So…Fat girls can’t run: Asking The Big Guys Why?

Or at least if you would believe that fat girls can’t run, work out, do Yoga, classes, or anything physical if you looked in a shop for workout gear.

I have long had trouble finding clothes that fit properly. When I started my journey, I’m ashamed to say, I sat somewhere around a tight size 24UK. I am now between an 18 and 20UK. Doors are opening to me about where I buy my regular clothes, I know that there will be no panic in most stores as they have a 20/22 and so I don’t have to stress, I know it will fit but fitness clothes?! What a depressing, frustrating and totally rage inducing process.

I have walked around all the stores in my nearest city, I have looked at ASICS, Nike, Adidas, and Puma today, I managed to find Adidas technical running leggings in a size 18 and while I could just about squeeze myself in to them they were tight and there was no way that I would be able to do any activity in them without my belly flopping out over the top and being a massive distraction and not a help. I found a company called XPG cross performance who went up to a size 22 in some ranges, they looked really great, BUT my only criticism was there was no drawstring. I don’t know about everyone else but if I’m going to be comfortable I can’t rely on a thin bit of elastic to ensure that my trousers don’t slip down in to showing my ass to the rest of the gym. Not something I want and if there is even a hint of it it puts me off my stride completely. I never achieve as well as I do in my fav workout clothes. I never feel as confident or as happy as I do in them. I have a waist, it’s got smaller over the last six months, but that means that I have trouble finding trousers because my waist goes in hips and ass go out, they have to fit over all of it so the drawstring keeps the trousers in the right place!

It’s been a running joke that when I get frustrated about something not being available in my size or not being suitable for fatties, I’ll say “Well you know the rules, you can’t be fat and ….”, I’m sure if you are a similar size to me that you get it, it can feel like there are lots of things beyond your reach from roller-coaster rides to clothes that aren’t sacks or tents.

I’ve searched the web, looking for “plus sized” workout clothes and I did find one or two stores, mostly in the US and hardly any in the UK. The most comprehensive UK store that I found was Eves Activewear which says it is a sports wear store for size 14 + which I’ve found has a reasonable selection, not much in the way of real “performance” wear though and frustratingly while you’ll get a pair of Performance Capri’s from Nike for £20 if you are a size 10 you’ll pay £26 for the standard ones, or from plus sized fashion specialist Simply Be where you can pay £32 for a pair of Adidas Capri joggers (not performance leggings) or if you are a size six you can buy them direct from Adidas for £26 (currently they only stock a size 6 or 8).

Both Nike and Adidas advertise that they carry clothes up to a XXL – for Nike that is the equivilent of a 22. I went through every single trouser item on their website and found nothing past an XL. I’ll say it’s possible I could have missed one but I’m sure that the majority didn’t have anything. Interestingly as well I realised something. These are the average measurements for this countries sizing in CMs:

Size Num: Bust-Waist-Hips

Size 12: 91-73-96
Size 14: 96-78-101
Size 16: 101-83-107
Size 18: 107-88-112
Size 20: 112-93-117
Size 22: 117-98-122
Size 24: 122-103-127

Nikes Sizing Chart is as follows:

{SOURCE NIKE UK STORE ONLINE CLICK THE PICTURE TO LINK TO IT}

I can imagine feeling awful putting on something listed in my size only to find that it doesn’t fit. Look at the huge discrepancy between sizes! I suspect the sizes are listed in S,M,L, XL etc to get around the fact that the equivalent sizes that they link to are completely different measurements. I mean take the size 20 for instance, probably what I would pick off the shelf to “be safe”, and yet the sizes are 5 cms smaller than the national average measurements for sizing. Adidas don’t put the CM measurements on their site at all and just use general sizes as their guide. All is not lost, I had a look at Asics and their waist measurements are generous and their hips right on course but they only go to a UK 18 and that is considered an XXL.

I did a quick straw poll amongst Women and Men and the results were interesting, LOTS of plus sized women particularly said that they really struggled to find something they would feel comfortable in the gym, particularly larger women who felt nervous before they stepped through the doors. Looking like you fit in can be a major aid in ensuring that people want to go, also the more involved you get in a sport the more you see the benefits of specialist clothing, for instance running leggings and technical capri’s. It’s part of the sport, tennis players buy rackets, skirts, shorts, runners leggings and belts, anyone who takes part in a sport wants to be able to do the best they can at it. Clothing has become part of sport, it’s a multi million pound industry which largely excludes a good percentage of women particularly.

I say women because men’s sizes go much much bigger. To the extent that those who don’t fit womens clothing often resort to poorly fitted mens wear in order to feel that they are wearing proper sports wear. It’s a big enough step walking through the door of a gym, a class, or a shoe fitting when you are at the start of your journey. This could be the end before the beginning for people who are already sick with nerves about “the change”, the change they want to make but always “failed” at before. It could be the nail in the coffin of those looking for a reason not to go, or those who are convinced that they are “meant” to be fat, that they have to live with crippling insecurity, pain, illness and the humiliation they face every single day.

So I have emailed the press office of the major sports manufacturers. I’ve asked them why. I am genuinely interested in their answer, I’ve also emailed specialist plus sized clothing company Evans (who own Dorothy Perkins, Miss Selfridge, Burton and other high street stores) to ask they why they do not offer a sports wear range. My research has shown there is a market for plus sized sports wear, and the market demand isn’t being met, unfortunately those who want it are generally unable to face admitting that they don’t fit in to clothes labelled XXL.

I’ll keep you posted with their answers!  Whats your experiences of buying real sports wear? Is it what you wanted? Do you make do or find ways around it? Have you ever been confused as to why something labelled in your size doesn’t fit? 

9 thoughts on “So…Fat girls can’t run: Asking The Big Guys Why?

  1. Totally a valid point and I can’t believe sports clothes manufacturers/shops haven’t caught on to this! I’d be interested to hear their responses :-)

  2. Love this post! It’s seriously so frustrating to make this decision to be healthy and exercise and you can’t find any proper clothes! I’m in the US and as you mentioned, there are a couple of online shops that have decent plus size workout gear. However, I wish I could walk into a store and try them on first!

    Not even going to get started on the fact that society tells fat people to exercise… what, we’re supposed to do it in the buff?

    Look forward to hearing their responses!

  3. Yep! I completely agree with you! I’m a size 16 now, but find that XL sportswear cuts in where I don’t want it to. Also, finding a sports bra that fits me, or a swimming costume that contains my boobs without them spilling out when I’m doing the breast stroke, is almost impossible. And as you say, larger sizes come at a premium price size.

    All my sports wear is men’s. Not just because of the waist sizes (or the chest measurements!) but also because, whilst most high street stores have trousers in long leg, joggers tend to have a standard 31inch inside leg – 3 inches off what I am. I don’t think I’m freakishly sized by any means – but I’ve NEVER been able to find gym wear to fit. And as you say that’s a massive problem – it’s hard to get motivated to exercise sometimes, and feeling as though you look ridiculous in the clothes you’re wearing is often enough to make me not want to do anything.

  4. I completely agree. I’ve spent 18 months exercising in the privacy of my own home due to the lack of sportswear available to me.
    I’m currently a UK 18 and began 18 months ago as a UK 26.
    I thought that I would be able to go the gym by the time I hit a size 18 but the lack of clothing has seriously hampered my goal.
    I’ve worked hard all this time to lose the weight and to feel comfortable entering a gym and feeling I may finally belong, only to be told by the sportswear companies that sorry luv ur just too fat to wear our brand Workouts r for the slim…WTF?!
    I want decent appropriate material in my workout clothes not some cheap crap that after a few squats start to go baggy on the knee.
    I want to show off the almost flatness of my stomach not hide it in a blokes tshirt …. Come on Adidas Nike reebok and all other manufacturers … Give us bigger women the clothes we deserve and size ur stuff correctly… Pfffft

  5. Hi
    With the risk of this reply looking like a sales pitch, and it honestly and genuinely isn’t, I have to say that I set up ‘We Fit In’ because of the very reasons mentioned above. There simply aren’t enough sportswear options for bigger women, although there are few more coming through at the moment.

    I totally agree about needing to feel comfortable entering a gym. The mind is such a powerful tool when it comes to fitness and weight loss and lets face it, if you feel you look good when they’re working out, you’re far more likely to stay motivated for longer.

    I really don’t know why the main sportswear manufacturers don’t stock larger sizes, however, I have conversations with women who I meet either socially or through my site and the response that I hear time and time again is, “I can’t buy a t-shirt just yet because I’m going to lose weight”. Other ladies say that they can’t possibly buy a size 22, 24 etc. because it’s far too big. Others go along to a well known High Street shop but buy a relatively cheap regular t shirt and leggings. This is absolutely fine, as long as you don’t sweat and are fairly happy with chaffing. Perhaps responses such as this has something to do with it?

    • I couldn’t agree more. I am 71 and have lost almost 2 stones but have a long way to go. I am starting to work out at the gym with a personal trainer but then the rot kicks in – what to wear. I need something cool that takes the sweat away from my body ( slim ladies can have these clothes so why can’t I.) I need a size 26/28 top which is impossible to find in this country. I don’t want the fancy ‘fashion’ sportswear, I want the proper active wear. And also I want tops that are long enough to cover my bum instead of finishing just below the waist. I am not asking for the world, just to be allowed the same gear as the slim ladies – is that too much to ask…
      I feel self conscious enough in the gym, but decent breathable gym wear that is comfortable to wear and covers the bits I prefer not to show would make my workouts far nicer and more enjoyable.

        • Paula’s site (wefitin) is really great and I highly recommend it. I’d also like to add that I co-own a British plus size sportswear company called State of Mind. We design and manufacture our own, British-made, label and we can be found online at stateofmindactive.com. We make exercise tops, bottoms and outerwear in sizes 16-26 in performance wear fabrics. We are about to pitch to a couple of major retailers and we will certainly pass on the comments we’ve read here.
          Please check out our site, our blog and our story to find out how we came up with State of Mind. We’d love to serve you!
          Happy exercising.
          Michaela, co-founder of State of Mind

  6. Hi,
    I think there are a few brands out there now who are catering to the plus size sportswear market which is really good and makes a nice change from. I know that I used to get so frustrated wearing big baggy square t-shirts which made me look and feel much bigger than I actually was. My friend found some really nice clothes at
    Charlotte Jackson Womenswear so they might also be worth a look.

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