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Fat Babes in the Wild makes the outdoors sexy

//Members of Fat Babes in the Wild hiking group at Lake Brainard. Photo courtesy of Rachael Gareri.

When Rachael Gareri went on her first hike after moving to Colorado three years ago, she hyper-fixated on her breathing patterns and tried to take up as little space as possible. She didn’t want fellow hikers to think she was out of shape or, even worse, critique her presence in the outdoors. 

“With Colorado, it’s a place where the mentality is that everyone is focused on their health,” Gareri said. “For me, being a fat person going into this community is intimidating.”

In early August 2021, Gareri decided she’d had enough. She posted in the Facebook group Colorado Girl Gang, “Let’s do a fat babe hiking day! We’ll stop and smell all the wildflowers while catching our breath and take some hot pics!” The response was overwhelmingly positive, and it quickly became clear: Colorado needs a space for fat-presenting bodies in the outdoors. 

What started as a one-time meet-up at a trail above Nederland has flourished into a Facebook group of its own with over 200 members. To Gareri, Fat Babes in the Wild is a queer-friendly space welcome to people of all sizes who want to celebrate body positivity and live without limited body beliefs.

Fatphobia in American culture, especially when it comes to fitness and the outdoors, is more common than one may think. According to Hailey Otis, who holds a Ph.D. in communications from Colorado State University, the performance of fatness disrupts the binary logic that a healthy body cannot be fat. Her work stems from the belief that fat acceptance intertwines with basic forms of social justice.

In the book “Be Fit Girl: Embrace the Body You Have,” Louise Green emphasizes the importance of plus-size women seeing other plus-size women in leadership roles across the fitness industry. She says it creates a pay-it-forward effect that encourages the collective to stop trying to lose weight and get fit instead—a concept Gareri heavily advocates for. 

Dismantling weight stigma in the outdoors isn’t a simple feat, but Gareri is starting with reclaiming fatness herself in the hopes that other femme-identifying people will follow suit. 

“Eventually I would like to create some kind of brand behind it,” Gareri said of Fat Babes in the Wild. “Specifically getting out in nature, but also the taking pictures aspect of it because a lot of times fat people don’t have the opportunity or the friends or the resources to get out in nature and take some sexy pics while also being active.”

Fat Babes in the Wild, formerly Fat Babe Hiking, encompasses more than just hiking. It is a group that believes getting people out in nature—whether on a hike, for a photo shoot or another form of activity—promotes body positivity. 

While there are other local groups with similar missions, like Denver Fatties, Gareri’s group especially focuses on empowering members to document their experiences with photographs. There are no fancy cameras or strict rules, just one member taking a sexy shot of another. 

Anjuli Hurt of Westminster joined the group not only to bond with friends of her body size but because she appreciates the opportunity to get outdoors in a safe environment as a part-time wheelchair user. 

“There are very few trails that I have found to be accessible in Colorado,” Hurt said. “This means that I cannot enjoy the outdoors as much as I would like. Having an inclusive group like [Gareri’s] means I don’t have to worry about my ability to participate.”

Kate Halbur of Broomfield joined to connect with other people in the state who enjoy getting outside but don’t fit the stereotype of what it means to be an “outdoorsy person.” Otis refers to this as fat acceptance activism; her work reveals that in our current thin-centric society, fat bodies are seen as something that should be “fixed.”

“I also wanted to join because I felt like it is my way of being the representation I wish I had growing up,” Halbur said. “I was always the fat kid. I played sports but no one looked like me; sometimes the uniforms were too small or mine was slightly different because I needed an adult size when everyone else was still in kid sizes. I wish I saw more fat people doing sports, hiking and just being active.”

Halbur emphasized that while Fat Babes in the Wild has “fat” in the title, it’s a space for anyone looking for a comfortable environment to enjoy the outdoors and celebrate their here-and-now body. 

In Otis’ work, she compares fat bodies to queer bodies, in as much as they are medicalized and deemed unproductive for society within historical discourse. She writes about “coming out as fat” and how doing so allows for the person in question to reject toxic narratives in the name of radical self-love. 

“Everyone deserves to be in nature; everyone deserves to feel comfortable in their bodies; everyone deserves to feel attractive and sexual in their bodies and in nature,” Gareri said. 

Gareri is hosting the next Fat Babes in the Wild hiking day on Oct. 3, 2021. Learn more here.

 

 

 

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3 Comments

  1. Michelle Troxler

    I would live to join your group! Plz & Thank You!

    Reply
  2. Samuel Schlosser

    I love this story. I don’t hike much but this makes me want to. More like this please

    Reply
    • Carla

      I want to start a group now

      Reply

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