How do you talk to your kids about weight?

The Today Show did a segment on how parents should talk to their children about their weight. In all, it’s not a bad segment, with the chief recommendations being:

  • frame discussions of health/weight in terms of fueling the body & the child feeling good
  • show your kids good eating habits, from the top down (ie: parents have to buy in)
  • don’t single out a single child for a weight problem
  • understand that it may not be the foods your child eats but a number of factors (ie: may not be worth talking about)

Here is the segment:

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Personally, while I agree with the sentiments, I know that the above clip and its recommendations aren’t a fix-all solution. I grew up in a home with good, home-cooked food; we ate together as a family and junk food was limited. My mother never told me I was fat, though I know that, regardless, I got that message — from school, TV, and even just from hearing my mom’s stories of her own weight struggles as a child. All the good examples and positive reinforcement didn’t stop me from developing odd food behaviors and a skewed self-image — what great society says to our kids about weight (directly and indirectly) matters, too.

What do you think? Do you remember The Talk? Are you a parent afraid of giving The Talk?

How I stopped consuming (as much) media, and started loving myself

Total honesty: I really like myself. Like, really! Just as I am. (cue Mr. Darcy moment, only by myself) I have some more weight to lose, but it’s becoming less and less important as I gain a better perspective on weight, health, fitness and my body, and just plain learn to love myself physically. I always had high self-esteem in all other arenas, but like many a young girl, just never liked my external appearance much (it’s hard when you don’t match beauty ideals). This, I believe, is not uncommon, though I do think plenty of women allow doubts about their external appearance and body mess with other aspects of esteem, as well. It’s a shame.

Having reached a place where I’m really happy, almost to the point of being defiant against anyone who would dare indicate I should feel otherwise, I feel it’s apt to reflect on how the heck I got here, and how others might make small shifts in their own thinking. It’s easy to say we should love ourselves. It’s another thing altogether to actually get there.

I’ve been asked several times how I developed the delicate balance between positive body image, high self esteem and realism about the  media culture in which we live. It took some time to noodle on it, deconstructing the last fifteen years of my life, trying to figure out when the heck I unstuck my head from the sand and how on earth I did it. It wasn’t a deliberate thing, though I was always a little bit Grr, Argh Angry Feminist about my body, looks and society. But I was just like everyone else, for a long time — I bought into the fashion & beauty mags, make-up, clothes, dieting, the notion of beauty, celebrity, etc. I faced those pressures, and I gave in.

The beautiful irony, being a person who is trained in media and works in media, is that a key to learning to genuinely like myself — and rejig my brain when it comes to body & beauty ideals — was I stopped consuming as much media. And I got the heck out of the United States. That helped enormously. But short of living in a foreign country for a year (preferably Europe!), what real, concrete advice can I give?

Stop reading magazines.

I was like every other teenage girl. I read YM, Sassy, Seventeen, Teen People, Glamour. The usual suspects for pre-teen and later teen girls who want to be Cool and Fashionable. I learned make-up tips that I use to this day, from Glamour. I found my celebrity role models (and dream boats) in Teen People & Seventeen. I saw all the fashions and styles that I couldn’t dream of fitting into because I was a chunky size 14-16.

When I went to college, my magazines didn’t follow. I canceled my last remaining subscription to Glamour, and haven’t gone back. I never particularly liked Cosmo, thank Christ, but I know that’s a “usual suspect” for many women. The amazing thing? It was so much easier to feel good about myself when I wasn’t reading fix-it articles, make-up tips, articles on how to please a man (helloooo misogyny!) and seeing editorials and  advertisements featuring unreal women who look nothing like me, nor anything like how I want to actually look.

Experiment with not reading any mainstream fashion/beauty magazines. If you must read Vogue, fine, but do please ditch all the other vapid market offerings. Even the best among them work hard to make women feel less than, often under the guise of empowering us! But mostly — get away from the advertisements. They’re the real killer.

Stop watching television (on TV).

Another unintentional side effect of going to college? I stopped watching TV. On TV, that is. We couldn’t have cable in our dorms, and the terrestrial signal was bunk, so I went three years without a television (then had one senior year, but barely watched it). Now, don’t think I stopped watching my beloved telly. I didn’t. Long before streaming became the norm, I watched TV on my computer… sans commercials.

Commercials are evil. Body image aside, the absolutely worst are food adverts. Do you know what happened to some of my cravings when I stopped watching commercial television? They went away.

Now advertisers will still be able to get to you, even if you don’t read fashion magazines or watch commercial television, via billboards, the Internet, product placement in movies and TV, etc. But being exposed to substantially fewer images of airbrushed women in nailpolish, lipstick, clothing, perfume, car and alcohol adverts and the messages that come with them (you are an object, you are to be looked at, there’s something wrong with you only our product can fix, men will like you if you use our product) is enormously helpful. For me, going cold turkey on many of these campaigns was the vital first step to deprogramming.

And you WILL crave less processed junk food when you’re not being bombarded with commercials. Bonus.

Start reading feminist media theory (reading my blog can count, kind of XD).

Being aware of the messages you’re taking in and why is incredibly important. Learning about the Male Gaze, and especially how it relates to advertising, changed my life. It’s a bit old school, but I highly recommend watching Killing Us Softly on YouTube (the old ones are up for free; the newest one isn’t).

An oldie but goodie is Kate Harding’s Shapely Prose. She no longer updates, but the archive is fantastic. One of my favorite posts is a guest blog called Schroedinger’s Rapist.

Mainstream blogs to follow include Jezebel and the Hairpin, as well as BITCH magazine. One of my favorite, new blog projects is Beauty Redefined, which has some particularly good posts on The Photoshop Effect.

There’s more. So much more. I’ll probably update this section later, especially as people remind me of other good sources/tell me knew ones. Drop suggestions in the comments!

Watch plastic surgery procedures

Plastic surgery has always weirded me out, and has generally been something I’ve always been and have remained against. However, throughout my teen years and into my twenties, like seemingly all women, I had that “one thing” about myself that I “hated” and wished I could change. My nose. I mean, I really hated my nose. I still am not particularly happy with it — I have monster nostrils of DOOM — but let me tell you what really killed any notion of ever “fixing” that body part: watching a rhinoplasty surgery. Seriously — it is one of the most brutal, disgusting things I have ever seen in  my life. They take a CHISEL to your NOSE and they TAP-TAP-TAP until it BREAKS. No thank you.

I think we forget what plastic surgery is — taking extreme measures to alter our bodies. Intentionally breaking your nose? That’s INSANE. Suck fat out of your stomach, thighs, butt, calves, back with a metal hose? Ew. Shoving bags full of liquid into our chests? Crazy. Once I realized how disgusting the one procedure I would actually consider was… God dammit, I learned to love  my freaking nose. I’m stuck with it, in all it’s evil-nostrils of doom, average glory.

It’s gross, but really: watch plastic surgery procedures.

Play around in Photoshop… or just study before & after images

Starting in college, due to being a  massive web geek, I started playing around with Photoshop, and how I could manipulate images. I’m no expert, so you’ll hardly see me gluing one person’s head onto another person’s body, but you get a handle on the tools — and vanish a blemish or two in a person photo (I’ve also digitally whitened my teeth!) — and it becomes clear what digital retouching can do.

Nowadays, ALL COMMERCIAL IMAGES ARE RETOUCHED. You cannot trust images of celebrities and models, not even in movies and TV. Retouching is used to brighten skin tone, get rid of blemishes and wrinkles, shrink body parts and even give a “bigger” (big = NOT BIG) celebrity a tight and trim body (yes, they really do switch heads onto different bodies).

I recommend reading this post by Beauty Redefined, and also check out Photoshop Disasters (partly for LULZ) and Jezebel’s Photoshop of Horrors tag.


These are the things that I, completely incidentally, did or stopped doing that helped develop my positive body image and self-esteem. I wish I’d had these resources available to me as a young woman; heck — as a young girl. As bad as things seem to have gotten for women when it comes to beauty standards, I also think there is more hope than ever when it comes to counter-culture. Young women are able to pick up alternative magazines, see some (not enough!) role models in TV and media who don’t conform, and there are organizations and blogs dedicated to building up young women and educating them on the media.

I love myself, and so should you. It may not be easy, but the least we can do is try. And if anyone tries to tell you that you’re not good enough, thin enough, “womanly” enough, pretty enough? Tell them to SHOVE IT. You define what makes you beautiful, and what makes you OK.

I will close with the image of a billboard that Beauty Redefined put up in their home state of Utah. It sums things up pretty nicely:

On diet books for children & solving the “obesity epidemic”

Every so often, you get a comment that incenses. I am… concisely challenged, so no surprise when a passionate response balloons into monster of a comment.

Yes, this is about Maggie Goes On A Diet… again. Dead horse, I AM BEATING YOU. It’s no longer truly about Maggie Goes on a Diet, but about the various reactions to it — especially those in favor — and what that says about the United States, our young girls and how we view fat people.  This individual took exception to this particular point from my original Maggie post:

“You know what would be nice? A children’s book about a fat girl who LIKES HERSELF and people are NICE TO HER. And she can EAT HEALTHY and, hell!, still be STAR OF THE SOCCER TEAM, but doesn’t lose any weight. Because she’s healthy and happy wherever her body decides to sit, weight and size-wise. THAT WOULD BE NICE.”

Now, I think that is my salient point! A happy fat kid who can be Healthy At Every Size — as a soccer star! How can anyone disagree with that?


This is the comment that I received this morning (emphasis mine):

How about we appreciate the book as it is written as it has a lot of important points that young girls (and boys)can undoubtedly relate to. And for you, why don’t you start working on your own book so you can choose your own message. Everybody needs to stop acting so outraged for someone addressing a very real and very large (no pun intended) problem in our country-obesity! Focus your energy on ways to help not hinder. Our young need motivation to get into healthier lifestyles and this book sounds like a great example of how they can improve their lives and their health!

Here is what I wrote, then felt like a Crazy Person to post in response – I like to rebut idiocy, but don’t want an individual to feel attacked. I am turning it into a post, because what this commenter said is reflective of views I’ve seen on Tumblr, Huffington Post, Gawker and dozens of other places. And my response is for MORE than just this one commenter:

Here’s the thing. You seem to be as brainwashed as everyone else about the “obesity epidemic” and the common steps that people take to “solve it.” Namely: fat shaming, and telling girls that the only thing that matters about them is how they look. The book “as it is written” tells young girls that no one will like them if they’re fat, that you can’t be healthy fat (a lie, especially at age 14!) and that the only way to be active and have people like you is to conform and get skinny.


I was actually a fat kid, so let me tell you what fat boys and girls can relate to. Yes, we can relate to bullying. But you know what I could have related to when I was a fat little 8-year-old? A character in the media who was fat and HAPPY. Instead, I saw happy thin people and miserable, lazy, unattractive fat people — I got the message that I was Not OK and I should Do Something About It. Enter a compulsive eating disorder, and a lifetime of yo-yo dieting. I am 27, and only just learned to unconditionally love myself this year! Books like this promote eating disorders, as well as girls seeing themselves as objects, because the most important thing about us is our body. I went in the opposite direction, rebelling against thin standards (subconsciously). So many girls will see a book like this and develop orthorexia, anorexia, bulimia, compulsive exercising disorder — you name it.


This book is NOT about a “healthy lifestyle.” You can have a healthy lifestyle and be overweight. This book is about a sad fat girl who gets thin and happy. Obesity is a problem in this country, but not because girls aren’t “trying hard enough.” Look at the advertising industry. Images on TV, film, magazines. The way that we talk about fat people — like lazy, slovenly lepers. How the cheapest, most readily available food to 90% of society is absolute crap. These are problems that contribute to obesity. NOT little girls not trying hard enough. If little girls (and boys) learned to love themselves and knew that you can be healthy — yes, totally healthy! — and not have to be a size two, then maybe they wouldn’t enter the destructive cycle of dieting, which actually contributes to obesity.


I am not a children’s book author — it is actually one of the most competitive fields of publishing, which is why this author self-published. I am working on other creative material and you know what I write? Happy fat characters. I am trying to do something about it, including but not limited to this blog. And that includes calling out ridiculous examples of middle-aged fat men writing books for 6-year-olds that tell them how to diet.


And it’s true, lovely blog readers – my not-quite-formed novel features — gasp! — and Not Thin main character. She’s not a Big Girl, as it is not a Big Girl Does Stuff kind of book, but she is, incidentally, Not Thin and is — shockingly! — happy and loved and interesting and Does Stuff that has nothing to do with her body.

This commenter is right — we have to Do Something! But not because there is an “obesity epidemic.” Yes, we have a problem with obesity, but one of the problems is that we only accept a narrow, incredibly thin standard as beautiful, likeable and acceptable.  I’ve lived in countries that don’t worship the alter of size zero, and you know what? Their average size is smaller than ours. They don’t have as much shit food being shoved down people’s throats by the media. They don’t have as many morbidly obese people as we do. The “solution” to the “problem” is to reframe our thinking about bodies and food. NOT teach girls how to diet.

Consuming Kids – Advertising to children & the obesity epidemic

Last night, I rewatched one of my absolute favorite documentaries — Consuming Kids. It’s fabulous from start to finish, and despite being a few years old is still completely relevant. It is, in short, about how deregulation of the advertising & marketing industry when it comes to kids has lead to a generation of super consumers, who are literally marketed to from cradle to grave. I highly recommend it, and you can actually watch the entire thing on YouTube, as I did last night.

One topic in Consuming Kids is how food advertising has contributed to the obesity epidemic. While all the media hemming and hawing about it can be pretty frustrating, and mired in fat hate, Consuming Kids has a point. From the time that kids are infants, they are bombarded with brands — they start with the seemingly innocuous Elmo, Winnie the Pooh, Spongebob, Scooby Doo — but then these same characters/brands are plastered all over food products. Think back to our childhoods, my fellow 20-somethings: did you drink Ecto cooler (Ghostbusters), eat Scooby snacks, go to MacDonald’s just to get a Barbie toy in your Happy Meal? Beg your mom for Lunchables & Kid Cuisine?

Kids are bombarded with highly persuasive advertisements and product placements for a myriad of shitty, awful food. Lunchables, frozen kid dinners, juice boxes, Kool-Aid, crackers, chips, cookies, pizza, Happy Meals, etc. etc. etc. And if you think about what makes us fat — trans fats, high fructose corn syrup, refined carbohydrates, etc. — the link between advertising to children and obesity is pretty clear. (never mind that most toys preclude any physical activity, too) Watch the last eight minutes of Consuming Kids, going over the obesity epidemic & other health issues kids face as a result of our consumer culture.

Depressing, huh?

And it makes sense. I was a horrible, naggy thing as a kid. I think back on all the shitty food I ate, that I chomped on merrily as a binge eating fat kid, including all of the above. Add to that: Doritos, Oreos, Lays, Dominos, Pizza Hut, Chips Ahoy, Goldfish, Skippy, Kraft Mac & Cheese, Butterfinger, M&Ms, Snickers, Twix…. and so much more. I would WHINE at my mother until I could have these foods, that she didn’t actually eat herself. When she wouldn’t let me have them, I went the houses of kids whose parents would buy them, or I got them at school. (nevermind that there was more advertising at school — I went to a Coke school, with mandatory Channel One News and pretty sure by the end of high school they served Pizza Hut)

This is why I support the regulation of marketing and advertising to kids. Because it’s gotten RIDICULOUS, especially when it comes to food advertising. How can a parent say no to Kraft mac & cheese, or Captain Crunch when their kid is throwing a tantrum at the  store? Or refuses to eat anything else you buy/make, because they insist that X brand is the best/tastiest? There’s a billion dollar industry whose sole aim is to empower children as secondary consumers, and children younger than 8, 9, 10 simply don’t have the logic to understand the manipulative aim of adverts. Those of you who age approximately age 32 and younger — we are the first wave of kids who were raised on advertising after deregulation in 1980. Think back to your childhood and the toys you played with — and the cartoons that were developed to market them. Think of your consumer habits, how you approach “stuff,” and how brands — especially food brands — play a part in your life.

There’s been some talk of commercial industry “self-regulating,” which is a bunch of bullshit. They aren’t going to change the most insidious forms of advertising to kids, unless someone makes them. You know the U.S. is the only industrialized, Western country that doesn’t have SOME kind of federal regulation when it comes to marketing to children? Something needs to happen – buck up, U.S. government. We’re turning our kids into hyped up, drugged up consumer whores with mental disorders.

What do you think? Do you feel advertising, and the saturation of commercial marketing to children, has influenced your eating/activity habits? Personally, it was when I STOPPED watching food commercials (and lived in Europe), in my late teens/early twenties, that I stopped eating, wanting or even noticing all the crap foods I wanted as a kid. This stuff matters.

Real women, real numbers: My Body Gallery

Have you wondered if your body is “normal,” for your height? Or just generally been curious about what about women who are your height/weight look like? What you might look like at your goal weight?

Enter My Body Gallery, a site where women upload pictures of their body, labeled with their real height and weight. Then users can search for users photos based on: height, weight, pants size, shirt size or even body shape (pear, apple, hourglass, etc.), to see photos of women who match those requirements. I, for one, am a huge fan.

Imagine if you’d been able to see a gallery of bodies that were your exact height and weight, when you were younger. I meet so many women, and can include myself as well, that thought they were “fat” in high school. When your body is developing faster than everyone else’s, or you’re built bigger (shout out to my tall girls), or even if you are a bit overweight, it’s easy to feel like a giant, fat nothing. Even as an adult, it can be difficult to gain perspective on our bodies. Sometimes, we can’t be objective about our own bodies — but seeing someone else’s can set off a lightbulb.

Of course, for some, a website like this could be triggering. For those who are prone to eating disorders, seeing “numbers” can be dangerous, especially when one searches the lower end and returns photos of quite thin women. (the 5’10” and 120lbs group is slightly disheartening — and those photos weren’t there a month ago)

However, I believe whole-heartedly that for many of us, seeing REAL numbers on REAL bodies can help to circumvent mental trauma in the long run. If I’d been able to see women who were 5 foot 10 and 180 pounds when I was 16, I probably wouldn’t have thought I was fat. Compared to the girls I was surrounded by? Sure, I was “fat.” I mean, GUYS. 180. That number is HUGE. That’s, like, close to 200. TWO HUNDRED! That’s gi-normous. Models and actresses are 120, don’t you know. Now that’s a “normal” number.

Crazy, right? As an adult, and having met plenty of other women with “high” numbers, I realize that holding myself — a 5 foot 10 woman who hit puberty at age 8 and developed hips, butt and boobs — 120 is INSANE. But those numbers seem to be the only ones we ever hear, for women — 110, 115, 120, 125… these are acceptable weights for women. Anything higher than 150 is taboo. Anything higher than 200 is SCANDALOUS.

This is why something like My Body Gallery is necessary. Women need to talk about their numbers. Their REAL numbers. Tall, short, fat, thin — girls and women need to know that that chick with the banging body and rocking self-confidence is 200 lbs. Or that a 250lbs woman can have an athletic build and be healthy. Or the 300 lbs woman who looks fantastic – not miserable – in a fabulous dress.

It’s refreshing to see photos of women who are my current size, as well as my goal weight (which is what I weighed in high school – sad, right?). I’m feeling really good about my body and my health, despite a relatively small/slow weight loss. Now I can look at other women who are the same height/weight and see that, yes! There’s really nothing wrong with my current size, either. You can be healthy, happy and look absolutely rocking… even if your “number” is large and “scary.”

My Body Gallery. Check it out. What do you think?

Maggie Goes On A Diet author mansplains on GMA [Trigger Warning]

As if I weren’t already angry enough about the children’s book Maggie Goes On A Diet, about a 14-year-old girl who is bullied for being overweight and hates herself, goes on a diet, loses weight and becomes popular, sporty and happy. We already knew that Some Dude wrote the book. I was picturing some tall, reedy doctor type with glasses who would talk about nutritional studies and the like.

Nope. Paul Kramer is a fat guy who, I’m gonna be honest, is kinda creepy looking. Like, might have a white van/ill-advised porn on his computer creepy.  That he wrote a diet book for girls and doesn’t get the big deal makes the whole thing even worse. Behold!

So, his points:

  • He wants to “encourage” kids to make “healthy choices”
  • People aren’t going to identify with “Maggie Gets Healthy” because they can’t relate! They need to know that Maggie is fat! MAGGIE IS FAT AND CAN’T DO THINGS, Y’ALL.
  • Diet is a word describing what you eat! It’s not bad! (counter point: GOING on a diet? Totally only has one meaning, bub)
  • When kids are mean, if we change ourselves to fit society’s standards, they won’t be mean anymore!
  • You can’t just a book by its cover (Um, yes, you really can. Especially when the cover features a young girl fantasizing about being thin and the title “Maggie Goes On A Diet.” )

We also get a closer look inside the actual book. And it’s even worse than we thought!

Main points:

  • Maggie is teased “every day” and called cruel names
  • Maggie is shown night-eating, and specifically eats a lot of “bread and cheese” (God forbid you eat carbs!)
  • Maggie is shown eating oatmeal and LITERALLY dreaming of skinny jeans
  • Skinny!Maggie “instantly” makes new friends and becomes popular
  • Skinny!Maggie becomes a soccer star
  • Also, everyone in the book is thin, except for Maggie.

So basically – if you are fat, life is miserable and everyone hates you. If you are thin, everyone is your best friend and you are awesome at things. Nice life lesson there.

What do you think? Are people over reacting? Is Paul Kramer creepy? An idiot?

If you could write a children’s book that portrayed all the right ideas & values, what would you call it? What would it be about?

A children’s book that teaches girls how to diet [Trigger Warning!]

[Trigger warning: includes body shaming images, fat stigma, etc.]

You know what’s missing in contemporary society? Media aimed towards young girls that makes them feel ashamed of their body and tells them how to diet.

Just kidding! We have SHIT TONS OF THAT. But that didn’t stop Some Dude from writing a children’s book called Maggie Goes On A Diet, which comes out in October. It’s about a 14-year-old girl who goes from being a Fatty Mcfatterson to star of the soccer team! Wow, guys! She’s so amazing! And she gets skinny!

Here is the full book description:

This book is about a 14 year old girl who goes on a diet and is transformed from being extremely overweight and insecure to a normal sized girl who becomes the school soccer star. Through time, exercise and hard work, Maggie becomes more and more confident and develops a positive self image.

To wit:

  • it’s a book about a teenage girl who goes on a diet, but it’s targeted to ages 6 and up.
  • the cover features fat!Maggie gazing in a mirror, holding up a sexy pink dress, and seeing thin!Maggie with same dress.
  • fat!Maggie is “extremely overweight and insecure.” Because fat girls feel so confident, so we’re going to try something NEW here.
  • Maggie develops a positive self-image when she loses weight, because there’s no WAY you can have that when you’re fat!

Needless to say: ANGRY FACE. Can you imagine a 6-year-old reading this? She doesn’t want to get fat like Maggie, so she’d better WORK HARD and EXERCISE! Though, hell, she doesn’t even need to read a book. I met a woman at a business lunch the other week whose FIVE-YEAR-OLD is taunted at school for being “fat” and she is worried about her weight. Best part: she’s NOT FAT. She has a 100% normal body weight for her age.

You know what would be nice? A children’s book about a fat girl who LIKES HERSELF and people are NICE TO HER. And she can EAT HEALTHY and, hell!, still be STAR OF THE SOCCER TEAM, but doesn’t lose any weight. Because she’s healthy and happy wherever her body decides to sit, weight and size-wise. THAT WOULD BE NICE.

The Some Dude who wrote this book I presume is concerned with the “obesity epidemic” in children. OK. Fine. Here’s what I want to hear from anyone reading this who was a fat kid or fat teenager:

What would YOU have liked your parents and/or the media to have told you when you were a kid? Would it have been a positive kid’s book, a pep talk, fat girl fashion mag — what?

Personally? I would have liked to hear honest “numbers” from full grown women, so back when I was 145, then 160, then 180 I wouldn’t have thought I was freakishly fat, and instead might have been happy with myself and calmed the eff down on the dieting.