By NATALIA HAWK
This is Trina Hall. She’s a yoga teacher.
And in March this year, she decided to start a body-image-self-awareness campaign by deliberately gaining weight to become “The Fat Yoga Teacher”. (A name, for the record, that she gave herself.)
The photo above shows Trina at her usual weight.
Below is a picture of Trina after she deliberately gained 40 pounds (that’s 18 kg) over a period of four months.
Trina is 34 years old and she started on her gaining-weight mission after talking to a friend who suffered from an eating disorder. One of the driving forces behind her friend’s anxiety about her own weight was that she (also a yoga teacher) didn’t want to be known as the “fat one”.
This statement set off alarm bells in Trina’s head.
So she set out to prove that size doesn’t matter. On her blog, Trina explained that she wanted to “slay the notion that people who do yoga need to look like the beauties on the cover of magazines.”
Trina began eating whatever she wanted, whenever she wanted. She gave up on her healthy, regular, moderate eating and started eating a whole lot of Mexican food.
And while her aim – of showing that you can be proud and confident in your body at any size – was a worthy one, the results of her experiment didn’t quite end up sending that message. Because, instead of growing to love her new (still healthy-sized) body, Trina became plagued by insecurities.
She began wearing loose-fitting dresses and wraps instead of her usual tight yoga clothing. She started criticising herself more than usual. Her self-esteem eroded. And she wrote about it on her blog:
I noticed the self-talk was that my beauty is only on the surface. I feared no man would want me this way and that I would die alone, probably from choking on a potato chip.
There was a war going on inside of me and neither side was winning.
Once I unraveled the fears and self-assaulting language as irrational, they no longer had power over me and I began to relax into my new found “goods”.
Although no-one ever said anything to Trina about her weight, she still felt as though she was being judged by others for her fuller figure. She told US ABC news that people stopped making eye contact with her and started treated her differently: “It was like the more visible I became, the more invisible I felt.”
So… then what happened?
Trina stopped her experiment in July. She went back to her usual, healthy diet (although she still likes Mexican food, apparently). She refuses to weigh herself, but has naturally returned to roughly her previous size.
Trina told US news: “I learned that I was – and still am – very judgmental about physical appearance. I was afraid of dying alone.” To ABC, she also said that the experience taught her empathy for those who don’t find it so easy to lose weight. “I now have a firmer appreciation for students who work with extra pounds when they practice yoga and I see now it’s a completely different sensation,” she said. “I am a better teacher and a better human being as a result of this experiment.”
There’s a lot going on in this story. Let’s unpack it, shall we?