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

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:

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When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

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This article originally appeared on 03.19.15


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