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.

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