When dancer and reality TV start Whitney Way Thore spoke to Meredith students on September 13 her message was clear: you are responsible for your own happiness and body confidence.
In the lecture, Thore shared her own circuitous journey, which led her to become an outspoken advocate against fat shaming and body shaming.
“When you value yourself, other people will have an easier time valuing you,” said Thore.
Thore taught a dance class in the afternoon to approximately 100 students, some of whom study dance at Meredith but also represented a range of majors from social work to history to family and consumer science. In the evening, she spoke to a full auditorium of students and other community members.
Her lecture was part inspiration, part information. She described her ongoing struggle with body image, which she observed is a problem for many women – and girls.
“Eighty percent of ten year olds are afraid of being fat,” said Thore.
Thore developed a long-term eating disorder. Struggles with her body image intensified when she developed Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), which led her to rapidly gain more than 100 pounds and become seriously depressed. After working out multiple times daily and following an extremely restrictive diet, she lost much of the weight, but was miserable.
“I needed an entire paradigm shift,” said Thore.
She decided to think about the things she wanted to do most, but avoided because of concerns about her weight.
A lifelong dancer, the first thing she allowed herself to do was dance. She posted a video of herself dancing online, which immediately went viral. She became a spokesperson for living an authentic life, featured on outlets including the Today show, CNN, and NPR. She was invited to collaborate on a reality show, My Big Fat Fabulous Life, and has just completed her first book, I Do It With the Lights On.
Following the lecture, students lined up outside Jones Auditorium to meet and have their photo taken with Thore. Among those waiting was Hannah Ridgeway, ’20.
“I thought she had a lot of really good things to say. She turned some very difficult circumstances into something positive,” said Ridgeway.
For those wanting to increase their body confidence, Thore offered some guidance:
“Think of your body as an instrument, not an ornament – it’s not here to be aesthetically pleasing for anyone.”
Sponsored by the Meredith College departments of Psychology and Social Work; Dance; Exercise, Health and Sports Science; Sociology and Criminology; and Public Health. Funding provided by the Kenan Foundation.