Fashion and lifestyle blogger Maui Bigelow. AP
Fashion and lifestyle blogger Maui Bigelow has always been curvy and built a social media presence by embracing every pound.
Until the worst happened. At nearly 380 pounds, her health took a dive. She was diagnosed with a blood cancer and multiple uterine fibroids that couldn't be treated due to her weight. That's when she decided to have bariatric surgery, a weight loss procedure.
"For months I talked to my counselor about how I would share my truth with you," Bigelow told her followers at Phatgirlfresh.com after the weight loss surgery last year. "I was concerned about how you would receive it. I feared the plus-size and body positive communities wouldn't understand or respect my choice."
"The people who are having weight loss surgery in our community, they have the surgery, they go about their business and they shut up, for the most part. But it's important to share. There are women who are struggling with health issues who need this surgery.
Bigelow, a former teacher in Albany, Georgia, with 67,500 monthly unique visitors to her site and nearly 40,000 followers on Instagram, was pleased her fans were resoundingly positive. That's not a small thing in her corner of the internet.
Fat-acceptance and body positive influencers like Bigelow are on the rise on social media and as fashion models as they fight back against the damaging pressures of idealized beauty peddled online and off. But what happens when, as in Bigelow's case, weight poses a serious health risk, or they decide to shed pounds for other reasons, turning their careers and social channels from fat acceptance to smaller sizes, dieting and fitness?
"The people who are having weight loss surgery in our community, they have the surgery, they go about their business and they shut up, for the most part. But it's important to share. There are women who are struggling with health issues who need this surgery," Bigelow said in an interview.
She's down to 240 pounds, but she's struggling to fully accept her future of fewer pounds, both personally and professionally.
It's the messaging, she said in an interview, especially when dieting or weight loss surgery transforms the online mission through photos and new collaborations focused on health and weight-loss products.
"Diet culture," she says, has been "basically imposed on us, mostly women. By the same token, I also believe that people should do what's best for their bodies."
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