From a Viral Tweet to a Dedicated Community: “Fatventure Mag” Celebrates Joyful Movement beyond the Bounds of Diet Culture
Samantha Puc and Alice Lesperance founded “Fatventure” to celebrate fat folks who “love joyful movement, but don’t love toxic diet culture.” The second issue will expand that concept to the theme of home and belonging.
Five years ago, Samantha Puc decided to sell her car and start biking to work. The Rhode Island-based writer and editor is an avid hiker and cyclist, and she’s fielded a lot of questions from others who want to get into cycling or hiking but don’t feel welcome in those communities.
“I had a lot of friends who would reach out to me and be like, ‘Hey, I really want to get into biking, I really want to go hiking, but as a fat person I feel like these spaces are not open to me. How did you get started, and how would you recommend that somebody else do that?’” Puc recalls. “It kept happening, and I was like, ‘Hm, maybe there’s something missing in the fat community. Maybe these things need to be talked about and made more public.’”
One of the friends who reached out was Alice Lesperance, a fellow writer and editor based in North Carolina. Inspired by the online communities Unlikely Hikers and Fat Girls Hiking, the two started talking about launching an inclusive print and digital publication that would celebrate active fat folks and fight back against the idea that any fat person who’s into activities like hiking, cycling, or swimming must be — or should be — trying to lose weight.
After a successful Kickstarter campaign in 2018, the second volume of Fatventure Mag is live on Kickstarter now. And editor-in-chief Puc and associate editor Lesperance hope to continue what they started with the first issue: building a community around the work of fat creators who “love spending time outdoors, communing with nature, and being active, no matter what ‘fitness culture’ has to say about it.”
A viral tweet kicks off the Fatventure Mag journey
As Puc and Lesperance started getting serious about the Fatventure Mag idea, “we did what every millennial who has an idea but isn’t sure how to execute it does,” Puc says — they tweeted about it. Almost instantly, replies began to pour in from people who wanted to contribute art, writing, or design expertise. “Alice and I got something like 600 emails between us over the course of two weeks,” Puc says. (Fatventure’s design editor, Carrie Alyson, was one of those people, and she was instrumental in getting the print publication off the ground, Puc says.)
Feeling empowered by the outpouring of support, Puc and Lesperance set to work planning the first issue and launched a Kickstarter campaign for Fatventure Mag volume one in May 2018. “We didn’t have any money, but we knew that if we were starting this venture, we very much wanted people to get paid for their work,” Puc says. They raised over $15,000 from more than 500 backers, which allowed them to produce print and digital copies of the magazine (which are still available on Fatventure’s website, along with some delightful patches and pins bearing slogans like “Fat in the Wild” and “Big Bitches Like Trees Too”).
“Alice and I say all the time that we never thought this would go anywhere, and now we’re halfway through our second Kickstarter and our [online] community is going all the time, which is really humbling and also really, really wonderful,” Puc says. While Fatventure continues to be a side hustle for the small team, Puc hopes it will one day be a self-sustaining full-time gig; she also dreams of expanding it into a small press.
Fatventure’s second issue will focus on home and belonging
For their second issue, Puc and Lesperance encouraged writers to pitch stories, comics, and artwork about “the concept of home through the lens of joyful movement outside of the context of diet culture,” Puc says.
“Some of our pieces reflect on this feeling of being at home when you’re doing something active that’s just for yourself — that sense of, ‘My body is my home, and I can use my body to do these things.’ We also have some pieces that are about a connection to a specific place, whether that’s a specific home, a specific building, a city, a country, or even just a specific experience that you’ve had in connection to how you use your body to be in that space.”
A few of the pieces Puc is most looking forward to are an essay by a person with limited mobility who derives a sense of home from caring for their pets; a piece from a gender nonconforming person about how the fetishization of both fatness and nonbinary identity can make the act of sex uncomfortable; and an essay on what it’s like to feel like you don’t belong in your body.
Fatventure’s message: “There is no right or wrong way to have a body”
Serendipitously, the fat acceptance movement is having a mainstream moment with the debut of the Hulu series Shrill, a loose adaptation of the Lindy West memoir of the same name. But as with anything that enters the mainstream, body positivity and fat acceptance have not been free of corrupting or co-opting influences.
“The mainstream body-positive movement is very much like, ‘We accept all bodies,’ but then when you see people tagging their posts with #BodyPositive or #BoPo, it’s often very thin people who are being open about the fact that they use cleanses or whatever. That’s not really the point of body positivity,” Puc says. “There’s a lot of health concern trolling. There’s a lot of discussion of how ‘it’s okay if you’re fat as long as you’re healthy.’ But being healthy is not a prerequisite for respect. That’s also incredibly ableist, because there are plenty of people who have bodies of all sizes who are not what we might consider ‘healthy.’”
Puc and Lesperance strive to keep Fatventure’s messaging free of judgment. “We are not trying to say that fat people who are active are any better or worse than fat people who are not active,” Puc says. “There is no right or wrong way to have a body, and everyone is deserving of the same human decency.
“There is no right or wrong way to have a body, and everyone is deserving of the same human decency.”
“With our last issue, we said we wanted people to come away recognizing that fat people are people, and that fat people have a wealth of experiences that can’t be pegged down to, ‘That person is fat and therefore is like all other fat people,’” Puc says. “With the second issue we’re still building on that theme, but also really driving home the fact that the way one person identifies ‘belonging’ is not the way another person will, and that everyone has their own sense of comfort. Even if it’s something you don’t necessarily understand or haven’t experienced personally, it doesn’t diminish or devalue that.”
With their second Kickstarter campaign, Puc and Lesperance are looking forward to growing the Fatventure community and continuing to push the tenets of fat acceptance and body positivity into mainstream culture. “There are a lot of people doing really important work furthering the fat acceptance movement,” Puc says. “It’s an honor not only to be a part of that, but to also be able to uplift the voices of people who are doing that work.”
— Rebecca Hiscott
Fat-positive media Samantha Puc recommends
“I’m really fond of the AllGo app. People can leave reviews about places that they’ve been and whether or not those places are acceptable for people with fat bodies, people in wheelchairs, and things like that.”
“I’m always going to shout out the Faith Herbert comics from Valiant. She is a fat superhero and her weight is not the focus of her story, which I think is really cool.”
“Obviously Shrill — I reviewed it for Fatventure, and Alice reviewed it for Vice, and we both thought it was great.”
“Virgie Tovar is a fat scholar who’s written a book, she’s done a TED Talk, she does a column for Ravishly, and she does lectures around the country. Please read [her book] You Have the Right to Remain Fat, because it changed my life.”