fitness

'I'm plus size. Here are 3 things I wish people knew about my relationship with fitness.'

I’m plus-size and I exercise regularly. 

I’m not on a weight loss or fitness journey or anything with the word journey in it. I don’t exercise to remove the word ‘plus’ from ‘size’ or in an attempt to burn calories. I exercise religiously because it really helps to keep my mental health in check - not very glamorous but at least I’m honest!

I suffer from chronic anxiety and sporadic depression and moving my body has become a vital tool in keeping these things in check. I need to be out in the fresh air otherwise I tend to suffocate myself with my own thoughts.

When I tell people I exercise regularly, I’m often greeted with surprise. I suppose because people find it hard to believe bigger bodies can also be fit bodies. You can have jiggly bits and also get all your steps in.

People have so many preconceived notions about plus-size people and fitness. And I can only speak to my own experience but here’s what I wish everyone knew about my relationship with fitness.

But first, here are 10 scientifically proven ways to be a happier person. Post continues after video.


Video via Mamamia.

1. Exercise is non-negotiable for me.

I pretty much exercise every day not because I’m in the middle of some kind of challenge or because I’m trying to better myself. I exercise frequently because then it becomes less of a decision it just - IS. 

Of course, when I say exercise every day don’t panic. I’m not completing a rigorous boot camp every morning and constantly gasping for air. No. What I do, is make sure I move my body every day. 

Usually, this just means going for a walk for at least an hour. I live in the inner city. So my daily walks allow for me to judge every house I see and imagine how I’d renovate each individually - despite the fact I can afford none of them. 

I don’t need special gear or clothing to do this. I don’t need to prepare myself and I don’t need to fork out a load of money. I can do this at any time, anywhere and wear whatever I want. Sometimes I even just walk in my Birkenstocks!

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It’s important for me that I do this every day and that it is easy for me to do, because I've found that if I start cutting back on my exercise, it becomes easier and easier to just stop altogether. Before I know it my mental health is really suffering.

I also have a dog, and that keeps me in check. If he doesn’t go to the dog park once a day he is very unimpressed!

So, I treat exercise like a non-negotiable. Something that will be happening pretty much every day in some form. The trick is to pick things that you enjoy - this means I will never, ever, ever attend a spin class or do anything that requires loud music. I like my exercise to be peaceful and simple and there’s nothing wrong with that!

2. I don’t exercise to punish myself.

I never exercise from a place of self-hatred or to punish myself for a choice I’ve made. I won’t force myself to exercise because I’ve been eating lots of pastries lately or attending far too many bottomless brunches. (There’s actually no such thing as too many bottomless brunches - I take that back!) 

I exercise as a way to decompress from the day and as a chance to stop scrolling through social media. You will never hear me utter sentences like, “I’m going for a walk to burn off Christmas lunch.” I go for walks because it feels good to move my legs, to stretch and to be out in the open.

I used to only exercise as a reaction - because I felt bad about what I’d been eating or how much time I’d been spending binge watching or I was just having a bad body image day. Exercise didn’t feel like a way to de-stress but rather a punishment. Naturally, I’d then find any excuse not to exercise - including googling weather forecasts and convincing myself my ankle was sore.

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However, now I realise exercise and fitness are about making me feel good and strong I find I actually look forward to it. Particularly now I’m working from home. My afternoon walks have become a bookend to my day and a chance to treat myself to another coffee - okay and sometimes a chocolate bar!

3. I don’t exercise to lose weight.

I used to be really anti-exercise because I thought people only did it to lose weight and I was just exhausted from constantly feeling like I had to change my body as a plus-size woman.

However, I’ve come to realise that while diet culture makes you believe you should only exercise with the intent to shred, exercise can actually just be a way to make yourself feel good and get some endorphins. 

I’m not looking to transform my body or change my body. I like how I look. I like my hips and boobs and non-flat tummy. I don’t exercise to change myself; I exercise to enjoy the body I currently have.

I exercise now because of how it makes me feel and I’ve found a routine that works for me. I don’t like gyms. The smell of sweat and lycra is too much for my snout. Instead, I prefer to go for walks around my inner-city neighbourhood, do weekly yoga classes and go for a swim when it’s hot.

All of these forms of exercises are accessible, easy and most importantly make me feel good! You’ve got to chase the feeling of good and not overthink exercise too much.

I think being plus-size has meant it took me a little while longer to find my groove with exercise and fitness. To realise it doesn’t have to be something I do just to punish myself or shrink myself.

That exercise has its place as just something you do to make yourself feel good and can be entirely removed from diet culture.

For me, I’ve found exercise and being fit has really helped with my mental health. It’s also meant you can justify buying lots of animal print leggings, so what more does a girl want? 

But I also I think it’s important to realise that exercise and fitness are not only reserved for thin and small people. That going for a walk or doing some yoga stretches or feeling some fresh saltwater on your skin feels bloody great and most importantly that your fitness level doesn’t equate to your thinness level.

You can follow Mary Rose Madigan on Instagram here.

Feature image: Supplied/Mamamia.

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