I was recently sent a review copy of Louise Green’s Big Fit Girl: Embrace the Body You Have and I just finished reading it last night. Louise gives her readers a solid mix of personal stories (both her own and those of other athletes) and lots of resources, like a 5K training plan, tips on injury prevention and road safety and nutrition, and a glossary of training language so people who are new to athletics will not feel overwhelmed.
I’ve read a ton of books like this that are aimed at helping women get comfortable with a new sport, but this one is different in that it’s specifically aimed at plus-size women and follows the philosophy of Health At Every Size. It’s definitely a welcome addition to the ever-expanding world of women’s fitness books, as I don’t think I’ve encountered one yet that is so explicitly intended for plus-size women. Props to Louise for taking her expertise as a personal trainer and turning it into such an accessible, motivating book!
I hope this book gets into the hands of women who’ve thought to themselves that they’d like to give sports a try but felt intimidated or unwelcome because of their size. There’s room for all of us in the world of sports and athletics, and this book plays a big role in helping to ensure that actually happens.
Because I want to spread the Louise Green love around a bit, I’m sharing an excerpt from her book and also giving away my advance copy to a reader. Just leave a comment with some ways you are working to be the change and shatter stereotypes and I’ll pick one of you at random and send you my copy.
I’ll leave the contest open until March 24, 2017 at 8 p.m. EST and then I’ll get in touch with the winner. (Which, btw, please leave a way for me to get in touch with you!)
How to Be the Change and Shatter Stereotypes
Many studies demonstrate that a fit body can come in a range of sizes, but many people can’t see beyond the stereotypes. Larger bodies seldom appear in advertisements for gyms or in fitness magazines. When we do see a fat body in the media, it often accompanies an article about the latest demonizing obesity study and shows the person from only the shoulders down, dehumanizing the person.
Athletes like me who fall outside of the athletic norm often feel we don’t fit in because we’ve been told, in subtle and not-so-subtle ways, that we don’t.
Changing our fitness experience means surrounding ourselves with positive influences and finding teams of people who leave stereotypes at the door. And because we seldom see athletes of size in our daily visual landscape, it’s up to you and me to change the perceptions out there.
There are a number of things we can all do to shatter stereotypes surrounding people of size and show society a new version of the plus-size woman:
Consume and share media that accurately depict women in a range of sizes
Diverse images of women are starting to appear more frequently, as we’ve seen with Erica Schenk’s cover of Women’s Running and the “This Girl Can” campaign. Other examples include the July 2015 cover of ESPN The Magazine, featuring plus-size Olympian Amanda Bingson in the nude. In 2016, for the first time in the magazine’s history, Sports Illustrated featured a plus-size model, Ashley Graham, on its cover, and the iconic brand Nike included diversity in their Brahaus Collection advertising by featuring plus-size model Paloma Elsesser.
When you see images and stories like these, share the hell out of them on your social networks. Start conversations about size diversity in sports. Get to know the game-changers who are out there leading the way—it can change the way you think about your own body and athleticism.
Be the media!
In the social media era, we all have a platform to share our views. Jes Baker became a well-known body-positive advocate when she rebutted Abercrombie and Fitch’s CEO, Mike Jeffries, who had publicly stated that his company only makes clothes for smaller women (as he called them, “cool kids”); they intentionally do not sell larger sizes. Baker, a plus-size woman, took striking photos of herself posing with a conventionally hot male model and used them to create the “Attractive and Fat” campaign, which played on the branding and typography used in Abercrombie and Fitch’s advertising. This campaign landed Baker on the Today Show, and her story was covered by most international media outlets. Baker is proof that if no one is doing it for you, you can definitely make a statement on your own terms.
Find supportive health and fitness environments
Finding your fit in fitness is an important component of your continued success. Look for gyms, leaders, and trainers who support body positive training, and who are not hyper-focused on weight loss. Look for gyms that embody who you are in their marketing. Ask yourself these questions: Does their website show a range of sizes, ages, and ethnicities? Are they giving you the unspoken invitation to join the gym in their marketing by demonstrating that their services are for you?
Gyms that do represent you have carefully thought this through and have emphasized inclusiveness in their messaging. This communicates a lot before you’ve even walked in the door. This gym is ready for you.
Participate in athletics in your community
I know how hard it is, at first, to show up for the race or the dance class. But when you do, you represent size diversity and send an important message to the others present. Many people have never seen people with larger bodies kicking ass in athletics. Your appearance tells a new story that is revolutionary. You will feel empowered, and others will be encouraged. Seeing is believing in yourself, and until we see bigger bodies in fitness media and advertising, it really is up to you and me to spread the word and be the change.
Create a space of no negative body talk
Women often deflect compliments by saying something negative about themselves. The pursuit of perfection is so ingrained in us that we say things about ourselves that we would never say to another woman. When people compliment you, accept the compliment with a smile. When negative thoughts enter your mind, push them out with something positive. With love and kindness, call others out on their own negative self-talk. Avoid gossiping about others, too. Often our criticism of others is a reflection of how we feel about ourselves. Women need to support each other more and champion what makes each of us unique. Start doing this today, in all areas of your life.
Reject weight loss culture and perfectionism
We need to quit trying to attain what society deems the perfect body and instead create our own ideals based on what feels good to us. All bodies are good bodies, and most of us just don’t have the same genetics as the models we see in magazines. In fact, only a very small number of women do. We need to embrace and celebrate who we are, as we are.
Recognize your own and our collective power
When we demand that publications, companies, and advertisers reflect our ideals in their messages, they will do so. After all, these businesses are driven by the market; they give us what we want! Let’s want something that benefits us. Because magazine editors now know that there’s a substantial audience that, until recently, has been ignored, we’re beginning to see plus-size women becoming cover girls. Awareness gives us the power to change and the ability to kick open the door to living limitlessly. And together, through efforts large and small, we can shatter stereotypes and change the world.
Take the body positive pledge
Taking the body positive pledge is a great way to commit to your new way of thinking. It takes time to unlearn everything that you have learned, so let’s get started now:
I promise to love and respect my body every day. I recognize that not every moment will include body love, but I am committed to changing my thought patterns and inviting body love and self-acceptance into my life.
Through this process I vow to (to the best of my ability):
- Start my morning with affirmations about something I love about myself.
- Refrain from negative self-talk.
- Live my life to its fullest in the body I have now.
- Say “yes” more than “no” to things that scare me.
- Refrain from thinking or saying negative things about myself or other people.
- Ditch negative media.
- Surround myself with positive people who only elevate me.
- Accept compliments graciously. On the days when this seems impossible, I will be kind to myself and keep in mind that this is a journey. Things don’t change overnight. Tomorrow is a new day. It’s time to shatter the stereotypes in my life and be the change.
Excerpted from Big Fit Girl: Embrace the Body You Have by Louise Green. Published by Greystone Books, March 2017. Condensed and reproduced with permission of the publisher.
What a great post 😊 I’m currently working on a nutrition degree and plan to start a course to become a yoga instructor later this year, despite my size 👊 I’m so excited to see more and more changes in visual representations of women! You can contact me through my blog, healthyemily.com
I love this so much!!! I try to turn all the negatives around to help myself and others see that just because I’m plus sized doesn’t mean I’m worthless. Same with them. Love the person not the number eh?
This book sounds awesome – would love to get my hands on a copy! I myself refuse to talk negatively about my body, and I try not to think about myself negatively either.
I’ve also started responding to other women when they make disparaging comments about themselves differently. Where before, I would say things like “well I think you’re beautiful,” now I say things like “what does it matter? you’re still amazing.” I think the latter is more empowering to the other person!
Wow, Catilin! This post was such perfect timing! I’m not plus-sized, I’ve been increasingly writing about body image and my journey to self-love over on my blog recently. I’ve had a history with self-esteem and body image after a huge weight loss. While I’m still on this journey of self love (that I’m nowhere near completing, let alone half-way), I’ve realized that all this time, I’ve hated my thighs, hated the wing underneath my arm, hated the flab on my stomach because of what OTHERS would think of me. Because I thought that people, including my friends, wouldn’t like me if I was big. But I realized that if I don’t love myself first, it’s hard for others to love me. And that hit me real hard. What point is there in trying to please others when I’m not pleased with myself? Again, what perfect timing, and thanks for sharing Catilin! xo, Steph
I had intended to comment before I knew my comment would seem like I’m entering the contest…anyway. I’m a bigger gal. JUST on the obese side of the BMI chart (but I don’t give a lot of salt to that BMI chart for my purposes). I’m in roller derby, which is a sport that almost benefits from my size, it’s what attracted me to it in the first place. However, recently, I’ve taken up Lyra (aerial hoops). I’ve always wanted to try but worried my size would be a hindrance. I did it anyway, taking a beginner class. I’m by far the biggest girl in the class, maybe 40,50,60 lbs heavier than everyone, everyone is so small and thin. It’s intimidating, for sure. I certainly don’t look the type of an aerialist. But I’m doing it anyway. It’s the most fun! And I look good doing it (I watch video of myself and like what I see).
For any woman waiting to try something they crave, waiting to lose weight first, I say do the thing anyway. What if you don’t lose the weight? What then? Will you look back and regret never trying amazing life experiences because you were heavier than you thought you should be? For years, I didn’t try new things, didn’t dress how I really wanted, all because I thought “fat girls” weren’t supposed to. No more! I do want I want, I wear what I want. And I’m learning to like my body at this size for what it can do and also how it looks.
I definitely need to check this book out. I have always battled with my own internal dialogue in regards to being one of the bigger girls in the gym. It isn’t easy to work through, but I got to a point where I discovered that I loved spin class and I started feeling strong in my body. Now that I am diasbled, I feel like I am back to square one. I haven’t been to the gym or a spin class in three years because I am so terribly self conscious about the size of my body and the parts of my body that no longer work. So I guess I’m not actually doing anything to shatter stereotypes but I hope to get there someday!
Thanks for this. Even after 10 years of lifting, triathlon and rowing, I keep coming back to the mental struggle of not being thin enough (I weigh 185), not being young enough (I’m 57), not being fast enough. Weeks, maybe months if I’m lucky, will pass during which I’m happy in my body, feeling strong and effective and proud of myself , and then…something…will trigger me to start obsessing again about my size, and I haven’t wanted to take the time and energy to figure out what those triggers are, and how to break the cycle. Perhaps reading this book would set me on that road!
I’ve always been a large human. Like a commenter above, just big enough to be considered obese, living on the edge of straight sizes and plus. I do Crossfit and love it. It’s been so amazing to move and enjoy the movement. I got a backhand compliment from someone at the gym that “Crossfit could be great for everyone if bodies like [mine] could look so powerful”. I held on to the powerful part and let that other shit go.
This book looks great! As you know, I am plus-sized and totally bucking the stereotype/societal expectations about what a woman like me can do. I’ve been involved with the local running community, and now shifting my focus for a while to getting stronger – weight lifting is amazingly powerful and I feel like EVERYONE should do it. Everyone of any size can do it. I have been losing weight and I’m still working on losing more, but it’s more about being able to perform better and grant myself a higher quality of life as I get older. Extra weight on older joints does no one a favor, and I want to climb mountains when I’m 70! I would be much obliged if you or any of your readers checked out my blog, which has documented my struggles with body image and balancing that out with fat acceptance, losing weight, getting fit, and all kinds of self-doubt. Love you girl!!!
Glad that you shared this book it’s way overdue to have a book that inspires plus size women when it comes to fitness and health. A plus size woman can diligently be working out and body is getting stronger but when looking in the mirror doesn’t see that “skinny figure” immediately gets discouraged. It shouldn’t be like that at all. I could go on and on about this topic. You can contact me through my blog iterryblog.wordpress.com
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Surrounding yourself with positive people is key. I think that is great advice. Thank you for sharing an excerpt of the book, it is an eye opener.
I love the message in this post, the tips, and suggestions for thick fit girls. Sharing this post as it is a great read.
woah, this is one hell of an article and a must read for all those who are tired of being teased etc. due to their weight. I agree, we need to learn to love who we are irrespective our shape. Thanks a ton for thin article, definitely the inspiration and motivation I needed 🙂
Great post. I never used to believe in Big and Fit in a single body until a PE teacher, a nice lady by the way, challenge the fittest of us and always won.