Are plus sized actors who decide to bare all on camera doing us a favor?

When larger celebrities bare all can that help us feel more comfortable about our own bodies?

Say what you will about Lena Dunham’s penchant for nudity on her HBO show, Girls. It’s certainly solicited a lot of conversation -- even months after the most recent season of the show has concluded.

I have some friends (both bigger and smaller in stature) who applaud what they call Ms. Dunham's bravery; while other friends (also larger and not-so-larger) shudder at Ms. Dunham’s seeming comfort with her curvier, “fluffier” body. And as someone who’s weighed in at both ends of the scale, I’m often asked what I think about Ms. Dunham being an apparent proponent of larger actors showing their stuff even if their bods are not Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue ready.

Fact is, even though I used to weigh over 450 pounds and now weigh around 175 pounds (and even though I’m male), I’m still just as shy about taking off my shirt in public now as I was back in the day. 

When weighing around 450 pounds, I had man boobs that could rival any other set of breasts out in public (be they of the male or female variety). Today the layers of fat around my chest are gone, but in their place are remaining stretch marks and even a few scars from surgery I had to remove the excess skin after I lost over 250 pounds of excess weight. 

So how does a former “boob man” feel about the bountiful nudity of Ms. Dunham and other actors now appearing on cable and streaming channels near you? Well, in a word…boob-tastic

I was slow to come on board the “big performers being comfortable showing things off” train. As a fat child and teen, I had been taught to be ashamed of my larger body, as chronicle in my new book, Weightless: My Life As A Fat Man And How I Escaped -- and responded accordingly. This didn’t just mean never being seen in a bathing suit. My high school classmates remind me that I always wore a jacket during that time in my life -- even during hot summer months. That’s how fearful I was of letting any flesh be exposed.

So to not only see Ms. Dunham parade her body -- along with Orange is the New Black’s Lorraine Toussaint showing off her heavier, fifty-something body and even just recently Ray Donovan’s Brooke Smith displaying her “real woman” 40-something chest -- makes me want to grab a megaphone and scream out that I’m a proud boob man. Even if my pride is currently extending to boobs other than my own. 

Finally, we have beautiful and real performers showing their bodies on TV. And although all of these examples are happening in quality shows as opposed to ones meant to titillate (meaning it can be argued that the nudity is somewhat relevant to the plots and context of the stories), they are still showing us that we’re all beautiful -- whether male or female, whether large or small, whether naked or clothed. And that even if our bodies entail a little sagging or a bevy of stretch marks (or even some scars), there’s no need for the cameras, the general public, potential paramours -- or even our own selves -- to turn away in disgust.

Beauty. It's not just a skinny girl or guy thing anymore. And while it’s one thing to proclaim that, it’s another thing entirely to see it. So thank you, Ms. Dunham, Ms. Toussaint and Ms. Smith. To think that you three and a few others are letting us all know that beauty comes in all shapes, sizes, ages and skin colors -- and helping helping us to let go of the shame -- while entertaining us with your gifted acting skills is quite a feat indeed. 

My psyche -- along with my self-esteem -- salute you.

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