A weight-loss clinic used her photo without asking. So she called them up.

'So here's the thing. Umm ... you can't do that.'

Meghan Tonjes awoke to an interesting Facebook message a few days ago.

It didn't bring the best news.


GIF via Meghan Tonjes/YouTube.

The message was from one of Tonjes' 237,000 subscribers on YouTube. She's a popular vlogger, so getting a message from one of them isn't that uncommon.

But this message was particularly ... interesting.

A subscriber asked her about an apparent photo of Tonjes being used as an ad at a weight-loss clinic in Georgia.

Yep, the photo was of her. And nope, it was not being used with her permission.

GIFs via Meghan Tonjes/YouTube.

"I was in shock," Tonjes told Upworthy. "Shock soon became anger."

The story that accompanied Tonjes' photo in the ad made matters worse. It claimed that Tonjes' initials were "D.A." (nope), that her weight was 230 pounds (wrong again; she's actually more like 270), and that she was a mother trying to shed fat after having a baby (three strikes — you're out).

Here's what it looked like:


"It's such a misrepresentation of my weight and why I'm at that weight," Tonjes explained.

It's not even that the clinic alluded to the fact Tonjes is fat. In fact, as a fat activist, "fat" is a label she wears proudly.

Tonjes is an outspoken advocate for loving yourself regardless of your shape or size and has been working to end misconceptions about what it means to be fat for years.

"I think it's important to remember that the word 'fat' is not in itself hurtful," she explained in a video back in 2012, noting she's not offended by the label. "It's all the things that you attach to the word 'fat.' Call me lazy, call me unmotivated, call me ugly, call me sloppy, call me unhygienic, call me all these other things that people associate with the word 'fat' — that is not true."

GIFs via Meghan Tonjes/YouTube.

She's onto something. Because while there's no shortage of harmful stereotypes about being fat — like that fat people are certainly unhealthy, that they must lack willpower, or that they're surely desperate for dates — the over-generalizations don't hold up. (So before you think, "But isn't Meghan encouraging people to live unhealthfully?" — nah, not at all.)

Tonjes was outraged because the clinic used her photo to promote a method of losing weight she certainly would not endorse — even if they had asked for permission.

"This business is selling a dream of meaningful or long-term weight loss through injections and special drops," she told Upworthy. "Now, I'm not a doctor, but..."

Tonjes did what many of us would do — she called the weight-loss clinic's office and demanded answers. The doctor in charge was apparently on vacation, so Tonjes left a message with the receptionist.

GIFs via Meghan Tonjes/YouTube.

“I just wanted to let the doctor know that I hope that he had a good day off, and I will be contacting my lawyer," she says on the phone with the clinic in her video. "Because that's incredibly illegal to use my face as advertising without payment and without notification."

Although Tonjes threatened legal action in her video, she told Upworthy she believes the conversation around using photos without a person's consent — especially to promote something that person might not support and that might not even be true — is the most important thing right now.

"Be critical of businesses using photos like this," she said. "Be critical of any business that sells you a dream of overnight change. Protect your brand and your work. "

"I just want people, wherever they are with their bodies, to know that they are worthy of love and respect," she said. "There's no magical weight or size where life magically starts, so start doing what you love now."

So far, Tonjes said she has not been contacted directly by (let alone received an apology from) the clinic.

Upworthy reached out to the business that used Tonjes' photo for comment but had not heard back by the time of publishing. The article will be updated should the business respond.

Watch Tonjes' video below:

Family

As a child, Dr. Sangeeta Bhatia's parents didn't ask her what she wanted to be when she grew up. Instead, her father would ask, "Are you going to be a doctor? Are you going to be an engineer? Or are you going to be an entrepreneur?"

Little did he know that she would successfully become all three: an award-winning biomedical and mechanical engineer who performs cutting-edge medical research and has started multiple companies.

Bhatia holds an M.D. from Harvard University, an M.S. in mechanical engineering from MIT, and a PhD in biomedical engineering from MIT. Bhatia, a Wilson professor of engineering at MIT, is currently serving as director of the Marble Center for Cancer Nanomedicine, where she's working on nanotechnology targeting enzymes in cancer cells. This would allow cancer screenings to be done with a simple urine test.

Bhatia owes much of her impressive career to her family. Her parents were refugees who met in graduate school in India; in fact, she says her mom was the first woman to earn an MBA in the country. The couple immigrated to the U.S. in the 1960s, started a family, and worked hard to give their two daughters the best opportunities.

"They made enormous sacrifices to pick a town with great public schools and really push us to excel the whole way," Bhatia says. "They really believed in us, but they expected excellence. The story I like to tell about my dad is like, if you brought home a 96 on a math test, the response would be, 'What'd you get wrong?'"

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Don't test on animals. That's something we can all agree on, right? No one likes to think of defenseless cats, dogs, hamsters, and birds being exposed to a bunch of things that could make them sick (and the animals aren't happy about it, either). It's no wonder so many people and organizations have fought to stop it. But did you ever think that maybe brands are testing products on us too, they're just not telling us they're doing it?

I know, I know, it sounds like a conspiracy theory, but that's exactly what e-cigarette brands like JUUL (which corners the e-cigarette market) are doing in this country right now, and young people are on the frontlines of the fallout. Most people assume that the government would have looked at devices that allow people to inhale unknown chemicals into their lungs BEFORE they hit the market. You would think that someone in the government would have determined that they are safe. But nope, that hasn't happened. And vape companies are fighting to delay the government's ability to evaluate these products.

So no one really knows the long-term health effects of e-cigarette use, not even JUUL's CEO, nor are they informing the public about the potential risks. On top of that, according to the FDA, there's been a 78% increase in e-cigarette usage among high school and middle school-aged children in just the last two years, prompting the U.S. Surgeon General to officially recognize the trend as an epidemic and urge action against it.

These facts have elicited others to take action, as well.

Truth Initiative, the nonprofit best known for dropping the real facts about smoking and vaping since 2000 through its truth campaign, is now on a mission to confront e-cigarette brands like JUUL about the lack of care they've taken to inform consumers of the potential adverse side effects of their products. And they're doing it with the help of animal protesters who are tired of seeing humans treated like test subjects.

The March Against JUUL | Tested On Humans | truth www.youtube.com

"No one knows the long-term effects of JUULing so any human who uses one is being used as a lab rat," says, appropriately, Mario the Sewer Rat.

"I will never stop fighting JUUL. Or the mailman," notes Doug the Pug, the Instagram-famous dog star.

Truth, the national counter-marketing campaign for youth smoking prevention, hopes this fuzzy, squeaky, snorty animal movement arms humans with the facts about vaping and inspires them to demand transparency from JUUL and other e-cigarette companies. You can get your own fur babies involved too by sharing photos of them wearing protest gear with the hashtag #DontTestOnHumans. Here's some adorable inspo for you:

The dangerous stuff is already out there, but with knowledge on their side, young people will hopefully make the right choices and fight companies making the wrong ones. If you need more convincing, here are the serious facts.

Over the last decade, 127 e-cigarette-related seizures were reported, which prompted the FDA to launch an official investigation in April 2019. Since then, over 215 cases of a new, severe lung illness have sprung up all over the country, with six deaths to date. While scientists aren't yet sure of the root cause, the majority of victims were young adults who regularly vaped and used e-cigarettes. As such, the CDC has launched an official investigation into the potential link.

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Photo by Lindsay Fox/Pixabay

Consumers have a right to know what they're putting in their bodies. If everyone (and their pets) speaks up, the e-cigarette industry will have to make a change. Young people are already taking action across the country. They're hosting rallies nationwide and on October 9 as part of a National Day of Action, young people are urging their friends and classmates to "Ditch JUUL." Will you join them?

For help with quitting e-cigarettes, visit thetruth.com/quit or text DITCHJUUL to 88709 for free, anonymous resources.

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