Brooklyn runner Kelly Roberts has made it her mission to help women find the confidence to participate in physical activity. Roberts, who has been gaining momentum on social media since 2013, has had an incredibly difficult journey. But she’s living proof that nothing can stop you achieving amazing things – especially not online trolls.
However, Roberts, who now runs the popular blog She Can and She Did, didn’t always have the confidence that she has now. Furthermore, she hasn’t always enjoyed physical activity, either; in fact, she used to refer to herself as the president of the “I f***ing hate running club.” But over time something changed in Roberts, to the extent that today her actions are inspiring women everywhere.
In school Roberts was called cruel names such as “hippo.” Not surprisingly, this affected her self-esteem and led to a lack of confidence in her body. But despite the nicknames, Roberts had always remained positive – right up until her family experienced a tragic loss, that is.
In a horrible twist of events, Roberts lost her younger brother in awful circumstances. Scott was just 16 when he passed away from alcohol poisoning, and his death led his sister down a dark path. As a result, Roberts began to struggle even more with her weight.
In fact, she gained over 75 pounds in a short period of time. Concerned, Roberts then tried to lose some weight through extreme and unhealthy diet techniques. “I’d look at before and after pictures and feel a tidal wave of shame and regret,” she explained. But, after another three months passed, Roberts was ready to take back control of her life.
So, with a focus on getting healthy rather than losing weight, Roberts began running. And it was in 2013 that the runner first took the internet by storm. In fact, things all started during her inaugural half marathon.
In an attempt to “survive a half marathon,” Roberts adopted a rather interesting routine. At various stages of the run, she stopped to tag photos of herself with good looking men. Four years later, this approach – making something difficult more enjoyable – would bring Roberts to the place she is now.
Following her “hottie hunting” half marathon, Roberts then found herself in the midst of what she assumed was her “five seconds of fame.” After appearing on Good Morning America she started the blog Run, Selfie, Repeat, which has since become She Can & She Did. The blog now encourages women to share their exercise stories, as well as discussing issues such as inequality, body image and more. But Roberts’ difficult journey didn’t stop there.
With her social media accounts growing rapidly, Roberts began launching other movements such as #SportsBraSquad to help others battling body image crises. Regardless of shape or size, Roberts reasoned, women should exercise in the clothes they feel most comfortable in. And if that meant wearing just a sports bra, then so be it. “I was tired of looking in the mirror and feeling ashamed of the body staring back at me,” she said.
Some people have told Roberts that she’s body shaming thinner people, but the blogger says it’s not about us versus them. Rather, it’s all about equal representation. “I never saw women who looked like me being portrayed as strong,” she says, “[but] I know I’m strong as hell because I worked my ass off to get to that finish line.” However, even as someone who can complete a marathon in under four hours, Roberts finds some people are still missing the point.
Unfortunately, social media is littered with trolls and ill-wishers. And Roberts has happened upon more than her fair share. She described their encounters as “emails from men (always men) shaming me or policing my weight.” Roberts went on to say that some of the emails in her inbox would cause quite a stir if they were ever made public. And that’s when she had an idea.
One day, when Roberts had grown tired of the vicious messages, she decided enough was enough. And so she posted one particular missive on her Instagram account. Moreover, the blogger was about to see what comes next when you publicly ridicule a troll.
The subject line of the email she had received simply read “Dieting.” But the body copy went further. “I’m curious why you don’t simply have the discipline to go on a diet and lose the excess fat you have?” it started. “You could look great in weeks with a proper ketogenic diet.” However, it then took a turn for the worse.
The sender went on, “Instead, you rather literally run away from your problems and act like losing a family member is the harshest thing on earth.” Warming to his theme, the heartless troll twisted the knife further. “Help me out here,” he wrote. “What am I missing about all this? Fatness is a symptom of the excesses of modernized, industrialized society and not something to flaunt.”
Stunned by the email, Roberts decided to caption the image on her Instagram with a powerful response. “Dear man who found it appropriate to send me this email,” it began. “Once upon a time, your words would have cut me like valyrian steel. Today? They remind me how important it is to change the way we see strength. Because what you call fat, I know can run a marathon in 3 hours and 41 minutes. I hope one day you can obtain the strength I’ve worked tirelessly for.”
The heroic way that Roberts dealt with the troll proved her inner strength. Furthermore, it showed that she practices what she preaches. And, not surprisingly, her fans and supporters came out in droves to back her up.
One of her followers wrote, “Your achievements in not only running but empowering women makes you an absolute boss and legend.” Another fan went with, “Love your response. Love everything you are doing! Found you through this going viral, so he’s definitely losing. Thanks for being so awesome.”
However, whilst the majority of commenters sided with Roberts, there were a handful of dissenting voices. “I’m all for inclusivity,” one person wrote, “but I’m really against what seems to be the body positive backlash against people that are healthy but on the thinner side.”
However, the number of people supporting Roberts far outweighed those against. And with her Instagram post garnering more than 5,000 likes, Roberts’ positive message resonated with people of both sexes. Clearly, she’s a force to be reckoned with.
Ultimately, getting a fair representation is what Roberts is fighting for. If running in a sports bra increases a woman’s comfort or ability, should they not be free to wear one? It’s people like Roberts who will hopefully make online trolls think twice about their words. After all, it’s easy to hide behind the cloak of anonymity. Much harder to get out there and fight for what you believe in.