How to be an Ally to a Person of Size in the Outdoors

How to be an Ally to a Person of Size in the Outdoors

September 27, 2017

By Jennifer Davis-Flynn

Next time you’re hiking the trails, mountain biking, paddling, skiing…take a look around. Who do you see? Does everyone look the same?

Outdoor brand catalogs and enthusiast magazines show us countless images of young, white, skinny yoga chicks, ripped female climbers, and a whole lotta dudes. And, not surprisingly, reality often follows suit.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

Society places a lot of limitations on what fat people can and cannot do: sitting at home alone, feeling ashamed is okay. Traveling, eating in public, and engaging in outdoor pursuits – not so much.

As a short, size-14-woman who has worked in both the outdoor and natural foods industries, I never see myself represented…even though I look like 67% of women currently in the U.S. I feel like an outlier on the mountain bike trail, on the slopes, at the biggest industry trade show. It’s crazy. Because I’m the rule, not the exception.

Luckily, I grew up brave and adventurous (thanks in no small part to amazing parents) and continue to have many supporters who love to play outside with me. But, I’m lonely out here. I desperately want to see many more women like me on the trail.

So, what can we all do to change the ratio?

Simple. We can invite people in our lives and community to participate with us, no matter their size.

Extend an Invitation

Are you going on hike, an afternoon canoe trip, a bike ride, a yoga class? Extend an invitation to a larger friend, colleague, or neighbor. Assure her that you’re not doing anything extreme, but you’d love to introduce her to a beautiful area or a fun new activity. If it’s a group outing, mention that all levels are welcome and then support your friend by staying by her side and participating at her pace. That might mean going slower than usual or taking more breaks, but do so happily, chatting and keeping it fun.

Most people of size are very self-conscious about holding people back. But, going at a slower pace might be a wonderful exercise for you as well. You’ll get a chance to take in the beautiful scenery, observe wildlife, and, perhaps, notice things about a favorite trail that you’ve never seen before. It’s a win-win.

Afterwards, take your friend out for coffee or a beer to celebrate, and make plans to do it again. Including everyone in your favorite activities is a beautiful gift to give to the world. It’s a small step that can tremendous impact on someone’s life and the outdoor industry as a whole.

Nature is for everyone, regardless of size. Spread the love.



Shae said:

LOVE this article! As a big gal, yep she hit everything right-on. In my case, I’m active and strong but ALWAYS self-conscious about my ‘ample-ness’. And soooooo tired of folks assuming that because I’m big that I can’t…whatever. Thank you!!

Paula Marx Rush

Paula Marx Rush said:

Thank you so much for sharing! I too am 5’ 5" and a size 14. I also am a hiker, kayaker, camper and do yoga. I do not let my weight hold me back from being an adventurer on this planet!

Marina Chavez

Marina Chavez said:

This is so beautiful to read. As a tall 5’8 and size 14/16 I know the struggle so well. I love to rock climb, hike, snowboard, camp, swim but people don’t realize that. They give me looks, and many of my bigger friends don’t want to go and because they are scared. I have had my share of breakdowns. Has anyone seen a rock climbing gym? That’s second home to the skinny crossfit girls but still no one should feel like they have to miss out because of something like size. This article needed to be written. Thank you.

Stephanie Siegel

Stephanie Siegel said:

I guess being 5’6" and a size 14 isn’t in the plus range, but still is oversized for getting out and having a great life?

Glad I didn’t get that memo!


Kim said:

“Person of size” that’s ridiculous ! Just get out there and do your thing .. I’m not skinny but it doesn’t stop me from doing what I love … If you label yourself as a “Person of Seize” you have more issues than your size ……


Natalie said:


The whole point behind this blog is to encourage women to be supportive of one another and an ally. If someone wants to call herself a Person of Size and identifies with that title, more power to her! Please, be an ally! Not an adversary!


Kirin said:

I have been hiking for decades from a size 0 to a 14. I am now down to a 4 but I have always enjoyed being outside being active.
The Colorado Ride the Rockies is 2000 cyclists of every size, shape and age.
It benefits Denver Post charities.
Great respresentatation!
Just do it! Is my motto


Carol said:

Great article. And it’s true, I have concerns about not going at the same pace as those who are more fit. Thank you for encouraging us to get out there. I like Person of Size.


Eddy said:

Say it loud: “I’m fat and I’m proud!” Fit and fat is what I call myself. And I say, “Skinny does NOT equal healthy.” If marketers use the word skinny to sell stuff, I think tiptoeing around the “other f word” with terms like “person of size” is drinking their Kool-Aid. Fight back and let the world know that fat chicks can kick ass, too. Thanks so much for this piece, Jennifer!


Erica said:

I just started to think about this issue as I was hunting for hiking pants and shorts recently. As a size 8 woman with size 10 thighs, I find the outdoor apparel industry unable or unwilling to accommodate my curves. There seems to be an assumption that your silhouette will be a certain shape if you’re active outdoors, though my body has remained this shape at lower and higher weights. Vive le difference!


Maggie said:

I was led to this site because I received an email from Meetup inviting me to become a Bold Betties Leader. Curious, I came here to see what Bold Betties was all about. The first thing I saw on was “ripped female climbers” and women who are basically indistinguishable from “young, white, skinny yoga chicks.” Sadly, coming to this site, I feel the alienation the author describes finding, elsewhere. I really, REALLY want to like this group. Of, by & for women? That’s AWESOME :)! I humbly offer that this organization really does change the face of adventure, and not stop there… change the hips, thighs, tushes, and everything else of adventure until it looks more like more of the women who love it look.


Cricket said:

Honestly, I find this condescending. I am more active and have more endurance than most of my “skinny” friends. I would be offended if they made these assumptions about me and treated me like inviting me along is an act of charity.


Phyllis said:

A size 14 or a large is the norm. The average clothing size as I look through the racks of clothes. Maybe we are looking in the wrong store. Don’t fit at Lane Bryant I can always find at Lands End, I’m at 5’ and 160 was hitting at 280 10 years ago. It is a challenge, leggings are great! Short legs normal the rest of the body. Celebrate who you are, because our creator makes perfection

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