They come from every walk of life. Most of them have never met each other before, but they gather for one reason: to get outside and enjoy nature free from judgement.

"This is a space for all of us to enjoy without any ulterior motives," said Plus Sized Hikes of the Hudson Valley founder Alexa Lastowski. "We’re coming here just as we are; we’re not coming here with any sort of goal of weight loss, just sort of body positivity, embracing ourselves."

What You Need To Know

  • The group Plus Sized Hikers of the Hudson Valley was founded in June

  • Every month, its founder posts a schedule of easy to moderate hikes she hosts around the region

  • She says the hikes aren't about weight loss, but healing yourself through nature and finding like-minded people to enjoy it with

Lastowski founded Plus Sized Hikers of the Hudson Valley to offer plus-sized people a safe, body positive environment to enjoy hikes around the region.

"For my whole life, I've been a plus sized person,” Lastowski said, “and most physical activity, outdoor activity, sports, have always [had] some sort of association with losing weight, and say that I wasn’t successful at that. Then I would feel like I failed."

She began to avoid physical activity until she decided to change her way of thinking.

"I wanted to create some sort of healing process for myself because depriving myself of all of this is not fair," said Lastowski as she hiked through the trails of the Vanderbilt Mansion in Hyde Park with the group.

Every month, she researches hikes around the region and posts a planned schedule of easy to moderate hikes that anyone can join on the Plus Sized Hikers of the Hudson Valley Facebook group.

Jyoti Saini drove two hours from Long Island just for a hike after finding the group on Facebook. She said she's always loved nature, but she struggled to find people to enjoy it with.

"My husband passed away five years [ago], and we used to do a lot of things together, and not having him around was a little difficult," said Saini.

"I felt like ‘what do I do?’ I felt sad; I felt like ‘what should I do with my time,’ and I love nature, I love hiking," said Saini.

She says she's glad to have found this community of new friends to hike with.

"I just feel so much at peace when I come out; [it] just makes me feel happy," said Saini.

Lastowski never imagined that by healing herself through nature, she’d also help others heal themselves along the way.

"This is part of my healing, but if I can inspire others to heal and accept themselves and love themselves and deem themselves worthy, then that’s the point of this whole thing. It's not just about me," said Lastowski.