It appears that all of a sudden the whole of the world's media wants to talk about plus size running, after the US version of Womens Running magazine went with the bold move of using a plus size model, 18 year old Erica Schenk on its cover.
Great hey? So now we have size diversity represented in sport and I can stop all this mucking about with my Too Fat to Run? campaign and go and get myself a proper job...wohooo. Well NO not really because remember folks this is just one image, on just one cover, on just one continent, covering just one sport...get my drift?
Besides I don't look like Erica when I run and I doubt you do either.
Now I am all for changing up the imagery we see in the sport and fitness world and having positive role models when it comes to physical activity at every size for a change, but the fact she is a professional model somehow deters from the power of this statement. She is gorgeous no doubt of course she is she's a bloody model...just look at her, what with her perfectly proportioned fat curves, and her swishing pony tail and cute little face with her oh so flawless 18 year old skin...am I jealous...of course I am, I'd love to look that hot (and in a good way hot) when I run but the reality is l I don't and neither do the thousands of other plus size women out there who play sport.
I wish we would get away from this idea that the only acceptable images of fat people in the media are the ones that look aesthetically pleasing to the eye. Have you noticed, these glamorous fat women are the only exception to the fat person on a bench eating a burger type image that the rest of the media like to roll out when discussing weight issues. Come on folks...wake up.
Anyway back to the running.
When I run I have bulges where my kit doesn't fit perfectly because sports wear companies don't cater well for larger women. I have blotchy skin where the wind hits it, and red flushed face as my body temperature rises. My pony tail doesn't swish because it's generally damp with sweat and I often grimace with effort rather than have the relaxed carefree jaw of a model being photographed. But I'm not there to look good I am there to improve my health and to feel great.
This is the problem with sports marketing generally, trying to sell you the dream that its easy and sexy and cool, when actually its hard, and grotty and sweaty. What the media and public interest in this piece says though is that perhaps we are ready for a shift when it comes to discussions around health and size, and that the idea that you can be fit and fat is slowly but surely seeping through into to our conscience, and that is of course a great antidote to the "we are in the middle of a global obesity epidemic" soundtrack we often heard pumped through our media channels.
The response to this article hasn't all been good though, there have been the expected nasty comments though,
"If she has been running all this time, well she wouldn't be plus size then would she?" came one retort, because you can't do exercise for any other reason than weightloss so she must be lying right?
"who wants to see the image of a Fat runner on the front of a magazine" came another.
Well plenty of people actually.
Last weekend I reached the 10K like milestone on my Facebook page (www.facebook.comthefatgirlsguidetorunning), bringing my blogs following close to 20K in total so I would say yes there is a market for this thank you. The internet is full of great running advice, and you can get books on every aspect of the sport, including a whole heap about running for weightloss, but what I realised when I first started out running was there was very little about running as a larger runner and the implications of that...which is where my mission came to help women not only survive but thrive in the sport.
In a recent piece of research I discovered that only 25% of my followers were actively searching for information on running as a larger lady, 75% stumbled across my site after seeing imagery which spoke to them and made them feel like running was something for them, and I am sure Ericas image will do wonders for normalising sport for larger women...so perhaps I shouldn't be too critical of all this excitement.
Diversity in the sports world is so important, especially when talking about the health implications of being inactive and the impact that is having on quality of life and life expectancy. This is not just an issue for us Fatties...having images of larger people playing sport also speaks to those inactive slim people who sit in their naive denial about the impact of their sedentary lives on their health...because slim people can have dangerous amounts of fat too folk...but yours we just can't see.
So yes, I am glad that Ericas lovely fat body was printed on the front of a fitness magazine, especially seeing as the word weightloss was not printed alongside it, but that by no means my job is done....and Erica?? If ever you are in London and fancy a running partner...I'm your girl...although I can't guarantee I will look as glam as you...I'll just punish you with my endurance and bad ass "won't stop until you do" attitude.