How to be bear-able to fat people outdoors

How to be bear-able to fat people outdoors

Be Friendly, Not Patronizing.

In my most confident and happiest moments, I identify mainly as two things: fat and outdoorsy.  However, I can sometimes question the second part of that identity when being patronized by others while recreating outdoors. 

First, let’s all get on the same page about how I am using patronizing here.

Patronizing is to treat (someone) in a way that is apparently kind or helpful but that betrays a feeling of superiority. (Oxford dictionary)

When we say patronizing phrases to fatventurers in outdoor recreation, I think most of us are trying to be kind and encouraging and not intending to cause harm.  And also, defending our intentions without critically thinking about our impact is the root of dingleberry-dom.  Let’s work together to not be dingleberries to fat people outdoors. 

Below is a chart of examples of common phrases said to plus-size people outdoors. The chart includes an explanation of how these phrases may cause harm as well examples of uplifting and empowering rephrasing. 


Patronizing Phrase

How it Harms

Friendly Rephrasing

You come across a fat hiker who you do not know on a trail

“Good for you for being out here.”

“Wow.  You did it! You must be so proud of yourself.”

Unless you are congratulating every person you see for being out on the trail, singling out someone to congratulate them for doing the same thing as everyone else can be isolating.

“Great day for a hike”


You assume fat people recreating are wanting to lose weight.

“Keep at it and you will lose the weight”

“I used to struggle with my weight and now look at me”

“My sister is doing this new diet/exercise challenge. Do you want me to connect you?”

Unless a fat person tells you they are intentionally trying to lose weight without you asking them, or has asked for your input, there is no excuse for this. 

You are not their primary care physician. 

Nope. Just stop. 

“Great day for a hike”

“Did you see that cool bird back there?”

A fat person is telling you about some of their recent or upcoming outdoor adventures.

“Wow. You DID that? REALLY?”

“Are you sure you can do that?”

Fat bodies can do badass things outdoors.  Do you question your non-plus size friends when they tell you about their outdoor recreation activities?

Questioning the validity of someone’s experiences is not inviting.  


“What was your favorite part of the experience?”

“What are you looking forward to most?”

You have never hiked with your fat friend before and make assumptions about their ability based on your own abilities. 

“The trail is easy. Anyone can do it in 1 hour”

“The trail is hard and I have done it before. Don’t worry we will only do half of it.”

Assuming a trail is too easy or too hard for someone without knowing their hiking ability or experience is a mistake.

Rushing a hiker who needs more time is unsafe and stressful.

Making an assumption that a trail is too hard for an experienced hiker based on their size is discrimination. 

“Here are some options of a few trails on AllTrails, why don’t you pick the one we will do together and how long you think we should plan for it”

“What sort of hike do you want to go on and what should we think about so we both have a really good time?”

To summarize this post.  The best way to avoid adding to the microaggressions plus-size people encounter in outdoor recreation are just to stick to simple greetings. A smile and the phrase “Great day for a hike” or “Have a nice day” goes a long way to encourage everyone on the trails. 

I recognize that I do not speak for all fat bodies outdoors and some of y’all might find these common phrases that I find to be rooted in anti-fat bias totally acceptable for you. Awesome for you. The purpose of this post is not to shame but to share knowledge on how to increase joy and inclusion for all bodies outdoors.

Are you in a larger body and have stories about situations where the outdoors felt unsafe, unwelcome, inaccessible or less joyful for you because of anti-fat bias? We are looking for guest bloggers and fellow fatventurers to highlight in our Fat Bearable series. If so, please share them with me at

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