A performance poet targeted by bullies at primary school for being overweight has written a show about how she turned to ‘fat activism’ and then to running to challenge the notion that slim always means healthy.
Katherine McMahon, whose debut, Fat Kid Running will be staged in Edinburgh this month, says as a “fat kid” at school she hated the competitive nature of PE and felt anger about the pressure girls and women come under to be slim and polished.
The play, which debuts at the Scottish Storytelling Centre on May, 12, includes comedy as well as darker insights, and describes her life as a youngster skiving PE lessons and her recent endeavours to become a “fat, fierce, feminist runner”.
She explores what it takes to feel at home in her body and asks how people are meant to have fun just moving around in a world where the emphasis is on body shaming and fat burning.
Edinburgh-based Katherine said: “This is not an evangelical story about a before-and-after transformation from being fat to becoming a slim runner, which I am not.
“It’s about size acceptism and how, after years of thinking certain attitudes to size were unacceptable but not knowing what to do about it I reclaimed things like exercise after hating PE at school.”
“The hardest bit, and most intense bit to write, was about the bullying. It was the most emotionally difficult thing.
“I was cornered by some girls in a changing room and punched when I was eight years old. That was when I first started becoming aware of size, and how it stops you feeling comfortable in your own body at a young age.”
As an adult McMahon began researching fat activism and size acceptism which aims to get rid of discriminating against people due to their size.
“It’s quite a radical concept, that all bodies are worthy, whether fat or thin, and people are not ‘less valuable’ because they are not the accepted size.
“Someone who is a bigger size may be eating more healthily than a slim person.
“I think it’s really important that when it comes to health education for children that we take the emphasis off size. ‘Fat’ should just be a word like ‘tall’ not an insult to describe someone.”
The second half of the show by Flint & Pitch Productions, deals with how McMahon discovered running and took part in a 10K race after becoming immobilised temporarily due an injury to her feet.
“After a while I realised that with my feet being really bad I didn’t have the choice anymore about taking exercise. One day I just thought, ‘I’d really like to try moving around a lot more.’ But I made a deal with myself, that if I hated it I would stop. There was no obligation.”