Words: Elizabeth Di Filippo
A woman from Florida, US, says she was motivated to lose more than 135 pounds, or 9.6 stone, to avoid paying “fat tax” on her wedding gown.
Mary Jane O’Toole, a leasing assistant from Orlando in Florida, said she became fed up with struggling to find clothes she loved in her size because they typically came with a higher price tag.
“It was very limited when I was growing up and I was acutely aware of the fact that things that are bigger cost way more money,” O’Toole said in an interview with TODAY.
It wasn’t until her now-husband Alex Hoffman proposed in December 2016 that O’Toole became determined to lose weight for her wedding.
“I had a pretty good idea I didn’t want to be big as a bride. Growing up I told myself, you’re not going to be a fat bride,” she said. “But I don’t want to take away from anyone’s experience being a plus-size bride. Every bride is beautiful.”
Thanks to the Lose It! App, O’Toole said she began monitoring her caloric intake and began exercising.
“I didn’t really understand how to eat properly,” she told PEOPLE in a separate interview. “I never ate because I was hungry - it was because it smelled or looked good, or because my friends were going to Steak n’ Shake or Taco Bell.
READ MORE: Obese nurse loses 16 stone
“Then when I met my husband, he had always been active and thought that as long as he worked out he could eat whatever he wanted, and I started to do that too, but I was never active. We just ballooned up.”
After a year of tracking food, O’Toole had shrunk down to a size 12 dress, and began wedding dress shopping.
Bridal gowns typically run smaller than usual clothing size, meaning bridal consultants were pulling sizes 18 and 20 for her to try on. Eventually, O’Toole found a dress that she liked, but it wasn’t available in her size.
“They had to put extra fabric in the back so I could get a better sense of what it would look like closed,” she recalled. “I found the dress I loved and they said if we have to order it in my size, it would be $600 [£464] more.”
Determined to avoid paying the “fat tax,” O’Toole began exercising up to five times a week, and fell in love with working out.
READ MORE: Filling foods to help you lose weight
After dropping more weight, she found the dress of her dreams and got married in November 2018.
Despite being able to now fit into straight sizes, O’Toole hopes that more clothing manufacturers practice fair pricing.
“Big girls want to look good too and it doesn’t help our self esteem to go into a store and not find our size," she explained. "Women spend money. If most of the female population is plus sized, wouldn’t you want to accommodate the people who want to buy your clothing?”
The decision she says, is better for business adding, “Make these accommodations and make people happy in their clothes. And then business will be cyclical. They’ll keep coming back to buy more.”