What if you looked at your daughter and saw yourself? Not only the good parts but all of the negative self-talk you heaped upon yourself since you emerged from childhood. What would you do to stop your daughter from carrying the weight of that nonsense?Brittany Gibbons, blogger and author, answers that question in her memoir, Fat Girl Walking. Fat Girl Walking captures Brittany's life from her late teen years to the early years of her marriage and motherhood. She takes an honest look at anxiety, self-image, and how to embrace yourself--no matter what size--not just for your benefit but for the betterment of your daughters, sisters, and nieces, too.
Photo Credit: Andy Gibbons
Between your blog, your TED Talk, wearing a swimsuit in Times Square, you have had many avenues for making your voice heard. What lead you to writing a book? How did Fat Girl Walking come to life? What is your story as a writer?
Every blogger wants to write a book. It's basically our tagline. I truly didn't think that it was going to be in the cards for me, I was just too in love with the online platform. But, following some media attention from a piece I'd written about how I'd used having sex with my husband for a year as a journey of body love, I was approached by a publisher to write a memoir. After that phone call, the seed was re-planted.
You said in a Holiday Café interview that Fat Girl Walking "is literally the hardest but awesomest project, ever." What made it the hardest for you? What made it awesome?
I think I googled "how to write a book" at least 100 times. I was used to jamming a life's worth of thoughts into 1000 words. Writing a book forced me to be expansive, and address the parts of the story that were hard and uncomfortable. Fully reliving something instead of just flashing through the highlight reel was really emotional. But, as hard as it was, and as often as I walked out of my office with my eyes puffy and swollen shut, it was also amazing to see how changed I was from those experiences. Here I thought I was just lucky to make it out alive, when in truth, I am thriving and stronger than I'd given myself credit for.
How do you feel about the term body image advocate? What does that mean to you? What role do you see yourself playing in this conversation about body image in our society?
A few years ago, I would have proudly worn the badge "Body Image Advocate," but these days I consider myself more of a Women's Advocate. This whole movement to reinvent beauty and teach self-love and respect isn't exclusive to plus size women, it's a battle for all women.
What would you like to see happen for young girls growing up to empower them to turn off the negative self-talk?
What young women and girls need is a map for how to treat themselves, and each other. Right now, that isn't happening. All they learn is that in order to be successful and valued, it's at the expense of each other. There is room and value enough for all of us here, it's time we show them how to do achieve that.
What advice do you have for people that want to be passionate advocates for change? What would you tell them about writing and making their voices heard?
Being an advocate isn't about being the loudest when the cameras are rolling. It's doing the hard work when nobody is watching. It's fighting the fight when it feels like nobody cares. And it's counting every singular person that steps up beside you as a win. My advice would be to be consistent and relatable. You wouldn't think fighting for women of all sizes was an issue men would care about, but a week doesn't go by that I don't get emails from husbands, boyfriends and fathers. It matters to them because I made it matter to them.
How does writing for a blog differ from writing a book? What did you learn about yourself and your process as a writer?
Like I mentioned above, books are long. Who knew? The internet is full of hyper-moments. Making the biggest impression you can in the most digestible form of media. Writing a book was the chance to tell a full story, and that was something I'd never done before. Length aside, there is a huge difference in medium. Writing online comes with a healthy dose of instant gratification and discourse. I write something, it's ingested, and we talk about it, good or bad. It took me ten months to complete Fat Girl Walking, and I can barely contain my excitement for its publication. I just want someone- anyone- to talk to about it besides my mom.
Who do you want to play you in the movie of Fat Girl Walking?
I don't care, as long as it's not an actress in a fat suit. I would, however, nominate Aidy Bryant. She is hilarious and my current comedy girl crush.
You mention the important of finding clothes that fit you; how did you figure this out? What process do you use? I mean my god, how much time does it take?
This took forever. It was months of going shopping on a Tuesday afternoon, when I knew the stores would be empty, and the retail staff would typically be older and less shocked by a 30 year old woman crying in a dressing room stall. Because I didn't look like the typical model in a clothing ad, I had no guide for the shapes and cuts that looked great on my body. I tried on everything. With time, I was able to rule out pretty easily what wouldn't work, which cut down on the crying meltdowns by at least 50%.
Along with good clothes, you mention practicing camera angles; I long suspected some women from my high school took a secret class that enabled them to pose for pictures, but it never occurred to me to practice. What are some tips to shorten the learning curve?
Oh yes, learn those angles. Stand in front of a mirror and practice holding your head, shoulders and legs in a way that makes you feel attractive and confident. Practice this every day as you are getting dressed or brushing your teeth. Eventually, your body will remember what those poses feel like. Now, when I pose for a picture, my muscles know what to do and I'm pretty confident I'll like the way it comes out. This does not hold true for those candid shots taken of you eating chips and salsa in the background of a party. What kind of person posts those online and then tags you in them? They should have their Facebook accounts suspended.
What's next for you?
Fat Girl Walking comes out May 19th, and the next week I am hosting the first session of my annual adult summer camp, Camp Throwback. Beyond that, I'm really looking forward to a summer of traveling around and interacting with people who loved the book, and in the rare moments of free time, writing the next one.
You can find Brittany at her blog or on Twitter @brittanyherself.