The Fat Yoga Teacher. Trina Hall Treenuh Yoga. Photos by Napier Photographie. Dallas Texas

Treenuh Yoga seated forward fold fat yoga teacherDo you think I am fat? If I were in front of you in typical yoga spandex, would you judge me?

I’ve gained weight and I’m not pregnant. I’ve followed the brand new, yogi-approved Seat Diet.

See it… eat it.

As a yoga teacher, this could be considered career suicide. Instead of slaying my means of supporting myself, I want to slay the notion that people who do yoga need to look like the beauties on the cover of magazines. Last year, my best friend said crying as she dealt with her lifelong eating disorder, “I don’t want to be known as the fat yoga teacher.” I was taken aback by this statement because I would classify her as beautiful, fit, and trim. I wanted to explore her statement that resonated in my mind like the frequency of fingernails tagging with sound their presence on the chalkboard.Treenuh Yoga janu sirsasana 3 fat yoga teacher

To me, ‘fat’ is an arbitrary word that is used as ammunition to harm another. I’m not at war.

I thought this would be an experiment in empowering people to love their bodies and not try to fit society’s mold. Instead, reality of my latent insecurities came like a football team’s kicker being put in as the center (my identity was pummeled).

The stories I made up about what people thought of me were changing and I was emotionally affected. Suddenly, my self-worth was proving to be connected to how good I looked wearing spandex – something I completely denied giving a shit about before this experiment – and that pissed me off.  Guilt from eating foods I typically considered bad for me were constant companions in my thoughts. Shame did cameo appearances in my mind’s movie reel daily.

My most shocking discovery through the process is that I’m afraid of not being loved. I noticed the self-talk was that my beauty is only on the surface. I feared no man would want me this way and that I would die alone, probably from choking on a potato chip. There was a war going on inside of me and neither side was winning. Once I unraveled the fears and self-assaulting language as irrational, they no longer had power over me and I began to relax into my new found “goods”.

Nietzsche says the thing separating men from gods is the belly. May we all expand our bellies to digest our fears and empower our minds to think. May we all understand that we all want to be loved for who we are… however we are in the moment. And may we all find love and not die alone, from potato chip asphyxiation.

PS – I’m not fat; I’m fucking awesome!

42 thoughts on “The Fat Yoga Teacher. Trina Hall Treenuh Yoga. Photos by Napier Photographie. Dallas Texas

  1. So you are approaching food from a emotional perspective. What if your approach was health only. Wouldn’t you choose foods that supported your earthly frame regardless of their fat quotient. Eating badly is damaging to your soul. Eating badly can be a form of beating yourself up.

    PS. Rubinesque is sexy.

    Sent from my iPhone

    • Eating that way was my art – not my emotions. It was an experiment in choices and reactions. It was meant to engage a larger conversation and that it has done.

      My soul has been lifted up through this process.

      I would also like to point out that if this story was about me losing 40 pounds, people would be saying how proud they are of me and how good I look. I’m just questioning our values – I learned that I value my physical appearance more than I could have imagined before this. I learned that I do judge based on the physical… and I want to change some of that inside of myself to be a more accepting and loving human being.

  2. You are awesome.

    I connected with what you said about denying that you ever cared about how you looked in spandex. I have been what our culture would call thin all my life and haven’t had to work at it. I always said that didn’t matter to me. Now that I am 39 and have had my second child five months ago, I am struggling to get back to my pre-pregnancy weight. By all health measures I am not overweight, but by our culture’s standards I am “fat” and I have realized that it does matter to me. I feel ugly, sloppy, even dumb because I am not a size two. I know my self-talk is ridiculous, but it has illuminated for me just how pervasive our culture’s obsession with thin is.

    Keep spreading your message. It matters a great deal.

    • Your honesty is inspiring. Thank you for taking the time to share your experience. I hope you work through society’s programming and find what is your truth.

  3. You don’t have to be thin my darling to be loved, because you have so many talents ( writing to be one of them) to attract others. But you have to care about your health. Eating recklessly and gaining 40 pounds in 4 months is not healthy. I love you. I hope I don’t sound mean to you.

    • I absolutely agree that it isn’t healthy. But can we recognize if this story was about me losing 40 pounds, there would be a lot of feedback on how great I look? It isn’t about me personally – it is about the word fat.

      This story was meant to engage myself and others in a bigger conversation about what we value. I do value health and I value conversations that encourage people to look at the way they think. Thank you for being a part of it!

  4. Thank you, Trina. You are brave and strong!! I, too, have been very “attentive” to staying my same size most of my life. It bothers me if I roll over the edges of my jeans or my Yoga pants. Though, I have consciously committed to eating all I want, when I want!! I have refused to be a stereotype of the anorexic dancer (though I admit my self-talk would support that attitude), and when I start to gain, I do more Yoga. :) I almost never step on a scale because it is a self-deprecating trap, but just pay attention to how I feel in my body and my clothes. But that does not change the fact that I have always preferred myself “thin,” and worry about not being so. Thank you for sharing your journey, and making us think. I admire your beautiful honesty with your Self and others. Love you so!!!

  5. Thank you for this. I have been a yoga teacher for almost 10yrs and in the last 5yrs have gained over 80lbs. I have been to doctors and specialists, naturopathic doctors and food coaches etc. I’m also a vegan. I walk, ride my bike practice yoga weekely and am pretty active. Not to mention I teach around 20classes a week. I can’t seem to release the weight. This weight has crippled me at times. My self worth has gone down the tubes because of it. I look in the mirror and I dont see a strong, capable or knowledgeable yoga teacher. I certainly don’t see beauty. I have felt everything you felt. I have said the exact words your friend said, more than once. I thought I was the only one. Thank you so much for your strength and your courage and your beauty. Thank you for giving voice to this discussion. Thank you for letting me know I’m not alone in this. Thank you for giving me confidence. No one knows how hard it’s been. Thank you thank you thank you. So much Love.

    P.S. I’m so proud of you! You look amazing!!

    • I’m so honored you shared your story here. You are not alone. I’m glad this conversation is helping you look deeply into yourself.

      When I’ve taught 40 hours per week, I exhausted myself energetically. People who don’t teach don’t understand that being “on” is tiring for some.

      The Yoga Sutras (Satchitananda’s or Bernard Bouanchaud’s translations are the ones I like the most for this kind of thing) helped me understand my mind a little more. I hope it helps!

  6. You did this to yourself to create empathy and understanding, or as you put it, “engage in a larger conversation”, but you are doing things damaging to your health, eating whatever you see? Yoga means something different for everyone, but for me it is empowerment, strength(physical and mental), self control, and peace. I do not believe that poor eating habits represent those standards for me. I am not thin, but I care about my health and Yoga is a part of that health. if this was a social experiment, kudos to you, but what are your plans from here, to maintain this poor diet and complain about societies standards on what a yoga teacher should look like? I hope for your own sake you reverse the damage and lead a healthier life style as you were..

    Namaste

  7. Thank you for sharing this story. I have weighed over 300 lbs for at least 8 years, and I have struggled with being the fat girl all of my life. One of the things that helped me feel comfortable in my skin was yoga. But it wasn’t yoga alone, it was having teachers who didn’t see my weight as an obstacle, but as a blessing (for them at least) in order to show them a different version of body movement. My favorite teacher often told me that she loved watching me encounter new poses because not only did my experience teach her something new, but she appreciated seeing me settle into a new pose and seeing my sense of accomplishment.
    I took a year off including a surgery, my body doesn’t work the way it used to and going back to yoga is almost like starting from scratch. It’s frustrating because my favorite teacher is on a haiatus and other teachers I have encountered rarely know what to do with me. They often either mostly ignore me or are too attentive (meaning they try to provide too many alternatives, like I couldn’t possibly achieve any “normal” yoga pose).
    P.S. You’re beautiful either way. Thanks for taking on this experiment.

  8. As I wiped away the tears while reading this blog I started to realize you were reaching into my soul. You have always touched me but for the first time you reached into who I am. I am so extremely proud of you and I think I am seeing a side of you that I love and want to see more of. You are the most amazing person and if a person’s soul can be seen your is showing and shining bright. I adore you and am thankful for you and your words.

  9. I’m fat. I could drop 40 pounds and no one would notice.
    I am loved. I have great sex.
    I do yoga.
    I eat healthy, and not a lot.
    I have no medical problems.
    I exercise regularly.
    Still fat.
    I am happy.

    I’m sorry 40 pounds sent you into a shame spiral. Save it for therapy.
    Please don’t speak for me.

    • Nikki, Its great that you are healthy and happy with your size. I’m a big guy, my wife is a big girl, and like you, we are happy with ourselves.

      Please don’t blame Treenuh for sharing her “shame spiral” — that was the point, for someone who was thin and happy to see if it was possible to be fat and happy, and how society makes that difficult. You have learned to accept yourself and reject those who might criticise you (as I have) — treenuh experienced (and shared) how difficult it can be to arrive at the place you are, and hopefully here experience will help someone else to accept theirself as well.

      Treeuh, I don’t do yoga (only because i am too lazy!) but I understand that it is about movement, control, strength and balance, not to achieve particular physical goal such as weight loss, increased speed, lifting ability, etc, as other forms of exercise are. The size of the instructor or the student should not matter — thank you for making that clear!

  10. Why can’t someone be fat AND awesome? I’m fat AND awesome. Just sayin’ — they’re not mutually exclusive qualities, but your PS seems to suggest that you think so.

  11. Ohhhh whoah! Yep… we’re all pretty locked into this “avatar” idea/ideal. I think people really just have to “own” a larger patchwork or beauty so that it’s less fetishized.

    Our minds tend to get on these tracks… that end up separating us from ourselves, not help us to discover ourselves. It’s great to create meaning, but the meaning that we do create must be meaningful.

    Saying white, thin, tall (or.. not tall !) (or whatever, yada yada, arbitrary inclusion of characteristicsis) is beautiful, doesn’t enhance desire by creating artificial scarcity… it dampens it and drains life of the true beauty that surrounds us.

    I mean, obviously… all races of people can be very desirable. But culturally we did not always see this. And the way that we saw things was harmful to all of us, made us meaner and less gracious and generous and bountiful.

    There is a lushness that can accompany not being skinny, and there’s no tragedy in embracing that aesthetic. Also interesting looks can be cool, and unique. In a room full of blond hollywood actresses things can start to be a little fem-bot-y and boring.

    We just need to change the way we see, and the way we look at things, to include our selves in the mix, and to include our loved ones, friends and community. We just don’t need to be so cruel to ourselves and others, and to use some false ideal of perfection as a weapon. No one wins in that game.

    I hope that you learned to hold your head up high… it’s all well and good to be proud of the wrong things and never realize it, it’s quite another to have your beauty tested and grow stronger for it. That’s strength that you can truly be proud of, and can share with others. That’s the kind of beauty that’s transformative and nourishing. Eh, spandex beauty is pretty tawdry and cheap in comparison. It’s all right, but not anywhere near as beautiful or radiant or awesome.

    • I’d like to address this piece of your engaging, thoughtful comment, “Our minds tend to get on these tracks… that end up separating us from ourselves, not help us to discover ourselves.”

      This is the essence of this story. Our MINDS can either take us on a track or we can lay the track for our mind. It’s all a matter of understanding. If one can discover how their own mind works, they are one step closer to laying a track that can lead to a discovery that may actually help the world and advance humanity as a whole.

      I’m interested in the idea that we can, and must, think for ourselves. The inward journey leads man to the stars.

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  12. You are awesome nothing wont chanc it. You are FAT and you can stay fat and awesome… but that you can change! Dont you wana be just Awesome? :)

  13. I guess it’s an interesting experiment, although it’s not one I’d try. I’d be afraid that if I gained forty pounds, it wouldn’t go away again. I would have advised you not to take that risk. You may have a robust set point at the lower weight and you may lose it again easily. On the other hand, you may find that going back to your old habits doesn’t change your weight much. Human weight regulation is not calories-in=calories-out, at least not for everyone.

    I speak as someone who has been heavier than your “fat” weight since I was 12. I’m 43 now. I’ve stayed around the same size by not attempting to lose weight. I’m not that big by modern standards – a little over 200 pounds and a size 16. In my family, weight loss dieting almost always turns into long term weight gain. I noticed it as a child and decided not to get onto that particular bandwagon.

    Whatever happens, don’t make the mistake of thinking that people who weigh what you do/did after deliberately gaining weight have the same kind of habits you had to adopt to get there.

    • Thank you for your comment. I can assure you the way I gained weight is not a reflection of how anyone else gains weight. I had to increase my caloric consumption dramatically in order to achieve the results I wanted.

      This piece is not a statement about anyone who is considered obese by society’s measure – it was an exploration of values and judgements. I am not calling anyone “fat” and I never saw myself as such. My friend is the one who used that term and I wanted to know why I was severely triggered and hurt by it.

      I want to feel comfortable in my own skin and want to empower people to find that self-acceptance that I severely lacked during the experiment. In speaking about my insecurities, I made myself vulnerable. Thank you for taking the time to comment and making yourself vulnerable, too.

  14. As many others have said, it’s like visiting a country and thinking you have the authority to write about it. You are insulting and despite your efforts, uniformed. Go LIVE in that country for a LONG time, maybe even during your formative years and then come back and write about it.

  15. Completely off topic, I’m afraid, but is that a mole on the bottom of your foot? I couldn’t tell if it was that or just a speck on the camera. If it is a mole, please have it looked at by a dermatologist. If it’s just a speck, then…carry on.

    By the way, I’m impressed by your yoga skills! Best wishes.

  16. Hello really wanted you to know that I found super mega cool what you did in relation to fat to have the experience.
    I was never obese, but after a surgery to have too much health so I think changing fat dummy dummy 42 to 50 is really scary, I’m not happy with what I see in the mirror knows why? Cause here in Brazil men do not like fat, they do not even look’m depressed and just get locked up at home.
    Sometimes some friends can make me leave, but I’m ashamed, I got out leg pain, can not buy what I like, I’m afraid to eat and get fatter, I’m not so available as before, and u must have gone through this is not it?

    Kisses loved your blog and your experience made ​​me want to change and I am already running behind thanks Erica Range

  17. Thank you for encouraging us to examine what we value and how we think. Failing to see our own potential is detrimental on many levels. You acknowledging the power of negative body image made me reflect on the incredible influence our perceived intellectual aptitude has over the goals that we set for ourselves. How often is our brain lying to us? How do we overcome our misconceptions to harness our untapped potential? I have posted my thoughts to contribute to the important conversation that you have started here: http://www.brainhealth.utdallas.edu/blog/is-your-brain-lying-to-you

  18. Amazing Trina, your words. In this times everyone just watchs and bulling when u not have that tipe of persons near of u or midia. I think you´re so pretty. A special kiss from Brazil for u. I´d like so much to know more about u on this project.

  19. This blog post about your experience in gaining weight on purpose is definitely moving. It’s overwhelming how much our outside appearance affects our inner self.

    I got sick about four years ago and since then after weight gain, surgeries, hospital stays, rounds of steroids, pain meds and days being bed-ridden I have experienced an enormous fluctuation if self esteem that mirror my physical state of being.

    No longer am I able to “go, go, go;” I can’t hold a job and can barely stay awake during the day. My body has scars from scalpels and stitches from surgeries and my mind is scarred from grieving my past self and trying to accept my present self.

    It’s so much easier to be angry and disappointed with the changes I’ve gone through physically but every day I strive to appreciate what positive things I do have despite constantly hurting physically.

    And those stories in my mind about what people are thinking about me are completely overwhelming and devastating. I never paid much attention to my body until it became a traitor and started to change without my permission. And there are times when I just want to hide under blankets so nobody can see how much I’ve changed…

    The other month I met up with a friend of the family and he didn’t recognize me… I wanted to curl up in a ball and cry. I excused myself to the ladies room to shed a few tears before I sucked it up and returned.

    You are lucky you were able to make those changes voluntarily because I wasn’t & for me my new self is here and there’s nothing I can do about it but be grateful for what I do have and try and be more kind to myself.. It’s so strange how showing kindness to oneself is much more difficult than being kind to others!

  20. I’m so torn on this.

    On the one hand, I love the compassion you found for what people with body issues do to themselves on a daily basis. I also love that you want to spread the message that yoga is for every body. It really is! Yoga is the one thing that made me love my body when all of the compliments, positive self-talk and therapy in the world didn’t help. Sometimes bellies get in the way of poses, and that’s totally ok, because yoga teaches me to be kind to myself in the moment. That means that I should be kind to myself by putting healthy things in my body, doing healthy things with my body, clearing my mind of negative energy, and making room for growth. That you want others to experience this joy without fear of body judgement is wonderful!! I think a lot more people would explore yoga if it were taught by people with bodies more comparable to their own.

    On the other hand, by saying that you gained the weight by eliminating your dietary restrictions implies that all people who are fat must also not pay attention to what they eat. My current size looks pretty similar to your “fat,” size, but I pay very close attention to what I eat on most days. My diet consists of more veggies in a day than many eat in a week. I also do spin class 2x a week, hot yoga 1x, and cardio + weightlifting 1-3 times per week. I hate that people are calling you selfless and enlightened because you are actually perpetuating society’s judgement about people who are not thin. We are not lawless eaters and lazy couch potatoes who sit at home on Saturday nights pining away for someone, ANYONE, to love us. People who are not thin are happily married, they are mothers, educators, students, they are everything they want to be. They are individuals.

    Your family and friends may not have judged you for gaining the weight, but I can tell you as someone who has struggled with being just under “obese,” her whole life, society does have some things to say about my size. It’s because of that that I care how you represent your newfound fatness.

  21. To all of us who are “fat” and might be taking the story of a young yoga teacher venturing into a personal self and social experiment, too seriously, I just want to say this:

    Why is it that when we read about the experience of others, shared in the most understanding and loving way possible -we feel attacked, shamed, or as though the person is trying to emulate or speak on our own experiences?

    Why can’t it be that the person simply wanted to understand something on her own account, and share it to those that perhaps, DO identify with it? If the shoe didn’t fit in one way or another, those of us that were offended would not need to share about it to the point of agreement/disagreement.

    To me, it doesn’t sound as though Trina is attempting to continue the experiment beyond the finding of her own truth or her lessons learned. Just because she eliminated her dietary restrictions in order to attempt gaining weight for the sake of this experiment, does not mean that she intends to live this way forever, nor does it mean that she does not value the importance of nutrition and exercise. I believe she is qualified to speak on the experience and insecurities of being “fat” because she has now been “fat” and certainly empathetic; whether it was by personal decision, for a short time (or a long time), or any other stipulation that comes with it.

    As with all the decisions, good or bad, clear or unclear, that any one of us may-or-may-not-have-ever-made, Trina is aware of the implications of her choices and has accepted responsibility for any “consequences” that may come with her search of self-understanding and expression.

    Trina, from a personal perspective, I emulate all the extremes of the arguments that have been brought up. I have been obese at 218 lbs, I have been more or less “normal” or slightly “overweight” at 155 lbs, at 5’5″, but I have never been “thin.” Personally, if I do not maintain a healthy mind, nutrition, and exercise regimen -my body suffers with fluctuating weight changes that certainly toy with my mind and self-perception.

    I have re-gained weight, re-lost weight, and I am constantly struggling with a 10 lb fluctuation depending on how caring or careless I am about what I put into my body and what I do with it. Although I strive every day to accept my everyday choices, which is usually to let go of my “balance” or to maintain it. I am learning to accept when I am choosing to be balanced, and when I simply want to enjoy food without limitations and focus on other things and not so much on my body –because the body, mind, and soul is a delicate balance that has to be purposefully maintained and not many of us have been able to master it on an equally nurturing level.

    I enjoyed reading your story (and all the comments posted) because it is SO true that many would never gain weight, purposely. So many of us do it unconsciously. I say to the issue of being “fat,” to each his own, it is not about hating ourselves for being “bigger” and it is certainly isn’t about striving to be “smaller” by societies standards. If being “fat” is something that one is happy and comfortable with, as long as their are no obvious health implications, then so be it. But from personal experience, sorting out my mental dramas and embracing nutrition and exercise that is right for my body, is what has led to substantial weight-loss and regulation and marginal changes in my self-perception.

    Right now, I have willingly allowed myself to gain ten happy pounds and a notch or two on my belt, or so my body reflects because I’ve been too afraid to weigh myself. I have been enjoying a lack of discipline, food in enjoyable proportions, not exercising, and trying not to focus too much on the image that looks back at me in the mirror -for it is not all-encompassing of the person that I am (actually, this kind of sounds like a more moderate version of your self and social experiment).

    But I’ve realized that the image that looks back at me in the mirror, IS encompassing of the choices that I do or do not make. Whether they be mental or physical. If I am not looking so great, I can choose to feel accepting of my body, it’s limitations, and my choices, and/or change my habits in a way that is conducive to my goals. If I am looking great but feeling worse, I can choose to feel accepting of my body, and my accomplishments, and/or change my mental patterns (or seek help) to find the source of my frustration. In this multi-faceted search, I find that the most important elements that are crucial to finding the balance are: patience, acceptance, persistence and self-love despite all adversity.

    Thank you for sharing your story, much love to you on my first visit to your blog :) Now, I’m off to get started in re-finding my “balance,” because “God” knows I’m only human.

  22. Hi Trina, I don’t know you, but somehow I happened to end up here! I loved your experiment, or better, change of lifestyle? And I thought I just had to speak up against all those people here criticizing you about “neglecting” or “harming” your body since you eat everything you feel like it. While this is very much common sense, I doubt it’s actually true. I used to be a sublicincal eating disordered person as well – meaning, I dieted, always focused on eating healthily, my BMI always in my low 20’ies – and not having my period. I was the image of being healthy and doing everything right and never the less my body refused to do it’s primary task – being able to reproduce. Eventually I found this gem of a website, http://www.youreatopia.com, where a fantastic lady puts together all research about eating disorders, diets, eating, recovery and health. And so I followed, just like you, my appetite. Me to, I gained about 40 pounds in three months. My period set in again, after being absent for years, after six weeks only! My sleep issues disappeared, my huge cravings went, my blod pressure improved and I was no longer cold all the time. I ate myself through mountains of chocolate, and eventually I didn’t feel like eating TONS of it any longer. My weight gain stopped despite of still eating 4000+ calories a day. Eventually my appetite normalized and now I’m eating a normal diet without counting and judging, but over all fairly healthy with a treat every now and then. And I’m liberated in my mind and love my body more than I ever did when it was “perfect”. I’m much more sensual and generally a happier person. I don’t look fat, I look proportional. happy. confident.

    Who are we to think that our body isn’t the highest intelligence who will tell us what to do and eat, if we only let him?

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