Our #ThisIsActive Q+As are part of an ongoing series to show how plus size women live their active lives. Share your active life with us on social media by using #ThisIsActive on Instagram or send your story to social @ junoactive.com for a chance to be featured.
Bethany is a voice-over artist, a half-marathoner, a photographer, a cookie connoisseur, a Maine enthusiast, a horror movie aficionado, and a pop-culture junkie who loves the sea and semi-colons. She works as the Editorial Director for an online learning company, and writes fiction from her home in the Finger Lakes of New York State.
One of my closest friends actually came up with the name Big Fit Deal. I wanted a name that encompassed both fitness and size. It’s short and catchy, and has an abbreviation that catches peoples’ attention. I’ve been blogging since summer of 2012. That’s when a personal trainer couldn’t understand that I wasn’t interested in working with her to lose weight. I was trying to heal from an injury so I could walk another half marathon! I chose to channel my frustration at how fat bodies are viewed and treated—especially when it comes to fitness and movement—into something positive and affirming. I wanted a place where I could talk about the issues that mattered most to me, when it comes to my body.
I say this all the time: Representation matters. We are inundated with images of one body type: thin, proportionate, with no visible “flaws.” On the rare occasions when we see bodies that look like ours, it’s almost impossible to process! I want to see body diversity everywhere—on TV and in film, in advertising, in music, on stage, in sports—so that all of us can see ourselves reflected somewhere, and realize that there is no one “right” way to have a body. Even in the plus-size world, we see bodies that have hourglass figures, no belly rolls, big arms, B-bellies, or cellulite. How are those of us with those features supposed to feel? When I go out in the world, I see so much diversity. I love it! And I want to see that same diversity reflected in the media we consume. I need to see it. I get so frustrated when I see an ad for, say, a fitness band or watch, and every body in it is slim!
My favorite way to stay active is whatever way makes my body feel good. I love walking. It’s pretty inexpensive and easy, as long as you have access to a good pair of shoes and safe sidewalks or trails. I love that walking can be as easy or as challenging as I want it to be. I can walk easy around the block, or I can go mile after mile, my heart pounding along with my feet. I’ve always loved the water, and when I had year-round access to a pool, I really enjoyed combining aqua aerobics classes with lap swimming several days a week. Free weights, yoga, pilates, spin class, kettlebells, workout DVDs—I’ve tried it all! I think the most important fitness tip I’ve come across (and shared with many people) is to find what you love. Don’t force yourself to work out, because chances are, you’ll come to dread or despise it. And don’t give up! There’s some form of movement out there that will work for you, no matter your level of strength, stamina, or ability. It might take you time to find it, but it’s out there.
I’d been walking about four miles at a time for awhile when, one cold winter morning in 2007, I had a thought: Can I walk a half marathon? I decided to try. I trained all spring and summer, and that fall I crossed my first finish line. It was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done—and one of the most rewarding. I soon found myself signing up for another, and another… And then I was asked to help train people who would be walking their first half marathon, while also fundraising for a local non-profit cancer support organization. Me, a coach?! I couldn’t believe it! I had never been active or athletic, and here I was, training people. Hearing someone say, “I knew if you could do it, I could do it, too,” was a highlight of every summer. Over the last 10 years, I’ve completed 12 half marathons, trained dozens of walkers, and met so many amazing people. Right now, I’m on the injured list, trying to come back from persistent calf trouble and the repercussions of a broken ankle. I dream of standing at another start line at some point in the future, but if that’s not in the cards, I’ll find another way to move my body that makes me happy.
My motivation comes from other people. I do this for the people who say, “I thought it was just me!” or “I don’t think I can,” or “I don’t think I should.” I do this for the people who share their stories of shame and fear and anger; I speak when their voices falter. I do this for the people who don’t have the strength to stand up on their own and fight to be treated decently, kindly, and fairly; I stand up for them. I do this for people who have been hurt and shunned and shamed, like I’ve been. I do this to show people that yes, you can participate, you can engage, you can ask for what you need, you can take up space. I do this because I can, and because I have to. I want to live in a world where people of all shapes and sizes are treated equally, but the only way we’re going to get that world is if we make it.
You know, it’s easy for me to sit here and say, “Just go out and try it!” But it’s hard, I know. I’ve been yelled at from passing cars, had people shout encouragement at me but not at any thin people, been laughed at and mocked. It’s never fun. On the occasion something like that’s happened to me, I’ve used my anger to fuel the fire inside me, instead of dampen it. But the majority of the time, one of two things has happened: I’ve been welcomed, or I’ve been ignored. You wouldn’t believe how many people are so busy worrying about themselves, or focusing on their own workout, that they don’t even notice you! And there are so many people who are glad to see you, and happy to help you, and glad you’re there. If you want to try a class, take up running, or hop in the pool, go ahead. Remember that this world exists for you, too. We’re working on making it a friendlier, more open-minded, and better-fitting place, but you can join us right now—as the world is, and as you are.