This plus-sized carer has become a pole dancing champion after being excluded at the gym
Overweight people have to put up with the fact that they're constantly being seconded-guessed at every opportunity, and told that they're too fat to participate and compete in sports and athletics - to the detriment of their health and self-esteem. It's an unfair double-edged sword: the very people who are being told to lose weight and exercise are the very same people who are often mocked or bullied for attempting to do so.
One person who hasn't let her weight stop her from doing what she wants is 33-year-old carer Emma Collins. Emma, who is a size 20, has gone on to flourish as a competitive pole dancer - winning national and international competitions. However, despite her myriad successes, she faced plenty of prejudice and judgement when she first got into it. In fact, she only decided to take up the sport when other patrons at her local gym made her feel unwelcome because of her size.
Emma first took an interest in pole dancing in 2013. For most of her adult life, her waistline had made her feel embarrassed and out of place next to her skinnier friends. She tried a number of different fad diets, from SlimFast to Weight Watchers, but none managed to change her BMI. Worse yet, when she joined a gym she often felt uncomfortable and self-conscious, and other gym bunnies did little to increase her confidence.
"I would get funny looks from other gymers when I was on the treadmill or one of the machines," Emma claims. "Sometimes people would say something under their breath and it was all just quite unpleasant and made me feel like I shouldn’t be there." However, when a friend of hers suggested that join her at a taster class for pole dancing, Emma decided to try it out. By the end of her first session, she was completely hooked.
Emma stated: "People used to say that I didn’t belong in a gym, that I was too big to be there. They made me feel out of place, but now I’m the one who is winning championships and travelling round the country doing the sport I love. I’m quite unusual on the pole dancing circuit because dancers tend to be small, size tens and people are often surprised. But when they see me on that pole they are always amazed and are so encouraging."
She added: "I loved it from the off. It was really challenging to do some of the moves and spins, and I didn’t realise how much strength was required but it felt like something I could work towards. I was the biggest girl there easily but everyone was really nice and encouraging. Five years on after my first lesson, I’m still going strong. The same can’t be said for the friend who invited me though – she quit pretty quickly!"
Emma does admit that her weight makes it extra difficult to mastering some moves, especially hanging upside down, and that her flexibility is somewhat reduced because of this. However, she believes that her strength and the 10 hours a week she spends training have managed to compensate for this. Now she feels confident enough to regularly post videos and pictures of herself performing her routines online. You go Emma: your commitment to your sport truly is inspirational.