Is Being a Plus-size a Feminist Issue?

By Nadia Al-Samarrie

I recently went on a 7.8-mile trek to a beautiful place in Hood Mountain, nestled in the hills of Santa Rosa California. Overlooking a breath-taking view of Kenwood, Napa and Sonoma County, I felt as if I was floating in the sky on a suspended rock, 2,100 feet above sea level. Gunsight Rock, a coveted observation lookout, only fits two sitting people at one time. Fortunately, we arrived just as another couple was leaving.

I met someone I briefly dated at the Trail House on Montgomery Drive in town. The Café is a hotspot amongst cyclist, receiving high marks for its coffee and beer. It’s also an all-in-one shop with a bicycle service department in the back of the Café.

I drove my car from the Trail House to Sugarloaf Ridge State Park. After parking, we put $10.00 in an envelope to cover the parking fee for the day. We walked downhill at the beginning of the trail, shaded by trees, winding through an uphill dirt road with switchbacks before reaching a rocky area that required focus. Where one sloppy misstep, can cause a severe fall.

There was a fun, surprise along the way; a fallen tree to walk over with a rope to hang on to, helping you with your balance as you cross over to make it to the other side of the trail. I thought of “Swiss Family Robinson” as I mindfully and deliberately took my steps slowly while crossing.

Before the hike day, my date warned me on numerous occasions how steep the walk would be. It is classified as a challenging hike. He gave me several opportunities to cancel the trek. When contemplating the hike and what could be the worst-case scenario, I envisioned myself having to scale large rocks with a vertical eagle spread, hanging on with dear life, stepping on metal stakes or rocks, blindly looking for my next step as I climbed up.

To my relief, it was a steep rocky uphill trek that required a few resting spots.

Before we started the challenging part of the hike, three plus size women made their way down. My date looked at me after we passed them and said, “if they can make it, so can you.” Unsure what he meant, I felt a need to ask for his clarification. The women were not sweaty or looked like they had struggled with the hike. In fact, despite their voluptuous figures, they looked pretty darn fit. I figured I had nothing to lose on my second date. “Why do you need to comment on women’s weight?” I asked,” he quickly corrected himself.” “I would say the same thing if they were three men.” Apologizing, concerned about his off-the-cuff comment. “I have been heavier than I am now and in better shape than I am now. Your weight does not necessarily reflect how fit you are.” I responded. I went on to say, “unlike men, women seem to be measured by their physical looks.” “I did not mean it that way, “he said. I struggled with our conversation then kept quiet as we ascended the rocky road ahead; wondering if he was covering up a bias or genuinely intending what he said; a reference with not much thought behind it. Meant with the intention to inspire me; not gender specific.

I consider myself an educator. I did not want to gloss over a plus size comment with a shallow reference to a women’s abilities. As someone who is a professional in the health segment, I tend to be more aware of body shaming; taking it upon myself to educate the person I am with.

I remember reading an article in People magazine where one of my favorite actresses Melissa McCarthy, pointed out how the media comments on her weight. Reminding us a plus size comedian male is never referenced by his body size. In fact, when we use the term “plus-size”, it is generally referring to a woman. My question then is, why do people and the media comment on women’s weight? Is being a plus size a feminist issue? A push back to men’s institutional privilege to comment on women’s bodies.

What I found most confusing about my experience, by his admission, my date is 30 pounds overweight. I made no judgment of his plus size or abilities as we hiked uphill. Even though he seemed more tired than I at certain points, taking a necessary break at the first rest spot he approached.

If you are inclined to judge someone based on their body size, please don’t. People can be plus size and still be more fit than a slim person with no muscle mass. We are all doing the best we can. Where ever we are in our weight goals. It may not be up to the health guidelines, but validating yourself for being out exercising, is key to building positive reinforcement. I know several people who have lost much weight by hiking every day, rain or shine just because they loved it. The weight loss was a side effect of their new-found passion.

They inspire me to keep on trekking. Looking for new vistas so that I can pause to reflect on how I feel, taking inventory of my life.

Next time you are out on a hike, focus on the beauty of nature and its magnificence. If you feel inclined to comment on another person’s weight, don’t. Instead, explore the origin of your judgmental thought to understand yourself better. Nature and hiking allow us to block out the shallow to find a more in-depth understanding of a world that likes to dictate how we should feel, look, and behave. Hiking helps us sort out conflicting thoughts by looking within; muting society’s judgment calls, allowing us to find our authentic voice.

Nadia Al-Samarrie is a diabetes health columnist. She is also the author of Sugar Happy- Your Diabetes Health Guide in Achieving Your Best Blood Sugars and Letting Go of Your Diabetes Complication Fears.

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