I Think Lululemon Fat-Shamed Me…

Content Warning: Fat Shaming, Diet Culture

I Think Lululemon Fat-Shamed Me….png

I sit through winter craving the evening sun. I know I’m not alone in absolutely despising going and leaving to school or work in darkness.

Needless to say, I’m always glad when daylight savings comes around. Daylight savings always happens in March and is somewhat thought of as the kick-off to spring (even though Spring technically starts a few weeks later). Spring means the first ice cream cone of the season, after-dinner walks and runs, and swapping layers of coats and pants for shorter alternatives.

However, as much as I love summer nights and longer days, there’s one aspect in particular that I don’t look forward to.

Shorts.

On a spring day that gushed everything of typical Spring- you know, the kind of day where the sun is out and people are giddily outside restless to soak up the sun after months of hibernation- I, too, was giddy to be outside. I was home on Spring break from college and was browsing a neighborhood shopping district with my sister. Of course, windows displays caught our eyes and we wove in and out of stores browsing the sale racks.

One of the stores that we popped into was Lululemon. The only Lululemon item I own is one pair of leggings, but I had heard great things about their shorts, so I thought I’d check them out. Though my favorite workout routine is a sweat-inducing hot yoga class, which I always wear leggings for, I occasionally run on the treadmill at the gym. When it comes to running, I prefer running shorts since my legs always get too hot in leggings.

At Lululemon, I was browsing through the shorts to check out the colors and style.  A perky sales associate started to come towards me. Anticipating the classic, “Do you need any help finding anything,” I almost started to say, “I’m fine, thanks” before she even opened her mouth.

I still remember what she said years later.

She came over and said, “Ohhhh.. we have the longer shorts over there,” as she glanced at my thighs and gave me a wink.

I was stunned.

My cheeks reddened. I blushed, saying, “Great, thanks,” and called to my sister that I was ready to go, repeatedly replaying what had just happened over in my head.

It was so subtle- did that actually just happen?

It was so subtle- maybe I was reading into things too much?

It was so subtle-but, why me?

I felt embarrassed. No, shameful.

She wanted me to try the longer size. She thought my thighs were too big. I’m ugly. if she noticed, everyone must notice my thighs right off the bat. I can’t eat.  

My body is a perfectly average size. This woman, however, struck a chord. No matter who you are, there’s always one part of your body that can be hard to accept. My thighs have always been my thing. Little did this woman know that I’d gone through periods of extreme restriction and controlled exercise trying to “fix” my thighs in particular.

This could have happened anywhere, but Lululemon is known as one of the least size-inclusive companies out there. The leggings run small and only go up to size 12 (regardless of the fact that the average American woman is a size 14). Customers have even reported the Lululemon stores keeping the 10s and 12s in the back, making “larger” (read: normal-sized) people have to specifically ask for clothes in their size. The founder- who is thankfully no longer associated with the company- once discussed Lululemon’s sizing saying, “Frankly some women's bodies just don't actually work for it.” Compare that with size-inclusive athletic wear brands like Girlfriend Collective, Beyond Yoga, and Superfit Hero that I highly recommend you support.  It is empowering to use your hard-earned money to support brands doing good.

My exchange with a sales associate wasn’t an isolated experience- women around the world have reported horror stories of maltreatment at stores that were based on their size. Women have been told things like that all the sizes in the double digits are kept in the back or that they might rip a garment when taking it to try on.

There is nothing wrong with being fat. Society (clearly) shames anyone for existing outside of societal standards. It just so happens that we’re living in an era where having more can make you feel like less.

Maybe I read into the associate’s behavior too much. Maybe she meant something else. Regardless, it made me feel bad about myself, and it’s an experience that still bothers me.

However, I’m lucky. I’m a socially-accepted, average-sized woman that has only one slight fat-shaming experience to talk about it. Countless women around the world deal with fat-shaming each and every day.

It’s not anyone’s place to comment on another’s person’s body. it’s not ‘ok’ to tell anyone that you shouldn’t be eating this or wearing that or trying to do this or that. End of story.

Spring and summer are some of the best seasons. They should be full of shorts, swimsuits, sunny days, and snow cones. As it gets warmer, I know I’m not the only one who has mixed feelings about the clothing that comes along with it.

I’d like to be better at self-acceptance than I am, and it’s a goal of mine to work on that this summer. As much as self-love is important, I think our society needs a wake-up call on the effects of subtle comments we make about each other’s bodies.

Let them eat cake (or a popsicle) in peace. Or wear a bikini or a crop top or shorts.

By Maura Sheedy