Special Feature

IDEA World 2023 banner

For the first time since 2016, the annual IDEA World convention returned to the Los Angeles Convention Center in July! Hosted by the IDEA Health & Fitness Association (IDEA), a membership association for fitness and wellness professionals, the convention offered educational workshops on a variety of health and wellness topics ranging from program design to nutrition education.

As an avid IDEA World attendee, I was pleasantly surprised at the inclusion of so many lectures that covered the topics of diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility at this year’s conference. I was also proud to see Long Beach State University’s (LBSU) very own Dr. Kellie Walters, a tenured faculty member within the Department of Kinesiology, present on the biases within the fitness industry. However, my favorite workshop had to be “Creating Size Inclusive Fitness Experiences” by Ragen Chastain. Sorry Dr. Walters!

Ragen Chastain is what some might call a fitness de-influencer. Her mission as a fat woman – what she prefers to be called* – is to promote fat positivity and educate the fitness industry about weight bias. While much of her content catered towards fitness managers, here are some key takeaways from Ragen’s lecture:

Types of Weight Stigma & Biases:

  • Intrinsic Beliefs: A negative belief about another individual that's internalized and subconscious. For example, seeing someone and automatically thinking they’re lazy because they‘re fat.
  • Extrinsic Beliefs: A negative belief about another individual that is conscious and outwardly expressed. For example, blatantly harassing or providing unsolicited advice to individuals of a larger body size.
  • Internalized Beliefs: Internal negative beliefs about your own body that affirm stereotypes portrayed by society. For example, believing that you are lazy because you are fat.
  • Structural Beliefs: Environmental limitations that exclude larger bodies. For example, weight limitations on equipment or size limitations of booth seating at a restaurant.

Flipping the Script on Weight Loss

  • Chastain emphasized that weight gain is a part of life. We all get older, our lives get busier and our physiology changes as we age. It’s normal for us to gain weight!
  • An interesting piece of research that Chastain provided states that, yes, everyone is capable of losing weight in the short term. However, 95% of individuals will regain that weight in the long-term, with 66% regaining more weight than they lost initially. Not only is it normal for us to gain weight, but it’s also not abnormal to regain the weight that you’ve lost. You’re not a failure or lazy because of that! And you’re definitely not alone in this experience!
  • Individuals that focus on increasing physical activity are more likely to experience greater health benefits than those that focus on achieving an intentional weight loss goal. Meaning: focus less on weight and more on health! Move to stay mobile, to do the things you love or simply out of pure enjoyment.

Ragen’s lecture was truly empowering and informative. Not only did it educate me on how I can show-up for women in their various weight-stages of life, but it also reminded me to go easy on myself. As a fitness professional that has gained weight since the start of the pandemic, I could feel the imposter-syndrome setting in: “I should look better! This is my job!” However, as Chastain notes, it's normal. I’m not the first fitness professional, woman or human to gain and regain weight, and I won’t be the last.

If you’re interested in learning more about fat bias, follow Regan Chastain on Instagram @ragenchastain or read the book Fearing the Black Body by Sabrina Strings.

*Chastain states that identifying as such reclaims a word that has been used to oppress individuals in larger bodies. She does go on to emphasize that the phrase is very individualistic and suggests asking folks how they would like to be addressed about their bodies.

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