“Making Gainz Both Ways:” Kinda Fit Kinda Fat Apparel Celebrates Body Diversity
“Growing up, I was a chubby, awkward, and nerdy kid.”
That’s how Dr. Dean Tanglao, founder and CEO of Kinda Fit Kinda Fat Apparel, begins to tell the story of his personal fitness journey, one that led him to create the body positive, body celebratory clothing brand.
The big picture: Tanglao created Kinda Fit Kinda Fat to create “a community where you can be and should be proud of your body no matter what stage of the fitness journey you are on.” The brand celebrates athleticism in people from all walks of life with the belief that you can pursue goals while enjoying the process; fitness doesn’t have to be full of sacrifice.
This mission comes from Tanglao’s personal experiences with fitness, which started in college.
- “I was always insecure about my body, and the motivating factor for me to get abs was thinking ‘If I get abs, I’ll be happy,’” Tanglao says. “If I achieve this goal that I see on Instagram, I will be happy. That’s what I thought.”
It was during this time Tanglao says he began to fear food, feeling guilty even eating cheat meals.
- “The awakening was me realizing that even though I got to this point where I was supposed to be happy, I wasn’t quite happy with myself,” he says, noting at one point in his life he would have been considered “shredded.”
- “I love food, and I love what food brings. There’s culture, there’s community, there’s so much offered, and it was such a huge part of my life that for me to look a certain way, there were parts of me that I was sacrificing,” he continues. “That’s where I had to start questioning, ‘Is this what’s really going to make me happy?’”
An unexpected creation: A brand was never something Tanglao expected to create; “kinda fit kinda fat” was a quirky tag he used on his personal pages.
- “I was challenging the mentality of ‘What is fitness to me? What is the balance?’” he says, explaining the use of the phrase.
In conversation with friends and people around him, Tanglao says he found his story and struggles echoed in similar ways. The fitness industry promotes a specific type of body, but athleticism cannot be put into a perfect box.
- “One of my friends, she’s been an overweight woman her whole life, and she enjoys fitness, but doesn’t fit the standard of what people would call fit or call an athlete. We had a conversation and it opened my eyes to her experiences and how she felt ostracized,” he says.
Instead of waiting for someone to create the balanced, diverse brand he was looking for, Tanglao took his quirky tag, created an LLC, and printed his first shirts.
The brand: “Clothing brands are the voices of people and what they believe,” Tanglao says. “Brands have the ability to show diversity, show that athleticism is more than just a single body type, show that food is not something that necessarily needs to be feared.”
- Kinda Fit Kinda Fat offers sizes XS to 5XL.
- Tanglao says they cover a diverse range of athletes, from CrossFit to powerlifting to roller derby. They’re also the official apparel sponsor for the World’s Strongest Man.
The stigma of a word: Trading the word “fat” out of the brand name was never an option for Tanglao. The stigma that comes with it, he says, is training people to fear their own bodies.
- “Being a brand that can be controversial using the word fat, I think that’s a very important conversation to have,” he says. “It’s a word that people are afraid of.”
Kinda Fit Kinda Fat doesn’t present the word fat in a negative light; their clothes are bright and fun. It’s a presentation that’s bold but approachable, and has led Tanglao, his team, and anyone who wears the apparel to start conversations with people around them.
Consistent growth: Tanglao plans for Kinda Fit Kinda Fat to grow both in mindset and product offerings. They’re continuously releasing new collections – the most recent Iron Diner – and have plans to launch a Kinda Fit Kinda Fat bakery in the future. Charitable causes are a big part of their work; early in the pandemic, the brand launched a medical relief initiative.
Tanglao also says the brand has helped him evolve personally:
- “Really with the brand, having that community, I’ve learned that your weight will always fluctuate, your body will fluctuate, but what doesn’t change is who you are and the values you bring to the world,” he says.
- “At the end of the day, if you’re only focused on the exterior, you can never really live your life.