Melissa Taylor Waldron is one amazing woman. She is truly living her life to the fullest, and is an inspiration to other women, sharing her passion for fitness and health. She is a certified aqua aerobic instructor, and a long-time customer and supporter of Junonia. In fact, at her pool, www.junonia.com is written right up on the white board. “I got tired of having to spell it for everyone!” said Melissa. “I wear your suits that don’t have any spandex in them, and they last a very long time.” Check out our AquaSport Collection!
A big girl all her life, Melissa grew up knowing the sting of bullying and discrimination, and the hurt of disappointing a father concerned about her weight. She is a long-time member of NAAFA (National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance) a non-profit civil rights organization dedicated to ending size discrimination. Their tag line is “We come in all sizes.” www.naafa.org
Melissa regularly presents movement workshops at national conferences on size acceptance. “I went to my first NAAFA convention in 1996. The moment that really changed my life happened after I came back to my room from a pool party. I looked in the mirror and didn’t recognize myself. I saw an attractive woman. Being around people like me, a room full of large people who love large people, made it possible to see myself this way. And if this story converts one person to see themselves as they really are, it is all worth it!” says Melissa.
“Give or take 20 pounds, I am not any smaller than I was then, but at that point in my life, I was always waiting to lose weight to live my life. That changed. I said to myself, ‘OK, I’m opening myself up to try something new—I’m not going to wait until I lose weight.’ Since then, my life has been a roller coaster ride, including meeting my husband. I went to Kauai, Hawaii last year. I had a fabulous time and we are going back. It’s more than the postcards.”
“There are a lot of large people that do exercise, the media doesn’t see us, but we are there, and it’s great to have Junonia there for us as well, especially up to size 6X.” Click here to see Junonia’s entire collection!
Melissa’s approach to fitness is as commonsense as she is. “It really applies to everyone, no matter what size you are on the spectrum. Every body needs to exercise, and it doesn’t matter if you are small or large. I remind my students that if they are on a diet, NOT to tie diet to exercise. Even if you fall off the diet wagon, it is so important to keep exercising. It is OK to leave class early, or come late—just come!
”I believe that if I had not dieted myself to this size, that if I had been regularly exercising since I was a teenager, I could have avoided some health issues. But because of my genetic makeup, I would still be a large person. Active doesn’t always mean smaller. I’m about the same size I was at 30, but I’m in better shape now at 47! I maintain a good blood sugar, and good blood pressure.”
But making exercise a part of her life took effort and planning. “The way I did it was to make friends. I got to know people and we all keep each other accountable. Now that I’ve been teaching, they come to class, or they know Melissa’s going to be on the phone saying ‘why weren’t you in class?’ I tell women to schedule your exercise, to put in on the calendar. When you get there, say “hi” to people, introduce yourself. That’s how I met my best friend. It is so much more fun and you’ll be a resource to each other.
I didn’t start out thinking I would be an instructor. I signed up for a class at the Woman’s Wellness Center in Baton Rouge in 1995. The director had this idea for a class just for larger women. There was no contract (haven’t we all done that? Paid a lot and never gone?) Then the wonderful teacher left the class and I was asked to step up and teach. I became certified by the American Council on Exercise (ACE) and the Aquatic Exercise Association (AEA), the same organizations that certify the average size instructors!
Other tips from Melissa:
- Treat exercise as essential to your health—like brushing your teeth.
- It can’t be a last-minute thought – schedule it as an appointment, that helps!
- Bring a friend to class, make friends in class, check up on each other.
- Wear whatever you like to get you into the pool (I tell people to come fully dressed if they like, but to make sure it is snug so it doesn’t fly up in the water.)
- Wear a rash guard top over your suit from Junonia. It will keep you warm in the water when cool air hits your wet shoulders.
- Schedule class or workout for the end of the day when the facility is quieter and people feel more relaxed and less self-conscious.
- Try Crocs with straps as aqua shoes, they work great!
- Put your swimsuit on at home and wear a robe or coverup home after if you don’t want to change.
- Use the showers with curtains or the family rooms for changing, if you prefer. Find what makes you comfortable.
- Don’t worry about what people think—dress for your own comfort. If you feel better in sleeveless tops, wear sleeveless tops! Whose comfort is important? Yours or a strangers?
- Don’t assume what people may be thinking. If someone is looking at you, it may just be that they think the color suit you are wearing is beautiful, or that you are hot. I know my husband thinks that. I’ve learned we cannot put thoughts in our head about what other people might be thinking.
- Ask people for advice on doctors, and remember you are the customer. If you are not happy with your doctor, find another.
Melissa’s advice for Junonia?
- More great colorful prints, especially in swim tops! Loved those olds ones, bring them back. Loved the old zip-front one piece suit, too.
- I like the tankinis, too. Make sure they don’t ride up for aqua class swimmers.
- More long-torso styles, especially in that great no-spandex live forever fabric.
- More swim dresses with skirts that don’t stretch out.
- Pants in more body styles (they are coming! In the warehouse in October.) Our ActiveLife pants are made for all shapes including: apples, pears, pineapples and hourglass classics!
- Continue to sell sizes up to 6X. Everyone deserves to exercise.