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Interview: How Becca Murray Created a Body Positive TikTok Space

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In Becca Murray’s TikTok bio, she describes herself as “your cool aunt,” giving new meaning to just how accurate three words can be. Becca is indeed cool, not to mention quirky and funny, while also embodying a cozy vibe that is palpable to her videos. Her style is clean, bohemian and adorable. Yet with over 210,000 followers and over 6.8 million views across her platform, Murray is not a cute little girl trying to woo you over with an apology. In fact, she is unapologetic on purpose, and this brand of authority has prompted her to achieve high profile status fast in the TikTok space.

Deep into the beginning of a global pandemic that thrust us all into quarantine life, Murray began her TikTok career by providing the very art that did not exist. Since then she has grown to dominate a space rooted in positive body imagery and self-love, rejecting many of the social norms meant to keep women small and starving. And Murray is unafraid to engage with her followers, especially the ones who try to smack her down with harsh words. She just smacks right back, coming at them with that special stamp of intelligent sass, close-up and quick camera zooms, and her knack for rhetorical questions which translate into the proverbial “burn” from back in the day. Pushing 40 years-old, she came to embrace her age, her sexuality, her size and her reality on social media — a medium that begs us to believe the illusion of a perfect life.

Watching Becca Murray is like hanging out with an unforgettable friend, one who makes you feel good and pumps you up in an I’m-inviting-you-in-for-a-cup-of-tea kind of way (served with a hunk of her famous sourdough bread.) She hopes to keep a new generation of young women away from the unnecessary, painful experiences of her own diet-ridden youth, and sets out to speak to women, for women and with women.

I spoke with Murray to explore how a lifetime of dieting, body hating, accommodating and conforming does not have to be a lifelong sentence.

Q: Your videos are love letters to your body, to food, to being genuine and to the quality of feminism that encourages women to take up space. You became hypervisible after you created Things In My Body Positive Diet Free Household That Just Make Sense. Can you talk about your experience becoming viral so quickly? What does it means to consciously reject diet culture in America?

A: On May 15, 2020 I had a virtual doctor appointment where my doctor asked how I was doing and when I told her I was learning to make sourdough (like every other millennial in quarantine), she responded with “well watch out, they say COVID-19 stands for the 19 pounds you gain in quarantine.” As someone who has worked really hard to overcome fear around food and my body and was dealing with severe anxiety in the face of a global pandemic, I was stunned by the interaction and I made a TikTok about it. That was my first video to get more than a handful of views (a couple thousand, but it felt huge at the time) and I realized there was an opening for body positive/eating disorder recovery content on the app.

I had an idea for showing off my “Body Positive Diet Culture-Free” home, closing on a shot of “an empty spot on the floor with no f*cking scale.” The video struck a chord and I followed it up a week later, capping that video with “a cozy chair for curling up and dreaming about how to dismantle the patriarchy and the racist heteronormative beauty standards that accompany it.” Those videos really kickstarted my account and brought in followers — mostly young women and non-binary folks — who were interested in body positivity, cutting ties with diet culture and examining societal norms through an intersectional lens. Surprising absolutely no one, the haters mainly showed up in the form of anti-feminist men’s rights activists who feel threatened by the idea of women living outside of the male gaze.

Q: You do lots of eating videos. Lots of breads. Are you actively trying to normalize carbs or just sharing your real daily life?

A: I want people to know that first and foremost, they deserve to eat no matter what they ate yesterday or what their body looks like. As someone with almost three decades of dieting under my belt, I feel passionate about intuitive eating and showing people how to feed themselves. When I started baking in quarantine, it was partially a way to pass the time and partially a way to reclaim a food that I’d demonized for decades. In addition to bread, I use a lot of fresh produce in my videos and you can catch me throwing an over-easy egg on pretty much everything — my followers joke that my catch phrase is “Put an egg on it.”

I now understand that food is morally neutral — a carrot is not inherently “better” than a slice of bread and choosing one over the other has no impact on my value as a human — but that lesson was hard-fought. I want to spread my love of home-cooked food and seasonal produce, but without any of the guilt/shame/judgment/diet culture messaging that normally comes along with “healthy” cooking videos.

Q: Can you share with us a little about your history with food, body and weight? What finally set you free from the chains and broke your old patterns?

A: How many words do we have? I started my first diet in elementary school and yo-yo’d throughout my childhood. I had severe body dysmorphia and processed my control issues through restricting food, but it was never flagged because I never presented as “underweight.” I don’t think it’s particularly helpful to go into the specifics but suffice to say I can look at a photo and tell you exactly how much I weighed— down to the pound — from adolescence through adulthood.

When I was 24, I officially joined a diet with in-person meetings and weigh-ins. I hit my “goal weight” in a year, but the “maintenance” phase of diets like that is a joke and there’s no real plan for how to move you from the diet itself to “normal” eating patterns. Every time I tried to increase my caloric intake, I gained weight, and I was so freaked out by the idea of a larger body that I continued to eat a sub-1000 calorie diet for years, no matter how much I was working out. Naturally, maintaining that weight was incredibly difficult and consumed the bulk of my energy.

I started having some digestion and other health issues in my 30s, which led me to seek the help of various doctors and nutritionists. The health problems were tied up with weight gain and I honestly just got tired of hating my body while I was trying to heal it. I discovered some body-positive creators on Instagram and went on a deep dive, completely revamping my feed and eventually pivoting my entire photography business to focus on body positivity. It was through those circles that I first heard about body neutrality and intuitive eating, and I began to heal my relationship with food.

Q: Why do you think there is so much disdain for larger bodies, for women filling themselves up and responding to their needs, literally through food, and more?

A: It’s complicated. We’ve been taught to see fatness as a moral failing, rather than a product of body diversity and systemic inequities, because it’s easier to blame the individual than to rebuild our systems from the ground up. Fatphobia is firmly rooted in racism (Google the origins of the BMI if you want to go down that rabbit hole) and body positivity is a liberation movement, started by fat Black women and disabled folks advocating for access, justice and respect for all bodies.

There’s also the capitalist element — companies literally create imperfections and insecurities so that we’ll pay money to “fix” ourselves. When I was growing up, it was thigh gaps; now it’s hip dips. As long as the beauty standard is ever-changing, it’s unattainable and people will shell out hard-earned money to inch closer towards the ideal.

Q: You recently came out as queer. With the current movement for acceptance and inclusion of LGBTQIA+ communities, it’s definitely making older generations reassess and re-identify our own sexuality and gender identity. Can you share with us how you came to realize you were queer, if it was something you’ve always known, or if you felt invited to examine this part of yourself recently?

A: I always said that I expected to date a woman in my life, but I just never got around to it before I found my person. Because my serious relationships were only ever with men, I thought that meant that I had to identify as straight. Growing up in the ’90s, I think I was really impacted by the pervasiveness of biphobia and the straight-up erasure of bi as a valid identity.

I feel lucky to have been part of some mind-shifting conversations in queer circles over the past few years, specifically around how one’s actions and sexual history don’t negate their feelings, thoughts, attractions or identity. I never thought that I was allowed to be queer — I thought that as a cis woman in a relationship with a cis man, it wasn’t my place. It makes sense when I think about it but embracing myself as a fat woman unapologetically taking up space in this world allowed me to step into my queer identity, as well — seeing myself and my identity as valid, regardless of how others perceive it.

Q: Have there been any specific TikTokers, influencers or women in general who have influenced and inspired you? Who and how?

A: I’m inspired by anyone living unapologetically in their body. Cheyenne Gil was the person who started my deep dive into body positivity and changed the course of my life. Kenzie Brenna is a lovely example of how to be a perfectly imperfect human. Can I say Lizzo? Is she too famous? I don’t care — I’m saying Lizzo.

Q: What do you hope your viewership, and especially younger women, walk away with by following you?

A: I hope they never starve themselves. I hope they trust their guts. I hope they set high standards for the people in their lives. I hope they practice empathy. I hope they know — really know — that they’re worthy of love and respect no matter what they look like.

Header image via TikTok

Originally published: June 23, 2021
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