Yes, I’m going to go there.
I have been of the opinion for some time now that the Body Positive movement in Australia is still very much in its infancy, particularly when it came to the arena of sport and fitness. There was no greater evidence of this then when my recent piece ‘I’m Plus Size and I’m an Athlete’ went live on Sportette.’s site. The positive feedback received and the lightening-fast manner in which it circulated through social media indicated that this is clearly a conversation that many Australians are wanting to have – our need for a diversity of physical representations of what an ‘athlete’ looks like – especially when it came to the fragility of body satisfaction within our younger generations.
This piece seemed, for many, to be the catalyst in many women taking a completely different view of their bodies. They commented on how it caused them to consider and then respect their bodies from a functional perspective rather than aesthetic, and the positive, empowered manner in which they began to view their training. Perhaps the most humbling comments of all were the ones coming from mothers of adolescent daughters, thanking me for considering that larger young females need more relatable role models in fitness and sport; ones who stand tall and say ‘this is who I am. I am fit, I am strong. I train hard, I nurture my body, and in return it performs for me.’
As expected, the feedback wasn’t all positive. There was the anticipated argument that in being satisfied with how my body functioned for me at my racing weight of 90kg I was actively promoting obesity. In discussing the history of the Clydesdale and Athena weight divisions in both running and triathlon, I was glorifying a group of people who were too ‘lazy’ to work hard to achieve normal weight and wanted it ‘easy’ when it came to competition.
One of the wisest pieces of advice I have ever received was that in promoting a message, never justify your position, just stay true to the message.
For this reason I won’t delve into the science that analysed over 10,000 race times across different weight groups and saw the creation of the Clydesdale and Athena movement.
As for the argument that I am promoting obesity, I will say this. When a younger boy presents a larger form, there tends to be (albeit stereotypical) conversations around what a great Prop or Front Rower he would make. Big, strong, powerful players such as Paul Gallen and ‘Big Georgie Rose’ become their role models. A number of T20 Big Bash stars such as Craig Simmons also present a larger form and are respected for their strength and power, not to mention our top Rugby Union players such as Benn Robinson. Funnily enough, I don’t think I have heard many of these players questioned over their roles in the promotion of obesity.
When a younger female presents a larger form, who does she look to? The reality is that across a wide range of sports there are a vast number of big, strong and powerful women for them to have as role models – they are just not actively promoted, nor are their strengths celebrated. There are no conversations about what a great power lifter these young girls could become, or how their strength could benefit them in many track and field activities. There are, however, subtle conversations about what sports her body may not be suited to. If in promoting myself as a Plus Size Endurance Athlete I happen to encourage even one of these young girls to pursue her chosen sport with confidence in her body, and this classes me as promoting obesity, then consider me guilty as charged.