Beauty in Utah
My 2019 Solstice to Equinox Exercise Streak: Part 1

I Am The Ordinary, Medium Woman She Was Looking For

If you know me, you know this: I’m pretty passionate about exercise clothes. That might seem like a weird thing to feel passionate about, but I have a firm belief that comfortable AND functional exercise clothing keeps people exercising. (Cute is also important.) Exercise clothes designed specifically for women are important in the exercise community because really: we aren’t men. Our bodies are different, our curves, our shapes, or musculature, even our height.

And, yes: our weight.

Well-designed exercise clothes don’t chafe. They don’t ride up between your legs. They felt well over breasts and hips; they support and breathe and wick. They flatter a moving body, no matter if that body is running or hiking or biking or swimming or doing yoga or lifting weights. They keep you moving, and if that is weird or silly, if it makes your eyes roll, then you’ve likely never had to work out in clothes that weren’t well designed.

There’s been a little bit of an uproar in the exercise-clothing world this week: Nike had the audacity not only to make plus-size exercise clothes, but put them on a plus-size mannequin. And a writer for The Telegraph definitely did not like it. She saw it as yet another way the clothing industry lies to people in order to sell things. The “fat acceptance movement,” she thinks, is not helpful to women because it gives them freedom to accept who they are right now, instead of working hard to become some better (read: thinner) version of themselves.

I’m not really sure how she fails to see the irony of her argument. She’s say two opposing things: marketing ploys that try to trick you into believing you have to be super-skinny to be attractive are wrong because the ballerina body is unhealthy, but this marketing ploy—the one that says “if you’re overweight, you still get to have comfortable and functional exercise clothing”—is wrong because fat people can’t be attractive.

Which is it?

She ends her article by asking “where is the body shape between the tiny and the immense, which is where true health lives? Where is the ordinary, medium, contented woman?”

As that is where I think I am—a medium-sized woman, neither small nor large—I’d like to let her know.

I’m here, working out. Moving my body in my favorite ways. I’m doing it in clothing that I love. That fits! That has pockets! That is cute and makes me happy and makes me feel pretty. Some of it is ruffly. Some of it is so perfectly compressive I only want to take it off because I sweat so much in it.  Some of it is pink, some is purple, some is even black.

I wear a size medium, usually. And I can’t be the only one because it’s remarkably easy to find exercise clothes in my size.

I want everyone to have the same thing, even women who are bigger than me. Clothes that fit them well and help them get out and move. It shouldn’t even have to be newsworthy, that an exercise-clothing company makes exercise clothes for large women

Because guess what helps people get healthier?


And if we are really concerned about the health of larger women, as this woman’s article seems to suggest, guess what? We should encourage them to exercise. And if they are exercising, they are going to need exercise clothes.

One of my favorite things about running races is that I get to see athletes of all shapes and sizes. Yes, there are some of those tiny, muscled runners. There are a lot of them, in fact. But there are medium-sized women like me. And there are larger women too. And all of them—even, I’d imagine, the elite runners who regularly win races—all of them have something about their bodies that they feel self-conscious about.

One of my running friends has one of those tiny, elegant, muscled bodies. She has a thigh gap and a strong back and willowy arms, and she is fast. And people criticize her for being too skinny.

Another running friend wears a size 16 but she runs five or six marathons every year. And people criticize her for her weight.

I’m that medium-sized runner. Probably on the bigger size of medium these days, but still, yeah: medium. Medium-fast, middle-of-the-pack runner. And people criticize me, too. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been outside running and someone driving past me has shouted something like “keep on running, chunky!” or “hey there, fat ass!”

(And that’s not even mentioning the language I use inside my own head, the way I have to fight to see something other than my chide sunkies (my nickname for my out-of-control-these-days side boobs), my batwing arms, my chubby belly, my thighs that haven’t gapped since I was eleven or twelve. I have to fight not to let those words overwhelm me and to keep reminding myself that what matters is to just keep moving and to draw strength from all of the ways I have already moved.)

I think it’s a rare woman who doesn’t have body issues.

So that woman writer (and I’m not linking or sharing her name, because if you want to read it you can google it), with her critical voice and her surety that no one of that size could run anywhere, that the answer to obesity is to “just stop eating sugar”—that woman is not solving any problems. She is creating more shame. And that is the opposite of what is needed by anyone with a body.

Especially women with bodies.

The point of the fat acceptance movement isn’t to encourage unhealthy weights. It is to help clear away the element of shame that is so wrapped up in weight.

We all feel that shame. (I am 100% certain that clearly, the writer herself feels shame, because otherwise, why bother? Why knock down instead of encouraging overweight women, unless the presence of an overweight woman in her exercise space is threatening to her in some way?)

We are all trying to overcome the shame and to embrace what is positive.

Exercise is positive.

Moving your body is positive.

Wearing something you love while you move your body is positive.

Whatever encourages healthier actions is positive.



Cathy ZIelske

Wow, great read here, Amy. Thank you!

Teresa K

Wonderful article. I ran 5 half marathons last year. Not fast, but I finished under the allotted time and upright and feeling strong. Many hours and mile of training went into those races. I’m a back of the pack runner who is above a healthy BMI and yes, I’ve heard it all. It doesn’t stop me. Finding comfortable and yes, cute, clothing is darned near impossible - thank goodness for Sparkle Skirts which is a company that makes running/workout gear for those with thigh gaps and those without. I applaud Nike for knowing even if you are above a healthy BMI there are many who want to ‘just do it’ and in comfortable clothing!

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)