Rachel Marcus came up to me during the pre-dyke march gathering at Dolores Park during Pride weekend as I was chilling outside a tent my friends had set up, holding some healing crystals and sipping some hibiscus tea - as one does. She told me she had a copy of Hot & Heavy: Fierce Fat Girls on Life, Love and Fashion in her bag and that we should get some lunch. So we totally did!
We had awesome mall Thai at the Metreon (addiction) and chatted about what had inspired her to become a personal trainer and how fucked up the dieting/fitness industry was. You know how suspicious I am of health and fitness rhetoric, ghurl, but being around Rachel felt really good. I also know that there are fat folks who have fitness oriented goals who deserve someone amazing to work with them on.
I wanted to introduce you to Rachel because I love her philosophy and I think she's revolutionizing the idea of fitness.
Here's what I wanted to know:
What's your favorite ice cream flavor?
Larry and Luna’s Coconut Bliss ice cream… any flavor, really, but especially lavender.
Who are you and what do you do?
I’m Rachel Marcus, and I’m a Certified Personal Trainer working in San Francisco and Oakland. I work with people of all sizes, backgrounds and abilities to train to move with greater joy and ease in the body they’re in.
My website is rmarcusfitness.com
So, I saw you at NOLOSE! What was your NOLOSE experience like?
It was friggin amazing! It was so inspiring to be around so many fierce, beautiful people embracing and loving their bodies.
I experienced and witnessed people giving each other a lot of space to learn, grow, question, and be challenged. I saw this happening in conversations about healthism, intersectionality of race/class/gender, being an ally, and body acceptance.
I went to some awesome workshops, met some people that I hope to stay in touch with, and was challenged and embraced in positive, growing ways.
What is your relationship with your body/fitness history and what inspired your HAES (Health At Every Size) fitness training practice?
I am someone who came to fitness later in life. As a fat kid, my physician father put a lot of pressure on me to join sports teams as a way to lose weight. I hated sports. Soccer, tennis, and running were sources of pure humiliation, especially with my father screaming pointers at me from the sidelines.
I moved to the Bay Area when I was 21, and I had a friend who worked at the local YMCA. She encouraged me to join, and I discovered a community of folks of all ages, sizes, genders and abilities encouraging each other to work out. It was in this space that I came to realize that I really do enjoy moving my body.
It was only until I was able to accept my body as it was and be surrounded by a supportive community that I was able to access athletics in a sustainable, positive and ongoing way. I went on to run marathons and do other things that I truly never thought I was capable of. I realized that I didn’t have to lose weight to start running; I was just fine running as I was, taking it at my own slow and steady pace.
My Health at Every Size practice is inspired by my own experience of accessing fitness through honoring and appreciating my body. Loving my body takes work. I am healing and becoming and evolving everyday. I believe that self-esteem is as much a cornerstone of overall wellness as physical activity and nourishing food. I wanted to work with others in their processes to become more physically confident and embodied.
The real impetus that sparked my journey, though, was when a friend introduced me to Gina Lovoi, a fat-friendly, HAES fitness trainer in SF. She is a reputable boxing coach and excellent trainer who has been in the business for over 12 years. When I contacted her, she had just opened her own studio in SOMA and she graciously took me under her wing and has been my mentor in this practice. I’ve been really lucky to work out of a studio with like-minded folks in a small, private, client-centered environment.
Fitness is often associated with weight loss. How do you maneuver / keep that ideology out of your practice?
I don’t set weight goals with clients; I set fitness goals. It’s really that simple. I work with each client to set and achieve a specific and appropriate fitness goal. It can be anything from walking up the stairs without being out of breath, to running a marathon, and anything in between. I explain to people that weight changes may or may not happen as a result. I work with people whose goals are to increase their physical capacity: to feel stronger, more agile, and more powerful. If a client wants a trainer who will dictate a specific diet and weight loss plan, there are plenty of other places they can go.
For those who want to work on developing a better, more intuitive relationship with food as well, and who specifically ask for my help with that, I share resources, tools and support on intuitive eating. I am in no way a certified expert. These resources mostly come from my work studying nutrition with Dr. Linda Bacon, one of the pioneers of the Health at Every Size movement.
Virgie Tovar, MA is one of the nation's leading experts and lecturers on fat discrimination and body image. She is the founder of Babecamp (a 4 week online course focused on helping people break up with diet culture) and the editor of Hot & Heavy: Fierce Fat Girls on Life, Love and Fashion (Seal Press, 2012). She writes about the intersections of size, identity, sexuality and politics. See more updates on Facebook.