She’s a writer, certified life coach, public speaker, teacher, entrepreneur, mother, wife and all-around fierce woman who is doing her part to help others love themselves “as is” one day at a time. Yes, Pia Schiavo-Campo is a true woman of today. And part of that means she’s not holding anything back. As her blog Mixed Fat Chick states, “Pia tackles issues around body image, feminism and navigating the world as a fat woman of color in the 21st century.”
She’s been featured in People Magazine, New York Post and “Good Morning America” with her sister, correspondent Mara Schiavocampo, who wrote the best-selling book on her own 90-pound weight loss journey. But as Pia tells Homegirl Talk, each of us has our own journey to self-acceptance in a world that is constantly sizing women against one another. Pia’s honest and raw approach to life will inspire you to do you no matter what anyone else says!
You’ve been running your blog Mixed Fat Chick for more than eight years. Two things that jumped out at me: The words “mixed” and “fat.” Let’s start with fat. You use it to describe yourself as well as other women featured on the site. Why have you chosen that word instead of something else, like “plus size”?
Fat is a word that I, and so many other women of size have reclaimed. It is a word that is meant to instill fear into pubescent girls, and it’s also a dirty word that advertisers have been using to demonize people who don’t have thigh gaps and six-packs. No one is ever put off by the word “thin.” Did you ever notice that? That’s because we’ve been sold a mess of a lie that our bodies are for public consumption AND that the world has a right to determine its worth based on size. I say screw that. I’m fat. I’m not curvy. I’m plain fat. And that’s OK!
OK, now let’s talk about the second word: Mixed. How does that tie into your identity?
I am half African-American and half Sicilian. I grew up in a bilingual home speaking only Italian to my dad, and English to my mom. Being mixed as a young person was a challenge for me. I often struggled with where I belonged. And schoolmates, especially early on, did not make it easy for me. But at home, both parts of my heritage had equal importance. It’s just who we were as a family. At dinner it would not be odd to see us eating collard greens with ham hocks alongside penne arrabiata! I find myself often in my own kitchen throwing together food from the American South and the Italian South. I love both parts with equal measure.
I love your site’s tagline: “Love yourself without measure.” What does body positivity mean to you?
What I understand is that body positivity is really a movement about being seen, heard, appreciated and having equitable access to resources and positive representation across the board. It’s working toward being as inclusive as possible, as any well-intentioned movement should. I know my views have changed over the years, and I’ve learned so much about my own biases. I do my best to stay open and learn from others who have different lived experiences from my own.
Do you consider yourself a feminist? How would you describe feminism today?
I think the definition and the face of feminism have changed dramatically in the last decade. I believe that we are making strides in the right direction. A diverse representation of feminists have opened the door to have conversations about how gender intersects with other parts of our identities. My lens bears the weight of a fat body (pun intended), being mixed race, and a first time mother after 40. I think the more inclusive we are of women’s lived experiences, the more successful we can be in creating a truly equitable society.
I read a fun post on your site titled “Clean Eating is Just Code for Diet & Me No Likey” where you write, “I think clean eating is a dangerous business, especially for those with eating disorders.” Tell me more about your disdain for diet culture.
One of the biggest challenges in advocating for body positivity and inclusiveness, is that our society has turned our food choices into a moral issue. For example, kale is “good” and “bacon” is bad, therefore making you a good or bad person based on which one you choose to eat. But I don’t buy it. This is what I know to be true: what I eat is my damn business, and is not a reflection of my self-worth OR my health. However, many people with eating disorders are very triggered by the idea of “clean” eating because it’s actually an assault on their worth, which they are struggling to summon on a daily basis. “Clean eating” is simply the weight loss industry’s latest form of propaganda which tries to divide us into good and bad people.
You appeared on “Good Morning America” with your sister, Mara Schiavocampo who is one of the show’s correspondents and the author of THINspired: How I Lost 90 Pounds—My Plan for Lasting Weight Loss and Self-Acceptance. Has it ever been a source of pain or envy to have a sister who is thinner than you are?
Both my sister and I have gone up and down in our weight since we were kids. We struggled together over the years, sharing what we thought was THE solution to our eating disorders. But our paths to finding peace around food and our bodies took two very different turns. Neither one is right or better than the other. We are each finding our own way to sanity. When my sister’s diet book came out, I was a bit triggered because I hate diet books! But I had to remind myself that it’s her journey and her choice, not mine. And my choice to not diet or aim for thinness has nothing to do with her, and everything to do with what feels right for me. We respect each other’s choices and will always share our very tough history of disordered eating.
Was there a specific moment when you reached the point of self-acceptance or has it been a gradual and continuous process?
I don’t think this journey ever ends. I think the road to self-acceptance begins with every sunrise. I don’t wake up everyday feeling like a million bucks. Some days require a pep talk in the mirror. Being part of the body positive community has a lot to do with where I am emotionally, physically, spiritually and mentally today. Having a support system of people who challenge what it means to be beautiful and healthy makes it a lot easier to move through the world in the body I have. Thank God!
🙅🏽It's #nationalswimsuitday 👙 . 🌞🌞🌞 Today and everyday remember that everyone has a beach body. You don't need a six pack to don a bikini, and you don't need a thigh gap to be beautiful or to be worthy of having the sun kiss your gorgeous skin. 💕💕💕 . #youareenough #effyourbeautystandards #allbodiesaregoodbodies #fatkini #fatshion #selflove #fuckthevoicesthatkeepyousmall #fuckthepatriarchy #bodydiversity #bodypositive #bopo #bodyposi #fatchick
If people aren’t skinny, the common misconception is that they’re lazy or don’t work out. What do you say to those who think that you can’t possibly be healthy or active if you have a larger body?
It’s such bullshit. And there is no evidence suggesting that it’s true. I know too many people who are not thin that are extremely active and athletic. The Health at Every Size (HAES) movement works to dispel the myth that large bodies are incapable of doing extraordinary things. I came to yoga late in life, and at my heaviest. And I discovered how strong and flexible I am. What a delightful surprise! But I also want to say that exercising versus not exercising is another one of those choices that our society has made into a moral issue. And of course, the assumption is that if you’re thin you must be really fit, and if you’re fat, you are in terrible health. Nope.
Any advice for those who don’t love exercising?
No advice. Do it or don’t. I’ll do me and you do you. No judgement here.
There’s another misconception that body positivity only refers to “women of a certain size.” I think this movement for self-acceptance is for women of any size.
The movement is for EVERYONE! Women and men alike. Those with eating disorders and those who don’t struggle with food are welcome. Fat folks and skinny folks are all invited to be part of a movement whose goal is to destroy the idea that a single body type (young, white, thin, tall, blonde) is the only way to have a right body. Like any movement for social justice, we need allies of all kinds to make shit happen. And it’s working!
Is there anything else you want to say to all the homegirls out there who can glean some wisdom from you?
Find your own way. There are too many limiting ideas being pushed onto us about what we should look like, what we’re capable of accomplishing and who we should be. The only way up and out is to fight perfectionism to the best of your ability. If you feel triggered by models on magazine covers, stop buying magazines. If your Instagram feed makes you feel less than, you might want to consider re-curating it with images that inspire you instead. If you are tired of hearing people talk about diets, choose to walk away when the topic comes up in conversation. I do it all the time. We have lots of choices about how and what kind of information and ideas we invite into our lives. Be selective.