Louise Green is an award-winning body positive advocate, plus-size athlete and trainer, and author of the book, Big Fit Girl. We ADORE her. Which is why we are psyched to share this excerpt on “smashing stereotypes” from her book. Enjoy, FBGs!
Smashing Stereotypes, by Louise Green
I ran my first half-marathon in San Francisco. When I woke up on race day, my stomach was churning with both fear and excitement. Getting ready in front of the mirror that morning, I repeated my mantra: You are an athlete. You are a champion who has put in the training time. You belong here.
When we arrived at the race location and I caught my first glimpse of the start line for the 30th Annual Kaiser Permanente Half Marathon and 5k, I felt even more determined. This was the beginning of one of the most demanding days of my life, and I was filled with excitement and growing confidence. As I approached the desk to pick up my race package, I caught the eye of the young man behind the table. He asked my name and without hesitation reached for the 5k race package. He assumed I was participating in the (much) shorter race.
“I am here to run the half-marathon,” I said sharply. “Oh,” he said, quickly fumbling for my race package in the other box. I took my number and the event-branded race shirt that was three sizes too small and joined my husband.
This moment speaks volumes about how people perceive those of us with larger bodies and why many of us feel that we don’t fit in. My body size communicated to him that I was not physically capable of running the event’s longer race. This happens at most events I participate in: someone might make an out-of-line comment or show surprise or express an assumption about what my body is capable of. 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:
1. Sign up for a 5k walk or run. Being seen participating in sporting events makes a powerful statement: plus-size does not mean inactive, unfit, or unhealthy. The more people like you and me are seen at such events, the more our participation will be perceived as normal.
2. Perhaps you have a bucket list but felt you needed to be thinner or more fit to do these things you’ve always wanted to do. Jump out of plane? Do an obstacle mud race? I always wanted to hike to the bottom of the Grand Canyon — so I did! Today is a gift and tomorrow is not guaranteed, so start ticking off the boxes.
3. Don’t wait for someday — live your life on your terms today. Maybe going to the beach is something you’ve been waiting to do when you are thinner. Everyone deserves to swim and enjoy the beach. I love the saying, “If you have a body and you go to the beach, you have a beach body!” You can rock a bathing suit. Buy one that makes you feel good and then strut your stuff. There is more than one type of bathing suit body.
4. Wear what you want. Try something that is out of your comfort zone but that you’ve always wanted to wear: bold prints, fitted clothing, and horizontal stripes come to mind. Bodies of size do not need to be all covered up, draped in black, or restricted to plain clothing. Wear what makes you feel good.
5. Accept yourself. Abandoning diet culture and rocking the body you have shatters the stereotype that all big women are on a mission to become thin. And, in case you haven’t heard, you don’t have to be on that mission anymore.
There is a misconception that people like us are crying into our pillows every night wishing we could lose weight and find happiness. But your weight does not determine your happiness. Live your happiest life now, not when you are thinner.
Show yourself and the world that big girls rule their lives. —Louise Green
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.