W.Joining SoulCycle as a fat woman was one of the most alienating experiences of my life. Not only were they the biggest physiques in the class (which was about 100lbs ago for me), but they were certainly the two who seemed the most lost.
We were barely recognized at our desks and left to fend for ourselves as we worked our way through. We were completely left behind as we headed into the dark room. It was unwelcoming and unfriendly. It took years and a lot of persuasion before I tried another cycle class.
If I’m not ignored for my fat body when I walk into a fitness studio, I’m being patronized and ridiculed. A whisper at the front desk, “This is a challenging class, so get into a child pose,” or an instructor yelling from the podium, “It’s so exciting to come in today,” laser focus on my tummy. Declare together.
No, they don’t tell everyone that. It’s clear to me that my body size often makes fitness professionals uncomfortable.
It’s clear to me that my body size often makes fitness professionals uncomfortable.
Even studios that advertise inclusion often celebrate a particular type of aesthetic. I used to be a dance fitness instructor for a company that focused on inclusion. I liked it the best I’ve ever had. But a CEO once said that being a big girl shouldn’t be “my brand.” Meanwhile, all other instructors were told to find their own voice and encouraged to develop it via social media.
A fat body is considered the enemy of fitness and needs to be resolved. Food is fuel or evil or something to be carefully managed, not fun or cultured. How sad is that? What happens in the studio or gym when you embrace the idea of moving your body for pleasure, endorphins, health and fun?
I love dancing. I love good music at Spin Studios. I’m here to enjoy a hot yoga class (but give me more shade for those aching bones). I love to lift and put heavy things. When a fitness community is good, it’s a very good one, full of people pushing each other up and challenging each other to do hard things.
Recently I ran and walked my first 5K. It was my 37th birthday weekend and I had been training for what felt like an eternity. I have a running crew (check it out Tuesday night, Unnamed is Boston’s first black-led running group). It was consistently a group of cheerleaders. While I was running through the streets of Ipswich, Massachusetts, her friend and ultra-trail marathoner Julia drove her 50+ miles to be my Hype Woman.this is our fitness community all Deserved.
So how can the rest of the industry be more similar?
Start by offering variations for people of all body sizes. Encourage people to do what they think is good for them. Sure, we go to workouts for a challenge, but everyone gets hurt (skinny or fat). safely A great way to make sure you care about your customers.
Also, don’t work with exclusive brands when selling merchandise (spoiler alert, XL is not an extended size). Some brands have a serious history of fat phobia and are trendy, so consider them just trying to go up in size.
No, you don’t know what my body can do by looking at it. When I walk into your studio, greet me like you would a paying customer. Great smiles and hospitality. If it’s your first time, ask if you need help with where the restrooms are and how to set them up. Don’t speculate or try to let me know what I can or can’t do. Sounds like something you do for someone, right?
i love to move So do my fat friends. We deserve a studio where we can feel accepted, embraced, and celebrated.With the rise of amazing women like Jessamyn Stanley, Ash Pryor, and Lizzo’s Big Grrls, the years of big bodies out of fitness have made us feel like we’re in the business. It’s a joy to see the alienation open up a little. Look at these athletes in action! Note that they are just as confident in their abilities as you are. Support us, hire us and let us represent all types of organizations for your brand. Then we will know what we can do.