April 23, 2015
On Monday at 11.45am on ITV’s This Morning show I co presented a fitness fashion item with Nell McAndrew where we took 3 ladies and kitted them out in running gear to suit their shape, there was also a feature where 3 viewers tested a range of sports bras. It was all very exciting and great to see that there is fitness gear out there on the high street in bigger sizes….but and there is a big but here, only 2 of the ladies featured on the show are actually plus sized and even then they don’t completely represent the full spectrum of larger ladies that want to enjoy exercise and wear stylish well fitting work out clothes to do it in too.
So what followed was a very interesting debate on my Facebook Page about how difficult it is to find sports bras in larger back sizes…for some women it is impossible which is a hard pill to swallow.
Then on Tuesday night on Channel 4 there was Plus Size Wars described as a cutting edge documentary exploring the fast growing plus size fashion brands and its witty and stylish stars. I actually missed it but caught it on catch up yesterday after hearing about it on social media. It was an interesting look at the growing demand for better stylish clothes to cater for the younger generation of plus size girls (apparently 60% of UK women are now considered obese).
There was a lot of focus on plus size bloggers (especially the beautiful Tess Holiday) and even a plus size fitness blogger (who on further investigation turns out to be a fashion blogger hoping to lose weight by exercising in time for her wedding, so not exactly a fitness blogger but hey, maybe I’m just a bit pissed I didn’t get a call).
I guess the programme was supposed to be quite provocative featuring what is often described as “supersized”, but it did raise some interesting points about the difference between what the fashion world describe as plus size (the 14-16 sized hourglass beauties) and the majority of overweight women in the world who are larger than a size 16 and don’t look like models but still want to have fun with fashion and find clothes to flatter their larger than average bodies.
But Tuesday before the show even went out there was controversy when the presenter and ex pop star Jamilia put her two pence worth into a conversation about the documentary on the daytime TV show Loose Women…she gave this opinion on whether plus size clothing should be available on the highstreet, and I quote…
“In high street stores you are catering for the average woman, there’s a healthy range, and I don’t believe they should be providing clothes for below that range or above, I’m not saying that nowhere should, I believe that yes have specialist shops, but I do think you should feel uncomfortable if you are unhealthy”
Unsurprisingly there has been a massive backlash to this, and a successful twitter campaign using the #WeAreTheThey trying to give a face to the overweight women these debates are discussing. So yesterday I just watched it unfold on social media whilst I collected my thoughts on the subject, I don’t want to add to the controversy for controversies sake and I do think Jamelia was saying what a lot of people think (doesn’t make it right though) but I do have to comment on it, particularly because I have in the past been accused of normalising obesity through my work, so here are the 3 things which strike me most about whats gone on recelty
1. It’s a shame that so many assumptions are being made about the link between size and health. Janet Street Porter talked about young overweight girls not being able to run around, well actually there are tons of average size teenagers that are completely sedentary and unable to run too. We need to normalise exercise for women of all sizes not limit their ability to look and feel nice. She also went on to say that loosing weight will improve your life, which isn’t always the case. We are under no obligation to lose weight or be healthy, no matter how much media pressure there is. We do have a choice what we do with our bodies…even if that is morbid obesity.
2. I hate the fact that it appears to be OK to be a size 16 plus size but not a size 26 plus size, are we not still a woman and a human being at that size, do we not deserve to be treated equally? Who makes these rules about what is acceptable fatness. I have often been told “you’re not THAT big, so its OK” Is this about health or is this about aesthetics and control? And from the Loose Women panel whom only one of the ladies, Colleen Nolan has any experience of being plus sized, so they have no idea what it feels like to be unable to buy clothes.
3. Clothes are not only a basic necessary…it is after all illegal to walk around naked, clothes also have the ability to bring great joy to your life and help you make a statement about who you are, especially as a younger girl. Fashion is a major par of our economy too, the fat pound is an important one so it’s no wonder high street fashion brands are catching on. ultimately if you are forced to wear unflattering unstylish clothes surely that is only going to lead to further unhappiness and possibly even depression and other related health problems.
My weight problems started when I was about 16. At the time I never really had the money to enjoy fashion, and so I simply wore whatever I could find in my size that was cheap. I lived in leggings and jumpers basically, and it did have a negative impact on my confidence levels…I literally had no social life and missed out on many of the things young girls should be embracing at that time. But when I went off to uni and then got a job I had more disposable cash and wanted to wear nice clothes, but I was restricted as there were basically only a couple of stores on the high street that I could squeeze into their clothes but I coped by learning to enjoy make up, shoes and accessories which of course do not discriminate.
When my weight increased passed a size 20 though I had to face facts that if it continued to expand I would have to shop in Evans and at aged 21-22 that was my worst nightmare because my mum shopped in Evans!!!! And besides I didn’t like the way I looked at that size, it was impacting on my confidence and I knew it was impacting on my health too…I knew it, I could feel it…and that sparked the start of my fitness journey.
The point is if I could have got more trendy clothes either in the highstreet or online I don’t think it would have made a bit of difference because for me I knew what was right for me, my self esteem and my body…but that doesn’t mean I don’t think those clothes shouldn’t be available and I would love to see more shops stocking a better choice of sizing…I still struggle to get jeans to fit and rarely buy new clothes now because I find the whole thing so stressful…plus i live in workout clothes these days anyway
Which leads me nicely on to the issue of fitness clothes, if you are a size 6 to 14 then you are laughing, a 16-18 you might struggle a bit…but it is possible with a bit of work, but when we start talking about being a size 20 and above it is near on impossible to find good quality, attractive, technical running wear.
So let’s get this right….we want there to be less overweight women in the UK but sports brands won’t provide us with workout gear to help us get there…shocking really. I struggle to source a supplier for my Don’t Judge Just Run technical tees in anything larger than a 22 but I don’t have the buying power or the manufacturing know how like the big boys…and if fashion brands can do it why can’t fitness ones?
Should plus size fitness clothes be available on the high street? Of course it bloody well should, we shouldn’t have to go to specialist shops or scour online to find our sizes…most specialist running stores go up to a size 16 or an XL which often doesn’t fit a size 16…but they can only stock stuff if suppliers make their stuff in larger sizes, and they will only do that if we (Larger Women) demand that they do.
Will things change? Who knows…what I do know though is at least we are having these conversations, and despite the outrage that Jamelia sparked through her comment she is entitled to her opinion and at least it raised the issue so on Friday night when I attend the Running Awards where this blog has been nominated for the best blog award I will make a point of talking to as many brands as possible about it…and if I win the award well then hopefully I really will have a platform to start making things happen…fingers crossed hey?