2014 FavesThis blogger was shamed by a fitness magazine. Then she fought back.Margaret Eby

It’s the end-of-year, time-for-reflection time and we’re thinking back to all the HelloGiggles stories that we truly loved in 2014. Here’s just one of our faves, which was originally published on May 7, 2014. 

Brooke Birmingham is a 28-year-old blogger who, through hard work and diet, shed 170 pounds in a little under five years.

It’s the kind of story that you’d think any fitness magazine would dream about showcasing. It’s about persistence, health, and body positivity, all chronicled on Birmingham’s blog “Brooke: Not On a Diet.”

Shape magazine reached out to Birmingham about featuring her in their “Success Stories” section, asking Birmingham for a photo of herself in a bikini to show a “before” and “after” comparison of all her hard work.

But when Shape saw the photo of Birmingham in a bikini top, they e-mailed her to say that they wouldn’t be running it and told her to instead send a photo of herself in a t-shirt. (The magazine has since blamed the situation on a freelancer and stated: “This does not represent Shape’s editorial values.”)

Why did this happen? Because Birmingham’s shot was an honest one. She showed herself in a cute blue bikini top, toned arms and legs on full display. She also showed the common result of weight loss: a gathering of loose skin around her waist.


Birmingham is a gorgeous woman. Her story is a triumph, and her dedication to her health is something that should be applauded. But what’s really extraordinary about Birmingham is that she refuses the shame that is the fuel of the fitness-beauty industrial complex. She told Buzzfeed that at first, “I felt like my body wasn’t good enough to be featured on their website. When you log onto their website the first thing that pops up is a woman in a sports bra. There have been other success stories with women in bikinis.”

But then she decided to tell Shape “no, thanks,” to pull the story from their magazine and write about the experience instead: “If I couldn’t have a picture of me in a bikini to go with the story, then it wasn’t MY story,” she explained on her blog.

What Birmingham’s conversation with Shape gets at is a truth that Alexandria Symonds wrote about in New York Magazine last year: “The experience of significant weight loss is much more psychologically complex than the multi-billion-dollar diet industry.”

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  1. I enjoy reading through an article that will make people think.
    Also, thanks for allowing me to comment!

  2. Unfortunately this may lead some to rethink dieting. Motivating oneself to lose huge amounts of weight is a monumental task and being faced with this, almost inevitable, end result will alienate many who may be about to try. I understand the magazine’s hesitation.

  3. I love this! I love how unashamed she is, even though everything about society’s expectations is telling her to be ashamed of her body.

    I recently came to terms with the fact that no matter what I did, my body would not look the way I wanted (a.k.a. like Kourtney Kardashian’s). Now I’m working on being fit for the sake of being fit. My workouts are no longer for a certain look, they’re for a healthier body.

    And while I would still like to have a six-pack and a killer booty, I’m not making those things the focus of my workouts.

    Good for Birmingham. She is an inspiration.

  4. How to get a bikini body this summer:

    Step one: Purchase a bikini
    Step two: Put the bikini on your body

    Congratulations! You now have a bikini body!

  5. Good on her! Somebody give this woman an award =)

  6. As someone who’s also lost a lot of weight and struggled with body image, I can totally relate to Brooke’s story! You are left with a lot of stretch marks and saggy skin. Despite this, I’m incredibly satisfied that someone is breaking the myth that weight loss magically fixes everything. Even though I am not entirely happy with how I look, I feel proud that I at least lost weight and that someone is brave enough to show the reality behind weight loss.

  7. So on this page, in the “You Might Also Like” section, there’s a link to “Budget-Friendly Bikini Season Solutions” where getting in shape to wear a bikini is discussed. Does anyone else sense a double-standard here?

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