The amazing weight loss story that the fitness industry wouldn't publish.

Update: Good news!

In response to the outrage and media coverage that followed Brooke Birmingham’s post about the weight loss photo Shape magazine refused to publish, the magazine has announced it will publish the controversial bikini photo after all.

Shape editor Bahar Takhtehchian announced on the Today Show in the US that the magazine would use Brooke’s story along with bikini photo, and that it wanted to use the incident as a way of sparking a deeper conversation around body image.

“We want to start a larger discussion about what happens after you lose a significant amount of weight,” Takhtehchian, who appeared with Brooke on the show, told host Savannah Guthrie at the weekend.

“(T)ruly, there is a journey after the weight-loss journey, and those are the questions and the issues that we want to talk to Brooke and the other ladies about.”

Previously, Mamamia wrote:

After losing more that half her body weight, you would have thought that Brooke Birmingham was the perfect candidate to grace the cover of a health and fitness magazine. Her story is exactly the sort of message they’re trying to send to their readers every single day. That being healthy, slim, perky and fit is totally achievable, no matter how unhealthy you are.

But after being approached to feature in US magazine Shape’s “Success Stories” section and sending in this candid photo of herself in a bikini top, Brooke was told by the magazine’s editor that she wouldn’t feature in the magazine unless she sent in a pic that covered her belly.

Here’s the photo Brooke originally sent in:

Brooke’s bikini photo, also from her blog.

Yeah… A little too honest for the glossy, aspirational, photoshopped perfection of a fitness magazine. The photo of Brooke is gorgeous and an authentic, truthful representation of how a woman looks when she loses half her body weight. It also shows that Brooke it now fit, healthy and primed to live a long (and healthy!) life. She just has some excess skin left behind, because, um, that’s what happens when you lose a lot of weight.

Understandably, Brooke was furious at the magazine’s reaction.

And she was having none of it. She responded with an email to Shape, asking for an explanation. Shape replied shortly afterwards, telling Brooke that it was simply “editorial policy” to have all photos fully clothed. Upon hearing that, (and feeling pretty skeptical) Brooke declined to be part of the story at all.

Brooke then wrote a blog featuring screenshots of all the emails. She also wrote an extensive explanation relating to her backing out of the Success Story:

Brooke’s before and after photos, from her blog.

If anything, the should want my picture on their site. My body is real, not photoshopped or hidden because I feel like I should be ashamed. This is a body after losing 172 pounds, a body that has done amazing things, and looks AMAZING in a freaking bikini.This is the type of body they should have featured because it can give people hope. Hope that they can lose weight healthfully and even if they don’t end up with airbrushed abs of steel, they’re gorgeous and shouldn’t be ashamed of whatever imperfection they believe they have.

Brooke adds that she spent many years hating her body, and didn’t want to feel as though she should continue hating it:


Being asked to send a photo of myself with a shirt on made me feel like I again should be ashamed of my body. That since I have the loose skin, I shouldn’t be in a bikini.

I wasn’t willing to do that though. I’ve always been real and honest with you guys around here. That’s what I do.

If I couldn’t have the picture of me in my bikini to go along with my story, then it wasn’t MY story. The story I wanted to tell and shout out to the world, not their ideal story. So, if I couldn’t tell it my way, then they weren’t going to be able to tell it at all.

I, for one, would just like to stand up and say to Brooke: BRA-FREAKING-VO.

Bravo for being 1000% open and honest with your weight loss journey. Bravo for sticking with your beliefs, even when you’re being pressured to do otherwise. Bravo for showing other women the TRUTH about weight loss.

It’s so incredibly rare that we see something real in the health and fitness industry. Instead, we’re surrounded by constant images of perfection. Endless Photoshopped photos of thin and muscular women with six-packs and toned arms, wearing teeny-tiny crop tops and tight yoga pants, doing yoga on the beach and loving green smoothies.

You don’t have to look like these Victoria’s Secret models to be fit and healthy. (Image via fitandtoned2013 on Instagram)

We look at these photos and we are sad, because even though we work out and we take care of our health, we will never look like these perfect women.

We will never be that toned or that thin and we will certainly never be able to do a crazy yoga pose like that while also balancing on a paddleboard.

But we need to realise: that’s not necessarily what health and fitness looks like.

Health and fitness looks like so many of the women who surround me as I work out at the gym, at boot camp, at barre class, in the swimming pool, on the beach or in the park.

Health and fitness looks like my Xtend Barre instructor. A short, curvy woman with thighs and a tummy, who is also the most flexible person on the planet. She has killer core muscles and can hold a plank for five minutes (to put this in context, I can plank for about 15 seconds before collapsing on the floor).

Health and fitness looks like the woman who runs Body Pump at my gym. A stocky woman who would weigh about 80kg and is stronger than approximately 95% of the other people in the gym at any given time.

Health and fitness looks like Brooke Birmingham. A woman who, despite being rejected by a magazine, looks incredible after putting so much into looking after herself. Who knows not to hate the little bit of extra skin about her mid section.

So… the real truth about health and fitness?

It looks incredible in a bikini, no matter what size or shape it might come in.

And Shape magazine would do well to remember that – for the sake of all its readers.

What do you think about Brooke’s reaction to Shape magazine telling her to put a shirt on?


Here’s an amazing gallery filled with Mamamia readers showing us the awesome things their bodies can do:

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