The pole community is awesome for us plus sized pole dancers.
Unlike other fitness communities I’ve been around it feels like we enjoy a far higher level of acceptance in terms of body shape and expression as people of all sizes come together to celebrate each others’ achievements.
There are, however, people out there (like a certain pole celebrity who will remain unnamed) who still hold some degree of animosity towards
Often, the ‘health concerns’ they have are simply fatphobia they didn’t know they had, or are a way of expressing their discomfort with
I’m thankful in this community of strong, empowered people, where diversity is celebrated and our differences unite us, that plus size folks like us are accepted as we are. In a fitness-based community like ours it’s awesome that the strongest voices are those of unity, and not those that try and shame people for things beyond their control.
There are aspects of
My body tends to carry its weight in my hips and thighs while fluctuating weight loss/gain goes to my stomach and waist. I’m a size 16/18 which means I still enjoy some privilege compared to bodies larger than mine; my experiences as a plus size pole dancer aren’t necessarily universal and I can only really speak from my own experience.
1. It can take us longer to be able to do certain things…
In fact, a lot of things that require some degree of knee grip takes me a lot longer to adjust to, thanks to the extra flesh I have around my knees. Things like a Back Hook spin and anything where I have to hook my knee on the inside of the pole have been remarkably difficult, and I’ve had to train my hips not to complain when I move them in certain angles.
It took me nearly nine months to climb to the top of the pole once, and another couple of months to be able to do it every time, while I watched beginner polers with smaller bodies nail it in weeks.
I’m still working on being able to do a forearm headstand against the pole, and I’m still struggling to kick my weight up into it.
Essentially, for plus size polers, we have to be a lot more patient with our journeys.
It might take us longer to achieve things in class, but each time we attempt that spin, that climb, that forearm stand, we’re still training our muscles and our brain is still figuring out how to make things work for us.
One of the key things to remember is that with bodies like ours, we may be lifting more weight than others in our class, so it’s going to take more muscle power to achieve the same things. It doesn’t make you a shit poler, but it doesn’t make you better than anyone else just because you’ve had to develop your strength more to achieve it.
It’s just a part of our journey as plus size pole dancers.
Just because a move is easy for one body type to achieve doesn’t mean it’s an easy move, or one you have to achieve in a certain time frame to be ‘good’.
2. …But some things are actually easier thanks to our size.
One of my favourite things to play with in class is variations of pole sits, layouts, and anything where the primary grip points are on my thighs.
Because having bigger thighs, for me, equals feeling more secure, given the increased amount of skin against the pole.
Don’t get me wrong, it does mean it’s way more painful when you’re conditioning your skin there in the first place. However, once I passed that pain barrier, I found I could hang out in a pole sit, scissor sit or whatever I really wanted to for ages.
I mean, this is a downside too. I really struggle with the Backwards Angel spin because I get so far around the pole and I just stick because of the amount of skin I have against the pole.
Having extra skin to grip the pole with can be both a blessing and a curse, and it’s just another aspect of our journeys as plus sized dancers.
I’ve also found on days where I’m struggling with my body confidence, doing moves and tricks that my extra skin grip makes easier helps me to realise how powerful and strong my body actually is.
It can be easy to slip into the thought that pole dance is set to Hard Mode for plus size dancers, when in actuality we do have strengths and weaknesses like everyone else.
It’s a case of finding those strengths and figuring out how to use them to overcome our weaknesses.
3. When we say we can’t do something, sometimes we literally can’t.
Because of our body shape and size, it can sometimes be literally impossible – if not extremely difficult – to practice certain moves until we’ve spent more time building up our strength or flexibility.
Others can be so terrifying we don’t want to practice them at all.
For me, I struggle with any move where I have to put one arm under a leg, simply because with my thighs being the size that they are I don’t have the flexibility to shuffle my leg away from the pole – like with the Backwards Angel spin I mentioned earlier.
Personally, I am shit scared of doing shoulder rolls, backwards rolls, or any move where my neck is against the floor and I’m manipulating my weight over it. It may be an irrational fear to think that I’m going to snap my neck – because done safely it shouldn’t be an issue – but I’m too scared to even try.
When it comes to doing rolls in class, I am the worst student.
I can appreciate that telling your instructor “I can’t do that” without trying and making at least some effort comes across as disrespectful or downright lazy. Particularly if you haven’t been taking their class for very long or they haven’t seen you try.
I’ve had to explain to my instructors a couple of times why it is that I don’t want to practice shoulder rolls, and I’ve demonstrated a few times too why it is that I can’t do certain things as I mentioned above.
It’s not that we’re being lazy and just don’t want to work on new things, it’s because our bodies operate somewhat differently to smaller ones and it’s not always easy for us to move into certain positions or grip at certain angles.
4. Don’t assume we’re in it to lose weight.
One of my biggest issues with pole studios at the minute is those that advertise their classes as being “a great way to lose weight”. I flat out hate any advertising for any form of fitness that makes weight loss claims.
I think there still remains some assumption when it comes to promoting classes that you can attract people bored with their current weight-loss based exercise routine by promising them a new way of losing weight, which is not the message we as a community should be pushing.
Similarly there’s an assumption that when plus size folk exercise, they’re doing so to lose weight, which is not only an awful assumption to make about someone else’s body but also horrendously stereotypical.
It works on the assumption that exercise is a punishment for what you ate, rather than a celebration of what your body can do.
It assumes that there’s no way people like me can ever love themselves, and love moving, without there being a goal to shrink.
I’ll admit, I started doing pole dance because I wanted to lose weight, after I got bored with weightlifting and kickboxing. But as time went by and I spent more time in the studio, and more time as part of our wonderful community, I started to realise that my actual goal wasn’t to lose weight. It wasn’t to shrink.
It was to grow stronger, more powerful, and more confident.
Pole dance, and our community, is so powerful for helping us change those assumptions about ourselves and helping us realise that we are all strong, regardless of the bodies that we have.
It helps us understand that weight loss doesn’t automatically equal health, but staying physically active, eating for our body’s needs, and taking care of your mental health is far more conductive to a healthy lifestyle.
While we may start these classes with an intention of weight loss, many of us come to the realisation that that’s not actually the path we want to travel down, and that’s perfectly okay.
5. We’re not ‘inspirational’, ‘brave’ or ‘proof nothing can hold you back’.
I think my major issue with this is the idea of ‘inspiration porn’.
You know when you go on Facebook, and you see videos of plus sized folk lifting weights, running marathons or generally being badass? And they’re always accompanied with a caption like “Don’t give up on your dreams” or “If they can do this, you can do anything?”
For the love of all things good in this world, STOP.
First of all, we work damn hard for what we’ve achieved, all the while battling people outside of our community who tell us that we’re too fat, we should stop trying, and who are we trying to kid anyway?
Second: “Inspiration porn” is PATRONISING AS SHIT.
I’m all for celebrating the achievements of plus sized folks in fitness, don’t get me wrong. It’s not a space that’s traditionally designed for us to be a part of.
But it’s infuriating to see videos of people with bodies that aren’t traditionally considered athletic going about their normal fitness routine being heralded as some kind of icon.
This “proof that nothing can hold you back” bullshit assumes that having a body that isn’t thin, with defined muscles and with no disability is inherently a flaw.
It acknowledges us “non-traditional” athletes and the struggles we go through to be taken seriously without understanding that we’re not taken seriously because we still face sexism, fatphobia and ableism within fitness spaces.
If I had what would be considered a traditionally athletic body type, I wouldn’t be an inspiration for climbing a metal bar 12 feet into the air. I wouldn’t be called brave for wearing a crop top and boy shorts to my exercise classes or wearing bright leggings out in public.
I wouldn’t be proof that nothing holds you back if I had a body that people assumed caused no issues for me based on its physical attributes.
6. We don’t want fitness wear that covers ‘problem areas’.
Problem areas don’t exist.
The concept of problem areas was created by the media and large corporations to convince us our perfectly natural lumps, bumps, stretch marks and scars were problems so they could sell us the solution.
As plus size people we can often face this to a different extent than people with smaller bodies, as we are often told our size is a problem in of itself.
We’re told to cover up our stretch marks because they’re a sign of “letting ourselves go”, regardless of whether they were earned through weight gain, muscle growth, puberty or pregnancy. Instead of telling us that it’s fine for bodies to change, grow and shrink across the course of our lives, stretch marks are seen as ugly scars instead of something that is perfectly natural to have.
We’re told to hide our jiggly bits and suck them in so we look flatter, less lumpy, smoother and probably, more ‘acceptable’ to the people who can’t accept that bodies come in different shapes and sizes.
While it isn’t necessarily a problem in the pole community, a lot of fitness wear still advertises itself as being ‘bum sculpting’ or hiding ‘problem areas’. Don’t get me wrong, I want to feel confident in my fitness wear, but I also don’t want fitness wear providers to assume I want to sculpt my body into something that it’s not.
7. We want sexy pole wear too.
This is perhaps a trickier issue because us plus sized folk sometimes have to deal with having larger boobs than smaller people, so for energetic sports like pole we do need additional support to keep them supported.
This is why we love brands like Hoodlum Fang, Polehog and Wink Designs because their clothing has the support larger bodies need, we can wear them with sports bras underneath for extra support, and they look awesome too.
Saying that, though, there are times that we want sexy pole wear for performances or photoshoots that are made for larger polers.
Hoodlum Fang, Polehog and Wink Designs are the only brands that we’ve found do supportive and sexy pole wear for plus sized dancers, and Hoodlum Fang will custom fit for you too. Other businesses like HLDesigns don’t necessarily have pole wear held in stock given that they’re smaller designers, but can custom make things for you.
Unfortunately, businesses such as these seem to still be in the minority, despite our frequent calls for more inclusive pole wear ranges. Some brands like Creatures of XIX, Bandurska and Bad Kitty don’t go above a size 16. It seems that while UK pole wear brands are catching up to the community’s calls for sexy pole wear for plus sized polers, brands from the USA and Europe still haven’t caught up.
Sexy pole wear might not be your thing, and that’s fine – pole dance is about having the freedom to express yourself however you choose. However, I’d like to have the choice to have supportive and sexy pole wear for performances, photoshoots, or even just for home practice when I’m freestyling.
Everyone deserves to feel confident in their pole wear, and for me my confidence at pole is partly sourced from being able to express my sexuality through dance. I don’t believe that just because I have a larger body I should be held back from doing that by companies that still refuse to cater to my size.
8. Pole class is often the one fitness class we can do that doesn’t judge us for our size.
As I mentioned earlier, the fitness community can be a very isolating place for plus sized people.
If we’re not being seen as “inspiration porn”, we can be degraded for even stepping foot in a gym, be body shamed in the changing rooms, or we’re bombarded with classes that see our size as a problem to be fixed.
Pole class is the one fitness space where I’ve felt welcome, regardless of my size, and it made me realise that my size is not, and never will be, a barrier to fitness.
I’ve never felt ashamed to post pictures of my progress on my Instagram as our community celebrates progress in all forms, and it’s given me an open space to demonstrate what progress looks like with my body.
With pole I’ve never once been encouraged to diet, only cross-train and eat to fuel my training. I’ve never been told how many calories a typical pole class burns because in my experience, each class I take varies in how much I do, what muscle groups I use, and how intensely I exercise.
Besides, in pole class, the focus has never been on “burning fat”, “busting calories” or “working off dessert”. It’s always been on building your strength and stamina, conditioning your core ready for the next challenge, and constantly challenging your body and encouraging growth.
This is something I’ve never really found in any other fitness space.
Pole class feels to me like the one place where I can go and not be shamed for my size, how I look, or the particular details of my exercise and nutrition. I can wear a crop top and shorts throughout class and not feel ashamed about showing off my stretch marks or the hellish noise my chunky thighs make when my grip fails in class (honestly, it sounds painful).
Rather, I find it’s generally a judgemental free space where the only thing that matters is that you’re not a dick to other students and are considerate to your instructors.
9. Even if we don’t fit your ideas of what an athletic body looks like, we still have athletic bodies.
We can still haul our chunky asses off the ground without breaking a sweat.
We can spin, swing, execute combos and hang from a pole using a single leg and make it look like playtime.
If you watch us perform, we look graceful, effortless, and if we want, sexy as all hell.
Yet, if you watch us train, you’ll hear no end of grunting and cursing, and see no end of bruises earned from training new tricks and conditioning new grip points we may not have used before.
We can deadlift our body weight into a forearm stand or invert without a single defined ab in sight. (I mean ‘we’ generally. I wish I could do that)
I don’t have the body of an Olympic athlete. What I do have, though, is the same muscle power, the same determination and grit, and the same stubborn badassery that keeps me going back to class even if I’ve spent weeks training my nemesis move and I’ve felt like I’m getting nowhere.
The aesthetic qualities of our bodies mean nothing when it comes to our athletic prowess because there’s no shitty fatphobic pole fairy sitting on the pole above us casting spells to keep us on the ground just because we’re over a size 12.
Our muscle definition may be hidden but trust us, it’s there. We manipulate our body weight on a regular basis to spin, twist and climb while body shamers see only that we have more meat on our bones.
10. Yes, we do get frustrated about all of these things.
I mean, none of us want to have to deal with all of this.
We put up a fight for inclusion and so our voices can be heard but honestly? Sometimes, I just want to sleep, and not have to worry about any of this crap.
I wish I could feel comfortable walking into another exercise class without a voice trying to motivate people to “burn those calories” and “earn that cake!”. I want to be able to have more choice when it comes to where I source my pole wear from.
I am fortunate that the community is changing however.
RARR Designs have just launched the first of their plus sized range that goes up to a 5XL.
That pole celebrity I mentioned early who used the “health concern” crap to defend their fatphobia had so many voices trying to engage them in a discussion about why their attitudes were harmful (even if they did end up dirty deleting their post, and tried to make themselves out to be the victim).
The negative comments under the videos that get shared around of plus sized pole dancers are often drowned out by others saying how much they admire our strength, endurance and determination.
While it is frustrating to deal with all of these things on a regular basis and, don’t get me wrong, I wish I could switch it all off just for two bloody seconds, I have to appreciate that our crazy aerial community is moving forwards and appreciating we plus sized individuals within it as much as they do those with smaller bodies.
What things frustrate you as a plus sized poler? What would you add to the list?
Hey, did you love this post? If you do, please consider buying me a coffee. My favourite is dark roast, black, but beggars can’t be choosers.