Gaining Weight to Prove a Point, Empowerment or Wrong Impression?

plus size yoga

Image source: Living Yoga Dallas and Huffington Post

The internet recently exploded with news of Trina Hall, a yoga instructor who gained 40 pounds in four months for an art project she called “The Fat Yoga Teacher.”
Despite Hall’s good-faith efforts — she had intended to “empower people to love their bodies” — plenty of people are finding flaws in Hall’s experiment.
For example, her explanation of how she gained weight, as told to the NY Daily News: she decided to eat anything she wanted, specifying “I ate a lot of Mexican food. Forty pounds just came as a result of that.” She also noted that her diet included a bar of chocolate every day, and described her diet as “bad.”
This type of disordered thinking is unhealthy for people of all sizes. As Health of Every Size practitioners note, repeatedly: food is neither good nor bad, it is simply food. Likewise, when someone like Trina Hall blithely tells the NY Daily News that she gained weight by eating piles of sour cream and daily chocolate bars, it implies that everyone else who is her size is indulging in the same practices.
The truth is — as we all know — that it isn’t as simple as that. Trina Hall claims she maintained her “before” weight by eating “healthy food,” but two different people can eat that same healthy diet and maintain two very different weights. Not everyone who is overweight got there by eating daily candy bars. Any individual’s weight is determined by a number of factors, including genetics, metabolism, age, health, medications, even digestive bacteria.
Nor is one woman’s “Fat Like Me” art project going to make a significant dent in body empowerment issues. Trina Hall is currently working to lose the weight, and if she does, the message will also be “it’s okay to love your bodies, but it’s also easy to lose 40 pounds just by eating right and exercising.” Personal trainer Drew Manning did a similar project in 2011, gaining 70 pounds in 6 months and then losing it in the next 6 months to prove it could be done. His resultant book, Fit2Fat2Fit, became a New York Times Bestseller. Instead of teaching body empowerment, he simply created another diet guide.
Do you know what truly creates body empowerment? Not creating weight-gain gimmicks or equating weight to “bad” food. It’s simple changes like companies that create flattering, supportive women’s plus size swimwear. Businesses that refuse to discriminate against large job candidates, even in “forward-facing” positions. Actors like Rebel Wilson and Melissa McCarthy, whose roles are not defined by their weight. Accepting people at every size creates health at every size.
What does this mean for people like Trina Hall? Yoga instructors who want to truly empower their students need to make sure the words “weight loss” never appear on their websites or class advertising materials. (Hall’s website,, thankfully makes no mention of weight loss as a yoga goal.) They need to create a safe space where it’s just as acceptable to wear baggy pants as it is to wear tight spandex, and where people of all sizes and flexibility are encouraged to push at the edges of their limits without feeling pressured to enter overly-demanding yoga positions. They don’t need to perform a weight-gain stunt to teach anyone about empowerment. Empowerment comes through action.
So — what do you think about “The Fat Yoga Teacher?” Did Trina Hall effectively communicate her intended message, or did she create a stunt that further reinforced stereotypes about what causes weight gain and what types of people are overweight? Are projects like “The Fat Yoga Teacher” assets to the Health at Every Size movement, or do these types of efforts get in the way?

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Comments (10)

  • be healthy! this experiment is silly.

    Angie Autio-Mowrer
  • I hate reading about these types of “exercises”. As the article said, it just further propels the point that those people who aren’t a size two are somehow lazy and inept at doing what the rest of the world thinks they’ve figured out. It makes it harder for people to learn to love their bodies when people like this feel they’re setting an example. As a woman who has struggled with her weight her entire life, my body is NOT a result of laziness and not eating “right”. Hormones, stress, and life get in the way. I wish these types of people who feel they need to make a point by loosing or gaining weight would focus instead on what it feels like to be the opposite of what they were before. Just the fact they they go back to their “before” state completely negates the purpose of these experiments. Obviously there was something they didn’t like about their bodies. If they really want to do these types of things, I wish they would learn to embrace the opposite of what they were, because truly that is what loving your body is all about.

  • I don’t think it’s empowering to change yourself to prove a point, whether it be losing or gaining. You are implying there’s something to prove, and isn’t empowerment embracing what already is, not what might be?
    I am at one of my heaviest weights ever, but on the other side I am more physically fit than I have ever been and I eat healthier. None of these things are connected, and continuing to throw out into the universe that just diet and exercise can change what genetics gave you at birth is just another form of oppression.

  • wrong impression

    Yolanda LaLa Edwards
  • Well If she is comfortable and healthy no problem. I applaude the courage it takes to do this and stand against prejuidice and discrimination. At the same time it may have been futile because ppl don’t change unless they want to but she did something.

    Dominique Gift
  • Gaining weight for the monetary profit in proving you can losing it is disgusting. Every body is different and healthy varies by individuals. My trainer at the gym told me I should lose another 30 pounds. When I asked my doctors about losing more weight she was appalled that I was being told to do so. The health and fitness field are not always on the same page.

  • She looks better with the 40 extra pounds.

  • There ARE such things as “good” and “bad” food, first of all. Fruits, veggies and pasta = “good.” McDonalds, fried foods, and junk food = “bad.” If it was simply “food” we could all just eat cake all day. That’s like trying to get your kid to eat his veggies and him or her saying “there’s no such thing as good or bad food.” Get real.
    Secondly, Rebel Wilson and Melissa McCarthy’s roles ARE defined by their weight. McCarthy plays fat and gross in every movie. Wilson plays awkward and the butt of jokes. Both come off as desperate, making fun of themselves before you can. Neither will be the next Julia Roberts.
    I am a fan of “curvy” women for sure (plus-size model curvy like vintage Monroe, big-booty whootys, or Joan from “MadMen,” not obese), and I even like the yoga instructor 40 pounds later! But these semantic dodges and leaps in logic to save big girls’ egos aren’t a good look. What’s sexy is working out and eating right to maintain your size or lose weight, not expecting the mainstream world to bend to you, or making excuses like “there’s no such thing as good or bad food.” That’s like if I as a man just quit looking for work and laid on the couch all day. Got a pot belly and just gave up. A man with no goals or ambition who expects the world to bend to him. You come home and he’s in the same spot as when you left. Sexy, huh?
    Love you ladies, and maintain your beauty! But I’ll call anyone out on pretzel logic or magical thinking.

    Nardo Garcia
  • First of all, I disagree with the “fat and proud” ideal — everyone has an opinion about what is fat or not, and just because someone expresses concern over your size does not make them a “fat-bigot” — there might be more to it than that.
    In this case, I too think the yoga instructor looks healthier and sexier in her plus-40-lb size. Fans of thinness will disagree, and criticise her for “unhealthy” choices. But don’t judge her because of the dietary choices she made to gain weight; some folks actually have trouble gaining weight, and they struggle with body issues because they feel too thin (or because they are trying to “bulk up” for athletic purposes.) I did not read her whole story, so I don’t know if this was just a stunt, social experiment, or if she was sincerely seeking a deeper understanding of how “the other half” lives, so I won’t express an opinion on her motivations.
    Let’s not deny that weight is an important factor to your health — too much, and you put excess strain on joints, heart and muscles; too little, you could be affecting your reproductive health, bone density and energy reserves.
    That said, everyone person should evaluate their weight against their total health. I mean, if you feel healthy and energetic enough for normal activities, your size does not (at least, should not) matter. If you are having any physical problems, you and your doctor need to evaluate what is causing the problem, and while weight IS an important factor, it is NOT ALWAYS the starting point — in fact, it might be a symptom of the problem (i.e. – if your knees hurt a lot, your weight might be the cause, or you might have gotten heavy because your knees hurt and you can’t exercise comfortably)

    Nobdy special
  • Nope … sorry . I do not like this anymore than I would someone losing 40 lbs to go from normal to emaciated! Why do this to your body? That is a LOT of weight in 4 months ! That is 140,000 extra calories in 4 months . that is not healthy! This is not like the skinny models that send years starving themselves and then star eating finally and regulate to a normal weight , this is asinine.

    Brie Stoll

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