Jess Weiner Gets Honest About Her Body

The smoking hot and healthy, Jess Weiner.

In an all-time first, I’m going to ask that all of you read an article in a beauty magazine. The reason being, I think a lot of women are not being honest with themselves about their health. We are getting so many mixed messages – a culture that prizes thinness, a media that warns about an obesity epidemic, a group of advocates teaching body acceptance, and our own inner voices, more often than not telling us we are not good enough.

 
The problem with all of this is that this is all focused on weight, and very little focuses on sustainable health. Most people who read this blog are women. A great many of us are mothers. I absolutely understand how easy it is to stop caring for yourself when you have a family and household and maybe a career that require so much from you. Even with all those demands on our shoulders…it isn’t a voucher to stop caring for the health or our bodies.
 
If we don’t have our health, we aren’t living as authentically as we should be. We aren’t caring as well for our families, giving as much as we can at work. I don’t want to live life at 88% or 52%. I want to be 100%. I want to raise my daughter and son to care for their healthy bodies, to eat nutritiously, enjoy exercise and sports, and be able to listen when their body tells them something is off.
 
So what happens when you are a well-known author and body image expert, and you realize your ‘body acceptance’ was actually putting your body at risk? While healthy human bodies can come in many shapes and sizes, that does not mean an individual body can be healthy at any size. When Jess Weinertook a trip to her trusted doctor and discovered she was at risk of being pre-diabetic, she got a big wake-up call.
 
 
Jess took the steps and life-style changes necessary to bring her cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar, triglycerides, and weight back to healthy numbers that allowed her body to function at its metabolic best. Because I know Jess well and watched her as she did this, I think that was the easy part….
 
Being honest about it, and going public with it, is a different story. Jess knew she would have critics. Jess knew she would have people who would say hurtful things. Jess published her body weight for the world to see, which I think is a number most women give way more importance to than is needed and would be scared to do.
 
But the thing is, Jess got honest and Jess got healthy. So here’s what I want to know…Can you?
 
Get fit, Mamas. Get healthy. Go to your doctor and get a check-up. Eat healthy. Exercise. Get yourself on in for that Pap smear. Make an appointment about that lump before another 6 months goes by. Go. To. The. Dentist. Be a health role model for your children.
 
Love yourself and let your family see it. Your daughters are watching, taking it all in. My hope is that you are leaving them a legacy of HEALTH.
 
 

Legacy of Beauty…a sneak peek

A couple of months back I asked all of you to submit photos to me of the women and girls in your family for a video called the Legacy of Beauty Project that I wanted to create to show that beauty is found in each of us, it is not something to be found on a magazine advertisement or billboard for a fashion house or a surgically altered Hollywood star.

I received hundreds of photos, and equally beautiful stories to tell me about the women and girls in your lives that you loved and cherished. It was both very moving and a great privilege to have had that shared with me.

Beauty is what we pass down in our families, from generation to generation, from mother to child. Beauty is found in the arch of an eyebrow, the curl of a lock of hair, the wrinkles on the back of a hand. Beauty is the dimple at the end of a smile, a twinkle in the eye, the shape of the legs that carry us through life. Beauty is looking just like our grandmother, sharing the shape of our aunt’s eyes, having wavy hair just like mom, or picking up the exact giggle and snort of the mother who adopted us.

Beauty is what we define for ourselves.

Because we are the beautiful ones.

Here is a sneak peek:

The full video featuring ALL of your photos will be out soon. I wanted to create some original music for us again, and asked a good friend of Pigtail Pals to help us out. But as often happens, life put a few bumps in the road and the project was delayed. I promise the end result will be well worth the wait.

Legacy of Beauty Project

We are the beautiful ones. We will pass a legacy of beauty to our daughters.

 The Legacy of Beauty Project was sparked by a comment on my blog post “Take Up Space”, in which the woman discusses feeling validation after viewing the media literacy project Killing Us Softly by Jean Kilbourne that breaks down and analyzes the impossible beauty standard given to us by the fashion and advertising industries. Validation that what she was seeing was a digital magic show, and that indeed she was beautiful. She had worth. 

What stuck in my mind is, “What if there are thousands of women who never see that documentary? Who don’t know every magazine image they see is retouched? Who don’t know the average fashion model is 5’10” and 114 pounds? Do they look right past the beauty in front of them, and in the women all around them? Will they continue to wait for an absolution that may never come?” 

The stats on the state of female body image, disordered eating/Eating Disorders, and thoughts on beauty are so low it makes my heart hurt. And now it is trickling down to our preschoolers. Yes, preschoolers. 

As a mother, a friend, a woman….I think this is all unacceptable. Mostly, we are failing our daughters.  

We need to make changes. Fast. 

And we hold the power of change. 

 The Legacy of Beauty Project is simple: WE are the beautiful ones. WE define beauty for ourselves. WE will give this legacy to our daughters. 

So let’s make a video, a collection of our beautiful images, along with some inspired music, to show each other, remind each other, teach other….WE are the beautiful ones. 

We will make our definition of beauty more inclusive, more loving, more tolerant. We will offer more grace to our sisters. We will love ourselves more. 

Here’s how it works: Email a photo of you, your daughter, or other girls/women in your family or group of friends to info@pigtailpals.com.Close ups or full body is fine. Casual snapshots or formal shots like weddings are fine. Makeup or no makeup is fine. Babies, kids, young adult, elderly….all fine. Why? Because we are beautiful throughout our entire life. 

Please limit your submission to four photos. Please have photos submitted by March 15, 2011. And please feel free to pass this along to your friends, as we need this message of beauty to reach as many as possible. 

Now pause, have you allowed yourself to feel beautiful today? 

Here I am, no makeup, in pajamas, and a head full of snot, as raw as I can get. We can do this. We can give the gift of beauty to each other. We can allow each other more grace.  

“Generations of Women, Finding Beauty Among Themselves”

A couple of days ago I shared this post with you from our guest Lee Skallerup Bessette. In some very moving passages she shared with us how easily a legacy of self-loathing and insecurity can be passed down between generations, and how she is determined to give her own young daughter healthier, more loving messages.

I don’t know what kind of woman society will value when my daughter is a teen ten years from now. I do know that I have to somehow figure out how to love myself. Everything that I saw, everything that I still see as a fault, I have to learn how to embrace it as a strength rather than a liability.  I already think that she is perfect in every way, and that won’t really change. If I want her to see herself that way, too, I can’t just tell her, I need to model it for her. That way, maybe I can break the cycle of women who see perfection all around themselves and never in themselves.

I am the mother to a daughter just a little older than Lee’s, and her words above made me teary. I hear and see too many women and girls out there that do not love themselves. I see it online, I hear it when I talk to girls, I read about it over and over again, I see it when the women in my fitness classes are self-conscious about their bodies, I hear it when my girlfriends talk about weightloss and dieting. It boggles my mind how controlling this is in our lives.

I love and appreciate my body. I am grateful for my health and my strength and my curves and my softness. I have muscle in the places I want it and softness in the places that show I am a woman who has had two children. When I look at myself in the mirror, I see a beautiful woman looking back. I accept my entire body, even the places that would be considered “flaws”. Yes my former flat stomach is gone, and in its place is stretched out skin from when I was full with my children. I suppose I could give time to thinking about this, but I am too breathless at the magnificence of the two human beings my body made from scratch to really notice. I have defined beauty on my own terms.

Mothers have the responsibility to teach their daughters their own definition of beauty. Beauty is something WE own. Beauty is something WE give life to. Beauty is something WE create inside each of our familes, around each of our circles of women. It is not something that can be sold to us or packaged or photoshopped or glued to a billboard. It is OUR responsibility to not only define beauty on our own terms, but to then teach it to our daughters.

Recently my good friend and life coach Andrea Owen put forth a question to her Facebook community, “If you could have one wish this holiday season for a specific group of people, what would it be?” The asnwers given by such warm and caring people moved me. My answer: “For all of the girls out there who are insecure, unloved, and full of self-loathing to understand they are more beautiful than they will ever know.”

That is my wish. A girl’s heart is not meant to be beaten down and twisted and starved so that the companies who sell us things can turn a profit from this culture of insecurity they have manufactured. Each girl is born with a heart that is open to the joy and awe this world can bring to those willing to see it. As mothers, aunts, cousins, sisters, grandmothers, and mentors, it is our job to protect the hearts of our daugthers. The health and happiness of the girls in this world rests on the shoulders of the women who care for them.

As the heads of our families, women need to define beauty on their own terms. All of our families are different, but each is beautiful. Each family has traits and physical features that repeat themselves with each generation of girls born to them. We honor our daughters by giving them a legacy of loving these traits and teaching these as the definition of beauty.

This time of year, when families from all over come together to celebrate various holidays and traditions, create a culture of beauty inside your own family:

  • Review old family photo albums and show your daughter how she looks like grandma and grandma looks like great-grandma, and share stories about their lives.
  • Spend time laughing and talking and sitting and playing and cooking and sharing with each other. The face is most beautiful when smiling. Create smiles.
  • Play dress up and take silly pictures. Sillyness looks beautiful on everyone.
  • Make time for family traditions, as your daughter will pass these down to her family some day.
  • Sing. Dance. Sing and dance. Dance, dance, dance.
  • Play flag football or shoot hoops or go sledding or ice skating. Show your daughter the joy of what her body can do.
  • For little girls, color or finger paint self-portraits or family portraits. If she is old enough, ask her to say three nice things about each woman and help her write them by each likeness.
  • For older girls, find a special dish or vase and fill it with little scraps of paper upon which you have written things and people and actions and places you find beauty in.
  • For adopted girls who may not share physical family traits, create a piece of art in silouhette, filling the form with wishes or funny family jokes or words that reflect her character. Family isn’t about genes, it is about heartbeats.
  • As a whole family, use ribbon and noodles and markers and colored paper (or scraps of wrapping paper) and whatever art supplies you can find to create self-portraits or collages with verse about what beauty means to your family.

We live in a culture that focuses on physical beauty. Our collective definition of beauty and those that fit inside of it needs to be expanded. As mothers, we need to take back the control over the messages that reach our daughters. If each of our daughters came from a family that had defined their own beauty and taught that to her, well oh my goodness. My wish would come true.

Guest Post: “Generations of Women, Finding Fault with Themselves”

This post is one in a two part series on the Beauty Legacy we leave our daughters. As the holidays season brings families together, let us give pause to how we frame beauty and self-love around our girls.

A Guest Post: “Generations of Women, Finding Fault with Themselves”

My mom had recently been given some old family pictures. She found pictures of herself as a 16-year-old. We live far apart, so over Skype, she showed me the pictures of her teenage self. She was embarrassed to show them; her hair, which has always been thick and very curly, had been teased out into a giant approximation of an afro. All I could look at was her tall, long, lanky, muscular, and above all, thin body. How, I thought to myself, could she ever have seen herself as ugly? Then she found an old picture of me as a baby: a chubby little butterball.  I cringed. This was my mom and I in a nutshell: the tall, thin, athlete and the short, round, geek. The pictures represented everything we loathed about ourselves.

When I was pregnant and found out I was having a daughter, I fell into a deep depression. I dreaded every insecurity, every moment of self-loathing, every indignity I knew she would face growing up. And I had no idea how to make it so that these injuries would only sting, rather than burn, how to arm her against them, how to protect, or at least insulate her. I had no idea how to be a strong, confident woman who was proud of who she is, embrace how she looks, and celebrate her unique strengths, so how could I ever teach my daughter?

I know why my mother was so insecure about how she looked growing up. She was her current height (5’9”) when she was 12. She didn’t hit 100 pounds until she graduated high school. Her eyesight was poor and so she had to wear thick glasses. She also had terrible acne. Her hair was strange and unruly. Imagine growing up in the shadow of the 60s and being unable to have long, flat hair. Finally, she was athletic. She grew up in a time and place where being an athletic female was not celebrated or desirable.  Those abs that I zeroed in on in her picture would have been out of place when she was growing up. For me, though, at sixteen, I would have traded my body for hers, even if it meant bad hair, eyes, and acne.

I look like the exact opposite of my mother. I am shorter and rounder (ok, curvier). My hair is blond and flat. Although I need glasses, my eyesight isn’t nearly as bad as hers. I used to get one pimple every month. I do, however, struggle with my weight, that is, I struggle keeping it off. I have little grace or coordination. And while I’m a good swimmer, my body, with bad knees, big breasts, and short stature, wasn’t built to excel in any sport. I was smart, gifted even. But all I wanted to do was make the Olympics. After I gave up on that dream, it was hard to be taken seriously sometimes when all people could stare at was my chest; being smart didn’t seem to matter.

In my eyes growing up, my mother was perfect. And all she could do was find fault with the way she looked and who she was. All I could think was, if she thinks she’s ugly, what must she think of me? Of course, she thought I was perfect. Not only because I was her daughter, but because I represented everything she had ever wanted. But when you’re 15 and wracked with insecurities, it’s hard to see things that way.

My daughter came out as thin as a rail. You could already see the muscle definition in her legs (all that kicking my insides really worked). Her eyes were blue like mine, her hair blond, but springing up in adorable ringlets. I breathed a sigh of relief. She inherited the thin genes, not the fatter ones. But then I remembered how I saw my own mom growing up: everything I wasn’t, thus perfect. Would my daughter envy my curves and straight hair because Jersey Shore is the dominant image of female “perfection”?

I don’t know what kind of woman society will value when my daughter is a teen ten years from now. I do know that I have to somehow figure out how to love myself. Everything that I saw, everything that I still see as a fault, I have to learn how to embrace it as a strength rather than a liability.  I already think that she is perfect in every way, and that won’t really change. If I want her to see herself that way, too, I can’t just tell her, I need to model it for her. That way, maybe I can break the cycle of women who see perfection all around themselves and never in themselves.

Lee Skallerup Bessette has a PhD in comparative literature and currently teaches English and Writing in Kentucky. She also blogs about teaching, writing, and issues in higher education at collegereadywriting.blogspot.com.