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Meredith Holt, Published September 05 2013

Holt: Activist staying ‘body positive’ amid weight loss

NORTHAMPTON, Mass. – Kim Winnegge has never seen a Muppets movie.

After being called “Miss Piggy” as a kid growing up in Devils Lake, N.D., she couldn’t watch the sassy swine without seeing herself that way.

“It’s not like I ate more than anyone else, it was just that I was bigger then,” she says.

Thirty-year-old Kim, a former Forum reporter who now lives in Massachusetts, was heavier for as long as she can remember.

As a teenager, she turned to the Web for support. There, she found the LiveJournal group “Fatshionista.”

“There’s something particularly ‘fine’ with fat-shaming in America, so I had no one to talk to about it in Devils Lake, or really, it felt like, in North Dakota, so I went online,” she says.

Fatshionista and other body-positive groups gave Kim a voice and helped her feel comfortable in her skin at any size.

“I became empowered, even in the Fargo community, to really just show my true colors,” she says.

The “fat activist” became more involved with the movement in grad school at Smith College, where she received a standing O for her “size matters” presentation, in which she talks about everyday life on campus as a bigger woman.

“I would sit on the floor because I couldn’t fit my body into chairs meant for women in the 1950s,” she says.

It wasn’t until a frightening doctor’s visit that Kim decided to lose weight for the sake of her health.

“The journey has been a strange one for me because I told myself I was healthy at 280 pounds. If I was 300 pounds, I thought I would be healthy at that size,” she says. “But my doctors did not think so.”

At 28 years old, Kim was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes and put on blood pressure medication.

She lost the first 35 pounds with the help of her “spin mama’s” spinning class in Houston.

There, she found a new community, and soon she was spinning 30-40 miles a night.

“My first spin class, I didn’t even know how to put my feet in the pedals,” she says with a laugh. “I had no clue that I was capable of that.”

In January, after recommendations from multiple doctors, she had gastric bypass surgery.

Kim stresses that weight-loss surgery is not an easy way out. She’s had to carefully watch her portion sizes and plan meals.

And she’s sticking to it.

“I’m not going to mess up an opportunity to change my life,” she says.

As the weight came off, Kim worried about what it would mean for her activism. Though her size had changed, her ideals remained the same.

“I wound up on the other end of the fence of having to explain why I am now 115 pounds lighter,” she says.

Fortunately, after inquiring and learning that she did it to prolong her life, her friends understand.

“I’ve been through some really rough deaths in my life, and I don’t want to put my family through mine,” she says.

Now, Kim uses the experience in her job as a licensed social worker.

She counsels patients struggling with body dysmorphia and eating disorders, and she’s presenting next month about how her weight loss has affected her practice.

And she’s doing it diabetes-free and off all medication.

“My first A1C test (a common blood test used to diagnose diabetes) in the hospital was completely normal, as if I had never been diabetic at all!”

Do you have a weight-loss story to tell? Email me at mholt@forumcomm.com.

Forum reporter Meredith Holt lost over 100 pounds between 2010 and 2012. She will share stories of her weight-loss journey in her column, which runs the first and third Friday of each month in SheSays. Readers can reach her at (701) 241-5590.