Just stop it. And start THIS.

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This week I was in the dressing room at Tj Max and I overheard a couple of teenage girls in the dressing room next to me. This is how their conversation went:

Girl 1:I gained more weight this winter than I thought I did, I look awful in these shorts…like a beached whale.
Girl 2: try this on instead.
Girl 1: I’m so fat! I hate it!! I look awful next to everyone else. I’m never eating again!

In the dressing room at Target the next day… (yeah I know, I shopped a lot this week!)
Girl 1: what are you thinking? I feel like you guys are judging me
Girl 2: we’re not judging you, we’re just helping you shop.
Girl 1: this dress is out, I hate it
Girl 2: we don’t even get to see it on you?
Girl 1: no, I hate myself in it!

Oh.
Oh.
….. It made me so sad. Now, I never saw any of these girls after they left the dressing room. But I wanted to hug them. I wanted to tell them they are beautiful and they aren’t fat and that someone loves them and someday they will grow up and they can be anything they want to be.

I started thinking about our current society and how we treat others. This is a topic that is on my mind pretty much 24/7. The pressure stemmed from the judgement within our society is incredible. Pressure to be skinny, and waif like with doll sized wrists and ankles to match. Every magazine is plastered with the latest diets/cleanses that the hottest celebs are trying and Oh, Look! They must be working because look how skinny they are on this magazine cover! (And I am sorry but a cayenne pepper/lemon juice cleanse sounds just atrocious to me. Tell you what, I will support your weight loss goals by taking you for a run to help you get in shape instead of pooping your pants every five minutes. Doesn’t that sound like more fun??)

I had a conversation with a friend last week regarding a particular dance studio in our area and how it’s instructor weighs the dancers weekly. Weighs them. —>there are one million reasons that this is wrong. It disgusts me. I can’t even continue to write about THAT right now except to say that the instructor should not be allowed near children.

I think back to when I was a kid. If someone had asked me when I was 13 if I thought my best friend was a big girl or a skinny girl, well I couldn’t tell you that. I didn’t notice if my best friend was skinny or fat, but I would have told you: that she was my best friend who walked with me everywhere, would split a brownie sundae at Mikes Ice Cream with me and played one million games of spit to pass those summer days. I couldn’t tell you if my mom was fat or skinny but I could have told you that she loved me and made me respect myself and every single person around me.

I never saw people as a category of “skinny” verses “fat”. When did our society change? Was it just me who never saw people in categories? One of my “mom” friends and I agree that we, as kids, never see people this way, and she grew up cheerleading. Unfortunately, her daughter already is aware of body consciousness because of kids around her who worry about their own weight and body image. She is eight. Can we change the images in the minds of the kids that surround our own?? How?

Sure, when I was a teen I was more aware of my body but it was more ” hey WOW, things are changing” rather than “wow I need to lose weight”. I can’t remember being in a dressing room bashing myself, or swearing I would never eat again…I really can’t. And I’m not that old. When did this happen??

Body consciousness is starting girls younger than ever. We have to start combating this with messages of POSITIVITY. I want to encourage girls to take control of how they view themselves. We are the images we project out onto our society: to change the trend of hating on yourself, you have to change the way you view things, right?

Of course I am aware of my own body: I know when I am being judged by others. I’m a runner for goodness sake. I am accutely aware of my own body. I have boobs, I have curves, and strong legs that will beat that girl with the twig legs in a race. Strong is sexy and I am strong. And the god dam thigh gap is overrated anyway.

I try very, very hard not to compare myself to others and that is sometimes hard. I’m not saying, by any means, that I’m perfect. I am human and of course I have my own moments of getting down on myself. Now more than ever that has to stop. When I have my own kids I will try to always show positivity and encouragement and remind them that they shouldn’t compare themselves to others. It’s GOOD to be different and unique because that’s what makes you, YOU.

To every teen girl struggling with their own vision of themselves…

To the girl who gained a little weight over the wintertime and doesn’t like herself….

To anyone comparing themselves to the girl next to them and thinking she is prettier/skinnier/looks better than you……

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34 thoughts on “Just stop it. And start THIS.

  1. Dance teachers can be the worst. I took ballet for years, and it contributed to a lot of bad thoughts about my body and relationship with food. The great thing about running is that I spend more time thinking about what will make me stronger and faster. Starving is not an option. Thanks for this post.

  2. Hi! I just found your blog through Hungry Runner Girl, and I have to say, this post is perfect. Who made up the rules for how women should look anyways?! It’s nearly impossible to meet the standards of beauty that the media shows us, and I feel that if we’re strong and healthy, it shouldn’t matter what the the scale says. Thanks for writing about this 🙂

  3. Great Post!!! I’m so glad you put this topic out there, body image has become such a huge issue with our society and much like you I wonder when did our society suddenly change. This issue has even crossed the gender border because I see young males being effected too they just tend to be a bit more silent about it. Once again, awesome but at the same time very sad post!

    • Thanks so much and I have to agree with you- I think young males are starting to be more aware of body image as well..I’ve had a few boys in my classes who won’t eat lunch bc of cutting weight for gymnastic…it’s time to stop it!!

  4. I hear these types of conversations with my students and it breaks my heart. I try my best to encourage them to love themselves but they really are surrounding by so much negative body perceptions nowadays 😦 Thank you for posting this

  5. I happened to come across this post after Michael shared it on his blog. It is so sad but true that this is how our society acts now. Like you, I don’t remember caring at all about my weight or other’s weight when I was a kid. Now conversations like the ones you shared are far too normal.

  6. This was a great post. I actually overheard a similar situation when I was in a dept store around prom dress shopping time and when the mother and friend went out to get a larger size for the girl trying on the dresses (who I saw her modeling them for her friend and mom) after hearing their comments I was appalled. I had to jump in ( I couldn’t help myself) and told the girl how beautiful she looked and to not let their comments make her feel down. She had tears in her eyes as I was speaking to her and thanked me. As someone who has also struggled with this when I was younger, I felt for this girl and my heart broke for her. I wish everyone would just stop judging and worrying about other’s appearances and what is on the outside and start focusing on the inside. This world would be a happier place.

  7. This brought tears to my eyes. Stories like this remind me of the times I used to be so hard on myself and make me think of the future when my own daughter might be in the exact same place. I wish people could see how beautiful and unique they really are.

  8. Thank you for writing this! I teach 7th grade and hear this kind of thing alllllll the time. And honestly, the boys are as bad as the girls–they comment on fat vs thin and openly judge the girls. It makes me sick. I try to combat it–I wear race shirts, talk about my distance races, that kind of thing. And I’m not thin, so I try to send the message of health and strength and endurance over thinness. But dear god they obsess over the thigh gap.

      • It really is the HARDEST time for kids…between bodies changing and becoming teenagers, they don’t know who they are yet, or who they want to be..i wouldn’t go back to that age of you PAID me!!!! I teach high school juniors/seniors….it’s a lot easier to deal with kids that age bc they have their heads focused on life after high school/colleges. You’re amazing for working with 7th graders!!

      • The thing about teaching, we just don’t know if any of it is sinking in. Sometimes I find out years later that something I said or did had a positive effect, but often I just cross my fingers and hope.

  9. Reblogged this on Running Around the Bend and commented:
    I had already started a draft on something like this … but after reading, there is nothing more for me to say.

    Lisa and I were at TJ Maxx on Saturday and she was trying on clothes and I was waiting to give the ‘yay’ or ‘nay’ … there was a 9 year old girl with her mother trying on bras. I had seen them shopping and heard the aftermath – the mother and (aunt? I think) were full of harsh and negative body image talk for the young girl. She was a little overweight, certainly … but NO ONE deserves to hear what was said to her.

    But after talking to Lisa, it was even WORSE in the dressing room! Calling her fat, and unbelievably fat and gross and they’ll have to do something about how fat she is … and the girl calling herself ‘hot’ (yes, at 9) and … well, it was just like a playbook from ‘negative body image talk that MUST STOP NOW’. It was just really sad…

    Anyway, I love Nicole’s post – check it out!

    • Michael I didn’t see this comment until now!
      That little girl—my heart breaks for her and the negativity that surrounds her life! I can’t imagine my own mom doing that to me, at all. Things like that leave such a negative impact on a kids life! Awful!
      Again, thanks for sharing this, it means a lot
      To me to pass it on!!

  10. Awesomely stated! and my best to quote you “And the god dam thigh gap is overrated anyway”…isnt THAT the truth! I am also a RUNNER, I have curves in all the right places and I can kick some serious ASS if need be!

  11. You are lucky to have not noticed it growing up! In my family my mom beat herself up about her body all the time, tried to get my younger sister to diet, and my dad openly fat shamed any woman he saw as overweight. They had no clue they were doing anything wrong! I was aware of fat and thin by the time I was 8, no doubt.

    My girls hear it less so think about it less. I encourage my husband not to comment on them being thin (they’re both rail thin) and we just talk about health over body stuff. It’s so sad what you heard in the dressing room. It’s like you want to reach into their brains and rewrite things so they see the truth! I honestly don’t know what to do about it with thin images and social media brainwashing more rampant than ever!

  12. So true!!! I can’t say it enough!! I think about this topic lots and that’s exactly why I want to start an after school program called ROSE (Raising Our Self Esteem)! Great topic! Thanks for sharing your thoughts!! So important!! XOXO!!

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