So see what had happened was…

That’s how every good, juicy story starts out, right?

And this… this is a good, juicy story I guess, but with an extremely critical lesson.

This lesson is something that I hope all people, but especially parents, take a moment to really think deeply about.

It all started just yesterday when I was scrolling through the comments section of a thread on my Facebook page.

On Tuesday I posted a raw, real, and vulnerable guest blog post from my good friend, Neghar Fonooni.  The blog post was accompanied by a split-screen image of her from 2009 looking incredibly lean and ripped, and then 2014 still looking very fit, but noticeably less lean and ripped.

Neghar-Fonooni-inpost

As you can see, while there is quite a contrast between the two pictures, Neghar is still incredibly fit and quite lean in the picture on the right.  So what was the purpose of Neghar’s post?

She was writing a guest blog post for my site about self-love; a message she and I feel incredibly passionate about (as you’ll see!).

In this blog post, Neghar opens up about how she has battled body image issues for years, and how even when she was her leanest, that “motivation” to be lean was coming from a very dark place.  A place of self-hatred and self-abuse.  A place of deprivation and “I’m-not-enough.”  A place of hardcore restriction followed by hardcore binges.  A place of, “maybe if I’m leaner my boyfriend won’t cheat on me.”

In short, Neghar might have looked amazing, but inside she was pretty miserable.  After years of self-abuse she finally recognized that what she was doing to her body was not serving her.  It wasn’t serving her physically, mentally, or emotionally, and she knew she needed to stop.

Fast forward 5 years and Neghar is in a fantastic place.  She is happy, she is healthy, she has a wonderful husband, son, and business.  She has great friends, and a legion of women who follow her amazing advice on nutrition, training, body image, perspective, mindset, and lifestyle.

Relaxing more allows me to do things I love like spending quality time with my family.

Of course getting here wasn’t easy.  Neghar has put in incredible amounts of work to get herself to this place.  From reading to meditation to yoga to daily mindset practices, Neghar has focused on intense introspection the last several years to get to a place where she feels happy and balanced and vibrant.

She has spent time writing out her “bucket list” and she has done everything in her power to create an amazing for reality for herself, and create it she has.

Slowly but surely over the last few years she’s found an incredible balance between being healthy, active, and fit, while not obsessing over her nutrition and being able to enjoy an incredibly free lifestyle filled with adventure, travel, and plenty of wine.

Lucky for us, Neghar has taken exactly what she’s learned and put it into manuals called Lean & Lovely, which teaches other women how to, “Reshape their body.  Renew their mind.  Reclaim their life.”  through intelligent exercise, enjoyable and moderate eating, and plenty of self-love and compassion.

Because it’s important to me to amplify the messages of people in the fitness industry who I believe are doing incredible work, I was extremely excited to help Neghar promote this “passion project” of hers, and so that’s what I was doing when I posted her image and the accompanying blog post on my Facebook page.

The majority of the comments were extremely positive, with many people piping up saying that Neghar’s words brought them to tears, or that they felt understood by her, or that her story resonated with them.  Pretty powerful stuff.  Naturally, there were a couple of comments about “which body looks better” but most were pretty respectful, until I saw this…

Example 1

(Something important to note:  I have blacked out the name of this person because this blog post is NOT about a witch-hunt.  This is not about what a “terrible person” this man is.  This post has a much bigger lesson to be learned from this.  This comment was simply the impetus for this blog post.)

That said, I was absolutely appalled at this man (we will call him “Steve”) and his response, and while I try not to engage in Facebook “fights” I couldn’t resist replying.

Example 2

OK, so maybe I was a bit emotional in that response, but with good reason.  Literally this man’s Facebook comment represents the EXACT problem that I am making it my personal mission to solve:

To help women discover what their best body looks and feels like with minimal time and effort, and to help them have grace and compassion for their bodies.

And like any good Internet Soap Opera, Mrs. Fonooni stormed the scene shortly thereafter.

Neg Response

Yep.  That’ll do it.

Shortly thereafter, we saw a response from Steve himself:

Example 4

While I don’t find it necessary to dissect his response sentence-by-sentence as I think it’s quite clear that he is backpedaling like crazy to try and justify his original comment, I will kindly point out that when you intend to convey the message that:

“Striving for perfection is not healthy, but you should always strive to remain fit.”

The best way to do it is not to say:

“Ripped abs are kinda gross on a woman, in my opinion. It makes em look like a dude. It takes away the softness of femininity.  But that doesn’t open the door for a flabbalanche!”

Congratulations, Steve.  You are officially the worst communicator ever.  (OK, that’s an exaggeration, but come on!  I don’t think that was a misinterpretation on our part.  I think that was major mis-communication on his!)

Looking back, I’m not sure he was using the word “flabbalanche” towards Neghar, but either way — it’s an incredibly insensitive term, and it seems as if it’s a derogatory term directed towards someone carrying extra body fat.

All this said… let me FINALLY get to the main point of this article.  The last sentence that the man posted:

“And the detrimental body images you referred to are created by modeling agencies and stylists…not by 40 year old southern men! I assure you!!!!!”

Herein lies the problem.

I will say very clearly that I do NOT know this man personally, although we do have mutual friends.  From what I do know of him, he is a father of five who seems to be a devoted father and husband, absolutely in love with his wife and his kids, and he has the highest level of education one can receive (Doctor), and yet it appears that he is taking ZERO responsibility for the impact that his thoughts, words, and actions will have on the body image and self-worth of those he influences.  He is apparently leaving it to the, “modeling agencies and stylists.”

Again, this is NOT about THIS man, but rather he is being used as an example of an intelligent man who loves his family, and yet he has absolutely no recognition that his thoughts become his words, his words become his actions, his actions become his behaviors, and his behaviors shape the lives of those he loves.

The point is, it can happen to anyone, even intelligent and well-meaning people.

I will say up front that I am NOT a parent.  I was a nanny for 5 years, and I have an adorable niece and nephew whom I adore, but I don’t think it’s my place to step in and criticize and give specific advice about how to raise someone’s children.

Parenting is HARD.  Like, really hard.  Heck, 45 hours a week of being a nanny put me on my arse every week.

What I *am* doing, is simply asking that ALL adults, but especially parents, take a moment to recognize the impact of their influence on those around them who are most impressionable.  Making seemingly small but critical changes in your everyday behavior can have hugely positive implications down the road, and not making them can have hugely negative implications down the road.

How do I know?

Because I work with women every single day who tell me stories of how their wonderful and well-meaning parents shaped their own body image negatively and caused myriad food issues and self-worth issues.

Amy Kubal

Amy Kubal

Amy, whom I had the pleasure of being on a panel with at Paleo f(x) in April of 2014, talks very openly about her struggles with weight, food, body image, and her eating disorder that started when she was 11.  She tells stories of how in an attempt to be healthy, there were “rules” in her household surrounding food in regards to what kind, how much, and when she could eat.  I have no doubt that her parent(s) thought that they were doing what was best for their children, but that’s the point — they didn’t realize that they were shaping Amy’s relationship with food FOREVER.

Amy has been hospitalized, been through outpatient programs, been on medication and in therapy.  She’s been deathly thin (not an exaggeration) and she’s been at a healthy weight, but no matter how she looks on the outside, the battle has raged on inwardly.  She is working very hard on her road to recovery, and I hope that her powerful story is eye-opening for those of you that need your eyes opened.

Jen Comas Keck

JCK headshot

Another women whose story I’d like to share with you is my very good friend, Mrs. Jen Comas Keck.  Jen is a trainer, health and fitness writer, and co-founder of Girls Gone Strong.  In this article, Jen talks about her absolutely stunning Mother consistently asking Jen if she looks fat starting when Jen was around 5 years old.  Subsequently, on Jen’s first day of Kindergarten, she asked her aunt and grandma, “Do I have a nice figure?”

Yes, 5 years old.

In addition to her Mother, Jen also notes that her Father (with whom she has a fantastic relationship!) used to always make jokes or comments about Jen getting a second helping at dinner, so much so that getting more food at dinner became an anxiety-inducing experience for Jen, and has contributed to an increased level of self-consciousness regarding how other people view what/how much she is eating.  Jen also discusses how the women in her family would “run for the hills” every time a camera came out at a family gathering for fear of how they’d look on camera, and thus Jen has hardly any pictures of the important women in her life.

Jen has worked long and hard to have a healthy relationship with food, but early experiences such as those have shaped her relationship with her body, her body image and food forever.

Again, I’d like to point out… these parents are NOT bad parents. They are simply uneducated about the impact that they are having on their children’s view of themselves and their view of food, which is the purpose of this blog post.  To help EVERYONE recognize the impact that have on those around them.

Former Client (Anonymous)

woman_head_silhouette_2t2z-260x300

Finally, I used to work with a client whose Father used to consistently tease her  Mother (his wife) about her body and appearance.  From tugging on the loose skin on her belly from carrying their children, to mentioning that her breasts weren’t as perky as they were before she got pregnant, to pointing out new wrinkles and gray hair — he was constantly giving her a hard time.

From my client’s account, they seemed to have a good marriage and really love each other, but for some reason he teased her mercilessly about her “perceived flaws” and to this day my former client has an absolute obsession with physical perfection, and has made many of her life’s decisions based solely on how it would affect her appearance, most notably, not having children.

Other seemingly small examples:

-  I’ve had a 4 year old girl ask me if she “looks sexy.”

- I’ve had another 4 year old girl cry and tell me that she didn’t want to wear her bathing suit at the pool because the other kids called her “fat.”

- The other day, a friend of mine watched her 2 year old tap the scale with her foot and stand on it to “weigh herself” (just like my friend does every morning).  She had NO CLUE that her daughter was watching and taking notes.

- I can remember being a young gymnast and “feeling fat” at the age of 7 despite being a beanpole.

WHAT ARE WE DOING TO OUR CHILDREN?!

Yes, to “Steve’s” point, he is absolutely correct that “modeling agencies and stylists” (and by that, I assume he means the media as a whole) have a LOT to do with our warped view of ourselves, and the warped view that our children have of themselves.  That’s is why it’s ALL THE MORE IMPORTANT to do everything in your power to combat these detrimental messages that the media sends to us and our children, and be extremely careful of what they hear and see.

We (yes, I am including myself in this since I have small children in my life over whom I have influence) are on the front lines, and have gobs of opportunities to instill positive body image, healthy habits, and a strong sense of self-worth into the children in our lives.  Give them the power and the knowledge and the tools to recognize and reject the messages that the media sends to them.

What can we do about it?

A few ideas that I’ve gathered from other parents in regards to how they combat the media are as follows:

1. *Get rid of your fashion magazines with photo-shopped models on the cover (or put them where the kids can’t see them).

2. *Turn off the Real Housewives of What-The-Eff-Ever on TV (or watch it after they go to bed, although we would probably all be in a better head-space to be a positive influence if we stopped watching that garbage, too!)

3. Compliment your sons and daughters on something other than how they look.  Of course you can tell them they are pretty/cute/adorable, but can’t you also tell them that they are smart/strong/funny/kind/caring/helpful/a good friend?

4. Talk to them about the importance of being HEALTHY.  Not thin.  Not skinny.  Not a certain size or weight.  But healthy and strong.

5. Make sure that the majority of their diet consists of whole, unprocessed food, but don’t 100% eliminate or restrict anything. Explain to them that certain foods make you feel good and help you be healthy and strong and those are the foods that we should eat a lot, and that other foods, even though they’re yummy, they don’t help us be healthy and strong, and so you eat less of those foods.

6. Be active around them.  If you’re active and if you make sure that your kids see you having fun being active, your kids will want to be active too.  It’s not about, “Mommy has to go to spin class so her butt will fit in her pants.”  It’s about, “Mommy is going to the gym/for a run/for a hike/for a swim because it makes Mommy feel healthy and strong!”

7. Speak to YOURSELF like you’re someone that you love.  No matter how hard you try to hide your internal struggles from your children, if you don’t get YOUR head right, it will inevitably shine through.

Yes, Steve.  The media is absolutely a huge catalyst for the body image issues that many women face.  But as a, “40 year old southern man,” with several children, I would hope you see it as your job to fiercely protect your children against the messages they send, and arm them with the knowledge and tools to grow up with a healthy sense of themselves and their bodies.

Powerful video about young girls and their self-perception. I can’t lie… I feel a little funny that it’s attached to a “National Brand” but as my friend pointed out, that Brand is going to advertise some way or another. It might as well have a positive impact.

Has your life been deeply impacted by the words of someone you love? I’d love to hear more examples of how seemingly small behaviors have shaped your own body image and relationship with food in a positive or negative way! Thanks for sharing!

32 Responses to Use Your Words – How What We Say Affects Everyone Around Us

  1. Cindy says:

    Thank you so much Molly and Neghar for saying so passionately what we all thought when seeing that comment. Unfortunately some individuals will contribute to the epidemic of poor body image for our girls but we can be proactive and call people on it with the hopes we can change one person at a time. Many people in the fitness industry constantly fight the body image scrutiny no matter how ripped or “soft” we are. You impact more people than you know by being “real” and authentic. Thank you for being brave and allowing us all to know, we are not alone. ❤️

  2. Melissa says:

    Thank you for this post. I remember being 14, shopping for clothes with my mom. I tried on a long skirt I liked, but she pointed out how it made the fat on the side of my legs and hips stand out. I was a size 5. Then again, she was always critiquing her own body, so naturally she’d critique mine, too. It stuck with me. In every other way she was so loving, but that comment and moment is stuck in my brain. I’m 31 now, and your love your body challenge helped me so much. My mom and I have a great relationship, btw. But I could have done without comments that contributed to hating my body fur half my life!

    • Melissa says:

      For, not fur! Dang typos.

    • Bridget says:

      I’m so sorry for your long-held memory of that moment in your life Melissa (and I also share a similar one), but in the midst of such a serious topic the spell check correction meaning you hated your body fur cracked me up!! LOL! :-)

  3. Alissa says:

    I couldn’t agree with you more. Even though I don’t have kids yet, I’ve often thought about how I will try to protect them from the eating disorder and body image anguish I have been through. Your tips are great. I would emphasize #3 and #5. And on point number #5, I wanted to add that I recently read an article written by a dietician which further explains why you shouldn’t overemphasize nutrition to young kids or make foods off limits. Thought I’d pass it along because I think it makes perfect sense…. http://parenting.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/07/23/a-dietitian-who-wont-oversell-nutrition-to-her-kids/

    • Crystal Turner says:

      Thank you for sharing that! I have a 4 year old son and he is addicted to sweets already, even though I only gave him veggies, fruit and lean proteins as a toddler and boiled/steamed and smashed my own baby foods! The otter pop wins or chocolate chip cookie would be his #1 choice anytime. And he already asks me things like, “if I eat all my chicken and carrots can I have ice cream?” I don’t want him to have a complex – I want him to eat until he’s full and if he has room for a small bowl of ice cream have at it! Reading this article you linked made me realize I’ve already programmed him to the good/healthy bad/unhealthy debate. Thank you! I will try to reword my statements! :)

  4. Brittany says:

    This post resonates with me in so many ways. I come from one of the most loving and supportive families in the world and I wouldn’t trade them out for anything in the world but I still vividly remember comments from my mom, dad, and sister that to this day still affect me.
    I remember my sister calling me ‘Thunder Thighs’ from the sideline of one of my soccer games, my mom walking behind me in Target and telling me that I should try buying higher rise pants because I was starting to get a muffin top, and my dad pointing out how I’d forgotten to shave my legs one day at the beach (in the form of a supposedly comical song that my family still laughs about today).
    All these things happened in my pre-teen and teenage years. I’m now 25 years old. I still struggle daily with constant negative self-talk and disordered eating habits. I recently tried to bring this up to my family about how much it’s affected me and while I don’t blame them for my disordered eating, that those comments that those seemingly innocuous comments have a serious lasting effect and they just couldn’t understand it. I in no way wanted to make them feel guilty – I just wanted to open their eyes to it.
    Neghar and you are two of my biggest inspirations and your posts are some of the main reasons why I got into weight training and became a personal trainer. Thank you for being so open and honest. You ladies are the best!

  5. Ruby says:

    Thank you SO MUCH! For this Article. I remember being 7 and 8 and believing that I am over weight. I was very self conscious and I developed into a pre teen and teen and young adult who hated myself. The worst part was that I had an undiagnosed medical condition that did make me over weight. But most of all was having no good female figures to look up too. my mother has always and still does make fun of herself and hates how she looks and as a child she would pick on me for eating a second helping and put me on diets since middle school. because of my medical condition it was harder for me to lose weight and she used to pic on me even when i was doing my best as a teen. “If you would eat less/workout more/ stop eating ___ you would be ‘skinny’” The whole time I was made to feel like being skinny perfect was the only way to please her. During my teen years she was in peak shape and still hated herself. She always wanted me to be a model, a cheerleader, and be popular. She wanted me to be ‘beautiful’…”Don’t do this or you will get wrinkles or no one/no boy will like you.” Hell, she even told me once “Maybe if you would loose some weight you would have a boyfriend.” She also refused to take photos most of my life so I have few pictures of her. I lived most of my life hating myself and my body…I would diet(she would even put me on diets) and then go through binge periods, I would lose and gain. I needed a change and i needed to understand. In college I opened my eyes to the truth behind body image and I started to help myself heal. It is a process, but it is possible. I am still struggling with my health issues and I am still what many would consider over weight. But I love myself more now then I ever have and from this point I am making a many healthier choices FOR ME and NO ONE ELSE. I make an effort to tell everyone that they are beautiful as they are beauty is from within and radiates out. Society is so twisted and I wish more people can see that they are beautiful and the media is FAKE. <3 :)

  6. Aimee says:

    OMG- this is such a great post. Words hurt much longer and deeper than any acute physical pain. I was told that I was fat after getting second place in get this…a beauty pagent. (Why oh why did I ever think that was a good idea???) The director told me I was fat and that is why I didn’t win – I was 5 ft 7 and weighed 116 pounds…I remember every single detail about that conversation and that night as if it happened yesterday. I was 18 then, I am now 41 and I struggle daily with self hatred about my weight. If I wasn’t “good enough” / “thin enough” etc then…how on earth can I possibly be good enough now? The person who said this to me is now dead…but yet what they said on that night has continued to live with me every single day of my life.
    Watch what you say people….words are a very powerful weapon.
    Thank you Molly and your team at girls gone strong – reading your words help me to accept me as I am and encourage me to keep fighting for being the best, healthiest, happiest version of me.

  7. Jess says:

    This post resonates with me also. I’m still putting all the pieces together of where my almost lifelong struggle with disordered eating & body image stems from. Now being a mother myself, I’m so aware of the influence I have on my daughter, I would never wish one ounce of my struggles on her. She proudly points out her beautiful belly :)

    It has become more & more apparent to me how much my mum has issues with food, but also her discriminating views about ‘fat people’, (her words). I remember my brothers telling me when I was about 7 that mum had said I was jealous of her because she was thin, & this, coupled with her restrictive, controlling attitude toward her own food, alongside major body image issues, has formed who I am, very very sadly. What is also interesting is that my 3 brothers also have issues with food. One is incredibly fussy, one will only eat at specific times & won’t let anyone else cook for him, & one overeats & binges.

    I never ever want this for my daughter, she is bright & beautiful in every way :)

  8. Kt says:

    I was saddened by the effects of a single sentence my mother said to my daughter when she was about 13. She said “Do you see that [overweight] woman over there? You NEVER want to look like that. At 40, it still colors my daughters view of herself. When she was in her 20s she showed me the “fat” on the back of her leg. She was sure she needed to get rid of it because it was flabby. It was her relaxed calf muscles. I had her stand up and miraculously the “flab” went away.

    We just had the “run like a girl” conversation in my office where I work. I am the only woman here. I have come to see the “run like a girl” as an effort to create an issue where there shouldn’t be one. Why can’t girls just run? Or hit, or shoot, or fish, or fly, or kick, or whatever they want to do? Why does it have to be qualified? And if it is qualified, then why can’t it be “Run like the wind?” or “Hit like a brick?” Better yet, why not Shoot your best? Kick your hardest? Run your fastest? Why give any credence at all to this line of thinking?

  9. Betsy says:

    I love this article, thank you for writing and posting it! Two memories surface from my childhood. I was always a very thin child and I went through a very lanky and awkward phase during puberty. But smack-dab in the middle, when I was about 10 years old I went through a very short chubby phase especially in the midsection. I vividly remember my dad grabbing my stomach and joked with me that I should start doing sit ups. A 10 year old! My chubby phase was just that a phase…a strange childhood growth phase. It was so short lived, my dad doesn’t even remember it nor saying those words! He remembers my long lanky phase where my mother threatened that she would put on weight gaining protein shakes because she was convinced I was starving myself (another weird memory about food and body image…too fat is bad but too thin is bad, what do you want from me?!? I’m just a kid.) To clarify, my dad is a wonderful and super supportive father. He literally cheers me on in every way, he got teary eyed for heaven’s sakes when I competed in my first fitness competition. But I’ll never forget this moment because it was the first time I became conscious about my body. The second memory is from my mother – again super supportive, really gave me a solid foundation on health as well – but used to have a habit of asking my sister and I to compare her legs and amount of cellulite she had to random women in the grocery store or “if so if so” cellulite was better or worse. I don’t know what is worse comparing yourself, shaming another women, shaming yourself or being taught cellulite is ugly. This has caused a lifetime of embarrassment and shame of my cellulite because thanks Mom…it’s genetic! I literally wouldn’t wear shorts unless over my bathing suit because I would never be caught walking any distance with just my bathing suit on because people would see my “ugly cellulite” … I’d only buy skirts of certain length to highlight the “good” part of my leg. Stupid, stupid, stupid. You should never feel like part of you is ugly. Plus true change comes from acceptance first! Actually that is probably another important point – sure mothers, father, men and media have created a bad storm but part of our personal responsibility is taking ownership of ourselves and loving ourselves. We have got to stop looking to the outside for validation, we need to start looking on the inside.

  10. Nikki says:

    Thank you so much for posting this and the article from which this post stemmed!

    I follow you ladies and am constantly referring women to your site and individual fitness sites because the emotional obstacles I have overcome through reading your supportive messages, blogs and information about STRONG, HEALTHY WOMEN, across the span of life, continues to make me feel very empowered each and every day. I want the same for them! Your words have been very powerful in working to undo that which my “southern” family did.

    From your positive words, I have learned to love my thighs. From your motivational words, I have owned several exercises that were NEVER in my repertoire of fitness: a pull-up, a single leg squat, kettlebell snatches, barbell cleans, barbell deadlifts, barbell front racked squats….and the list goes on and on….and I LOVE the results I have seen from these. From your supportive words, I have myself become and seen women whom I influence become strong and healthy and more energetic and radiant versions of themselves. Your words continue to be powerful.

    “Steve” is really a mindset that strong women (not just physically strong but overall strong in mind, body and spirit)are working to eliminate through our powerful and positive words and self-talk. That self-talk, however, is one of the MOST challenging aspects of this journey for women. Why? Because this mindset somehow believes “he” is entitled to critique or judge or comment on or touch or compare or even decide that which we are allowed to or should do with our bodies. The “Steve” mindset believes women should look a certain way or act a certain way or dress a certain way or maybe have babies a certain way. “He” is wrong.

    When I read the comment, the intent, the alleged impetus of which he claimed and I saw the target of those negative daggers, I instantly FELT very angry at this douche mindset person and FELT very sad for Neghar. Not sad because she is weak or helpless, but sad because she represents women: strong, powerful, amazing, well-versed, understanding, traveled and beautiful women. His words were an attack on women.

    I also couldn’t help to feel for her husband and her son, of whom she shares stories about freely.

    My family (southern as they may be) raised me calling me thunder thighs. It was funny to them. “If we didn’t love you, we wouldn’t say it”. Why? Because I have big Norwegian strong ass legs! At 45, I have learned to love my thunder thighs and they are they BEST EFFIN LEGS I have seen! After 5 kids, I still manage to have some damned awesome legs. They are perfect to ME. That isn’t because my family had an epiphany of sorts and told me to love my body as it is. NO. it is because I had came in contact with women like Neghar and Girls Gone Strong and Rachel Cosgrove (her thigh story touched my heart).

    Words are very powerful. “Steve”, the negative mindset, has truly shown his core with regards to the type of soul he has. These mindsets walk amongst us each day. Some more vocal and some use the “shade” of the internet to FEEL more expressive, but they are all the same. They were probably victims of some sort of badgering or “teasing” themselves, and maybe this is their way of trying to make themselves feel better. Still….”Steve” the mindset must know what he said was 100% inaccurate, inappropriate and wrong. Shame on him and although it is with hope and faith he manages to find himself in err and apologize or somehow make right what he has done to THE WOMAN just through his “words”, I am even more hopeful that his own children do not suffer as victims of this same emotional trauma and they are able to BE as beautiful as they are, JUST AS THEY ARE…whether that be ripped as hell or soft as hell or wherever THEY CHOOSE to be in between as long as it is with happiness and self-acceptance and self-appreciation.

    To all the “Steve” mindsets on this plant……women are not objects for you to enjoy. How we look is exactly how we want to look and if that is veins and short hair and nose piercings, then by all means it is exactly how we choose and you, “Steve”, do NOT have any rights to an opinion regarding our choices for ourselves. To believe you do is a very big mistake and one that karma will right one day.

  11. Fiona says:

    You go girls!!! I love this blog, and Neghar’s as well…you ladies really put out a strong GO GIRL power message and I love that! Keep up the great work! PS: boys are dumb -but we already knew that ;)

  12. Lana says:

    Great post! This actually nails the problem exactly. No one wants to take responsibility for their words and actions. They think they have no impact. We never realize how much our words can impact individuals.

    I hit puberty and after hearing my dad criticize my stepmom (who was the thinnest woman I’d ever known) daily for being fat, he started doing it to me. I guess he thought if he called me fat I would lose weight. But really I just gained weight because I felt so bad about myself. Then at some point I started starving myself and running obsessively. My weight has oscillated so much throughout my life. I always know when I see my dad he’s assessing my weight and therefore my worth. Finally in my 30′s I’ve asked him repeatedly to never mention anything about my weight, positive or negative. He still doesn’t get it. I was recently pregnant for the first time and when he found out he told me not to get fat and that women don’t need to gain that much weight when they are pregnant and I better watch out because the women in my family gain too much weight when they are pregnant. I was so happy to be pregnant, but as someone who’s been obsessed with her weight her whole life, it was scary to watch the number on the scale go up and up and up. I had a lot of anxiety about seeing my dad and basically refused to see him during my pregnancy because the stress wasn’t good for my pregnancy. My son was stillborn a little over a month ago when I was 32 weeks pregnant. Now I realize how stupid it was to be concerned about my weight because those 32 weeks are all I’ll ever get to have with my son. My body was doing the most amazing thing it has ever done, it was growing and caring for my baby. I looked beautiful, so full of life, but I was so afraid I was going to get “too fat”. At some point I looked in the mirror at my big, round, amazing belly and I realized that critical voice in my head is not my voice, it’s his voice, and I don’t want it in my head anymore.

  13. Bree Taylor says:

    Wow did this article resonate with me. My very first wake up call was exactly what you had mentioned. My five year old daughter poked her toe and the scale, stood on it, and looked at me and asked if the number was good or bad. I was floored. I flustered a response, she went on her way, and I sat down on my bed and cried.

    More recently, I took on a ten year old female “client” at work at the behest of her dad. The girl had put on weight recently and her parents were concerned. After talking with the girl about her habits, I realized that the truth was that she had just started middle school (meaning no more gym or recess on a weekly basis) and she led a very sedentary life at home. I remember thinking to myself at the time, “why don’t they just put her in a sport?” I didn’t make weight loss the focus of our training. Instead, I worked hard on instilling a love of movement and fitness. At ten, she wasn’t choosing the foods that were in the house or the activities that she was allowed to do. But, she could enjoy movement and learn a little more about healthy living.

  14. Fiona Tay says:

    Wow, what a lack of self-awareness on Steve’s part. Great deconstruction of how the patriarchy continues to police women’s bodies.

  15. Leanne says:

    One of your exact examples happened to me. I made my husband hide our scale from me when I saw my then 20 month old daughter step on it- just like she saw me do multiple times a day. Her body image starts with me, her first female role model. My children are why I am taking control of my health and lifestyle. I want them to remember us being active and being active with us.

    Thank you for sharing this story! I hope it opens the eyes of women and men everywhere and encourages those of us who’ve already had a major eye opener that we can always improve.

  16. Ali says:

    Hi Molly,

    What an amazing post. This speaks so true to my life and my beliefs as to how parents affect their children’s body image. Thank you so much for being on the forefront of this movement to teach people to stop criticizing and judging everyones bodies and to help women (and men alike) to appreciate they are more than their physical appearance. THANK YOU! xo

  17. Katie says:

    THIS is so great.

    My (amazing! strong!) mother has had a huge influence on way I view my body – much much more than I think she would ever realize. She never wore sleeveless tops because she didn’t like her arms… guess which body part I’ve become super critical of in the past few years? Yep, my own arms. It’s frustrating. I remember her commenting to me that one year when I came back from summer camp that I had a ‘gut’ – a had likely gained a bit of weigh from eating carb heavy camp food for two months, but still only weighted about 115lbs, and was 15. I spent the next year throwing out school lunches, or hiding food under my bed – I definitely had an eating disorder (and I was a competitive swimmer! I needed food!!).

    I eat emotionally and snack too much because I grew up witnessing my mom doing that. It will always be s struggle, and I will strive to do better by the children in my life.

  18. Kat says:

    “Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
    ― Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

    I will offer a contrary opinion–I feel that Ms. Galbraith’s and Ms. Fonooni’s responses weren’t good and in ways undermined their own message. Sure, Steve’s comment was trolling–saying something obnoxious to get a rise out of people. So what? It was one negative comment out of many. many positive ones. Why not just look at it for what it was, and ignore it? I can’t believe that two successful businesswomen had nothing better to do with their time. Especially two women whose business model (and specifically the particular article) centers on coaching women to live a healthy, self-accepting lifestyle. And yet Steve’s comment apparently struck a nerve with both authors.

    In fact, Ms. Galbraith blamed Steve in part for women having body images and Ms. Fonooni claimed Steve was what was wrong with society. Me thinks the lady doth protest too much… Both responses were emotionally-charged; it was obvious through the writing both women were upset with the comment. Why would the authors, who are obviously successful in many ways (fitness, business, etc.) give so much power to a random internet comment? To me, that indicates the authors still harbor come body image/self-acceptance/confidence issues.

    And that’s okay. We all do in varying degrees and situations. However I disagree with blaming “Steve” for that. Or the media. Or any other boogyman that’s the scapegoat de jour. Ms. Galbraith and Ms. Foononi chose to get upset over a random internet comment. To say otherwise, as the authors assert themselves in their facebook rebuttals, is to say they are helpless animals incapable of the self-awareness that defines us as human beings. I don’t think that’s true. No one other than you has the power to make you feel bad about yourself. Act and speak accordingly.

    • molly says:

      Hi Kat! Thanks for your comment. I’ll do my best to address each of your points, because while I do see them, and agree with some point of your post, I’ll have to respectfully disagree with much of what you said.

      I don’t agree that they undermine our message whatsoever. Our message is one of,

      “This is our journey. This what we have learned. We hope you learn from our mistakes. We are not perfect, and we will forever be students, continuing to learn and grow, and we hope you learn and grow along with us.”

      OF COURSE we will still struggle with body image issues. I always say,

      “I’m here now, but I’m not *there* yet.”

      Meaning that this journey to a better, happier, and more peaceful me will never be over, and I will continue to have struggles and setbacks along the way. THAT is the message that women need to hear, not,

      “I am perfect and have it all figured out and never feel insecure or self-conscious, etc.”

      Feigning perfection doesn’t serve anyone.

      As for Steve’s comment — I admitted that my response was emotionally charged, because it was. I am incredibly passionate about women and body image (as you know) and so yes, it fired me up… probably more so, because I can put a face and a story to Steve. He lives in my town and I know his wife. Not well, but I do know her, and I know they have 5 children, including 2 young girls.

      To say that,

      “I can’t believe two successful businesswomen had nothing better to do with their time…”

      makes no sense to me. What better do I have to do with my time than write a passionate blog post that will be seen by thousands of people that will likely have a positive effect on the lives on them and their children?

      In the last 4 days that blog post has been viewed by over 15,000 people, and I’ve received dozens of letters from men and women about how it resonated with them because they dealt with similar situations (well-meaning parents who caused them emotional turmoil because of comments/actions that seemed benign to the parents) or because they themselves are parents and want to break the cycle, or both.

      So Kat, if I may ask you again, what better do I have to do with my time, than facilitate that kind of response in my audience and my community?

      Again, the post was only semi-random, considering this man lives in my town, and I know his wife. And yes, I am confident in saying that I don’t believe that Neghar or I have ever claimed that we have it “all figured out” in regard to our body images. We have made mountains of progress, but I’m not sure any of us ever reach that summit.

      As for your second to last statement — “No one other than you has the power to make you feel bad about yourself.” I would agree with this statement… for adults.

      Young children are sponges who absorb and react to their environment, and their parents are generally their greatest teachers. What then, is a little girl to think, when (as her brain is forming her reality), she is “taught” what reality is by a man who uses derogatory terms like “flabbalanche” and openly expresses his distaste for certain female body types (being too lean is gross and manly, but having a “flabbalanche” is also unacceptable).

      I agree, we shouldn’t necessarily blame the media for our own issues, which is why I believe that the onus of responsibility is on the parents to arm their children with the tools, the knowledge, and the self-worth to recognize that what others say about them or their bodies should be of little concern to them.

      And that’s what this ENTIRE post was about. Not about Steve. Not about Neghar. Not about me. But about how powerful our words can be when used for good or evil, regardless of the intention behind them.

  19. Melly Testa says:

    Thank you for fighting the good fight. I feel quite lucky that we do not subscribe to television. I do not purchase fashion or fitness magazines. I actively limit the visual consumption of mainstream culture. Beauty is a feminist issue. When we try to live up to standards that are not of our own creation, we give our power away. It is ok to be different. It is ok to be in control, to take responsibility for self. I have been working with myself to find out what amount of muscle and fat I am willing to carry. To see what foods contribute to the best feelings and expression of myself. I suppose that some people enjoy living on autopilot, being unquestioning about their place and how they live, they may actually enjoy participating in the standards of mainstream culture, but not me. I appreciate this discussion.

  20. ChristineB says:

    I have a very healthy body image. Pretty much always have. I credit a big part of that to two people – my mom and my husband. The only time I ever heard my mom say anything less than positive about her body was when I was 14, after she had given birth to my little sister, and she said “I wish I could hold on to some of this baby weight”. She is a naturally slender person, and my body type is naturally more curvy, but she never ever said anything negative about her body or mine, so I think I grew up not realizing that most women were dissatisfied with their body. And I am very thankful for that.

    My husband has also been amazing. He always compliments me, tells me how attractive I am, even shortly after giving birth, which is NOT when a woman feels very attractive. He has loved me and found me sexy through all of the weight fluctuations that go along with 3 successful pregnancies. And I love him for that.

    Finally, I’m the mom to 3 boys (ages 8 to 14). I know that body image issues affect boys as well as girls, so I am always extremely careful what I say – I never want them to hear me say anything negative about their bodies, about my body, or about their dad’s body.

  21. This is a great story! Body image is a terrible struggle! I struggled with mine for so many years. I was way too thin, and then I’d over eat and indulge in the things I’d avoided (like food in general) and puff up 30 pounds. Then I’d fight that back off in unhealthy ways. I am happy to say that I finally have it all together with my body image, and now I work on me for me, not for what the rest of the world thinks of me!

  22. jennifer dowsett says:

    Everytime I go to that place where I self hate or beat myself down, I’m coming here. Keep doing what you’re doing. There are so many of us trying to break free and just be ourselves and not ashamed of who we are. Life is more thsn this and I dont want to contribute to a culture of hate for my daughters. Thank you ladies and the men in your corner. X

  23. Sandi says:

    When I was 14, I had to wear my glasses for a few days (instead of contact lenses) because I had a sty. I was out with my dad and he ran into someone he knew. He introduced me as his youngest daughter, and quickly followed up, “She’s a lot prettier without her glasses.” From that day forward, I only wore glasses in public when absolutely necessary. Just this year (I’m 46 now), my husband convinced me that I am still beautiful, even with glasses, and I’ve been able to wear them out in public without worrying about my appearance.

  24. LG says:

    LOVE LOVE LOVE this post. I have fully decided that the buck stops here when it comes to body image issues and raising our kids. I know that this stuff is “caught, not taught”, so I’m focusing myself on how AMAZING it is to have four whole limbs, to be able to walk, bend down, carry stuff, see, chew, etc. I love your points about eating foods that make us healthy and strong. (It hit home when my husband was out for 6 months last year with a ruptured achilles tendon. Yeesh.)

    I’m so excited to go hiking and go to the water park with my kids when they’re older! Their mom is going to continue to sport a bathing suit and not say anything about fat days/flabby parts/wishing she looked more like X. I am so done with that.

  25. Doreen says:

    I was always called “pleasantly plump” or “chunky” and always compared to my beautiful and thin cousin. She was always given the last helping of whatever treat we were eating because “I didn’t need it”. Oh and I had what they call “baby fat” I think that was my favorite. What they may have well just came out and said was that they thought I was FAT because really, it was what they were saying anyway, or at least how I took it. So, today, at almost 46 years old, and after giving birth to 3 amazing kids, I still think I am fat. I exercise regularly, TRY to eat a healthy diet and I am at a healthy weight but to me I do not look the way I think I should look which is more tone,lean,thin and trim. And it doesn’t matter what people tell me, because they don’t see what I see…and I hate what I see. I just started the 28 day love your body challenge yesterday. I can’t wait to see how I feel in 28 days.

  26. Kellie says:

    Oh man, I have a laundry list, but I’ll just use this one example. But before I divulge, let me be clear that I LOVE my father and understand that he, too, is a product of a toxic family environment. He has developed so much as a father since my high school years, but… here goes.

    So. I’m 17 years old in high school. Triple-lettered varsity athlete (cross country, volleyball, and soccer) and rode horses. Take away: very active and NOT overweight.

    Dad encourages me to train to get into the Air Force Academy. To get in is no small feat: Apart from baller grades and test scores, you have to get a senatorial appointment and you have to pass a physical test. This test includes a flexed arm hang (palms facing away) for I think 30 seconds. Arms were not my strength and I was struggling with it. Dad’s solution? START BITCHING TO ME ABOUT BREAD. “You’re never going to get above the bar if you have to lift THOSE hips,” was a common comment while he was railing against me for eating part of a baguette.

    Fast forward a few months: I passed the test and got into the Academy. Instead of being excited, my gut screamed, “ABSOLUTELY NOT.” So I tell my parents I’m not going to go, and Dad flips out. I mean… flips out. Screaming, swearing – all of the bat-sh*t craziness. But this one thing he said to me floored me: “This is going to be your worst mistake. You’re going to look back and know exactly where you went wrong, when you’re 40 and you have 3 kids crawling all over you, and so much ass fat, it is going to be spilling over the sides of your chair.” His very means to insult me when I deterred from his plans for me was to focus on my weight.

    Resonates to this day, as intellectually I know I should just LOVE my body in the here and now, but intuitively I hate it.

  27. Hollie says:

    Hi, I’m 16 and can already relate to this article in so many ways. Since my parents split 5 years ago and I started high school at the same time and 1 girl considered ‘popular’ said something to me I’ve never looked at food and exercise in the same way. I’ve got thinner but always made excuses and people point it out and want to be too thin, influences need changing on children and something needs to be done soon!

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