9 Philly Businesses That Live Their Body-Positive Mission
From fitness studios to boutiques, these local spots are big on inclusivity.
Jenny Weinar is a Philly-based psychotherapist who specializes in treating perfectionism, disordered eating, and body image concerns. Read Weinar on Be Well one Tuesday a month.
The body-positive movement has expanded exponentially in recent years, helping many people begin to break free from diet culture and body shame. And while I’m all for everyone making peace with their bodies regardless of their size, the reality is that the movement has often been co-opted, excluding those in the most marginalized bodies who the movement was founded by and for.
If you’re in a smaller body, even if you’ve dealt with negative body image, you may be unaware of the thin privilege you hold — and that true fatphobia is everywhere. In the healthcare system, it looks like higher insurance premiums for those classified as “obese” and negative attitudes toward fat patients reported by many health care providers. In the workplace, fatphobia shows up in corporate wellness programs, weight-based discrimination in hiring or promoting employees, and triggering diet talk. Fatphobia is all around us in our interpersonal interactions, too — from conversations with loved ones to encounters with strangers on the street.
So what is someone in a larger body to do? While there’s still a ways to go in making both public and private spaces and policies more size-inclusive, some local businesses and resources have made this part of their mission. Thin allies can also support these establishments and follow their lead in making their own businesses more inclusive.
For joyful movement, Susanne Johnson, a family nurse practitioner, recommends Cedar Street Barbell Club, Set Fitness, and Lumos Yoga and Barre, which “are distinctly dedicated to welcoming all individuals and providing positive experiences for a variety of bodies.” West Philly’s newly opened Everybody Movement and Wellness is similarly dedicated to size inclusivity with a studio space designed to accommodate larger bodies and instructors who are explicitly aligned with the principles of Health At Every Size.
As far as fashion goes, Curve Conscious is one of Philly’s most popular spots for plus-size shopping. Mariane Leon, a business strategist who frequents the shop, says the Brewerytown consignment store “curates beautiful, size-inclusive clothing that makes you feel good about yourself, the reduction of clothing waste, and sticking to a budget with options to trade in your own clothing for cash or store credit. I’m never afraid I won’t find my size and be shamed for it and I know that if I don’t find what I’m looking for, Adrienne [the store owner] is usually close by ready to piece together a look I might have missed.” For those who can’t make it to the Curve Conscious storefront, Leon notes you can shop online through the store’s website and Instagram highlights. For vintage fiends, Dana Falsetti offers appointment-only shopping for handpicked vintage pieces in modern sizes 16 to 32 and up.
When it comes to beauty, Onlo had size inclusivity in mind when the company installed an armless styling chair in its Germantown salon that can hold up to 500 pounds. Once you’re all done up, why not book a boudoir shoot with Cheyenne Gil Studios? Liz Fever, Philadelphia-based body liberation advocate and creative director, describes the experience of shooting with Gil and her associate photographers as “life-changing.” “For years, I felt shame and hate toward my body — until I saw it through Cheyenne’s lens,” Fever says. “As a small-fat woman, Cheyenne, Kimberlee and Devon have given me a space to express myself, reconnect with my body and learn to see all bodies in a loving light. Their work is an essential tool in the body liberation movement, and I encourage folks to read their work, come to their events and schedule a shoot — I promise you’ll be thankful you did!”
While the healthcare system has perhaps the longest way to go in dismantling fatphobia, one newly opened practice in South Philadelphia is seeking to change that. Radiance Medical Group cites Health At Every Size in its mission and notes that “shaming people has never led to outcomes that are beneficial to well-being.” The practice operates under the direct primary care model (think: a monthly membership rather than insurance-based care), but owner Vicky Borgia is committed to making services accessible regardless of insurance status or income.
This is by no means a comprehensive list, and if you’re a fat-positive business or provider in the Philadelphia area, Be Well Philly would love to hear how you’re serving those in marginalized bodies. If you haven’t yet given this any thought as a business owner, do your research and make the necessary changes to ensure your space or services are accessible and safe to fat people. As a thin ally in the fat liberation movement, I can only speak to the experiences shared by my fat clients, friends, and colleagues, and I will undoubtedly fall short in representing the pervasiveness of weight stigma and its effects. I encourage everyone to get curious about fatphobia, including your own internalized beliefs (the work of local thought leader and fat activist Sonalee Rashatwar is a great place to start), and to stand up and speak out against weight bias when you see it.