A healthy-living blogger is taking Shape magazine to task for what she claims was an attempt to censor her "after" photo in a story about her massive weight loss, since the pic shows some loose skin around her stomach.
Brooke Birmingham, a 28-year-old from the Quad Cities, Illinois, launched her blog, Brooke: Not on a Diet, in 2009 to document her weight-loss journey, which focused on old-fashioned healthy eating and exercise, with no surgery or fad diets allowed. She started off at 327 pounds and ended up dropping more than 170 pounds in four years, completely transforming her body and her life. Birmingham has since landed the January 2014 cover of Woman's Day magazine and even divulged her weight loss story on the dating website where she met the man who is now her husband.
Last month Shape magazine reached out to Birmingham, asking if it could run her before and after pics as a success story on its website. Birmingham agreed and submitted two pictures. However, she says, that's when she got a surprising response from the health and fitness-focused magazine.
Birmingham had sent Shape an after picture of herself in a two-piece swimsuit, which she felt was a pretty standard look for a photo in a fitness magazine. But Birmingham's picture also showed several layers of loose skin around her waist, common in people who have lost large amounts of weight. The writer who was covering the story subsequently emailed her, asking that she submit a new "after" photo of herself wearing a shirt. Birmingham refused, and posted the email exchange (with names and other identifying info blacked out) to her blog in a post titled "Why I Refused to Put a Shirt on for Shape." The post now has more than 250 comments and was reposted on the website xoJane.com.
"I love sharing my story with people, but I want it to be my story," Birmingham tells Yahoo Shine about her decision to post her original after photo on her blog. "I don't write my blog for attention; I write it to help and inspire others."
Birmingham says she didn't plan to divulge what had happened between her and Shape, but because she'd already alerted friends and Facebook fans to the fact her story was going to be featured on the magazine's website, people began to ask why it hadn't been published yet.
A representative from Shape disagrees with Birmingham's account of what happened. "This is a result of a misunderstanding with a freelance writer," a spokesperson for the magazine said via an email statement to Yahoo Shine. "This does not represent Shape’s editorial values, and the comments made about Shape’s 'editorial policy' are absolutely untrue. Shape prides itself on empowering and celebrating women like Brooke, and any indication that we would not run the piece with the photo provided was wrong, as we would have been proud to share her inspirational story."
Birmingham says she isn't looking for an apology from Shape, or an opportunity to appear in the magazine. Instead, she hopes that photos like hers can change the way that our culture talks about weight loss and women's bodies.
"Am I expecting a response from Shape? No. They're a business. They have reasons for what they do. But I don't agree with it," she says. "Everybody has a right to wear what they want to wear, and if they think they look good that's all that matters."
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