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On the other hand, there’s the rise of plus-sized models, and bloggers posting pictures of themselves looking glamorous in their underwear. We need more normalisation of larger, average women doing sport.
A great step forward was Sport England’s recent This Girl Can campaign, which for the first time portrayed normal-sized women, sweaty and exercising, and not all wearing make-up, just enjoying being active. “Running has taught me to appreciate what my body can do despite its size or how it looks.
But that’s changing and more women are feeling comfortable getting out there and exercising, whatever their size. Being plus-size doesn’t mean you can’t work out, it just means you’re a plus-size,” she says, adding that rather than getting negative comments while she runs, she often gets hit on. “I run to clear my head and to focus – losing weight isn’t one of my main concerns.” Erica isn’t alone.
Using the Instagram hashtag #curvyyoga, people like Jessamyn Stanley (@mynameisjessamyn) – whose pictures of herself practising yoga went viral – are proving that fit bodies do indeed come in all shapes and sizes.
A 2010 paper by cardiologist C Noel Bairey-Merz found that Body Mass Index (BMI) was not a reliable predictor of health, and that women who exercise but were overweight were less likely to develop cardiovascular disease than women who were thin but not fit.
“Exercising regularly reduces all the co-morbities associated with being overweight or obese, including your risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer, osteoporosis and dementia,” says Dr Loosemore.
I was there because I’d pulled a muscle in my back – what did that have to do with my weight? I had been running for about nine years and whether it was medics like this or people in the street yelling ‘Run fatty, run’, the fact that I was fit, had run a marathon and countless 10k races never factored into it. I thought, ‘If this is happening to me, how many other thousands of women is this happening to? I took the phrase ‘Too fat to run’ and made it the strapline for my website. I don’t see the word ‘fat’ as an insult now – instead I’m reclaiming it.
We’ve even got ‘Too fat to run’ T-shirts printed – they sell like hot cakes on the site. You get news reports portraying fat people as slothful, eating Big Macs on park benches.
She lives in south-west London Size: 14 (was an 18 before she started doing yoga in 2003) Exercise regime: daily yoga sessions for between 30 minutes and two hours, plus teaching classes. But even at the age of 13 I remember hating my ‘batwing’ arms, and, despite the progress I have made in other areas, I still don’t love them.Occasionally drinks alcohol and eats biscuits, cake or chocolate.“‘You can’t run a marathon, you’re too fat,’ said the locum doctor. If it had happened a few years earlier, I would have cried, but by then I had started my blog and felt empowered by the numbers of women who contacted me, inspired by my story.“That risk is reduced regardless of your weight, it’s the fitness that’s important.” He agrees that society has for too long been fixated on weight and shape and that needs to shift. What determines your health is how physically active you are, not how thin you are.” Julie Creffield, 37, is the founder of Too Fat to Run and the author of four books about running.