Fat Mannequin

So, earlier this month, I saw that Nike is introducing a new, larger bodied mannequin into their UK store – not sure about their other stores, but hopefully in Canada someday soon! I was excited! I remember being excited and taking pictures about 5 years ago when I saw a mannequin in their store in Toronto that was fit – muscular arms and a 6-pack. Being so conditioned to see waif-like mannequins like you’d see on the run-way, having these new bodies that (at the time) I aspired to was super exciting!

However, suffering from eating disorders for most of my life, I have spent most of my life “overweight” more than a “normal weight”. To see a larger mannequin that showcases clothing that would actually fit the bigger-bodied me was exciting! Even if I was a more “societal accepted weight and body shape”, I would still be excited about “bigger gals” being included in a world that has often been perceived as an elite club of people who don’t look like they need to work out and lose weight.

Now, don’t jump on me about that because I am the first person to say that working out and moving how you enjoy – whatever that looks like – is WAY more important than a number on a scale. The psychological and physiological impact of moving is WAY more important than losing weight and it’s something every single person should do no matter what they look like or fitness level or ability. My BFF is naturally skinny and I know when she starts posting pics of her being at the gym, she inevitably gets comments like “You don’t need to lose weight” and comments like that. I am the first person to (politely) point out the more important benefits from working out.

I have been overweight most of my life. Eating disorders have run most of my life. Only in the past 2 years have things changed, but with that change and trying to escape diet mentality, I have put on a lot of weight. I had once been confident at the gym and designing workouts and diet plans – as the fact I had been a Personal Trainer between 2008-2012 and Figure competitor between 2011-2012. I got my Certified Holistic Nutritionist certification in the summer of 2012 – just before joining the military. As much as I believe in the military and support them, I have always said that going through the training process changed me more than I expected – and more than I realized. I always said that I lost a part of myself during this time and I’ll never go back to how I was before… and, for the most part, that’s okay. However, after getting back from deployment (2 years ago 29 Jun) and going from one surreal life to trying to integrate back into a normal life, I knew things had to change.

Sometimes the only way to change and grow into the person you’re meant to become is to completely separate yourself from everything you knew. When I was in Kuwait, my world revolved around the gym, the bus schedule, and the limited time I could communicate with family because of time change. Almost every waking moment that I wasn’t working or sleeping, I was at the gym. I worked out several times a day 6-7 days a week. I was getting strong and I was getting lean. I loved it.

But when I got back, I knew there was an imbalance in my life that I needed to fix. I needed to change my mindset, because the mind dictates the attitude and altitude of your life. I went to the gym once in the month that followed. I started to lose the muscle definition and I was getting soft. My clothes stopped fitting… and the funny thing was I was totally okay with that. I was shockingly okay with the weight gain. How much? I had no idea.

And then I stepped on the scale.

200 lbs (give or take) and peaking at about 215 lbs.

Any other time of my life, I would have gotten pissed off, depressed, etc. But this time? Calm acceptance. I knew this wasn’t where I was meant to be, but I knew I had to heal; I needed to heal from decades of yo-yo dieting, binging, restricting, obsessive compulsive behavior. My recovery took about 22 months; just under 2 years.

But now that I’m getting healthier, I’m having the urge, after almost a year away, of hitting the gym – and specifically, weights. Previously I had been focusing on my mental and emotional well being with yoga and slowly getting back into running. Now, I’m ready to increase my physical strength to match my mental strength. I’m proud of the shit I’ve had to overcome and I don’t think I’d be where I am if I hadn’t gone through the shitty stuff!

The one thing I haven’t had to experience is the fear of walking into the gym and the uncertainty of what to do. I am NOT afraid of weights or lifting heavy – it’s something I’ve seemed to inherently known from the time I was a teenager. I don’t get intimidated by being the only woman in the weight room… but I find I’m one of the few – unless the person does know what she’s doing! Most women shy away from the weight rooms because of feeling like they don’t belong, uncertain of what to do, and being intimidated by the over abundance of testosterone!

For those women – AND men who might be trying to take back their health – it’s a terrifying experience to go into a space where it’s usually filled with people who are confident and know what they’re doing – or at least look like it! Being overweight, they’ve had to endure looks, stares, comments, teasing, bullying…. The last thing they need is to get that in a space where they want to get in shape and feel unwelcomed! EVERYONE is entitled to be in a setting where it’s meant to become a better version of themselves – whether that’s at a swimming pool, bike path, gym, running track, whatever! – without looks and judgement.

And further, the last thing they need is to see some ignorant person talking shit about a mannequin that looks like them – or they may be bigger. Why shouldn’t a prominent company cater to larger bodied people who want to take back their health and get active? What are they supposed to do? Work out naked? Or, let me guess… (this person) wants “fat people to get off their ass and lose weight”… but only if they’re not seen? Screw that!

I believe this second Telegraph article is in direct response to the first one – which, conveniently enough, I was unable to locate, nor the tweet… but, thankfully, due to the outrage with my social media friends, I was able to find a screenshot of the tweet:

Some people might look at the mannequins with the toned arms and flat, washboard stomach and be inspired. But what if you’re so far away from that it never occurs to you that you might be able to achieve it? One thing I have always told people is, yes, have a dream, but have smaller goals along the way. Someone – hell, probably a lot of people! – will probably look at that “fat” mannequin and be like, “Wow, I’d love to look like that!”. Striving to look like the larger mannequin is probably a realistic goal for a lot more women out there than the smaller mannequin. And who knows! Maybe when they look like the larger mannequin, they get inspired to look like the fit, smaller mannequin! After all, they achieved something they didn’t think was possible – so what’s stopping them from continuing?!

Every single person deserves respect. No matter their shape or size or skin color. No matter their religion, or political, or sexual identification. No matter if they’re physically disabled, mentally disabled, or differently disabled.

Every single being on this planet deserves respect – and if everyone believed that, our planet would be even more beautiful!

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