Exercise is essential for good health - no secret there. But if you're fat, you may face specific barriers to fitness. Maybe a lack of motivation is the problem - you may never be thin, so why bother? Or maybe you're not sure where to find the right workout clothes or a sensitive trainer. Sometimes it's hard to know where to start.
Whatever your reason for not working out, there's a solution. So says Jeanette DePatie, the author of "The Fat Chick Works Out!" DePatie knows a thing or two about plus-sized fitness because in addition to being a fitness trainer, she's overweight. Keep clicking to hear what she has to say...
Focus on fitness, not fat
Regular workouts can improve your health no matter what the scale says. So stop thinking about your weight and start thinking about getting fitter. Think less about how your body looks and more about what it can do.
Get the right clothes
No need to be a size 4 to fit into designer fitness duds. Several companies, including Adidas, Nike, and Just My Size offer plus-sized workout clothes up to size 3X. And Junonia sells wetsuits and triathlon clothing up to size 6X. So stop thinking you'll have to look like a shlub when you hit the gym. Strutting your stuff in terrific-looking togs will make you more comfortable - and help boost your motivation.
Find some fat fitness heroes
When you're plus-sized, it can be dispiriting to see all those toned bodies at the gym and in the park. One way to boost your motivation to work out is to learn a bit about some of the fat-but-fit folks who have achieved athletic glory. People like sumo wrestler Kelly Gneitling, who weighed more than 400 pounds when he completed the Los Angeles marathon in 2011. Or Cheryl Haworth (pictured), who weighed more than 300 pounds when she won Olympic bronze in 2000. Do a bit of googling, and you might be surprised at how many inspiring stories you find.
Credit: Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images
Join the right crowd
We've all been there. You joined an exercise class for fun but wound up struggling to keep up with people who look like they're ready for an ultramarathon. Not much fun. You'll find it more fun - and easier to focus on your form - if your workouts are alongside other people whose fitness level is similar to your own.
Avoid aerobics "overlords"
Some fitness trainers seem to think that the only path to fitness is via punishing workouts - especially if you're overweight and therefore "lazy." But you're entitled to work out with a trainer who respects everyone, no matter his/her size and shape. Find someone who is willing to modify workout routines that you find painful or too difficult - and who doesn't try to punish you "for your own good."
Don't go overboard
Carrying extra weight means you burn calories faster than a thin person working out at the same intensity - at least if you're engaged in a weight-bearing exercise like walking, running, cycling, or dancing. Keep that in mind when you work out, especially if you're comparing yourself to a thinner person in a workout class. One good way to monitor your exertion is with a heart monitor, like the strapless model sold by Mio.
Chafing can be a problem for everyone who works out, but it can be especially troublesome for members of what some call the "chub club." But there are solutions. Bicycle shorts that extend to the knees can help with inner thigh chafing. For chest chafing, some women find it helpful to wear two sports bras, one atop the other (or to put adhesive bandages over the nipples). Underarm chafing? Make sure your shirt isn't too loose, especially in the sleeves. Consider trying a friction-reducing skin lubricant like BodyGlide. You apply it just as you would a solid deodorant.
Get gear that fits
When it comes to fitness equipment, one size definitely does not fit all. Fortunately, plus-sized gear is widely available - from bicycles (Super Sized Cycles, Lightfoot Cycles) and bike seats (Hobson) to sturdy steps (Safety Step) and exercise balls (Fitness 1st). Not sure if the weight machines at the club are appropriate for you? Look online for the weight limits for common exercise equipment. Or ask the trainers or managers at the club.
Be a role model
As plus-sized exercisers, we can act as powerful role models (and "roll models") for newer exercisers. It's important for beginning exercisers to see that fitness comes in all shapes and sizes. As a plus-sized exercise adherent, you are uniquely qualified to answer the questions and sympathize with the issues of other plus-sized exercisers. And there's nothing quite like the lift you get from helping a newbie exerciser along. Trust me. If you want to stick to fitness, be a teacher.
Go slow at first
Accept your fitness starting place - no matter what it is. If you can walk only one mile right now, rock that mile. Ditto if you can walk only one block. As you get some workouts under your belt, increase your fitness efforts gradually - up to 10% per week. Remember the story of the tortoise and the hare. It's better to make it to the finish line upbeat and injury-free than to rush out of the starting gate at a speed you can't sustain.
Think of fitness as a reward
Fat people are often taught that they should loathe their bodies, and that they deserve exercise that's painful and punishing. It's not always easy to do, but try to stop thinking of exercise as some form of punishment. Instead, think of fitness as a reward - a bonus for a life that's well-lived.
Forget about what others think
As a plus-sized exerciser, you may worry that others will laugh at you. They might. But most people are so wrapped up in their own insecurities they lack the time and energy to notice others. If you see some smirks or hear a few laughs, so what? Don't let a few misguided folks stop you from reaching your goals.