Dangerous Compassions

how to be inclusive of body types and abilities

Hello, reader.  How are you doing?  My friend is becoming a certified fitness instructor.  They asked me how to be inclusive of body types and abilities.

Yes, fitness can push me out.  I do Ample Movement yoga these days, which is respectful and healing.  And I’ve had other good yoga experiences over the past 30 years.

But many fitness lovers have a hierarchy, where thin white abled youngish bodies are what matter.  Yuck!  Ableism is eugenics.  As I go through the world, I encounter disrespect.  Fat, disabled bodies like mine are seen as lesser-than.

Fitness can be sadly fueled by ableism and fat shame.  But it doesn’t have to be that way.  We can do better!


Thinking of how to be inclusive of body types and abilities, I think of respect.  A tone of respect for all bodies needs to be the norm.  Not conditional respect, like you are ok as long as you’re working toward a thin, abled ideal.  But unconditional respect, where all bodies are valid bodies, no matter what.

Please say and model that this is a space where all bodies are respected, and all bodies are valid.  “We’re here to move and change according to our own goal and values,” is an idea I like.  Usual, hierarchical body standards aren’t helping anyone.

Pointing out the racism of the hierarchy of white thin abled bodies could help–being clear about that.

There’s respect with our words and attitudes.  But there’s also the respect physically of having chairs that fit many bodies, and other equipment that’s large enough and sturdy so it’s not going to break from my use.

Yes, idea respect, but also the logistical respect of most of the things in the room being things I could potentially use.

info about access

Being explicit beforehand about access is helpful, so all people can be informed of whether their needs will be respected in a space.  Info like this can be included on fliers and adverts.

  • who a class is geared for
  • whether there are ramps for wheelchairs
  • whether there are wide aisles for assistive devices
  • presence of an interpreter
  • request for not wearing perfumes

That kind of info is important for people who are deciding what to spend their spoons on.  To show up to an event that’s not accessible means hours of wasted energy.

When we make sure our space is accessible to many people, we model the importance of that.  Hopefully respect will be contagious–others who put on events will see this consideration and clarity as the norm, and more fliers and adverts will include pertinent info.

sliding scale

Sliding scale helps disabled people and elders who live on benefits like social security.  Also some museums have a program here in the US where the admission fee is low or waived, for people who are on food stamps.  The food stamps card is a legible indicator of poverty.

I enjoy these ways of including people who couldn’t otherwise afford to attend.  I’ve been to several museums that otherwise made no sense for me to visit, considering my budget.

Sliding scale, free, and reduced fee situations contribute to diversity and the possibility of justice.  Diversity helps all of us.

needs check

Recently I tried acupuncture for the first time.  The actual energy work was helpful and amazing.  But some things around the energy work were hard.

My face blindness meant I didn’t know who the acupuncturist was, who helped me–I couldn’t recognize her when she checked in on me.  I was confused and uncomfortable when this new person was talking to me.  Later I saw her pants and realized it was the same person.  (I usually identify people by their hairstyle, clothing, or voice.)

Also we were supposed to talk in whispers in the main room, but not everyone can hear so great.  When I’m overwhelmed and nervous in a new space, processing information gets slower and difficult.

The acupuncturist said she would avoid any areas of my body that I was uncomfortable with her touching.  But it was my first time, and I didn’t know what uncomfortable meant.  I was nervous and uncomfortable in general, so I didn’t know how to answer her question.  More info might have helped me understand.

“Discomfort” seemed to be a code word for “pain.”  But for me, pain and discomfort are different.  My own bodily sensations can confuse me, so I think pretty hard about what I’m feeling and how to classify it.  Words are important to me.


“Are you faceblind?” might have been a weirdly specific question to ask.  What could the acupuncturist have done, to help me?  I wonder how many people have a hard time and don’t come back, because of differences like mine.

If she had asked, “Do you have any disabilities I should know about?” at the beginning, I’m not sure I would have had the wherewithal to answer, “Autism.”  And not all people with autism are faceblind.  But at least she would have had a clue that my sensory and social processing are not typical.

All this to say–a needs check at the beginning could be helpful.  I present as an easy, chill person because I had a lifetime of acting unfazed for my survival.  But that’s not real.  I am confuse-able and very overwhelm-able.


Wow, maybe I should get a shirt or hat that says, “Overwhelm-able.”  But probably no one would believe me.

Good luck to my friend and to all doing fitness in a way that isn’t fueled by hate.  Thank you to everyone who’s fueled by love.  Thank you to everyone who wants to know how to be inclusive of body types and abilities.

Movement is my joy.  I’m so happy I worked hard to divorce movement from the body shame and exercise-as-punishment that were heaped on me as a kid.

lovely lunch

Here’s me after finishing a delicious tempeh spinach salad, chowing down on a potato patty at the magical gas station.

The blueberry basil lavender smoothie was flipping delicious, but too sweet.  I could only eat an inch.  Thank goodness Ming liked it!


By Laura-Marie

Good at listening to the noise until it makes sense.

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