We can talk about body image, media messaging, and weight all we want to, but there are no words that can outweigh an image. The same holds true — maybe even truer — for videos. The viral YouTube video series bluntly titled “Fat Girl Dancing” is making its way around the web in a way that we can only help to want to promote and shove down the throats of middle school girls everywhere. There’s not one person who can’t benefit from hearing (or better yet, seeing) the body image message that Whitney Way Thore of Greensboro, North Carolina is sending. No one has more of a right to make a statement on weight and body image than someone who’s been on all sides of the spectrum. Radio show producer Thore has faced the world through the eyes of 130-pound woman and a 350-pound woman. Better yet, she’s lived the life of a 130-pound dancer and a 350-pound dancer. If anyone gets it, it’s her. The formerly thin, self-named “fat girl” of the “Fat Girl Dancing” series posted a clip of herself dancing to Jason Derulo’s “Talk Dirty to Me” last week to her morning radio show’s YouTube page, and it’s already garnered well over 1 million views. The clip joins many others of the incredibly talented Thore dancing to popular hits like “Wrecking Ball” and “This is Ya Life,” a welcome change from the scantily clad, belly-baring stick figures you typically see in such videos.
Thore’s message goes beyond what you look like or how much you weigh. She could care less about the number on the scale or the image reflected from her video screen. What Thore cares about is loving who you are. Not loving who you are despite your weight or because of your weight, but loving who you are, period. And that’s a message everyone, of every weight and every gender can stand to hear. In Thore’s words:
“Cultural norms, societal pressures, and the whims of the fashion industry do not define my worth as a woman or a human being. My intelligence, personality, talents, and contributions do not fluctuate with the numbers on a scale. I am unwaveringly me…”
That should be a mantra everyone repeats to herself each morning, and again in the afternoon, and yet again before bed. Repeat it 100 times a day if that’s what it takes to believe it.
Thore’s message goes beyond a viral video where she dances her heart out — and dances well. She’s the face of the No Body Shame Campaign, and she lives up to every word and image she shares. In her movement against the promotion of unrealistic body image messaging, she challenges viewers and readers to effect positive change in themselves, without excuses or shame. Her focus may be weight, but her message can be applied to other causes, too. For example, your focus might be self-confidence or inner beauty — whatever holds you back from loving and appreciating yourself completely is the hurdle you must fight to conquer.
In one of the most honest and well-written blogs I’ve ever read, Thore comes clean on what it feels like to be fat and what it feels like to overcome that burden. Your heart yearns for her 10-year-old self as she relates the struggles and emotions she went through just because she was a little taller or a little thicker. A soccer player and a dancer growing up, Thore shows us first-handedly that your dreams or passions don’t have to change because of a number on the scale. Having danced since age 4 and teaching professionally since 16, Thore ended up ditching dance when her weight shot up (she gained 140 pounds in 3 years, later discovering she had PCOS, or polycystic ovarian syndrome, which can greatly affect weight). Although she tells HuffPo that she’d like to lose weight so she can dance the way she wants to, it’s refreshing and inspiring to see her dancing to her heart’s content in the meantime, not letting weight or internalized negative perspectives holding her back.
This is the kind of message we need plastered all over billboards, TV commercials, and magazine covers. It’s not the kind of message that says being obese is OK or justifying it into something that it isn’t. There’s no pretense or hidden desire for an unachievable definition of perfection. It’s the kind of message that says life is about more than weight; maybe you want to lose it, maybe you don’t, but by all means, like who you are while you’re doing whatever you’re doing.
Photo credit: Whitney Way Thore, No Body Shame Campaign Blog
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