What was known as the body-positivity movement is now a new world order. From advertising and television to lingerie and fashion lines, different body types are becoming increasingly more accepted and normalized. That said, the one space where we continue to routinely see cultural pushback is in the realm of fitness.
Being physically fit does not necessarily mean being a size 2 with six-pack abs. Bodies come in all shapes and sizes, and physically fit bodies are no different. But finally there is a push to more widely accept physical fitness without weight loss — a long-overdue end to the theory that you can’t be fat and fit.
When I was growing up, I was an active kid. I was on the volleyball and track teams in high school. In college, I swam all four years and made captain. Something I noticed early on was that I was always the biggest girl on every single sports team. That fact came with stares and the surprised looks that I wasn’t only on a sports team — I was actually good. Sadly, I never felt good enough; no matter how many races or games I won, I was always focused on my weight.
As I’ve gotten into my mid-20s, my focus on weight loss has waned. Now, at 26 years old and 220 pounds, I just recently took my first gymnastics class and participated in my first triathlon.
There are many fit, plus-size women like me who are challenging the status quo — and their bodies: Jore Marshall, a professional dancer, Jessamyn Stanley, an internationally known yoga instructor, and Kristy Fassio, a body-positive personal trainer — to name a few. I spoke to these three women about times they have been discriminated against, why representation matters in the fitness world, and the different ways they’re taking care of their bodies rather than obsessing about their weight.
Kristy Fassio’s fitness journey started after she had her first baby in 2007, when she joined a fitness class that incorporated strollers into the workouts.
“It was my first fitness community,” Fassio tells me. “There was no encouragement to lose weight, just an open space to move my body. I remember lying on my back that first day, staring up at the trees thinking, ‘I could do this every day.'” Fast forward 11 years, and Fassio is a personal trainer and owns a company called Fit From Within, where she’s helping clients to accept the bodies they have.
So, how does a plus-size personal trainer challenge her body and gain confidence? Her daily workouts consist of walking, strength training, tap dancing, and doing away with diet culture. “I moved away from anything regimented when it comes to fitness, and now I ask myself, ‘How do I want to move?’ and I do that,” the Washington-state-based trainer says.
“Your body is yours. Learn to cherish it,” Fassio adds. “Listen to it. Love to run? Run with your body. Swim? Put a fantastic swimsuit on that body and get in the water. Act? Get up onstage and shine. Do not hide!”