York City business owner: Everyone is #MoreThanASize
Rebecca Wattenshaidt used to let size dictate her life.
Her goal was to be a size 2, but once she got there, it wasn't enough — "I had to be a size zero," she said.
"I wasn't happy," she continued. "I was barely eating and constantly concerned with the number on the scale."
But in order to be a more positive role model for daughters Ella, 9, and Charlotte, 5, she made a conscious effort to not put herself down.
"I said it so much that I started to believe it," she said. Now Wattenshaidt is helping empower other women through her #MoreThanASize movement.
#MoreThanASize: The social-media movement — which launched Jan. 15 — asks women to post a selfie of themselves, saying "I am #MoreThanASize" and stating something that defines them beyond physical appearance, such as a community builder or entrepreneur, or someone who's creative or adventurous.
"Through the years and through my career, I have come into contact with so many women — taller, shorter, skinnier, bigger — who were just like me," Wattenshaidt wrote in her blog's Instagram post that day.
"Remember this and tell yourself this every single day," she encouraged her followers in the post, "Who you are as a person, as a human being, a friend, a co-worker, a sibling, a boss leaves so much more of an impact than your size 14 body, your size 2 body or your size 6 body."
"I’ve literally been every size from a 2 to my current size of 12/14, and I’ve never been more confident," Wattenshaidt said.
#MoreThanASize is not just about being comfortable with size or weight, she said, but about looking past physical appearance altogether for the qualities that make people unique.
"It's hard for society as a whole to look past someone's size and see that a person is so much more," she wrote in her blog, Mommy in Heels. "They aren't just a size 14 —they are an impactful teacher and amazing mother. They aren't just a 00, they are a really loyal friend and philanthropist."
Wattenshaidt knows having a movement in the social-media spotlight could invite criticism.
"I can see people twisting this and thinking (size) should matter" if it's unhealthy, she said, but it's not about taking health out of the equation — it's about shifting the focus.
It's about not being caught up with reaching a certain size, she said, but focusing on physical, mental and emotional health.
An opportunity for encouragment: She said she got the idea for #MoreThanASize after realizing how much her own ideas about size had impacted other women.
Wattenshaidt, owner of Elizabeth & West Fashion House in downtown York City and fashion blogger for Mommy in Heels, appeared on the cover of Redbook Magazine last summer after being selected as one of the winners of Redbook's Real Women Style Awards.
When looking through her quotes from various interviews about the experience, she noticed her statements about size really resonated with people.
She'd get emails and messages on Instagram from followers thanking her for being honest and transparent, and telling her encouraging stories, such as trying a new style that they had thought would never look good because of their body type.
"Don't limit yourself because of your shape," she said in a Today interview. "I love horizontal stripes — I wore them when I was a size 2 and still do at a size 12."
"That got the wheels turning in my head to encourage women — and even men, too — to embrace themselves more than just what their size or weight is," she said.
Future plans: Just a couple days after the launch, Wattenshaidt has already gotten about 20 to 30 selfies from women using the hashtag, and many more encouraging messages.
She hopes the movement will continue to grow.
Her goal is to get more people involved, especially professionals giving their input, encouragement and expertise on different topics and on living a content and happy lifestyle.
She is surprised that her career has taken her in this direction.
Wattenshaidt always thought she'd use her blog for fashion ideas, but never expected it to be a platform to connect with others in such a big way.
#MoreThanASize T-shirts are available for pre-order at elizabethandwestfashion.com.