We are told that we are normalising obesity, but what is normal is to be verbally and physically abused because of your size. To be judged by others and sometimes by ourselves as stupid, greedy and lazy.
Others more qualified than I will speak about the self-flagellation that is so common with those who struggle with issues of weight and I am self aware enough to accept that I am often my harshest critic, but in this post, I want to speak about some of the weight stigma I have endured and how I hope to address it.
While I accept that weight stigma can sometimes be a perception formed by our fears and insecurities, it is often very real and it impacts on every aspect of a person’s life. Today, the World Obesity Federation reported that the UK is institutionally prejudiced against the obese and as a plus sized athlete, I have experienced it first hand.
At my heaviest, I vividly remember not only the howls of derision from packs of youths but also later the trajectory of the liquid being thrown at me from a passing car and the looks and the words from fitness professionals whose fitness to coach clients in fat loss now seem questionable.
It hit home that, no matter what I did, some would judge me. The same people who would scream at me to get off my fat arse would be the very people who would mock and attempt to derail my efforts to do so. Or sigh when I stepped onto packed public transport and look at me disdainfully when I order Diet Coke!
That I kept on track was testament to my own discipline, determination and desire to change my life and sadly nothing to do with a supportive nurturing society that respected and accepted me.
For regardless of what some might suggest, there isn’t such a thing as fat acceptance. At least not at its basest level.
Few would accept that I was articulate, driven or talented. Less would accept that my size was not a result of stupidity or greed and now, as a fitness blogger, I do sadly wonder if I am fully accepted as a positive role model.
So that is why I am so passionate about the Decathlon UK campaign to promote sport for the many. And why I am proud to have my story chosen to launch the campaign
#SportForEveryBody is not about promoting obesity nor is it some slick marketing campaign. This brilliant campaign from Decathlon UK features everyday athletes of all abilities ages, ethnicities, shapes and sizes who some look up to and who all share one thing in common.
We love sport and being active. We love the feeling of being outdoors; the joy of movement and the bonds of friendship derived from joining teams and clubs and sharing our stories. We love playing and having fun.
Sport can be fun and regardless of your shape there is an activity for you. Something that will make you believe in yourself and help you show the trolls who might doubt you that sport is for the many.
We are the many with 63% of the UK population overweight or obese, but how often do you see us represented in a positive light? How often do you see a person of size featured in campaigns to encourage the nation to move more?
If we are to end weight stigma and empower and enable people of all body sizes to embrace the benefits of sport and physical activity, we have to dispel the notion that sports are not for us. We have to provide more environments that encourage participation and inclusion and we have to have campaigns that speak to us and with us and not down at as.
For two years, I have looked at my regained weight as a failure on my part; as something to be ashamed and embarrassed about and something to hold me back, but look at the smile on my face and you will see the power of sport at any size.
I am not active to help lose fat . I am active to help me enjoy life. I might not be the fastest or fittest and I might not ever grace the cover of Cosmo, but like Tess Holliday, I have a similar response to those who say that I have no right to be a fitness influencer or fitness professional or that I am promoting obesity.
I’m not recruiting people – I’m encouraging them to move more and it just happens to come from a bigger body.”
I am here to say that there is a Sport for Every Body
And I am here to do much more. In the past, I have launched events, mobilised armies of walkers and used my story to inspire others. I love helping people and I live to see others share my love for being active. I am going to use my passion, my experience, my qualifications and my connections and roles across various organisations to bring sport to every body.
And if you are a sports brand or organisation planning a new campaign, ask what you can do to represent and connect with the many. Include us, value us and see us as the athletes we are, just in bigger bodies.