"You Are More Capable Than You Think You Are" - Emily Williams from EveryBody Outdoors Inspires Us!

"You Are More Capable Than You Think You Are" - Emily Williams from EveryBody Outdoors Inspires Us!

Hi, please tell everyone where you are based and what you do!

Hi there. I am really lucky to be based in Inverness, so I have access to so many beautiful places right on my doorstep. I do lots of things! As well as being a director of Every Body Outdoors, I run a social enterprise called Velocity Café and Bicycle workshop and I am the Bicycle Mayor of Inverness so I do a lot of campaigning for better cycling infrastructure around the city.

How long have the outdoors and outdoor pursuits been a part of your life?

I have always done outdoor stuff - though I admit probably rather reluctantly while I still lived at home. Then I joined the Expeditions Society at University and surprised everyone, including myself, by learning to climb and going away walking and camping a lot. It was honestly one of the best things I ever did, where I met my husband and we still have a fantastic group of friends from the club to plan adventures with.

You are part of the organisation Every Body Outdoors - can you please tell our readers about it?

Every Body Outdoors is a campaign organisation that is fighting for gear, representation and inclusion for plus size bodies in the outdoor world. When we started it was an Instagram account and a Facebook group, and while we were sure it was needed the response blew us away. Our initial focus was to work to get well fitting clothing and kit in larger sizes, but as the community grew we saw we needed to expand beyond that. Now we run courses and events, have a kit pool so that people can try on a range of items in person and support a network of regional walking groups. 

How has the outdoor industry typically challenged your own idea of being an active, outdoor enthusiast?

Until we started Every Body Outdoors I honestly engaged with the outdoor industry as little as possible. While I have always found immense enjoyment in being outdoors, whether that is biking or swimming or going for a walk, as a plus size person the industry has historically been pretty hostile. While there are now more options available online, I still rarely find clothes in my size in a shop or see photos of anyone who is approaching my size in an advert or in a magazine; so subconsciously I guess I always just thought that meant those weren't for me. It wasn't until I saw the film ‘All Bodies on Bikes’ (video below) that it really struck me what a profound impact seeing someone like me, doing things that I enjoy, in a way that really reflected my experience could have. The way Kailey Kornhauser talks about her relationship with her body, her childhood experiences and how being active brought so much positivity to everything really resonated with me. The more I do, the more I feel that my body is capable and strong and wonderful, regardless of any impact on my size, and it is the only way I have ever managed to feel that level of respect for it. 

Emily on a kayak on a lake

    Are you starting to see a shift in the culture - any positivity to your request from organisations and brands?

    We are seeing a genuine willingness to engage from lots of brands - some we speak to really early in the development process, so it may well be that it is still a couple of years before any products might come to the market. Others come to us with a pretty advanced plan to increase their sizing range and want to speak to us to improve the fit or review a product. We’re obviously really grateful to brands that are supporting our work and our community with funding. We are seeing new plus size options come to the market all the time, and though there is still a long journey ahead to really include plus size people there are definitely more options now than there was 3 years ago.

    Are there any particular companies which stand out to you that are making a positive impact on the status quo?

    There are! For me this is about more than just having an extended size range, it’s about representation of different bodies as a core value of the brand identity - which is one of the reasons I love your new photos so much. 

      The first brand that I discovered that really felt like they were specifically thinking about meeting my needs was Fat Lass at the Back. I remember seeing their pitch on Dragons Den, and being really excited and quickly going out to buy some shorts and a jersey, and I think that the fact I could be warm enough, dry enough and mostly comfortable on a bike is one of the reasons that I have done so much cycling in the last few years. I also love Deakin and Blue, for the fit and quality of their swimwear is excellent and also the representation of all sorts of bodies across their website and social media makes my heart sing. The other brand that has made a massive difference to a lot of folk is Lomo - they have a really extensive range of sizes for their wetsuits, and being able to get a well fitting wetsuit opens up all sorts of opportunities for people to try swimming or other water sports. 

      Every Body Outdoors Review of the Lomo Wetsuit

      Every Body Outdoors carries a strong message of empowerment for everyone who wishes to take part in outdoor activities but perhaps feel like they don’t belong due to a lack of inclusion.  What do you want people to know about being in a larger body, but also being an active and involved outdoor adventurer?

      I guess I would want them to really believe that there is no ‘right’ way to be an adventurer. Even though most of the films you see about the outdoors or articles you read celebrate the ‘fastest, highest, furthest’ narrative as a marker for success, there are a multitude of ways to experience the outdoors. You don’t have to ‘make guidebook time’ to go up a hill, I mean, you don’t even have to go up a hill if walking along the canal is what brings you joy. Finding your tribe really helps - for me being with other people outdoors just multiplies the benefits. Then just put one foot in front of the other, rest when you feel like it, and you can do anything you want to if you give yourself enough time and grace. Everyone who goes outdoors belongs there, no matter what all the noise around the edges implies.

      Please tell us how Every Body Outdoors can support you if you find yourself in the position of not feeling included when it comes to outdoor pursuits.

      We have a number of ways for people to get involved. Obviously you can follow us on Instagram, and if you are plus sized then you can also join our Facebook group. In terms of in person events we run a variety of plus size only courses - from Hill Skills and navigation to climbing and outdoor swimming. We are also in the process of expanding our volunteer group, so we will soon have led group walks across most of the UK.

      Emily after an outdoor swim

      For you, what has been the most fulfilling part of starting Every Body Outdoors?

      Most of the people we meet through EBO are so much more capable than they believe, and playing a small part in helping them realise that is a wonderful privilege. I always remember one of our community members posting a photo of themselves going to the climbing wall for the first time, and then a couple of weeks later someone else replying that they had seen that photo and been inspired to go to their local wall. It made me really appreciate the power of positive representation, and incredibly proud that I had made a small contribution to providing it. I’ve also met so many truly amazing people through our work at EBO, and recently got to make a film about my experience of going on an adventure as a plus size person. 

      Do you find that being outside has a positive impact on your wellbeing and mental health?

      Absolutely. Though in all honesty I don’t necessarily notice it when I am out and doing things on a regular basis. It’s usually when I have a couple of weeks off for whatever reason, an injury or just life getting in the way, that I start to feel increasingly on edge. I am getting better at noticing what that feeling is now and doing something about it sooner rather than later.

      Emily Williams

      Is there anyone that inspired your love of the outdoors?

      I would have to say my husband! We have always done lots of outdoors stuff together and he is mostly reasonably patient with me being slower than him. But having someone in your corner who always assumes that you are capable of doing all the adventures is a very powerful thing!

      What is the best piece of advice that you have ever received?

      Just go and do it! Most of the people we meet through EBO are so much more capable than they believe, and helping them realise that is a wonderful privilege.

      On writing this blog, what do you feel is the key motivational or inspirational message you would like to highlight to our followers that would inspire them to get outdoors more?

      If I could encourage one thing, it would be to put aside any ideas you have about how you are supposed to be in the outdoors. Just go at your own pace, write your own rules and enjoy the fresh air.  

      Emily Williams Camping

      Emily's Inspiration

      Favourite Podcast

      All Bodies on Bikes

      Here is a short film, produced by Shimano on All Bodies on Bikes

      Favourite Place

      I recently went on an amazing canoe trip from Glenfinnan to Arisaig - part of  my heart is still camping on a wild sandy beach watching a glorious sunset!

      Favourite Quote

      Quote from Your Fat Friend

      Favourite Song

      I am committed to only listening to music written or performed by women at the moment - and pretty obsessed with this video.

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