Body Image

You’re fat, stop that… somehow?

9 May, 2009


Photo by Kate O’Brien

I haven’t spoken much about body issues here, or about how I’m a fat advocate, but I figure this is as good a platform as any to discuss my own issues with fatness*. It is not acceptable to pick on, alienate, ostracize or discriminate against fat people, and I’m continually astounded that it’s still seen as totally ok to do this – within the media and on a person to person basis. One of the things that really gets me going is the lack of a basic necessity for all humans who wish to participate in “civilised society” – clothing.

This year I have been focusing more on my fitness, and I have adopted a Health at Every Size approach to my exercising and general wellbeing. I don’t believe you need to be thin to be fit, and I’ve certainly proved to my new personal trainer that I am fitter than even she expected! I have been wearing a denim skirt to exercise in, but it limits movement and does not wick away perspiration. So I’ve been trying to find plus sized active wear… and surprise, surprise, it’s really hard. It makes me want to break my no swears rule! So instead, I’ll capslock…

WHY, IF SOCIETY WANTS ME TO BE THIN, CAN I NOT FIND CLOTHES TO EXERCISE IN? It just doesn’t make sense.

If alarmist news reports are worth believing, why is it still acceptable for retailers to relegate a mere 2 metres squared out of their hundreds of metres available to plus size clothing. Even worse – I have been into more than one retailer who puts the plus size clothes right next to active wear… WHERE YOU CAN’T BUY CLOTHES FOR EXERCISING IN A PLUS SIZE!!!!! I don’t get it. Are you trying to shame customers out of your store?! Do you not want my delicious fat dollar? That’s ok, I’ll take it overseas and buy things on the internet instead, even though I shouldn’t have to!

Another hilarious paradox is the odd abuse you’ll cop as an exercising fat person on the street. WTF? It’s hard to take the taunts seriously when you’re the dude who is literally treading the healthful path and your aggressor is sitting on their arse in a car (moving at 60 kph, what a chicken!)

Apparently there are retailers in the US who sell tights and sports bras online, but I refuse to accept that this is the only option. I am on a mission to bring well priced, great quality active gear for plus sized humans to Australia. If you can help, I would love to hear from you. If you are an Australian retailer already covering this angle, your marketing is not working. I can help you. (Also, I’m not talking about bike shorts that go to size 20 because the size bracket for fatness goes well beyond that – fatter people want to wear proper active wear as well!)

I have lots of fat friends. If you do right by us, we’ll do right by you! The Fatosphere is wider (lol) than designers, retailers and manufacturers realise.

* If you even think about commenting to tell me that fat is unhealthy, I will probably mock you into oblivion. Read this first and come back when you can comprehend your own bigotry.

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  • Beautifully said m’dear!

    As a woman in her *ahem* mid-thirties, who has not known life as anything but fat since she was 11 years old, I’ve been fighting this particular battle for some time.

    You’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t. To many people, if you’re fat, you do not deserve to be alive. Or if you must be alive, just sit at home eating yourself to an early death and don’t dare be seen by anyone who isn’t fat. Cos that’s all that fat people do right, sit around and eat?

    I used to be an advocate for buying Australian. But then I went to the US and boy was it an eye-opener. Plus size stores that are in every single shopping centre. That hire plus sized staff. That have a HUGE variety of clothing, from the knickers outwards, including shoes and accessories made to fit plus sized feet, arms, necks, calves etc. Customers are treated with respect and dignity. And the clothes are not ugly and unfashionable.

    When an Australian store can do that for me, at a reasonable price, I will gladly shop there. Until then, I know my size and what suits me from ranges like Lane Bryant and Torrid, so that’s where I will shop.

  • I think it’s high time that Australian fat people started becoming more vocal – I see how the Fat Acceptance and HAES movements are gaining ground with every day in the US, and it makes me believe that I can help bring the ground swell down here too! I guess that’s one of the motivations for blogging about this subject here.

    I’m so with you – I’d love to buy Australian, but there’s nothing. The dreamer in me has always longed to start a plus sized fashion house here!

  • I smell a great business opportunity here Nat. I’d love to help. We should talk. DM or email me if you’re interested.

  • Great post, and so spot on!

    I am also trying to kick my butt into gear and start being more active (walking/jogging etc) and tried finding DECENT clothes to wear. But found nothing. Unless I felt the need to squish my butt into a pair of running shorts which are shorter than the average pair of undies, mind you!

    And forget about buying a bra to run in. God, I need to wear a sports bra then a tank top over that (2 sizes too small so it hold everything in place). Ridiculous!

    Until someone in Australia finally realises there is a market for this kind of clothing, I, too, have resigned to buying online from overseas.

  • Oh I’ve been smelling opportunity for a few years but haven’t known how to take advantage of it! I’ll get in contact :)

  • The bra situation is really worrying me actually – I’m blessed with the bust and cursed with the back pain!

  • I’m pretty sure Bonds at Myer do some activewear for plus sizes. Atm, I think there’s tshirts, trackies and hoodies. But that is literally the only one I can think of. There should be more. I smell opportunity!

  • Oooo, cupcake!

    (Interesting article in The Australian today, btw.)

  • The cupcake wasn’t for any kind of consumption, rather one of Kate’s fossilised props :P

    I just scoured The Australian’s site and found the “Off the scale” article! The last two paragraphs are heartening :D

    http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,25447510-5012694,00.html

  • It would be awesome if Bonds extended that to bike shorts, and general short type things too! I have one of the hoodies though, and the quality isn’t the great – the bottom is all stretched out and it shrunk in the wash, so it’s huge and too short for me… loller!

  • Bec

    You wanna know something stupid? I’ve been putting off exercising because my exercise pants are too small. I know!

    I did actually manage to get pants to fit from Big W and Kmart – it’s rare but some days you’ll be lucky.

  • It’s not stupid, it’s a pretty valid and frustrating barrier to getting out there and moving around!

    Today I actually found some men’s Spalding 2xl tights in Target completely by accident!! They are ankle length, but there was also thigh length sorts too!

  • Some girls I used to work with told me about a place in the Valley (You’re in Brissie right?) called ‘Big Girls Don’t Cry’ that sells bras for us chestily-gifted individuals. No idea if they do sports bra’s though, but they are supposed to have really good normal bras. A tad pricey, but I get that with any bra I buy, as I am not a K-mart Bonds 12A….

    I am planning on checking Big Girls Don’t Cry out as soon as funds allow. Their website is: http://www.biggirls.com.au/

  • I have been to BGDC and I wasn’t really impressed with the service or the selection. I am so fussy :P

    The bras for cup sizes F + were at least $40 extra, and the attendant, erm, attending to me was rough and I think she didn’t size me correctly as I came out of there with bras a cup bigger than my last fitting – they still ride up at the back and the wires dig under my arms!

    All About Eve, which is in the city, is reportedly much better than BGDC. A friend of mine loved the service and her purchases! So I’m going to check them out next :D

  • Bec

    Can’t say I’m fussed on length, just so long as they stop the chaffing. lol

  • Kay

    Target is where I’ve always gotten all my exercise gear. They may not look as funky as some of the standard varieties but they do the job which is what is most important right? They stock up to size 26…there is always plenty of 22-26 left on the racks. The ones that go first are the Plus size 16s (what I currently wear) because there never seems to be enough standard 18s on the rack….and while I’m at it, why is it that the Standard 18 is the same size as a Plus 16? Why are jeans and other full length pants designed for Amazon length women’s legs?? I might be fat but that doesn’t mean I’ve increased proportionately in height. WTF are they thinking?

  • I was actually in Target today, and couldn’t find tights in my size (22-24) in the women’s plus size section (though they had a heap of tops… with no bottoms to coordinate with, ha!)

    The funny thing about pant lengths is that they’re always too short for me. Obviously they are getting things horribly, horribly wrong!!

  • I hear ya Natalie! I’m of the bustier persuasion shall we say and it’s flat-out impossible to find a sports bra I actually like.

    Well, that’s untrue. I did find one I love but it became harder and harder to get one until I had to go to Brava Lingerie in Prahan. They had it but unfortunately at the full and freaken expensive price. It irritates me to no end that as soon as you creep over a c cup, bras double, triple in price. It’s not like they’re using that much more fabric.

    My rant about price is not a condemnation of Brava (http://www.bravalingerie.com.au – might help you out in your quest for a decent sports bra and they do free shipping) but rather the manufacturers who think it’s acceptable to rip off the women with big boobs. I’ve always wonder if they assume a person’s IQ is somehow related to their bra size – the larger the boobs the stupider they must be. But that’s my personal beef…

    There are plenty of scientific studies out there that clearly say it’s better to be overweight and fit then skinny and unfit. If you eat crap and don’t exercise, you’re going to be unhealthy, even if you are as skinny as a rake. I’ve seen some mightly unfit skinny people at my gym. The worse one was a girl who was so thin if she stood sideways next a to pole she would’ve disappeared. She got on the bike next to me and started peddling. Her heart rate shot up to 180 in about five minute and she wasn’t even working that hard! At first I thought her bike’s computer had gone a little crazy (as they’re wont to do) but it stayed over 180 until she started to slow down. If it’d be me, I would’ve stopped because 180 beats per minute is not healthy and I would’ve been worried I was about to have a heart attack.

    Everyone should strive to be as healthy as they can with what they’ve got. It’s just unfortunate we seem to be living in a society that’s obsessed with how we appear.

  • Kay

    I never never wear tights so didn’t look for those but they had crop and full length pants…and when I say full length I mean for the Amazon women in the crowd with really long legs. I just where the cropped ones – they end up being full length on me!

  • Eddwina

    Hi Natalie, relly like your blog. Started reding it a few weeks ago and love your positive attitude.

    This OZ company does fitness wear up to size 26…

    http://www.blastbodywear.com.au/index.php?cPath=16

    Good luck with the PT, I’m doing it too at the moment and I love it!

  • I didn’t like BGDC either. Their stock is HUGELY expensive (I couldn’t believe how expensive!) and the women there treated me like I was some pitiable fat child to be chastised and shoved into whatever THEY thought suitable for me. Not as a valued customer who had the intelligence and style to choose for herself.

    I now buy my bras from Lane Bryant, get them sent to a girlfriend in California (free shipping) and then she mails them to me.

    I will have a look at All About Eve though.

  • oh well said!
    may I add that it’s almost impossible to find maternity clothes/nursing bras in plus sizes and even Myer – my usual spot for clothes buying – couldn’t help as their maternity stuff was for sizes 8-16. Luckily I found some awesome nursing bras at target (and with their 20% underwear sale they were only $14 each). so yeah… pregnancy plus sizes seem to be non existant. I kind of refuse to pay more than $50 for a bra because if I scounge around target/myer/kmart long enough then I can usually find something awesome for a lot less.

    xx

  • hey babe, that is a beautiful picture. and worthy post.

  • Please, please… if you guys do do something – remember that even us fat girls have waists.

    And, really? We hate beading and florals and you know what? Hiding under a tent just makes me bigger. Bring on the Spots and stripes and at least I can have fun in a circus tent!

    (please don’t throw things at me; followed @djackmanson over here – I’m all for fitness too, but still, I’ll never be a tiny teeny!!)

  • I just wanted to say that I found both your posts and all the links that you provided to be very interesting. They were all impressive and it was gratifying to read your post. Like you, I think someone should be accepted at they are, regardless of their size.

  • well said natalie! i get abused for being fat on a semi-regular basis here on the image-obsessed gold coast. last time i walked up to the young male in question and asked him if i knew him, or if i had ever hurt him or his family. he pretty much said nothing as i pointed out that he had no business targeting me. confront and shame, that’s my answer.

  • That’s amazing! I am so doing that next time.

  • It makes me feel good to read that you think I’m positive! I have battled depression for a long time so I’m on the right track, horah!

    That link is FABULOUS! I think I’m going to be dropping some dollars there soon!

  • Hi:

    I just wanted to let you know about LILA+. http://www.lilaplus.com. We are dedicated to providing workout wear and active wear for plus size women. That is all we sell. Everything from running, cycling, tennis, yoga, golf, swim, equestrian, hiking and more. Please take a look at our site and let me know how we can improve to be your go-to-shop for plus size active wear. We too believe in health at any size.

  • Zoe

    omg, all of this. I would love to have nice, attractive, well-fitting workout gear! One day…

    Also, I loved All About Eve, but it should come with the caveat that they are aimed at small girls with big boobs – most of their range tops out at a size 16/38 back size. They do have some bigger stuff, but it all seemed to be black and beige, judging by the catalogue. I am fortunate enough to have a fairly small ribcage, so I got sized a 16F – if I’d been any bigger through the back, I probably would have been SOL.

  • I also have to nod to the mythical notion that us fat women must somehow always be tall and broad shouldered. Being 5 ft 3, my efforts at shopping are often twarted by the jump into tent style style for anyone over a size 16…

  • kylie

    This is the first time I’ve read your blog and let me say – I love it! I have had the exact same thing happen to me. My fat offends you, but when I go to the gym that offends you even more?…what?? Well articulate and intelligent blog. As far as work out gear goes, I can’t live without my bonds yoga pants… :) I go for plain tops, usually target. When working out I do sacrifice fuction over form, thou.

  • I second the vote for Target! Though, it is hard to find fattie sizes there, if I’m motivated enough to go weekly for awhile, I can usually catch them when what I need is in-stock. It’s easier to find bottoms than tops, usually, and I’ll often get the largest size they have in an exercise top from the “regular” section. Hell, the stuff is usually a cotton-spandex blend, so it’s stretchy.

    Finding GOOD sports bras can be difficult, and I’ve given up finding them at stores. I can only find what I need online. It’s SO vital that we have good support as fat girls when we’re working out! Heck, I dunno about you, but I could put someone’s eye out with these things. ;)

    That said, Danskin (http://www.danskin.com/plus.html) is my go-to store for sports bras, and a lot of my work-out clothing.

    You might try calling some local dance studios with adult programming, and say you’re a plus-size adult in one of their classes, and ask if they can recommend a place to get dance clothing to wear to class. Odds are, they’ll be able to tell you of any local places that might have what you need. I used to take dance, and the clothing I’d wear back then for class is pretty much what I wear now to the gym. :)

  • I gave up on exercise gear long, long ago. There’s a dismal range of clothes for fatties. And most of the clothing makers seem to assume we all want to cover up every square inch.

    I have great cleavage, I like deep V necks. But try finding them in a larger size – forgeddit.

    I think I may start going to a tailor.

    Natalie – if you and your mates start a clothing line, please let me know. It’s actually the photo of you here (with the cute unmbrella) that first attracted me to your blog. It’s so refreshing to see pretty clothes in larger sizes.

    xxx kate

  • RubyFoo

    Hi,
    I have been reading your blog for about 7 months, and this is the first time I have left a comment.

    I find your blog super enjoyable, educational, inspiring, funny and extremely well written. Thank you for being you and sharing your thoughts with the rest of us.

    Just wanted to let you know about an Australian online store that has a good selection of casual and active wear. http://www.virtushop.com.au The sizes range from 12-24. Their winter sale is still on. You might find a bargain.

    Keep up the fantastic work.

    RF

  • Shopping Queen

    There is an online store called Style and Substance that sells all sorts of clothing – and they have really nice activewear. it's http://www.styleandsubstance.com.au

  • I'm a size 22-24 and these days, although I do have to get lucky, if I pop into Kmart or Target then sometimes they'll have stuff in the larger sizes. Or, the last time I went, I just had to go to the Mr Big section and buy men's workout clothes.

  • Kthx

    “WHY, IF SOCIETY WANTS ME TO BE THIN, CAN I NOT FIND CLOTHES TO EXERCISE IN?”

    Oh, it makes lots of sense, actually.

    The vast majority of people who exercise aren’t fat. BECAUSE THEY EXERCISE. High demand, high supply.
    The vast majority of fat people don’t exercise. Because if they did, they wouldn’t be fat to begin with. Low demand, low supply.

    Capitalism is a bitch, eh? Should have thought about it before eating that 3rd big mac for breakfast, fatty.

  • I actually got XL running tights from Nike and they stretch so much they cover my size 18 (nearly 20) butt, and they are SO comfy!

  • Also, if you need a sports bra, I can’t recommend Enell highly enough. I have DDD boobies, and once those suckers are harnessed into an Enell, they ain’t goin’ NOWHERE.

  • Jyri

    Try being a male…it’s even worse. Fat men supposedly ‘don’t exist’. And then add gay to that and you pretty much want to die. :'(

  • loveyourselfnaturally.com

    It is absolutely true that the outward appearance of your body does not necessarily tell the entire story of your health. I am a yoga teacher, and many of my students are ferociously skinny and obsessed with their weight. They are unhealthy, not only in their body but in their spirit. They are also trapped in their body image. I live in a wealthy town in the U.S. and I have private clients where, sometimes I am their 3rd personal trainer of the day! This is not healthy. I also have a larger women in my class who are incredibly flexible and healthy and very happy.
    I really don’t care what you look like so long as you are treating your body with respect. I am a thin woman, but I am not skinny by any means. I am perfectly healthy for my height and age and I have been able to maintain this by educating myself on nutrition and good health. All the women in my family are fat – it is in my family thought DNA – but they never committed to their health. They were always on diets.
    I was never into sports but I have found a yoga practice that both pushes and empowers me to stay fiercely connected to what makes me feel good. I eat a tub of ice-cream on occasion but I am also accutely aware of when I can do that.
    Here is a blog that I frequently read, it offers great information on food and keeping healthy and is a great read. I think you might find this interesting http://www.thesweetbeet.com/sugars-down-side/

    I love that you are advocating for healthy body image. It is so important. When you have self-love and self-respect you only attract more of that in your life.

  • Calermista

    You have to realize that all corporations are there to make as much money as possible. I’m not surprised that they don’t make many workout clothes for plus size people because they think there is no market because they assume that big people don’t want to exercise. It’s a vicious cycle really.