The Collegian
Saturday, March 25, 2023

Reality TV star promotes body positivity on campus

Body positivity activist Whitney Way Thore says we are so conditioned to hate our bodies that when friends, sisters or mothers hate their bodies we don’t tell them because we hate our bodies too.

“I want people to love and live with their bodies with no shame,” said Thore, who has her own reality TV show on TLC called “My Big Fat Fabulous Life,” on Thursday, Nov. 12 in a talk sponsored by University of Richmond’s Body Love Campaign.

Richmond students crowded the stage in the Tyler Haynes Commons while Thore shared personal stories about the abuse and isolation she suffered in the past because of her weight. Using videos, pictures and occasional commentary from her parents, who were in attendance, Thore illustrated her journey to body confidence.

“What resonated the most with me was to find something that you love,” junior Adriana Toledo said. “And exercising not to lose weight but because it makes you feel good.”

Thore, who has appeared on “Good Morning America” and “Today,” travels the country promoting her #NoBodyShame campaign. The goal of her campaign is to recognize body shame as a complex, multi-faceted issue that is best dealt with by first unapologetically loving yourself as you are.

By the time she was 15 years old, Thore had developed an eating disorder and for the next 14 years she lived with, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, weight fluctuations, self-doubt and depression.

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome is a condition in which a woman’s levels of estrogen and progesterone are out of balance, leading to the growth of ovarian cysts. PCOS can cause problems with a women’s menstrual cycle, fertility, cardiac function, and appearance.

After posting pictures of herself online and receiving a flurry of brutal comments about her weight, Thore decided it was time to make a change. She started a blog, “No Body Shame,” and a viral video titled “Fat Girl Dancing,” that has over 8 million views on YouTube.

Thore said the first thing she did when she no longer felt shame about her body was dance. Now she teaches dance classes at the Greensboro Dance Theater called “Big Girl Dance Class.”

“We wanted to bring Whitney here because we felt this isn’t a dialogue that is happening on campus,” said Hannah Maddy, a senior who helped organize the event for the Body Love Campaign. “I hope that people will be more accepting of themselves and others.”

#NoBodyShame isn’t just targeted at people who are overweight. It is intended to help people dealing with any type of body image issues, eating disorders or lack of self-confidence. It’s not about being fat or skinny, it’s about being happy.

“If you want to change the world, don’t change yourself,” freshman Maddy West said. 

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