Dear Researchers: Here’s what we WANT you to know about us.

You may all recall a recent little rant of mine (or the ‘Friday Special’ as I have begun to call them) where I discussed how I felt that research angles on obesity and health did not represent me as a larger person. I also mentioned how, when I had shown a willingness to share insights from my lifetime experience of being overweight with researchers I had been told to ‘leave it to the experts.’ You may also recall that I don’t like to whinge without somehow activating the change I want to see, and therefore provided a link to a survey that I believe gives great insight into what may work best for us when it comes to making changes to improve our health.

Image: Nicole Spears Photography
Image: Nicole Spears Photography

Firstly, I would like to thank all of the 99 respondents who took the time to complete the 8 question survey. Thank YOU for being part of the solution. Secondly, I welcome people to share these statistics as they please, just ensuring a reference to this piece so we can maintain some source integrity for the results. Although for the data-purists there are some flaws in the results (for example, I did not get respondents to provide their location), I can confidently say that this survey was completed by a global set of respondents, meaning that the story we are about to tell has world-wide relevance.

Basic Information 99 respondents took part in the 8-Question survey. 88 respondents (88.89%) identified themselves as being ‘large’ or ‘plus sized.’

1. We are more active than you think.

Despite the picture painted of larger people as sedentary and ‘lazy’, 76% of respondents reported exercising 2 or more days per week. 39% of these exercised between 2 and 4 days per week, and 37% exercised between 5 and 7 days per week.

2. Telling us we need to lose weight is not motivating us to be more active.

Only 2.6% of respondents reported that they felt having a friend or relative tell them that they needed to lose weight would motivate them to be more active. 

4.26% reported that having a healthcare provider tell them that they needed to lose weight would motivate them to be more active.

3. Here’s what REALLY gets our engines revving:

Show us other larger people being active. For a number of years now I have harped on about the power of inspiring people to move as opposed to shaming them. ‘We need to promote other larger people being active. Real, relatable health role models will inspire movement.’ I am shouting this one from the rooftops – 77.6% respondents agreed that seeing other larger people being active motivates them to be more active.

We are inspired by seeing other larger people being active.
We are inspired by seeing other larger people being active. Clothing by Lola Getts.

4. Monitoring our food intake and focusing on weight loss alone as a performance indicator does not work for us.

Most of us already knew this, but for some reason the first thing that happens when we go and sign up with many a trainer we get handed a food diary and told about what our goal weight loss should be and what the most efficient fat burning approach is. 9% of respondents believe this is the most effective focus for them.

Alternatively, 45.45% want you to give them physical performance goals and progress indicators and have a lesser focus on weight loss and food monitoring.

But don’t ditch the diary completely – 48.48% felt that a holistic approach that touched on all aspects worked best for them. So lets talk about food and weight loss but lets not focus on it. Lets set some physical goals and performance indicators too so we can see the fitness improvements our bodies are making.

5. Being Body Positive is the secret to EVERYONE’S success.

A whopping 84.85% of respondents believe that a Body Positive training environment is extremely important to their long-term participation in physical activity. A ‘Body Positive’ environment was defined as being judgement-free, had a focus on fitness, actively discouraged unhealthy diet behaviours, and embodied a ‘health at every size’ ethos.

6. Judgement is still our greatest fear.

93.81% of respondents cited a fear of being judged for their size or lack of fitness as a main barrier to fitness. Remove the fear of judgement, and we potentially see a whole lot more people enjoying being active.

7. Dear media, your portrayal of us is not helping.

No more headless shots of large bodies or pictures of us eating whilst referencing the ‘obesity epidemic’ thanks. 94.57% of respondents agree that the way in which larger people and statistics are currently portrayed in the media is actually less likely to encourage them to partake in physical activity.

8. I’m not alone on the research issue.

60% of respondents, like myself, do not believe that current research on obesity is representative of their experience as a larger person.

Whilst I am tempted to do the ‘told you so’ dance, I did not set out to do this piece of research to assert it above the hard work people are doing in this area. What I am trying to say, and what our little survey is telling us is that whatever statistics are circulating at the moment are not telling our story as the people who live the experience of ‘larger’, ‘overweight’, ‘plus size’ or ‘obese.’ Many of us are yearning to share our experiences with researchers in the hope of a more accurate picture being painted – these facts featured above are just a snapshot of what we want you to know about us, and what we feel no one is asking.

Where do we go from here? Well we work together, as fitness specialists, facilities, health providers and body positive advocates to create the environments that these statistics are telling us will foster long term participation and results. We work to eliminate that barrier of fear preventing people from walking in that door and saying ‘lets do this’. Most body positive advocates such as myself would be more than happy to work with fitness facilities and their staff to extend their professional development to include body positive awareness. And in remembering that a ‘body positive’ ethos also favours clients who have issues with food and body satisfaction issues, I think the sooner we put it into place, the sooner everyone ‘wins’.

4 thoughts on “Dear Researchers: Here’s what we WANT you to know about us.

  1. Reblogged this on Em's Way To Go and commented:
    “Judgement is still our greatest fear”. Here’s an interesting post on larger people who exercise. I can relate to this – I was the only “overweight” person in my group of friends at Uni – but the only one who exercised regularly!

  2. Your outline is good as some trainers use Cooke cutter responses. You need realtime advice where you indicate your current diet, workouts and get real time answers. Sometimes it is a work in progress and requires time.

    I typically have clients in 3-6 week routines depending on their fitness level and as I see their improvement I move accordingly.

    1. Sounds like you have a great system for individual adaptation and you’re so right, we’re all just works in progress on some level 🙂

      1. Yes I do try. I can’t specialize though I have as the field evolves and there are so many different needs from a varied clientele. I have many protocols and try to continually take it as a work in progress and treat each person as an individual and I change their programs as they improve. Thank you for responding.

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