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The “Fat Tax” for Plus-Size Brides: How the Bridal Sphere is Behind the Times in Body Positivity

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The “Fat Tax” for Plus-Size Brides – Opinion Piece Written By Ranu Coleman, CMO of Azazie

If you’re not familiar with the “fat tax” then you’re one of the lucky ones who has never walked into a store and had to pay significantly more for the same item simply because it’s a few sizes bigger.

The fat tax is defined as “the difference in price between items– clothing, bikes, furniture etc.– made for those in the plus-sized community, usually priced higher than it would be for those who are not.” Considering that everyone is a different shape and size this is a ridiculous phenomenon, but a prevalent one nonetheless. Aside from the obvious financial inequalities that the “fat tax” perpetuates, increased prices also emphasizes the notion that women on the curvier side of the spectrum should pay more for the extra fabric used to fit their bodies–and it’s especially present in the wedding industry.

It’s no coincidence that “shedding for the wedding” is a common theme among brides–wanting to look perfect (at least by common beauty standards) is at the top of many women’s lists of priorities as they prepare for their big day. The first issue (of many) with the concept of losing weight before your wedding is that it reaffirms the notion that women have to be skinny to be deemed beautiful. Even worse, the intention of losing weight based on appearance isn’t sustainable and leaves women more likely to go to extreme measures to shed pounds that will be detrimental to their health in the long run, despite looking thinner for the moment.

We’re all for establishing healthier habits and even using your wedding as a push to make those changes, but shaming anyone (especially a bride–who is beautiful no matter what size) is never acceptable.

That’s why the recurring stories we hear about women having to pay extra for plus-size bridal gowns are infuriating. The bridal industry is notorious for pulling sizes for brides that are far beyond their normal “street size”, typically two sizes bigger. Bride Mary Jane O’Toole reflects on this exact issue sharing that her size 12 frame only fit into a size 18 and 20 dress, in which she recalls being charged a whopping $600 more. This isn’t just a plus size issue.

The combination of the fat tax for the extra fabric and inaccurate sizing reflects a massive need in the bridal industry for gowns that are designed regardless ofsize.

It seems that plus size brides are in a lose-lose situation when searching for the perfect bridal gown–either trying to drastically cut down on their weight while establishing unhealthy habits to achieve a desired look, or remaining body positive and deal with the potentially traumatic fittings at bridal boutiques where the dresses she tries on in front of her family and friends barely zip or worse are listed at a higher price point. With the average American woman somewhere between a size 16 and 18, the bridal industry and the associated rhetoric needs to catch up.

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However, although the bridal industry is comparatively behind the times in terms of body positivity and acceptance, some brands are making moves towards bridal inclusivity.

Designer Christian Siriano’s 2018 bridal collection goes up to size 26, and one of the two models he chose to model his gowns is a size 16. For the Fall 2018 runway collections, four bridal designers/brands — Theia, Alexandra Grecco, David’s Bridal, and Rebecca Schoneveld — included at least one plus-size model on their runway or in a presentation, which admittedly seems colossally minuscule compared to a record 90 walking in 12 NYFW shows (up from just 26 from the season prior). But for the very traditional (read: resistant to change) bridal industry, this marks a significant shift in attitudes toward addressing size-diversity and body-positivity and thereby making wedding dress shopping a much more inclusive experience.

Yet, many high end couture designers, and even major bridal retailers, are still excluding plus-size women in their marketing.

It doesn’t take much investigating to notice that the majority of high end brands don’t use women above runway size to model their clothing. Not only is this a huge missed opportunity with $20 billion in the plus size fashion market, it’s also not representative of their consumers. History even shows that adding plus size options to your products, especially in high-end brands, increases revenue. It begs the question of why all brands haven’t made the push towards fashion for everybody

At Azazie, we take size inclusivity beyond the runway and provide designer quality gowns specifically created for all women. With the help of our team of designers, who have experience creating designs for couture brands like Vera Wang and Marchesa, Azazie team is making options for brides of all sizes and budgets where other brands had previously lacked. We also feature real brides and bridesmaids on our social channels and hire women of diverse bodytypes to showcase our gowns. Put simply–we want to celebrate what makes us unique.

This is also why we offer custom sizing for free – we know that not every woman fits perfectly into a box on a size chart, not to mention how inaccurate other bridal shops are in their sizing. As one of the first in the industry to offer sizes 0-30, any bride that visits the Azazie website will be able to find something that fits her vision of a perfect dress, and won’t have to settle for a gown just because it’s the only one in her size. We commend other brands that are doing the same and urge bridal brands on and off the runway to tap into the market of designing for women of all body shapes. Every bride is special, and that’s a key theme we want people to take away from our brand’s mission.

It is time that the bridal industry eliminated the fat tax.

A woman’s wedding day is the day she should feel most beautiful, and not having access to your dream dress because of your size simply isn’t right. We look forward to seeing fashion accessibility changes with continued coverage on what it really means to be a beautiful bride: confidence (and a killer dress!)

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About Ranu Coleman

A seasoned marketing and communications leader with deep experience in the retail/fashion space, Ranu Coleman serves as Chief Marketing Officer for Azazie, the direct-to-consumer company focused on high-quality, custom-fit, affordable bridesmaid dresses and wedding gowns. Joining Azazie in February 2018, Coleman leads the marketing team in implementing brand strategy, driving awareness of Azazie’s product offerings and engaging consumers with the brand. Visit online at azazie.com

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Sarah Taylor is Shattering Stereotypes and Inspiring Change

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Sarah Taylor is Shattering Stereotypes and Inspiring Change

Plus-Size Fitness Advocate, Sarah Taylor, Shatters Stereotypes and Inspires Change

While most of the world will be obsessing over “thinness” and disguising “diet culture” as wellness during the beginning of a new year, PLUS Model Magazine is honored to feature a young mom, author, and fitness advocate who shares her journey to redefine the narrative, proving that strength, confidence, and love can coexist in every step of our unique paths.

Can you share a bit about yourself, your background, and what inspired you to become a plus-size fitness coach?

From a very young age, I hated my body.  I came into this world a big girl – almost 10 pounds and almost 2 feet tall at birth (my poor mother) and although I grew up in a loving household I was bullied so heavily in school.  I was a size 12 at 12 and I’ve been 5’11 since grade 7 and while that might be the story of so many, I think what a lot of us don’t realize is that how we are treated by our peers can shape so much of our lives but mostly shape how we see ourselves and ultimately how we show up in the world. But it wasn’t until I got out of an abusive marriage over 10 years ago that I started to do the work to change how I saw myself and it all started with how I talked to myself.  I had to re-record the negative tape that played in my head and I literally had to work on every area of my life – body, soul, and spirit. 

I also spent significant time reconnecting to my faith (I grew up as a Pastor’s Kid and it’s always played a very big role in my life). It took years of healing and doing the work and I call leaving my abusive marriage my first step in the journey to self-love.  This is also where I started to do the work to repair my relationship with food and movement. 

Fast forward a few years of healing and I started to dream and that included modeling – I made my vision board and a few months later I had a couple of opportunities, then an email asking if I was the next Miss Plus Canada, and well…that changed my life a lot. In 2014 I was crowned Miss Plus Canada Queen, People’s Choice, and Talent.  My talent was a spoken word of my Journey to Self-Love, and it was then that I knew I didn’t get through what I got through to sit down and keep my mouth shut, but to help other women on their journeys.  From there I started speaking and sharing my story, modeling in Toronto, New York, LA, the Caribbean, etc and doors kept opening and I kept taking one step at a time which has ultimately led me to where I am today.

How did your journey into fitness coaching begin, and what motivated you to focus on empowering plus-size women?

Fitness was such a big part of my own Self-Love Journey.  I had done all this work on the inside to love myself, be confident, and be at peace with my body.  I was a size 22 when I won Miss Plus Canada, but I truly loved myself.  However, I was also in a lot of pain from a couple of car accidents.  At the time of the pageant, I was actually scheduled for gastric bypass and when I won, I decided to cancel the surgery (there are a few reasons why) and I decided to focus on feeling my best physically because I had done the work internally.  So, I focused on foods that reduced inflammation in my body and started working with a trainer to rehab – when I started I literally used a broomstick instead of dumbbells because I had to just get my muscles working.  I kept at it for years and it became one of my biggest tools to manage stress, feel good, and be strong. 

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A couple of years into my journey and I had been attending a women’s gym that offered bootcamp classes – I had been there for 2 years, and a woman looked at me while I was in a class (doing the same exercise as her) and she said, “Are you sure you have medical clearance to be here?”  I was shocked.  I was about a size 16 and was the strongest I had been in my life.  I knew then that I had to do something about it. 

My mentor at the time suggested certifying as a personal trainer – she actually paid for half my course because she believed in me and so I did and as I was about to finish, I had an opportunity to open my first fitness studio in a shared space to run boot camp classes.  I knew my focus would be plus-size women because my experience at the gym told me that there are women like me to just want to move their bodies and not be shamed for it.  So, I design all my workouts for the plus size woman in mind – modifications in case you need them but don’t want to ask, a little extra rest and a trainer who might have a body that looks like you, and self-love coaching based on my own journey – because it’s not just about fitness. 

I then opened a second location in downtown Toronto but had to close due to COVID-19 and now I’m 100% virtual.  I taught over 350 online virtual classes since the closure and now I coach women 1:1 and offer an On Demand  Video Based Membership.

Balancing motherhood and a fitness career can be challenging. How do you manage your time to ensure both aspects receive the attention they deserve?

Becoming a mom was a total surprise and my little Princess Brooke-Lynn is my greatest blessing in life.  With that said it’s also been one of my biggest challenges adjusting to being a mom, running a business, and taking care of myself. 

I had a very rough pregnancy and was sick my entire pregnancy and I also had a 10 cm hamstring tear that I was unaware of until a few months ago (she’s 2 now) so it explained why I struggled even more with rehab postpartum.  I have had to change my personal training program multiple times to adapt to pregnancy, post-partum, and her ever-changing sleep schedule.  This also meant my business model had to change multiple times.  Before I had Brooke-Lynn I was teaching up to 10 live virtual classes PER week -that’s 2 a day sometimes and I had to go to 100% on Demand, then resumed live classes at 4 months postpartum (after a c-section) and I could hardly move.  I’ve now transitioned to coaching women 1:1 because it’s what works for my life being a full-time mom and business owner. 

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I think one of the biggest things I had to learn was I had to build my business on what I desired and what would work for my life as a new mom – and not what everyone else expected of me.  That’s a big change for this people-pleaser but it was essential to thrive – both for me and for her. I think the other thing here is that things will change constantly which means your plan is always changing so being agile will be important while still maintaining your boundaries and desires.

Can you share any specific strategies or routines you’ve developed to maintain a healthy work-life balance as a mother and fitness coach?

First of all, I will say, I’m still working on it.  And I truly think that’s the key – any journey you are on will require different versions of you, different commitments, evolution, transition, and ultimately change so I think the first strategy is accepting that if you set out a plan, it will likely change in the future and making peace with that will save you a lot of strife.

My daughter will always be my number one priority but also for me to be able to take care of her, I must take care of myself so those two go hand in hand. When she was wee little, I worked a lot and she’d be right beside me – now she’s non-stop (talking and running around) so I work around her schedule (aka I work on naptimes and when she goes to bed) and I now do my workouts when she is awake and include her.  Here are the areas I recommend making sure you focus on if you are on a similar journey.

  1. Sleep and Rest – this is massive and completely overlooked.  I’m personally useless unless I’m sleeping well, and I had to work so hard on better sleep routines – this means leaving my phone in another room at 8 pm onwards every night and having self-care before bed – usually reading my Bible or a book to wind down.
  2. Make a plan – this is one of the biggest tools I work on with clients in my programming too and it’s because I’ve learned my lesson. Start with what you must do (work, school, appointments, your kids, meetings, etc) and then fill in around that – time for you (self-care), getting in some movement, food prepping to make sure you are actually eating, etc.
  3. Focus on habits – this is another huge one.  So many of us think – “Oh, I need to make change” and you decide you are going to change 100 things at once and 2 days in you are done.  Ditch the all-or-nothing thinking and focus on small habits that you can work on getting consistent in and build on them.  Start with 1-3 at a time and stack them with other habits you already do.
  4. Keep your boundaries – set them and stick to them.
  5. Be present with your kids – put your phone down.  This was a hard one for me because I was always working but the difference in Brooke-Lynn’s demeanor and honestly my enjoyment with her was revolutionized when I was more diligent about this.
  6. Make peace with where you are at.  This has been one of the hardest seasons of my life and I’ve had to make peace with the fact that I don’t have all the answers, I don’t always know what to do and I had a choice to keep freaking out in the storm or be peaceful in it and get through it…I’m still getting through it.

What unique challenges do plus-size women often face in the fitness world, and how do you address those challenges in your coaching approach?

Unfortunately, the story for most plus-size women in fitness spaces (in person and online) is around being shamed, and bullied and most women who have that happen to them never go back to those spaces.  It’s honestly such a shame and it’s made so many women have an even more challenging relationship with moving their bodies.  Add on diet culture and the extreme fixation on ‘what we should look like’ or ‘what society thinks is beautiful’ and I believe so many are robbed of the actual joy and benefits of fitness (stress relief, more energy, increased confidence, and body awareness, better sleep, being stronger to enjoy the life you want, the list is literally endless).

So my goal is to help women learn how to enjoy working out and creating new habits, provide modifications if they need them (without having to ask for them and feeling shameful – there’s no shame in modifying), and infuse them with my self-love banter and coaching because there is so much more to life than just your body and you deserve to feel amazing – body, soul, and spirit. I also don’t promote weight loss and never have.  With that said, that’s what most clients come to me for – my goal is to help them shift their perspective to realize they are as beautiful as they are, and we focus on feeling your best. So much of the work starts on the inside so my hope is to challenge you and help you grow so you are no longer bound by your negative thoughts but walking in freedom living your best damn life.

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How do you foster a supportive and inclusive environment for plus-size women in your fitness programs?

There are several things here and I’m always working on finding more ways to do this because I think it’s important.  I think one of the biggest things is not having assumptions – not having assumptions someone wants to lose weight as their goal (I have women tell me their goals – not the other way around).

Another big one is not assuming women can or cannot do something.  If I had a dollar for every time someone thought I couldn’t be a personal trainer because I’ve my size, I’d be rich – It’s part of the reason I show modifications in all classes as well as all my video demos – choose your level – I’ll show you usually 3 and attach no value to them.  You might be new to fitness and doing something like a jump squat might scare you, you might have an injury, or you might be wearing the wrong sports bra that day – just move that beautiful body.

Community is another big piece – I’m very big on checking the vibe – so if you aren’t the vibe then we aren’t fit and that’s ok.  It’s important to me that my community feels safe, protected, and supported.  With that said, because I’m clear in my marketing and how I coach I’ve never had an issue where I had to address a woman.  I lead by example here.

Have you personally experienced a fitness journey? If so, how has it influenced your coaching style and the way you connect with your clients?

My fitness journey has been a hot mess and it’s also been beautiful. 

When I was 21 I decided I was going to get skinny because I thought it would make me happy.  I did 3 hours of cardio, 6 days a week, and threw up after every workout. I lost 80 pounds in 6 months, and I still hated myself.  I was also hardly eating.  It was so toxic.  Of course, I gained it all back and then some and then ended up in the abusive marriage I mentioned before and as part of my healing journey had to try an entirely different way.  It’s what my program and my new book are based on. 

A healthy and sustainable fitness journey (in my opinion) starts on the inside.  You have got to fix how you talk to yourself and have a healthy relationship with exercise and food.  You also need to re-record the negative tape that plays in your head because you are not going to make long-lasting changes through the lens of self-hatred – true change comes through the lens of self-love. I share very openly and candidly with my clients and my following and always have (I’ve been sharing online for over 10 years) and I hope to show women if I can do it, they can too.

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Can you share a success story from one of your clients, particularly someone who has experienced positive changes in their life through your coaching?

I have a client who has been with me since my first gym – so over 6 years.  She’s now coaching with me 1:1 as well.  But when she first started with me she was obsessed with weight loss – she thought that is what was going to make her happy.   In coaching with me, she realized there was so much more to life and she fell in love with the journey and is no longer obsessed with the scale.  I think this is just one of my favorites because I’ve watched her have freedom in all areas of her life because of this shift in her mindset – her relationship with herself and others, her career, etc.

There are so many amazing things that have happened over the years – women who were pre-diabetic and in 4 months of working together no longer pre-diabetic.  Another client had bad knee pain and had to wear a brace every day she hated exercise and wearing workout clothes in public and within 6 months of training her knee pain was gone and she’s so confident to wear what she wants. I’ve had clients come to me who wanted to prepare their bodies for having babies and now have 1 or 2 babies.

These are the reasons I keep going -seeing changes and transformations in women – body, soul, and spirit.

How do you incorporate body positivity and self-love into your fitness coaching to help plus-size women build confidence in their bodies?

If I’m honest, I stopped referring to myself as body-positive years ago because a lot of people didn’t understand you could be body-positive and work out (which is a shame) but essentially, I work on helping women make peace with their bodies and learn to love themselves.  I think so many of us grew up thinking we had to look a certain way that there has been one ideal beauty type and that the only way we would be happy is if we were thin.

Essentially, I coach around making these mindset shifts and that includes utilizing tools like affirmations, journaling, actually looking at yourself in the mirror and doing mirror work, talking about the importance of taking care of yourself, and focusing on how you feel.  In my classes, I always have self-love banter all through the class and share personal stories and in my 1:1 coaching I actually have video-based lessons to help women start doing the work to make those changes and my book goes through all these things as well to teach you how to re-record that negative tape in your head.

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In your experience, what role does mental and emotional well-being play in achieving fitness goals, especially for plus-size individuals?

My personal experience has told me that if I don’t work out – my mental and emotional well-being suffers greatly.  Moving your body can literally be a game changer in helping manage things like stress, anxiety, overwhelm, sleeping difficulties, sadness, happiness, joy, and all the emotions.  I have heard repeatedly from clients they see the difference as they get consistent as well.  It’s honestly one of the biggest reasons I have clients focus on how they feel rather than what the scale says.  With that said, it is also work to connect to your body to see how you actually feel but when you do, it’s an absolute game changer.

I’m currently in one of my hardest seasons of life – rebuilding my business post covid, working on feeling like myself after having a baby, ending my 7-year relationship with her father 6 months ago, moving back in with my mom just before turning 40 and the 2 things that have remained constant in keeping me grounded and peaceful has been my faith, and making sure I’m consistent with working out. I would likely be a mess without both of those.

How do you customize fitness routines to meet the unique needs and abilities of plus-size clients?

The first thing is having clients tell me where they are at and what their history is like (history with their relationship with fitness as well as if they are currently active and previous fitness history). I don’t assume anything.  I have an extensive intake for my 1:1 clients so I get to know any injuries, preferences, and potential issues we might need to work through.  We then look at how many days they realistically think they can commit to, and I refuse to program 5-7 workouts per week if they are currently doing nothing.  We focus on building habits that will sustain them and we usually start with 2-3 workouts per week however I’ve also had some clients start with just 1 per week because their relationship with movement is so damaged and that’s ok – it’s a great place to start. I also offer modifications, a little more rest in between exercises and I’m mindful of belly’s, boobs, and thick thighs as I show you how to complete an exercise.  I also always offer a low-impact option in exercises.

What advice do you have for plus-size individuals who may feel intimidated or hesitant to start a fitness journey?

I think one of the best things to do is sit down and write out how you currently feel – body, soul, and spirit.  Go into detail.  When you are done, read it out loud.  Then ponder this question, if you were to keep going as you are now, will you be happy or will you feel a ways about it?

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Then take some time to write out how you want to feel.  Read it out loud (there is power in reading it out loud, trust me) and pull out 1-3 things that you believe you could immediately start to work on and make a plan to start doing it.  But be mindful as you make this plan – you don’t have to go all or nothing and you don’t need to take on the world to start.  For example, if you want to start exercising – you don’t have to commit to an hour a day, 5 days a week.  Start small with something like three 20-minute walks a week.  Get consistent with it and then consider adding to it.  Focus on how you feel and how you want to feel and let that be the driving force.

Can you tell us about your book FITNESS + SELF-LOVE?

My book is a labor of love that I am so proud of.  It is a cumulation of all the things I’ve learned to be effective on my own Fitness & Self-Love Journey and it’s my signature coaching program that I coach my 1:1 clients with as well.  It is right to the point to give you practical tools to see long-lasting change.  I share my story briefly, go through all the lessons, and then there are 12 weeks of tracking designed to help you start your journey and support you through it. There are monthly goal setting and calendars, weekly reflection, and daily tracking as well. I also have a second version with just the tracking pages for when you want to continue your journey.

Also, where we can purchase the book?

My book is available on Amazon worldwide and on my website at fitnessbysarahtaylor.com

To be honest I think just being a plus size personal trainer and showing up as I do online and with the brands I work with is helping to fight the stigmas.  When I started out, I was only aware of a handful of plus-size personal trainers and now there are so many and all of us are putting in the work to show that plus-size people deserve a safe space in the fitness community.

On a client or potential client level just showing up shows them if I can do it – they can do it and that alone is pretty cool.  Then add on working with brands like Nike, Under Armour, Adidas, Joe Fresh, Knix, Penningtons, etc, and being a fitness expert on shows like Breakfast Television & Cityline just pushes the agenda even more.  I know I didn’t grow up seeing bodies like mine in media let alone fitness so being that representation is such a dream but also such a privilege that I don’t take lightly. For the 5 negative & ignorant comments on campaigns like those, I get 100 from women who are inspired, see themselves, and realize they can do it too and that’s what counts.

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What message do you hope to send to society about body positivity and fitness for plus-size individuals?

My hope is that society would stop seeing plus-size individuals as less than.  Literally, everyone in the world is unique and we all carry something in us that no one can – and imagine if we really all looked alike – how boring. Because we are plus-size does not mean we are not capable, it doesn’t mean that we are worth less, it doesn’t mean we are defective, it doesn’t mean you are better than and should treat us poorly.  We are deserving of feeling good and safe in spaces just like everyone else.  We are not a different species and I know that sounds kind of extreme but the comments I’ve heard from people sometimes just blows my mind.

What are your future goals as a plus-size fitness coach? How do you envision expanding your impact and reach in the coming years?

I don’t often share my full vision and if I’m honest it’s because the last few years have been so challenging in my personal life as well as in business.  But my grand vision includes hosting events globally for women to empower them in every area of their life – with a focus on fitness, wellness, and faith.  There is something so significant about community for women and fostering a community that is safe for growth.  Fitness is one of many tools that I believe we need in our lives but what I’ve learned in coaching thousands of plus-size women around the world is, so many women are hurting emotionally, spiritually, and physically.

So many women think if they can just be thinner, or they can just lose weight or look like what they see in media they will be happy – it’s what I thought too. So many women are hurting and have no idea how to heal and although I don’t have it all figured out, I’m doing the work and have learned some significant tools along the way. One of the hardest parts of healing is making difficult decisions and I’ve had to make several of those in the last 2 years, but they are all leading into my next chapter. I know what it is like to hate yourself and how that affects every single area of your life, but I also know that when you live out of a place of self-love – it transforms your life and that’s what I want to help women do – transform beyond their wildest dreams.

Are there specific projects or initiatives you’re currently working on to further empower plus-size women in the fitness realm?

I recently launched a 1:1 coaching program with a new app.  This was a huge project that I am so proud of, and the goal is to help women make real, lasting changes in their lives while working on their fitness journey in hand with their relationship with food, themselves, and others.  There are over 200 fitness demo videos with modifications, self-love coaching videos, amazing meal plans to keep you nourished habit tracking to help you stay consistent, and of course weekly check-ins to not only keep you accountable but support you every step of the way. I do also have an on-demand membership in my app for those who are not quite ready for 1:1 coaching, and it has over 150 on-demand full fitness classes with modifications and my self-love banter.  I am also always open to opportunities to work with brands and media to push inclusion further as well.  I will also likely have some more in-person classes and events in the New Year.

If there’s one piece of advice you could give to plus-size women who are considering starting their fitness journey, what would it be?

The first step is the hardest – so decide that you are ready for change and then pick 1 or 2 things to work on and ease your way into them to make it consistent. Through it all, focus on how you feel – focus on feeling good, feeling strong, and feeling empowered. Then just keep taking one step at a time, one foot in front of the next.

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Follow Sarah and begin your journey…

fitnessbysarahtaylor.com/
instagram.com/the.sarahtaylor
facebook.com/TheSarahTaylor1
tiktok.com/@the.sarahtaylor
youtube.com/thesarahtaylor

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Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month in Style

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Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month in Style

Today we find ourselves in the midst of a special time of the year – Hispanic Heritage Month.

It’s a time to honor the vibrant and diverse cultures, traditions, and contributions of Hispanic and Latinx communities around the world. Here at PLUS Model Magazine, we’re excited to celebrate this cultural tapestry through the lens of fashion, style, and empowerment.

Join us as we take a moment to appreciate some of the trailblazing Hispanic cover models who have graced our magazine’s pages over the years. These incredible women have not only captivated us with their beauty but also with their inspiring stories and fearless fashion choices.

Larissa Byrd – Sept 2023 Cover Model
View | IG @larissa.byrd/

PLUS MODEL MAGAZINE - September 2023

SuStyleXpo – August 2023
View | IG @sustylexpo/

PLUS-MODEL-MAGAZINE-August-2023-Cover

Kathy Rosa – Sponsored by Marla Wynne – October 2022
Interview With Marla Wynne

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Lene Pelayo – Hispanic Heritage Month – Sept 2022
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National Hispanic Heritage Month

Sandra Negron & Darlene LeBron – March 2022
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PLUS MODEL MAGAZINE - March 2022

Jessie Diaz-Herrera – January 2022
View | View IG Live

PLUS MODEL MAGAZINE - January 2022

Victoria A Valenzuela, Kengie Smith, Grace Clark Delgado – August 2021
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PLUS Model Magazine - August 2021 Issue

Jessica Milagros – July 2021
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Mindy Colette – April 2021
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PLUS Model Magazine - April 2021

Laura Lee – September 2020
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Fluvia Lacerda – August 2020
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Suleimis, Sandra and Gabriela – May 2019
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Denise Bidot – August 2010
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Denise Bidot

Nadia – September 2015

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Nadia

Suzanne Ujaque – March 2020

Suzanne Ujaque

Thank you to all the Hispanic/Latinx models, and industry professionals who have helped to build PLUS Model Magazine through the span of many years.

As we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, let’s remember that fashion is a universal language that can bring us all together. Embrace the rich heritage and style that Hispanic and Latinx cultures have to offer, and let your fashion choices be a tribute to the diversity and beauty of our world. At PLUS Model Magazine, we’re excited to see how you celebrate this month in style!

Happy Hispanic Heritage Month.

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The Connection Between Body Positivity and Mental Health

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The Connection Between Body Positivity and Mental Health

Do you ever feel like the world is telling you that you’re not good enough because of how you look?

Do you constantly compare yourself to others and feel like you don’t measure up? 

If so, you’re not alone. 

For many of us, negative body image can take a toll on our mental health, leading to feelings of anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem. 

But there is hope. Through the body positivity movement, we can learn to love and accept ourselves for who we are, our flaws, and all. 

In this article, we’ll discuss practical ways you can build body positivity and boost your mental health, which in turn will lead to a happier, healthier life. 

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Negative body image is a pervasive issue that affects many people, especially in a society that often places an unrealistic emphasis on physical appearance.

In fact, negative body image has been linked to a number of mental health issues, including: 

  • Low self-esteem: A negative body image can cause you to feel like you’re not good enough or worthy of love and affection. This can lead to feelings of depression and anxiety, as well as low self-esteem.
  • Eating disorders: If your perception of your own body is distorted, it may lead you down the path toward an eating disorder such as anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa. These disorders are serious conditions that require professional treatment; they’re also very dangerous if left untreated because they can cause organ damage or even death if left untreated for too long (or at all).
  • Anxiety and depression: People who struggle with these conditions often have difficulty managing their emotions due to how negatively they view themselves in relation to others around them–and this feeling often comes from comparing ourselves unfavorably against unrealistic standards set by society at large (and sometimes even our own families).

Building body positivity and boosting mental health can be quite a challenging journey, but it’s one that is worth taking. Here are some key steps you can take to cultivate a positive relationship with your body and improve your mental well-being: 

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  • Practice self-care: Taking care of your physical health can have a positive impact on your mental health. This includes getting enough sleep, exercising, and eating a balanced diet.
  • Surround yourself with positivity: Surround yourself with people who support you and uplift you. This can include joining online communities that promote body positivity and self-love.
  • Challenge negative self-talk: Pay attention to the way you talk to yourself and challenge any negative self-talk. Replace it with positive affirmations and focus on your strengths.
  • Engage in activities that bring you joy: Engage in activities that bring you joy and make you feel good about yourself. This can include hobbies, exercise, or spending time with loved ones.
  • Practice mindfulness: Mindfulness practices, such as meditation and deep breathing exercises, can help you become more aware of your thoughts and feelings and learn to manage them in a healthy way.
  • Limit social media intake: While social media can be a platform for body positivity, it can also be a breeding ground for negative comparisons. Limit your time on social media and unfollow accounts that make you feel bad about yourself. 
  • Focus on what your body can do: Instead of focusing solely on appearance, focus on what your body can do. Appreciate your body for its strength, flexibility, and resilience. 
  • Educate yourself: Educate yourself on body positivity and the negative impact of unrealistic beauty standards. This can help you challenge these harmful beliefs and promote body positivity in your own life. 
  • Seek professional help: If negative body image is impacting your mental health or leading to disordered eating, it’s important to seek professional help. A therapist or counselor can help you work through these issues and develop healthy coping strategies. 
  • Be kind to yourself: Finally, be kind to yourself. Treat yourself with the same kindness and compassion that you would offer to a friend. Embrace your “flaws” and “imperfections”, and remember that they make you unique and beautiful in your own way.

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Remember that building body positivity and boosting mental health is a journey, and it’s okay to take it one step at a time. Celebrate your progress and be kind to yourself along the way!  

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The Women Behind Bandelettes… We Have the Story

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The Women Behind Bandelettes... We Have the Story

Special savings for PLUS Readers at bandelettes.com! BOGO 40% Off – Buy one item, get 40% off the second. Use code PMM40 at checkout

We remember watching the models walk the Chromat NYFW runway wearing Bandelettes and feeling such immense pride.

The collaboration was absolutely elating for those of us in the seats that have met Julia Abasova and Rena Abramoff, the women behind Bandelettes. This month we are excited to share this exciting story about how two women from the same country immigrated to the US and met HERE and realized their dream. Today they are part of the conversation when it comes to loving ourselves unapologetically.

PLUS MODEL MAGAZINE - February 2023

Get to know Rena and Julia…

PMM: Tell us a little about yourselves and how you met.

Rena: My family came here in 1996; we are refugees who came to the United States and started from scratch. I have a master’s degree but I started at the very bottom until I landed a position in my field. I was a controller at a well-known insurance company and when the opportunity came I decided to take a different approach to my career path.

Julia: Funny story… Rena and I went to the same University and lived in very close proximity to each other back in our country, same city but we never met. It was not until we came to the United States that a mutual friend introduced us and we became fast friends. I also have a financial Master’s degree as well and just like Rena started from scratch and took a job that was not exactly in my field but I climbed the ladder pretty quickly.

PMM: So let’s fast forward a bit… you’re fast friends and Rena you move ONE house away from Julia… how do we go from friendship to business partners?

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Rena: So my place of business was about to close and I was offered other positions but I really felt like I wanted to own something for myself and so I brought up the subject to Julia. In the beginning, we thought about creating preserves and of course, there’s a funny story behind it!

Julia: I have scars! I have scars from Rena! LOL!

PMM: Please explain… LOL!

Julia: So Rena wanted to try this thing that they sold in our country. It’s like popcorn with caramel in lollipop form, so like a big round popcorn lollipop. Well, we set out to try it…

Rena: I’m not sure exactly how it happened but I was preparing the sugar for the caramel and the next thing I know the hot sugar was all over Julia’s legs.

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Julia: So yes, we scratched that idea after Rena fixed my leg back from the burning incident. So back to how Bandelettes came to us… we decided to go for a walk one day and Rena asked me how many ideas I came up with because she had like 100 ideas in her head. So I simply told her that I was not sure how she would feel about this idea but I suffer from thigh chafing so I shy away from wearing skirts or dresses and when I do I would cut pantyhose and create something that would cover my thighs.

Rena: So after our walk, she showed me what she created and I thought it was a really good idea. We did our due diligence and made sure there was nothing else on the market that was similar and we moved forward. I thought it was a great idea because Julia and I are all about helping people and this was a business idea that was a career for us and would also help people. We realized this was not a size-specific issue we were addressing it was a people issue.

The Women Behind Bandelettes... We Have the Story

PMM: So from idea to conception… how long was the process?

Rena: During the development process, Julia was the ginny pig and wore the samples for days as we made edits.

Julia: I’m still the ginny pig actually lol! We also asked our friends and did research about launching the brand. One of the big revelations during this process was that people did not want to talk about thigh chaffing or admit that they suffer from it.  Personally, I thought I was the only person in the world that suffered from thigh chafing because no one talked about it.

PMM: So the sexy lacy Bandelettes are HOT! Can we talk about the other options as well?

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Julia: Yes, so in the beginning we just thought about the sexy lacy option only. We were looking for someone to try it and we were introduced to this very nice blogger who wore Bandelettes to a party. The feedback was so eye-opening, the person who wore them was on a date and she said she did not have to worry about taking off “biker shorts or shapewear” before getting into an intimate situation because the bands were so sexy and protected her thighs from chafing.

We also noticed after she posted that the people in the comments section were asking about options that were not lace and why there wasn’t a Unisex option. Again, we saw the need and decided to offer a Unisex option that was not lace. Now we also carry bikini panties as well!

The Women Behind Bandelettes... We Have the Story

PMM:  You were featured at The MET at A Lexicon Of Fashion In America alongside Chromat. Can you tell us about this experience and what it means to you to be part of a community that is body positive?

Rena: We are very thankful to Chromat for collaborating with us during NYFW at her size-inclusive shows because it really put us front and center in the fashion world.

Julia: We were always thinking through a size-inclusive lens but did not realize there was an entire industry about it. We just naturally wanted to offer our brand to as many people as possible. So from the very beginning, we offered sizes up to 3X.

The Women Behind Bandelettes... We Have the Story

PMM: I feel like we were not really openly speaking about thigh chafing back then.

Julia: I like to think that Bandelettes helped to start and encourage the conversation around thigh chafing. Instead of keeping this secret, we are addressing a need and we want people to feel good as well. I believe we played a major role in helping people accept that some of us have this issue and are offering a solution.

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PMM: Lastly, you are a small business, women-owned, your friends, how do you make it work?

Rena: Business-wise I would have to say that our degrees and our experience helped us, although we did not know anything about “fashion” we were able to build a business. I handle the design and financial aspects of Bandelettes and Julia is very much a people person.

Julia: We are complete opposites actually and I think that’s why it works. We also got very good advice from Rena’s husband in the very beginning. He told us to look at our partnership as a marriage, “You have to figure out how to be in a marriage together”! So sometimes we don’t see things the same but we have learned how to walk away and come back to resolve the situation.

Most importantly, we follow one rule, we BOTH have to agree on decisions before they are made.

PMM: This was such a great interview, thank you both for your time, the laughs, and all that you do for the plus-size community.

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Special savings for PLUS Readers at bandelettes.com! BOGO 40% Off – Buy one item, get 40% off the second. Use code PMM40 at checkout

Follow Bandelettes on social media:
instagram.com/bandelettes
facebook.com/Bandelettes

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New Year… Fabulous YOU! Featuring Plus Size Ballerina Júlia Del Bianco

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PLUS MODEL MAGAZINE - January 2023 - Featuring Plus Size Ballerina Ju?lia Del Bianco-SPLASH

Interview with Plus Size Ballerina Júlia Del Bianco…

PLUS Model Magazine - January 2023

For our cover model, Plus Size Ballerina Júlia Del Bianco, dance is something she has always loved from a very early age. Sadly, she also knew that her body type was not what most people were looking for in the dance industry. Her story is common among many in the entertainment industry but for Julia what society deemed acceptable was not going to determine her life choices. Today she is a professional dancer and an inspiration to many.

Get to know… Júlia Del Bianco

Where are you from Júlia?

I was born in Limeira, in the interior of the state of São Paulo, Brazil, where I still live today.

Did you always love dance or ballet as a child?

I always wanted to dance and I don’t know when I started to be a ballerina. It’s something that’s always been part of my life and I can’t see my life without dance and ballet, even though I realized from an early age that my body was not considered suitable for it.

I started dancing at the age of 3 at preschool and at a specialized school at the age of 6. I graduated in Dance from UNICAMP – State University of Campinas, working as a dancer and teacher. It’s a lifelong passion that has become my profession.

I always faced many challenges to continue in Ballet not having a standard body for it, but I think I was always very dedicated and I was very clear about what I wanted and my goals, which maybe even made me a little stubborn. I still get a lot of criticism and a lot of hate, but the affection and encouragement I get on social media are much greater. In addition, I am single-sided deaf, which also made me face even more challenges.

PLUS MODEL MAGAZINE - January 2023 - Featuring Plus Size Ballerina Ju?lia Del Bianco

In your view what is the culture around being plus size in Brazil?

Brazil is a very mixed country with people of all shapes, sizes, and origins. However, prejudice and fatphobia are still very present, being one of the countries that most perform plastic surgeries.

There are many changes in fashion and in other areas such as dance, arts, and sports, but there are always people who still see our bodies as sick and inadequate, which makes everyday life a little difficult.

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I also see that some basic rights are lacking, such as having appropriate places for our bodies, such as seats, furniture, turnstiles, and medical equipment, among others.

Another very important factor is that Brazil is a country with a lot of inequality and low-income people do not always have access to basic needs, much less to quality clothes that they can identify with.

However, at the same time, I see that in fashion there are many smaller brands that are very good and produce incredible authorial fashion, as well as some bigger brands starting to produce plus size clothes with more style and quality, but unfortunately, not everyone is able to consume this.

What events and organizations are helping to change the view of plus-size people in Brazil?

The most important is Pop Plus @popplusbr, which in addition to being a fair, is also a portal for knowledge, fashion, art, and culture and also produces other events. It´s the largest plus size fashion event in Latin America, bringing together more than 100 plus size fashion brands, most of which are copyrighted, in addition to also having space for dance, music, artist exhibitions, and debates on fashion and the plus size body. It is organized by Flávia Durante and takes place four times a year… in 2023 it will be March 11th and 12th, June 24th and 25th, September 2nd and 3rd, and December 9th and 10th.

Other events are Hashtag Fair – Rio de Janeiro (May 6th and December 16th), BH Estilo Plus – Belo Horizonte (February 3rd and 4th, July and November to be confirmed), and BPSPOA Plus Size Fashion Fair – Porto Alegre (Dates to be confirmed).

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I created Dance For Plus @danceforplus, which encourages anyone who feels out of place and wants to feel included in Ballet classes. During the pandemic, it was exclusively online, but now it works through workshops and short courses.

There are also several other very important initiatives in various areas passing on a more positive view of our bodies.

PLUS MODEL MAGAZINE - January 2023 - Featuring Plus Size Ballerina Ju?lia Del Bianco

As a plus-size ballerina, you are breaking a stereotype all over the world. What is your message to young people who wish to pursue dance?

Dance and Ballet are an Art and a way to express yourself in the world. This shouldn’t be exclusive to one body type. Many people believe that to follow their dreams and goals it is necessary to have a body that was stipulated as ‘right’, but the body pattern is always changing and there will always be something that you need to change about yourself.

When we look at what we want and how we feel when we do it, we realize that other people’s opinions don’t matter much, because they don’t know about our struggles and dreams. And in dance, this is no different.

Fortunately, today we see many interesting Ballet initiatives, not only for children but also for adults, which embrace all bodies. The important thing is to always be in a place where your body is not a problem and where you feel welcomed.

This is also possible thanks to some brands that are producing plus size clothing for ballet classes, as without them it would be very difficult to feel comfortable practicing the steps.

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I was very lucky to have in my family my mother who sews and who made many of my class clothes throughout my life, as well as some costumes that I also make together with her.

I try to be the ballerina and the inspiration I never had. I had inspirations in other areas, but not in Ballet. I always felt inadequate and that I should fit in until the day I saw that what I considered my flaws were actually my power and my differential. And being an inspiration in Dance can also encourage other people to follow their goals, regardless of what area they are in.

PLUS MODEL MAGAZINE - January 2023 - Featuring Plus Size Ballerina Ju?lia Del Bianco

What would you say to the many people around the world who may be feeling like something is out of their reach simply because society tells them they can’t because of their size?

We will never have an ideal body. The “perfect body” does not exist, as this idea is shaped by various factors and conventions that always contribute to our dissatisfaction with our bodies. Thinking about it, there will always be something that we are not going to fit in and there will always be people to comment on our body, mainly because this is also a form of control of our body and especially of the woman’s body.

That is, no matter what you do, there will always be someone to criticize you and your body and even consider it sick. That’s why the important thing is to do what you like, fight for your dreams, and achieve your goals because, in the end, we are the ones who will be fulfilled. So start, try, seek, and don’t mind comments from those who don’t know what it’s like to be you. Whether it’s that exercise that’s good for you or that dream you didn’t take off paper.

If this is still too difficult for you, start slowly and with small things. Slowly you manage to recover your self-esteem and do the things you like and fight for bigger goals.

Thank you so much Julia for being an inspiration to all of us.

Follow Júlia Del Bianco Online
IG @judelbi
IG @danceforplus

For Bookings
IG @realpeopleagency

More About Pop Plus
IG @popplusbr

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Photos
Courtesy of Pop Plus Event in Brazil, Flavia Durante 

Photographer 
Felipe Mariano

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I Refuse To Be Defined By My Weight

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I Refuse To Be Defined By My Weight

I refuse to be defined by my face, my body, my hair, or the size of my feet. I will not let anyone else define me in any way that they see fit.

I am a human being who has thoughts and feelings and ambitions and dreams just like everyone else. I have goals that are not related to my body at all – I am a proud writer, DEI professional, coach, podcaster, mother, wife, a friend… all things that have nothing to do with how much I weigh.

My weight does not make me who I am; it does not define me as a person or as an individual. My worth is not determined by how much muscle mass I have stored in my bones – nor is it determined by how many pounds I can lose or gain. 

I refuse to let any number on a scale tell me who I am, or what I am worth. 

If you are on a wellness journey and refuse to let your weight define who you are, here are five ways that have helped me get past the number on the scale: 

  1. Focus on your health, not the numbers. Whether you are gaining or losing weight, it’s your health that matters the most. It’s also important to focus on your confidence levels. Stop comparing yourself negatively against other people or unrealistic expectations set by the society (or even yourself), and instead focus on building confidence in your own strengths and unique personality traits—you’ll be happier with where you’re going when you start loving where you’ve been! 
  2. Do what you want. Make sure you’re doing what feels right for YOU, not what others think you should do or what they say will work best for them (and therefore should work best for you). 
  3. Be patient with yourself throughout this process—it took years to be where you are today. No matter what your weight goals are, you have to understand it will take time to work towards where you are going. 
  4. Use fashion to boost your confidence. When I started wearing clothes that fit better and made me feel good about myself as opposed to ones that were just kind of okay-looking but put me into a size range that felt “safe.”  
  5. Get active! Join an activity you love—whether it’s dance class or kickboxing classes or even just walking around your neighborhood—and do it regularly! The more active you are, the more stronger and motivated you will become to commit to your wellness journey.   
  6. Be real with yourself. Set realistic goals for exercise time each week (like 30 minutes) instead of setting an unrealistic goal that you can’t reach or consistently keep up with.  
  7. Focus on what your body can do instead of what it looks like – If you focus only on numbers and measurements, you may find yourself getting discouraged in your progress because those numbers aren’t going down fast enough or not at all. To combat this, focus instead on what your body can do! Whether it’s running faster than ever before or being able to hold a plank for longer than ever before—it doesn’t matter if it doesn’t show up on a scale or in a mirror image; what matters is that YOU can do these things now! That’s real progress! 

I will not let society dictate what my body should look like, how I should feel about it, or how much I can achieve.

I refuse to let anyone else—not a person, not a magazine, not an article—tell me that I am less than because of the number on the scale.

Most importantly, I will continue to live my life, succeed in my career, and pursue my dreams regardless of whether or not they fit into society’s definition of what is “acceptable” for someone who looks like me! 

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