I am a woman and I play sport.
I also happen to be an overweight woman.
No really, I am a size 18 and weight close to 17 stone, so I am what you might describe as FAT. Yet sport plays a significant role in my life. Not in an "oh I must do something about my weight" kinda way, but rather "I can't imagine my life without sport now".
It hasn't always felt like this though, because for many years I thought sporty women were a completely different species to me, they had swishy pony tails, perfect skin which never went red and they always looked great in Lycra. I didn't tick any of those boxes so I figured sport wasn't for me.
It wasn't just that though, none of my mates played sport like seriously none of them, no, we were more likely to be found down the pub or planning our next girlie holiday than getting together for a workout, and if we ever did embark on physical activity it was always in a vain attempt to lose weight...and the actual exercise bit was horrid...a chore...punishment even for all those pints of cider and share bags of Doritos we had devoured.
I am under no disillusion now that when people look at me and my oversized body they make assumptions about my lifestyle, looking at my muffin top they are likely to think I have never been inside a gym and don't even own a sports bra, little do they know that I am in fact a marathon runner (yes I have done more than one) and have been regularly partaking in the sport of running for over 10 years now.
Because Fat people don't do sports though do they? It's why they are still fat. It's why the nation has such a problem with obesity because fat people sit at home and watch daytime TV and eat biscuits by the packet load, right? They don't do exercise.
This week is Womens Sports week in the UK, and I guarantee that over the next seven days our TV screens and timelines are going to be filled with sporty looking women enticing us into being more active...I bet that few of those women will look like me though, or any of the other women from my community of plus sized runners...because in the media and in the psyche of the general public we just don't exist.
That was until the This Girl Can campaign went live earlier in the year, a TV campaign which was so unique in its approach, with wobbly, red faced, cellulite ridden women gracing our screens for 5 weeks, that it really did make people stand up and take notice. But unfortunately that campaign does not reflect what is going on everywhere else for plus size fitness, and in fact not just for plus size fitness, but fitness for people who don't tick all those boxes I talked about earlier.
Major sports brands seem only interested in women up to a size 16, and most of the imagery used in campaigns to get people moving are staged stock pictures with that sickening message of "join up here and in six months you can look like me too" which we know is a sure fire way of setting us up to fail.
We don't have a problem with Obesity in this country we have a problem with inactivity, driven by a dangerous concoction or fear, embarrassment and overwhelm, especially for us women. If we focussed on getting women moving, but on their terms perhaps the image of an overweight women playing sport wouldn't be so novel, and others would feel less self conscious and consider joining in the fun.
And while we are on that subject...
Sport isn't always fun, despite the happy smiling faces we see in all those fitness magazines. Sport involves making yourself do things you don't always want to do. It often involves coming last, or getting things wrong and looking like a prat. It means more washing to wash, clothes to sort out the night before, it sometimes means getting someone to look after the kids...or worse still involving them in the activity. It involves getting up earlier or forsaking your favourite TV show, its bloody hard work and can often feel like its not worth it at all...but sometimes it can be fun too, especially if you learn to laugh at yourself and not take it all so seriously.
If you manage to find a sport that you love that makes you feel good (Ok maybe not during but afterwards) then you are on to a winner. If you find a sport where you come across people you enjoy spending time with, or a sport which has other social aspects attached to it, like travelling to competitions or regular socials (ie beers) then you are more likely to keep at it...if only for the social interaction.
The other thing which is crucial in my books...there must be opportunities to show off, even if you are absolutely rubbish at your sport you need to get the chance to show people what you can do, to involve the family to highlight to others just how hard you work at it, be it a race, a performance, a competition or simply doing your sport in a public place...having someone give you a thumbs up, a high five or shout out "good job" or "well done" can go a long way...especially if those giving the praise are non sporty people themselves, cos chances are when they go home they will be thinking "well, if she can do it maybe I can" and that my friend is how revolutions begin.