7 Assumptions People Make About Plus-Size Women in the Gym That Are Just Wrong
I've been a plus-size athlete and trainer to plus-size women for over a decade. Although 67 percent of American women are considered plus size, they often seem to be…missing. They're missing from ads and magazine covers and from our narrative of what it means to be fit and healthy and strong. The plus-size athlete is rarely seen in the media, and people sometimes treat the term like an oxymoron.
Our societal message. After coaching thousands of plus-size women in the gym, I am here to bust the fables that we’ve commonly come to believe as facts about the larger woman. I have a new narrative to write about plus-size women in fitness and sport based on my stories and truths from the trenches. Many plus-size women are healthy, fit, and killing it at the gym. And if you've ever doubted it (or been doubted), read on.
Myth # 1: Plus-size women at the gym are newcomers.
There is an assumption-one I've encountered many times-that larger-bodied women are newcomers to gym culture. Many people believe the myth that the avid gym goers must be lean and buff, but that's not always the case. It's time to widen our scope and narrative around what it means to be healthy and fit. There are plenty of plus-size women who are gym veterans. Fitness comes with great diversity, and a fit body can be any size.
Myth # 2: Plus-size women at the gym are there to lose weight.
Our societal message hammers us with the praise of thin bodies. It's no wonder when we see that she's trying to, or should, lose weight. While that may be her goal, there's also a growing population. It's a major misconception that all plus-size women are unhappy with their bodies and are on mission to be thin. There are so many good reasons to work out—strength, energy, mental health, cardiovascular fitness. Not that you need to explain to anyone why you're doing it.
Myth # 3: Plus-size women at the gym need encouragement.
This is a tough one because many people, plus- size or otherwise, feel intimidated by gym culture, so encouragement is nice. But many times I've been the subject of encouragement that felt singled out and disingenuous based on my body size. Our culture needs to move away from the anomaly. Although intentions are often in the right place, I recommend the same encouragement you would extend to a thinner gym goer.
Myth # 4: Plus-size women at the gym are unhealthy.
Plus-size women have been living under the cloud that they are unhealthy and lazy for many years. More often than not, this a result of our society’s conditioning of the fearmongering reporting of the obesity epidemic. It’s true, some plus-size women have health conditions, but so do some thinner women. We are quick to equate thin with healthy and assume larger bodies must be unhealthy. But it doesn't work that way. Quite simply, you can not tell a person about her -59.
Myth #5: A plus-size woman at the gym can’t be the trainer.
Consider me a human myth-buster! Yes, plus-size women can be in fitness leadership! It's just not the case that trainers are only young, lean, and buff. Every "body" can pursue their dreams of becoming a fitness professional. I've had many people seem surprised when I tell them I'm a personal trainer and I will not be professing that navigating the fitness industry as much as a plus-size woman has been all rainbows and unicorns. As the scope of our health and fitness narrative expands, women of all shapes and sizes are stepping into fitness roles and leading the pack.
Myth # 6: Plus-size women do not work out hard enough.
Actually, plus-size women are working every bit as hard as you can. When your body is larger, it takes more energy (calories) to move the body's mass. Plus-size women who perform push-ups or squats are pushing more mass than their thinner counterparts. See also: Newton's Second Law.
Myth # 7: Plus-size women at the gym do not know what they are doing.
Hopefully by now we know that many plus-size women at the gyms are well versed in exercise. Some are long-time gym goers, some even work at the gym and lead others. It's true also, that some are brand new to exercise and may need assistance (as is sometimes the case with thin patrons). We can not know her woman's gym experience based on her size and we need to stop assuming this is her first rodeo.
Louise Green is a plus-size trainer, the founder of the fitness program Body Exchange, and author of Big Fit Girl: Embrace the Body You Have. Folder: Instagram @ LouiseGreen_BigFitGirl, Twitter @ Bigfitgirl, Facebook @louisegreen.bigfitgirl
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