What “The Fat Girl Dancing” can teach all of us, and what “fit mom” will never understand.

Whitney Way Thore and Maria Kang are on opposite sides of life’s spectrum. One is a stay at home mother of 3, an avid fitness enthusiast, trainer and blogger. She recently became a household name when she posted a pic of her fit, tanned, body with her 3 small children in tow, and asked us all “what’s your excuse?”. Said photo proceeded to set off a firestorm of controversy from people lauding her as a hero and inspiration for finally standing up to the “obesity celebrating American culture” to people calling her a self righteous fat shaming skinny *insert 5 letter expletive synonymous with a female dog*. I haven’t met Maria, (I did send her a FB message, to which she has yet to respond, 3 months later) but I wouldn’t call her a body shamer. She’s in the same vein as those tough love trainers who are just matter of fact about weight loss and fitness and health. Some people love that and are all about it, and they are fans of hers. God Bless them. She is an inspiration to them. But not to me. My inspiration is Whitney.

Whitney Way Thore is a radio personality. She grew up active all her life, playing soccer and other sports. But her passion was and is dance.  Her athletic build made her stand out in the world of dance she loved, and  started her down a path of unhealthy behaviors to try and maintain a societal standard of beauty. Issues with her health led to a significant weight gain and she sits now at over 300 pounds. In the years of her weight fluctuations, particularly her current weight, she has rediscovered her love for dance and activity and has taken to youtube, posting videos of her body in fluid motion (And let me tell you, the girl’s got some MOVES!!) under the heading “fat girl dancing”. She is a beautiful woman, with chestnut colored hair and blue eyes, intelligent, well spoken and an all around awesome person.

                Now you may read this post and wonder why I am inspired more by an “overweight” person than a “healthy” person. Simple. Whitney’s message is the better one. Contrary to her detractors and “fat shamers” out there, she is NOT promoting Obesity or unhealthy heabits. In addition to being a classically trained dancer, she runs and is active. She has also made it clear that for her to enjoy all the activities she does at the highest capacity, she would like to lose weight, (it should be noted, that despite the fluctuations in weight, she has never had any weight related health issues like diabetes, high cholesterol or high blood pressure). She inspires me (and should inspire you) because she knows the true start to a healthy lifestyle begins in the head. She has discovered that “nothing taste as good as skinny feels” is just as cruel as “only a dog wants bones” because they come from the same dark place, change motivated by shame. Whitney’s message is simple, love your body and yourself as is. If you love something, don’t let anything stop you from doing it. It reminds me of the lyrics from a song ironically enough sung by another beautiful woman named Whitney. Maybe you heard of her, Whitney Houston, she said so famously “learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all”. Maria, fit and toned asking “what’s your excuse” is alienating and exclusive whether she wants to admit it or not. There’s the idea that “if you don’t look like I do, you’re doing something wrong”. Whitney’s simple message is to love yourself the way you are, nothing more nothing less. And the funny thing about that, when you love something, you take good care of it, and want it at its best. So Maria, you can ask others what their excuses are all day long, Whitney, me and so many others are too busy dancing to notice

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13 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Linea
    Feb 23, 2014 @ 02:34:59

    I found your blog through Whitney posting it on Facebook & I must say that you write amazingly well. I liked your take on this controversy, mainly because it’s mine also. I’m not telling everyone that they should be obese like I am; but I don’t even want to deal with others’ judgments of me based on my body size. I’m pretty doggone healthy for a woman of my age & weight. I have arthritis, but that’s not necessarily weight-related, since I first discovered it in a finger when I weighed 135. And it took years for it to go into my lower extremities. So many people are judged by their outward appearance be it too fat, too skinny, bad hairdo, clothes that we wear, & the list goes on. I know I’m preaching to the choir here, but I needed to tell you how much I enjoy people who talk about this issue so directly. My all-time favorite response to my calling myself “Fat” is, “You’re NOT fat!! Now you stop saying things like that about yourself!!” WTF????? I have a scale & a mirror & I am most definitely fat. But the deal is, I don’t consider it a derogatory term. And they do. It’s something they say behind a fat girl’s back to put them down. It took me a bit of time to see myself as pretty & sexy & to love my body in its current state, but I got there!! I want to see many more women & men get there also!! Thanks for carrying that flag with us.

    Reply

  2. Betsy Why
    Feb 23, 2014 @ 03:26:08

    This is the best explanation of what was wrong with the whole “what’s your excuse” thing I have read (and I’ve read plenty! lol). VERY well written, and really gave me a lot to think about. I’ve been so busy waiting to [whatever] until I lose weight that life is passing me by!!

    (And could not agree more with Linea…I love people who talk directly and openly about this. Fat is only a bad word if we make it one. Otherwise, it’s JUST a descriptor, like “brown hair”, “green eyes”, or “tall”.)

    Reply

  3. Andrea
    Feb 23, 2014 @ 10:23:45

    Chapeau!!!

    came over FB to your blog… can’t wait to read more…

    Greetings from Germany

    Andrea

    Reply

  4. lisa
    Feb 23, 2014 @ 11:46:06

    I believe that Whitney is a true inspiration in a world full of bullies I appreciate the fact that there is someone out there that is not what some people may call “normal” that is able to stand up and say hey this is me like it or not I am confident in who I am and she can be an inspiration to girls growing up and show them that no matter what your outside looks like when they are older it is truly what is on the inside that matters and they are able to accomplish whatever they want with a lot of hard work.

    Reply

  5. Joy
    Feb 23, 2014 @ 12:41:58

    Well said. Thank you 😉

    Reply

  6. Katie Vedder
    Feb 23, 2014 @ 12:54:56

    I love this. It is exactly how I feel. Simply written and to the point. I was heavy in high school, lost 85 pounds in college (all through healthy diet and lots of exercise) and realized that I wasn’t happy, all I could think about was how to get rid of the next pound. I have gained about 35 of that back and I still enjoy being fit but I consider my weight loss experience a ‘learning experience.’ 35 pounds ago I was still not societies idea of beauty and it made me unable to love myself. I wish we could do away from the negative connotations that come along with descriptors. I am a very happy, successful woman who is also fat – its so engrained that they is negative it almost hurts to type – curvacious!

    My favorite line:
    “And the funny thing about that, when you love something, you take good care of it, and want it at its best.”

    Reply

  7. Abbey Plotkin
    Feb 23, 2014 @ 23:04:57

    Hi Essence. I too, found your blog via Whitney (whom I also recently discovered & love) posting it on FB. When I discovered her, I also was very happy to see such a positive message. I had my own fat-girl, Latin dance company from 1993-2004 called The Mambo Mamas. We performed all over NYC, other cities, some other countries & even a few TV shows. It was before FB, YouTube and so much publicity on the internet but the response was overwhelmingly positive for much the same reasons you mention. So many women approached me to say how much we inspired them to get out there too and not feel ashamed. It always filled my heart to hear this. And as others note, my message was never to BE fat but to do what you love without reserve. As I told Whitney when I messaged her, I’m so glad to see you young women carrying on the torch of self-love which women of ALL sizes so desperately need in this society.

    Reply

    • Linea
      Feb 24, 2014 @ 00:23:07

      Brava, Abbey. And thank you for the things that you did because you enjoyed doing them & not listening to anyone saying that if you’re fat there are certain things that you can’t do or you can’t wear or you can’t be!! I often see replies to fat role models from skinny women who like to say, “Since you’re out there in the public as a role model, don’t you think you’d be a better one if you lost weight & got healthier?”

      Reply

  8. Harold F. Hawkins
    Feb 24, 2014 @ 03:47:02

    OK Both of these women has the perfect concept of “THEIR” life. Whitney Says “What’s your excuse for not loving your body (self) they way you want”. Maria Says “Whats your excuse for loving your body (self) the way you want”. The only difference is the way you perceive their stance. Are you on the FAT side or THIN side. I for one is on the FAT (PHAT, Pretty Hot and Tempting) side. So you see we are not arguing who is right or who is wrong we are arguing what side of the spectrum you are on. Some of us are on the FAT side, some in the Middle, and some on the thin side. Most of all be like both of these women, LOOK INSIDE YOURSELF AND FIND OUT WHAT WAY MAKES YOU LOVE YOURSELF AND THE THINGS THAT YOU LOVE.

    Reply

  9. Lisab
    Feb 24, 2014 @ 04:35:10

    Whitney’s message is encouraging. When you see her dance, it is magic. It gives everyone hope. Maria’s message may work for some people, but for most who aren’t exercising, it’s nice to see someone promoting exercise that is real. It’s makes everyone say “I can do it too”. There is too much negativity in the world today. Whitney builds people up and doesn’t knock anyone. We need her ray of sunshine!!!

    Reply

  10. essenseofebony
    Feb 24, 2014 @ 04:46:05

    Thanks to everyone who has commented, and kept it civil, which I hope will continue. As I stated in post, my intent was not to bash Maria Kang, and there are people who saw her and did begin to pursue a healthier lifestyle and that is great. But to the woman who eats right, exercises, and is active and doesn’t achieve Maria’s look, it could feel like a failure. However to see Whitney, overweight yes, but active, mobile, confident in herself and self assured says, “if she can do it, so can I”

    Reply

  11. Rose @ An Exercise in Frugality
    Feb 24, 2014 @ 04:52:53

    Well said Ebony! I think you’re absolutely right. I think the important thing to note is that Maria Kang’s stance is alienating and exclusive while Whitney’s is positive and all-accepting. Whether you’re fat, thin, happy about it or not, Whitney’s message is one of acceptance and love. If you’re telling people they have to be a certain size, then you’re telling them they aren’t worthy of love until they are. And that’s just not true. (not that YOU are telling people that of course, just when people say those things that’s what it comes to mean). I enjoyed your post very much. Whitney is a huge inspiration in my journey of self-acceptance. It’s nice to know we have someone on our side regardless of what the scale says! 🙂

    Reply

  12. Karen Sanders
    Feb 27, 2014 @ 00:10:15

    I, too, found your blog via Whitney on FB. I have struggled with my weight all of my life. It is not because I don’t know what to do to be thin. I am also a mother who has given birth twice. Whitney has given big girls like me, a size 18, a public voice. The fit mom telling me I could and should look like her makes me want to shove a cupcake down her throat, then punch her. (That’s sarcasm, people.) She is, indeed, shaming.

    Reply

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