What’s the big fat deal?

We’ve all been there. You and your girlfriends are out together and the self deprecation Olympics commence.

“Oh my god, I hate my thighs!”

“Your thighs? Oh my god, you don’t even know! I hate my, arms.”

When a friend of yours expresses insecurity, you want to reassure them they are not alone. And in the words of the great Kurt Vonnegut, “So it goes.” The out self-loathing each other becomes a form of female bonding.

Do you ever stop to think that maybe that is not the right conversation to be having? Sure you do. But do you ever seek a way out? And if you do, do you turn to a been-there, done-that body image blogger revered the web over named Mo Pie?

Monique “Mo Pie” van den Berg founded one of the first size acceptance blogs, Big Fat Deal, and has become an internet celebrity and spokeswoman for the health-not-size movement. But back in 2002 when she started BFD, she never saw it coming.

“I’ve met and spoken with people from all over the world who read my various online projects,” she said. “I guess I was used to the idea that if I wrote something, people might be interested in reading it—sort of ‘if you blog it, they will come.’ I naively didn’t think my message was all that controversial or arguable. But of course, it turns out, it is—which makes it all the more important.”

Mo Pie has been shifting women’s thoughts of “There’s something wrong with me” to “There’s something wrong with me feeling that way” by sharing her own experiences with body image.

“I didn’t wake up one day and say, ‘today I’ll go to the gym, go out shopping, have dinner with friends, reclaim the word fat, and then take a bubble bath,’” Monique said. “I used to be hurt by the word fat—it could make me cry, and did, on multiple occasions—but somehow, over time, it became much less painful and much more of a direct descriptor, even a friendly word. A friend and I started referring to ourselves and each other as ‘fat chicks,’ and it felt empowering and defiant. Then I started seeing it online more and more and thinking—well, I am fat, inasmuch as I’m not thin. And if I keep using this word and diffusing its power to wound me, maybe I’ll never have to cry about it again. And I never have.”

Setting out to reclaim toxic words and daring the public to reevaluate its current value system is a risky and courageous move—especially when you live in a culture replete and overwrought with prejudice against the very thing you are fighting for.

Monique’s willingness to channel her 14-year-old self and publicly embrace it has inspired others to reach out and do the same. One of the most talked about topics on BFD came after she received an email from a teenage girl who was asking for advice on how she could stop hating herself.

“The fact that she was even self-aware enough to write the email and find the blog is awesome and pretty inspiring,” Monique said. “Then people just came out of the woodwork with letters to this 14-year-old girl and what they wished they would have known when they were 14. It was amazing, and it made me think it was worth it to have kept the blog all of these years, just for that one 14 year old girl. To come and to have people tell her that she was beautiful and that she didn’t need to look at herself that way and give her great advice… hopefully just the fact that she is self aware enough to come and ask the question in the first place means good things for her.”

That self-loathing starts at such a young age is something we as adult women need to evaluate – both for our 14-year-old selves and for the girls in our lives. Who is benefiting from this vicious circle of self-criticism and self-doubt? And who or what is perpetuating it? And why?

“The more each of us can break free from the spiral of self-doubt, the more powerful we, as women, become,” Monique said.

Since it’s easier said than done, Monique has some tips for building self esteem in women, those just being introduced to self doubt and those who’ve lived with it for way too long.

1. Don’t tie your ideas of self worth to your body size.

2. Understand that you are not the only person who is insecure. Everybody’s insecure.

3. Learn to think critically about the messages that you’re getting from the society around you.

4. Go out, use your body, and make it a friend. You can do anything no matter what your size is.

5. Don’t let yourself be self conscious to the point that it stops you from being brave and having fun.

“People always want to be the best at something and feel like, ‘oh I’m fat’ or ‘I’m too slow’ or ‘I can’t run around the bases as fast as everyone else,’” Monique said. “So what if you’re the slowest person on your lacrosse team? Go, have fun, play lacrosse!”

Monique’s blog Big Fat Deal has been featured on The Mike and Juliet Show and CBS News Healthwatch, as well as in The New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, ABC.com, BUST Magazine, Women’s Health magazine, and Munich’s Sueddeutsche Zeitung. The blog was also an editor’s pick on BUST’s “Girl Wide Web” and listed as one of Oxygen Network’s “Sites We Love.”

MORE TIPS & TOOLS


How do I love myself?

Read the first and second letter from the 14-year-old

10 Ways to be a body positivity advocate
Never apologize for being yourself.

The F Word
An eating disorders awareness and education site that also discusses related issues of weight-based discrimination and body size acceptance.

Dearest Mabel
A very inspiring and witty group of lady bloggers (one of which is Monique).

Dietgirl to the rescue!

It was mid January of 2001, 23 year-old Shauna was doing laundry, “I was hanging my knickers on the line. Size 26 and gigantic, they were so worn out that the elastic was gone and the fabric transparent… Then I hung up my little sisters. Hers were like a size 6 and frilly and dainty. I remember looking up at the contrast between them and thinking, ‘I’m twenty-three years old. I can’t believe I’m wearing granny pants. How can these possibly belong to me.’”

Well, 8,000 miles, 7 years, and 175 pounds later, Shauna is literally half the woman she used to be. A real-life superhero, she has blogged her way through defeating her demons and conquering her cravings all while traveling the globe and meeting the man of her dreams in a Scottish pub. “I lost my job. I lost my grandfather. I moved half way across the world. I had to start to realize that I was going to have to step back from my black and white thinking—I realized that I didn’t have to wait until I was skinny to do things,” said Shauna.

Practically raised in weight watchers meetings, Shauna was all too familiar with the dieter’s mentality. Self-loathing came as naturally (and as often) as breathing air. But one day Shauna decided that a life of bullying her body into social perfection was just not good enough. She wanted more—it was time to feel comfortable in her skin. Easier said than done…

The real ticket to Shauna’s success was creating her wildly successful blog, The Amazing Adventures of Dietgirl. With her wry humor and sage-like optimism Shauna set out on her journey to self-love and found strength in the community of the interweb. “While I knew what to do with what I ate and how I moved, I’d never done the work on sorting out what was in my head,” Shauna said. ”Why did I over eat? Why did I turn to food for comfort? And writing about it was the way that I started to unravel all of the issues in my head.”

What’s the hardest part about losing half of your body weight? Changing the way you talk to yourself. “Once I started treating myself kindly with good food and exercise instead of disgust and anger,” she writes, “I started to appreciate my body, lumps and bumps and all. There was more to me than the size of my jeans, after all.”

No better words have graced our ears.

5 things to remember

1. You don’t have to be perfect, just persistent.

“When you have a bad day—or bad months—you don’t have to give up. It may not being the ideal situation, but if you do the best you can you will get there. It may not be as fast, or perfect as you hoped. But what is?”

2. Be prepared.
“Rather than waiting for hunger to strike and being so tired after work that I just go through the drive-thru or order a pizza, I take the time to plan my meals for the week and do the shopping so that I’m prepared. I have healthy foods in my cupboards at home. I have healthy foods in my desk at work. I still eat the foods that I really enjoy. I just plan them in rather than gobbling them all of the time.”

3. Let go of the idea that you are either on or off the wagon.
4. Accept that life gets in the way.

5. Set new challenges.
“I have an orange belt in kickboxing (which means I am qualified to kick down an old lady). It’s not just about eating healthy and trudging off to the gym, it’s an activity; it’s a new experience; I’m learning something. So it’s not an endless bore. I don’t go to class so that I can burn calories so that I can eat my dinner tonight, I go because it’s fun.”

Overall, this weight losing superstar’s philosophy boils down to this: Do the healthy more often than you don’t do the healthy thing. Remember that life is not about numbers and scales, it’s about eating well and being kind to yourself. And that’s a lesson we can all learn—weight-loss game or not.

Shauna’s book is out now in the USA! Check out The Amazing Adventures of Dietgirl.

MORE TIPS amp;& TOOLS

Listen up!
Tune in for Shauna’s interview podcast with Back in Skinny Jeans

Read Shauna’s blog
Just do it! You’ll thank us later.

10 blog’s to drool over when you are on a diet
Check out Shauna’s picks for what to read.