Emme: "I'm a Size 12, So What?"
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Emme: "I'm a Size 12, So What?"

In a world where size 2 rules the runway, find out what keeps the former plus-size model, cancer survivor, and Mind, Body, Spirit Superstar, Emme, going strong.

When Size Is a Plus

FITNESS: You talk about your weight in such a healthy, positive way. How can other women learn to do the same?

Emme: It starts with honesty. I know a lot of women who lie about their weight. I worked very hard to get to a point where I can say, "This is how much I weigh. I am healthy and happy the way I am." I left shame and guilt about my body at the door a long time ago. Who has a right to say that we should look a certain way? Who makes those rules up? When it comes to feeling good about my appearance, the question I ask myself is, "Do I feel comfortable with my body now?" I'm a size 12; I've been a 16 and gone to the verge of 18 when I was pregnant. But you know what? This is my package. I'm looking at beauty in a whole new way -- and I want other women to do the same.

FITNESS: Do you work out to stay healthy?

Emme: Right now, I exercise three or four times a week. Fitness is a vital part of my life -- it's a huge release for me, both mentally and physically. And I love trying anything new that's physically challenging. I boogie-board, snowshoe, walk, swim, you name it. Last winter I went to Stratton Mountain in Vermont, and I picked up snowboarding for the first time. I love it! And I've been doing charity events like the 100-mile bike tour to raise money for multiple sclerosis for about 12 years. Two years ago, during the MS tour, my daughter, who is now 6, rode on an extender behind me the whole way! I was so proud of her for keeping up the pace. My fitness achievements mean even more to me now that I have survived cancer.

Her Battle with Cancer

FITNESS: When did you learn you were ill?

Emme: I found out in May 2007, after several years of having symptoms. For instance, I was coughing a lot, and I wasn't able to sleep on my back without feeling as if I was going to suffocate. I went from being able to complete a 100-mile bike tour in two days with no problem to suddenly feeling like I was going to die halfway through a Spin class. It didn't make any sense to me. Then the doctors told me that I had Stage 2 Hodgkin's lymphoma. It turned out I had a tumor the size of a banana growing on the lymph nodes in my chest. I started treatment as soon as I found out. Chemo ended in October.

FITNESS: Has battling cancer affected the way you see your body?

Emme: When I was battling Hodgkin's, I was eating ravenously and still dropping weight because of the sickness. Altogether I lost about 30 pounds, and I got my weight to a place it hadn't been since my modeling heyday: 192 pounds. For me, that's quite trim -- I'm 5'11". But there is no satisfaction in losing weight because of cancer. When I finished chemo, I had to deal with the realities of my life, including the fact that I was going through a divorce while raising my daughter. So although physically I am feeling better, emotionally things are a little stressful right now, and I've been eating more chocolate than usual. Recently I realized that I've gained 10 pounds since I was sick, which means that I am getting healthier, but it also means that I've been eating a little too much chocolate!

Emme's Charity and Web Site

FITNESS: Is your passion for fitness the reason you are such a big supporter of the Women's Sports Foundation?

Emme: I attended Syracuse University on a full athletic scholarship for rowing. I consider myself so blessed to have had sports in my life; rowing opened up doors for me and taught me crucial life skills -- from learning how to be a strong competitor to being a better teammate -- that can help any woman entering the workforce. The Women's Sports Foundation's grants and academic scholarships allow young women to pursue their athletic dreams, but the organization is woefully underfunded. If every mom who has a daughter gave $10 a year to WSF, it would make all the difference in helping fund after-school programs for girls and more scholarships for young women going to college.

FITNESS: You also have a Web site. What gave you the idea to launch it?

Emme: I created emmestyle.com two years ago so that there would be a place where women could ask questions and share their thoughts about everything from shopping for clothes for their body size to swapping workout tips. In forming this site, my goal was to bring together a supportive community -- a place where women would find their voice and feel comfortable sharing their point of view.

Support Emme's Mind, Body, Spirit Charity!

Founded in 1974 by Billie Jean King, the Women's Sports Foundation is a charitable educational organization dedicated to advancing the lives of girls and women through sports and physical activity. In addition to providing scholarships and grants, the WSF advocates for more government sponsorship of athletic programs for girls and women, equal media coverage of women's and men's athletics, and better opportunities for women to make a career in sports.


Originally published in FITNESS magazine, July 2008.