Fat Girls hike too: Body-positive group looks to form new chapter in B.C.

Organizers are hosting a pop-up hike in Vancouver’s Stanley Park

The outdoors is a place to feel free and alive, but not all shapes and sizes feel they can explore it that way. Summer Michaud-Skog is trying to change that, one trail at a time.

The 39-year-old childcare provider has piloted a growing movement she calls Fat Girls Hiking. It began in 2015, when Michaud-Skog posted photos online from hikes with her then-partner, using the hashtag #fatgirlshiking.

“We just wanted a place where we felt represented,” Michaud-Skog told Black Press Media in a phone interview from her home in Portland, Ore.

”Most of the social media we were seeing was a very specific type of person – a thin, white, able-bodied person – and that just didn’t resonate with me.”

Other people on social media began to use the hashtag, and as it got more popular, Michaud-Skog started up a blog about some of the inspiring women she’d interacted with online, body image and outdoor fitness.

“A few months after that, I started doing group hikes, and then after that, I started a few chapters,” she said.

Her hiking website and social media accounts are now 14,000 Fat Girl hikers strong, wielding the motto, “Trails not scales.”

Culture around hiking one large barrier for Fat Girls

Despite being an athletic child, there were years of Michaud-Skog’s life where the intense societal pressure to look a certain way prompted her to give up playing sports and being active.

This has been on repeat in my mind for the last 2 weeks: your body is a powerful instrument to explore the world, not an ornament with arbitrary & ever changing value.💪🏻 . I think this is especially important during this season where we worry too much about how our bodies look in swimsuits and sundresses. I used to be the girl that sat on the sidelines, worried about the size of my arms or stomach or if I had visible cellulite. Now I’m the girl who is willing to jump in, excited to see where my powerful & capable body can take me!🏃🏻‍♀️ . Remember what really matters, what your body was divinely CREATED to do! We get distracted by “limits” that don’t mean anything at the end of the day. We are more powerful & capable than we believe!❤️ || @elysegeorge / Elyse

A post shared by Fat Girls Hiking (@fatgirlshiking) on

“I have sort of what I call fitness trauma from my youth,” she said. “I loved running, but I was slow, and so I was seen as not being good at it. … I had a lot of shame put on me for not doing this activity in a way that was proper.”

The same feelings would come during a hike.

“I felt like I wasn’t represented in media. I didn’t know that someone my size could even hike – I thought it wasn’t for me,” she said. “I just want people to know that they can hike if they want to.”

Online commenters have criticized Fat Girls Hiking, saying the outdoors is obviously open to everyone despite their size or athletic ability, but Michaud-Skog said that couldn’t be further from the truth.

From hiking gear often not coming in all sizes, to some hikers needing to take more breaks, are some of the factors that aren’t always considered in what she calls a “push-yourself mentality” often practiced on popular trails.

Michaud-Skog said these groups give people the opportunity to pay attention to their body’s needs in a weight-neutral space around people who often face the same barriers.

“For us, it’s more about the journey of being together in community and connecting with ourselves and connecting with other people, and also connecting with nature.”

Fat Girls Hiking looks to open Vancouver chapter

Fat Girls Hiking has grown greatly in the past three years. It now has five chapters: Portland, Seattle, Los Angeles, Knoxville, Tenn., and Minneapolis, Minn.

On Aug. 16, Michaud-Skog is hosting a pop-up hike in Stanley Park with the hopes it inspires a fellow Fat Girl to step up as an ambassador for a chapter in Vancouver.

“I am a fat girl, and I am a proud fat girl, and I invite anyone who identifies as a fat girl to come,” she said.

The hike is open to people of all genders and sizes, she added. There is one rule: no talking about dieting or weight loss.

“People, wherever they are, can get together and have this body-positive outdoor community in a place that feels accessible and welcoming, where people will be supported and empowered to be outside.”

Vancouver Fat Girls Hike details:

  • When: Aug. 16 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
  • Where: Meeting at Third Beach Concession
  • The hike: 5.3-kilometre loop from the concession stand to Avison trail and back on the Siwash Rock Trail
  • Tickets are by donation to support the Fat Girls Hiking community

@ashwadhwani
ashley.wadhwani@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

New Langley mall owners have multi-use vision in mind

H&M opens in Willowbrook Thursday, offset some of the space left vacant by the departure of Sears.

Pitt Meadows airport manager resigns

Guy Miller was just two months on the job

UPDATED: Controversial “covenant” now optional for TWU students

The move may allow the school to start its own law school, after a long legal battle.

Legendary umpire retiring after 40 years

Aldergrove’s Gord Hanly caps an outstanding 40 year career

Early success sees Clayton farmers’ market looking to grow

The first half of the season exceeded expectations, and now the market could go to once a week

Average Canadian family spends 43% of income on taxes: study

Fraser Institute’s consumer report shows taxes accounting for larger chunk of income each year

UPDATE: ‘Faint fuel odour,’ ‘sheen’ seen on Fraser River beach after tug carrying diesel sinks

Tugboat carrying up to 22,000 litres of diesel sinks in Fraser River Tuesday morning

Column: Mother orca’s display of grief sends powerful message

The grief of this orca mother may not be visible anymore, but we must not forget.

Seven people with ties to Red Scorpions gang arrested in B.C. drug bust

Delta police have secured 94 charges against seven people, including drug and firearm offences

Second measles scare this summer at YVR

An infected traveller flew out of Vancouver’s airport three times

Judge OKs Weinstein suit, cites casting couch’s history

Actress Kadian Noble can sue disgraced Hollywood mogul for violating sex trafficking laws

Employers to raise salaries 2.6% on average next year: report

Firm points to factors such possibility of more trade protectionism, rising interest rates

PM Trudeau and federal ministers to meet on Vancouver Island

Cabinet retreat will be held in Nanaimo from Aug. 21-23

Most Read