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It's not the size that counts...

I remember my first lesson like it was yesterday. I had as much confidence about my body as the size of my clothes. Zero. My bottom was flat, as was my chest. I had no muscles in my arms, a few in my legs from my old horse riding days, but nothing worth talking about.

I hated exercise, of most forms. Suffering from asthma all my life, I have never been one for the cardio workouts. I joined a gym once and gave up after a month. I lacked motivation and excitement.

Once I started pole, I remember when my instructor first said I was ready to invert. How were my skinny little arms going to lift my weight up off the ground? I could barely lift a bag of sugar. I remember feeling extra nervous at this prospect, and no surprises, it took a fair few attempts. Now, I know, some of you are probably reading this with the thoughts - "if you were that tiny, you wouldn't have to lift much weight up." - ok fair point, but what happens when your arm muscles to body weight ratio is on a par, meaning what little weight you have to lift is still a challenge for such small and unused muscles? I rose to the challenge and lifted my weight. I did it! I inverted!

Polers at the Arun Leisure Centre class - all different shapes and sizes.

Many times when I am wasting some time on Facebook, or I respond to the messages on the class pages from potential newbies, I read the same comments, over and over. "What size are the other girls?" or "Am I too big to pole?" or "Do I have to strip down because I'm really embarrassed about my weight?"

Well, firstly, I can tell you now, I recently bought my first size 10 item of clothing. Woah! Yeah, ok, size 10 is still apparently below the average for a dress size for a UK woman, but you know what this was a big and initially scary deal for me. I was out shopping with my mum at the time. I tried on my usual size 8 and realised when I moved my arms, the dress pulled across my shoulder blades and was really restricting. I showed my mum who immediately said "I'll go get you the next size up" and returned with a size 8. I then explained that was the size I was currently stuck in. I told my mum to look at my back and she was amazed at the definition and muscle. No, I am no super body building looking girl by any means, but I no longer looked like a pencil.

Now, I am not trying to contradict anything here, I am simply pointing out the wonders that one form of sport/exercise/dance has done for me. I have GAINED weight. MUSCLE! And it's really true. I like chocolate, I am currently waffling down a tube of Mini Eggs while I type this out, and I have a muffin top as a subsequent chain reaction from performing an office job and loving chocolate. I have transformed myself from a skinny flat, cylinder shape to having some lumps and bumps but muscles and curves. And I am happy. I can even beat the lads at work to full-on chin ups now - I'm up to 3 in a row!!

So, all these comments I hear about being too big or too fat, or however you want to put it. So my experience is about being too skinny. And now, I pose the question which is the one we aren't supposed to ask, but I will - "what's the difference?"

Now I have had this debate with people before. Being thin, meant people found it acceptable to call me skinny. Or to say "You should be happy with your figure - it's better than being fat" - but now just for a moment, let's switch that to a bigger lady. Would you feel it was acceptable to call them fat? or to say "You should be happy with your figure - it's better than being skinny." Probably not.

And actually, often as a society, we are guilty for not really thinking about people with a smaller frame. It could be a health reason or state of mind. It could be genetics or just fast metabolism.

Do we ever stop to question how hard it might be for a thin person to strip off a bit or even to attempt to invert?

When I get to pole, and my instructor says "You need your side out for this move", I whip my vest top off and strut about in my crop top sports bra.We all do. No gingerly and gentle folding, who cares? We all have body hang ups. But I implore you all, no matter if you're big, small, thin, large, tall, short, male, female, old, young, give pole a try. Embrace the changes to your body, whether they are what you expected, good or bad. Just be happy and just be you.

Polers at the Arun Leisure Centre venue showing even feet sizes can be different!

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