A few years ago, I was deeply engaged in the wellness industry; working at a high-end athleisure store, teaching multiple spin classes a week, and living in leggings and sports bras most days. But I quickly learned the hard way that the wellness industry was not and still isn’t made for people like me.
Even at my lowest weight, I still had a curvy butt and hips and large boobs that no amount of kale smoothies could hide (and I didn’t want to hide it either!). Time and time again, I came up against the challenges of finding my size in leggings at Lululemon, being told my size sports bra was only available online at Athleta, or having to come up with my own modifications in yoga class because plow pose is tough for someone with my bust size. I can probably count on both of my hands how many times I’ve taken a health or wellness class by someone who looked like me, meaning 10 or fewer times (in my life!) the instructors weren’t plus-size Women of Color. Think about that for a moment.
Every body (literally every type of body) deserves to have access to wellness practices for their mind, body, and soul.
In an article for Time discussing the problems of vanity sizing while shopping, writer Eliana Dockterman stated that 67 percent of women wear a size 14 or above. Thinking about the wellness industry with this statistic in mind then, it’s also problematic to not think of all body types when you’re an instructor or a retailer. The wellness industry is often targeted to white, thin cis-gendered women looking for a sense of calm, peace, and organization in their life. But what about everyone else?
Dealing with these scenarios for years sends the message to underrepresented women that “I don’t belong here” or “This isn’t for someone like me,” and that simply isn’t OK. Every body (literally every type of body) deserves to have access to wellness practices for their mind, body, and soul. These bodies deserve to walk into a store and pick up their size directly from the shelf rather than being forced to shop solely online. Those same bodies deserve to take classes from instructors who either look like them or have taken other body compositions into mind when creating them. Not doing so is an act of discrimination.
Plus-size bodies need more representation in the wellness industry, and here’s why:
Because our bodies are not an apology
Unnecessarily using the word “sorry” is already something I’m trying to limit in my vocabulary, but especially when it comes to my body. I often hear or read about women who leave stores or classes feeling awful about their bodies just because they weren’t properly represented. We should not have to apologize or feel bad about showing up in these spaces due to the size of our bodies.
Our bodies are not something to apologize for, rather they should be accepted as normal and be considered throughout each part of the process. I am not sorry that I showed up to a yoga class as a plus-size woman. I am not sorry I considered your store for a new pair of leggings for my plus-size body.
The leaders in this industry need to consider ALL bodies when creating products and classes rather than making people of different body types feel sorry for even existing in these spaces.
Because plus-size bodies need wellness to thrive too
Wellness does not equal thinness. Wellness should be about truly feeling good inside and out. It is a basic human need for everyone, not some scarce luxury. If you think about wellness that way, there is more than enough room and resources to consider plus-size bodies. It is, again, discriminatory to think that a plus-size body isn’t interested in living well and, therefore, doesn’t need to be represented in this space.
All types of bodies deserve to enjoy movement, mindfulness, athletic clothing, or anything else that would make them feel good on the inside and outside. Furthermore, due to society thinking less of plus-size people (AKA “weight bias“), those same people need safe spaces to go to work through and heal from the negativity. Wellness business owners can make their space a safe environment for all bodies to enter into and thrive.
Because inclusion matters
Running an inclusive business or creating an inclusive space (even if virtual) for people to gather is an important part of being a kind human. While it may be difficult to account for every single variety in a person from the get-go, you can start being more inclusive one step at a time.
I have three older sisters, and each of our bodies is vastly different. If we all wanted to take a class together, they’d feel terrible if I couldn’t join or didn’t enjoy my experience simply because I’m a plus-size person. Or if we’re all shopping together and another sister feels left out due to something about her body, we’d, again, feel terrible about it.
When it comes to something like wellness, it should be accessible and available to all people. If there is a person who doesn’t have experience talking about or modifying for plus-size bodies, hire plus-size educated leaders. Better yet, hire actual plus-size leaders.
We were all taught at a very young age that everybody is welcome to play on the playground. This is still true even in adulthood too.
The wellness industry is slowly improving but has a very long way to go before being called a diverse industry. Wellness is not only for white, thin, able-bodied people. It is time that all bodies are considered and represented from retail stores to workout classes, and everything in between. Simply put, our bodies matter too.