When Bradenton native Tara Allison began her fitness journey a year ago, she never thought it would lead to online stardom and the development of a brand, Fat Girl Fit, that has earned her more than 126,000 followers on the social media platform TikTok.
Before joining TikTok, Allison was best known in Bradenton for the custom wedding cakes and delicious buttercream icing she whipped up at her bakery, Sweets Bakehouse. But now, she's recognized all over town for her fitness videos, in which she's changing the fitness narrative to include people of all shapes and sizes.
"I began working out to heal my psoriatic arthritis," says Allison. "I was in a lot of pain and wanted to increase my mobility, so I started lifting weights. My personal trainer and now business partner Lucas Trumble helped me create a plan where I started out slow. Now, I work out five times a week for 90 minutes and feel transformed."
Since she began last year, Allison has lost more than 100 pounds. Her first video was posted with encouragement from her friend and local personal trainer Ray Gardner. He saw her working out one day, and reminded her of the value of representation.
"He told me the world needs to see people of my size working out," says Allison. "He told me I am inspiring and powerful. That convinced me to post on TikTok, but I didn't think anyone would see it."
She was wrong.
In 24 hours, her first video had more than 50,000 views. And the comments? All incredibly supportive and positive. Allison said people were reaching out saying they looked like her, but were afraid to go to the gym. She found a supportive community online, where she can encourage others to work out for their health and self-care.
@fatgirl.fit Happy New Year! May 2022 be even better for you too! Be kind to yourself. Let’s go @coachlucas_fgf #selflove #selfcare #fitness #fat #fatfitness #change #growth #fyp #happynewyear ♬ original sound - Alicia Mccarvell
"This journey has never been about weight loss or aesthetics," says Allison. "I am looking to make the fitness space more inclusive of all body types, because being fit does not necessarily mean looking skinny."
Fitness is now Allison's lifeblood. In addition to posting daily videos, she shares advice on her TikTok account and hosts weekly virtual workout sessions with Trumble. She has become a certified instructor and motivator with the well-known brand WayBetter, and is also an ambassador for the workout clothing brand Fabletics.
"It is amazing to see popular brands joining the conversation about body diversity, and changing the fitness narrative to include more kinds of people," says Allison.
Allison will also begin teaching in-person fitness classes at Gardner's new gym, Prosper Bradenton. She says people of all shapes and sizes are welcome to come and feel strong. She wants to create an environment in which everyone is cheering one another on.
"Fitness is a form of self-care and self-love," says Allison. "I also want to share the message of body neutrality and food neutrality with my followers, which is why I never make negative comments about my body or show what I eat in a day. Everybody's fitness and diet should be different."
Body neutrality is a concept in which people neither demean nor praise their body, but rather appreciate it for what it can achieve. Allison says focusing on goals like lifting heavier weights helps her focus on her body's performance rather than its appearance. The same goes for food.
"I am a baker. I like to eat sweets," says Allison. "I am not going to give up things that make me happy, just because the diet industry or social media told me so. We can enjoy all aspects of our lives."
Allison plans to open a physical location of Sweets Bakehouse in March, and plans to add vegan and gluten-free treats to her lineup.
The duality of feminine baker and weightlifting powerhouse intrigues her followers, some of whom are as young as 13. They ask her questions like, "How can I accept my stretch marks, loose skin or larger body when in the gym?"
Allison and Trumble both reassure followers that everyone has imperfections—even the world's most famous supermodels.
"We help remind people to love themselves where they are, for who they are," says Allison. "From there, anything is possible. Heck, if I can aim to lift 400 pounds, you can do anything."