Dear Peloton, Where Are Your Fat Instructors?

Dear Peloton,

I write to you as a member, a psychologist specializing in eating disorders and body image concerns, and long-time fitness professional. In fact, I’ve been certified as a personal trainer for 25 years, am certified as a lifetime spinning instructor, and have taught hundreds, if not thousands, of group exercise classes. And while I still hold thin privilege, I’m in a larger body than all of the instructors I see on your app.*

I love your company. I really do. I love your classes, your platform, your instructors, your music, and your seeming commitment to diversity. It feels like you’re trying to represent more and more members with the hiring of Black, Latino, and queer instructors. And Logan Aldridge is doing incredible work in the adaptive fitness space. All of this is so important. One category that is missing from your diversity practice, though, is the inclusion of larger-bodied instructors.

I know that size acceptance is important to you. I hear some of your instructors talk about it. I love some of the messaging they share about the value of health over size, self- and body-acceptance, and taking up space. Trust me, there’s a whole bunch of us who are listening.

But the reality is, it’s just talk. Where is the action that says, “Yes, this is actually important to us as a company value, so much so that we are willing to hire instructors in bigger bodies”?

I get it. There’s a part of the market that wants to see smaller-bodied instructors. They view folks in smaller bodies as aspirational, as evidence that your product works. If you buy a Peloton bike, you might shrink your body to look like Olivia’s or Robin’s. If you’re on the Tread, you might get shredded like Kirsten or Becs. Diet culture makes us want this so badly and even promises it to us. But the reality is, there are so many variables that determine a person’s weight, many of which are beyond our control, and most people just aren’t genetically determined to be on the smaller end of the weight continuum. Many thin bodies are actually the product of disordered eating and exercise habits.

Body diversity exists. Right now, the average woman in America weighs over 170 pounds and is a size 16-18. And yet, the average woman in American doesn’t see herself reflected in your instructors. Imagine what it would be like for us to see ourselves represented by your company. Imagine how motivating and inspiring that might be. And imagine what a large segment of the market you could speak to, when roughly 30% of adults are “overweight” and 42% are “obese” (I put these words in quotes because these figures are determine by BMI, which can be inaccurate at best and harmful at worst, and because they pathologize natural body diversity), if you’d hire bigger instructors. Imagine how powerful it would be to represent the majority of the population.

Additionally, instructors in larger bodies are more likely to offer accommodations for larger bodies because they need them themselves. They’ll have to mention what to do if your belly or chest or another body part interferes with a movement because they’ll be making these modification themselves. We hear this often in Logan’s classes; he’s attuned to modifications because he makes them himself.

Motivating people to move their bodies is a tricky endeavor, as many people who start an exercise program drop out shortly after. In order to keep people continuing to show up, we have to figure out what is reinforcing to them. For many, it’s experiencing progress toward their goals. Peloton offers great support around this, as members can track their progress and accomplishments over time. For others, it’s positive and reinforcing instructors. It’s feeling accepted for who they are and how they are. There’s no shortage of positivity among your instructors, and many preach self-acceptance. And for others, it’s a sense of community. Peloton has done a great job building community, with participants high-fiving each other during class, taking classes together, and participating in group challenges. But community also means representation. And this is where you could use some help.

You’ve shown that you are committed to hiring instructors of color, queer instructors, and  instructors with other identities that represent your members. Now show that your instructors’ talk of self-acceptance goes beyond aspirational to factual, with the hiring of larger-bodied instructors. We’re waiting.

*According to the internet, I’m the same size as Ash Pryor, but as of this writing, we don’t see her on the app.

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