Sarah Harry runs a class called Fat Yoga.
Sarah Harry runs a class called Fat Yoga.

Women taking back the word ‘fat’

SARAH Harry is reshaping how we talk about weight - one yoga class at a time.

The Fat Yoga founder runs "inclusive, body positive" sessions for plus-size women in Melbourne, adapting poses to suit their curves. They're a hit.

"You are enough, you have enough, you do enough," Ms Harry chants as she guides voluptuous yogis through a cat stretch. "Make the pose fit your body, not the other way around."

Ms Harry, who battled an eating disorder for 10 years, is a self-professed "fat activist".

"I've called it Fat Yoga to reclaim the word 'fat', which is so harmful. I wanted to take the power away from it because language matters," the Body Positive Australia co-director and psychotherapist tells "Numerous studies show weight-based stigma, and the negative language around bigger bodies, is hugely damaging. People in larger bodies are more frequently discriminated against, often paid less, get hired less, and are more often sent for medical tests they don't need."


Yoga teacher, psychotherapist and author Sarah Harry in her yoga studio.
Yoga teacher, psychotherapist and author Sarah Harry in her yoga studio.


Ms Harry is part of a new wave of wellness and body image experts challenging entrenched beliefs that skinny equals healthy and being overweight or obese is a death sentence.

Self-proclaimed "Queen of Confidence" Erika Cramer has empowered hundreds of women to feel confident in their own skin.

Through one-on-one "discovery sessions" and a regular podcast, the mum of two teaches women the art of practising confidence and self-love.


Sarah Harry calls herself a ‘fat activist’.
Sarah Harry calls herself a ‘fat activist’.


"I have a lot of mothers fighting their post-baby body and they're fully having a freak-out. But what I say is: the old body is gone, let's create a new self, be who you are in the moment, be a fully expressed version of yourself and don't let anyone ever stop you," she says.

Before becoming a confidence coach, Ms Cramer styled plus-size women.

"The average Australian woman is size 16 and so many retail shops didn't accommodate these enough. I saw there was a gap, so about six years ago I started doing personal styling and getting women in groups to talk about clothing," she tells



"But I realised that it doesn't matter what you're wearing, you can still look in the mirror and say, 'I look ugly'. We need to be working on our inner wardrobe."

Ms Cramer practises what she preaches. She was a global ambassador for the Body Image Movement and in 2016, hit the runway for Melbourne Fashion Week Plus for plus-sized women.

Body image therapist Ashlee Bennett also helps her patients work through the trauma of weight stigma.

Growing up "in a larger body as a kid during the '90s" and experiencing eating disorders into her 20s attuned Ms Bennett to "fat phobia".


Erika Cramer is the Queen of Confidence. Picture: Andrew Henshaw
Erika Cramer is the Queen of Confidence. Picture: Andrew Henshaw


"I've heard over the years, as a therapist and as a person in a larger body, that fat people need to separate themselves from the weight, as in 'don't take it personally'. However, it's always been personal. Being fat in this society seemingly points to a serious character flaw," she says.

"But all people in all bodies can be unhealthy - even if they look like Miranda Kerr."

In fact, this message - that good and bad health comes in all sizes - has been taken to the top ranks of government.

In a recent submission to the Federal Government's Senate Select Committee into the Obesity Epidemic in Australia, Swinburne University of Technology researchers Dr Carolynne White and Dr Natalie Jovanovski argued that campaigns focusing on health improvement rather than weight loss would more effectively address the increasing prevalence of obesity.


Erika Cramer is a positive body advocate.
Erika Cramer is a positive body advocate.


According to a 2017 study, 63.4 per cent of Australian adults and 27.6 per cent of children were overweight or obese in 2014-15.

"Obesity is not an epidemic. Fat is not some sort of infectious agent that will spread from person to person," Dr Jovanovski, a postdoctoral research fellow, tells "Over-emotive language that is medically inaccurate means we're not having a holistic, serious conversation about health … I'm more interested in turning our public conversation into one that is strength-based. Not focusing on what people lack or how they don't look right, but instead looking at what they're doing right and building on it."

Dr White, a health promotion lecturer, adds: "The World Health Organisation describes health as a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing. Instead of being fixated on body size, we need to look at improving the overall health of people."

It is a point of view challenged by medical professionals.

"The words 'obesity epidemic' may feel uncomfortable for people who already feel stigmatised, and it is a difficult area, but it really does stress the urgency of the obesity crisis to the government," Dr Richard Kidd, who represents GPs on the Australian Medical Association's Federal Council, says. "I think any discussion needs to be framed in terms of healthy living and improved health outcomes, but at some point, we have to actually address the issue we are trying to rectify."

For yoga teacher Sarah Harry, the best way to do that is by empowering people of all sizes to make healthy decisions.

"People in all shaped bodies get heart disease and diabetes. You can't just blame fat at every turn," she says.

"We need more campaigns that focus on movement in a joyful, inclusive way that speaks to people, including people like me in bigger bodies."