Bodied is a series in which we ask people to get real about their relationships with their bodies. As the body-positivity movement challenges unrealistic beauty standards while insisting we love what we got, we want to push the notion that self-acceptance is a process. Here, we’ll examine how people have grown to love and accept their bodies ― or not ― and the steps they took to get there.
It’s fair to say Katie Sturino changed my life.
Before the blogger, famous pet mom and entrepreneur launched Megababe Beauty, a line of products aimed at combating basically every summer ailment there is (including the dreaded thigh chafe), dresses were either a recipe for inner thigh destruction, an accessory for bike shorts or a no-go altogether.
But when she’s not answering requests for product restocks and mimicking celebrity style for her “supersize the look” series, Sturino is also busy being one of the most honest personalities on the internet right now. Via her social media accounts, she takes us with her on Botox appointments, applies her own chafing product on the street, and talks openly and honestly about her experience with egg freezing. “The 12ish Style,” which started as a blog to help women who wear a size 12 and up find the best places to buy clothing, has become a body-positive empire of sorts.
Seeing as she is also one of my personal body image heroes, I jumped at the opportunity to chat with her about the realities of being heralded as a body-positivity advocate, how she feels about her body day to day, and the challenges of the body-positive movement.
Let’s start off by talking a little bit about what your relationship with your body as it stands today is like.
All right, as it stands today. Well, I think it’s important to know that I’m much nicer about my body than I’ve ever been, but I’m much bigger than I was before. I have probably gained, I don’t know, 60 pounds in the past two years and so that’s really moved me from like a 12 to a 16. I used to fluctuate from a 12 to a 14, but now I’m just a full 16. And oftentimes I’m wearing 18s, depending on the designer.
I think it’s hard on the people in my life who have known me the longest to see me with so much weight on my body. That’s an interesting thing because I’m cool as a cucumber, totally happy, but the people around me might look at me and say, “Oh, my God, you’ve put on so much weight.”
What about that is hard for them?
I think any time someone gains weight the instant reaction for the most part is that it’s bad and very rarely are they upset because you have a health issue. I think most of the time people look at weight gain and as a society are like, “That’s bad.” So I think that’s the interesting part. But the health thing is really real, and I did realize that just with my physicality this year.
What has changed physically?
I’m cool in a bikini, I’m cool wearing anything, but, like, my knees hurt. So there are definitely some physical effects of having extra weight on my body that have nothing to do with emotional choices.
Got it. You said you’re bigger than you were before but also the nicest to your body that you’ve ever been. How did that evolution happen?
When I was a 12 trying to be a 10, never really being a 10 and trying to stay away from 14, I was always trying to grab something that wasn’t there for me. I just wasn’t a skinny person, and I was always trying to fit in and compete with the skinny person mentality. I was in a constant state of, “You’re too big. You’re so big.” It was when I released the concept and allowed myself to understand that my body shape is my body shape and stopped thinking about what I ate every hour and punishing myself for not going to the gym yesterday and all the things, it’s like a waste of time.
It’s so exhausting. I feel like I’m doing that right now ― not quite as evolved to the place you are.
It is, right? It’s so much brain space. And I know you’re by far in the majority.
Do you think there was a moment in particular you can recall where you started to change your thinking?
Honestly, it’s been through blogging that I’ve really been able to accept my shape because I was reminded that I’m not strange or sad ― it just took me out of the skinny chase that I was never going to get to and that kind of broke everything open for me. I don’t know that I started “The 12ish Style” as a body-positive thing, I started it as someone who happens to be a 12/14 and showing you where to shop.
When I started posting photos of myself it was because I didn’t see anyone who looked like me.
Right. And suddenly you feel less alone.
In that vein, I feel like there’s a lack of transparency from a lot of people about days when we’re not feeling as great or things about ourselves are bringing us down. What are those days like for you?
I think some of the hardest times are fitting into clothes. So many of the clothes I want to wear still don’t go up to my size. Right now, I have about nine or 10 Net-a-Porter pieces waiting for me at home. I shopped their available selections that were stretchy-looking or were an XL, XXL, XXXL. If I get home and don’t fit into any of those pieces, I will feel bad. I will say, “Why did you let your body change so much? Look at what you can’t wear.” I will have that moment.
Well, I hope that doesn’t happen. But if it does, how do you get out of those moments?
One thing about me is I really don’t let it ruin an extended period of time. I’m pretty good about moving on. But what will I do? I don’t know. I think I am just busy and just move on to the next thing and forget about it, but maybe in the back of my mind, I still might be like, “Fuck, what are you going to wear to this thing? You have no clothes.”
That is super-honest. I don’t know the answer either. I think that’s the problem. People who are like, “I just look in the mirror and feel great!” Like, there’s definitely some work going on there.
[Laughs] There is some in-between stuff there, right? Like, I can understand I’m great and also be frustrated that I don’t fit into things that used to fit me.
100 percent. Do you have a body role model?
Hunter McGrady. She is so sexy, so beautiful. She’s a size 16. I’m always impressed with her.
On the flip side, can you think of something in media and society that does a disservice to people struggling with body image issues?
Well, a couple of things. Having extended sizing online and not in stores is something that immediately sends the message that you’re not good enough to shop in the store. Like, “We made it, but we kept it in the back.” Brands who go up to a 14 but don’t put 14s in campaigns. I think also like Ashley Graham has broken the whole industry wide open, but the fact that brands keep going back to her reinforces a feeling that there’s one body type or one way to be in the plus-size market, you know?
For sure. Or what about when brands use a model in a campaign and don’t go up to the size the model is wearing?
Oh, also true. Completely true. Or like, putting Ashley Graham on a Vogue cover and not bothering to find clothes that can work or fit. Or when Elle put Melissa McCarthy on the cover and had her in, I think, a giant trench coat.
Magazine covers featuring women who are not a size 2 are a whole other can of worms.
It’s always so awkward. It’s like, OK, we put her in a bedsheet and belted it.
[Laughs] So awkward. What’s the best advice you’ve ever gotten about body image?
I don’t know if it’s too vain to quote myself, but I’m going to say I don’t think there is a whole lot of great or real advice out there about your body. The thing I have learned through experience, though, is that there is no destination when it comes to size. My size 4 friends who are uncomfortable in a bikini want to be a 0. The size 8 girls want to be a 4. The 12 wants to be a 10. My point is there is no destination to arrive at to be happy.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.