May 9, 2014 at 12:05 PM ET
The photo of a bikini-clad Brooke Birmingham went viral after she said it was rejected for a success story on Shape magazine’s website. The photo, taken after her 172-pound weight loss, shows excess skin around her midsection, the reality of weight loss that Birmingham proudly wanted to show others.
But a bikini picture of Birmingham will now appear in the magazine after all, she and one of the magazine’s top editors said on TODAY Friday.
Birmingham, 28, appeared on the show alongside Bahar Takhtehchian, the magazine’s editor-at-large, who said Shape will feature Birmingham and five other “real” women in the pages of the monthly magazine.
“We want to start a larger discussion about what happens after you lose a significant amount of weight,” Takhtehchian told Savannah Guthrie. “Because truly, there is a journey after the weight-loss journey, and those are the questions and the issues that we want to talk to Brooke and the other ladies about.”
Will a bikini photo of Birmingham be part of the spread? “Of course,” said a smiling Birmingham. “Absolutely,” Takhtehchian said.
Birmingham, of Illinois, lost her weight after four years of diet and exercise. She told Guthrie she had submitted the bikini photo because she is proud of the way she looks.
“I love the way I look,” Birmingham said. “I love the way I look in a bikini. I want to show women that it’s OK to wear a bikini who have loose skin or bumps.”
The controversy began earlier this month when Birmingham said she was asked to submit a photo of herself fully clothed instead of the bikini shot, citing an editorial policy. Birmingham said she had seen photos on Shape’s website of women in bikinis, and couldn’t understand why hers wouldn’t be used.
“I was hurt,” Birmingham told Guthrie. “I felt like my body wasn’t good enough to be on their website.”
Takhtehchian reiterated the magazine’s stance it was a miscommunication with a freelance writer.
“Unfortunately, she said there was an editorial policy that simply doesn’t exist,” Takhtehchian said. “That’s where things went awry a little bit.”
Earlier, Birmingham fought back on her blog, writing that she felt her body can help others.
“My body is real, not Photoshopped or hidden because I feel like I should be ashamed,” she wrote on May 2.
She continued: ”I spent MANY years hating and hiding a body I was ashamed of because it wasn’t society’s ideal of beautiful. Being asked to send a photo of myself with a shirt on made me feel like I again should be ashamed of my body. That since I have the loose skin, I shouldn’t be in a bikini.”
Takhtehchian said the magazine wants to celebrate people like Birmingham.
“We are excited to make this into an impactful discussion about weight loss and the reality,” Takhtehchian said. “We want to turn this into something positive, so it makes a big impact.”
Guthrie asked Birmingham why the photo was so important to her.
“It was my intention to start a conversation,” she said. “I had no idea that it would come to this. It was important to me because that is my body and I felt like I needed to put it out there to show people what a real weight loss looks like.”
In a TODAY.com survey, 83 percent of respondents said they would like to see more “real body” bikini photos in the media, while 17 percent did not.
If you've lost weight, share your "after" weight-loss photos on TODAY Health Facebook. Bikinis not required!
Lisa A. Flam is a news and lifestyles reporter in New York. Follow her on Twitter.