You may remember watching Whitney Thore shake her thing nearly a year ago as A Fat Girl Dancing on YouTube. Her most popular video, showing her busting awesome moves to Jason Derulo's "Wiggle," racked up more than 200,000 views and challenged the stereotype that overweight people aren't active.
Her videos became so popular that the now 30-year-old Thore launched the #NoBodyShameCampaign, a movement that encourages self-love and acceptance no matter your size or gender. Now the Internet sensation is spreading her message on an even bigger platform—reality TV.
The video celebrity will be the star of TLC's new show My Big Fat Fabulous Life, premiering tonight at 10pm. It follows Thore's life in North Carolina and how she manages to stay positive about her shape.
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Though she now weighs 380 pounds, Thore wasn't always so heavy. In fact, she was a dancer in her youth and at one point weighed 120 pounds, People.com reports. Her struggle with weight gain started during her first year of college, when she put on 100 pounds. Over the next few years, she went on to gain another 100. Later, Thore was diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a hormonal disorder that affects an estimated 5 million women in the United States.
Women with PCOS produce higher than normal levels of androgens, or so-called 'male' hormones, which can bring on symptoms like acne, excessive facial hair, and weight gain. (PCOS can also lead to missed or irregular periods, difficulty getting pregnant, and the namesake ovarian cysts.)
Thore's initial 100-pound weight gain is probably on the higher side of what women with PCOS tend to gain, says Mary Rosser, MD, an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City. And for most women, gaining a lot of weight in a short amount of time is not as common. "Weight gain is usually gradual in these women," Dr. Rosser says.
Even Thore admits her weight gain wasn't due solely to PCOS. "Now I've gained 200 pounds so certainly I take personal responsibility. That's not all because of a medical condition," Thore told The Today Show last year. "But definitely I felt so ashamed once I started gaining weight that I was too embarrassed to even go to a doctor." If you think you've put on too much weight, it's important to take the time to get it checked out.
Unfortunately, learning to accept the body you're born with can be a problem for women no matter their size. Even during Thore's thinner days, she didn't feel good about her body, which led her to develop an eating disorder in her teens. Yesterday, on Today, she said, "I had body image issues forever. It's not something that's only for fat women. It affects all women."
Getting back to dancing with her YouTube videos was a way for Thore to prove she didn't have to be defined by her size. And though Thore embraces her body, she's also not naive enough to think that her size won't impact her health down the road—so don't be surprised if you find her working to drop a few pounds on the show.
On Today, Thore said she wants to try to lose 100 pounds. She added, "Wanting to lose some weight and also loving your body are not mutually exclusive. They can happen at the same time."
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"My whole self-worth is not dependent on whether I'm fat or not," Thore told Today. "I just want to be fit and healthy and happy."
Sounds like advice we'd all be smart to follow.