The plus-size personal trainer aiming for 'strong not skinny'

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The plus-size personal trainer

Meet Kate Buckland, the plus-size personal trainer.

She doesn't conform to the norm, working in an industry obsessed with body perfection, saying "that doesn't fit with me".

The mum of two used to weigh 22 stone and was a size 26 at her biggest. Now she's a size 16.

Kate shed the weight because she felt uncomfortable in her own skin. "My back fat rubbed together, my tummy fat rubbed together. It felt horrible," she says.

She makes no apologies for being a size 16, and why would she? "I'm not doing this to be skinny," she adds,

"Body perfection doesn't fit with me and it's not something I aspire to. I am plus-size and I'm cool with that."

Her can-do attitude as an Australian living in Southampton is a far cry from her previous life working in a stressful job in PR.

A panic attack while driving on the motorway was the moment she knew she needed to make some serious changes.

A job that meant few hours at home - and delivering bad news on a daily basis - no longer worked for her and her family.

A friend suggested she became a personal trainer. She laughed at the idea but somehow the idea stuck, and soon it was no longer a joke.

'It's the best thing I've ever done'

"I turned to fitness as a form of stress relief. It's the best thing I've ever done," she recalls.

What's her secret to losing weight? Kate "found her why" - her kids. She wants to see them grow up, plus she hated feeling horrible in her own body.

Kate Buckland with her daughters

She became morbidly obese after giving birth to her two children and suffers with phenylketonuria, a condition that means her body struggles to break down protein.

Now at size 16, she's out running, cycling and lifting weights, while leading classes and inspiring others to get fit.

As we know, putting your trainers on and getting out can be hardest part of exercise, and Kate is no different.

"Sometimes I hate it but I know I'll feel better once I've done it. I push myself to do things I don't think I can do."

That's why she's signed up for the Great South Run, as a challenge to herself.

Kate Buckland's Instagram posts
Kate shares her exercise journey on social media

'I've been called fatty'

But exercising, training or just going out and moving can be made even harder, when some, thankfully a minority, harass her.

"I've been body-shamed. I've been called 'fatty' while running down the road. You just have to get on with it. It's not easy and people can be nasty but that is their problem, not mine.

She adds: "Sometimes it does make me want to turn around and walk away because it makes you feel small. I'm not going to let them ruin my day. You just have to go out there and do 'you' - just like they should be."

Slam ball your way out of a stressful day

It's an early-morning session in a park near where she lives - it's still chilly in the spring sunshine.

Kate Buckland with two PT clinets
'This is our gym' - women swap a typical gym for the great outdoors

Two mums, Caroline and Kerry, are put through their paces. They soon warm up and the layers of clothing are peeled off as they start at a gentle warm-up and get their hearts pumping.

The pair know each other from picking up their kids in the playground after school. Now they are throwing their bodies to the floor and picking themselves up - burpees - a form of exercise most people loathe and something of an analogy for Kate's journey from fat to fit.

It continues - slam balls. A 5kg soft ball raised above their heads and slammed to the floor. Good for stress after the daily chaos of the school run, they joke, and then lunges for strong glutes.

The birds are tweeting and dog-walkers glance curiously as they pass by. "This is our gym," the mums say.

Kate Buckland with a PT client

Kerry Booker, one of the mums who wants to be fitter to race after her twins, says:

"I much prefer being outside and having a laugh and joke. You haven't got to worry about the big muscly men making you feel intimidated. You're not in your best shape and you certainly don't have to look a certain way."

'Take small steps and small changes'

Trainer Kate documents her fitness journey on Instagram, from leg-burning wall sits on an evening boot camp session to lifting weights.

"I'm helping people to be a version of themselves that they want to be but sometimes feel is unobtainable. To me it's really important and fulfilling."

You don't have to run, jump or cycle to lose weight. Kate's journey started when even walking to the end of the drive was a struggle, but she started walking more and then moved on to a 'Couch to 5k'.

"I've never been skinny," she says. "I've never really been sporty. I don't do what I do to be a size 10. I want to be strong, capable and feel good in my own skin. That's what it's about for me. I couldn't care less about the number on my clothes or what anybody else thinks."

For anyone wanting to make a change to their lives, Kate says: "take small steps and small changes - go out there and be the best version of you".