November 1, 2018

Learning about Body Positivity with Diandra Oliver

Last week, Diandra Oliver took our crew through a Fat Positivity + Body Positivity workshop. Through the work she facilitated, we learned the difference between body positivity and fat activism, systemic discrimination against plus size and fat identified folx, and the ways we can value all bodies and the incredible things they do.

We got to know Diandra a little more and found out why this type of work is so important for the fitness community:

You’ve got a lot on the go! Tell us some more about yourself and the different initiatives you’re a part of:

I am a writer and activist from the ancestral territories of Kitselas and Kitsumkalum First Nations in Northwest, British Columbia. I grew up on mountains and in rivers, and moved to Vancouver in 2016. Since being in Vancouver I've jumped head first into the outdoors community, co-founding Vancouver’s first fat softball team, The Heavy Hitters and becoming the first Canadian ambassador for Fat Girls Hiking, supporting them to get their Vancouver Chapter up and running. This past summer I joined the Curvy Kili Crew, a group of awesome fat babes from all over North America who are hiking Mount Kilimanjaro for International Women’s Day 2019. The hike will be the first group fat hike of Kili and the Curvy Kili Crew has been featured all over the internet in social media stories, blog posts and podcasts. To get ready for the hike I've been training at Tight Club and at the beginning of October I completed a distance and elevation gain simulation of Kili which you can read more about on my blog here.

Outside of this hiking life, my partner and I parent our rad 8 year old kid. We basically run around the city eating noodles (his favourite is Mr. Red) and going to all of the swimming pools (faves are Eileen Daily in Burnaby and New Brighton pool in East Van). For work I'm a PhD student and instructor in the Geography department at Simon Fraser University. I study young people's unemployment in Vancouver and how young people resist and advocate to have their economic realities acknowledged by the government and employers. Basically, if you were born after 1980 things are not good. Let's fix it.

What inspired you to start this workshop?

I started working out at Tight Club with the Tight Life Challenge in January 2017. After spending decades experiencing fatphobia, homophobia and sexism in sports and fitness I had become weary about walking into anywhere new. But there was something about how Tight Club put the movement in front of the bullshit that inspired me and hooked me. Keighty, Jody, Kelsey and everyone at Tight Club was so welcoming those first three weeks and the Tight Life family was everything I needed to intentionally get my body moving again. I've always felt like my body was celebrated at Tight Club and it's at Tight Club that I've learned to celebrate my body and what it can do.

This workshop came together because I want to support Tight Club to learn about gatekeeping in the industry (how the industry intentionally keeps fat people out by focusing on diet talk or by only having thin people in their advertising) and the systemic ways that fat folks are restricted from moving their bodies (eg. gear and clothing is not size appropriate, instructors often have traditional body types, and modifications are not always offered). I am excited to work with Tight Club to unpack the hierarchy of thinness and to develop a practice of inclusivity that supports and celebrates bodies of all sizes.

Why is it important?

Most fitness and sport spaces are alienating for fat folks. It's really hard to go into a fitness space and not be bombarded with messages about weight loss. In our culture, gyms, fitness centres and "healthy living" are all so deeply connected to fatphobia and the diet industry (that profits off our own self-hatred). Fat Activism requires us to accept all bodies the way they are and to honour each person's own reasons for moving their body however they want to or not. For example, I want to move my body to outlive my enemies and manage my anxiety, not to lose weight. Often when I'm working out regularly or on an elimination diet to deal with health stuff, family and friends are so excited that I've "lost weight" and do not hesitate in telling me that I look great and they're so happy for me. I've begun to reply with a cheerful tone, "I haven't lost any weight! I'm still fat but now I really love burpees!". Committing to Fat Activism requires us to change the script away from happiness for weight loss to pride for gaining strength and living a tight life. The next step is taking that internal change and replicating it by advocating for all bodies in the systems around us.

What you hope others will take away from it?

I'm so proud of Tight Club and the work they're doing to be an inclusive, safe space. It is exhausting to constantly be making space for yourself in a world that clearly doesn't want you and it's exciting when people in the industry stand up to do this hard work. I hope that as Tight Club deepens their practice of welcoming those folks who are typically marginalized by the fitness industry, folks will find it easier to walk into this space because it will be ready for them.

A huge thank you to Diandra for taking the time to teach us how we can make our space more accessible, inclusive, and how we can advocate for and support members with all types of bodies with empathy and solidarity. ALL BODIES are welcome here.

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