Through My Sisters Eyes…

I don’t know why we were so different. We just were/are. Growing up together in the same house, having the same experiences in life, my sister chose the conventional life – knowing at an early age that she wanted to be married, have children and settle down. I, on the other hand, was/am the vagabond daughter/sister that had to be different, choose a different path – the wild child who had to be successful –career oriented, take no prisoners attitude, never be told what to do or how to do it.

My sister was the polite one, always doing what she “should”. But me – I was always the one doing what I shouldn’t.  I was great to have on your side when you needed it.  I spoke up because she wouldn’t/couldn’t.  We were always just different.We got along “well enough” but wouldn’t say we were friends. In fact, I separated from my sister at a young age, feeling like she didn’t support me, like she wanted to box me in. But in reality, I’m sure she just wanted to keep me safe – that would prove to be no small feat in this lifetime.

There was an ego conversation going on for me – not the “she thinks something of herself ego” but the ego that is the false centre; that holds us back in life, that keeps us playing small. I separated because I always found people liked her more. She always knew the right things to say, how to please people and I always felt like no matter what I said it was wrong.

Our ego’s do that. They get in the way of creating amazing and beautiful connections with people who truly love us. Thankfully, over the last few years, especially these last 2 years, my sister and I have formed a bond that goes beyond what I thought possible. Through a program called Transformational Training, we were both able to work on the things that separated us and have an amazing relationship that I couldn’t imagine possible had it not been for this course.

I’m a personal trainer and my sister is obese. Wanna talk about not agreeing on the issues? We had to agree to disagree on a lot of things. But the truth is, her weight inspired me to be a trainer and a coach. And it also made me never, ever, be ok with gaining weight.

I saw how people treated her. How they looked at her. How they spoke to her. Like she was a 2nd class citizen because of her weight. I heard the comments from FAMILY and FRIENDS about her weight. And I wanted to defend her. I wanted to scream that they didn’t know her. How could they judge her on her weight alone?   They knew nothing of the road she travelled, nothing of her story, nothing of her. And that made me step up to the plate because I knew it wasn’t ok to treat anyone that way.

I was angry. I wanted people to “get it” that weight wasn’t just because someone was lazy. I wanted them to understand the person behind the weight. “I wonder what happened to her” instead of “get off your lazy ass and exercise you slob”. People who are overweight already say enough of that shit to themselves, do you think they need YOU to tell them they’re fat? No. They need YOU to tell them you understand… to ask them if they are ok… if they need anything… if they need help… and mostly just not fucking judge them, because they’re already judging themselves more harshly than you ever could.  My sister helped me “get this” more than any thing.

I became a trainer. Despite the thousands of people I helped, I never felt complete because I really wanted to help my sister. I wanted to fix her. I wanted people to see her for who she was and not her weight. Because she really is an amazing person and I wanted her to shine in that. And I thought she couldn’t because she was fat. Because everything, everywhere and everyone kept saying that.

I wanted to fix her, for all of the wrong reasons. I wanted to fix her so she could be enough. And that’s more fucked up than wanting to fix myself so I could be enough. I realize that my wanting to fix her was my own desperate attempt to stop the comments, the hurt that I knew she had to feel, that I felt for her. But I was doing what they were doing – telling her she wasn’t good enough unless she lost the weight.  And that’s what I was telling all of the fat people, myself included… “lose weight so you can be enough.  Don’t get fat, because you won’t be good enough.”

I see who you really are and I want everyone else to see you too. It was for the right reasons but a very fucked up mentality. It took ME seeing HER for who she really is and accepting her and loving her exactly where she is, different but the same as me, that I was able to release the need to fix her and all of the other obese people.  For every person I helped, I was “fixing” my sister.

Fitness is my passion. I want to end obesity in NL… a lofty a goal I know… ( you can support that goal here) but I’m crazy like that– thinking I can and so proving I can. It’s not about the weight, it’s never about the weight. It’s about people thinking we’re less human because we don’t look like the cover models. It’s about people skipping over other people like they don’t matter. That’s the heart of my passion. I want people to seen as they are, good enough, exactly where they are. If I can help them lose weight when they’re ready, then I will.   But it’s never been about the weight.

And the truth really is, while I was busy trying to save my sister, I was the one needing saving and it was only her that could save me. Because despite it all, I couldn’t allow myself to gain weight; I couldn’t be seen in that way… because I knew what “they” said about fat people and I did a lot of things over the years – diets, starvation, over exericising, smoking to reduce my appetite, diet pills, energy pills; the self hate to make myself into something people could and would love; to be enough.

While I was trying to save her for the wrong reasons, she saved me for the right ones. She could see who I really was. She could see my desire to help people get their weight under control was for the right reasons, not because I thought they weren’t good enough but because I wanted them to see how good they were and the weight, since it’s a symptom of a bigger problem, would take care of itself.  But my message wasn’t quite landing that way, my message was “lose the weight and you’ll see how amazing life is”; my new message is “love your self where you are, how you are and the weight will take care of itself”.

My self worth issues were present… maybe if I could fix her I would be good enough? But the truth is, I am already good enough, I just had to stop measuring myself against the yard stick that was placed before us as children – one got more overweight and dealt with hurt that way; and one got thin and obsessed and dealt with the hurt that way. The hurt came from the same place, we just processed differently.

And it wasn’t until my sister showed me who I am through her eyes that I could see if for myself. It’s not about the weight. If I can only ever measure myself up to what society thinks and says, how could I ever see the beauty that I am? I am very careful of the photo’s I post to the world because of the fear of being called fat. But today, I share with you, through my sisters eyes and lens – photo’s that made me cry. Because for the first time in my life I chose to focus on the positive in the photo’s. These are not photoshopped.  They are natural.  I stopped picking myself apart, I stopped looking for the flaws and instead I could see myself through her eyes… she showed me how beautiful I am… not perfect, but perfectly imperfect. And that’s what I want for women everywhere… getting rid of the weight will not make you happy unless you’re already happy and loving yourself where you are.


Wouldn’t it be a shame if I died tomorrow and never ever loved myself?”- Lori Browne. Yes, wouldn’t it?

All along I thought it was her that needed saving, but now realizing, she did her job as an older sister beautifully, she fully supported me where I was/am and showed me, through her eyes and lens, how beautiful I am.

Cheers to my beautiful and amazing sister, who is and always has been enough, who has bravely and courageously faced her weight as a symptom and dealt with the self worth and self love issues behind the weight.  Who is losing weight, not because of me, but because she now loves and values herself enough to take care of herself.  She will continue to be my teacher, my mentor, my inspiration and motivation to keep helping people “get it” for the right reasons.

To all of my beautiful people reading this post… these photo’s were taken at a time when I wasn’t happy with my body.  I wanted to lose 5 more lbs maybe 10 before doing the shoot.  But instead, with her encouragement I did the shoot. And the photo I was most scared to take but she encouraged me to do so, is my fav photo… because instead of focusing on the cellulite on my ass, I focused on the strength of my back, the curve to the shoulder, the waist line, the curves and feminine figure of a strong, powerful, unstoppable woman.  I encourage you to do this. I had never intended to share these, ever, at all.  But it felt right to share them, even though I’m nervous to share them… but I want you to see what’s possible when you allow yourself to see yourself through someone else’s eyes.


See the beauty in yourself today; don’t wait until you’re “good enough” do it now, so you can see how beautiful and amazing you are right now, exactly as you are.


Images by Lori Browne Photograpy

In the past I would have focused on the fat I saw, on how and where I need to improve my body.  But now, I look at these and see the positive.  I focus on the beauty not on the flaws… that’s where self love comes from.  Looking at the things we love, not the things we hate.

You can find out more information about Boudoir Photo’s at my amazingly talented sister’s website.  

Try today, to look at yourself through someone else’s eyes… see your own beauty reflected through them and just once focus on what you are and not on what you are not… that’s where “being enough” comes from.







19 thoughts on “Through My Sisters Eyes…

  1. Carolyn says:

    Well said, Tonya. Both you and Lori are beautiful, courageous women, inside and out. It’s touching to see your support and strength in one another. From one PV girl to the next. 🙂
    Much love! xo


  2. Nancy Burton says:

    I am so moved to such emotion by both of you and for both of you – yes crying as I type! So much beauty here – in your words, in the pictures, in the love you convey for each other – you are both such great teachers and I feel so blessed to have both of you in my life to help and share in my own transformation! Love to you both! 🙂


  3. Brenda says:

    Tonya, this article is so beautiful and touching; it brought tears to my eyes because you so “get it.” ? You and your sister are so lucky to have this deep bond. Too many people choose to focus on the perceived “negative” in others instead of the beauty that exists in each person. Love it! And your pictures are amazing!


  4. Sara Hatcher says:

    Reading this made me cry! Bot Lori and yourself are amazing. I had the pleasure of meeting Lori a few years ago and having her in my life is a true blessing. Lori is one of the most beautiful women that I know and you both help me get through my obstacles in life on a daily basis. Thanks for this Tonya!


  5. Lesley says:

    There are no words to express how moved I am by this. My relationship with my sister is non-exsistent, she has chosen to cut all communication with me and it kills me every single day but this made me rethink “why” she felt compelled to do that. Maybe I will never know but I view it know with a gentle curiosity and compassion as opposed to ego fed anger.

    I have seen the evolution of your business, as well as Lori’s journey play out, and I am so beyond excited and proud for both of you. ❤


    1. Tonya Whittle says:

      Thank you for sharing Leslie. One thing I’ve learned is to always look within… sometimes we just have to be ok with someone else’s choices and where they are in life, and that’s always easy. When we can have compassion to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes we can learn the most about ourselves and them.


  6. Lisa says:

    Beautifully said Tonya! There’s no possible way those words could have been written any better. I have the privilege of knowing both you and Lori and think the world of you both. Strong, beautiful women inside and out! Thank you for sharing this!!


  7. Francine says:

    Omg what an amazing read I am truly touched! Two beautiful ladies both you and you sister I cryed reading this you both are awesome ladies! Loved reading this I truly loved it!💕💕💕💕💕💕

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Gail Redmond says:

    What an amazing blog! Not everyone has the power of self reflection..kudos to you both. I’ve never met your sister, but she sounds like an amazing person. You also are an amazing person, with an enormous amount of drive and energy. Your pictures are absolutely gorgeous..thank you for sharing such personal information 😊


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