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New year, new reasons why I won’t focus on losing weight

content warning!

Move Out Loud, gal-dem’s podcast with Nike has shown me how to enjoy exercising without centering it around numbers on a scale.

13 Dec 2022

Content warning: mentions of fatphobia and weight loss.

In partnership with Nike.

As a lifelong plus size babe, my relationship with exercise has been complex, to say the bloody least. My memories of sports are plagued with cruel words from bully PE teachers, netball vests barely fitting over my bust and fat shaming in the manky changing rooms.

When I grew up, exercise became solely about losing weight. It was a punishment for allowing the number on the scales to rise. I’d embrace physical activity in the way anyone would embrace torture, I’d sit in anxious silence before gym sessions, I’d procrastinate to avoid cardio machines and I’d make excuses, dark nights and rainy mornings were the perfect reason to cancel a session. 

It’s funny because objectively, I have always been a fan of movement. I was and still am the first person on the dance floor, on holidays I take to the water like Mami Wata, and I clean my house with the vigour of an Olympic athlete. My problem was that my relationship to exercise was built on the perils of trauma and fatphobia. For me, fitness was a slim white woman’s game, and I was deliberately avoiding it. I constantly dodged stressful conversations about diet culture and the presumption that I should use physical activity as a corrective process for my body, a body I was trying so hard to appreciate. 

With the “new year, new me” weight-loss conversations approaching, I found solace in gal-dem’s podcast Move Out Loud with Nike as it explores movement beyond these restrictive ideologies. Hosted by Tinuke Oyediran, a record-breaking professional skater, the podcast is a celebration of our bodies.

If you can’t see it, you can’t be it”

Alice Dearing

In the first episode ‘TRUST’, Tinuke meets Trina Nicole, a plus size dancer and body positivity activist. Growing up with soca music in her Caribbean household, she found liberation through dancing but felt like she didn’t meet expectations of what a dancer ‘should’ look like. For me, the soundtrack to my adolescence was afrobeats; I’d practise azonto moves for hours in front of the mirror in my teenage bedroom. The same way dancing inspired Trina to appreciate her body and the way it moves, it made me realise that the extra jiggle only adds a bit of pizzazz to the proceedings.

Both episodes ‘REPRESENTATION’ and ‘EQUALITY’ address issues of representation, something we as black women are so often faced with. Nike athlete Alice Dearing, the first black female swimmer to represent Great Britain at the Olympic games, explains how she constantly grappled with the stereotypes black people faced about swimming and as a result, co-founded the Black Swimming Association in 2020.

British weightlifter Emily Campbell, a medallist in the women’s +87kg event at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, similarly speaks about diversifying weightlifting in typically white male-dominated spaces. Even as champions of their sport, Alice and Emily strive to create space for black women, which only motivates me to enter that space.

Young people of colour can come into our space and excel in the way that I have”

Emily Campbell 

In “COMPETITION” we listened to the influence of role models in Demi Stokes professional football career. In the same way black female academics like Professor Fareda Banda and Dr Melanie Marie Heywood have enabled me to progress in higher education, Jessica Ennis and the Williams sisters clearly inspired Demi Stokes growing up. Now as a new mother to a baby boy, she reflects on the influence female athletes have on men as well. 

I cackled as yogini and Nike content creator, Mahaneela hilariously chronicled her frustrations at the appropriation of yoga in episode, ‘REST’. “I’m tired of white people mispronouncing namaste” she tells Tinuke. As someone who sees exercise as an antonym of rest, it was interesting listening to how Mahaneela explored yoga as a way to keep her grounded through a demanding career. Daily practice allowed her to be mindful about how her body feels, understanding whether she was feeling energetic, was in need of deep rest, or on the brink of burnout. 

She decentered herself from “the capitalist hellhole” through embracing Ishvarapranidhana, a Sanskrit word that translates as the surrender of the self. She also draws on the Gye Nyame symbol from Ghana, where we both share heritage, meaning “except God”. She explains, “It’s about a mindset change – surrender to the fact you cannot control everything.” Reminding me… I cannot come and kill myself for this rat race! 

As I write my resolutions, it’s exciting to begin my exercise journey again with a renewed understanding of the joy in movement and sports. Move Out Loud has inspired me to find fitness spaces that empower bodies like mine and celebrate my body for the power it has.