This week we talk to plus-size fitness trainer and author Louise Green about her upcoming book, Big Fit Girl, and how she is changing the way the world thinks about plus size fitness.
Laura Jane: Can you tell me about your experience with body image before you became a trainer?
Louise: Before becoming a trainer I viewed exercise as a tool for weight loss and I had a one body narrative, that my body needed to be smaller. Before I was a trainer, I was a talent agent. I worked in commercial and television casting. I would spend my days, most of the time, telling people that they needed to alter their bodies in some way, that they needed to be taller, thinner, blonder or more tanned.
While working in casting, I started running with a running group, running 10ks and half marathons. Through that group, I started volunteering as a run leader. On the weekends, I was doing such enriching work and inspiring others to run, then would come back into work on Monday to give feedback to actors, which was often negative.
I got to a crossroad and really felt that what I was doing for a job during the day was wrong. So I left and acquired all my certifications to pursue fitness full-time. I decided I was going to dedicate my services to the plus-size demographic. I had participated in many boot camps leading up to my career change and, through my personal experience, realized that there was a gap in the marketing and no one was catering to the fitness needs of plus size women.
It’s been about eleven years since I left my job and started my boot camps. I later started to license my business—I realized in short order that my passion and ultimate calling is to help women love their bodies and unleash their inner athlete, at any size.
LJ: In your upcoming book, Big Fit Girl, you write about creating a culture where plus size women can become athletes. What is your goal with this book?
L: My goal with Big Fit Girl is to change the way society views bigger bodies and health and fitness. It is also to let women of size know that their bodies can be athletic and strong in a range of sizes. My goal is create a counter message and to tell a new story in contrast to what we see in most fitness magazine and health media. People are still pumping out this idea that you have to be 20, lean, and ripped to be considered healthy. This messaging is harmful to women and girls because often what we see in the media is unattainable. I know this because I sat behind the desk, I was in the casting room giving the unattainable feedback. We were telling young women who weighed 120 pounds, by way of the producer’s feedback, that they had to lose weight, that their hips were too big. We were casting young women who were in their 20s as moms. Moms are like 40 now. We are portraying this messaging that is actually not real.
LJ: Do you remember your own experience with body image and when you first started to think about your body as something that needed to meet certain standards?
L: I would probably say I was in grade eight. I had this narrative going through my mind all the time that I needed to lose weight. I probably couldn’t have been much thinner—I’ve always had curves. I also misconstrued them as fat. I remember sitting in a backyard with a couple of friends and a guy I really liked. I remember looking down and seeing a fold in my stomach which I thought of as a roll. I remember being paralyzed and thinking that if my arm moved out of the way, he might see that.
I went through some pretty tumultuous times as a teenager until I was 29-years-old. I smoked and drank and when I turned 29, I decided I’d had enough. I was going to live the life that I wanted and decided it was time to get healthy. I had been very athletic as a child and I was going down this path that was really self-destructive. I quit smoking and I quit drinking. I really put a stop to it all. I really did a 360 lifestyle change.
It was then, I started running and working towards a new life. When I started running, I realized that my body had incredible power and that it was more than an ornament and my self-esteem started to grow immensely. That’s why I strongly believe in fitness. I’d love to bring the idea of running to self-esteem initiatives because it helped me so much. I am percolating on some ideas of approaching some feminine based brands such as Dove or Always to create 5K runs for women and girls. Fitness can cause a profound self esteem transformation that I know from personal experience and from training literally thousands of women. I see the self-esteem elevation and change in body perspective when they start to tap into their athletic roots. It’s incredibly powerful.
LJ: Tell me more about that transformation. How have you seen women change?
L: Well, I don’t know if it’s the message I give off with the women I work with, but they start to call themselves athletes. I call all the women I work with athletes, even if they are brand new to my program. If you look in the dictionary, Oxford defines athlete as someone who is proficient in fitness and sport. Once again, the media has created a hierarchy of athleticism that is away from its true meaning. So I start by calling people athletes and a lot of the time, people get very shy about that. But it’s important to talk about bodies in a positive and empowering way. Endorphins are liberating and this energy makes you more positive and enthusiastic about life. I witness people completely change without the presence of weight loss.
LJ: So you experience them viewing their bodies differently without their bodies changing?
L: Exactly. Their whole mindset changes. And their fitness level changes. To lose weight is really a food game. People think, well if I work out, I’m going to lose weight. Well, that is true to a certain degree, but you have to be really on top of your dietary intake. For many women, they have been battling food for years and, for some bodies, it’s just not possible to reach the ideals we see in the media. I encourage women towards self-acceptance and living to their athletic potential so they can experience their body’s power and all it can do, over what it can look like.
I think many people are surprised when they see my client’s fitness abilities and how fit they are. I had a substitute trainer come in about a month ago and she was like, “Holy shit, these women are incredibly fit”. People think because I run plus size fitness that we’re doing chair aerobics. But we are using TRXs, agility ladders. We’re boxing, lifting weights. We are going to town and they are fit.