Fat Girl Walking

Author Brittany Gibbons on ‘Loving the absolute f— out of yourself’

By Amanda Dee

Photo: Author Brittany Gibbons and her daughter Gigi get ready in the morning; photo: Andy Gibbons

It took bearing three children, having sex for 365 consecutive days and stripping down to a swimsuit on national television for Swanton, Ohio, native Brittany Gibbons to feel good in her body—as well as taping shut her vagina and failing at lesbianism. At least, those things also happened.

Gibbons’ memoir “Fat Girl Walking: Sex, Food, Love, and Being Comfortable in Your Skin… Every Inch of It” hit bookshelves May 19, but she’s been waiting for more than a year since its completion to talk to “anybody besides [her] husband about it because he’s not a girl, and he doesn’t get these girl things.”

“So now that it’s released,” she bursts, “I’m like, ‘Thank God, other women, please, let’s talk about it.’”

Though, she makes clear the process wasn’t easy: “I googled how to write a book—repeatedly.”

“It’s a very long journey. Period,” she says more soberly. “I hope, especially later in the book as we get into more of the body stuff, that while it’s funny and entertaining, it’s pretty self-deprecating and the severity of the movement is still very much in tone.”

In high school, she wanted to leave high school. At Ohio State, she wanted to leave Ohio State. When her at-the-time-boyfriend, soon-to-be-husband Andy Gibbons left her and her pug Lucy, she stopped leaving the apartment and stopped functioning, and she learned that “misery has nothing to do with location.”

Eventually, Lucy started forgiving her for “the whole we live among our poop thing” during her agoraphobia phase, and Gibbons started forgiving Andy for transferring and leaving her in Columbus to not graduate.

One declaration of bankruptcy and two sons later, she officially started a writing career on her blog, Barefoot Foodie. “I thought I was gonna be like Julia Roberts in ‘My Best Friend’s Wedding and be a food critic, so I started writing about food. And it was terrible, and nobody read it ever,” she says. “So, I started using it as a journal and somebody found it and started sharing it. I just wrote about my life just like being a young mom and all that gross, messy stuff… and it clicked.” It clicked to the point that she started out-earning her husband, a robotics engineer.

While the book is about “loving the absolute f— out of yourself,” as she shares on her blog, the journey from Brittany—who’d look in the mirror and swear under breath at her “fat reflection”—to Brittany Herself—who gives her three children positive body images of women by “traipsing around the house naked”—lasted four or five years.

Only after a body-shaming comment on her blog and a subsequent large Frosty with tears and hiccups did she even begin to self-identify as the “Internet’s token fat girl.” But the one primarily responsible for her transformation was a “little fearless person,” her daughter, Gigi.

“She started picking up mannerisms that I did,” she says, “and she started treating her body the way I treated my body because we look identical—no joke, we’re clones—and it really freaked me out.”

So, she did what anyone would do.

“What I did originally was figured I would fake this whole thing,” she continues. “I would just pretend like I like myself and think I’m beautiful every time I’ m around her. And the weird part was… that it worked. Like it actually, genuinely changed the way I saw myself, which surprised me because I’m not a person who’s like into mantras or like any of that hippie thing…”

And what she refers to as her career of “accidental activism” began. She became a part of the Fat Movement, a movement fighting against body discrimination and for positive body image. She started Curvy Girl Guide, a style guide for real women’s bodies, partnered with Lands’ End for a plus-sized swimsuit collection and did a Ted Talk at Bowling Green State University.

“I think that body image and body hate and self-confidence are not exclusive to plus-sized women. It’s something that all sizes of women struggle with,” she says. “This story could have been the same, save for a couple name-calling words, if I was a size zero, which I think is telling of what this movement is really about—and that’s women, not plus-sized women.”

Her daughter, the “six-year-old activist,” already has started exhibiting confidence: “Her picture was in an article in Cosmo the other day that I had written, and she saw it and asked why and I said, ‘Well, we’re working to help give women positive body image.’ We were at a restaurant and somebody come up to us and asked for my autograph, and [Gigi] goes, ‘Um, you would want mine also, right? Because I’m helping all women feel better about themselves?’”

It might not be as easy for Gigi’s mom, who’s still a little nervous before every stop on her book tour.

“The title of this book is that title from ‘Dead Man Walking,’ which is a man who is walking himself to his death in the execution chamber,” she explains. “So whenever I have to do something, say, like this or go on a stage somewhere and talk, I always called myself ‘fat girl walking’ because I was kind of potentially walking to my own disaster… I thought eventually somebody would just say, ‘You, fat girl out there, are doing this thing—it’s not brave or witty or smart.’”

“But so far, I’m still walking.”

For more information or to buy the book, please visit brittanyherself.com.

Reach DCP freelance writer Amanda Dee at AmandaDee@DaytonCityPaper.com

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Reach DCP Editor Amanda Dee at editor@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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