BODY LIBERATION

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Fitness Influencers To Follow If The Word “Fitfluencer” Makes You Want To Die

Because you don’t have to hate your body to enjoy moving it.

by Meaghan O'Connell

Talking about moving your body — your one body! — can feel really weird and vulnerable. For many of us, “exercise” has been a site of self-loathing and punishment and deprivation. The fitness community, as it were, has not been historically known for its inclusive or relaxed nature. Add to that the real psychic damage done to some of us in the name of “health,” whether it be when we were kids or teens or postpartum or yesterday. Especially for those of us who have a history of disordered eating, or trauma, or are not in general skinny, white, straight, and able-bodied.

It can be hard to shake off those early humiliations, or to unravel the learned assumption that exercise is something you do to atone for being a person in the world who takes up space. We all know that in the wrong hands (the hands of, say, the American Academy of Pediatrics), the conversation can get really gross really fast, and on the wrong day, it can really f*ck us up. For some, it might feel safest to avoid the subject altogether. This is completely fair and legit.

Sometimes, I feel that way myself. Other times, I see Jessamyn Stanley do a yoga inversion in sparkly rainbow bike shorts, and I think, Hey, maybe there is something for me here.

If you find yourself curious, maybe ready to dip a toe in but afraid of the toxic horrors that await your FYP, I have some good news. There are good people out there who seem to have figured out something crucial: that they can delight in moving their bodies, and learning new skills, and having fun doing it, and it can be nothing about punishment or self-loathing. Oh, how I admire them, those beautiful posters who have managed to thread the needle. They have done the elusive fitness reframe and figured out, in a way that works for them, how to engage with exercise (“joyful movement!”) in a way that feel truly good and liberating and fun.

Here is a list of some of our favorite, father forgive me, “fitfluencers.” Their words and photos and silly little videos make us feel welcome and comfortable and at ease. At least on good days.

Sophie Butler

London-based Sophie Butler was Cosmo UK’s 2022 influencer of the year (and the first wheelchair user to grace its cover!). Twenty-six years old, queer, and disabled by a gym accident in university, Sophie is a hilarious light on TikTok who makes me want to dress (and be) better.

Chrissy King

Chrissy King is here to remind us (gently, lovingly!) that diet culture is rooted in white supremacy and that the key to freedom is not “body positivity” but “body liberation.” Her perspective on Twitter and Instagram is a breath of fresh air and her new book, called The Body Liberation Project: How Understanding Racism and Diet Culture Helps Cultivate Joy and Build Collective Freedom, is sure to be a balm.

All Bodies On Bikes

All Bodies on Bikes is a movement to create and foster a size-inclusive bike community. There are local chapters, group rides, cute merch, inspiring photos, and guides to buying a bike for a bigger body. Because: “All Bodies Are Good Bodies. All Bikes Are Good Bikes. All Rides Should Be Celebrated.”

Swole Woman

Casey Johnston is a gift to the Internet and to the universe (and to me, personally). Whether it be through her brilliant newsletter “She’s a Beast”; her inspiring weight room Instas; or Liftoff, her painstakingly thoughtful and precise (but somehow very loving and reassuring and chill?) couch to barbell program that will have you feeling like maybe you, too, could be a swole woman. (NB: If you haven’t seen it, her Avocado Principle graphic will blow your mind.)

Tiffany Croww

Tiffany is a yoga teacher with who focuses on “accessible yoga for beautiful bellies.” Her videos on TikTok and Insta are generous and encouraging, with premises like “POV you think your back hurts because you are overweight. Not because you sit at your desk all day and never stretch.” Everyone deserves to feel less pain in their bodies! You can try her free 60-minute yoga class here.

Roz The Diva

Roz the Diva is a personal trainer and pole dancer who is focused on making movement more inclusive. She is also the hilarious, encouraging voice I want in my head when I am feeling too intimidated to lift weights at the gym.

Unlikely Hikers

“THE BODY YOU HAVE NOW IS READY FOR THE ADVENTURES YOU’RE DREAMING OF.” Unlikely Hikers is an Instagram community, a nationwide hiking group, and a podcast for the “underrepresented outdoorsman,” meaning adventurers who are plus-size and fat, Black; Indigenous; people of color; queer, trans, and nonbinary, disabled; neurodivergent; and beyond.

See also: Fat Girls Hiking (“Trails not scales!”) and Body Liberation Hiking Club, based in the Hudson Valley of New York.

Curves With Moves

Jessie Diaz-Herrera of @curveswithmoves is a certified fitness instructor who is interested in “body lib through joyful movement” — yes please! Diaz-Herrera encourages her followers to free the jiggle with PowerPlus Wellness, which curates events for people with plus bodies who want to experience working out free from the toxic parts of fitness culture.

Climb Big

Climb Big is a community for fat and plus-size rock climbers and is great encouragement for anyone who thinks they don’t have enough upper body strength to climb. “One of the biggest myths about rock climbing is that you’ve got to be super strong to do it. In fact, if [your] legs are able to carry you up stairs, they’re probably able to get you up a climbing wall.”

Jessamyn Stanley

The aforementioned and self-described Beyoncé of yoga, Jessamyn Stanley is an award-winning author and co-founder of The Underbelly. Gorgeous, joyful, and brilliant, she also, it must be said, does naked yoga on OnlyFans.