Laughter erupted from the audience as Whitney Way Thore shared how her life changed once she started her No Body Shame campaign, as well as how others can start their journey to become body positive.
Thore is the star of the TLC show “My Big Fat Fabulous Life.” However, Thore said before the show began, her life was at an all time low. She was working at a radio station as a morning show host, making minimum wage and living with her parents.
Thore made a video while dancing with a coworker and titled it “A Fat Girl Dancing.” This is when she began her No Body Shame Campaign. The video went viral, and Thore began getting calls from various television shows. Eventually, she got an email from a woman at TLC offering her a show.
Eight out of 10 10-year-olds are afraid of being fat, according to Thore. She realized that she was one of those 10-year-olds. When she was just 10 years old, Thore was bullied about her weight. Growing up, she struggled with her weight and eventually developed an eating disorder.
In college, Thore began to gain a lot of weight very quickly. During that time, she discovered she had polycystic ovarian syndrome. This causes her body to be insulin-resistant, and there is no cure and no cause.
Thore said for how common of a disease it is, there is not enough discussion about it.
The sudden weight gain affected her life drastically. Dancing was her passion, but she was so discouraged that she stopped attending dance classes. Thore said she failed her first dance class in college, which did not make sense because she loved dancing.
She felt so ashamed that she constantly ordered pizza so she did have to leave her room. She was too ashamed to go to the gym because she did not want to be made fun of.
“One thing that was constant no matter what size I was, is that the shame I felt about my body prohibited me from doing things that I loved and prohibited me from living,” Thore said.
Even after college, her daily life was affected by her weight. Thore taught English in Korea for four years. She said she loved the culture and being there, but people would point at her in public.
At one point, Thore said she was physically attacked. At that point, she decided to leave and come back to the United States.
She did not want to be yelled at and pointed at in public anymore, and Thore believed the only way to combat this was to lose weight.
She hired a personal trainer and was put on a restrictive diet. In eight months, Thore lost 100 pounds. One night while leaving the gym after running five miles on the treadmill, men yelled rude names at Thore about her weight as they drove past her. Even though she lost so much weight, the men did not know that and she had no way of telling them.
“That was really a turning point for me when I realized that no matter what I did, it wouldn’t be enough,” Thore said. “And the fact that I was hinging my happiness on someone else’s approval.”
She gained back the weight and felt sad and scared. That was when she decided she was going to try something different, and made the first dancing video which ultimately changed her life. It took a long time for her life to improve, however, and Thore said she still had days where she read rude comments and cried.
To conclude, Thore used the analogy that change is less like a light switch and more like a motion detector. To begin, you must start walking in the dark in order to turn on the light, and in order to gain confidence, you must start with an action. The confidence is a reward for your actions.
“The more that you’re stumbling around, whether you think you’re making progress or not, you’re gonna stumble into that motion sensor light and it’s gonna turn on for you, and your life can be different,” Thore said.