I was reading back over some old journal entries recently. I found some goals that I had set for myself about 3 years ago. Its always interesting to look back over this type of thing to get some insight into how your view of the world and what you are trying to achieve has changed. Sometimes it can even give you some insight into how you feel about yourself.
Given everything that I have done and learnt and how much I have changed and developed since I had written these, one goal really stood our for me. There were a lot of goals about loosing weight in one way or another as I have been very overweight for some years, but one was different. It said;
‘loose enough weight to be able to wear nice yoga pants.’
I know exactly what I meant, but it felt completely self destructive and the idea that it was up to me to change who I was and morph myself to fit in with the clothing industry’s standard because the industry chose who it would provide is in hindsight pretty terrifying.
I was pretty deep into yoga culture at the time and all of the other smaller yogis around me (those who to my mind at the time looked like I was supposed to look), all seemed to be wearing these beautifully printed yoga leggings. I spent hours hunting online and in every fitness store that I could think of and I just didn’t have any success in finding anything like this for myself.
Quite simply, no matter how hard I looked there was a common problem with every brand I encountered as perfect as they may have been in other ways…… they didn’t go up to my size. That had a huge impact on me. On some level I felt like I shouldn’t be doing yoga or couldn’t really be part of the crowd if I wasn’t wearing the right clothes. And the brands that were producing them were essentially telling me that I was too big to wear their clothes and ergo that I shouldn’t be practicing, never mind teaching, yoga. The one place where I wanted to have fun with my clothes was in my fitness wear and the world was telling me that I wasn’t good enough for that.
Granted this wasn’t the first time that I and the clothing industry had butted heads, I don’t seem to have been born with the fashion competence gene that most of the Knight clan were born with and so dark colours and jeans and a hoody were usually my go to. I never did exactly strike high on the femininity scales, so had no desire to push too far out of my comfort zone. I did however spend a lot of times I was growing up trying to fit in with other people around me and branch out into more ‘girly’ attire, that never lasted long though, I always had a curvy figure even when I was much lighter and it was always a nightmare to find anything that would fit me properly. Somehow though, the fact that I couldn’t find clothes to work out in hurt more.
This problem is far from unique to the yoga community. Over the years my experience as been that I found that it applied to the majority of sports clothing companies. A few did offer glimmers of hope, over time I discovered that I could occasionally fit into the largest size leggings in Sweaty Betty and Reebok but only if they happened to be made from a very stretchy material. This only opened up some style for me thought making it much harder to find something that I enjoyed wearing to the gym.
Even when I took up powerlifting (which is the most inclusive sport I know of) and discovered new brands with a very different aesthetic, I still usually had to buy men’s T-shirt’s and I still had to kept my search for nice leggings channel to the sports selection in Marks and Spencer’s which catered to a wide variety of sizes and produced a pretty good selection of sports wear.
Then I discovered the brand Grrrl Clothing started by Kortney Olson (full transparency here I am now a brand ambassador for Grrrl). It was the first brand I had ever discovered where I could get any style in a size that would fit me and that I could have fun with. I started to get excited about what I was going to wear to the gym on any given day, to enjoy what I was doing more and to feel more secure in myself when I was in the gym. I now have two drawers literally stuffed with gym kit that I love and that I feel confident in. Yes they are a smallish company and very popular so you often have to keep an eye out for when new styles drop in the site before they sell out but I actually enjoy that.
I know that Grrrl isn’t the only brand that does sports clothes in larger sizes, but it was the brand that I came across first and that really helped me to begin to feel like an athlete again, the powerlifting belt I currently compete in is a Grrrl belt after all!! I only wish that more brands would take the cue and really step up and empower everyone that might want to train or work out to do so in a way that they can really feel comfortable and enjoy.
We need to step up as a society and make that easier for people, on the one hand there is a constant drive to address the increased levels of obesity and encouraging people to loose weight. At the same time our clothing brands don’t seem to think that its important enough to supply clothing options that people would enjoy wearing to do that. Some claim that doing so would encourage people to remain overweight. But surely there is a deep set paradox when we imply to people that they need to be a certain size and shape to work out…. not everyone starts there and how are they going to reach that point without giving them the tools.
I know that fundamentally it will come down to where companies can make money and so they will always focus on where they can make the most mass sales but I honestly believe that the rejection you feel when you find that you can’t wear the same sports gear as the person next to you because (you can’t help thinking) you aren’t good enough and shouldn’t be exercising anyway, is doing more harm psychologically than may of us realise.
And it’s not essential to make your whole range every size to supply bigger shoppers but maybe just maybe you could focus on inspiring them to join in and feeling good about what they are doing.
I think that brands are missing out on more revenue than they realise as well, the 25 pairs of gym leggings, 3 pairs of capris and 4 pairs of shorts that I have bought in the last year, really do suggest that those brands they were inaccessible to me in the past have missed a trick.
If you enjoy wearing your kit to the gym you are more likely to want to put it on and more likely to get out there and use it and so more likely to get yourself training. So clothes really can make you stronger!
They can even help with your mental and emotional strength. The trick is finding something that your want to keep wearing and really enjoy being in. Once you find those things the world is your oyster.