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

Oil tanker ban to be reviewed by committee

Indigenous groups for and against Bill C-48 travel to Ottawa to influence the Senate’s decision

Nuslhiixwta – A Place of Treasures – celebrates new name

After months of thought and deliberation, Healthy Beginnings now has a new name.

Some types of cauliflower, lettuce recalled over E. coli fears

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency announced recall because of possible contamination.

CIBC shrinks event after Whistler mayor irks oil producers

After Whistler sent a letter to a Calgary-based oilsands giant, several energy firms said they would back out of the CIBC event.

Couple caught up in B.C. Legislature bomb plot to learn their fate

John Nuttall and Amanda Korody were arrested as part of an undercover RCMP sting on Canada Day 2013

Trial rights of accused spy for China at risk, lawyer tells Supreme Court

The lawyer for a man accused of trying to spy for China says federal foot-dragging over secrecy is endangering his client’s right to timely justice.

‘Recall fatigue’: Canadians may avoid certain foods over holidays

In the winter, Canada’s supply of fresh fruit and vegetables tends to come from very specific areas.

Ryan Reynolds to narrate movie about B.C.’s Great Bear Rainforest

Vancouver-born actor known for Deadpool movies will voice film to be released Feb. 15, 2019

Airline passengers could get up to $2,400 for delays, damaged bags: Canadian agency

Canadian Transportation Agency is releasing draft regulations for public feedback

Top of mind: ‘Justice’ is Merriam-Webster’s word of the year

Merriam-Webster has chosen “justice” as its 2018 word of the year, driven by the churning news cycle and President Trump’s Twitter feed.

‘Spider-Verse’ swings to the top; ‘Mortal Engines’ tanks

“Spider-Verse” has been very well-received among critics, and audiences in exit surveys gave it a rare A+ CinemaScore.

Most Read