Here’s proof that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes.
In THINspired: How I Lost 90 Pounds: My Plan for Lasting Weight Loss and Self-Acceptance, Good Morning America correspondent Mara Schiavocampo documents how her get-svelte strategy helped her find happiness.
But her sister, plus-size writer Pia Schiavo-Campo, found empowerment in another way: Learning to love her 230-lb. frame, she uses her own struggles with body image as inspiration for her blog, Chronicles of a Mixed Fat Chick – a site dedicated to the message of accepting oneself, as she writes, “without measure.”
While Mara, 35, and Pia, 39, may have different physical goals, PEOPLE learned (during separate conversations with the sisters) that their journeys really led them to the same place mentally.
PEOPLE: What kind of story, what kind of message, are you telling through your work?
Mara: THINspired is kind of a weight-loss memoir. I was 50 pounds overweight before I got pregnant [in 2011], and then I gained an additional 40 pounds during pregnancy. So I was 90 pounds overweight when I gave birth. Weight was something I struggled with my entire life, but this time I went about [weight-loss] in a very sane, relaxed, self-loving way. I learned that if you don’t clean up your diet and eliminate the foods that have control over you, you’re never going to lose weight. It’s about achieving a lifestyle that is healthy – mentally and physically. And I just want to share those lessons.
Pia: I’ve been writing my blog for about four years, and it started because I was tired of seeing the same images of women being portrayed in the media. In the last year or two it’s been very focused on feminism meets body-positive activism. Starting from age 12 or 13 up through my mid 30s, I was on and off diets. I even had liposuction. It was always about fitting into this image of how other people thought I should look. Now I’m the heaviest I’ve ever been and I love myself the most. I consider myself to be a healthy person, yet other people don’t see it that way because I am in a large body. I want to help break down those stereotypes.
PEOPLE: How do you feel about your diet and exercise choices?
Mara: If you would have asked me 90 pounds ago [she now weighs 140 lbs.], what was going to be the best thing about getting down to a size 6, I would have said it was going to be buying bathing suits and looking good in certain clothes. But what I have learned is that the greatest gift is how good I feel, and that’s a gift that I benefit from all day every day. When I am exercising [she’s a SoulCycle fan], the connection I have to my body and loving my body for what it can do for me is amazing.
Pia: You have to do what feels good to you and your body. I have fibromyalgia, so I find that yoga and gentle exercise works best for me. I also am allergic to gluten and dairy, so I don’t eat those things, but I eat a pretty healthy diet. Do I enjoy ice cream and cake? Absolutely, and I allow myself to have it. It’s really about listening to your body and discovering what feels best for you. What I’m doing works for me, and I love that we can have a space where [both my body and my sister’s body] can be respected.
PEOPLE: What do you think about the story and message that your sister is sharing?
Mara: At first it seemed that we were going in such divergent directions. But we were actually doing the same thing, which was freeing ourselves from shackles that had held us our whole lives. Loving yourself, feeling good about yourself, making decisions that are for your best mental and physical health. I am really proud of her – it’s really good for women to get those messages that you don’t have to live your life in self-loathing, that you can rise above that and make the choice to be happy.
Pia: I think that my sister’s book is terrific in that it starts talking about her struggle with body image from a young age, which I really relate to. She has found peace of mind and self-acceptance in her own way. That’s what I honor – that it wasn’t about anything external. At the core I think that both of our messages are valid. We can all learn something from her and from me and from other women who are talking about body positivity. It’s not a fat woman problem. It’s not a thin woman problem. It’s all women.