FFor most of my life, I’ve heard the societal belief that people living with curvy bodies “eat too much” and “don’t exercise enough.” I heard that if you change these habits, you will lose weight. So when I recently gained weight, I felt like people were judging me, thinking that I had adopted these habits and that doing so somehow made me a “bad” person. (Spoiler alert: It didn’t.)
I knew, of course, that weight gain is not 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 that food has no moral value, people can be healthy in different sizes, and you can’t assume someone’s habits or health just by looking at them. I also learned that many things can affect your health and weight, including genetics, medications, your income, where you live, and much more. But despite that knowledge, I fought. Many people around me did not know or did not share that understanding.
so i found Sports Illustrated model Ella Halikas and Laetitia De Carufel on my “For You” TikTok page. These women are body-positive creators and influencers who post videos about how they exercise regularly, stay fit, and live in curvier bodies. Some of these videos are responses to comments from TikTok users and others are regular videos.
health & fitness isn’t a one-size fits all kinda thing.. remember that
For example, in one of her gym training videos, Halikas wrote, “When people tell me I should go to the gym not knowing I’ve been an athlete all my life and I could top them any day.” In her caption, she writes, “Health and fitness isn’t a one-size-fits-all…remember that.”
In one of De Carufel’s videos, she talks about how people who hear that she works out five times a week expect watch that he is “super fit”. He then says, “Yeah, actually I am,” and pans over his body, explaining that a healthy, fit body doesn’t always mean visible abs and a low body fat percentage. My reaction: Go away, girl!
But on a more serious note, seeing this kind of representation means a lot to me. While I know that 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 demonstrate how a curvy body no is not equal to the lack of physical form. As a curvier woman who enjoys dancing and playing volleyball at times, it helps me feel less alone or like something is “wrong” with me or my body.
These TikToks also educate people who haven’t yet heard how weight and health aren’t as closely and directly linked as we previously thought, which, in turn, hopefully leads to less bias and judgment. That’s important not only on a small societal level, but can also (hopefully) affect systemic issues like weight discrimination. If you haven’t heard this, people with larger bodies often receive less medical care and are denied jobs or higher wages simply because of their appearance. Obviously, that’s ridiculous, dangerous and in need of a change.
“The day I decided to be confident and live life to the fullest with the body I have, regardless of my 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 one example. In some of his TikToks, he talks about how he used to advise his clients on weight loss and “clean eating,” and how he doesn’t anymore thanks to the education he received from Health at Every Size and similar moves that show how the weight is not the only indicator of health and 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 keep posting anyway.
“I think it’s important to get this message out because people need to understand that health and fitness come in all shapes and sizes,” Halikas says when we speak. He mentions how she has been overlooked due to his size, despite being just as healthy as his skinnier peers. “I would even say this is physically the biggest I’ve ever been, and yet I’m the healthiest and strongest,” he adds.
Halikas aim to inspire confidence in others. “I hope that by posting my workouts, talking about preparing my meals, and being open about my life, other people can feel safe posting and living their life the way they want, regardless of their size,” she says.
She has had success with it too, as evidenced by her comments section. Some standout comments for Halikas are: “Thank you for showing that you can be healthy and strong even with a curvy body” and “You have inspired me to focus on becoming my best self.” Words like these encourage her to keep posting.
Halikas gets hate, but luckily, she can handle it. “The negative feedback I’ve gotten has been mostly from people shaming me for being fat, telling me I need to lose weight and that I’m unhealthy just because of my size,” he says. “Dealing with negative feedback is never necessarily easy; though I’ve gotten pretty good at not letting them get to me.”
She knows how important her message is and where those comments are really coming from. “Now I understand that these negative comments are actually insecure people trying to bring me down to her level,” she says. “If anything, I try not to take these comments personally as I know these comments are a reflection of them and not me.”
She also wants to make it clear that fitness isn’t always about losing weight. “I wish people would stop assuming that just because I like to exercise every day doesn’t automatically mean I want to lose weight,” he says. “There are so many reasons people exercise besides weight loss.”
Halikas’ decision to live confidently regardless of her size profoundly changed her life. “When I was younger, I spent a lot of time trying to fit into societal standards of beauty and fitness and wished I was smaller,” she says. “The day I decided to be confident and live life to the fullest with the body I have, regardless of my size, was the day my life changed forever.”
I also see the effects of his passion in my own life. Now, thanks to Halikas, as well as De Carufel, I can 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 stick my belly out. I try to incorporate more exercise without doing it for weight reasons. I worry less about what others think of me and how I look. It is a process that takes time and acceptance, but I am achieving it.