Editor’s note: Louise Green is a certified personal trainer living in Vancouver, British Columbia. She is a blogger, health and wellness retreat specialist and author of “ Limitless: The Size of Your Body Does Not Determine Your Athletic Dreams.” She is on Twitter.
In 2008, I decided to follow my passion. I wanted to inspire people and change lives through fitness and adventure, so I became a personal trainer. I’ve always been athletic and enjoyed sports as a kid, and in my adult life I enjoyed running and boot camps. So, after having my son, I had the opportunity to make a career change. Joining the ranks in the fitness industry seemed like the perfect idea.
Here’s the thing: I did this at 240 pounds, my all-time heaviest weight. I became something of an anomaly -- a plus-size fitness professional.
There are many people who champion my career choice: Each and every day I hear from friends, clients or strangers that I am perceived as an inspiration. They believe I am changing perceptions and creating a societal shift merely by doing what I do in a plus-size body. This example helps people step outside their fear and do the same.
However, my public advocacy as a plus-size athlete definitely comes with polarization, and I am subjected to as many negative responses as positive.
Some people don’t believe that anyone who carries extra weight can inspire others and certainly can’t be healthy or fit. Just this morning I was publicly called a “flat out liar” for even suggesting that people can be fit and plus-size. Over the years, I’ve come to realize that deflecting judgment and educating people are all part of being a leader and advocate.
Today, I still weigh more than 200 pounds. I work out regularly. I am fit enough to run half marathons and I hold my own in athletic training programs. My metabolic health is in line, producing healthy numbers across the board. I don’t drink alcohol or smoke and I eat reasonably well. My body is free of disease.
But regardless of my internal health and fitness, certain people will always judge me by my outward appearance, and that is wrong.
And it doesn’t stop with everyday people. We are also seeing professional athletes who carry extra weight subjected to the same unfair projections.
Last year, 18-year-old tennis player Taylor Townsend became the highest-ranking American female junior player since 1982. Yet a few years before that, the U.S. Tennis Association tried to keep her from competing at the U.S. Open until she lost weight.
Yahoo Shine also published an article about Major League Baseball player Prince Fielder and the cover he did for ESPN, featuring his powerful naked body. Fielder has played in the MLB since 2002 and his stats rank him as one of the best among the elite. Yet the article's headline read, "This Male Athlete Is Getting Fat-Shamed."
When judgment still remains highly prevalent, even among elite athletes, we have to wonder: How do we change it?
Change starts within. Take a good look in the mirror each and every day and practice what I like to call “inner dialogue diversion.” Counter every negative thought with a positive one until your old patterns die slowly because you’re introducing new ones.
I can’t stress this enough: Be a good role model. Young people look to us for every cue and they are the future. If we are constantly verbalizing negativity toward ourselves, it has a trickle-down effect with devastating consequences.
When it comes to health and fitness, finding your tribe changes everything. Find a place where you are supported and celebrated. There are gyms, trainers and physicians who practice progressively -- who understand the Body Mass Index is not the only window to someone’s health.
Surround yourself with only those who elevate you to live to your highest potential and ditch those who keep you down. When we stop judging and start celebrating, we will see a much-needed shift in our world.
Life is for living and every “body” deserves an epic life. Let’s kick off 2015 on the right foot!