Lying for The Scale: To Hell With That

Image via Fit Vs Fiction.

Image via Fit Vs Fiction.

Yesterday my friend and colleague Carrie Goldman (author, “Bullied”) tagged me in this post she wrote about her 10 year old daughter, K:

“My 4th grade daughter told me that yesterday the kids each stepped on a scale in class as part of an exercise to calculate how much they would weigh on Jupiter. Of course, the kids began telling each other how much they weighed. My daughter told me “I was afraid people would think I was F-A-T, so I said a lower number.”
 
So young, yet already worried about body size as a reflection of value. My daughter said she weighed a full fifteen pounds less than she does. We then had a very good discussion about our bodies, what they do, what they mean, why we look the way we do, and more. I’m so glad she told me about her concerns so we could talk.”
 

This was my reply to Carrie:

“It is so funny that you tagged me on this because I was reading the top half of the paragraph and my head was exploding. Tell K that I think if her peers were S-M-A-R-T they would have thought she was T-A-L-L or S-T-R-O-N-G when she said her number. That is 15 pounds of muscle and brains she may have just short changed herself. No way, Baby! She is too intelligent to give away some of those brains and has worked too hard in swim earning those muscles!
Also, you can tell her that her good buddy Melissa was at the doctor today and I’m 5’7″ and weigh 188 pounds. <— And I didn’t fudge that number. My brain is super heavy. So’s my funny bone. And my sense of adventure. And my dancing feet. xoxo to K!” 
 

Further in the thread, Carrie said this: “I have kids on both ends of the bell curve. My 10-year-old is bigger than 95% of her peers, and my 6 and 3 year-olds are smaller than 95% of their peers. We talk a lot about how bodies come in all shapes and sizes, especially within our own family, and it’s what we do with our bodies that matters. They allow us to make our mark on the world!”

It is time we take very seriously the job of teaching our girls how to love their bodies. This body shame takes root far too young, in FAR too many girls. We have to work together to stop this.

We also need to remember our boys are not far behind. 

Why and how do even our youngest girls learn to be ashamed of their amazing bodies?

Why and how do even our youngest girls learn to be ashamed of their amazing bodies?

Later in the day someone messaged me to say I was “so brave” to put my weight out there for the world. Is that really brave? I mean, isn’t brave more like fighting fires, teaching a difficult student population, staring down cancer, searching for the lost in a landslide, providing medical aid in a war zone…..I get the point but at the same time, I’m proud of my athletic frame and I guarantee you that telling the public my weight is the by far not the bravest thing I’ve ever done.

Me and Dr. Jen Hartstein behind the scenes at the Today Show.

The ironic thing is, Carrie had just messaged me a few days prior to say that she thought I looked great when I was on the TODAY show the week before but also that she could tell I had dropped a lot of weight and wanted to make sure that I was losing weight safely. I did lose a lot of weight and I am under a doctor’s care (thyroid issues are FUN!) and I thanked my dear friend for being invested in my health and well being.

188. I’d never cheat myself out of any part of my body. I work hard for my muscles. I’ve spent years making my brain smart. I think my funny bone is hilarious. My tummy is squishy because I carried and birthed two children I was told I would never be able to have. Like I’m going to give ANY of that up so I can fit some superficial definition of beautiful? Of worthy? To hell with that.

And that’s what I wrote in my note to K when I sent her a gift in the mail yesterday, so in the 4th grade she hears her mom and her dad and her buddy Melissa tell her that she is great and she is worthy just as she is.

 

Need help with talking about body image with your kids?

I cover that topic in my book: “Redefining Girly: How Parents Can Fight the Stereotyping and Sexualizing of Girlhood, Birth to Tween”

Marci Warhaft-Nadler’s book is also great: “The Body Image Survival Guide For Parents”

How to Talk to Kids About the Viral Adobe Photoshop Video

Image from Adobe Photoshop video. Smoke and mirrors!

There is a video making the rounds that shows the transformation of a normal looking woman into a supernatural looking model via Photoshop. I see a ton of people posting it, but not a lot of discussion on how to break it down for our kids. Thank you, Dorothy, for your question because it is a great reminder that sometimes parents know they have a teaching tool in their hands but are unsure of how to deliver the lesson.

Question: I want to share this video with my 8 1/2 yo daughter, but I’m not sure what to say. My gut reaction is “Eww, the “finished” girl is actually creepy-looking.” But that’s not constructive. Any advice? -PPBB Community Member Dorothy

Answer: Good instincts to share this with your daughter, I think she is at the right age to see it and think critically about it. I would start by talking about how the media (tv, movies, magazines, commercials) try to sell us an image we aspire to in order to buy their stuff. It is a trick that actually makes us feel bad about ourselves, especially because as an industry they use a lot of magic tricks to make the people we see in ads be beautiful in a way that isn’t really true. I would show the video to her as an example of what you are trying to teach her, and then ask her some open ended questions when it is over.

Some good ones to start are:
~ “I think the woman at the start of the video looked like a lot of the women we know in our life. But what about when it was over, do we know anyone who looks like that?”

~ “Were you able to count all of the different changes they made to the model before we saw the finished “person”? Should we watch it again to count?”

~ “What things about the finished girl are not real? Meaning, what was change from real life by a computer program?”

~ “Do you think the company that uses this image to sell a product is being truthful or deceitful? Does it make you want to give them your money?”

~ “Can you think of other times or places you might have seen images like this that have been altered to play tricks on people that companies want money from?”

~ “If your friends saw this video, do you think they would still consider themselves Full of Awesome and beautiful, or do you think they would want to look like the finished product and feel like they don’t measure up?”

~ “Why do you think companies create a fake sense of beauty? What might they trying to be tricking us to do?”

~ “Let’s talk about the ways the women in our family are beautiful. What are some traits and things our family shares that make us beautiful?”

~ “Sometimes when I see things like this my tummy hurts. It hurts in a flip-flop kind of way because I think about girls who watch this who don’t have parents who talk to them to teach them how fake it is. If these girls think this is how they are supposed to look, they might never feel good about themselves. What would you want to say to those girls?”

Listen to her answers, and build from there. Answer additional questions she has in an informative and succinct manner. Ask a lot of “What do you think about that?” questions after you give her a piece of information, like how advertising negatively affects kids’ body image and leaves very young girls feeling insecure and not beautiful. If she starts to get really passionate about what she is discussing, encourage her to write a Letter to the Editor of your local paper or a teen magazine or a guest post for our blog. And finish up with, “Anytime you want to talk about this stuff or see images like that and you want to talk about it, just let me know. I like talking to you about smart stuff like this.”

I just asked my 7.5 year old all of these questions and she breezed through the answers. Don’t underestimate how quickly your kids pick up media literacy if you treat it like a puzzle for them to solve. Kids love to be on the inside of a secret and call out a marketer every time they see bogus advertising.

The sooner we teach our kids this is a smoke and mirrors show, the sooner the magic loses its effect.

Go Look In the Mirror, After You Tell Me How You Feel You Look

This morning while getting dressed for school, the almost-seven year old Amelia rejected the t-shirt I had grabbed for her to go with her leggings and fleece jacket. It surprised me because it was the Clearwater Marine Aquarium tee with two dolphins on it, her favorite animal.

“Mom, I don’t feel comfortable in this t-shirt.”

It was the first time she had ever said anything like that to me, and I could tell this wasn’t because of an itchy tag or the shirt not fitting right.

“What about it makes it feel not comfortable to you?”

“Well, it feels like a paint shirt. Can I have one that fits closer?” Amelia is a tall and thin kid, and the shirt was boxy on her. She usually wears contoured tees so she isn’t swimming in them.

“I grabbed this one because it was a little longer, so it looked more like a tunic over your leggings. Your leggings are tight, so I would like your bum covered. But I would also like you to feel comfortable in your t-shirt. What should we do?”

“Wellll, when my fleece is on my bum is covered. I would just like a shirt that isn’t so bunchy.”

So I hunt down two different tees while she brushes her teeth, she picks one that is more contoured (a blue one with baleen whales on it) and covers her bum, puts on her jacket, smooths her hand over her tummy, does a full body wiggle and declares, “Now that’s more like it, Alice.”  (My name is not Alice.)

I wrapped her up in a big hug and said she looked ready to be a learning girl today and that we needed to brush her hair. Then I asked how she felt in her new t-shirt and how she thought she looked. She replied, “Full of awesome, Baby!”

It was only then that I told her to go take a once over in the mirror. I want her to practice feeling confidence in the image she projects, instead of the mirror telling her that answer. The mirror is just to make sure she doesn’t have pumpkin bread crumbs on her chin. The mirror provides a reflection. Her heart will provide confidence.

I glance at Amelia looking at herself in the mirror. She was standing with her feet apart, bouncing on her toes, giving herself two thumbs up and wiggling her eyebrows at herself. Her hair looked like a squirrel was living it, but I could tell she felt very full of awesome.

And then I realized I had been holding my breath. When she had said she wasn’t comfortable in her shirt, I immediately made a mental note of the words she chose and was internally grateful she had not said that she looked “fat” or “ugly”. I would be crushed if she said that about herself. She doesn’t hear her parents use those words nor do we use media that reinforces the Beauty Myth and Thin Ideal. She brought home a book from her school library yesterday that had Ariel, Disney’s Little Mermaid on it. Ariel’s waist is thinner than her arm on the cover.

“Motherbumping Disney princesses” I muttered in my head when she took it out of her backpack. I wondered if her school library also had children’s books on eating disorders and body dysmorphic disorder? But when Amelia was showing the books to her little brother Benny, she informed him that Ariel’s “tummy was way too small” and the artist had drawn her wrong. Later that evening following Girl Scouts, Amelia had been sitting at the table drawing pictures of mermaids for me and all of their waists were in proportion to their heads. Phew!

But then she made the comment this morning about not feeling uncomfortable in her shirt! Egads! Was is starting? Was she beginning to doubt herself and her body image? She’s not even seven! I was telling myself to stop overreacting as I could feel myself overreacting. I made her body from scratch, it took forever to get pregnant with her and then I puked for nine months. It took so much of my body to create her body, I wanted her to know every day how glorious her body and life are. I want her to love and cherish herself as much as her dad and I do. I want that kind of self love for all girls.

So on the walk to school, I checked in with her to see how the t-shirt was feeling.

“How we doing, Smalls? How’s the t-shirt feel under all those layers?”

“Oh, good. I was worried that other one might lead to a flea infestation.”

Yep, we’re all good here. Just normal, super quirky Amelia whose positive body image is well intact.

Purposeful

“At some point you have to wonder if this crap isn’t purposeful. And then you have to wonder why they’ve chosen to do this to our little girls.”

–PPBB Community Member Miranda Lollis

 

In response to the image below, from this post about Barneys NY and Disney teaming up.

Disney's Minnie Mouse we know and love.

Disney's new unrecognizable Minnie.

Forget What the Media Is Telling You About Your Body

I need 4 minutes and 34 seconds of your day. I need you to watch this — every woman, man, girl, and boy — and I need you to absorb it.

I need you to give yourself permission to start loving and enjoying the body you have been given to live this life with. All of the advocates and bloggers and celebrities in the world cannot do that for you. YOU have to do that for you. Whether you are a parent, a friend, a mentor, a teen….you have to start appreciating your amazing body. It will impact how you live the rest of your life.

Forget what the media is telling you about you. There is nothing wrong with you. YOU write your story. In that story, make sure you are awesome.

Please watch this with your boys and girls. Share it with your classroom, your sports team or Girl Scout troop or church youth group. Share it, because we are spending way too much time thinking about what our bodies look like in life, instead of LIVING LIFE.

Go live. You look amazing.