(Originally posted on my blog on My Fitness Pal on 6/9/2016. Updated 7/7/2016)
I’ve been a little curious about the show My Big Fat Fabulous Life, and recently I got a chance to watch some episodes. For those of you not addicted to TLC, Whitney Thore is 31, about 364-378 lbs (currently), has PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) and is a dance teacher and radio show intern. She made a big splash on social media by originally posting a pic of herself with a bare stomach. The idea she had was “no body shaming.” She was tired of people making comments about how big she was/ is and in general, people being made to feel ashamed about how their body looks, big or otherwise. Having been the victim of fat shaming (from family and strangers), I totally agree with her premise. It’s no one else’s business what you look like or how you choose to live your life. (Since she’s putting herself of tv, she’s inviting people to comment now!)
That said, I’m probably going to be completely politically incorrect and say that I really don’t think she’s having a “fabulous life.” I’m glad that she’s not ashamed of being 378 lbs; that she loves her job teaching dance to other “big girls”; that she’s got a boyfriend she loves who is crazy about her; and that she is such a force for her “no body shaming” message. However, just from the episodes I’ve seen so far, she was scared to death about being diagnosed as pre-diabetic and afraid of her A1c going up into the diabetic range; she was nervous on the plane about someone getting assigned to the seat next to her and possibly having to buy a second ticket; she was also not comfortable on the tour bus with the narrow staircase to the upper level and their small seats; and she was very concerned about her ability to last through the four hour dance-a-thon she herself organized and eventually collapsed at the event. She also threw out her back and is having ongoing problems with it. Her friend who spoke to her just before her collapse at the dance-a-thon commented to the camera about how Whitney always hurts: her back, her knees, her feet and legs. Her other friends and family, as well as Whitney herself, are becoming increasingly concerned about her increasing health issues.
I am not at all surprised about Whitney’s fears and concerns. When she was initially diagnosed as pre-diabetic, her weight was 378. I spent A LOT of time in the upper 300’s before finally tipping over into the 400 lb range. (My highest weight was 438.) I know what it’s like to be busy at the 360-380 range. Like Whitney, my knees hurt, my feet hurt, my back hurt. I was out of breath a lot. Sitting on a bus or a plane or in any plastic molded chair designed for the general public was never comfortable. I remember in college, I had to use the fold-down desk top on the seat next me because the one on my desk hit my belly and it wouldn’t lie flat enough for me to use it!! (eye roll) Talk about embarrassing!! (scream face) I remember my doctor basically writing me off because I was so overweight and even though I’d lose a few pounds (sometimes as much as 40), it never lasted and seriously, what’s 40 lbs when I’m still 390-ish?
I remember going to Disneyland at about 390 and being unable to enjoy myself much because it hurt to walk practically anywhere. Getting on and off of rides was embarrassingly challenging. I spent more time being concerned about being able to do it without hurting myself or having the operators hold everything up so the “fat woman” can get on (eye roll again). It was most definitely NOT fun and not at all fabulous (crushed face).
I had a job I loved at the time, and there were guys who were interested. I was about as active as I could be at that weight and I thought I was pretty much enjoying my life, except for the fact that my feet hurt, my back hurt, my knees hurt, I had some minor medical issues and there were public places that were awkward for me. In retrospect, it was not very fun or fabulous or enjoyable. At times like this I remember the story of the two donkeys tied at a hitching post: one is a town donkey with just a saddle on his back and the other is a prospector’s pack animal, piled high with all of the prospector’s equipment and camping gear. The town donkey says to the other: “that’s quite a load you’ve got there,” and the prospector’s donkey says: “what load?”
I think this is where Whitney is: she is so used to living her life being overweight that she does not realize what that burden truly entails. Whitney herself says she likes being “fat” (her words). If you’ve always been overweight, you don’t know what it’s like to NOT be overweight. It’s one of those idiotic tag-lines you hear from “weight loss professionals” (a rude & stupid bariatric surgeon actually said it to me): “nothing tastes as good as being thin feels.” Really? How does “being thin” feel, since I’ve never experienced it?? (flipping him the bird here!!) Whitney loves her life and a lot of great things are happening to her, but as her friends point out, she talks about getting healthier and not a lot of change is happening. How happy can she be if she is terrified of becoming diabetic?? If going places and fitting into plane and bus seats is a constant issue?? If the pain in her back is causing her to miss out on things she loves, like dancing?? One of her issues causing her problems with her weight is PCOS. It makes it extremely difficult to lose weight. But she can make progress (as she did) with diet and exercise. I don’t want to fall into my mom’s trap of saying: “you’re so pretty but you’d be a lot prettier if you lost weight” (I heard that until there was blood running out of my ears- scream face). I think Whitney is a wonderfully positive, dynamic and confident young woman, but I think by convincing herself that she is happy being so obese is a lie she has come to believe. She has accepted being overweight and is no longer trying to change that fact. I know this because I have been there myself. Like Whitney, I tried losing weight and put it back on, and after failing many many times, I just accepted the fact that I was “destined to be the fat woman.” I would hate to see her stuck there, since it is a miserable place to be once you get some distance from it. I’m not saying everyone has to be a size 2 or a size 6, but there is an advantage to being healthier.
I am still a large woman. I’ve lost 155 lbs and I still weigh almost 300 lbs. People looking at me don’t see someone who has essentially lost the equivalent of a grown adult; they see a fat woman- a 300 pounder!! Frankly, what they see and what they think doesn’t matter a whole lot to me, because I know that I physically feel so much better!! My feet don’t hurt; my back and knees hurt much less (despite the arthritis) and I can be so much more active. I spent Memorial Day weekend walking all over the Queen Mary and getting into tight spaces I never could have at 400 lbs. My life right now is on the road to being fabulous, and I’m so NOT a size 6 (or anywhere close!!).
I hope that Whitney can make the changes she needs to be healthier, even if she never gets to be a size 6 either. It’s not about being “fat” or being a “big girl; it’s about being healthy enough to do the things you love, like dancing and riding a bike. It’s about making great food and exercise choices so you’re not always scared to go to the doctor because you might be diabetic. It’s about being able to go where you want without being afraid that you physically “don’t fit” and most importantly, it’s about not being in pain from walking around all day. She can be such a dynamic and positive face for her message, but I think she do a lot more if she accepted a bigger challenge than being overweight; she needs to take on the challenge to be healthier, because a woman like her could knock it out of the park if she put her mind to it. She really can be fabulous and be big and be healthier. I hope she steps up and makes the decision to do it.