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Whitney Way Thore on People’s ‘Fat Phobia’ at the Gym: ‘They Don’t Want to See You Working Out’

People logo People 4/22/2019 Julie Mazziotta
a person in a blue shirt: Whitney Way Thore © Hope Rollins Whitney Way Thore

Between CrossFit, Olympic weightlifting and her NoBS Active workouts, Whitney Way Thore is feeling better than ever.

After years of body struggles stemming from her polycystic ovary syndrome and trying to meet societal expectations — Thore has finally found her ideal workout routine.

“I’m having a great time,” she tells PEOPLE. “I’m healthier, happier and more physically fit than I’ve ever been, at a larger size.”

The star of My Big Fat Fabulous Life, 35, feels so good that she isn’t bothered at all by the negative comments she gets “every time” she posts a workout video on social media. Thore chalks their reactions up to “fat phobia.”

a couple of people that are standing in the sand: Whitney Way Thore and trainer Ryan Andreas | Hope Rollins © Provided by TIME Inc. Whitney Way Thore and trainer Ryan Andreas | Hope Rollins

“They don’t want to see you working out, and it’s so ridiculous because the people who maintain that I should lose weight should be applauding me, if that’s what they think I should do, and yet they still find a way to criticize me,” she says, adding that she’s “unintentionally” lost 50 lbs. over the last couple of years. “It’s just fat phobia and I don’t listen to it.”

Thore says that the people who criticize her don’t understand the difference between working out to lose weight and working out for health reasons.

“The thing is, exercise is a healthy behavior, it’s something you can do or not do,” she says. “Whereas losing weight is not a behavior that you can just do. You can lose weight or you can not, but regardless exercise will benefit you in a million other ways.”

a person riding a horse on a beach: Whitney Way Thore and trainer Ryan Andreas | Hope Rollins © Provided by TIME Inc. Whitney Way Thore and trainer Ryan Andreas | Hope Rollins

Thore also gets frustrated with how she’s treated at the gym.

“Sometimes I’ll be at the gym walking on the treadmill or something, and someone will come up to me and say, ‘You’re doing great honey, keep it up.’ And it’s the most condescending s— I’ve ever heard,” she says. “If I was thin, you wouldn’t come up to me and assume that this was really hard for me and give me encouragement. I think there’s a lot of stereotypes and misconceptions about fat people working out, and at the end of the day you just need to do what’s right for your body and dismiss what other people think.”

Another common frustration — workout gear, which is something Thore hopes to change with her new activewear line, NoBS by Snoga.

“I think one huge hinderance for plus size women everywhere is clothing,” she says. “I’ve spent so many years trying to go to the gym and pulling up my pants, or tugging on my clothes, and you already feel so alienated in that kind of environment — the last thing you want to worry about is if your clothes are going to stay on your body.”

a person wearing underwear: Whitney Way Thore | Todd Turner © Provided by TIME Inc. Whitney Way Thore | Todd Turner

Thore’s eight-piece starter collection solves every problem she’s had with workout gear in the past.

“I made everything really high-waisted, because sometimes when you’re getting really active and moving around, the pants can come down, your belly can pop out,” she says. “As for the tops, it’s funny, I actually don’t wear shirts 99 percent of the time when I’m working out, and if I do it’s one of mine, because they’re nice and long, and long enough that you can tie them up if you want, but they do not move.”

a person wearing a costume: Whitney Way Thore | Todd Turner © Provided by TIME Inc. Whitney Way Thore | Todd Turner

The leggings, shirts and cardigan are just the start, and Thore wants to add sports bras — her go-to workout top — next.

“The clothing we have now are the very basics, and once we see how that does and get feedback, then we can do the fun stuff, like sports bras. And have more fun with the designs,” she says.

a woman wearing a costume posing for the camera: Whitney Way Thore | Todd Turner © Provided by TIME Inc. Whitney Way Thore | Todd Turner

Thore is all about working out sans shirt, despite having to address criticism over her clothing choices in the past.

“People will say that you should cover up, but I think the litmus test is: if I were a really fit, thin person would anyone blink at this? And the answer is no,” she says. “I think if people have been nervous to go without a top, they need to just try it. Because ultimately, if you’re working out, you’re doing it for yourself and the last thing you need to care about is what someone thinks about how you look.”

“Hopefully we’re moving towards that direction, but at the same time, if someone’s not comfortable, wear a shirt!” she adds. “Either one!”

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