I’ve been called a lot of things over the years as a regular on ABC’s Good Morning America, but fat shamer is a new one.
It felt odd to be called that, seeing as I spent most of my life as a very fat girl, always battling my weight without any success.
Yet that’s what happened Tuesday after I did a segment on GMA with anchor Robin Roberts to promote the publication of my new book, Shift for Good.
To show viewers that they have the power to change, at my request we aired a photo of me on GMA before I lost more than 80 pounds.
When I saw the old photo—my puffy face, double (or triple chin) and tent-like top that was too tight in spots, I spontaneously blurted out, “Oh my gosh, how did you allow me on television? Seriously!”
“Oh come on, Tory,” Robin graciously replied. “We never saw that. We only saw your beauty and compassion. This [losing weight] was something you wanted to do.”
Within minutes after the segment aired, I received hundreds of emails, tweets and posts congratulating me on Shift for Good.
But it was the dozens of comments from women calling me a “fat shamer” that caught my attention the most. Had I suddenly become akin to an ex-smoker, someone who looks at people who still puff away with disgust, now that I’d lost weight?
“Tell me I didn’t hear Tory ask Robin, ‘How did you allow me to be on TV’ after her before weight loss pic was shown?” asked a woman named Sarah.
“I agree, why did Tory say that?” another writer responded. “It was hurtful to hear her say she wasn’t worthy to be on TV because of her weight!”
“I never thought I’d hear Tory fat shaming,” a third woman posted.
I’m not a fat shamer. Never have been. Never will be.
I personally know the pain that overweight women feel, the condescending glares we get on the street and in restaurants – pretty much everywhere – the looks that say: why can’t you just control yourself?
So why did I say what I did to Robin? For starters, I looked at that photo and saw a girl who was miserable and uncomfortable in her own skin. I had flashbacks to hating how I looked and feeling incapable of changing. That photo reminded me of an insecure person whose eating was out-of-control.
As I write in Shift for Good, while other young teenage girls went to swim parties in my native Miami Beach, I stayed home, horrified at the thought that anyone would see me in a swimsuit, let alone ever catch a glimpse of my bare thunder thighs.
When I married at age 22, I wore a blue suit because I knew if I wore a white wedding dress I’d look like a giant marshmallow or a female Michelin Man. For years after my wedding – nearly two decades – I found excuses why Peter and I couldn’t attend black tie affairs or informal parties – all because I was terrified of the how could you let yourself go stares from the fit women in their sleeveless dresses.
Trust me, if anyone has suffered the scorching heat of fat shaming, I have.
I’m very grateful that my bosses at ABC News never judged me. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t judge myself. All of us have to be comfortable in how we see ourselves. I can’t apologize for seeing my old self in a negative light, as I was trapped in a body I desperately wanted to change.
When I told my daughter Emma about some of the negative email I received, her response was simple: “Mark them spam, Mom.”
I don’t view the women who took issue with what I said as haters. I understand how they could come away from my comment feeling the way they did. It’s a sensitive subject that’s highly charged. But don’t ever mistake me for a fat shamer.
I was judging myself, not others. I believe strongly that each of us has the right to decide how we look and feel our best—and the rest of us should respect that.