May 28, 2019

How a Single Photography Session helped me Heal the Fat Shame.


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I hate being photographed.

My job as a breath work facilitator, Reiki practicioner, and yoga instructor requires photos for promotions and posts. Truth be told, when I booked my soulography session (photo and video) with Dani McDonald, I was excited for the video. Videos are easy. I’m moving. Photos make me nervous though because they’re still—they give the eye time to see all the imperfections.

As with everything that I do (including shower), I had hoped/planned to be 20 pounds thinner for the shoot. But I didn’t do anything to cause weight loss so, of course, nothing changed. The night before our session, as expected, I completely freaked out. I didn’t have any clothes to wear that might make me look less chunky. Nothing could hide the icky parts.

What was I thinking, choosing to be the subject of the lens yet again?

As I shared these thoughts with Dani, she began talking me through the process. I went to the root of the messages, and she was able to easily reframe them for me.

I explained that I was raised in an environment that prized beauty over everything else, and being thin was the ultimate goal. Words like “fat,” “slob,” and “pig” were commonly used to describe women who weren’t thin. The pressure to avoid those descriptions was overwhelming. I remember, in high school, when my weight escalated to 130 pounds (size 6 or 8, and my current goal weight), my grandfather would pinch the soft curve just above the waist of my pants and comment that food goes “from the lips to the hips.” I felt so much shame.

While this abusive language and behavior didn’t make me thin, it did make me hyper-negative and full of self-loathing. All these years later, at 49 years old, I spend half the day hiding my less than perfect body, or shaming my unattractive profile and stack of chins. But Dani reframed it for me.

She said, “Tiffany, you chose to facilitate breath work. It has nothing to do with how you look. It’s about how you hold space.” And right there, the vanity of my upbringing dropped down a notch or two. And she reminded me that people aren’t concerned with how I look—what they care about is how I make them feel.

And then she told me that I was beautiful. Inside and out. She taught me to start loving my entire body and my face, even the parts that I judged. Our conversation went much deeper, and with every word, I leaned in. I listened.

“Your body moves,” she reminded me. “It shows up for you. You aren’t in pain,” she said. And as the waves crashed ashore, I realized that all this worry about how I look is pointless. Life is short. And as Dani reminded me, we are all a little messy, and that’s okay too.

At the end of our soulography session, I thought I saw a spray of water in the ocean, as if coming from a blowhole. Of course, I assumed that I was searching too hard, creating things I’d really like to see. But minutes later, a man named Brian approached Dani and I and told us that there was a humpback breaching in the ocean. We followed the line from his pointed finger and waited.

And then—boom, there she was. Over and over, mouth open, breaching in the deep blue ocean off of Sandy Hook’s Gunnison Beach. I believe that she showed up to celebrate our connection, to honor my self-acceptance, and most of all to show me that all beings have their own brand of beauty, regardless of size.


Dani McDonald can be found at her website or on Instagram.

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