When it comes to working out, finding something to wear is an uphill battle—especially when you’re plus-size. I’ve never been
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When it comes to working out, finding something to wear is an uphill battle—especially when you’re plus-size. I’ve never been
Whenever I think about my identity, one of the characteristics that always pop up first is “plus-size.” That’s not necessarily a bad thing—I’m used to describing myself as such when looking for clothes, posting on Instagram, or talking about body positivity. I’m so used to being a plus-size woman, it’s become engrained in my daily routines and conversations. The only time I do cringe about being plus-size? When I’m talking about having sex.Society has come pretty far in terms of the body positivity movement, which, believe me, I’m grateful for. Women are more empowered, fat bodies are being normalized, the fashion industry is finally catching up with extended sizing options and plus-size clothing lines. But when it comes to sex, I feel like those “taboo” lights start flashing in everyone’s heads and the conversation becomes a minefield of sidestepping judgmental comments and potential hurt feelings. Sex can already be a tricky topic to navigate, but add in a body type deemed “less-than-desirable?” Yeah, it’s a recipe for discomfort.
But despite it being uncomfortable to talk about, it still needs to be. I’m not going to get up on my soapbox and demand that all conversations about sex need to include fat bodies (hello, I’m an introvert), but sometimes I feel like a second-class citizen whenever I bring up my own experiences. Could that be completely based on my own self-confidence and body image issues? Absolutely. But that’s probably just more reason I need to do it more often. If there’s anything going to therapy for five years has taught me, it’s exposure therapy rarely fails. The more I talk about my own sexual experiences, the more comfortable I’ll be, the more confidence I’ll have, and, hopefully, the better the sex will be. And what better way to do it than to share my unfiltered thoughts?
First things first: I’m not comfortable with my body, but what does my partner think of it?
With all the guys I’ve dated, I’m usually one of the biggest women they’ve had sex with. (Not that I’ve collected data on this—God, could you imagine?! He’s mid-thrust, and I’m like, “So, have you slept with anyone else who’s fat?” Real nice.) So, I’m automatically going to compare myself to the other women my partners have slept with.
I have big thighs, flabby arms, and I carry a lot of weight in my belly. (I also have a fairly big butt, but that’s never really been a concern.) Usually, when I match with a guy on a dating app (as many of my experiences go), I post several photos of my entire body. And unfortunately, this is a direct response to an evening where I did meet up for a date with a guy and he left after half an hour because I looked different than my photos and he just “wasn’t attracted to me.” So after that charming memory, you bet I make sure I look identical to my photos. But even with that insurance of “OK, he knows what I look like and he finds me attractive,” I still never know what my partner’s initial reaction will be when we start having sex. Or how he’ll navigate my body.
For the love of God, don’t make me get on top
I am aware of my weight 24/7: putting on clothes, going on planes, sitting down at a restaurant, etc. So, why would having sex be any different? As much as I’d like to, I can’t just shut off my brain and lose myself to the throes of passion. (Kudos to anyone who can do that though—tips are welcome!) Sex is so not like romantic comedies where everything is easy and passionate and women have freakish pretzel bodies that can bend into every trendy position. I also worry about hurting my partner. Simply because I am a bigger woman with a bigger body, I want to be considerate of my partner and how comfortable they are in certain positions.
Another thing romantic comedies forget to mention? Stamina. My preferred exercise is walking, sometimes swimming. Executing a perfect reverse cowgirl is not a form of cardio that my core can easily withstand. So, I dread the times when my partner asks me to get on top. Marathon breathing techniques and worrying about my knees don’t exactly inspire lust in me. I’d much rather be in a position that I know works for me and lets me get out of my head and enjoy the experience.
Bring on the vibe
Listen, I’m happy for everyone who can orgasm without the aid of vibrators or toys—I’m just not one of them. Being a bigger woman, there’s simply more of me, which means more skin and body to navigate when I’m having sex. I have what is called a FUPA (fat upper pubic area), or “panniculus,” if you want the medical term for it. I’ve come to terms with my FUPA (Queen Bey has one, so we’re basically the same person), and being with my body all the time, I’ve figured out how to work with it and work around it when I’m engaging in a little self-love. But if my partner isn’t as familiar with my body (hello, one night stand), then I see it as my job to focus on my pleasure. And that means bringing out my trusty vibrator.
I’m not exaggerating when I say vibrators are responsible for 90 percent of my orgasms. (If I could take a quick commercial break to share a PSA, it’d be this: people, regardless of your size, body type, sexual orientation, or dating status, get yourself a vibrator and thank me later.) Because I have a little extra fat around my clitoris and vulva, it’s not as easy for my partner to find. So while I make sure to communicate openly during sex, using a B.O.B. (battery-operated boyfriend) is super helpful as an aid for ensuring plenty of orgasms. And in all my sexual experiences, I’ve never had a partner complain when I bring out my vibrator. More often than not, it’s a total turn-on.
Time to talk
I wouldn’t call myself particularly dominant in the bedroom (just let me be a delicate maiden in a Regency romance, thank you very much!), but I do think it’s important to talk while having sex. Having an open dialogue about what feels good, where to touch, what turns me on, etc. is the clearest way to build intimacy and grow my confidence. Even if I’m having sex with a partner I’m familiar with, I’m still the teensiest bit nervous every time. Communicating, even if it’s just joking about how a position isn’t working (anyone else fall off the bed while on top of their partner? Nope? Just me?) can break the tension, get me out of my head, and make me more comfortable.
Remember, they are there because they want to be
I’m not going to lie and claim that I can shut off all the negative self-talk my brain seems hell-bent on sending me during sex. But at the end of the day, I know that my partner is with me in that bed (or on that couch, or in that shower) because he is attracted to me and he wants to share this experience with me. Sex should be fun and sensual and pleasurable—let it be!
This isn’t an “I’ve overcome my body image issues and have great sex” statement though. I still have unsatisfactory sex all the time, and when I do, I’m quick to blame myself and my body. But over time, I’ve learned that I can’t let those thoughts rule me. Otherwise, I could be preventing myself from having some really great, hot, steamy sex in my future. I’m talking Bridgerton Season 1 Episode 6 sex. (You’re welcome!) More
Let’s start with the problem: I never have enough closet space. No matter how many times I’ve tried to Marie Kondo my wardrobe, I still end up with overflowing drawers and negative hanging space. Not to mention, as an apartment-dwelling millennial, my knack for constantly amassing stuff is a point of anxiety that imposes upon my dreams of minimalism. (Side note: I’ll never be a minimalist—I shop way too much—but a girl can dream, right?) At the beginning of 2020, my best friends and I got together for our first girls’ trip of that year. As we dressed for post-Rumble brunch, one of my besties put on the most expensive-looking blouse. (It should be noted that said friend always succeeds at being bougie on a budget; she’s an icon.) We looked at the label and then back at her, astounded, because we knew she did not drop the $500 cost on a top. That’s when she told us her secret: rental services. She explained that they’re perfect for curating a closet that you don’t have to move from destination to destination and that they empower you to design your wardrobe around events and travel plans. Consider me sold.
I’ve always heard good things about closet rental services, but have never thought they were for me. Maybe it’s the older sibling in me talking, but I like to have ownership over my things and possess them until I’m ready to get rid of them. The idea of renting clothes that I could possibly fall in love with and then have to give back seemed torturous to me.
However, when I noticed many plus-size influencers talking about Eloquii’s new rental service, Eloquii Unlimited, I was intrigued. I’ve always admired how the company prioritizes and designs for plus-size women, rather than just extending their size offerings to a 1X. But, in the Instagram-sphere, there were many mixed emotions about trying the service, especially during these pandemic times.
The good news? I tried it so you don’t have to.
How it works
Step 1: Add as many items as you like to a shopping cart, called your “closet” on the site. You have to add at least 10 items (which is possibly the easiest thing I’ve ever been asked to do).
Step 2: Eloquii will send you four items from your online closet based on what’s available.
Step 3: Wear it. ‘Gram it. Return it.
Step 4: Repeat as many times as you like. There are unlimited returns for just one monthly fee of $79.
Here’s what I got:
I tried this one on first because I knew, from the very first time that I laid eyes on this dress, that I would love it. In the wintertime, I am always looking for warm dresses that mean I don’t have to wear pants. First, I paired this with my Sheertex tights and some black booties for a classic sweater dress look. Then, I was inspired—I went for another look, wearing this piece like an oversized sweater with jeans and some statement heels. Loved it!
This sweater dress wasn’t too thick or too thin, so I could wear it just lounging around the house or layer it with a cute coat for outdoors. I fell in love with this piece (and so did a bunch of my Instagram friends), so I might just have to rent it for the rest of the season!
Wearing: size 18/20.
I added this item to my closet because I was feeling especially celebratory—it’s a new year, after all! When I first put it on, I have to admit, I was wary about it. You have to be a powerful lady to pull off shoulder pads, but that’s exactly what I felt like. Additionally, I was pleasantly surprised that this glittery top didn’t deposit glitter all over my face and body. Thank goodness!
I don’t know if the jeans I wore were the best fit for this look; however, I’ve had my eye on a pair of Spanx Patent Leather Leggings that I think would pair well with this, some eggshell booties, a red lip, and an up-do (to show off the shoulder pads).
Wearing: size 18.
When I tried these pants on, I almost teared up. “Why would you cry over clothes,” you ask? These are a prime example of the type of trendy pants that I’ve always wanted to buy from department stores, but they never have my size. I love Eloquii for prioritizing bodies like mine and giving us all the trendiest options. These pants felt just as high-quality as they looked when I picked them out. Thank you Eloquii for making quality, stylish options for us curvy girls. I think I’ll get the matching blazer in my next trade!
Wearing: size 18.
I have to be honest: I’m not sure what propelled me to add this to my closet in the first place. It’s very much outside of my style comfort zone, but maybe that’s why this rental experience is so great. I don’t think I’d ever pick this up at the store, and I almost didn’t pick it out on the website. When I pulled it out of the box, I was still a bit doubtful. As a plus-size girl-turned-woman, I’ve always been told to stay away from oversized, baggy, unflattering outfits, and I think that “advice” occasionally rears its ugly head. However, when I put this on—even though I felt sort of like a character from Gumby—I felt fabulous, chic, and stylish.
It fit a bit larger than I’d hoped—which is rarely the case for me—due to the fact that I ordered a size larger than I would normally because I’ve been scorned by jumpsuits in the past. My advice (if you order something similar): order your actual size; the fit is pretty true to the description.
While I don’t know that this is something I’d wear often, I do know that I’d love to strut my stuff in it at least once. That is the beauty of being able to rent and return.
Wearing: size 20.
After trying my first rental box ever, where do I stand on rental services? Let me start by saying that I just texted my aforementioned friend to tell her how right she was. I’m so happy that I tried this out!
I’m always shopping for specific occasions and then never wearing those clothes again, and honestly, that’s a major bummer and cash-burner. I am definitely sold on renting and returning clothes. I can see myself using this service as the world begins to reopen, and I have more activities to dress for. I’ve already started adding pieces to my Eloquii Closet that I can see my future self wearing on vacation, to weddings, to brunch, and around the office. I’m definitely looking forward to trying out other rental services to see how they compare, but they have some big shoes to fill (no pun intended). Eloquii Unlimited has a seamless service, stylish and high-quality offerings, and, above all, such inclusive sizing!
I’m now a rental service convert, and I think this epiphany will save me money and closet space in the long-run. More
You know that feeling when you grab your favorite pair of leggings only to put them on and notice that there are holes in the thighs? Utter disappointment doesn’t even begin to describe moments like that.I try to work out every day, and I’ve noticed that more than a few of my favorite leggings have been rubbed raw in the thigh area—every curvy girl knows what I mean here (thigh gap who?). It seemed as though my favorite leggings and my thighs were conspiring against me, so I decided it was time to order some replacements.
For the past year, I’ve been getting ads for the same pairs of size-inclusive leggings from Girlfriend Collective, PopFit, and Fabletics. I can’t count how many times I’ve clicked through to them and talked myself out of taking the plunge—but no more! I ordered three pairs of the leggings I’m constantly seeing online to test them out once and for all.
I’m a big girl who likes to do all kinds of workouts. I love anything from dancing to cycling to HIIT to weight lifting to yoga, but the one thing I absolutely cannot stand is a pair of leggings that can’t take the heat of a good workout. So, I really tried these brands and ranked them based on style, comfort level, fit, and full workout capability. Here’s what happened:
Legging 1: Popfit Harlow Legging
I’ve had my eye on these for a while because they have a crazy entry offer where you get your first pair of leggings free. Honestly, it sounded too good to be true, so I had to investigate. When I opened the package, I can’t lie, I was a bit skeptical. The material felt thinner than what I was used to, and I couldn’t imagine how the leggings would actually look on me (the patterns on the site were a bit outside of my comfort zone). But then I tried them on and I was pleasantly surprised. I loved the way that the leggings offered some light compression in the tummy area, accentuated my waist, and bonus: they have pockets!
I did two workouts in these leggings: jump rope and cycling. They’re super high waisted, so I didn’t have to pause in the middle of my workout to adjust them or keep them from falling down. The material was pretty stretchy, so there wasn’t too much resistance against my movements or hesitation for fear of ripping them.
I’d recommend these leggings for those who enjoy HIIT workouts and activities with a lot of fast-paced movements. I would pass on them for those who need a maximum mobility for activities such as yoga, pilates, and barre.
Sizing tip: These leggings run a bit large, so I’d recommend sizing down based on your measurements.
Legging 2: Fabletics Maya High-Waisted Capri
The next leggings I tried were that of Kate Hudson’s Activewear line, Fabletics. If I had to describe these leggings in three words, I’d say: cute, high-quality, and again, pockets.
In comparison to the PopFit leggings, these were definitely more comfortable. I really appreciated the thickness of the waistband and softness of the material, although I did have to do the Beyoncé jump to get them over all of my assets. The pockets weren’t as deep or wide as the PopFit leggings, but they’re made with a sheer material which provided a cute contrast to the material of the actual leggings. They also weren’t as high waisted, which would have been a major bonus for me because it helps to create that hourglass shape on my body.
I went hiking in a rocky terrain in these leggings. As I brushed up against bushes and branches, I was immensely thankful for the thick material between me and the more unforgiving aspects of nature. Also, as I climbed, I was able to really assess the mobility of the material and was extremely pleased. Plus, they’re super sweatproof, so you can say goodbye to awkward sweat stains. On the con side, I did have to stop and pull these leggings up a few times, and I don’t think going down a size would be possible for me.
I’d recommend these leggings for more stationary activities like: weight-lifting, yoga, biking, and core workouts.
Sizing tip: These leggings fit pretty true to size, so I’d recommend sizing based on your measurements.
Legging 3: Girlfriend Collective High-Rise Legging
So, do all leggings have pockets now? I’m not complaining, I’m exclaiming! Honestly, I don’t think I can wear leggings without pockets after this experience.
These were the leggings I was the most excited to try. They have such an amazing variety of models and representation in their branding. They arrived in the cutest packaging and came with an adorable recyclable pouch. Their site calls these particular leggings, “squat-proof, ultra high-rise, compressive leggings,” and I wanted to find out if these claims held up.
The first time I pulled these on, I could tell that they were much more structured than the other pairs I tried. The compression was, comparatively, a lot lighter, and the high-rise didn’t rise as high as I may have hoped.
I went for a five mile walk in these and followed it with a quick yoga session. I found them to be extremely moisture-wicking, and the pockets had a really secure feel—which would be great for my keys, wallet, or phone. I found myself having to pull them up a lot during my walk, and I think it’s because my phone started to weigh them down.
These are the leggings I’d go to for my athleisure ‘fits. I’ll probably double back to the site for the matching top so I can wear this on work-from-home days or to run errands. They’re the perfect leggings for a chill Saturday, and come in a ton of cute colors to spice up your wardrobe with.
Sizing tip: The next time I order from Girlfriend Collective I think I’ll try a smaller size. This time I got a XXL, and I think an XL might have given me that extra compression I needed. (Plus, I’m kind of short, so these felt a bit too long for me.) More
Every New Year’s Eve on the dot, I grab a fresh new notebook and write some goals. And you might be surprised to know that even as a proud, plus-size woman who is in recovery for an eating disorder, without fail, “lose weight” always weasels its way onto the list. Somehow, I always manage to convince myself after years of trying and failing that “this year will be the year!” And almost always, it doesn’t start with me creating a workout plan or trying to become healthier; I retreat to negative emotions and behaviors that mimic disordered eating patterns I thought I’d left in the past.
But why do I make this lofty goal every single year? Because we’re told it’s the #1 goal to make, especially if you’re overweight (which, might I add, is so subjective and means very little about someone’s overall health). Every year, we see commercials, ads, magazines, articles, and more about the best ways to lose weight, how to drop the pounds (usually with some form of “finally!” or “once and for all!”), and I expect in 2020, how to lose all the weight you gained in quarantine. And as a plus-size person, it’s damn exhausting.
We’re inundated with reasons why looking like us is a problem
It’s one thing to make a goal to get healthier. I think it’s a goal most of us should have every year. We could all stand to drink a little more water, try therapy, find a new vegetable you love, and hit a fitness goal or milestone. But as a plus-size person, seeing hundreds of people on social media, in ads, and more make it their #1 goal for the year to lose 10, 15, 20 pounds just makes us feel like our bodies are wrong.
Of course, it’s optimal to want to feel and look your best; and for many people, losing weight helps them do that. I don’t want to take that away. But it’s always rooted in fatphobia. People are horrified that they’ve gained weight because being anything but thin is the worst thing there is. This time of the year, it feels like I’m being thrown reason after reason why my body isn’t what people want to look at.
This time of the year, it feels like I’m being thrown reason after reason why my body isn’t what people want to look at.
Not making a weight loss goal is often seen as “brave”
But then, we have the people who want to call us out when we don’t make a weight loss goal. When I say that my #1 goal of the year is to love myself, regardless of my size or how I look, people respond as if sharing my authentic self is courageous and brave, when I don’t have a choice. Why are we brave for simply choosing to not give into the pressures of diet culture? Why is it brave to not have the mental capacity to try keto or paleo or whatever random diet being shoved down our throats in that blip in time? I’m not brave for choosing to love myself instead of promote the thin ideal, and to say so makes the point that wanting to lose weight should just be the norm, when in fact we should be actively moving away from that ideal.
My body constantly looks like a before picture
We’ve probably all seen the memes about “expectations and reality” on Instagram, sharing how posing can make your body look different. I appreciate and love the message that all bodies are beautiful, and I think it’s important to see that even people you think are the most beautiful and thin have insecurities. But as a fat person, I don’t have the option to pose in a way that makes it look like I don’t have rolls or so you can’t see my double chin—my natural body looks like the before picture for some of these memes. The body positivity movement was created by fat people, for fat people, and it’s frustrating to see these posts that are still entirely rooted in diet culture and white thin privilege be spouted as “loving oneself.” It’s crushing to constantly see a body that looks like mine be torn apart or told that it’s wrong; that having love handles is undesirable, that the sheer nature of becoming thinner will make you a happier person, when my body looks just like all of these pictures we’re supposed to be disgusted by.
Like I said, I want people to be healthy and happy, and I cannot deny that for some, losing weight can be a healthy process that makes them feel better about themselves physically and mentally. If losing weight is something you can do in a healthy way, I’m so into it. And having before pictures to recognize your progress might be a good tool for you to use. But watch how you talk about yourself in them. You were beautiful before; there was nothing aesthetically wrong with your body before.
When people we already deem as thin are told to lose weight, it sets the ideal that even thin bodies aren’t good enough
Since I was young, I’ve had a hard time discerning how someone who’s already thin could be insecure. My weight has been a topic of anxiety my whole life; how could one possibly feel bad about themself if they already have everything I’ve ever wanted? But when it’s a goal for everyone to lose weight, what’s the ideal? If thin bodies aren’t good enough, what does that make mine? It feels like I’m chasing after something I can’t even achieve because even once you achieve it, you’re expected to do more, be more.
So, how can you deal?
There’s no way for us to get around New Year’s resolutions, but there are ways to handle the season without feeling like the punchline all the time.
Set boundaries with loved ones
If you have loved ones who make comments about weight often, engage in assertive communication about how it affects you. There’s nothing worse than working on something within yourself all to have to deal with the people around you not understanding it. Set boundaries for the communication you have with each other, whether it’s talking about meals, health goals, how much or how little you’re eating, how much activity you’re engaging in, and more.
When you feel the weight loss pressure come along as you’re working on being healthier, it’s important to set really clear intentions for yourself. What do you truly want to accomplish? “Get healthier” might feel like an easy goal, but it’s easy to get jumbled. Make this goal tangible, like do 10 pull-ups or eat more protein three times a week for a month.
Address all-or-nothing thinking
When you feel yourself leaning into the mindset that someone smaller than you wanting to lose weight has a reflection of your own self-worth, it’s time to reassess your focus. Is there fact in what you’re thinking, or are you creating this narrative in your head because you’re self-conscious? Therapy is a great tool to learn coping mechanisms to help with this type of thinking, or I love journaling. More
“Oh, lounging around the Christmas tree…” that’s how the song goes, right?At the beginning of this year, I loved getting dressed up as much as the next girl; but by now, we know that 2020 had other plans for our OOTD posts. This year, I noticed an immense need to expand the loungewear portion of my wardrobe. I needed (though some may say wanted) more waistbands that didn’t dig into my tummy and blouses that didn’t hug (suffocate) my chest.
The good news? Many companies started making cute loungewear. The bad news? A lot of them weren’t making those selections in plus sizes.
Here’s the truth: the hunt to find cute and comfy loungewear in my size was tough. Luckily for us, challenges like that have never stopped a shopaholic like me; I’ve compiled a list of the trendiest and coziest ‘fits you could dream of. Since we’re friends, I’m sharing them with you below—all you have to do is shop them and get cozy.
Still to this day, I have a folder under my bed filled with Seventeen and Cosmopolitan workout tear-outs. These workouts felt like a bible to me growing up (as did the entire magazine—I was from a small town that thought eyeshadow only came in brown and the most fashionable thing you could wear is a floral dress from Hollister circa 2011). Everything I knew about fitness came from there, and I’d sit in my room every day and contemplate which workout I’d do. But I never lost weight, I never got lean Carrie Underwood legs, and I definitely never got the abs I was promised.I’ve been plus-size for years (and before that I was at the tail end of straight-size), but I’ve also always been at least somewhat active. No, I didn’t play three sports in high school, and I never stepped foot in a gym until I was in college, but I’ve never been totally “out of shape.” I move my body to an extent, and I pretty much get 10,000 steps in every day. But there are many exercises I can’t do, and I’ve blamed my body and my seemingly innate lack of physical fitness forever, which led me to stress over workouts so much that I basically stopped doing them.
I’ve been plus-size for years (and before that I was at the tail end of straight-size), but I’ve also always been at least somewhat active.
It wasn’t until I was watching a YouTube video recently in which a plus-size woman described that she had a hard time doing planks because her wrists weren’t strong enough to hold up how heavy her weight was that everything began to click. Being plus-size doesn’t make me inherently unfit—it just means that my body physically isn’t equipped to do the same exercises as someone half my size. Just because my body is heavier doesn’t mean that it’s wrong; it just means I might have to do exercises differently. And there’s nothing wrong with finding a better way to exercise my body; in actuality, it’s particularly fit of me, if I do say so myself.
I’d never heard anyone in my plus-size circles talking about this, so I assumed this was either common-knowledge that had never dawned on me or I was the only one who experienced it. Turns out, it was neither; it’s just rarely talked about. Tulin Emre, who goes by Coach Tulin on her blog and Instagram, is the founder of Fit Has No Size, a movement dedicated to showing plus-size women the power of fitness and modifications. She’s been a powerhouse in the plus-size community for influencing change in the culture of fitness. She explained that because there’s such a “shame” around our body types, we think that our goal is to be able to do the exercise just like the fitness instructor or the person in the how-to video. However, “fitness is always about creating challenges,” so shouldn’t we look at modifications as “skill acquisition”?
Just because my body is heavier doesn’t mean that it’s wrong; it just means I might have to do exercises differently.
“Fitness doesn’t reach this level of pinnacle success, and it’s easy cruising; you’re always growing and building, but it’s foundational,” Coach Tulin said. Basically, it’s not that you learn how to do a five-minute plank and you’re good to go. Instead, you’re constantly pushing and changing workouts to better suit your fitness goals. Once I learned this, my entire relationship with working out changed, and I stopped thinking of the workout itself as a goal but rather the tool to reach my own fitness goals (not body goals!). Here’s what I’ve learned:
Modification is a skill
Being plus-size simply means my body is bigger, so sometimes certain movements don’t work because my stomach or larger thighs get in the way. This doesn’t mean that I’m a complete failure at fitness, it just means that I have to modify the movement to work for me. This seemed like a cop-out at first, but I’ve grown to understand this just means that I’m taking my fitness into my own hands (literally). Julie Newbry, NASM Certified CPT, CES, FNS, explained that just because the fitness industry caters to smaller bodies doesn’t mean that having to modify an exercise for your own is wrong. “So many programs are designed for people in smaller bodies and don’t take into account that plus-size participants may find the size of their stomach, legs, or other body part doesn’t allow them to do a specific move,” Newbry said. “This can leave people in larger bodies feeling like they don’t belong or there is something wrong with their body. The truth is there is nothing wrong with their body; the exercise is wrong for their body, and we work together to find a modification or an alternate move that works for them.”
Coach Tulin also explained similar sentiments, stating that it’s OK to feel physically fit and healthy but still have to do modifications for an exercise. Doing a modification doesn’t make the exercise inherently easier if it means that you can perform it with the correct form. “I don’t suck because I modify, I’m actually building skills, and there’s intention behind this,” Coach Tulin said. Newbry agreed. “See modifying a move or doing an alternative move as a way of standing up for yourself,” Newbry said. “You are honoring your body and what it needs, and that is something to be proud of.”
She also explained the importance of looking at a modification as a variation of the exercise, such as all the different types of squats. “There’s a purpose to every degree … People think if they don’t have a deep squat, they aren’t squatting well enough, but a “deep squat” has a different purpose than a “90-degree squat” or a “box squat” when you use a chair,” Coach Tulin said. Can’t go very low to the ground? There’s still power in that movement. Just because you’re changing the movement doesn’t make it “easier”; it makes it a better fit for your body.
Just because you’re changing the movement doesn’t make it “easier”; it makes it a better fit for your body.
Work toward fitness goals rather than “body” goals
As expressed previously, I never got those gosh darn Carrie Underwood legs I was promised in the Back-to-School edition of Seventeen. For as long as I can remember, I’ve approached exercise with a goal for my body. I want leaner legs, a rounder butt, muscular arms a la Michelle Obama, a tiny waist. Regardless of where I was in my journey, I was always working out to make my body look better. Exercise Physiologist Kathleen Terracina, EP-C, encouraged taking weight and body size out of the equation when it comes to adopting a fitness routine. “Set goals that have nothing to do with body size and go after them (run a 5K, bench press XX pounds, dance through a whole playlist, touch your toes, hold a plank for X time, walk up X flights of stairs to work),” Terracina said. “Remember the benefits of movement that hold true even if your body size never changes: stress reduction, improvement in: BP, cholesterol, cardiovascular fitness, sleep, flexibility/mobility, strength, reduction in falls risk—the list goes on. There are so many other exciting, more beneficial things to focus on with exercise instead of body size.”
Instead of paying attention to how my body was changing through exercise, I began measuring my fitness through attainable goals (namely, do one pull-up .. I’m keeping it ultra-attainable).
Watch how other people work out
“A lot of us who are plus-size, we can’t see the muscle move [when we’re working out]. We don’t have a visual,” Coach Tulin said. The weight on my body makes it so that I can’t see how my triceps work when I’m doing tricep dips or the way my inner thighs flex during abductions, which sometimes leads to me doing the form of an exercise incorrectly or not understanding the best way to modify something for myself. Coach Tulin recommended looking at other bodies to see how the muscles move; then, we can communicate to our minds what our bodies should do.
In the same vein, I’ve found it extremely important to watch other plus-size women work out. It’s a reminder that all bodies can be fit and strong, but it especially helps me to see more ways I can modify or change a movement to work the best for me. Terracina had the same idea, explaining that representation can be a powerful tool to learning how to approach fitness for all body types. “Though your local gym may be behind the times and only have instructors and trainers with smaller bodies, the Internet can be a great place to find people who look like you moving their bodies.” I’ve started following @bethyred, @diannebondyyogaofficial, @iamtulin, @bodypositivefitness_, @paradisefitnesswithcarly, and more for inspiration and guidance in my own workout journey.
Stop comparing yourself
This is much easier said than done, of course, but it’s crucial in the age of Apple Watch “X calories burned” screenshots clogging your social media feeds (y’all, can we please with that?). I’ve noticed that as a plus-size person, it doesn’t take much for a workout to be “hard” for me; my body is pretty heavy, so I have to exert a lot of force to do what a smaller body might find extremely easy, like a long walk. Walking five miles in the morning for me is exerting a similar amount of force as someone much smaller doing a HIIT workout for 30 minutes. Although yours “looks” harder, physically, we’re both getting in a hard workout.
Once I stopped comparing what everyone else was doing and started approaching fitness by what works for me, it was like a lightbulb went off. It’s OK that I don’t like hour-long intense cardio classes, but I also won’t put myself down for doing a workout I love (hello hip hop dance) that might seem “easy” to someone else. Every body is different, and Terracina said the subtle and not-so-subtle ways we’re fed that thinness is the ideal often clouds that. “If every person ate exactly the same foods and did exactly the same workouts, their bodies would still be different,” Terracina said. “For some, movement and nourishment yield a body that is considered plus size. For others, movement and nourishment yield a body that is considered thin (and a spectrum in between).” Everyone has different fitness goals, likes, and complications, and it’s none of my business to be concerned about what anyone else is doing.
Once I stopped comparing what everyone else was doing and started approaching fitness by what works for me, it was like a lightbulb went off.
It’s not your fault that equipment doesn’t work for you
Working out at home has been a great reminder that exercise can truly be as simple as your body. But this doesn’t mean the fitness industry is off the hook, as many products, equipment, and tools are made without plus-size people in mind. From seats on spin bikes being too small to flimsy discs that break in half when you step down on it (this has actually happened to me), this can make accessing this equipment difficult and uncomfortable for those with bigger bodies. Not to mention, we already see a lack of plus-size trainers and associates in gyms. Terracina explained this all goes back to the lie that fitness is about getting smaller and the focus on a thin body as the ideal, but the burden shouldn’t fall on you. “This is on the fitness industry to catch up and have equipment that suits everybody and employ leaders with a range of body diversity.”
Instead of worrying about how the equipment might not fit you or your body, put it on the leaders of the industry by demanding that they cater to you too. Perhaps this is more about my activism than how I work out, but I know I’ll feel more confident the next time I step into a gym knowing that if the spin bike doesn’t suit me, it’s not my fault.
I’ve adopted Health at Every Size (HAES)
Once I found the HAES movement, my life changed. I was sick of going to every doctor’s appointment and being told that every ailment, pain, or issue I was experiencing was because of my weight. It’s frustrating to be asked, “Have you tried losing weight?” after telling a doctor any and all symptoms. Once, I told a doctor I was having an allergic reaction, and they had the audacity to suggest it was because of my weight. (Fun fact: it was cats, not my large thighs, but whatever.) HAES is the idea that you can be fit and healthy even as an overweight person and that health is more holistic than a number on a scale. It’s a philosophy now practiced by many physicians, trainers, and more, including Newbry and Terracina.
“I don’t weigh my clients or take their measurements,” Newbry said. “I’ve seen so much shame accompany those tactics, and I want women to know the power of their body and experience all the benefits of exercise without having to focus on weight changes that may or may not happen.”
I want women to know the power of their body and experience all the benefits of exercise without having to focus on weight changes that may or may not happen.
Let go of shame
Experiencing pain or soreness during or after a workout? You’re not alone, and there’s nothing to be ashamed of. Painful joints or heavy breathing are a natural part of exercise and can happen to anyone at any fitness level. “Remember all size bodies experience health issues such as knee pain, joint pain, and injuries, so let go of any shame you might be carrying around if you are dealing with those issues,” Newbry said. If you need to rest or take a break, do it. Your right to exercise is not contingent upon the way your body responds; remember that.
Newbry also added that if past exercise trauma is valid and to consider reaching out to a loved one or therapist to discuss this as you begin your exercise journey. “If you’ve had deeply shaming experiences in your past with exercise, please have compassion for yourself and reach out for help if needed … Just know that you belong and have the right to move your body however you feel drawn to.” More
Whether you’re plus-size or not, one thing is for sure: adding some pieces to your wardrobe for the new season is about the most fun thing I’ve done all year. Maybe it’s some quarantine fatigue, or maybe it’s the ever-exciting begin of fall, but I’m more excited to get some new pieces this year than ever—even if I’m the only one who sees them. This fall, I’m shopping a solid mix of loungewear and trends, plus all the warm and cozy jackets the world has to offer. Here’s everything I’ve had my eye on this fall—and of course, it’s all available in plus-sizes.
Jackets + Outerwear