Proud2Bme | Lose Hate, Not Weight: An Interview with Virgie Tovar

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Lose Hate, Not Weight: An Interview with Virgie Tovar

By Catherine Weingarten--I recently connected with awesome body-positive activist, Virgie Tovar, to get more insight into how she got started with her activist journey. 

Virgie is known for editing the book Hot & Heavy: Fierce Fat Girls on Life, Love, and Fashion, as well as being a rad blogger and speaker at college campuses around issues of sexuality, body positive and anti-diet culture. To quote SF Gate, "In addition to her well-honed sense of style, Tovar has an uncanny ability to turn the most complex and taboo issue into a preternaturally eloquent one-liner and a robust, infectious laugh.”

Read the article below to find out the real secret to a beach body (it’s not what you think!), Virgie’s favorite dessert, and how Virgie got to be so fabulous!

Catherine Weingarten: So Virgie, tell us a little bit about yourself and your activist work.

Virgie Tovar: Professionally, I am a body image expert, lecturer and author as well as an independent scholar in a new discipline called Fat Studies. Personally, I am a fashionista, an activist, a lover of fine French and Italian pastries, a world traveler, a potty mouth, a San Francisco bohemian who loves pedicures, cheetah print, and Chihuahuas and couldn’t live without mimosas and huge sunglasses. I am also a fat woman who chose to stop dieting because I wanted to start living my life rather than continue dreaming about it.

My goal is to eradicate diet culture because I'm done watching people give their lives away one bite at a time. Many people realize too late that no amount of weight loss or body-alterations actually free us from that "I'm never good enough" mentality. It is not the loss of weight or changing our bodies that ends that mentality. It's the eradication of the mentality itself. 

My message is summed up by my hashtag: #LoseHateNotWeight. 

CW: What specifically got you interested in fat discrimination and body positivity?

VT: For a long, long time I wanted to lose weight more than I wanted ANYTHING else and I believed that life would begin later. I would wear a bikini later. I would be happy later. I would fall in love, wear cute clothes, feel beautiful, wear red lipstick, travel, enjoy cake, smile in pictures…later. I would love myself later. I lived a very long time with the belief that my body was my enemy and my greatest failure.

Dieting was a central part of my life. It took up almost all of my mental energy. I truly believed that being thin was really the most important thing I could ever achieve. I believed that once I became thin I would see the world in a different way, that everything would make sense, and that I would literally be perfect. I lost a lot of time (and a lot of delicious meals!) to diet culture, and I’ve worked with hundreds of people whose lives have been hijacked by diet culture and fat hatred.

Body positivity, to me, is really about freedom. We're still talking about a person's right to choose, and assert body autonomy in a culture that doesn't want us to. I’m fixin’ to change that.

CW: Which activists and pop culture figures do you look up to?

VT: Miss Piggy, Honey Boo Boo, and Melissa Harris Perry.

CW: I know that as an activist you do a lot of speaking engagements at colleges, what has that experience been like for you?  How does your degree in human sexuality inform your activism and body positivity ideology?

VT: I LOVE speaking at colleges! I mostly work with undergrads and they are at such a super important point in their lives – they are forming their own political ideology, often for the first time independently. They’re excited to hear new ideas and decide if they resonate with their life experience. I talk a lot about the origins and impacts of diet culture and how sinister that history and reality really are.

People get it. I feel like I’m often giving language to a feeling that people are already experiencing, and it’s so liberating to be able to articulate what’s happening in their own lives. Without language, there are no politics, there is no movement. Language is the biggest tool of change because without it, a lot of the unjust parts of our lives simply remain undigested feelings. 

CW: Do you find that college aged women are open to your awesome ideas about body positivity?

VT: They’re so open! A lot of college aged women already sense that something “just isn’t right here” when it comes to the expectations they face as women in this culture. Body positivity just clicks because at its center, it’s about freedom and the right to choose.

CW: I’m sure being such an open activist can sometimes make you a target for internet bullying and fat shaming, how have you coped with that?  Has it got you down? 

VT: To me, fat shamers are in the same category as people who say things like “Women can’t do math because uteruses” or like people who still believe in phrenology. It’s that simple. You’re dumb. I’m not. The end.

Fat shaming is something I have come to see as an expression of bigotry. So, I’m not real invested in someone I think of as a bigot just doing his/her bigot thing online.

CW: We are in the midst of bathing suit seasonnnn! Do you have any advice for teen girls freaking out about how they shall look on da beach?

VT: I’m a firm believer in the rule: all you need to have a beach body are 1. A beach and 2. A body. Also, and this is SUPER important: your life is about making YOU happy. It’s not your job to look pretty or sexy or cute for anyone else. No one is PAYING you to do that job. So if you want to go to the beach, go to the damn beach. If you want to wear a two-piece at the beach, wear a two-piece. No one who actually matters cares about your stretch marks or your fat rolls. Trust me.

CW: What is your favorite dessert?

VT: Oh. Wow. That’s a toughie. It’s a super close tie between this passion fruit panna cotta at this bakery in Palo Alto and peanut butter pie (or really anything with massive amounts of peanut butter in it). I have this mild allergy to peanuts. I get a pretty intense breakout of white heads on the weirdest parts of my body whenever I eat more than a tablespoon of peanut butter. So, there’s like this forbidden fruit aspect to peanut butter that I kind of love, too.

CW: Do you have advice for aspiring activists?

VT:

  1. Be irreverent.
  2. Take risks.
  3. Trust your gut.
  4. Take it there (wherever there is for you – your ultimate truth).
  5. Do the kind of activism that NOURISHES you, not drains you. Don’t get caught up in some activist hierarchy – getting arrested while chaining yourself to a building is cool if that’s you, but if you’re more of a blogger or a knitter or a fashionista then channel your politics through those things you love.

CW: What makes you proud to be you?

VT: My drive to be historic levels of fabulous, my ability to make anything into a crop top, how easy it is to make me laugh, my ability to find and maintain friendships that never cease to inspire and amaze me, how grounded I am in my desires, my epic fatkini collection, my anti-assimilationist politics, and how I’m becoming less and less afraid of my power.

About this blogger: Catherine is an MFA student in playwriting at Ohio University. She was a previous NEDA helpline volunteer and is also the playwright in residence for Realize Your Beauty, an AWESOME org which uses theater arts to promote body positive for kids. Her fave dessert is high class coconut cake. She has written lots of trashy short plays with equally trashy titles like “Hot Santa” or “You Looked Hot when You Stole that Dress from Walmart.”

Also by Catherine:

Fat Ladies in Spaaaaace

Paper Cuts: EDs on Screen

Stepping Off the Treadmill: How I Discovered What Health Exercise Really Feels Like

Victory! Fat Is Not A Feeling! 

Image courtesy of http://www.virgietovar.com/

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