My Definition of Healthy Is Better Than Yours

For me, health means strength. Health means trying each day to treat my body well. That kind of health goes beyond just diet and exercise. It comes in a variety of sizes. And if you don't carry that size in your store, I'm happy to take my money elsewhere.
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When I read Kim Bhasin's recent HuffPost article detailing retailer Lululemon's attitude toward plus-size customers, I wasn't totally surprised. In the piece, a former employee described her experience working for the company, known for its expensive yoga wear, and how the size 10s and 12s "were relegated to a separate area at the back of the store, left clumped and unfolded under a table." Another employee, a former store supervisor, said the size 12s were "not displayed normally" in her store.

My train of thought after reading Bhasin's piece went something like this:

Wow. I definitely have to share this article on Facebook. Perhaps accompanied by a .gif of the Hulk and a few choice words about how a size 10 or 12 is hardly fat or plus-size. And why do we feel the need to label people as plus-sized, anyway? Can't we just stick to using numbers, like we do for the "normal-size" people?

You know what? I'm going to tweet out this piece and express my dismay, even though I'm usually not one to go the whole shaming-a-company-by-tweeting-at-them route. People need to know how offensive this kind of thing can be.

After taking a few much-needed moments to calm down (rule number one of social media: think before you post), I deleted both instead of hitting submit. But the article stayed at the front of my mind the rest of the day, the metaphorical steam coming out of my ears.

If you haven't guessed by now, I fall into that plus-size category, according to some clothing companies. I've been wearing mostly 10s and 12s since I left my teen years behind.

So why didn't I voice my thoughts the day the article hit? Because I got scared. Because despite working for a large online media organization, I'm a fairly private person. Because even though I'm comfortable with my body, it still stings to see us 10s and 12s and any other number being called "fatties" on social media platforms or in the comments section of an article -- even though we know those people are simply ignorant and cruel and don't deserve a millisecond of our time.

I was scared. Still am. But to hell with it.

2013-08-01-941984_10102199482052217_1063324541_n.jpgThis photo was taken in June after I completed my first 10K. I felt strong and beautiful in that moment. My size 10-12 self in its post-race glory. Am I the picture of optimal health and athleticism? Nope. Am I going to come out with a fitness DVD any time soon? Definitely not. But I refuse to be told I'm not healthy, either, which is what I feel companies are telling customers when they don't treat us the same as they do their more willowy patrons.

I know I'm not the only one who feels this way: I've read the comments and tweets in response to Bhasin's article. And I know women who have run marathons and completed triathlons and who have thighs and breasts and hips and who couldn't fit into a size 2 yoga pant if they wore the world's best girdle. So why do we let people tell us that being a certain clothing size or weight should be our ultimate endgame?

Former employees and consumer advocates told Bhasin that, "this treatment of larger clothes and customers reflects the culture that Lululemon represents -- one that falsely suggests skinniness is the paramount feature of health."

Breaking news: Some of us don't follow a healthy lifestyle for the weight loss, or to go down a dress size, or so we feel comfortable rocking a "bikini-ready bod" on the beach. I do my best to eat well because I feel better when I do. So that I might live a long life. I exercise because of the high I get afterward, which makes me feel like I can accomplish anything. I work out because doing so reminds me of the incredible things our bodies can do. And when I look in the mirror, I try every time to focus on all the parts of me that make me strong. Instead of seeing a -- gasp! -- size 10-12 rear end complete with -- gasp! -- cellulite, I see thighs that propel me during a run. A butt that helped me spring right out of the water the first time I ever tried wake boarding last summer.

Now, let's not overlook the obvious. Are there people in this country who genuinely need extreme help? Who are stuck in dangerous sedentary lifestyles and unhealthy eating habits that feel horribly and impossibly inescapable? Absolutely. But guess what? If people like me, who strive to live as healthy and balanced as possible each day, are made to feel inadequate, how on earth can we expect those who feel their situation is beyond hopeless to even see a point in trying?

Active wear companies, listen to those of us who are trying. Who have already long realized that we're only given one body, so we best treat it well. Because some of us don't fit the mold of what is considered "healthy" in today's obsessed-with-being-thin culture. And when we hear companies that are supposedly all about wellness and positivity would rather not create clothes to fit our (strong, amazing, powerful) bodies -- clothes we wear while striving for that healthy, positive lifestyle they claim to promote, mind you -- we get frustrated. We feel betrayed. And when we are called fat in the comments section and on social media and are told no one wants to see our behinds in a pair of yoga pants, anyway, it's enough to make us turn green in the face and go all Hulk-like.

If companies don't want to make clothes in certain sizes for whatever reason -- business strategy, cost-efficiency or otherwise -- that is completely, 100 percent their prerogative; I don't own the company, so I can't take issue. I've been in plenty of situations where a store's sizing just doesn't work for my figure, and it's not the end of the world, and I don't take offense. But to create the products and then treat certain sizes, and the customers buying them, differently, as Bhasin's article alleges, just doesn't make sense.

I'd never been inside a Lululemon store -- their prices don't jive with my budget -- and I wanted to experience the atmosphere for myself. I was happy to see that the New York store I visited had plenty of 10s and 12s mixed in with the smaller sizes. This was just one store, in one city, and one five-minute visit, and plenty of people -- including those interviewed for Bhasin's piece -- have described less-than-pleasant experiences. But it gave me a bit of hope, and when given the option, I'm always going to choose hope.

Health is relative. For me, health means strength. Health means trying each day to treat my body well. That kind of health goes beyond just diet and exercise. It comes in a variety of sizes.

And if you don't carry that size in your store, I'm happy to take my money elsewhere.

Tell us how you define healthy aside from pounds or pant size. Do you stay active? Eat well? Get good sleep? Leave a comment, email or tweet us @HealthyLiving. We'd love to see pictures! We may even include them in our slideshow below.

How Do You Define Healthy?

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