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).

So I’m a “weirdo.” Who cares?!

When Jennifer got a job as a secretary, the first thing she had to do was go and buy work clothes… she hated it. Going to work was fine–it paid the bills and everybody was nice–but wearing those stuffy clothes was a real drag.

“I’ve always been a little odd, but I really fit in. I thought, ‘They think I am just so Corporate America.’ I had on grey suits and little pink tops underneath. But the secretary next to me started noticing I had this crazy array of colorful socks, the ones where all the toes are a different color or with glitter or little animals. You go to enough corporate happy hours and eventually your secret is out of the bag.”

The receptionist would go on vacation, and it would be Jennifer’s job to cover the phones. She would bring boxes of beads and cubes of resin to work. “I would be sitting there with the phone in my arm, like, “Thank you for calling. Who would you like to speak to?” with my pliers, putting together jewelry.”

“I got featured in a magazine, and within three days, I had so many orders I had to make a life decision. I could either keep my job or make my jewelry orders. I ended up saying, ‘Why am I a secretary? I might as well do something where I can be more me and express myself.’ That’s what I’ve done full time for the last four or five years.”

The way that Jenifer feels free to express her creativity is both refreshing and inspring! “I try to express how I am in my work, in the way I look, in my house. Otherwise I would feel like I wasn’t being true to myself.”

So where can you see more from Jennifer? The Naughty Secretary Club. And as her grandma said,”You got to let it out, or you’re going to get sick.” So go and be yourself!

MORE TIPS & TOOLS

The Secretary’s In
Get the inside scoop on Jennifer’s blog

Find Cool Things
Your place to buy and sell all things handmade

Fashion For the Retro Junkie
Tee’s, apparel, and merchandise with designs featuring everything from classic pin-ups with a modern twist to vintage images with a humorous flare