Short answer: Of course they bloody well can.
The long answer is a bit more complex. When I embarked on the great weight loss quest of ’09, I worked out in the privacy of my own home because the thought of exercising in public and having people laugh at me was unbearable. I was a UK size 24-26 and horrendously unfit. On reflection, I now realise that the biggest obstacle I had to overcome wasn’t body image confidence, it was exercise confidence. Infuriatingly, a lot of slimmer runners tried to encourage me by saying things along the lines of ‘oh it will be fine, nobody will say anything’. Experience has taught me that that sadly, this isn’t necessarily true. I’m pretty sure any overweight person can attest to that. The last thing I’d want is to put anybody off, but I have to be honest; there have been rare occasions where kids have made snide remarks whilst I’m out running. The thing is, I’m now so much more confident that I just don’t care. You might raise your eyebrows, but I genuinely don’t give two figs. Not even one fig. Damn it I’m a foodie, ain’t nobody havin’ at my figs! In fact, it makes me laugh, because I think – God, one day they’re going to look back and realise what dicks they were.
Getting from point A > B wasn’t easy, but it happened. Working out at home enabled me to build up a good base of fitness, and with that came so much more. It directly helped me to not feel ashamed of my own body, because I was in awe of what I’d trained it to do. I don’t care about people who think my body is something to make fun of, because I know with absolute certainty that I’m strong, healthy and fit. Yes, I’m still on a journey to be even stronger, healthier and fitter – but I’m making progress and I’m proud of what I’ve done. Please don’t think you have to be a perfect size 10 to be confident in your skin. I’m a solid size 16-18 with jiggly thighs and bingo wings, but I don’t care about that anymore. That’s what exercise has done for me.
***Note – you don’t have to be as tiny as Hayley Williams to be body confident!***
That being said, the first time I ran outside, I chose a secluded field where nobody could see me. I jogged/walked around the field twice, probably no more than a mile, and built up my stamina over the course of a few weeks. I was euphoric. I had done the impossible! I had left my house and ran! I was on my way to being one of those runners you see on the streets, all serene, listening to their music, not bending over to throw up after 5 minutes of exertion! With my sister as my sidekick, I eventually stepped off the field and onto the pavements. Before long I was one of those runners on the street, listening to their music, not throwing up and stuff!!! (I’m still working on the serene part).
Exercising in public is something I’d compare with public speaking. The first time you do it, it’s terrifying, you feel like everybody is staring at you, judging you and thinking awful things. With practice comes confidence, until eventually it ain’t no thing and you’re doing hill sprints by yourself, sweating your ass off and not giving a single shit. If you don’t come with built in confidence, build it yourself! That might mean starting off with a half hour beginners aerobics DVD in your living room. It might mean walking up and down the stairs for 10 minutes, 15 minutes, 20 minutes, until before long you’re jogging them. It might mean downloading a couch to 5k podcast and heading out at 5 am when nobody is around, or even driving 5 miles away to run somewhere where people don’t know you. Whatever your starting point is, I can 100% guarantee that that will be the most difficult thing you’ll encounter, and that from there on out, the world will be your proverbial oyster!