There’s an expression used by psychologists called thin-slicing. It has nothing to do with bread or any act performed in a deli. Instead, it’s something we all do every day. Thin-slicing is when you make a snap judgement about something or someone, based on very small amounts of information. We’re all guilty of it all the time. It happens sub-consciously and in many cases, we’re wildly off base. Particularly when we’re thin-slicing a celebrity.
Tiffiny Hall is the beautiful, hard bodied personal trainer with long blonde hair who has appeared on several seasons of The Biggest Loser.
You may have seen her on promotional billboards for the show or perhaps elsewhere in the media - in activewear and with a six pack or an eight pack - she honestly has the most extraordinary stomach I’ve ever seen.
That's how I knew her. That stomach. That show. I knew her deal, I thought.
Oh, how wrong I was. Mortifyingly wrong.
A week or two after giving birth to her first baby, a gorgeous little munchkin called Arnold, Tiffiny posted a very different Instagram post-baby body selfie to the one you would expect of a personal trainer who had been on The Biggest Loser.
You know the ones; those dispiriting, passive aggressive, competitive, thirsty photos we’ve become accustomed to seeing from models, Instagram influencers, trainers, fitness professionals and celebrities…..where in the before shot they’re pregnant and in the after shot they have a perfectly flat stomach and the caption is something nauseating like #blessed or #bodiesareamazing.
These are the photos that crush the spirits of other women. If you’ve had a baby you’ll feel like sh*t because it’s highly unlikely you’ll have a flat stomach like that. And if you haven’t had a baby you’ll most likely feel inadequate ('my stomach doesn't look that flat and it's never had a baby in it') and daunted by the idea of this impossibly high bar you’ll be expected to clear if you become a mother in the future.
But Tiffiny Hall flipped it.
Here is another kind of now and then, and you know what? I couldn't be happier. I look at Arnold and it's me who created that little Ninja! My body did that. So, the way I see it, I’m the strongest I’ve ever been ???? Ninjas come in all shapes and sizes, the goal is to work on the happy just as much as the fit. It is sooooo important to be happy and healthy and imperative to be a Ninja and to have the support of an amazing community. Today is last day to become a Ninja and I would love it if you would join me getting #happyfit together ????❌ ⭕️️ ~ #tiffxo #thisishappyfit #imadeanArnie #bodylove #ninjascomeinallshapesandsizes #2weekspostpartum
In the photo she posted, on the left, she looks impossibly fit with that ripped stomach of hers. And on the right?
She still looks pregnant. Just like most women do after giving birth. Her stomach and breasts are swollen, her body is soft, the dark brown line many women develop during pregnancy hasn't yet faded.
And she looks…..utterly beautiful and content and radiant. Tired but radiant. It's that very specific look of triumph that mothers recognise. It says, 'I have no idea what's going on with my body because there are fluids coming out of all the places but bloody hell, I MADE A BABY AND I AM SUPER WOMAN AND WOMEN'S BODIES ARE INCREDIBLE."
And they are.
In the caption she wrote: “Here is another kind of now and then and you know what? I couldn’t be happier. I look at Arnold and it’s me who created that little guy. My body did that so the way I see it, I’m the strongest I’ve ever been. Ninjas come in all shapes and sizes and the goal is to work on the happy just as much as the fit.”
Yes they do and yes it is.
There was a ripple effect through Tiffiny’s family and the story Mamamia wrote after interviewing Tiffiny about it went viral.
“I have a close-knit community through my program,” the TIFFXO founder told Mamamia on the phone from her Melbourne home a few weeks ago when we first called her up to ask about the photo. “These are real women with not just one child, but maybe three, and they’re doing it tough. So I want to show the women doing my program, and the women who follow me, that it’s not easy, it’s not perfect… I still to this day look pregnant.”
“There’s not enough emphasis on mental health recovery after birth, it’s all about ‘my body looks like this’,” Tiffiny said. “I don’t appreciate it when women are [posing on Instagram] in a bikini two weeks later, it’s not easy or fair for other women.
“I know what it takes [to get my pre-baby body] and it takes a lot of time and sacrifice and I’m not willing to diet while I’m breastfeeding. I’m not going to jeopardise my milk supply. Because I had an episiotomy I need to wait for six weeks before I do anything.
“Getting to know my baby is what’s important to me right now.”
Reading this two weeks ago made me question my thin-slicing of someone I barely knew. I was surprised and delighted and a bit ashamed that I was surprised. So I reached out to invite her into the Mamamia podcast studio for a proper interview for this week's episode of No Filter.
And in the course of prepping for that interview, I discovered some other things I didn’t know about Tiffiny Hall.
She is one of the highest qualified female martial artists in the world for her age - she’s 31 - she is the author of four fiction novels about ninjas - five non fiction books about food and fitness and she holds multiple degrees.
When she came into the studio it was the first time she’d been away from Arnold who turned four weeks on the day we met, and every preconception I had about someone who was a trainer on The Biggest Loser was demolished in the first 10 seconds after meeting her.
It's one of the most enjoyable, surprising, fist-pumping interviews I've done in a long time and I can't wait to do more with Tiffiny. She's many shades of awesome.
You can listen to the full interview with Tiffiny Hall and Mia Freedman here: