How can a fat girl teach spin? Just you watch me: An Ambassador’s Story

I speak from the heart when I talk about loving the body that I am in, but it hasn’t always been this way…

I have abused this body with diets, exercise, constant counting of calories in and calories burnt. I thought that the feeling of hunger was a feeling that would lead to happiness. I was a victim of the diet industry. I was told that if I burnt calories, I would earn more points, and points earnt food. No exercise equalled no food. I relished in the ‘congratulations’, and the ‘don’t you look great’s’. I was full of self-loathing when I ate something ‘bad’ or didn’t work out.

I was hiding disordered eating from myself and everyone around me.

What changed? I realised that I was actually unhappy on this constant mission for weight loss. I realised that I was wasting life and opportunities, because I wanted to be the ‘perfect’ size and shape to do things. I was given the opportunity to teach Zumba and I wanted to be an instructor who actually welcomed people of all shapes and sizes into a non-judgmental environment. I wanted them to just dance and enjoy and appreciate all the things their body is capable of. So, on the third of April, 2011, I became a Zumba instructor. The journey has not always been easy. I have experienced body shaming from other fitness professionals and participants alike.

I thought to myself, “how can a fat girl teach spin?”

Then I thought, “you know what? Just you watch me”.

Embracing my body lead to embracing adventures in my life…

This body is a wonderful thing! It has seen me through my darkest days and taken me on massive adventures – the adventures that I was putting off until I was thin. The turtles that I swam with in the Caribbean didn’t care what size I was and neither did I. I don’t do scales. Not even in the doctors. My size does not reflect my health.

These are the things I think about when I have days where I am not loving this body…

I am able bodied. I still struggle sometimes if I am in front of new people teaching a class, but then I think about the power of exercise, letting go, and enjoying yourself. Just remember that we are all human. We all have moments of self-doubt, but happiness starts from within not from without. Find your happy place, activity, music, or whatever it is that transports you to that lighter and brighter head space. Most of all remember that you are worthy.

I am a plus size fitness professional. I am a mother. I am a wife. I am a manager. I aim to be an inspiration in whichever hat I am wearing.

Emma Boakes is a Body Image Movement Global Ambassador from the UK


  • Tatia Power
    Posted at 20:02h, 19 June Reply

    Love this! And the photo is fabulous! Well done Emma ??

  • Cheryl Davies
    Posted at 23:20h, 19 June Reply

    Emma is an inspiration and has helped me to except myself and learn to still take part in life and not just sit on the side lines wishing if only…. Emma continues to defy and challenge stereotypical attitudes towards body image and one of her first Zumba class has helped me to continue with fitness and put on a swimming costume again

  • Donna Anderson
    Posted at 23:52h, 19 June Reply

    I too, am a plus sized fitness leader and have lived through disordered eating in the past. For the most part those awful voices are behind me and I love and embrace my body. The days that the old ugly voice pops up to tell me I should be skinny are farther and farther apart. Thank you for sharing your story. It’s always great to remember that we are not alone out here. I appreciate so much hearing other people stories. It helps my soul so much! Thank you!

  • Sally cox
    Posted at 05:29h, 20 June Reply

    Your a legend em, never believed there would be a plus size fitness instructor, but boy I was wrong!
    You go girl, inspirational

  • Carolyn Shrubsole
    Posted at 06:06h, 20 June Reply

    I can relate to many things.

  • Monica Ruth
    Posted at 07:48h, 20 June Reply

    Very inspirational!!!

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