THE BLOG
05/13/2014 11:32 am ET Updated Jul 13, 2014

Rejected by Shape Magazine, a Real Story of Weight Loss

Who doesn't like a happy ending? Most of us enjoy stories that, at least in some part, wrap up at the end with a nice bow, smiles and good feelings all around. Television seemed to be built around happy endings. Either 22.5 minutes (for a half-hour show) or 48 minutes (for an hour show) to tell a story and make sure the loose ends were tied up before the bottom or top of the hour. I think there's still a desire for happy endings. Reality doesn't produce them as often as we'd like so we're willing to take them wherever we can.

Brooke Birmingham thought her story had a happy ending. She spent years following a Weight Watcher's diet and, at 28 years old, lost a total of 170 pounds. That's a great, inspirational story. Just the sort of story you'd think media would want to tout. According to Brooke, though, her ending wasn't as happy as Shape magazine wanted. Quoted in a Today health article, Brooke said her story was all set to be featured on the Shape website when a problem arose over those ubiquitous before-and-after photos Brooke sent in, those photos we just love to see. There's nothing quite like visual proof of that feel-good happy ending.

The after photo Brooke sent in, apparently, disqualified her in the "happily ever after" category, because Shape ended up refusing to publish it or her story. So, Brooke published the picture herself online. In the picture, Brooke stands outside, smiling, showing off her new "shape" at 170 pounds less. When you lose 170 pounds, that is akin to deflating a balloon. The surface of the balloon, which has been stretched over time to accommodate the increased volume, has difficulty returning to its original shape. Instead, the skin tends to wrinkle a bit. So, like most people who lose a significant amount of weight, Brooke found herself with some extra skin. Brooke said of her photo, "yes, there is loose skin and imperfections, but it is MY body. I only get one and I worked DAMN hard to get this one. Quite frankly, I find it beautiful."

Shape, of course, issued a statement disputing Brooke's interpretation of events, using words like "misunderstanding," "doesn't represent, "absolutely untrue." They went on to proclaim they "[pride themselves] on empowering and celebrating women like Brooke," saying they would have run the story with the photo if not for that "misunderstanding." At first glance, I'm not buying it. According to Brooke, when she sent in the after photo, Shape contacted her and asked her to send in a different after photo, one showing her in a T-shirt. This is after Brooke found pictures of other women in bikinis on the Shape website.

I am left to conclude that Shape does not consider a 170-pound weight loss, with excess skin around the middle, to be the kind of happy ending they're looking for. Just my opinion, of course, but I can't help but think that if Brooke had sent in an after photo of herself in the T-shirt, conveniently covering up her middle, all would have been well, as far as Shape was concerned.

Fictionalized happy endings are the stuff of fairy tales. Sanitized, Photoshopped endings are the stuff of television and movies. They're nice, of course, but they don't have the lasting impact of real, imperfect stories that highlight perseverance and courage. I'm so glad Brooke didn't give in to the pressure but fought to tell the truth -- and show the truth -- about her amazing weight loss. Perhaps, if she hadn't, Brooke would have become just one more of the happy endings on a website like Shape. Many people would have seen her and marveled at her accomplishment, even in a T-shirt. Perhaps many people would have seen her but probably not as many as are seeing her now.

As it's turned out, I think this is a happier ending.

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