The untold truth of Whitney Way Thore

If you've watched My Big Fat Fabulous Life, then you know how awesome Whitney Way Thore, the show's star, is. Even if you haven't caught an episode of the TLC series, you're likely familiar with the body positive activist, who is also the author of a book called I Do It with the Lights On: And 10 More Discoveries on the Road to a Blissfully Shame-Free Life. On her show, Thore proves to audiences that anyone, regardless of their size, can be beautiful, totally shattering the myth that you have to be thin to be attractive. Her positivity and fearless attitude have made her a role model.

Thore first found fame in 2014, when she released a series of YouTube videos of herself dancing, all labeled "A Fat Girl Dancing." Her smooth dance moves garnered her a bevy of followers and millions of views and transformed her into a bona fide celebrity. Let's get to know more about this inspiring reality star.

Reclaiming the word 'fat'

There are those who see the word "fat" as an insult, but Whitney Way Thore isn't one of them. In spite of the word's often negative connotation, Thore is reclaiming it as an adjective that doesn't come with built-in judgement. "All of my therapy and recovery, and attempting to become a healthier person is trying to get away from the idea that fat women are inherently bad, and that the word 'fat' had to encompass negative adjectives, like 'fat and lazy,' 'fat and ugly,'" she told Proud2BMe. "I finally realized that I don't believe that anymore. For me, to reclaim the word fat as an adjective is really powerful."

Thore said that the negativity associated with the word is something society needs to move past. "I want to keep using this word, so it becomes more normalized," she said. "The thing is, we do not believe that fat women can be happy, and we can be."

Moving to Korea was a turning point for her

After college, Thore taught English in Korea, where she experienced a lot of discrimination because of her weight. "I got spit on," she told The TV Page. "I got assaulted, cursed at, oinked at and called a pig."

The harassment spurred Thore to lose weight when she moved back home, but it actually made things worse as she pushed herself too hard. When, after a long workout, someone driving by called her a "fata**," Thore realized that she was trying to make other people happy, not herself. "I realized that at that weight, my body could do what it wanted, and I actually liked the way my body looked," she shared with Proud2BMe. "I was just obsessed with the idea of other people calling me fat."

From then on, Thore focused on being comfortable in her own skin, instead of "making sure my body didn't offend other people."

Her show isn't just for people struggling with their body image

Thore's personal journey might involve her weight and her path to body acceptance, but her show isn't just geared towards those who are going through similar experiences with their bodies. Thore told Proud2BMe that her show "spreads a broader message about being different," which is why so many people find it relatable.

While My Big Fat Fabulous Life has marked a TV milestone because it has helped provide plus-sized women with more media representation, it's really for everyone, and Thore regularly hears from viewers who have been inspired by the series' message. "I hear from just as many women who have eating disorders as obese women," she said. "I hear from people with chronic illnesses, disabilities, people who are gay. The overriding issue of being different in a society that doesn't like that is what connects to people. Even if they aren't fat, they understand how I feel and the struggles I have had."

She wants more people to talk about PCOS

Whitney Way Thore's weight gain was largely caused by polycystic ovarian syndrome, also known as PCOS. Her condition had affected her since her teens, causing her to gain weight, lose clumps of hair, and rarely get her period. Thore wasn't diagnosed with PCOS until after college, having never even heard of the hormonal disorder until then. "Now, talking to other women with PCOS, that seems to be a common theme, and it's kind of shocking that so few of us have any idea it exists when it affects about one in every 10 women," she told Redbook.

Many viewers of My Big Fat Fabulous Life have learned about PCOS through the show which has caused them to seek treatment from their own doctors, and Thore is happy to see knowledge of PCOS grow. "There is so much more awareness and calls to action around breast cancer and other women's issues," she said. "PCOS isn't 'sexy' enough for people to care."

Her parents are her marriage inspiration

While Thore isn't married yet, she has high hopes for to be wed in the future, and she doesn't have to look any further than her own family to find the perfect recipe for a happy marriage. Thore is close to her mom and dad, who have been married for 30 years, and she sees their relationship as an inspiration. 

Like any couple, the Thores have had their ups and downs, but they've powered through it all. Their strong marriage set an example for their daughter who hopes to one day follow in their footsteps. "I remember the struggle that they went through," she told Cosmopolitan. "I remember her sleeping on the couch. I remember my parents' marriage not feeling as light and fun, but they made it through those times, and they're still so much in love."

Thore is determined to have a relationship as supportive and sturdy as theirs and refuses to accept anything less. "I'm not going to settle," she said.

Feminism is near and dear to her heart

It probably isn't too surprising that someone with such a take-charge attitude is also a die-hard feminist. Thore is all about girl power, and she uses her platform to advocate not just for women, but also for the importance of feminism for people regardless of gender. "Feminism is absolutely important all over the world in different ways," she told Rock Cellar. "In the West we forget all the places where women don't have basic human rights. Men and women benefit both from ridding our culture of toxic masculinity! (And in a world where feminism is taken seriously and embraced I think women would have more rights and fewer unsolicited pics, for sure)."

She's also adamant about finding a partner who shares her values. "I need a man who is an unapologetic feminist," she told Cosmopolitan. "If he's not, it's just not going to work."

She doesn't watch episodes of her show early

Like the rest of us, Whitney Way Thore doesn't view episodes of My Big Fat Fabulous Life until they air on TV, so she isn't always sure of what to expect with each episode. "It's definitely nerve-wracking," she told Rock Cellar. Since the show condenses about a thousand hours of footage into a handful of one-hour episodes, Thore never knows which scenes will make the cut. "I am constantly surprised at things I don't remember, so that's fun too!" she said.

She might be putting a lot of her life on TV, but that doesn't mean she's totally at ease with it. "I think everything that really shows my body a lot or makes me feel vulnerable is a little bit uncomfortable, like when I was plucking my beard," she told Cosmopolitan. "I can talk about being fat all day long, but my beard makes me more uncomfortable than anything, so that sort of thing made me feel vulnerable."

This is the worst part about being famous

Being famous isn't all glitz and glamour, and being famous for putting your life on television has its own unique challenges. "It's definitely difficult," Thore told Rock Cellar. "I feel pressure to always say and do the right thing — which of course I don't. It's easy to say the right thing in an interview, but not when cameras are following you around all day!"

Thore also feels the pressure to represent others. "I … can't possibly represent all fat women (or all women at all), all PCOS patients, all feminists, all fat people, etc, but people tend to want me to [be] able to," she said. Thore also struggles with the lack of privacy, but that's not the worst thing she has found with fame. "The hardest part is definitely dealing [with] the judgement of people who have seen ten hours of your life in a season and think they know everything about you!" she said.

She once got into an on-air shouting match

Thore won't stand for body-shaming, and she has even gone out of her way to shut it down. In 2016, she was at her job at a radio station when a guest, comedian Kerryn Feehan, made some unkind statements. Thore heard what she was saying and immediately burst into the studio to say her piece. When Feehan was asked if she felt sorry for overweight people, she responded, as reported by People, "I feel affected by them, I feel affected by their moods. I feel affected by the way they treat me."

Thore asked her if she was treated unkindly by fat people, and Feehan responded, "Yeah, they're moody and they're cranky! They're mean!"

While Feehan later said that she wasn't trying to offend anyone and was merely expressing her opinion, Thore saw it differently. "It's attitudes like this — the aggressive fat-shaming cloaked in concern that all too often convinces fat people that we are worthless and it's a narrative I will not buy into," she told People.

Stand-up comedy might be in her future

Thore isn't afraid to laugh at herself, and her sense of humor is one of the things that makes her so endearing to her fans. Could stand-up comedy be in her future? "I haven't done it yet, but I have thought about it," she told The TV Page. "I have plenty of funny dating stories which you can also see in the show, but my love life is a riot. And by that I mean if I don't laugh, I will cry."

One funny dating story that might find its way into a future stand-up set is the tale of a Korean man who approached her in a Burger King and asked her out. According to Thore, his English vocabulary was limited. "He would like to flatter me and give me compliments … so he would go into the thesaurus and say things like 'I love you, my elliptical baby,'" said Thore. It turned out that her boyfriend was looking to avoid saying the word "fat."

She opened up about having an eating disorder

The star has long struggled with her body image, even before her weight gain. "I had an eating disorder that started in middle school that I'm not sure I still don't have," she told Yahoo! Lifestyle. "I always had a hard time with my body and always felt fat, even when I was 120, 130 pounds — which is what I weighed until my freshman year of college, when I gained 100 pounds."

Thore wrote on Instagram that she used to restrict herself to a few hundred calories per day and would regularly purge her meals. As an adult, her eating disorder resurfaced when she pushed herself to lose 100 pounds. People thought she was healthy, but she was anything but. "You would never assume that someone who was technically 'overweight' would have an eating disorder but I certainly did," she told Proud2BMe. Fortunately, Thore's eating habits are far healthier these days.

It's all about having a healthy body

Whitney Way Thore's focus is not on being thin, but on being healthy. She gets a lot of judgement for her weight, especially from those who think her weight is unhealthy, but she stays in good health. "I have never had high blood pressure or any medical problems," she told The TV Page. "I like to say that I am pretty healthy and by the numbers I am healthier than a lot of thin people I know."

She acknowledged that she does "need to get some weight off" to be in peak physical condition, but said that she "will probably always be classified as morbidly obese," and she's totally okay with this. To Thore, it's all about feeling good about herself and being healthy. She has absolutely no desire to be skinny, and wouldn't consider having surgery to lose weight. "I would rather achieve health and fitness through dance," she said.