lifestyle

Meet the women who are proud to be "thick".

It’s #fitspo, but not as you know it.

If you live on Instagram, you’d be forgiven for believing there was only one way a ‘fit body’ could look: tanned, defined abs, and importantly, slim.

Something like this:

And if that photo made you want to throw your phone out of the window, prepare for a #fitspo movement that might assuage your rage.

Hashtags like #ThickFit and #FitAndThick see fit and healthy women of a different kind sharing their gym sessions and fitness journeys — curves, “thick” thighs and all.

A #ThickFit post on Instagram. Source: Instagram/@rawrkarina

According to New York-based trainer Lita Lewis, who sparked the #ThickFit hashtag, the more images of strong, active women we’re exposed to, the better. A former competitive bodybuilder, Lewis was sick of being told to “keep fighting” her genetics — something she’d been encouraged to do by a coach — and decided to celebrate her muscles on Instagram and give women, particularly women of colour, a different example of a fit body.

“It was announcing my own definition of self. It was owning my beauty and my body and my curves and my strength,” she tells NY Magazine. “I’m not trying to preach that we should all look like superheroes or CrossFit athletes, but this notion of ‘I’ve gotta be skinny’ and ‘I’ve got to fit in a certain size’ is now somewhat in the shadows.”

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As with any fitness community, there are also plenty of memes, but they tend to be positive and encouraging rather than shaming or intimidating. “Forget skinny — I’m training to be a fit badass”, one reads. “Your worth doesn’t depend on your jean size,” says another.

It’s a refreshing visual counterpoint to Instagram’s #Fitspo culture, which could easily fool anyone into thinking exercise has the power to whittle any body shape into one resembling a lean, elongated Victoria’s Secret model.

Post continues after gallery:

Model Nicole Mejia, who also shares photos with the #ThickandFit hashtag, says it has become an “outlet” for women to accept themselves and their bodies. “They’ll say, ‘Now that I see you rocking it, I can do this, too. I feel confident to go in the gym and work out’.”

Considering research has shown many women are reluctant to exercise out of body image insecurities and the fear of being judged for their appearance, the significance of this movement is obvious.

The women of the #ThickandFit community aren’t alone on their quest to challenge the way we see physical fitness. Jessamyn Stanley has amassed an Instagram following of more than 50,000 thanks to her body-diverse yoga snaps.

Stanley, who says she was always one of the biggest women in the classes she attended, finds that the ‘typical’ yoga body creates “more of an aspirational experience as opposed to an inspirational one”.

Some photos of Jessamyn Stanley’s incredibly Instagram account (post continues after gallery):

So, if you’ve ever felt self-conscious about your body at the gym or scrolling through Instagram, remember the message these women and the photos are thoroughly proving: that fitness and physical capability aren’t proportionate to the distance between your thighs.

And, if you need any more reason to get out there and do your thing, these parting words from Serena Williams will surely do the trick.

“I’ve been like this my whole life and I embrace me. I love how I look. I am a full woman and I’m strong, and I’m powerful, and I’m beautiful at the same time,” the tennis champion said recently.

“I don’t have time to be brought down, I’ve got too many things to do. I have grand slams to win, I have people to inspire, and that’s what I’m here for.”

Serena Williams.

A version of this story originally appeared on The Glow.