Q&A: Rachel Estapa, Founder of More to Love
“Will I ever be a size 4? No, and that is okay.”
Rachel Estapa lives in Somerville with her husband (a Match.com success story!) and says that she had an “amazingly happy childhood with a stable and loving family who gave me all the opportunities in the world.” But, she says, she’s also been overweight since puberty.
“It was like I gained about 40 pounds overnight,” she says. Although she played soccer, worked with a nutritionist, and went on a series of diets, nothing seemed to work. In college, Estapa lost 55 pounds on Weight Watchers and thought that she had it all figured out. But within five years, the weight came back. She was diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome, a hormonal imbalance that affects 1 in 10 women and can result in weight gain. “So while I had a piece of the puzzle solved, it wasn’t enough because I still tied my weight and my worth together,” she says.
The 29-year-old spends her says working for Harvard University in the Office Of Digital Strategy, but her other full-time job is working as a certified life coach who runs More To Love With Rachel, a community for plus-size women to learn to be “healthy at any size.”
The community started because Estapa vowed to quit dieting and instead choose to focus on what made her feel healthy and happy. “I chose to see who I authentically am, and this attitude helped removed the shame and guilt I felt around my body,” she says. “I started to write about my own personal body-image revelations and coached other plus-size women on how to stop fixing and start living.”
Now with hundreds of members from around the world, Estapa is growing the community to include online classes and she’s set to be on a panel at the Boston Center for Adult Education on work and life balance and breaking into the fitness industry. We talked to Estapa to learn more.
What is the mission of More To Love?
[It’s] purpose is to help plus-size women feel beautiful, worthy, and loved in their current bodies while developing healthy practices to increase self-confidence and happiness. Much of the inspiration is drawn from my own experience overcoming shame and embarrassment of my body, but I then back that up with proven coaching techniques that help change people’s thoughts and behaviors. So many times we hear well-to-do advice on ‘just love yourself!’ as a way to better build self-confidence around the body, but no one offers a strategy, guidance, and support on how to make that possible. I provide the education, tools, and support necessary to learn how to disconnect your weight from your worth so that you can live healthier and happier, without shame and guilt.
Tell me about the signature class beginning in April.
The More To Love Class (MTLClass) is a 28-day online course designed to help women experience self-love and body-acceptance. Daily activities explore body-image, food, health, fitness, fashion, and most importantly, how to dismantle negative thoughts. It’s virtual, through a private Facebook group I manage so people can participate anywhere. The cost is $40 and April’s class enrollment opens Monday, March 10. I’m honored to create a safe-space for women to open up without fear of being shamed or intimidated based on their size. The class has been healing and inspiring, and I’m so excited to keep doing more.
I heard the the first one sold out?
[It] first launched in February of this year, and I had more than double the amount of participants I intended. The women in the group have changed, even in just 28 days, and are more confident and loving of themselves than they have ever experienced.
What is your favorite part about empowering women?
I received hundreds of comments, emails, and notes from women who felt touched by my story, that it’s helped them see their own beauty and inspired them to act more confidently in the body they have right now. That’s what this is about; showing people it’s okay to be who they are, unapologetically. [This] is about celebrating a diversity of what makes humans so amazing, and body-positive messages are just one piece in this tide of greater inclusivity.
What is the hardest part of your job?
Hands down the stigma around overweight people and the inherent myth that being overweight equals laziness. It’s very hard for many people to detach weight from health. And I understand why; it’s a complex issue that spans medical, social, economic, and psychological factors.
What do you have to say to the critics who claim that you are “promoting obesity?”
People have criticized that I am promoting obesity. They assume that my weight means something about the person I am and my behavior, so it puts me on the defense to have to justify and explain myself. I am extremely physically active. I run 5Ks, I practice advanced yoga, I eat a balanced diet, and have impeccable bloodwork. Yet people still don’t buy it. The hardest part is to resist the urge to prove who is right or wrong in all this, because that game is a losing battle.
What do you want to tell the women out there that have trouble losing weight?
First, you’re not bad, lazy, or undisciplined if you’re not able to lose weight. Weight and identity are linked, so it’s nearly impossible to address one without the other. More To Love’s work puts a pause in the cycle of dieting by helping people understand and connect the dots between what they believe losing weight will do for them. Weight is personal, emotional, raw.
Do you have any male clients? I’d assume that there are also many men out there in your position.
While I don’t have any male clients, I certainly would never turn them away!