This morning, as I was clicking around on Glamour‘s website, I came across something that made my jaw drop. Apparently, author Paul Kramer is publishing a diet book aimed at six to twelve-year-old girls, entitled Maggie Goes On a Diet. Ummm… what?
As if young girls weren’t already subjected to enough in the media telling them how to look and act, along comes a book written by a male author, telling them they need to slim down. If they didn’t already have body image issues, they might now.
First of all, I kind of wish we would just let kids be kids anymore. Give them halfway decent food and let them pick an activity they like, and their weight will probably land where it’s supposed to. And I know there’s a huge problem with childhood obesity in this country, but I don’t think we need to put kids on diets. If a child has more than just a little belly, then fine, start making little tweaks in what they’re being fed and limit time in front of the TV, but don’t make them so aware of the fact that they need to lose weight. This is only going to result in preoccupation with looks and fixation on food as the kids grow up.
Second of all, as Sarah Jio also points out, the fact that the book is written by a man kind of angers me. I’m not saying that men will never understand body image issues, but the incidence of EDs and body image issues in men is a lot lower based on the fact that men are judged more often on merit than looks. It reminds me of when my guys friends rip into other girls’ appearances and expect me to think they think I’m great just the way I am or the time my college boyfriend said he didn’t understand eating disorders because if everyone just ‘ate normally’ we would all be fine (as I sat in my size 2s thinking I could stand to lose a few more). Based on my experiences, guy just don’t really ‘get it’ when it comes to body image issues. So unless Mr. Kramer had some horrific childhood experience that resulted in lifelong self esteem issues, I don’t think it’s fair for him to tell the world’s little girls that they should be saying no to dessert and counting calories. As if lingerie for tots and thongs for 10-year-olds weren’t bad enough. What’s next, Spanx and low-cal Gerber for babies?
I’m just glad this was self-published and that no editor thought this one would be a good idea to support. Ugh.
What do you think? Is the media contributing to body image issues starting earlier and earlier in kids? Should we be putting kids on diets? Does this new book piss you off more than just a little? Tell me what you think! Spill!
So I’ve posted a couple times already about how I’m not a foodie, and on multiple occasions I’ve let you in on the not-so-secret secret that I still have body image/food issues. Then a few weeks ago, I posted myconfessions as a personal trainer. And I’m going to post a few more here today. But unlike the confessions of my Catholic school days, I’m not going to ask for forgiveness or justify myself. And I am most certainly not going to do penance for them.
These are a few of the things I’ve realized I need to own up to — things about myself that I need to lay out there because they are who I am and what I do, and, well, sorry I’m not sorry about them. So what inspired this sudden show of bravado, you ask? What made me decide to own up to all things Heather without feeling the need to explain myself? Well my good real-life friend (we go wayyyy back, which is what I’m going to say when she becomes a ridic famous author) and blog buddy, Rachel, started the ‘Own It’ challenge, encouraging other bloggers to come out and state what they’re about, no apologies necessary. Hmm, I thought, this is the perfect opportunity to talk about the things that I am constantly apologizing for that I really shouldn’t be.
In the past few years, I’ve noticed that my happiness factor has gone up exponentially since I stopped asking for permission so much. And I actually remember having a conversation about this with Rachel on one of our many Starbucks dates back home in Michigan. Last year, I told people that I was quitting my salaried desk job to become a trainer. This year, Rachel told people she was up and moving to Texas. We didn’t ask if these actions were OK, and we didn’t give a laundry list of reasons for why we were doing them. And because people in general are so used to everyone (especially young women) asking if what they’re doing is right, this confused them. You mean you don’t care what I think? Nope, or at least not enough to change my mind. I’m forging on either way. Anyway, inspired by that conversation and by her post on it, here are some more confessions that don’t bother my conscience one bit. My opening declaration:
Since I’m a trainer, let’s start with something fitness related. I hate running in the summer. HATE. I do not like it at all. Running in 90 degrees with 80% humidity just so I can tell people I’m a real runner? No thanks. I’ve been one, and maybe someday I’ll be one again, but not right now. I like to breathe and not feel like I’m wading through the soup that is a Midwest summer. If I run at all during the months of June, July, and August, it is at the gym or at night, and I do it because I know how many calories it burns, or sometimes because I need a change. But you know what I would rather do for hours at a time in the summer? Bike or swim or dance or anything besides run.
Here’s another one: I am not a morning person. Props to all of you that are, but I get pissed off when people make it seem like you are a lazy, slothful person if your internal alarm clock doesn’t have you springing out of bed at 6am. Stop acting so damn self-righteous about it. I get just as much accomplished as you do, but I just do it later in the day. Give me a project to work on at 8pm and I’m way more inspired than I would be at 8am. I like my workouts later in the day too. I’m programmed this way, and I’m owning it.
For as much as I talk about loving the skin you’re in, I’m with Rachel on the fact that I would still like to lose weight, even if I do think I’m beautiful right now. And as much as I talk about how unhealthy I was when I was at my skinniest (not having a period is usually a bad sign, folks), I sometimes still look at pictures and remember how much control I had and how good it felt to slide that XS or S on without a snag. I will own that I feel that way, and I will also own that I still have some work to do, mentally and physically.
I also own that when fat talk starts with my girlfriends, I shut down. I do not respond, or I get quite curt, all of my response being two words or less — if that. I mostly do it because nothing about that conversation is healthy for any party involved. We don’t need to perpetuate the cycle of caring more about our jeans size than our actual mental wellbeing. But another part of it is that for the first time in my life, I’m not one of the skinny friends. And that sounds catty, I know, but I know I didn’t fish for compliments even when I was the skinny friend. It also hurts my feelings when my size-4 friends comment on how they need to ‘get rid of this flab’ because they are just ‘soooo disgusting.’ Gee thanks. By the way, thanks for being a bitch and not thinking about anyone else’s feelings before you opened your mouth.
I also jump up on my feminist and body image champion soap boxes pretty quickly, much to the chagrin of any males in my life. Sorry I’m not sorry.
I did a total 180 as far as careers go and quit my secure corporate job to become a trainer (with an unstable hourly wage) and a freelancer, and I put myself in a lot of debt doing so. I also freaked my parents out and made them wonder why they paid for a bachelors degree in English and Women’s Studies (take a guess at how many times I heard, ‘So what are you going to do with that degree?’) from a good school for their eldest daughter. I switched jobs again about a year into my gym job because it was so sales focused, and I refused to force people to buy training when they could hardly make their rent. Sometimes I worried that I had made the wrong decision going into training. But now I don’t regret it because I found a better fit that reminded me why I love what I do, and I love the freedom I have working at two smaller studios who really want the best for the clients. I stumbled along the way, and I still don’t know what I’ll ultimately end up doing, but at 25, I don’t need to yet.
Even though I’m a trainer, I do not live at the gym. And I won’t tell my clients that they have to either. I won’t tell them they aren’t allowed to drink, because I do it, too (give me whiskey or beer, and I’m ready to go!). I refuse to be a complete hypocrite with my clients, and I’m usually honest with them about how much I’m working out at any given time. Also, lately, some of my workouts have taken a backseat to seeing friends or a boy. But I’m good with this, because for a long time, it was the other way around. I still work out, but I don’t let it take it over my life. I like this, and I own this.
So now it’s your turn — what are you owning, what have you owned, and what are you going to start owning that maybe you were afraid to before?
Now, I know I’ve given you my gym pet peeves, and I’ve gone off on a (necessary) tirade or two about things that irk me, but usually I’m a pretty happy person! Occasionally though, something just gets on my nerves, and I have to say ‘Enough!’
Well, today, my friends, that thing is the phrase ‘beach ready’ when it comes to whipping ourselves into shape for warmer weather. I know everyone wants to look their best when strutting across the sand or running about town in their shortest skirts, and I’m not telling you to stop striving to be the best and fittest you can be (I am a trainer, after all). But I get a little annoyed by phrases like ‘summer-ready’ and ‘bikini-worthy‘ because they imply that if these individual body parts aren’t ‘ready’ by whatever publication’s definition, then, well, we better not let them be seen! Arms aren’t rock solid yet? Better keep those long sleeves on. Don’t have abs of steel yet and there’s still some muffin top hangin’ around? Better keep your top on and don’t even think about trying on anything but a one-piece bathing suit. Riiiiiight.
Well, here’s the thing, friends. I didn’t drop 20 pounds or trim inches off my thighs by the time June rolled around. But did I think my legs were prepared for shorts? Yes! Because it was hot! My legs were ready to be freed, no matter what state they were in.
I really feel that phrases and articles like these can be really damaging, and can keep women (and men, too!) from believing that they can do whatever they want right now, no matter what size or shape or weight they happen to be. It keeps the mentality of “Oh, I’ll do this when I drop 10 lbs’ in place, and keeps us from living our lives. I know, because I’ve done it, and I’ve been there, and actually, it was when I was much smaller than I am now. I had it in my head that I had to keep preparing for the main event, but I was always ‘getting ready,’ so it never seemed to roll around. I spent a lot of time waiting for myself to get ready, and in the process, put actually living and loving life on hold. But once I finally figured out that life keeps happening, whether I’m ready or not, I stopped obsessing as much. As author Jessica Weiner points out, ‘Life doesn’t begin five pounds from now.’
So instead of asking yourself if your tummy or your butt is beach ready, why don’t you ask yourself if YOU are beach ready? Do you want to lie on the sand soaking up the sun (with SPF, obvi)? Do you want to play beach volleyball with your friends? Do you want to splash in the water or even bring out your inner kid and build a few sand castles? Then do it! Whether Fitness or Health or Shape says you’re ready or not. Summer’s almost over, and you’re ready, I promise!