Is This A Body Positive Blog or Are You Just Selling Thin?

Kelly Coffey

Wherein I explain why I use my before-and-after photo to a body-positive / self-love activist who, understandably, wants to smack me in the face. (Strong Coffey is a body-positive blog, I assure you.)

Dear Coffey:

I’m a proud, fat, body-positivity advocate, and I’m having a really hard time deciding if I love you or hate you. On the one hand you talk about self-love and self-acceptance from what sounds like a really genuine place – your 5 Things I Miss About My 300-Pound Body piece was revolutionary. On the other hand, you attach your goddamn before and after picture to half of your blog posts and it makes me want to smack you. It also makes me question your motives. Is this a body-positive blog, or are you pushing thinness just like everybody else?

– Lisa in San Francisco

Me, During & During

Coffey, Before & During

Hey there, Lisa –

First, thank you. Thank you for writing and asking, instead of just writing me off. Thanks for putting yourself out there so we can either come closer together or disregard each other based on what’s true.

I’m not pushing thinness. I’ve learned over and over again that I am just as capable of being miserable thin as I ever was when I was fat. I have felt less connected to my thin body than I ever did to my fat body. And I’m not alone on this – after that piece went viral, I got hundreds of emails from other folks who’d lost massive amounts of weight who were still waiting to feel…fixed.

Of course, many would argue that thin and miserable is better than fat and miserable, and that may be true, but in the dark, when we’re deep in our pain, what size pants we’re wearing matters about as much as the pattern on the wallpaper.

Getting thin doesn’t make us happy in any lasting, substantive way. 1 Caring for ourselves consistently does, which begins with caring about (ugh, fine….yes…loving) our bodies, or being “Body-Positive.” That there’s finally a full-blown body-positive movement is a huge step in the right direction. Shifting the focus off of thinness-at-all-costs and onto start-from-a-place-of-love can only benefit those of us who’ve become diet-obsessed, weight-focused freaking lunatics under the old regime. 2 I only wish the messaging were more substantive than the body-positive memes that usually get shared around.


A strong suggestion that begs elaboration.

Repeating affirmations like “I love my body!” do not make it so. 3 Acting like we do is what makes it so. Love – the feeling – is born of loving action, specifically meeting the body’s most basic needs: providing safety, air, water, activity, ample sleep, and nourishing food.

For those of us who don’t know where to begin, being encouraged to “Love your body!” can make us feel even more insecure, self-critical, and defeated. 4

My mission is to help people – especially overweight women – figure out where to begin, and what loving actions might look like for them. I get off on giving people like me the tools to treat themselves with love even when it feels insincere or like a waste of time (and if you, the reader, don’t understand what I’m talking about, you’re reading the wrong body positive blog). My history – my weight, my self-harming reflexes – help make me a more effective, empathetic teacher than I ever could have been if I’d had a more vanilla past.  I’ve fought all the same battles. 5 I’ve crashed back and forth between ‘I-hate-my-body-so-I’m-joining-a-gym-and-going-on-a-strict-diet’ and ‘Screw-it-I’m-just-gonna-love-me-as-I-am-and-just-settle-into-my-defaults-and-wear-more-lipstick.’ Neither approach fuels love, or results in sustainable health and happiness.

When I attach my ‘Before & During’ pic to a piece of writing, it’s so the folks I’m most qualified to help can see that I’m speaking from experience. And because they see me honoring my former, larger body in posts like 5 Things I Miss, they’re less self-conscious and better-able to take take in the tools I offer. Without my before photo, it’d be easier to write me off as just another skinny blonde trainer with a potty mouth and a blog. 6 And though that’s certainly one way to describe me,  it ain’t the whole story.

Terrific! How'd you get there?

Terrific! How’d you get there?

Thinness is great if that’s where we end up when we take loving care of our bodies. Same goes for fatness, and every size in-between. If the people who stand to benefit most don’t know what it means to “Love your body!”, then it’s up to folks like us – the ones who know what it means and why it’s important – to spell it out. Until and unless we get explicit about what it means to love our bodies, being told to “Love your body!” may continue to be as unhelpful – and maybe even as shame-inspiring – as “Eat less and exercise more!” 7

Thanks for writing. Please keep reading. And if it won’t sully your reputation too badly, do please pass me around.


  1. Nor does thinness necessarily mean we’re healthy, but that’s another post for another day.
  2. I say that with all the love in my heart.
  3. And if just saying it makes it so, we probably didn’t have that much of a problem with our bodies to being with.
  4. We’re talking strong, healthy mother/baby-type love here folks, not something out of a Taylor Swift song.     Aside: Taylor, I love that new one about the gal who’s all like I’m a nightmare dressed as a daydream and imma cut you. That’s quality stuff. Let’s be friends.
  5. In my own head and on the playground.
  6. I dunno if you noticed, but I’m not the only one. It’s almost like we get preferential treatment or something. Weird.
  7. For some. Not all. The only thing all people have in common is that they’d have an easier time taking good care of themselves if they took my course. BAM.
Showing 11 comments
  • Kay Anderson

    Coffey, I heart the hell out of you. You are helping me learn to be body positive in a new way. The old, militant feminist me was jutting her chin out at the world, daring anyone to question my body image so I could tell them to fuck off. I had to empower myself as a fat woman first, and that’s okay- but it didn’t make me happy. Now, I’m discovering a softer side. A caring side that really does want to feel healthier. Following your suggestions, I’ve identified most of the foods that make me crazy. And I’ve chosen to eliminate them to make friends with my body. I have lost about 25 pounds in the last 6 months, and I honestly don’t give a rat’s ass about the weight. It’s simply the added benefit of less stress on my knees. Actually, I’m kind of pissed that I need new clothes. Whatever. Keep doing what you’re doing. Thanks for providing the space for this woman to redefine what body positive means to me.

  • Michelle

    I read you 5 Things I Miss post several months ago, liked it, and made a mental note to continue checking in on you. As a memeber of the Body Positive chorus, I was on the fence after reading it. You sounded honest and frank, and I like that. However….I felt like maybe, just maybe, it was all an elaborate hoax to lure my fat ass in. That said, I have come to a new place in my journey of self love. This post here, resonates with that. Self acceptance is great and very important. Self LOVE and CARE go beyond that. I used to think they meant letting myself induldge in my hedonistic tendencies without guilt…maybe sometimes it does. Today, I feel that providing nourishment and giving my body challenges is truly self love. At least for me. Hey, life is a journey, and today this is the road I am on. I guess what I am trying to say is this: I think you are wonderful and I am so happy to have the opportunity to follow along on your road, too.

    • Kelly Coffey

      Michelle, if you had left your phone number I would be calling you right now and making kissy noises over the phone. You’re it. You’re me. Well, you’re obviously not ME, but I am doing what I’m doing-waking up in the morning, turning on my computer, typiinguntil my forearms cramp up, learning how to use all this freaking software, putting myself out there, and struggling to keep it all in balance so people like me – like us – can get the kind of support I don’t see happening in just the ways I would need it to happen in order for it to be useful anywhere else. I’m doing what I’ doing so women who are at that place of self-acceptance have a hand to grab to come to the next step, which I see as being love-in-action, not just in words. I’m so glad you found me once, and so glad you found me again in this post. Thank you for taking the time to write.
      Meanwhile, I notice my blog’s not listed in your faves on your website – any chance of that changing, or do you want to keep me in the closet? 🙂

      • Michelle

        Consider it done! Thank you so much for this beautiful reply, too.

        • Kelly Coffey


  • Cathy

    One thing we should be careful about is not being angry at or antagonistic towards thin people or people who worked their butts off to get either thin or thinner.
    This can be a body positive blog without the blog owner feeling a need to hide in the closet or shield the fact that she lost weight and chooses not to put it back on. On the other hand, anyone who wants to remain obese or over weight also has that right. And no one should make them feel bad about their choice—or expect them to hide in a closet.
    I just think it’s totally unfair for a person who chooses not to lose weight to show belligerence towards others who DO want to be thin and to expect them not to post before/after pictures, etc.
    My soap box…..

    • Kelly Coffey

      Hey, Cathy. Thanks for weighing in. Ha! I crack me up…
      But, yes, you’re right. People on either side of the fence (to lose or not to lose, to feel badly about that choice or not) are quite naturally driven to make themselves feel better about wherever they’ve chosen to stand by trying to put down whoever’s on the other side. A very normal and unfortunate tendency that I’m not immune to, but strive to be. Hopefully we all do.

  • Stephanie

    Today is the second day I have logged on and opened your e-mail and so far Im blown away. I love your sense of humor and that you are coming from a place of experience and you seem so honest. Thank God some one in the world still is. See I had gastric sleeve surgery just on Jan 22nd and it was just another step in learning to love myself and admitting I had a problem. You see I know Im an emotional eater and no surgery was gonna fix that and even if I do lose tons of weight -I know myself and a surgery will not fix my low self esteem either. Over the last few years health has actually started to matter to me. A lifetime is not long enough with my husband and children and I have been searching far and wide for ways to help me fix my brain and set a better example to my loved ones-and you ma’am may be just the tool I needed. Looking forward to a new “friendship” with you and incorporating your words of wisdom into my life.

    • Kelly Coffey

      I’m glad you found me, however you did. 🙂

  • Rachel

    I only said to my hub a few weeks back ‘I keep hearing ‘professionals’ say ‘love your body’ and the like and yet nobody shows you how. When you fall in love, you don’t decide to, it happens without choice.
    I am hoping you will answer some of my questions.
    I just signed up to another program and I will see it through, although I am a little frustrated that you popped up AFTER I had signed!
    I will see you soon, I guess.

    • Kelly Coffey

      RACHEL! Don’t hesitate, Love. Get in here. 🙂

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