Yellowknife photographer promotes plus-size body positivity online

Kaila Walton is part of a growing movement of people pushing for representation of a diversity of women's bodies on social media.

Representation of a diversity of bodies online matters

Yellowknife photographer Kaila Walton runs the Instagram account @fatwanderbabes. Wants to see more plus-sized women represented online. (@fatwanderbabes)

Yellowknife photographer Kaila Walton wants to see more plus-size women on mountain tops on Instagram.

Tired of scrolling through a monotonous feed of thin women in the outdoors, and few women who looked like her, Walton started up @fatwanderbabes. The account has a little under 2,400 followers.

"Society says well, plus-size women aren't normally outside, climbing mountain tops, doing all these types of these things — when in reality we are. There's just not representation."

Walton has been plus-size her entire life. She was an active person growing up, and got into photography, but saw social media dominated by thin women. 

A year or so ago, she started to follow body-positive accounts like @unlikelyhikers and @fatgirlstraveling

It radically changed her self-perception. Walton said that's why representation matters.

"Your size doesn't dictate what you're capable of," she said. The message is no longer, "If you look like this, you can be in the club."

She started posting close-up photos.

"Two years ago, I would not have the confidence to post any of those photos on social media," she said. 

'Your size doesn't dictate what you're capable of,' said Kaila Walton, who runs @fatwanderbabes. (Instagram)

The account she started in November aggregates images showing a diversity of size, race and gender expression. The people in the photos are standing in the desert, climbing mountains and swimming.

Those images are all too rare in outdoor companies' online marketing, said Walton.

"A lot of outdoor brands don't have plus-size clothing or carry very limited plus-size clothing," she said.

When they do carry plus sizes, brands like Columbia, North Face, KÜHL, Underarmour, Prana and Smartwool rarely show plus-size women on their feeds, said Walton. 

'Representation in the outdoors matters'

After Walton started her account, she got direct messages from people saying the images of women who looked like them were validating.

That community, which crystallized online, also exists IRL. 

Walton recently met up with a group of plus-size women to go on a hike outside of Seattle. She describes the trip as some of the best days in her life. 

Society says well, plus-size women aren't normally outside, climbing mountain tops ... when in reality we are.- Kaila Walton, photographer

"I didn't realize until after we did that that wow, I've never really hung out with more than one fat or plus-sized person at a time in my life," she said.

"It made all the difference because … you don't have to worry about how much space you take up when you're around people who look like you."

Before wading into body-positivity, Walton would set arbitrary goals — like lose 20 pounds — before considering certain hikes.

"I kind of grew up being told, you know, 'You'd be prettier if you lost weight.' It sort of wears you down inside and makes you feel like you're not worth doing all the things that other people, who are smaller than you, do."

That's when she told herself, "why the heck can't I do it now?"

This summer, Walton will go on a plus-size-only hike and she plans to share images of women on that hike.

"My main goal is to show that representation in the outdoors matters and to hopefully inspire and help other plus-size women to be in front of the camera."