I have been into powerlifting for about five years now. Most of the stuff I want to say about strength training has been said better by other people (usually Henry Rollins), but I’m going to say a few things anyway. Most of all, this:

The amount of discipline, time, and effort that a person has put into their physical training does not always show.

When you see someone whose efforts show, it’s easy to respect the amount of work that went into it. But here’s the thing: the exact same amount of work may have been done by the fat girl on the bench to the left of that person, or by the scrawny guy in the squat rack to the right. The exact same amount. We see only the body a person has today. Do we know where they started from? Do we know how long it’s taken them to get where they are now, and what it took to do that?

There is no absolute success in lifting and fitness. It is a progression. Success means continuing to move toward a continually moving target.

Even though most of us in the lifting community know this from personal experience, there seems to be less tendency to apply it to others. It doesn’t help that motivation comes easiest through visual success stories. That’s natural. A picture of a stunning physique goes straight from our bugged-out eyes to the most primitive part of our yearning brain. The non-visual success stories also inspire us, but they don’t have the same impact. There’s a reason why ads for the latest stupid fitness scam don’t show two identical pictures of the same pasty dude with the slogan “Find out how Nigel got back a full range of motion in his knee while still looking exactly the same!”

We’re programmed to believe we know what hard work and inevitable glorious victory look like, and that ain’t it.

I saw a picture on Facebook recently: a smoking hot woman, all abs and skintight shorts and straining bra, deadlifting multiple plates over the slogan “STRONG IS SEXY.” And inspiring as that visual might be, I couldn’t help asking myself … okay, if strong is sexy, why do all the people making “strong is sexy” images make sure to only show people who look like that? Why not, say, Sarah Robles? Holley Mangold? I’m pretty sure either of them could put any 20 randomly chosen Facebook commenters into a basket together and overhead-press them. Or getting away from international-class strength, there’s the ordinary schmuck like me who is certainly much stronger than the average woman who doesn’t lift, but also knows damn well what I’d get from the caring folks of the Internet if I put up a picture of my middle-aged ass deadlifting in spandex panties. No, Internet, we know what you mean when you tell us strong is sexy. You mean “looking like this is sexy.” And we’ve heard that one before, for any given value of “this.”

I have been lucky with my lifting. I never had to overcome the cultural or psychological problems a lot of women have with just picking up a weight at all. All my lifter friends completely accept and expect that women train pretty much exactly like men, and we all laugh at the magazines showing a woman doing curls with a tiny pink dumbbell that weighs approximately a tenth of the handbag she carries every day, or a hundredth of the child she picks up without a second thought. Too often, though, experienced lifters forget that the challenge is not intrinsic to the weight, but to the person using it. One person’s tiny pink dumbbell is another person’s Atlas stone.

Smells like victory.

Smells like victory.

I’ve been the fat chick at the gym who doesn’t look like she’s making any effort. I lifted through years of chemotherapy. I lifted after radiation treatments. I lifted after surgery that came as close to sawing a person in half as modern medicine is willing to get. I have one scar that cuts right through my lats on one side and up the middle of my back, which even now, years later, sometimes rubs raw against my clothing and has a troublesome section that sometimes splits if I pull too hard on a lift. I’ve stuffed wads of toilet paper into it and gone back for another set. I lifted at times when just driving to the gym wiped me out so bad that I had to rest for 15 minutes before I was physically able to walk the 25 feet from my car to the gym door. I’ve gone to the gym straight from chemo when I’d have to go sit in the changing room for half an hour between each exercise, and other times when I’d go home after an hour, having completed no more than two sets of the first exercise on my list. I’ve sat on a recumbent exercise bike pedaling so slowly, on the lowest setting, that it barely looked like I was moving at all. I certainly wasn’t raising a sweat. Every time I see somebody make fun of the fatty they saw doing that the other night at their gym, I want to tell them exactly what it feels like to be that person, knowing the amount of effort it took just to stay upright and moving those pedals for half an hour, knowing nobody else could see that effort.

Through it all, I’ve had to restrain myself from either telling strangers my entire life story or simply punching them to the ground when they ask if I’ve ever considered working out, because I’d look SO GOOD if I just had a little bit of self-discipline.

And then a few years later, when I had beaten my theoretically terminal cancer and was finally getting some decent strength gains again, a completely unrelated injury put me in hospital for three months and left me so far below my original starting point it scared the hell out of me when I thought about the road back. I had to relearn to walk. I now had a chronic heart condition, induced by my time in a coma, to add to the list of things to try and fix. I couldn’t move any of the fingers of my left hand, grip a tiny pink dumbbell (or even a pencil), extend my left arm or rotate the shoulder more than a tiny bit. I was in my late 30s, I’d been incredibly proud of my bench, squat, and deadlift PRs, and now here I was. It had just taken me a year of physical therapy to claw my way back up to the point where I had the equivalent strength and functionality of a non-physically-active elderly person.

I’ll never forget going back into the gym with my two new long-term goals in mind: one, to be able to extend my left arm above my head again, and two, to be able to bench the empty bar. I did negatives on the lat pulldown machine for months, setting it to the very first plate, pulling the bar all the way down with my good hand, then sitting down and slowly, ever so slowly and carefully, letting the bar drift upward again pulling my left arm with it. Actually pulling weight down with that arm was so far from being possible that I was not actually sure at this time whether I would ever be able to do it.

The day I could sit at the lat pulldown machine with both arms over my head in the “ready to begin” position was the end of a six-month road of blood, sweat, and tears I cannot even describe.

Relearning to bench press was worse. I started with a half-pound dumbbell. I didn’t have enough strength in my fingers to grip it tightly enough to stop it falling out of my hand. My method was to lie down on my back, put my left arm up, and put the little thing into my left hand with the other hand. Then I had to try and bring the elbow down, then up again. I was happy if I managed to do five reps. It hurt so much I wanted to cry. When I progressed to a one-pound dumbbell, it was so hard to keep it extended above me I had to keep holding one end of the dumbbell with the other hand for the first few workouts.

The day I benched an empty bar again for the first time since my injury, I asked a guy at the gym to spot me. I explained to him that I had been rehabbing from an injury and was not sure if I would be able to get the bar up off my chest again, but was aiming to at least hold it in the start position and lower it as far as possible. I have to bench with a narrow grip now, because some of the bones in my wrist and thumb are permanently damaged and I can’t get a good grip if my hands are further out along the bar. When he let go of the bar and I realized I was holding it all by myself, a 45lb empty bar, out at arm’s length above my chest, I felt like I had just set a goddamn Olympic world record. I couldn’t lower it, not even a quarter of an inch, let alone raise it again. I couldn’t move it at all. I couldn’t do a damn thing except hold that bar, and I was so happy I think the guy thought I was drunk or insane. I lay there laughing like a psycho, holding my beautiful, beautiful, empty bar, reveling in a feeling of physical power that was better than anything back in the old days when I wouldn’t even ask for a spot unless I had more than 140 pounds up. I held it there for a while, then asked the guy to take it again. I told him that was all I was going to do that day, thanked him, and went home.

That is success. It isn’t the kind you can see by looking at me.

Other people have their own stories. You don’t know. You can’t tell by looking. You can’t see the effort, the past, the obstacles. Maybe they’re overjoyed to be 150lbs overweight because two years ago they were 300lbs overweight. Maybe they’ve looked exactly the same in the year they’ve been at your gym because their hard work is keeping them on top of a condition that’s working overtime to make them even skinnier or fatter; for a lot of people, staying right where they are is success beyond your wildest dreams. Maybe they’re achieving different results than the ones you think they’re going for. Maybe it took them six months to steel themselves to walk into a gym at all; you have no idea what led to that fear or what it took to overcome it, or maybe what it still takes to overcome it on a daily basis.

Your own definition of effort is not everybody’s.

Your own definition of success is not everybody’s.

  1. […] pink dumbells Of tiny pink dumbbells and fat chicks Carrie Patrick __________________ Mick.. 1 RM: B130, BS150, FS120, D190, MP75, PP80, PC95 6 RM: B100, BS110, […]

    • Claudia says:

      Yes! Thank you so much for this post.
      So many images of sultry women squatting with the slogan stating that “she looks sexy because she squats”. It is sad that a woman has to always be pleasing and only pleasing. Even if she is magnificently strong, she is only celebrated if she is “sexy”. I am proud to have quit a fitness club (more due to a serious injury) which now posts images of Victoria Secret models in tiny bikinis, and attempts to sell marketing packages called “bodylicious” and “bumbeachbodybrazil” as if those were a promise to fitness and strength. How many times do we have to say that women need to be strong to be fit. Women do not need to look like silly pleasing models. There is a man for every woman. And the man to keep is the one who admires the strength of his partner–not the one who fears it because oh, it might make her less feminine.

  2. Bianca Mc says:

    What an amazing and powerful story. Thank you for sharing it. You are so right that people make assumptions and judgments so easily based on the physical without any glimmer as to a person’s personal struggle or victory even being alive. In online comments or in person murmurs there are plenty of insults and insinuations that people just need to try harder or eat healthier and then they too can be in the sexy hard-body club. I hope more people read your post and take it to heart before judging someone at the gym or sharing what success looks like to them online.

  3. Byn says:

    Fabulous post! You are an incredible writer and made such great points. I really found this encouraging this morning in my own journey and I haven’t even been through half of what you’ve been through. You are an inspiration. Thank you!

  4. Deb Roby says:

    You are now one of my heroes. Such a powerful, honest, and telling post.

    Thank you for this.

  5. Jean Mornard says:

    This is brilliant and moving. Thank you!

  6. Sndsfnny says:

    I was sent a link to your blog right after two hours of disheartening reading, from “someone who was WRONG! (about body size) on the Internet!”

    What a breath of fresh air. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Best wishes for your continued joy in movement.

  7. I love this article. I am going to share this with my Curvies on my Facebook page. I own a plus size lingerie store in San Jose and so many of my curvies work out and lift weights. Do lots of cardio. PEOPLE assume that we do not exercise or work out because we do not fit into that idea of what a body SHOULD look like. Thanks for such an amazing article and for sharing so much about your own struggles with cancer and your self image. You are rocking it and helping so many people by sharing this. Thank you! Chrystal Bougon

  8. Rebecca Edlin says:

    Thank you for sharing your story. Very inspiring.

  9. Dave Hall says:


    That was an amazing post. Thank you for your candor and honesty. I wonder if you’d like to take this one step further? I do a weekly interview series and I’d love to spend some time discussing your journey, training and anything else that comes to mind. Please reply to my email address if you’re interested.

  10. Robert says:

    I hope you all the best with your fitness goals. Keep on training, and I will do the same!

  11. ZaftigWendy says:

    This actually brought tears to my eyes. So beautiful! Thank you!

    I’m fighting hypothyroidism, asthma, diabetes, a herniated lumbar disc, and severe osteoarthritis. I took an intro to yoga class for curvy women and loved it, but haven’t continued learning yoga because of fear of ridicule if I go to a “real” class. Your article and your determination make me feel that I can do it and not to worry about what the “mean girls” think, but to find a teacher who will help me learn and build my strength.

  12. Theresa says:

    I’m a fitness trainer and powerlifter and I am sitting here crying right now.
    Thank you for writing this.
    So much love.
    And respect. Lots of respect.

  13. Wendy Y says:

    Thank you for this…it’s good to be reminded that everyone in the gym has his or her own starting point and goal and it is not up to us to judge. Everyone is on his or her own journey.

  14. Kami says:

    Thank you. I often have to remind myself that the road is different for each and every one of us. I try to remember how lucky I am to be able to walk into a gym – and how successful I am every time I walk out after a workout. Train on, sister.

  15. Marsha says:

    I am so proud of you!!!! Just to read this story. I am a rather large, middle aged woman. I am very strong and moderately fit. I was doing pretty serious lifting (just shy of doing benchpress reps of 200#, approaching 100# on dumbell exercises) when I badly damaged my rotator cuff. It took a year to get to where I could use the arm again, let alone lift. Then I had a bad fall on wet marble. Same shoulder, and back to being unable to move the arm out of one position (dressing was agony and doing my bra took one-handed miracles!).

    So, while I can’t comprehend your difficulties, I do know difficulty. And thank you thank you thank you!!!

  16. Lisa says:

    This is a fantastic read!!! Thank you for this. I myself am one of those people who are still considered overweight but it’s taken me 2.5yrs to lose those 34lbs. Sadly people do judge others by what they look like and not by how far they’ve come. Hopefully this blog will change their mindset.

  17. Madeleine says:

    A meeelllion times this. I had undiagnosed problems in my feet which turned out to be broken bones, sesimoiditis and burgeoning arthritis. I was on crutches and then a cane from October of last year. The first couple times back at the gym for rehab after getting off the cane were hell. The muscles in my feet were so wasted and my gait so lopsided that doing a lunge was like the heart of the sun. And having hypermobile has meant I’ve had to be extremely careful not to injure my joints working out because my muscles weren’t strong enough to protect them. I don’t look any different than when I first started in May but, by Loki’s scented underpants, all my joints and muscles are back online and I can do sets of reps that are 80% of what I was doing this time last year. Thank you so much for writing this, I’ve still been dealing with poor self-esteem due to weight gain issues from being inactive for so long and the lack of change in appearance was seriously getting me down.

    • djunia says:

      First, thank you so much for this.

      I am a 60 yr old former dancer with hypermobility sneaking up on my 5yr mark after breast cancer. The number of ways I can be sidelined with an injury, with unbeatable fatigue, with fear of both can be overwhelming.

      I am deeply fortunate to have found a dance community where my slow recovery from **30 yrs** of what I consider immobility is regularly applauded. No one gives me side-eye when I cannot manage a movement.

      Hypermobility makes serious free weight work deeply dangerous (why yes, it would be nice if you would push my arm back into the socket, thank you), but pilates and other strengthening work essential.

      No sane person would look at me and say “dancer” or “in shape” — just old and pudgy. But I am vertical and in motion and that is enough for now.

  18. […] Excellent post by Carrie Patrick. Loved the image, so snitched it from there too. […]

  19. […] me so inspired and so awed that I just have to share it with you.  Today I read such a post called “Of Tiny Pink Dumbbells and Fat Chicks” by Carrie Patrick.  Please, PLEASE go read it.  It’s totally worth it.  I’ll […]

  20. Carrie, this is such an incredible and wonderful post! I hope you don’t mind that I reblogged it here: http://fatchicksings.com/2013/08/21/nobody-said-it-better-of-tiny-pink-dumbbells/

    I found your post to be such an inspiration! Thanks so much for sharing with us.

    Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)
    And a Fit Fatty

  21. white nectarine says:

    The Fat Chick sent me – and I’m so glad she did. Thank you for sharing. Your story left tears welling in my eyes.

  22. Emmie says:

    I am not a cryer, but damnit if I’m not wiping dew from my eyes right now. As a formerly 455+ pound girl who started out barely able to leave the house, I relate. Even now, still over 300 pounds and a half marathon later, I get major anxiety when I enter my (amazing) gym. I have a great group around me, but if there are new people or I’m having an off day, my mind automatically goes into the “what are they thinking of me” mode, and it does nothing but limit my performance. Anyway, a rambling way to say thank you.
    Also, thank you for the Sarah Robles and Holley Mangold references. They’re 2 of my idols, and I was thrilled to see someone mention them!

  23. Colleen Gray says:

    I want to KISS YOU ON THE LIPS for this post!!! I’m 30 months into rehab. People have no idea.

  24. […] Schedule changes, effective Tuesday, September 3rd Are you on a strength program? 10 unbelievable diet rules backed by science How exercise can help sleep “There is no absolute success in lifting and fitness. It is a progression.” […]

  25. Amy says:

    THANK YOU for this!! As a “fat girl at the gym” – this totally resonates with me! I’m half the size I used to be, but still much bigger than those around me – and yep, still feel stigmatised by my weight in a room full of others who can fit into designer gym wear!! They don’t know my struggles (two years of plateaus, then major surgery health issues that have seen me re-pile the weight on) – and it takes so much energy to walk back in there on days when I’d rather stay home and cry (thank you depression!). Noone has the right to judge…. but they do! THANK YOU for this! … and keep on pushing through, you’re awesome!! 🙂

  26. Ruth says:

    I’m another “fat chick at the gym” with a history of injuries and illnesses, still struggling, and this article lifted me up. Thank you for putting it into such eloquent words.

  27. ksol says:

    Beautiful. Thank you. From the outside we never know what burdens others are carrying, but we seem to have an entire Internet culture devoted to looking at the outsides and passing judgement. Bless you for writing this. I will share it.

  28. Elaine says:

    Thanks for this amazing post! I started strength training last year, in addition to aerobics, and have lost multiple pant sizes (large short lady here). Merely being in the gym is often triggering for me, due to past sexual abuse and self esteem issues. You never know where people have come from.

  29. jennifer says:

    LOVE.. thank you for sharing!! I have always been a skinny girl, but since I started liftring myself, I am so guilty of judging those pink weights or girls that are lifting light. Once a coach mentioned to me a story of a girl that seemingly was out of shape but mentioned she is in the gym 5x a week and down 100lbs, it made me start to look at everyone differently!

    This is such an inspiring post and congrats on overcoming what you have to be where you are at today!!

    I shared on my FB page (fb.com/winetoweightlifting)

  30. Kristi says:

    Wow! I don’t know what to say. I am a 1 year cancer survivor and can relate to about EVERYTHING you wrote here. This is powerful and inspiring and so amazing! Everyone should read this! Thank you for sharing this. I used to carry a list around of all my goals that I wanted to achieve after my cancer treatment. I met them and exceeded them all in a little over a year. I have been feeling so lost without those goals anymore. After 6 years of fighting…what now? You have inspired me to re write that list as well as list how I achieved/exceeded each goal so I can again carry it with me and be proud. I will also continue forward and know that I am still working to exceed those goals even more. Keep up the hard work girlie! You have inspired us all!!!!

  31. Diane Cavallero says:

    i am another fat chick of 52 at the gym,coming back from a year and a half of C-PTSD, gang stalking, agoraphobia and a loss of fitness that includes carrying 25 kg more than i should, flatfeet and a cardiovascular weakness that scares me. I am as weak as a kitten but have finally finally FINALLY got back to the gym and have gone three whole times.Not much..but the feeling i have at the end of each visit is gold, bloody gold.. i am back where i needed tome.I just need to find a way to get healthy again as fast as i can. This was inspiring, hank you……

  32. THIS. It had me in tears because I’ve been there. I may not be the strongest girl around, but I’ve walked a long road to get where I am. I’ve worked dang hard for every single pound I’ve lost. With my Thyroid issue I have to work twice as hard as people with normal functioning thyroid and hormones, only to see half the results. And I’ve worked even harder for every single pound I’ve put on the barbell. I lived the majority of my life as that “fat chick” and sometimes I really struggle watching other people effortlessly lift the weight that I’ve worked so hard to get. Then I remember their road is different than mine. My success is different from their success. And that’s ok.

  33. spice says:

    what an amazing post, thank you for sharing it.

  34. Pearl says:

    Wonderfully told. And this holds true in yoga as well. While the cover of the magazines show perfectly sculpted people, the truth is that none of us know the journey on the weights — or at the mat — next to us.


  35. Ellen says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your story.

  36. Mary Lewis says:

    Wonderful post. And soooooooo true. Thank you for writing it.

  37. […] days where I had something totally different scheduled but when I read this post called “of tiny pink dumbbells and fat chicks” I felt inspired to write something totally different. So here we […]

  38. Colin says:

    A well written piece that reminds us all to be aware that not everyone is at the same place – or even doing the same thing.

  39. Alice says:

    Thank you so much for posting this. Very well written and speaks so many truths that are never said. Thank you for also sharing your story and your dedication

  40. […] few hours after publishing this I saw a link to this post come across my newsfeed.  She nailed it in so many ways.  Though not completely parallel to the […]

  41. Susan says:

    Carrrie – I am sitting here with tears in my eyes. I have been rehabbing body parts due to various injuries pretty much without a break since 2010. Your blog spoke to me. I needed to hear that. Thank you so much and congratulations on your success!!

  42. David says:

    What a read. Marvellous.

  43. Sara Fleming says:

    Great article! As a trainer and weightlifting coach, I mostly ignore aesthetic goals. I love it when people tell me they not only feel better, but are doing things they never imagined they could. Sometimes that is just being able to walk up the stairs again.

  44. Marie says:

    Top top article. I have clients that gave been bullied to the point of fear and that is just not on.

    Frankly I don’t want to see skinny, boob inflated, wind blowing, porn looking pictures that somehow the writer thinks is sexy because they have nice abs.

    That is not a topical woman.

    Thank you for posting this.

  45. Mizunogirl says:

    This rocks. I’ve been the fat chick at the gym, I’ve been the skinny one, I’ve been the one that seems to be making no progress. I was highly entertained when they hired a new front desk lady who tried to explain to me that she was thin (implying that I am NOT) because she rides a bicycle. So I asked her if she wanted to join in on my training. When she saw it, she kind of looked pale. Ah well…gotta just keep moving on. I just started doing some actual lifting in the last month, we’ll see how that goes.

  46. Debbie says:

    So straight after I read your post I got on my bike and rode it on the heaviest gear possible (it has 21 gears)……

    Now I have jelly legs.

    Unlike you when I got sick I dropped my bundle and went from gym junkie to a sad sack that barely moved even though the drugs I am taking can give me osteoporosis. Time to change all that. Could you come by each day and give me a jolly good kick up the bum?

  47. Bree Bowers says:

    I love this blog more than anything fitness related that I’ve ever read! This post hit home with me on many levels. Thank you for your inspiration and for sharing your story. It brought me to tears. I have erb’s palsy on my right shoulder and had very bad anxiety when starting at the gym. It’s people like you that keep me going! 🙂

  48. Awesome article. I forwarded this on my gyms Facebook page. I made sure my clients read this. Strength is a journey and looks different for everyone.

  49. Julie Simons says:

    I don’t know what to say other than thank you. This was so beautifully written. Thank you for encouraging me not to give up and fight the good fight. Thank you for sharing your heart and soul and story. I really needed to read this. So much love to you.

  50. Naomi Tree says:

    WOW!! Your words have really inspired me. I had 5 brain surgeries over a month back in February/March. I started my gym program at the end of June and I had to learn to walk again. I sit at the lats machine just as you described. I pull it down with my good arm and let gravity pull my bad arm up with no weight on the machine except the weight of the bar itself. I can bicep curl a 1kg dumbell, but for everything else I use a 500g handweight. Most days I dont see an improvement, but I keep going for the days when there is just a small improvement. Thankyou for your timely words

  51. […] post about owning your journey from Journey of a Dreamer and the amazing post that inspired it from Carrie […]

  52. […] Of tiny pink dumbbells and fat chicks My tiny dumbbells are purple, but yes yes yes to all of this. […]

  53. Kathleen says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for so eloquently making these points.

    I have said this for years! You never know the story of the person next to you in the gym. He/she might be in chemo. Might have high bp and CAN’T go harder. Might have diabetes and have to be careful. Might have already knocked off 100 lbs. Might have chronic pain. Or fibromyalgia. Or RA or OA. Might be just starting out.

    Just so many conditions that can have an effect on what a person is doing in the gym!

    Again, thanks, Carrie. I hope all it informs all these people who look down at everyone else in the gym who isn’t performing up to THEIR standards.

  54. I have to say firstly, what an amazing piece you’ve just written that reminds us to all be humble about where we’ve been where we are going and to be kind and considerate of others around us, we do not know what battle they are fighting.

    My grandmother shared these words with me once and they’ve always resonated with me.. not sure where they came from but I feel they go well with your message…

    “Be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle. Live simply, love generously, care deeply, speak kindly, and leave the rest to the universe.”

    And lastly the main thing I wanted to comment about. THIS post sums up exactly why I love weight lifting! It doesn’t matter about anyone else, this is an individual battle between you and yourself, that is all. The bar (and weights) gives you something to feel proud of, you can always walk away, head high and feel a sense of achievement for what you have done.

    It helps you find your inner strength more than physical strength can measure. You knew going back to the weights was how you would heal and overcome your injuries, your struggles, your battle.. inside and out! It’s always there waiting for you and won’t let you down. I’m so happy you kept going 🙂 Well done!

  55. Barbara Brehm says:

    Let’s be reasonable. No woman should have a 36 inch waist if she’s less than 6′ tall and not pregnant. No man even if he’s 7′ tall should have a 44 inch waist. Or sick with tumor or cancer or some such bad condition. The BMI concept offers a range of what is healthy weight. Let’s not glorify overweight because it really isn’t good for the person to be grossly overweight. Overweight adds to the possibility of so many illnesses including the concept of self-worth — just as being grossly underweight….

    • Carrie says:

      Wow. You really missed the point of this blog post, didn’t you?

      • Kim says:

        no kidding! I’m feeling like I could get to the gym after reading this article! I love it – I used to be so much more fit, and feel the stigma from overweight and unhealthiness every day from fibromyalgia. I feel super wimpy, but don’t want to feel that way. It’s people like Barbara who think it’s easy to be fit and healthy, and it ISN’T!

        • Kim says:

          And let’s not forget that one CAN be overweight and healthy also! See the “fat chick sings” blog – she’s very motivating also.

    • Carrie says:

      I really don’t want to go off on a tangent here, because this is SO not what I was writing about. But apparently I need to, because I have also had an email from a person who asked what my diet was like, and told me I was doing a disservice to readers by not mentioning what a big factor that is in a person’s success.

      So far, approximately 6,000 people have got the point of my blog post, and 2 people have not. I think that’s a pretty good ratio of point-getting to point-missing. But just in case, this might help:

      1. This post was not about how I achieved success, or how I didn’t, or how to lose weight, or how to gain muscle, or how to rehab from an injury or anything else specific to a particular goal. That’s why I didn’t talk about the details of my diet, just as I didn’t talk about the details of my workout.

      2. This post applies to everybody who may not match the standard viewpoint of what physical achievement is supposed to look like. Men, women, people who are skinnier or fatter or older or more busted-up or disabled or ANY other reason. It is not just about “fat chicks,” even though that’s what I put in the title. If I’d known 6,000 people were going to read it, I might have chosen a different title, but then again maybe I wouldn’t.

      3. Virtually everybody who has read, liked, and shared this post, did so because they ARE working on physically improving their body in some way, not because they wanted an excuse to stop doing it!

      Finally, I want to make the point that my own weight and measurements and lifting stats (before, after, and during all the medical stuff I wrote about) are COMPLETELY IRRELEVANT to what I’ve talked about here, and so are those of every single person reading it.

      Would you have a different opinion about this article if you found out I weighed 90 pounds, or 400 pounds, or was shaped like a fitness competitor, or could bench press a truck, or if I was so hot that just looking at me would turn gay men straight? If you would, congratulations, you read it wrong.

  56. Kiki says:

    Love. this. You completely nailed it. “Heavy” lifting is completely relative to the individual. Very humbling and truthful. I will be sharing this to our facebook page. 😀

  57. […] Of Tiny Pink Dumbbells and Fat Chicks by Carrie Patrick […]

  58. Yenni Brusco says:

    This is me 100,000x over. I have actually been told by someone working at a “No Judgement” gym that I was not fit enough for their personal trainers, and to come back when I had gotten more in shape.

    I’ve always been at the top of my weight range, but college and later has put so much strain on my body that I can barely lift 10 pounds without my back hurting. I luckily found a personal trainer that I miss dearly (I had to move) who helped me understand that what my body can do and what someone else’s can do have absolutely no reason to be compared. Everyone is on their own personal journey.

    I haven’t been back to the gym since i moved because I’m so afraid of the judgment I see in people’s eyes, me walking on the treadmill when everyone else is jogging and sweating, me sitting on the recumbent bike because I can’t support myself on the regular one, me using super low weight weights because I can’t even move the ones that are over 20 lbs without hurting myself.

    I hope someday to find a place in my new living area where I don’t have to be afraid of the glares and glowers people give me. This article gives me hope that such a place is not the one in a million I found in my old town. THANK YOU thank you THANK YOU so much for this.

  59. Amazing story!
    You can never judge a book by its cover!!

    Empowering and inspirational.
    I will be sharing this with my clients.

    Thank you

  60. […] Of tiny pink dumbbells and fat chicks from Carrie […]

  61. Rachel Schip says:

    I want to echo many above and thank you for this inspiring post. Such a moving story, I had dozens of people tell me they finished it sobbing after I posted it on my fb page.

    I used to think I didn’t belong in the weight room bc I wasn’t strong. I’ve come a long way since then, and I am so pleased to see strong women of all shapes and sizes joining me.

  62. […] An interview with weightlifter Cheryl Haworth Of tiny pink dumbbells and fat chicks Oldest man in the world lives to 123 on diet of lizards and skunk […]

  63. rowmyboat says:


    Formerly a nationally competitive rower —> 3 years later rehabbed a torn achilles tendon (& the pulmonary embolism that came with it!) without any help for a PT because I didn’t have health insurance.

  64. Wonderful post, and a great reminder for all of us that we shouldn’t pass judgement (not in the gym or anywhere else) because we never know what somebody has been through.

  65. BarbD says:

    My mother used to always tell me, “Never judge a book by it’s cover.” This article reminds me of that! I work out with a girl that has lost over 100 pounds and even though she is still heavy, she can lift a lot more than me! She inspires me to work harder. Thanks for sharing what you have gone through. I don’t think I’ll ever forget it when I walk through the doors of the gym. You will inspire me too!

  66. Su says:

    Oh, sweetie. You helped me so much with that one. I wish I could pay it back to you. I don’t think I will ever go to the gym again without thinking of you, and tearing up a little bit, and then smiling because I will do it for me, and I will do it for you.

  67. Recovering says:

    Thank you for this article. I used to be the fat chick in the gym with pink dumbbells and through lots of hard work I became the complete opposite. I was in a car accident back in February and now suffer from a severe neck injury. Simple tasks such as opening doors and carrying my groceries were impossible for me for the first few months. I went from heavy lifting to only being allowed to walk on the treadmill. The first day I was allowed to return to lifting was a major ego crusher and I could see people snickering at the small weights I would have to use. I felt the exact same way I did when I was overweight and walked into a gym for the first time. It was a mental struggle everyday to go back and try and add even another rep. It is really important to always remember that we don’t know what brought someone to the gym and what they are presently going through.

  68. […] Of Tiny Pink Dumbbells and Fat Chicks – from Carrie Patrick. If you read one thing on this list, read this. This post portrays a message that we all need a reminder of from time to time, and may even bring you to tears. Have tissues handy! […]

  69. Jessi Kneeland says:

    AMAZING. Thank you for this.. I wrote a post a while back on how misleading those “inspirational” Strength Is Sexy type of photos and slogans can be, you might like it!

    It’s hard when people see no other measuring stick for success except the aesthetics. I love the idea of re-defining success to mean success for YOU. Great post 🙂

  70. Cheryl says:

    That was beautiful Carrie! It’s absolutely amazing and it’s a fantastic reminder.

  71. […] via Of tiny pink dumbbells and fat chicks. […]

  72. Becky Boilek says:

    You inspired this Fat Chick to get back to the gym and lifting. I’ve been away due to working on an eating disorder, but I think it’s time to get back and LIFT!

  73. Totally awe inspiring.
    Wishing you strength and health.

  74. Amy says:

    Well, I just want to cry because this is so meaningful. I suffer from crippling anxiety and depression. The day I walked into the gym for the first time in *years* was a HUGE accomplishment. One I couldn’t let myself enjoy, sadly. I only thought about how far I had to go and not how far I’d already come.

    I worked with a trainer who helped me start to get into shape and I was happy. When I “fell off the wagon” and couldn’t get to the gym for a couple of months, it took every effort I had mentally to make an appointment with him and go again. He treated me badly and humiliated me in a roomful of people because I “made him start over with me.” He has no idea how tough it was to just get there. I ran out in tears. I haven’t been back since, but I will go, and only I will know how much it costs me.

  75. Kate says:

    Thank you. I really, really needed to hear this today. To remember what my strength is because holy shit, its nothing I ever thought it would be. Thank you.

  76. Princess R says:

    Just…thank you. I read this and cried because (minus the cancer, plus some other chronic illness issues) this could be my story.

    Just so much thank you.

  77. ksol says:

    Way late to the party, but this post resonated with me so much I have remembered it ever since. Referred to it in my post this morning at http://fatchickinlycra.blogspot.com/2014/02/words-i-hate-lazy-and-excuses.html

  78. […] “There is no absolute success in lifting and fitness. It is a progression.” […]

  79. […] Article-> Tiny Pink Dumbells and Fat Chicks […]

  80. Pam says:

    What an amazing blog post! You remind us all that each person has his/her own journey, and we really don’t know what struggles others have had to endure to get where they are. An old boss of mine who is now deceased, John Apalategui, told me these same principles about religion. Someone may seem perfectly honorable and purposeful and righteous, but perhaps their journey was easy compared to the felon in prison or the bag lady on skid row. What a journey you have had to become so eloquent.