Michelle Gibson, 41, has been a fitness instructor for 12 years. Standing at 5’4, and a size 14, Gibson described her physique to The Washington Post as “thick.” To her credit, Gibson teaches 10 aerobics classes a week. “I’m a full-figured woman who would run circles around the average person, and I know it,” she says. “I kind of think it’s my secret weapon.”

A common misconception about being full-figured versus thin is that there’s always an issue with being unhealthy. There are plenty of full-figured people who don’t suffer from health issues such as diabetes or high blood pressure. Just as there are thin people who have these ailments and others related to poor health.

Arnold Gaither, a personal trainer in D.C thinks that it’s great that Gibson is out there teaching a class and showing that fitness doesn’t have to look a certain way.

“By Michelle Gibson teaching a fitness I think it shows that fitness breaks all rules and boundaries. You don’t have to be scared or afraid. Many people are self conscious once they get a certain size or weight, then constantly compare themselves to the ‘fit’ or the ‘fit look’” Gaither said.

The “fit look” is what usually varies from person to person. Just because a person is plus size doesn’t mean they can’t run with the best of them. Literally. If you take a look at the recent rise of black women running, you’ll see various sizes of women participating in 5ks and marathons.

Would you take a fitness class with a plus-size instructor?

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  1. So, I might be crucified about how I feel, but it is my opinion. I’m not small by any means, and I’m on my own journey to become fit. I first sought out a trainer to help me, and I just happen to be the type of person who needs to see what I’m paying for. I picked a man who’s in shape, and just so happens to look the part. I’m not saying a person can’t look full figured and be in shape, I’m just saying that I trust a person who’s ripped and shredded if I want to look that way. I find myself being skeptical about taking a class that a person teaches very often, that Looks like they don’t go to at all themselves. That’s just me. I could be wrong but It’s how I feel. I’m just saying.

    • Just because you pay a muscled to be your trainer doesn’t mean he knows what would better fit your body. Our shapes are predetermined by genetics. As well as how we store fat. I.e. apple shape and pear shape. For instance I have lost 80 since I have been in college. However I had more muscle than body fat. So although by most standards I am fat I am better shape than a friend who is a more than 1/2 of my size. That fact that she is a fitness coach means that she had to be certified just like your trainer. The only difference is that she specializes in woman of a certain size. Remember it is easier for a woman to lose inches not weight. I applaud her. After I graduate college I hope to be in her position while in grad school.

    • I agree with you Nicole. I’m a plus size person and for the most part “a lot” of people that go to aerobics class is strictly to lose weight. I understand the path to be healthy; but for the most people if they ONLY want to be healthy they just eat better and probably walk/run on the treadmill. EX. If I saw this person teaching the same class for 12 years and didn’t lose a pound why on earth would I want to go to them. If they’re the expert and haven’t lost weight, why would I expect any different? Maybe I’m wrong, but hey it’s my opinion 🙂

  2. What Had Happened

    Fat people should teach anything that they want. If a person wants to spend her money on this lady, go ahead. She wouldn’t get my money, but more power to her

    • I think that’s called a back handed compliment, aka left handed compliment. LMFAO!! Ex: I wouldn’t wear that shirt but it looks good on you!! Lol.

  3. She’s an example that fitness and health come in ALL shapes, bodies, and sizes. I would DEFINITELY take her class.

  4. This woman is awesome. She has more energy than most. Her body type is just different. You can go to that ripped fitness trainer all you want. There is no guarantee that will be your end result. Its not like she’s sitting on her ass. She’s putting in work, sorry her body isn’t cut to what you believe should be ideal, fit, or healthy… Thats very narrow minded.

  5. It’s not the fitness, it’s her bad diet that keeps her that size. I’ve been pretty fit all of my life, but cheese pizza and oatmeal raisin cookies keep me out of the bikini body. If she eats more veggies, she will reap the “fruits” of her 12-year labor.

    • How do you know what she eats? I talk to my students all the time about utilizing facts and not assumptions. Do not ASSUME she eats bad because she is not smaller. Also, she seems fine with the way her body looks so I’m going to interpret that statement to mean she is REAPING the fruits of her labor. The entire point of going to a class is for you to get YOURSELF together. Before ALL of you people judge her maybe you should go sit in on one of her classes and then make a statement.

      • No, given the information its a FACT her diet is poor. There is no way you can be her size, having working out pretty much be your job, and not be fitter than she is now if she was eating properly.

        The reasoning is this, first off, regardless of medical disorders (as you can make adjustments for them), the simple formula for weight loss is calories lost higher than calories taken. If her diet was based on proteins, veggies, nuts and healthy fats there is no way she could overeat as those foods fill you up quickly. A carbohydrate based diet, however , does not fill you up causing you to eat more.

        In addition, your body burns off those carbohydrates before they even touch your fat storage. Not only that but the body’s blood and muscles cannot store as much glycogen for energy that is in the normal carbohydrate based diet. So where do the extra carbs go? Yup, any glycogen that isn’t used as energy turns to fat. Keep in mind that is NEW fat, not the fat that you are already trying to loose. So essentially with carbohydrate heavy diets you are working against yourself. Intake vs. Loss rule still applies, but if you are eating more carb to becoming full there is a VERY very good chance you will overeat and gain or at least cancel out most of the loss coming from exercising.

        It’s also a myth that you need lots of carbohydrates for energy, your body gets more efficient energy from healthy fats in animal & fish proteins, nuts and oils. This also adjusts the body to burn fat not carbohydrates or the extra fat produced from carbs. Don’t be fooled, the body can use ketones from proteins just as well and without storing more fat. I do kickboxing/muay thai 4-5 days a week and Pilates 2-3 days a week and I have noticed more efficiency and definition since I’ve cut carbs, especially wheat and grain based carbs.

        Of course strength and endurance wise she is in top condition. Although muscle growth does coordinate with fat loss, it is not always guaranteed. You can see this on the instructor as even though she has rolls, over all her skin is tight and toned not flabby. This is the real visual testament to her fitness level. However given her fitness level there is no other way she would still have so much fat on her body if she wasn’t eating poorly.

        • while i agree that her diet keeps her fat, your atkins/paleo line is not the best bit of advice particularly for people engaged in endurance training.

          • Atkins and Paleo are different. Atkins cuts carbs and Paleo focuses more on eating to aid body function, natural, clean, organic, grass-fed, etc.

            Your need for carbs when endurance training just depends on your circumstances. You can get more energy from less amount of carbs than you could with fats. You would have to consume more fats to get that energy and in races or activities where you have to be light on your feet stuffing yourself is not good. However the same rules would apply, endurance training burns more calories but it would be a careful balance of carbs in order to have good fat loss, overeating carbs would still be a possibility which would hinder weight loss. Unless you are a professional athlete though it is unlikely you would need to consume the amount of carbs the normal person does in a day for energy.

            I do fight training for Martial Arts. 100 kicks on each leg, 2 mile run, and a variety of cross fit moves over the course for 2 hours. While I am dog tired and sore after I never feel the loss of energy during due to not enough fuel. Some people may feel a bit of lag in energy that is because eating paleo you eat less often but bigger meals & stay full longer. Most diets recommend eating 5-6 small meals a day on Paleo I eat 2 big meals (note big meal to me is 2 sausage links, 2 eggs cooked in coconut oil and a cup of spinach or chard for breakfast) and only occassionally get hungry enough for a small snack and I have plenty of energy (provided I go to bed on time).

          • atkins and paleo are in the same vein.

            i run marathons and bike. carbs are important. no endurance athlete, elite or amateur, should be without them.

            this carb phobia is a joke. be afraid of donuts and snickers bars, not apples, watermelon and rice. lol. ridiculous.

            i can’t be bothered to read every word you type because anybody who goes off on this atkins/paleo/carbs are evil kick is totally brainwashed and cultish, imo.

            there are too many skinny, utterly healthy people in the world and throughout history who live/survive on carbs.

          • @omfg

            Paleo isn’t about cutting carbs its about “cavemen style eating.” Coincidentally that means it cuts most carbs in a diet as the majority of carbs comes from wheat, grain and starch heavy foods. Not ALL carbs entirely. Do your research. Feel free to eat as much fruit as you want on Paleo, although if you have trouble with insulin you might still want to be careful.

            In fact there are TONS of paleo recipes out there for cookies, cupcakes, pies, ice cream, etc. using paleo ingredients (almond flour & coconut flour which happen to be low carb). White rice is actually paleo. While it IS high and carbs and can lead to weight gain for the reasons I have already outlined. It doesn’t contain the antinutrients that brown rice does because it is stripped of most of its shell in processing. However alone it doesn’t contain much vitamins or nutrients at all (which is why it is always “enriched”) and looses even more in the cooking process. So other than carbs your body really isn’t benefiting from eating rice which is why although it is Paleo most people who are Paleo don’t eat it or don’t eat it often.

            I really suggest you try to research what you are talking about before you form misinformed opinions.

        • You really have no idea what you’re talking about. All these facts you’re speaking of are based off a “average” Obviously average does not include every person. So stop speaking on other peoples eating and physique when you are completely ignorant of what she does.

          • Lol facts are facts huntie. I suggest you try to stop making excuses for the way she looks, its no damn mystery.

    • I am sorry but I totally disagree with you. There are people who are plus size that are healthy (i.e. no high blood pressure, diabetes) and it’s has nothing to do with the diet. However, there are people are smaller and skinner who have poor diets and habits (i.e. smoking) but because they are smaller, people assume that they are the healthy ones. You can still be fit and healthy at any size. You can’t base people’s size on bad eating habits when those who are skinner and smaller are probably the ones with the poor diet.

    • So thats you. Not her. The ideal bikini body is not for everyone body type. If your naturally curvy, then your already not considered the ideal bikini type. If she is a fitness coach do you honestly thinks she eats that food. In order to have that much energy to teach 10 aerobic classes a week you physically one be able to eat that food. Your body just turns it into sugar causing you to become lethargic. Being lethargic, prevents you from doing your best. Which prevent the amount of endorphins that release from pituitary gland. So honestly don’t try to come for her life. Clearly you are the one who are having problems with your own personal image. Something that every Woman needs to be comfortable with. Not everyone is built to be a size 2 and wear a teeny bikini. I have friends who ran track throughout college who have a slight roll here. You just need to focus on whats good for your body and how to make your body healthy. You shouldn’t be concerned if you fit someone else miss conception of beauty. A role that many models can not even fit in to.

  6. I am a plus sized woman and I am a professional dance teacher. I have been dancing all my life. I have always been the most active person I know. I do not eat like a pig, and have better physical stamina and strength than women much smaller than I. I exercise, am healthy , do not have weight health problems. Bottom line, being big does not mean you are unhealthy, stupid, fat slob, untalented, out of shape, desperate or ugly. It has been a painful existence because people assume all of the negative on first sight, and you are judged way past your appearance. Size-ism is in fact worse than racism or sexism, and has had more of a negative impact on my life than the latter two.

  7. Its great that she teaches and works out. I however like my fitness instructors to LOOK fit. No rolls, lean with muscles. It gives me something to work towards.
    She’s probably a lot of inspiration for over weight women. I just need someone who looks more fit than I am to teach me.

    • Just because your fitness instructor is a size 2 doesn’t mean you could ever physically be there. But I bet if you tried to race her would you think would win.

  8. I have had both a in shape trainer and, a larger trainer such as the woman photo above. I just found it hard to work with the larger trainer because I kept pointing out other women to her, to show her how I wanted my body to look. I felt sometimes that she was offended, which I didn’t mean to do, so she didn’t push me as hard as I would of liked. With the in shape trainer she would say things like, give me 20 more so your stomach can look like mine, which motivated me more!! I’m sure she teaches a great class, but it doesn’t work for me based of my past experience..

    • You should know you were a huge jerk to the larger trainer. She was offended for a reason.

      • How was she being a jerk? Every fitness instructor should be open to hearing how their participant/client wants her body to look in order to help them get the most out of workouts. If it’s different than the instructor’s own body, big deal.

  9. i don’t do aerobics classes, but i would be turned off by an instructor like her.

    but, if people like her classes, then more power to her. she just isn’t an example of fitness and health i would follow.

  10. I dated a personal trainer who has a body sent from heaven but has a terrible diet. I ate better than him. So those of you assuming what this woman eats should have several seats because yoh judged a book by its cover. Just because someone is ripped does not mean that they are really and truly about that life!

  11. Michelle is an outstanding instructor. She is one of the best wherever she goes and her fitness classes are packed to capacity with a waiting line and people fighting for space. She can give you a burn with weights, jump ropes, a step bench, kickboxing, or a general aerobics class. I’ve also gone to gyms like Gold’s where I’ve had instructors who were the picture of health who led a boring step class that left me completely dry. Even though I have not done a class in a while because of my schedule, I still use words and push inspiration I learned from motivating instructors like Michelle to push through training for my fall marathon and my gym workouts.

  12. When I go to a fitness class, I am looking for a hard workout and an instructor who doesn’t annoy me with the constant euphemisms “You can do this! You’re doing great! Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.” If the lady in the story can provide these, then heck yes I would go to her class. My size isn’t keeping me from doing all sorts of athletic things my thinner counterparts aren’t, so I’m glad to see her doing her thing!

  13. I dare you to take her class, as she said she would run circles around all of you judging her because of what you see. Fitness is NOT about being a size, it is about endurance and cardiovascular as well as mental health. Most of you on this page making these asinine comments and assumptions dont seem to realize this fact.

    If you want to look a certain way that is your goal, you should never compare yourself to someone else because your fitness journey’s are different and you will end up disappointed. Work on you, this class and this instructor are both fabulous.

  14. The particular image included in this article doesn’t do Miss/Ms/Mrs Gibson any justice. I Googled her and found a lot more images of her in action. She is incredibly toned, and the “rolls” we see in this specific image are not actually “fat storage” and thus are not a true reflection of her body shape and size, as much as they are the product of a photo taken in motion or from an unusual angle. Like some of the commenters who said that they want their fitness instructor to “look the part”, the other images I found certainly do “look the part” to me. I would attend her classes. No worries.

    • I like how you looked her up for yourself and made your own opinions instead of just going off of someone else’s perspective. I would definitely take her class if she had great reviews.

  15. Why not? She seems like she would lead a fun class. 🙂

  16. i used to take a step aerobics class with a full-figured brown-skinned woman. it was fantastic. unfortunately, it’s no longer offered.

    it was so funny to see some thin women come to class and look our teacher up and down with the body language “i got this’. 20 minutes later she had them holding their knees, huffing and puffing and trying to keep up!

    our teacher was thick but she was no joke!

  17. Have anyone ever heard if you don’t have anything nice to say then be quiet. All of you who thinks it is what she eats I am going need you to take a genetics and nutrients class. Clearly she is in better shape than the majority of the people commenting.

  18. Many people who take classes enjoy the motivation we get from looking at the instructor’s physique. I may desire to be a similar size, have a comparable waist/leg strength, etc. And that is valid and perfectly ok. But we should also consider that if we’re looking to improve endurance and cardio performance, an instructor like Ms. Gibson would be motivating for those traits. It’s about perspective and a person’s goals.

  19. You are so very wrong! Come and take Michelle class and then comment! I’m just saying!

  20. You know enough about Michelle to say that, again I say show up!


    Michelle was born to do this job so all of you that are judging her by these pictures are dead wrong. Not all does she have the physicaly abiblity to this, but it is apart of her spirit. God has gifted her to do exactly what she is doing! I have never met someone who cares about people fitness than she does!

  22. For all of you saying that you wouldn’t be motivated by Michelle, or you wouldn’t be challenged….I TRIPLE DOG DARE you to put your money where your mouth is and go take one of her classes! Don’t be a coward and just comment on here…..take a class, and then come back and tell us what you think. Only way to have a real opinion on the matter….I’m just sayin….
    I’ve taken her classes, and this woman is motivating, fun, inspiring, and works and pushes you harder than you think you could.

    • But you know that lots of people work out to LOOK better, not so much to FEEL better. So that’s why Michelle won’t be inspiring to them – she’s not an example of how they want to LOOK. I strive to be FIT (though looking good is a close second), so I could totally be motivated by her if I focus on the cardio.

  23. I would take her class. Judging by the photos of Ms. Gibson and her class members,they are very sweaty. She’s inspired me.

  24. Why do people think she is not “fit” or healthy? Fit does not mean “skinny”. Everyone is not born to be a size 4, body types are different.Size 14 is not death! Looks like people getting sweaty and having a great time what’s the big deal if she teaches the class, it doesnt say she’s a trainer anyway. And if she was a trainer and gets You the results You would want, isnt that a good thing. Just because your trainer is skinny or musclebound doesnt mean You will end up looking that way either.

  25. I think it really depends on your motivations for working out. For someone who is trying to improve their health, and/or fitness levels, Ms. Gibson seems like a great choice. You’ll sweat, you’ll get healthier, and it’s all good.

    But I suspect that most gym bunnies are there for the same reason that I am: to stay in, or get back into their size 2 jeans. When I’m half-starved and sweaty, I need the extra motivation and reassurance of seeing a trainer who has a body that I would like to emulate. I don’t get on the treadmill because I like running. I don’t go to the gym to be healthy. I go because I like looking thin.

  26. What irritates me extremely about this questions is based off of appearances and not of the quality. People look at her and say I would not take her class because she is plus size but what about what she has to offer and how many people that have lost weight due to her programs and training sessions.

    This world is so naïve to what’s real to they accept what’s fake. I can speak on this lady because she is my aunt and as a black woman she is healthier than an healthy person. The explanation to her “plus size” is GENETICS, not because she isn’t healthy. Almost every woman in our family has a plus size shape and losing it is close to impossible. But exercising and developing a correct eating plan allows us to not be overtaken by sickness and diseases. So before you say “I wouldn’t take her classes because she is fat” try visiting and experiencing what she has to offer. I promise you she will work them pounds off of you!

  27. Sure. Just because she’s plus doesn’t mean she’s not fit. I’m sort of ‘plus sized’ and I often run circles around women who are much smaller in my gym and I lift serious heavy weight. I was smaller at one point, but I put on about 40 pounds because I started a new job that keeps me sedentary most of the day and I have been battling depression for a while which caused me to slack off on diet; however, my muscle is still on point. I lift heavy. Cardio is a little more challenging with the extra weight; but I can still easily maintain 80-90% of my max heart rate for a considerable duration of my workout. There are tons of ‘fat’ skinny women in the world with no muscle mass whatsoever. A lighter body does not indicate fitness in all cases.

  28. I think she is fab – most classes are not designed to suit the anatomy and physiology of a large/ full figured/ obese person – I live in London, I too am a plus sized instructor. In England over 62% of the population is overweight or obese it is estimated this will cost the health service over £6.4bn per year by 2015. Currently ideas, campaigns are many but solutions are few – Michelle should be commended – this is a window into my world was 27 stones now 21 and going down – not everyone wants to be slim but we all want to be fit!!! Do have a look: £6.4bn per year by 2015. Have a look: website

  29. Lynn

    There is no law saying you have to be thin to be an exercise instructor. Great job

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