So Now We’re Shaming People for Approaching Fitness While ‘Fat’?

© Nike

Like me, you’ve probably seen the above image of a ‘plus-size’ mannequin dressed in fitness apparel, which Nike just recently added to the visual display of a London Oxford Street store. Upon seeing it, my immediate reaction was excitement, as I always encourage my health coaching clients to bring more fashion to their fitness routines—No matter their shape or size. This is actually the premise behind my “Get Fit, Live Well, Be Fabulous” mantra.

I wholeheartedly believe that wearing fashionable, flattering fitness apparel helps make people feel excited and more enthusiastic about the workouts to come. In fact, research has revealed a direct correlation between what people wear and how they perform, as well as their motivation levels and even their likelihood of injury during workouts.

Related Article: 3 Ways to Get Energized and Motivated to Work Out

Funny, when I was younger, I used to say: “When I grow up, I wanna be like Flo Jo!”—Of course, referring to the late American track and field legend Florence Griffith Joyner, well-known for performing high-speed sprints in daring one-legged leotards with a full face of makeup and long, painted nails. Flo Jo just had this amazing ability to move with incredible speed, grace and style in a way that, to me, made fitness seem more approachable and appealing.

In spite of my ‘plus-size’ status at the time, I still aspired to be like Flo Jo—Fit, Well, and Fabulous! Back in the 80s, I was infamous for putting on my mother’s lipstick and cutting ‘legs’ out of my leggings to achieve that fabulous ‘Flo Jo look’ while following the “20 Minute Workout” on TV.

To this day, you’ll rarely catch me exercising without looking like a bit of a fashionista.

Now, while working out with a full face of makeup or freshly manicured nails isn’t at all a necessity, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with people attempting to amp up their workout styles—No matter their shape or size. And, for this reason, I commend Nike for their decision to go against the traditionally ‘sizeist’ marketing campaigns of most popular fitness brands.

But, of course, in response to their bold exhibition of ‘curviness’, Nike was immediately slammed for ‘normalizing’ obesity and promoting ‘unhealthy’ living. Interestingly enough, little attention was given to the para-sport mannequins displayed nearby, which is purely indicative of exclusion and outright fat shaming.

Related Article: Appearances Can Be Deceiving: Why Being Thin Doesn’t Equate to Being Healthy

I honestly don’t know what the hell is wrong with people.

While I thoroughly understand the health risks associated with carrying excess weight, I prefer to focus instead on the health benefits of engaging in more positive lifestyle behaviors—This includes the many benefits of exercising regularly and maintaining adequate physical fitness.

Isn’t exercise and fitness promotion a premise behind that ‘well-intentioned’ fat shaming anyway?

If that’s the case, what’s the point in encouraging overweight folks to exercise more, if they have no fitness apparel to exercise in?

Many are currently ‘works in progress’!

Are they supposed to wear baggy shirts and sweat pants until they’ve ‘earned’ the right to wear fashionable, flattering fitness apparel?

Are they not allowed to feel fashionably fit at every leg of their weight loss journey?

Losing weight aside, the fact of the matter is that many overweight people nowadays have totally embraced their size and shifted their focus to living healthier, happier lives—This includes the simple act of exercising more. Unfortunately, society will only view them as ‘fat’, disgusting, and shameful—Even though they’re attempting to get fit and live well.

For all we know, these people are making improvements in several areas of their lives—Getting healthier, sleeping better, and feeling happier and stronger every day. To me, this is more commendable than those folks resorting to starvation, excessive medication use, injections and other unhealthy extremes in order to fit into societal size norms.

Related Article: Is It Possible to Be Fit and Fat?

But we’re essentially telling overweight people that fitness is only for the thin and ‘already’ fit. We’re saying they’re not allowed to be look and feel good about themselves and their exercise efforts until they’ve reached some socially approved size.

That’s total BS!

What’s most disturbing is that a lot of the criticism towards Nike has come from the mouths of so-called fitness ‘professionals’—Folks who should in fact be guiding their attention towards potentially supporting and, perhaps, even cheering people on for their obvious pursuits of fitness.

As a health coach, educator and speaker, who trains fitness professionals to be better fitness professionals, I can certainly attest that exclusion and shame are ineffective as motivational techniques.

Better to promote, self-esteem and confidence, self-love and body positivity for the greater good.

The introduction of plus-sized mannequins is indeed a step in the right direction and kudos to Nike for taking that step—Even though it’s not a popular one.

At the end of the day, the notion of being fashionable and fit doesn’t just apply to the thin physique. No matter your shape or size, I encourage you to love yourself, embrace the skin you’re in, and celebrate every milestone along your fitness journey. Whether you’re a size 2 or a size 20, go ahead and treat yourself to a stylish set of fitness apparel and be fabulous—Because you deserve it!

Related Article: Don’t Let Opinions of Others Interfere with Your Weight Loss Efforts