Egypt Holds its First Plus-Sized Marathon

Beyond popular belief, fat doesn’t necessarily mean unhealthy, just as thin doesn’t always equate to healthy. Whew. Glad we got that stereotype out of the way – one down, a trillion more to go!
I was scrolling down Facebook today and I saw this meme (meem?), whatever. It had a photo of a fat person on an elliptical, his sweatshirt drenched in sweat. It said: Making fun of a fat person in the gym is like making fun of an unemployed person at a job fair. Bingo! The internet wins again.

Marwa Al-Sayeed, the organizer of the plus-size marathon in Egypt, has just set a very high bar for curvy women internationally to get active without the side of shame. And she’s a hijabi! *fist bump*
Unlike the U.S., Canada, and Europe, other countries are not so pro-body positive. So these women are still experiencing body-shaming, don’t have access to stylish plus-size clothing retailers, and in some cases, are more likely to not get marriage proposals because they are deemed “unattractive.”

“I want to break a barrier; overweight girls are always shy to run or practice sports because of the society’s criticism to their shape. Today we will tell the society that we are able to run regardless of our weight,” Marwa told New China.

And, who ever said big girls couldn’t run? Marwa’s event brought out dozens of smiling and active women of all ages, who came ready to walk and run in their exercise gear. Oh, and Marwa ain’t stopping there. She plans on holding a plus-size beauty pageant, too.
Take that haters!
Fat girls can do the splits, too
Around the time my weight skyrocketed, I had just turned eleven. My mom brought us this pamphlet of after school activities to choose from: ballet, basketball, Tae Kwon Do, and cheerleading. I thought about wearing those cute little skirts and the cheer sweaters and I’d get to be a girly-girly. I pointed to that one. She side-eyed me and stuck me right in Tae Kwon Do.
The academy was located in Dearborn. They had lots of Middle-Eastern male students, a few Indians and an African-American attended, too. Most of the teachers were White or Korean.
On my first day, I stepped my big awkward body onto the sweat stained mat wearing an all-white karate top and pants, and of course, a white hijab. The thin girls kicked really high in the air. The muscular boys were intense and quick in their strikes. Oh, boy. What had I gotten myself into? I was heavier than all the students and even some of the teachers. If that’s not a self-esteem killer for an adolescent, then I don’t know what is.
Jumping jacks were the worst. I half jumped because I didn’t want the other students to laugh at my fat jiggle.
In the next session, I saw a group of kids surrounding a fat white lady. She had on a black belt and a tight black karate uniform. All the kids kept saying, “Do the half split. Do the half split.” She shrugged and then busted out into a full split. I gasped. I’d never seen a big woman move like that. She was so freaking flexible. I took a strong liking to her as a teacher. She was cool. She was fat. And she was athletic.

So, I became that fat Muslim girl who kicked higher, moved faster, and jogged ten laps without stopping. At times, I ran faster than my smaller counterparts. I won awards, sparring competitions, and was even awarded with my black belt at sixteen.

Are You A “Fathlete”?
I’m fat. I’m Muslim. And I go to the gym. Am I trying to be skinny? No. Am I trying to boost my immune system, become stronger, and build my stamina? Uh, yeah. I am what you call a “Fathlete”. A ‘Fat Athlete”. Are you still with me? Good.
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Just like Marwa said, we can’t allow society to criticize our shapes or dictate if we run or do yoga or play basketball. Being fat, plus-size, over-weight, thick, or curvy isn’t a death sentence. It’s a word, just like any other. Are you going to let a word stop you from joining that dance class or lifting weights or jogging at the park? Go at your own pace, have fun, and bust out into some splits (Just kidding on the last one, but if you can, by all means, go for it!).
By Leah V.
You can read more of Leah’s thoughts and fashion inspirations on her blog