Well-known Aussie comedian Hannah Gadsby tells a funny but frustrating tale about a time she was cycling up a hill and a man shouted out a car window at her: “Hey fatty! Do some exercise!” Let’s re-read that sentence, shall we, focusing on the phrase ‘she was cycling up a hill…’
As ridiculously ironic as this story is, it evokes perfectly the challenge I regularly face as an active plus-size woman. The very thing we’re meant to do to be fit and healthy – exercise – comes with opportunities to be mocked and ways to be excluded. The fear of failure or ridicule can be a real barrier to anyone wanting to make lifestyle changes, take up sport or sign up to a new program, so the more we can do to break down that fear, the better.
The Worst Workout Gear
Workout clothes for women are mostly tight, short and revealing, three styles of clothing larger people are told not to wear. Spend more than a little time on the internet and you can find Tumblr posts, Facebook groups and even news stories making fun of bigger people for the clothes they wear and the way they present themselves.
So, we get told off for wearing the very clothes we need in order to live a healthy and active lifestyle! These clothes also tend not to come larger than a size 14 or, if you’re lucky, size 16.
“Lose weight,” people say. “Sure,” I reply. “But do you want me to come to the gym naked?” Probably not.
Daggy, Frumpy and Fed Up
Buying plus-size clothes can be a nerve-wracking or upsetting experience, especially in a sportswear shop designed for typically sporty people. I’ve often wished I could just cut through the awkwardness, march into the store and shout, “Where do I find the workout clothes for fat chicks, please?” Why beat around the bush if that’s what I’m looking for, right?
Instead, I end up putting together incredibly daggy combinations of poor-quality leggings and over-sized men’s T-shirts. It’s hardly an ensemble that represents my lifestyle. In fact, wearing these kind of clothes makes me not want to leave the house!
Going to the gym, I want to feel like I fit in and I want to wear clothes designed for my body and the way it moves. I don’t want to hide it under frumpy dark colours like I’m ashamed to be who I am, because whatever size you are, the most attractive qualities you can exhibit are confidence and comfort.
Workout Gear I Want to Wear
I want breathable, durable fabrics and a range of options for cut, length and colour. If you think I sound demanding, remember that I’m only expecting the same range of clothing options that everyone else gets. Affordability is important. Now, I know affordability is important for everyone, but it’s especially the case for someone trying to lose weight because they may not need the clothes for as long as someone who’s maintaining their size.
We live in a country with a beautifully diverse population. A whole variety of races and cultures make up Australia, and with them we have people of all different shapes and sizes. We’re a country proud of our sporty, outdoor lifestyle, so isn’t it about time we made that lifestyle equally available to everyone? Creating colourful, fun and comfortable workout clothes for plus-size women isn’t rocket science, so why isn’t everyone doing it?
Here’s the Gear I Want
Well, someone has, and that someone is Michelle Bridges. Her new Active+ range comes in styles and colours I love and, best of all, they fit me and suit my body shape. Finally I can enjoy working out feeling like myself instead of feeling awkward and uncomfortable.
While I have your attention, I’m going to ask one quick favour. Next time you see someone cycling up a hill, just leave them to go about their day. Seriously. And if you see a larger person at the gym, whatever they’re wearing, stick to the rule your parents taught you – if you haven’t got anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all!
The Michelle Bridges Active+ range caters for sizes 18 to 26 and is now available at Big W stores nationwide. Find your nearest store.
Maeve Marsden is a writer, project manager, director, producer and performer who lends her passions to the arts, as well as to social justice campaigns and organisations she believes in.