each workout. Even now, I look at most workouts and get nervous about whether I will be able to finish them. But I still show up and do my best.

This sense of accomplishment and realization that I can do more than I think I can has changed the way I live my life. I have moved by myself, quit my job, and started graduate school - all things I never thought I would be able to do. At some point I had to choose - was I going to believe that my body was not capable, or was I going to find out what it could do?


Katie is a recent transplant to north county, San Diego. She is currently getting her masters in social work at CSU San Marcos. Katie is working though disordered eating and mental illness and desires to use her vulnerability and experiences to help other women feel that they are not alone. Katie enjoys hiking surfing and being with her family.