By Justin Flynn
When Richelle Olsen left her high paying corporate job and started her group Escaping Your Comfort Zone, she sacrificed a high yearly salary, but gained much more than she ever expected.
The Ocean Grover’s group has been named as a finalist in the Victorian Outdoor/Active Recreation Initiative of the Year category. It aims at getting plus-sized women outdoors and enjoying life with like-minded people.
“It’s not about weight loss or fitness, it’s about getting outside and meeting friends,” Richelle told the Voice.
“It started out with plus-sized women, but now it’s just about being body positive – you cannot be what you cannot see. All you need is a pair of runners and a water bottle.”
The group organised 240 hiking events last year, had over 290 women attend, has 15 volunteer leaders and has 60 upcoming hikes in the next three months. The private Facebook pages have more than 900 members.
“I gave up my corporate job to run this and knew it was a good idea and that I’d found my purpose,” Richelle said.
“Being a finalist in the award, it’s amazing to be recognised and it means I can get the word out there and touch more lives.
“I thought life was about money and experiences and now I realise it’s more about the person you are.”
Richelle emphasised that Escaping Your Comfort Zone is not about weight loss or body image. Nor is it about fitness or looking good in active wear clothing.
Escaping Your Comfort Zone is about encouragement for plus-sized women to get outdoors with no judgement or discrimination. Everyone is treated equally.
“A lot of plus-sized women suffer from anxiety and providing a welcoming, non-judgemental environment is a massive help to them,” she said.
“One of the rules of our group is that there is no diet talk.
“As a generation of women we have grown up dieting. When I was six, I was a chubby kid and was put on a diet. It wasn’t until two years ago thought I thought I don’t have to hate my body.
“It’s not a process of hate to love, it’s a process of hate to acceptance. The outdoors doesn’t care about your size, your speed or your fitness, and neither do we.”
You can find out more by visiting www.escapingyourcomfortzone.com/.