Becky Scott believes dance and fitness should be for everyone – no matter your body type.
And, after a complicated relationship with her weight and a long battle with inner doubts and demons, she became a professional instructor and set up her own business to create space for bodies like hers in the fitness world.
The 39-year-old from Norfolk is a size 26-28, and she created MissFits Workout as a side project with the aim of helping other people who don’t feel comfortable in gyms.
For Becky, finding a new way to workout that isn’t exclusive or intimidating has been vital. Although she was always reasonably active, as a child she hated P.E thanks to a bad relationship with a teacher who she says ‘ruined’ exercise for her.
‘I was unhappy and embarrassed in my body and he basically reinforced the fat-phobic messages I was hearing from everywhere else,’ Becky tells Metro.co.uk.
‘I began to lose the joy in exercise and it became a chore, particularly as my body grew bigger. I thought I was fat from the age of eight, and I put weight on throughout my childhood and teens.’
Becky’s dancing classmates were learning to go en pointe, but Becky decided she was too fat to do that, so she gave up dancing all together.
‘I was too embarrassed about my body by that stage anyway so it was easy to walk away,’ she explains.
Becky flitted from one exercise activity to the next, but in most cases she lost interest if her weight plateaued, or if she thought she wasn’t very good. But then, through luck, she discovered Zumba and fell in love with it thanks to a particularly inspiring teacher.
‘There was also another regular attendee with a bigger body who I thought was awesome,’ she exlplains.
‘She was strong, fit and a great dancer! Knowing she was there meant I was less anxious about going.’
Becky says she noticed a shift in attitudes when she started taking up space in fitness classes, rather than hiding at the back. She started to get comments from people – a lot of people said positive things about seeing someone with a bigger body enjoying the class. But not everyone was quite so encouraging.
‘I had people assuming I was there for weight loss,’ says Becky, ‘which I was originally, but as I learned more about fat liberation, this began to change. People would ask me how much I’d lost, or tell me to “keep at it” and say that I’d “get there”.
‘As I learned more about the trappings of diet culture and explored my own problematic relationship with food and exercise, I wanted a place to exercise that was free from diet culture – and it basically didn’t really exist.’
So Becky decided to create her own. She built up the courage to start training to be a fitness instructor, and did her best not to let her inner doubts hold her back.
‘There were people who didn’t think I could do it, some told me to my face,’ says Becky. ‘Even whilst training I had moments where I wondered if I had what it takes, I don’t know if it was a dip in confidence or internal fat-phobia that I was wrestling with – but either way, I was determined to give it my best shot.
‘My clients definitely recognise the space I’ve created as a safe space where they feel welcome and comfortable, which was my original aim. Many of my regular attendees say they have finally found an exercise they enjoy – sometimes for the first time in their lives.
‘They also feel that there is no pressure to perform or push themselves beyond what is comfortable for them, which they find refreshing.’
Beyond creating a safe space for different kinds of bodies, Becky also believes it’s incredibly important for bodies like hers to be seen, for bigger women to be celebrated and successful in the fitness world.
‘Representation for me is about being able to feel seen,’ says Becky. ‘The “fitspo” world is primarily represented by thin, muscular, white, able bodies. Those of us who don’t fit that criteria can feel totally out of place when we try to exercise.
‘Seeing individuals or groups who represent people outside of the “fitspo” norm engaging in and enjoying exercise or movement makes us think it might be possible for us. It shows us that there are places where bigger bodies, people of colour and people with disabilities or illnesses can get involved if we want to, either in a space dedicated to our specific needs or in mainstream fitness spaces.
‘As a white, able-bodied fat person, I recognise I have a lot of privilege and can only speak from my own experience of weight stigma.
‘Whilst the fitness industry and our world remains so heavily entrenched in diet culture and bigger bodies continue to experience weight stigma it is absolutely essential that bigger bodies become more visible in all spaces including fitness spaces to challenge perceptions of fat.
‘Thin does not necessarily mean healthy or fit, and fat doesn’t necessarily equate to unhealthy or unfit. Despite the media headlines – scientific research actually tells us that’s not how it works.’
Becky says her clients often tell her that the thing that got them through the door was knowing that she was fat. They say it removes the fear of judgement and makes them feel less self-conscious about getting sweaty or wearing the right clothes.
‘They can ask me for advice about sports bras or leggings that don’t roll down (or that stop your belly from “clapping” when you jump) because they know I can relate,’ she adds.
‘I’ve been very lucky to have had some amazing, inclusive, talented, smaller bodied instructors who made me feel very welcome and were able to offer adaptations if needed without me feeling embarrassed or not good enough. But I knew we did not have the same shared experience. They did not know what it was like arriving in a fitness space in my bigger body.
‘In a world and an industry full of weight stigma and fat-phobia, having allies is great, but seeing actual fat bodies who are instructors and athletes is how you prove that this is possible and the way to really bring about change.
‘I would not have believed it was possible if I hadn’t seen a bigger bodied person working out, in real life and through social media – being strong and confident – that’s why representation matters.’
Becky says that some of her biggest challenges came from within. She grappled with her own negative self-talk and the internalised belief that she wasn’t good enough. She says working on those thoughts and her own self confidence was key to making her feel as though she could belong in fitness spaces.
‘I followed lots of body positive bloggers and read more about body positivity and fat acceptance – eventually I began to hate my body less,’ says Becky. ‘In the past I’ve had judgements made based on my appearance about my capabilities – my stamina, flexibility or skill in particular fitness spaces.
‘I’ve had the “just do what you can and try to keep up” spiel from an instructor. But over the years I’ve had some brilliant instructors who have taken the time to see what I can do and push me to do more in a supportive way.
‘Sometimes I feel like I’m not taken seriously or seen as credible as a fitness instructor, despite my qualification being the same as everyone else’s (at the same level as me – I’m not a qualified Personal Trainer… yet).
‘I’ve learned what my body can and can’t do and I care less about the first impressions an instructor might have of me.’
Becky says her focus isn’t really about fitness specifically, it’s more about general well-being – feeling good in her body, feeling physically strong, flexible, and free from pain.
‘It’s also about looking after my mental health,’ she says. ‘I am happier, calmer, I can connect with like-minded people and I have less negative self-talk.
‘In recent years I’ve learned much more about the false promises of diet culture and about how exercise is beneficial in general, for all bodies and about “Health at Every Size”. So now I exercise in ways that make me feel good in my body, and as a result of my experiences I want to help others to do the same.
‘I love to dance and I love to share that with others.’
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