Photo Credit: YouTube
Whitney Way Thore is living every YouTubers’ dream. A video of her with her dance partner absolutely killing it to Jason Derulo’s "Talk Dirty to Me" has gone viral, with more than 1.3 million views since it was posted on Jan. 29. I remember seeing the video for the first time and being thrilled to see a member of the fat dance community who is incredibly talented and was just living for her dancing.
Whitney is a radio producer and personality who grew up dancing and then, following a significant weight gain that was eventually diagnosed a side effect of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, she walked away from her dancing during college, confining herself to dancing socially. Then one of the personalities on the radio show she produces suggested that she start a “fat girl dancing” video series and she took up the challenge and the rest is quickly becoming YouTube history.
Whitney has done a fabulous job of harnessing the momentum, giving interviews to news organizations all over the world and encouraging her new followers to contact the Ellen show to have her on as a guest, and to submit pictures of themselves pledging allegiance to her No Body Shame Campaign. On her website, among adorable pictures and fabulous dance videos, you can find her Manifesto and invitation.
I am learning to practice aggressive self-love. I have lived my life as a 130-pound woman and as a 350-pound woman in North America, in Europe, and in Asia. Cultural norms, societal pressures, and the whims of the fashion industry do not define my worth as woman or a human being. My intelligence, personality, talents, and contributions do not fluctuate with the numbers on a scale. I am unwaveringly me at any size and I’m learning constructive and pro-active ways to help shape my ideals and the ideals of the world I live in. Do it with me?
A beautiful sentiment all too often unheard, from a dancer with a body type all too often unseen in a culture that tends to choose its singers, dancers, and actors based on their ability to meet a stereotype of beauty first and their talent second. But even Whitney isn’t immune from the pressure to change her body size, telling reporters that she would like to lose 100 pounds. I asked her about it and she told me:
“As far as future weight-loss plans, I'd like to lose 100 pounds. Two years ago, I lost 100 pounds in 8 months by following a rigorous diet and exercise program designed for me by a trainer with whom i worked closely every day. Our ultimate goal was a loss of 200 pounds. Having lost 100 pounds (so i was 250 pounds) I could easily run 4 miles, I became a licensed Zumba instructor....but I still faced ridicule for my weight and it wasn't long before my disordered eating behavior crept back in. I was completely obsessed with fitness and obsessed with reaching a weight that no one could call "fat." After the weight loss, I got a boyfriend and a job and with the lifestyle changes, I had put all the weight back on in a year and sunk back into depression. It was then that I truly realized I had to love myself - I couldn't let my happiness depend on my weight...that would always be a losing battle. So now, when I think about the lifestyle I want to lead, the way I'd like to dance....I think my 250 pound body served me much better. I’m certainly more physically comfortable the more fit I am. What I don't care about anymore is that other people will always call me fat and that is okay. For the first time in life I've realized that if I'm "fat" for the rest of my life, but can lead the lifestyle I want - like running 4 miles and dancing every day - who cares?”
Whitney’s experience is typical of so many dieters – many lose weight short term while few keep it off long term with the majority of people gaining back more than they lost. But there is another option. We can follow the evidence and opt out of this cycle of failure perpetuated by those who profit from it.
Enter Health at Every Size, an evidence-based practice where the focus is on creating health through healthy behaviors and not manipulation of body size. As HAES practitioners if we want to become more fit, we work on strength, stamina, flexibility and technique – seeking greater fitness and not a change in body size, allowing our bodies to settle where they will.
So by all means join the No Body Shame Campaign, and then consider taking it a step farther. Consider practicing Health at Every Size and joining the Size Acceptance community that has been advocating for a world where bodies of all sizes are celebrated, and where the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are inalienable and never size dependent, since the 1960’s. And if you’ve been waiting for a different body to show up so that you can do the things you dream of, consider taking the body you have out for a spin and being you – amazingly, unabashedly you – in the body that you have right now.