If there’s one thing I love, it’s seeing a woman in a larger body kick ass and do amazing things. Diet culture tries really hard to keep larger people playing small, trying to convince us to buy the lie that we are less worthy, healthy and capable than we would be if we were thin. Once in a while, I hear about a big-bodied person who is so incredible that I just want to shout their story from the rooftops.
Such is the case with Christina Malone, a competitive powerlifter from Oregon. I read an article about her, and I immediately decided everyone should know that she exists. Christina is an elite level athlete. She is both big-bodied and in peak physical condition—proof that you don’t have to choose to be one or the other.
Christina Malone agreed to share a little more about her life, her sport and her philosophies surrounding her body with Scary Mommy. Here’s a quick glimpse of her story.
Christina Malone has always been in a large body.
“I’ve never existed in a smaller body. I was born really big. I was never a small child. For me, there was extreme bullying. Coming into high school, I’d kind of been on every version of a diet that existed. My parents were failed by the medical and school systems. They were told that, ‘Your kid’s doing something wrong,’ that I’m lying to them, that they’re doing something wrong as parents. They certainly tried really hard to help me, but they really felt kind of helpless,” Christina explains.
At one point, Malone’s parents were even told to hospitalize her so doctors could verify that she wasn’t lying about her food intake. The administrators of her school swept her reports of bullying under the rug, and didn’t take any action to address it. The constant focus on her size and the lack of action to protect her from bullying, “set the stage to have a really negative relationship with food. Very toxic. My relationship with exercise was very toxic,” Christina explains.
Christina Malone was always athletic, playing sports throughout her life, but she was a teenager when she first met a trainer who saw her body as an asset, and introduced her to the idea that she might be built for feats of strength. Unfortunately, negative experiences in the weight room (like grown men pulling plates off of her bar!) kept her from exploring her full potential. She was “effectively shamed out of the weight room,” recalls Malone.
After high school, Malone set out to prove to herself that her bigger body was capable of athletic success.
“I really kind of maintained [my toxic relationship with food and exercise] into college. The only way to ever effectively make my body shrink by even a marginal amount was really extreme crash dieting and extreme exercise, almost to the point where it was really an addiction.”
Christina turned her sights to marathons. She thought if she could prove herself as a distance runner, she could justify her bigger body. “I’m a bigger person, BUT look what I can do. I can run ten miles, I can do all these things, I can food restrict,” she says.
Unfortunately, that desire to prove her worth in a bigger body was not sustainable. Christina’s body went into metabolic crisis and her organs started failing. Despite running up to ten miles a day and eating less than a thousand calories, Christina was still in a bigger body, and trying to change that was threatening to kill her.
A traumatic experience set off a chain reaction that eventually helped Christina Malone find powerlifting.
The turning point for Christina came after college when she was running in her Portland, Oregon neighborhood when a car full of men started following her, cat calling and eventually degrading her, calling her “fatty” and other abusive names. She was so affected by the emotions that she just kept running. And running. When she finally stopped, she looked down to notice her feet bleeding through her shoes. She had run to the point of a pretty serious injury.
“I remember looking down going, ‘This is crazy. This is crazy! If this is what it takes to be healthy and feel safe…I feel so unsafe in this moment,” Christina recalls.
The very next day, she googled and found a trainer and a gym in her area that was body inclusive, and started seeing a counselor as well. This led to Christina meeting Jessica Wilkins, the trainer who would eventually see her potential and introduce her to powerlifting.
“I’ve always understood that I am base-level stronger than the average person. In third grade, I beat all the boys in my class in an arm-wrestling competition,” Christina laughs. “It was never hard to me to pick things up, I worked with horses and could throw bales of hay around. When [Jessica Wilkins] mentioned that I might be great at powerlifting, I was like, ‘Oh, yeah. Okay!”
“Powerlifting at the recreational level is about maximizing your body’s strength, whatever that tops out to be,” Christina explains. But her body is clearly designed for feats of strength that many people could train their whole lives and never achieve.
At the 2019 USAPL Oregon State Championship, she set a state record for heaviest squat—lifting a massive 413.5 pounds! Christina can currently squat an amazing 455 pounds, and is working to be able to squat over 500 pounds.
“It’s a big goal,” she admits.
But if anyone is built to try, it’s Christina Malone.
“Everything about my body is quite primed to be a strength athlete. Genetically, I have some propensity for higher density muscle, the right kind of muscle type. I have really dense bones. I have really big tendons. Just basically, the way my body is put together, this is the sport I was meant to be doing all my life,” Christina proudly explains.
For this sport, a larger body is an asset, not a liability. “To some extent, mass moves mass. Generally speaking, if you cut a weight class, it’s tough to maintain your strength.”
Speaking of maintaining your strength, Christina Malone’s commitment to her sport requires near-constant vigilance and training.
“I strength train two to three hours a day, four days a week. On the off days, I’m doing cardio conditioning, and every single day is core work, flexibility, doing something. I call it ‘pre-hab,’ so doing preventative things to keep injuries from occurring. Different types of PT exercises to help anything you might have as an imbalance in your body. Just that kind of high-level body awareness is really important.”
“I work with an Olympic-level nutritionist. That’s something that most people wouldn’t assume. It doesn’t mean they’re programming me salads and chicken. The food diversity is really great. For me personally, I needed to hand over that control to someone else, because there was no way I could get myself from eating 1,100 calories a day to [what I need.] There was no way I could handle that in a healthy way.”
Christina Malone lives in a big body, and she is a finely-tuned athlete.
Both of those truths can exist together, and Malone is proof is sometimes, bigger is absolutely better.
“It’s no longer I’m big, BUT look at what I’m doing. It’s I’m big, AND look what I’m doing. It’s I’m big, SO look what I can do,” Malone says.
“I feel unshakably secure and safe in my body. The safer I become in myself, the safer I feel to interact online, in the world. Someone’s negative impression of my body doesn’t exist in my body. That’s in their mind. It’s in their brain. It’s not my problem that they can’t peacefully co-exist with my body.”
When she’s not lifting hundreds of pounds, Christina is working to expand into peer-to-peer coaching. Her goal is to help people who are in bigger bodies feel safe entering fitness spaces.
“I want to break down the barriers that keep people from wanting to engage in things that make them feel happy, like moving your body, no matter how you want to do it.”
Christina Malone lives with her partner, William Lay, and their rescue dog, Koko, in Portland, Oregon. You can find more information about her on Instagram or by visiting her website, christinalifts.com.
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