Fatventure Mag was not a planned venture, not really. Editor and writer Samantha Puc was initially approached by her long-time friend Alice Lesperance for advice on being active as a self-identified fat person, as Samantha was the only person she could think of who was fat and openly enjoyed an active, outdoorsy lifestyle. The ensuing conversation brought about the realization of just how rare fat representation is in the active community, especially as detached from weight-loss culture.
Now, just a few short months later, Fatventure Mag is set to release later this year as a print and digital publication, launching their first issue this November. The team of female and nonbinary writers and artists are uniting to spotlight fat-identifying people leading active lifestyles and loving the outdoors, beyond the limits of weight-loss culture, redefining the narrative of what it means to be fat and love being active.
Samantha sat down with The Tempest to chat about Fatventure Mag, her experiences about leading an active lifestyle as a self-identifying fat person, and how the tiniest inkling of an idea snowballed into a massive project.
The Tempest: What are your personal experiences with being a fat person who enjoys being active and having fatventures?
Samantha Puc: I grew up in the Sierra Mountains in Northern California and the only thing to do there is be an outdoorsy person and I hated every single minute of it. I actually didn’t develop an interest in being active until a few years ago, when I sold my car and let my partner convince me to try biking to work. The first day that I rode through Providence, I was in tears, just because I was convinced that this wasn’t the right fit for me. But then I did it again the next day and the next day. My legs felt like they would fall off, but I did it again. Now I bike everywhere.I discovered that when you are doing outdoorsy things for yourself and with people that you like, who you're not worried about being sweaty or even crying in front of, it becomes a lot more enjoyable. — @theverbalthing Click To Tweet
My partner is also really into hiking and stuff, and I discovered that when you are doing outdoorsy things for yourself and with people that you like, who you’re not worried about being sweaty or even crying in front of, it becomes a lot more enjoyable and it becomes something that you can do not for weight loss or to please others, but just because it’s fun. And that’s been a pretty big transformation in my life.
You’re very vocal about the toxic weight-loss culture that surrounds fat people being active. What are your thoughts about disrupting the fat-shaming narrative?
SP: The best thing that fat people can do to interrupt the fat shaming narratives of our culture as a whole is just to be like, “Hey, this is my body, I like my body and I demand that you give me respect for my body.” And for people who are not fat: it has nothing to do with you. It’s ridiculous that people who are not fat can look at fat people and judge how they should change their life. We need to let go of this concept that your body size in any way determines your value as a person, especially for people who also deal with racism or homophobia or transphobia on top of that body shame. You don’t need to drive this hateful rhetoric against people that you don’t know just because you don’t like the way that they look.And for people who are not fat: it has nothing to do with you. — @theverbalthing Click To Tweet
There’s this idea that if you’re a fat person who exercises, you’re somehow a better person than a fat person who doesn’t exercise, which I think is really stupid because your body size and your activity level do not determine your moral validity as a person. There’s also this idea in the medical community that all your complaints would be solved if you just lost weight. And I think that sort of attitude is dangerous because it really drives people to hate themselves and to feel like there’s no way that they can ever belong unless they fit this specific look. So with Fatventure, what we really wanted to do was just drive home the idea that there are plenty of people in the world who are bigger who have just as much right to these active spaces as anybody else.
How did you make the decision to make it a magazine exclusively for women and non-binary and gender non-conforming people?
SP: I think that there is a very, very specific narrative around why women should participate in fitness culture or in outdoorsy culture. I will admit that I do not see very many fat men represented in outdoors culture, but fat cismen especially generally have an easier time at the very least walking into a store and finding clothing that’ll fit versus fat women. Women as a whole are really underrepresented in outdoors culture and non-binary and trans people are just usually completely invisible in the spaces. And so what we wanted to do was create a safe space where women and non-binary and gender non-conforming folks to be like, hey, I’m here and I’m doing this. It’s imperative that there is a space just for those voices because I think that we often get sidelined.
If fat men want a space like Fatventure, they can create it and we’ll support it because I think that that’s awesome, but that’s not what we wanted to do. And I don’t wanna definitively say that we won’t ever open up Fatventure to include men’s voices. But as of right now, that’s not the goal.What we wanted to do was create a safe space where women and non-binary and gender non-conforming folks to be like, hey, I'm here and I'm doing this. — @theverbalthing Click To Tweet
How did the Fatventure Mag team come together?
SP: One of the folks who reached out to us on Twitter was Carrie Alyson. She is a really talented artist and graphic designer, and I asked her to become our design editor. So, Carrie, Alice and I have been working together since around March, putting the zine together. Working with them has just been amazing and I think that if I had tried to do this by myself, it wouldn’t be anywhere near where it is right now. So shout-out to Carrie and Alice!
We opened up pitches and asked writers, photographers, and artists who identify as fat and who identify as women or trans or non-binary to give us their best shot. And then we had a meeting where we went through all the pitches together and figured out what would work and what wouldn’t. We have writers and artists from all over the world participating in our first issue, and some interviews with some influential fat folks, which is really exciting.
What impact do you hope this project will have going forward?
SP: What I want Fatventure to do is to open up the conversation about who belongs in active spaces and how different people of different sizes, abilities, ages and experience levels can take advantage of active spaces without feeling like they are being pressured to look a certain way. I am hoping that Fatventure Mag will continue to make way for fat people in the mainstream dialogue because a lot of times we are talked about like a problem to be solved. Nobody ever asks us how we feel about it, so I hope to make an impact there.
I also hope that we’re able to work with groups like fatgirlshiking and other fat folks who really changing the conversation and doing this activist work in order to open up this space and push things further to make people really think before they speak against something that they probably don’t know anything about.
This interview was edited for length and clarity.