When she was in her early 20s, Louise Green regularly woke up with a hangover. It wasn’t because she was out clubbing into the wee hours but because she was, by her own description, dealing with a heavy dose of self-loathing. Although she desperately wanted to lose weight, exercise regularly, and lead a healthy life, her efforts to do so rarely lasted longer than a few days at a time.
Two decades on, this is the same woman who runs her own successful fitness and personal-training business geared to plus-size athletes like herself. She has completed several marathon and triathlon races and has done the Ride to Conquer Cancer from Vancouver to Seattle multiple times.
The founder and CEO of Body Exchange Lifestyles Inc. is also the author of the just-released Big Fit Girl—Embrace the Body You Have. The North Vancouver mother of one is on a mission to spread the word that being thin doesn’t equate to being fit and that anyone can be an athlete, no matter their size or shape.
“I wanted to write the book because I felt that there was a major gap in the information that is available to plus-size women when it comes to fitness,” Green says in an interview over sparkling water. “On the store shelf, there are many varieties of fitness books, but I don’t see any that speak to the specific needs of this particular demographic: physical needs and psychological needs.
“Fitness can be really scary,” she adds. “There are a lot of barriers to it for people that are larger. I really acknowledge that in the book and I think people take a sigh of relief because I understand where they’re coming from.”
The turning point for Green came about 15 years ago when she signed up for a running clinic in the West End. When the group leader introduced herself, Green admits she was shocked to see a plus-size woman decked out in running gear. In that instant, Green realized what was possible; the instructor, in her view, was “an icon, a rock star, and a total game changer”.
“I just remember thinking after training with her that she never talked about how many calories we were burning or how to tone up your butt; it was just ‘Let’s kick ass and run,’ ” Green says. “It was a completely new perspective to me that I’d not seen or heard. We were all athletes to her.”
In Big Fit Girl, Green helps people unleash their inner athlete, covering everything from how to eliminate negative body talk to where to find plus-size active apparel. In an approachable, reader-friendly, nonjudgmental tone, she writes about nutrition, not diets, including what types of foods work best for pre- and post-workout nourishment. She shares tips on how to find a qualified personal trainer and on how to effectively set goals, following the SMART acronym, which stands for “specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely”.
She also talks about how to deal with the barrage of the “ideal” female body type that the media provides, suggesting outlets that are body-positive, such as FabUplus Magazine, North America’s first lifestyle magazine with weight-neutral content, and Adios Barbie, a feminist site that aims to broaden the discussion of body image to include race, gender, sexual orientation, ability, age, and size.
“I feel like people’s newsfeeds and inboxes need an overhaul,” Green says. “The way I’ve set up my world is I only see positive messaging. We’re affected so much, even subliminally, by glancing at Facebook or looking at newsstands.”
Although Green’s own story is inspiring in itself, she also shares motivating messages from several other plus-size athletes and fitness professionals in her book. She quotes, for instance, long-distance cyclist Natalie Dzany, who says: “Every kilometre I ride makes me realize how strong my legs are, and I’m thankful each and every time. It’s not about how I look; it’s about how I feel, and I feel fabulous!”
Then there are quotes from a few people who have nothing to do with the fitness industry but who shared some words to live by, such as Theodore Roosevelt. He’s quoted as saying, “Comparison is the thief of joy.”
Green stresses that judging “success” by numbers on a scale is one way of limiting your personal and athletic potential. Better ways of measuring improvements in health and fitness, she writes, include positive changes to mood, self-confidence, sleep, and energy that come as a result of exercise.
“I wanted to remove the focus from reducing calories or whittling down your body, because those add such an enormous pressure to women,” she says. “It robs us of living our best lives. Big Fit Girl is about having a limitless life.”