Thirtyfive Inches

ashley graham sports illustrated

Back in 2014, when I had to do a driveby spent 18 glorious hours in Savannah with my Fitbloggin’ family, I had the honor of cohosting a conversation with Steve titled “Fitblogger Tough Love”. We tackled the idea that the very thing that makes our tribe so awesome – our supportiveness, understanding, and positivity- could also be the thing that holds us back from accomplishing some of our health, weight or fitness goals. Because we know that no matter how many times we stumble and fall, we always have a place in this group to get back on the horse and start again. Where is the line between accountability and enabling? You know?

Well, that notion continues to roll around and evolve in my mind even two years later. I’m a weight loss blogger with no weight loss success story, but I’m also a health seeker with an ever growing list of badass accomplishments. I’m a diet coach/personal trainer who is also for all intents and purposes fat.  But I run and jump and box and lift and tri.

Well, this week the hot topic of conversation has been both about the “rookie bombshell” and Sports Illustrated plus size covergirl Ashley Graham’s bikini cover photo (general consensus: BOOM! You GO Ashley and Sports Illustrated), and the reaction of former minus-sized model Cheryl Tiegs, who says SI is glamorizing an unhealthy waist size physique (general consensus: BONK! You are what’s wrong with America, woman!)

And here’s the deal. I think Sports Illustrated did a pretty ballsy and cool thing with their approach to the swimsuit covers this year, featuring three women with very different body types and bringing light to the notion that beauty is widely defined and complex and shouldn’t be boiled down to a number.

I also wonder if Cheryl Tiegs is only half wrong.

Say WHAT? Um, MrsFatass, Cheryl Tiegs quoted Dr. Oz as the source to stick with on this matter. She sad SI was ‘glamorizing’ full figured models like that was a BAD thing. And she said that thing about having such a pretty face. Fat girls HATE that saying. Have you bumped your head? Why are you not ripping her a new one?

I know. I KNOW! She certainly said some stupid, misguided things. And I could spend the next hour writing about how many thin models smoke and drink diet coke and over train to stay skinny, and look up some statistics about models and eating disorders, and really it wouldn’t be hard to decimate her and lots of folks are out there are doing just that. And also I tend to think that maybe from a psychological point of view, on the inside she might be feeling some kind of way about the things SHE had to do in order to stay on top as a model back then, and the acceptance of a more REAL physique today could just stirring up something emotional in her. I don’t know. Maybe she really is just an idiot.

But…is there room in this conversation to recognize the fact that while there are many of us who are living a healthy life, even at our full figured size, there are many of us who are using this Beauty At Any Size as an excuse to be/stay/remain unhealthy?

That’s where it gets a little dicey.

I guess the first thing we would have to agree on is what defines healthy. Weight, blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar levels, thyroid – do we define health based on what a doctor tells us? Does the way we eat figure into that? Do we have to work out to be considered healthy? Be moderately active? Is it possible to be healthy and sedentary?

I know people who are thin who have horrible problems with blood pressure and cholesterol, and who cant walk up a flight of stairs. But according to Cheryl, their waist size would qualify them to be glamorized on the cover of a magazine. I know big people who can run circles around me. I know people who have great bloodwork results but whose diet is comprised of a steady stream of 350 calorie coffee drinks, vending machine chips and Girl Scout Cookies. And I know me.

I have gone to doctors for help because it truly seems like the more healthy behaviors I acquire, the more weight I gain. I don’t eat sweets. No sugar in my coffee, no donut, no Girl Scout Cookie time. I have eliminated countless foods that inflame or bloat. I manage my macros and I also count my calories and I am about 75% successful in eating whole, non-processed foods. I work out almost daily and my leisure time activities include ridiculous things like triathlon training. So I’m not sure how it’s possible that I am 30 pounds heavier today than I was in 2010 but I am, and the best I can get from a doctor is a prescription for Phentermine.

Yeah, no thanks.

And then, what makes somebody beautiful?

I don’t have an answer but I do know this: I wake up every day and wonder how I can get out of having to work out that day (I can’t. I actually WORK at a gym so there is absolutely no way to get out of it). I wake up every day and choose to whole unprocessed food because it makes me FEEL strong an energetic (and not just use my daily calorie allotment in just egg rolls and cheesecake if I’m going to be fat anyway). And I also know that my self-confidence does occasionally make me want to be lazy because lets face it – I’m hot – and at this point I don’t have bad knees or constant sciatica or a litany of “conditions” that many of my fellow women of stature have. So even at this size I can be happy and active and do basically anything I want to do so it’s up to me to actually go out and DO it. In my humble opinion, hustle is hot, laziness is not. (hashtag I can rhyme like Johnny Cochran).

Finally, we need to agree that while it is possible to be beautiful at any size, the opposite also holds true.

When we wrapped our conversation in Savanna it was on a very positive and encouraging note, suggesting the ways we could support one another and hold each other accountable, but nicely. And while I wasn’t looking to dismantle the love and support that is kind of the Fitbloggin’ hallmark, I’m still not quite sure we really had the tough conversation. And the reality is that there are people who will always find the reason not to follow through. There are people who will soak up the love and support of their fellow health seeking warriors, even as they drive past the gym in order to get home in time to meet the pizza delivery guy at the door. Because hey, tomorrow is another day, and today was long and I’m tired and work sucked and I don’t have time to work out…

Even so, I think it is awesome and amazing that Sports Illustrated is helping to highlight the fact that you don’t have to be a size zero to be beautiful. This air of acceptance of curves is a positive thing. And even if there are some who use this as a reason to be fat or unhealthy, let us not forget that there already IS a segment of our population who is unhealthy, overweight, and out of shape. Maybe? Some of those folks will feel more empowered and confident about doing something to impact their health if they feel less judged by their size, shape or physique right out of the gate. Maybe people who have a more positive self-image are more apt to do more positive things than someone who feels ugly.

And Cheryl may have a 35 inch waist (or smaller), but it does not make her beautiful.


***Edited on 1/6: As of 5:00 PM today, the blogging community has raised $2600 toward Eva’s Therapy Dog! Combined with Journey Beyond Survival’s personal family and friend contributions, we are now within $2000 of getting that dog. WILL YOU HELP US CONTINUE TO SPREAD THE WORD? ***

***Edited on 1/6 to add: As of 1:00 PM today, we’re ALMOST HALFWAY THERE! Since yesterday morning, you all have raised well over $2000, and that total is still climbing. Thank you for your generosity, interest, support and love! ***

Meet Evalyn. Some of you might know her by the name Chickadee.

Evalyn is 3, just like my Thing Two. She’s like most 3 year olds – bright and funny and boisterous and curious. She is potty training. Loves being read to. Has favorite shows she loves to watch. Goes to school.

But there is something about Evalyn that makes her unique. She has Rett Syndrome. This means a lot of things (which her ever so eloquent mother, the woman behind Journey Beyond Survival, could explain to you in glorious detail) but what it boils down to is this: she has a severe, progressive neurological disorder that causes a lack of muscle tone and a lack of head growth and eventually a (or a series of) developmental regressions.

And my friend Journey Beyond Survival? Well, she’s the mommy. So that means she loves her daughter fiercely, and it also means she carries the burdens of her daughter’s challenges not only withdetermination and perserverance, but also with sadness, worry, and guilt.

Like any mommy, Journey Beyond Survival is trying to do everything within her power to give her girl all the tools and opportunities she needs to thrive. Sometimes that means making the tough decisions, like she did recently when deciding it was time to go forward with the placing of a g-tube. Sometimes that means going to school with her for days in order to teach the teachers how to communicate with her. Sometimes it means asking your friends, your friends of friends, and even perfect strangers to help you.

See, Evalyn needs a Therapy Dog.

A Therapy Dog will help her with socialization. A dog can alert somebody if Evalyn asipirates, or if she has some kind of stress (it is difficult for her to vocalize when she is experiencing stress).  And? The whole family would love him.

Unfortunately, this is not as easy as picking out the most adorable mutt at the pound. Therapy Dogs are special; they require a certain disposition and a ton of training and also, they are very expensive. And not covered by insurance.

A Therapy Dog for Evalyn will cost them $6000.

Whoa, right?

Well, except that all $6000 means is asking 600 people to donate $10.

Ten Dollars.

So, JBS set up a page through and is asking us to do just that. And? So am I.

Look, I know we’re all broke and the economy is bad and we just got through Christmas. Times are tough for sure. But you know what else I know?

I know that people like to be helpful, but sometimes they just don’t know how, or they don’t feel like their efforts will make a difference. Coming up with $10 (or $5, or $11, or whatever) to give toward a Therapy Dog for Evalyn? Will make a difference.

I know how many unique hits I get every week on this blog. I know exactly what impact all of you could have on this goal. The question is will you?

Evalyn is one of those special people that, once you fall under her spell, she takes your breath away. She’s an old soul in this little body. She has an affect on everyone around her. She’s beautiful. Amazing. Determined. Astonishing. Real.

So, I’m asking. Will you give a few dollars to help fund Chickadee’s therapy dog? Will you?

You can follow the family’s story by reading her mom’s blog Journey Beyond Survival. You can keep up with her quest to bring home her doggy companion on Facebook here. And make your donation here.

Thank you, everybody. Thank. You.