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.