For most of my life, I’ve heard the societal belief that people who live in curvy bodies “eat too much” and “don’t exercise enough.” I’ve heard that if they change these habits, they’ll lose weight. So when I gained weight recently, I sensed people were judging me, thinking I had adopted those habits and that doing so made me a “bad” person somehow. (Spoiler alert: It didn’t.)
I knew, logically, that weight gain isn’t a moral issue. When I joined a social justice-based eating disorder organization in college, I learned the myths that plague our society—and the truth behind them. For example, I learned food doesn’t have moral value, people can be healthy at different sizes, and you can’t assume someone’s habits or health just by looking at them. I also learned many aspects can affect health and weight, including genetics, medication, your income, where you live, and much more. But despite that knowledge, I struggled. Many people around me didn’t know about or share that understanding.
Then, I found Sports Illustrated model Ella Halikas and Laetitia De Carufel on my TikTok “For You” page. These women are body-positive creators and influencers who post videos about how they exercise regularly, are fit, and live in curvier bodies. Some of these videos are responses to TikTok users’ comments, and others are regular videos.
@ellahalikashealth & fitness isn’t a one-size fits all kinda thing.. remember that
♬ original sound – Sickickmusic
For example, in one of her gym workout videos, Halikas typed: “When people tell me I should hit the gym not knowing I’ve been an athlete my whole life and could outwork them any day.” In the caption, she writes, “Health & fitness isn’t a one-size fits all kinda thing…remember that.”
In one of De Carufel’s videos, she talks about how people who hear she works out five times a week expect to see that she’s “super fit.” She then says, “Yeah, actually, I am,” and pans to her body, explaining a healthy, fit body doesn’t always mean visible abs and a low body fat percentage. My reaction: Go off, girl!
But on a more serious note, seeing this kind of representation means so much to me. While I know exercise doesn’t automatically make someone a “good,” “better,” or “healthier” person, and that we don’t “owe” anyone a workout, it’s nice to see real people prove how a curvy body doesn’t equal a lack of fitness. As a curvier woman who enjoys dancing and playing volleyball sometimes, it helps me feel less alone or as if something is “wrong” with me or my body.
These TikToks also educate the people who still haven’t heard how weight and health aren’t as tightly and directly linked as we previously thought—which, in turn, hopefully leads to less fat bias and judgment going around. That’s important not only on a small, social level, but also can (hopefully) affect systemic issues such as weight discrimination. If you haven’t heard this, people in bigger bodies are often given lesser healthcare and are denied jobs or higher pay simply because of how they look. Obviously, that’s ridiculous, dangerous, and in need of change.
“The day I decided to be confident and live life to the fullest in the body I’m in, regardless of size, was the day my life changed forever.” –Ella Halikas
And change is happening, slowly but surely. Registered dietitian and intuitive eating counselor Sammy Previte is an example. In a few of her TikToks, she talks about how she used to advise weight loss and “clean eating” to her clients, and how she doesn’t anymore because of the education she’s received from Health at Every Size and similar movements that show how weight isn’t the sole indicator of health and that all foods fit.
I know creators like these often get a lot of hate for their content—something I’m not totally immune to as someone who writes articles online—and I appreciate the passion that drives them to continue posting anyway.
“I think it’s important to post this message because people need to understand that health and fitness come in all shapes and sizes,” Halikas says when we talk. She mentions how she’s been overlooked because of her size, despite being as healthy as her thinner peers. “I would even argue that this is physically the biggest I’ve ever been, and yet I’m my healthiest and strongest,” she adds.
Halikas aims to inspire confidence in others. “I hope that by posting my workouts, talking about my meal prepping, and being open about my life, other people can feel confident to post and live their life the way they want, regardless of their size,” she says.
She’s been successful with that, too, as evidenced by her comment section. Some remarks that stand out to Halikas are “Thank you for showing that you can be healthy and strong even in a curvy body” and “You’ve inspired me to focus on becoming my best self.” Words like these encourage her to keep posting.
Halikas does get hate, but thankfully, she’s able to handle it. “The negative comments I’ve gotten have mainly been people fat-shaming me, telling me I need to lose weight, and saying I’m unhealthy just because of my size,” she says. “Dealing with negative comments is never necessarily easy; although, I’ve gotten really good at not letting them get to me.”
She knows how important her message is, and where those comments are actually coming from. “I now understand that these negative comments are really just insecure people trying to bring me down to their level,” she says. “If anything, I try not to take these comments personally as I know that these comments are a reflection of them and not me.”
She also wants to clarify that fitness isn’t always about weight loss. “I would like people to stop assuming just because I like to work out daily does not automatically mean I want to lose weight,” she says. “There are so many reasons why people work out other than just weight loss.”
Halikas’s decision to live with confidence regardless of her size profoundly changed her life. “When I was younger, I spent so much time trying to fit societal beauty and fitness standards and wished I was smaller,” she says. “The day I decided to be confident and live life to the fullest in the body I’m in, regardless of size, was the day my life changed forever.”
I see the effects of her passion in my own life, too. Now, thanks to Halikas, as well as De Carufel, I’m able to argue with that voice in my head that tells me I’m not healthy or worthy of respect because I’m “too big.” I wear bikinis on the beach and don’t suck my stomach in. I try to incorporate exercise more without doing it for weight-related reasons. I worry less about what others think of me and how I look. It’s a process that takes time and acceptance, but I’m getting there.