I’ve always been big. Seriously – I didn’t get chunkier as I grew up nor did puberty hitting make me look the way I do. It is simply who I am – thick and all. This was a reality that I fought tooth and nail for a majority of my life to deny. I would go on insane and unhealthy diets, starve myself and sign up for gym memberships that no teen should ever have done. I worked so hard to distance myself from my own body, believing whole heartedly that the way I looked and how much I weighed played a significant role in how good a person I was. This led to me burying who I was, hiding behind the “outgoing fat girl” facade all through my young life. On the surface, this facade may seem bad, but this is the reason I decided to go out and get active. I found that no matter my size, if I did well in a sport, I was accepted. So, I joined every team, tried out for every intramural group and pushed myself to be the best in order to gain the acceptance I so desperately needed.
Looking back now, as a young adult who is fully comfortable with her body, a part of me is grateful that I tuned to sports to help combat my body image issues. I understand now that the intention behind it was completely wrong, but my experiences made me strong and kept me fit. I could have easily fallen into a dark place and harmed myself like many young girls facing the same issues as I, but with the support of my parents and a home life that was filled with active individuals, I learned pretty early on that my weight was no excuse for leading an unhealthy lifestyle.
Fast forward to today, to an Inemesit that is sure of herself and loves her body. By all appearances, one would think that these body image issues I had as a young teen are in the past, but that is so not true. I face body image issues everyday as a result of unrealistic body ideals forced upon us by the media and the fashion industry as a whole. The only thing that has changed is my ability to filter out this noise and find mental stability in how I deal with these external pressures. I was doing really great, opening up about my weight and even sharing my fitness journey through social media. I really wanted to put up videos of myself working out to show that size and weight have no effect on how active a lifestyle you can lead. I thought that being so raw and open would help inspire women that looked like me to go out and be active without fear of being judged. This all came to a halt, however, when I started to receive hateful comments and direct messages regarding working out as a plus woman.
The same individuals who were constantly ridiculing me for promoting an "unhealthy lifestyle" were the same ones who condoned me for working out and sharing my fitness journey. I received messages that made fun of me, asked me to stay away from gyms and told me that my body was not the right type of body to be working out. These were messages I had expected from simple minded individuals and, although they hurt, they were bearable. The real issue arose when I was shamed by plus size men and women. I was viciously attacked for not loving my body and wanting to alter it by losing weight. I was told that I could not be body positive while also being open about going to the gym and being active. This ridicule really hurt and drove me to shy away from working out. I stopped training and refused to post any videos of myself working out because I didn't want to be a walking contradiction. I started to slip into unhealthy habits, my sleep suffered and I generally fell into a really dark place at the end of last year because of the hate I was receiving from a community that I had worked so hard to support.
It has taken me a while to come back from that but seeing other plus size influencers like Madeline Jones, Editor-in-Chief of Plus Model Magazine and Chanté from Everything Curvy and Chic openly share their fitness stories helped me gain back my confidence. I've started going back to the gym, eating well and paying more attention to my mental state. I am still not quite at the point where I am comfortable enough to share my fitness journey outwardly via social media as I am still apprehensive of these negative comments; however, it is my goal to reach that point by the end of the year.
Being active as a plus size woman comes with so many barriers and hurdles but I am forever grateful for brands like Addition Elle that help take away some of the stress that comes with finding workout gear in our sizes. I used to work out in dark tones and over-sized t-shirts, hoping to draw attention away from my body, but I have found that working out in gear that has bright colours and fits me properly has actually worked to increase my confidence while in the gym. The bright colours and fun prints give me the motivation I need to roll out of bed and hit the gym every morning and working out is always fun when you feel good doing so.
If there is one take away I hope to share with this post it's that we are only human. Your fitness journey is yours alone and even when negative comments and influences reach you, sticking to your journey is all that you can do. This stigma surrounding plus size women being unable to lead healthy lifestyles is outdated and untrue. In my opinion, being active is a state of mind and has no real reliance on what you look like - it is all about making smart decisions and choosing a routine that works for you. I was shocked to receive backlash from both straight size, fat-shaming individuals as well as plus size, body positive bullies but I have now come to realize that this is simply a reality that we live in. I will try to keep being positive and pushing to break down these stereotypes while always remembering that I may slip and fall at times.