OFFICIAL LIVEBLOG – Room of Your Own 2: Blogs & Body Image

Session Description: In a society where more young girls fear becoming fat than they fear cancer, nuclear war, or losing their parents, some bloggers are taking a stand against teaching their children learned behaviors that affect their body image. Heather from MAMAvision, Carla Birnberg, aka Miz Fit Online, Claire Mysko, Kate Harding, and Roni from Roni's Weigh have worked hard to improve their own self-esteem, and are asking the question: How can your blogs be a conduit to transformation? Join this session to discuss how your writing can impact kids, whether you should think twice before publishing that self-deprecating post, and how you have the power to influence positive change.


Blogs & Body Image: What are we teaching our kids?

What attracted you to come to this session?

  • Gwen from Fat Girl Gets Fit wants to prevent her son from dealing with weight struggles. She wants him to be happy with his body no matter what he looks like.

Meet the speakers:

  • Heather from MAMAvision began blogging because she also wanted to prevent her kids from dealing with weight issues.
  • Carla from Miz Fit Online started bloggging for her daughter. She works with tween girls and helps them to love themselves and be comfortable in their own skins. She thinks it's important for parents to model loving themselves so that kids will pick up on it, too.
  • Kate Harding from Shapely Prose writes about fat acceptance. She focuses on being healthy at any size, meaning that she eats healthy and exercises for good health without trying to lose weight. She wrote LEssons from the Fat-O-Sphere
  • Claire from Mother-To-Be has worked with women and girls. She wrore a book called You're Amazing for girls, and her next book, Does This Pregnancy Make Me Look Fat, will come out soon. She recognizes that women feel a lot of pressure to lose weight and it affects their children.
  • Roni from Roni's Weigh spoke about being unhappy in her body for most of her life. She yo-yo dieted for seventeen years, until her pregnancy, when she began to accept it more. She went to Weight Watchers to learn how to eat and be healthy, and she wants to help others get healthy.
  • Heather from Voice of Reason went to Paris to model when she was sixteen, and it was a nightmare. She developed issues with starving herself and body image, and it took many years toget back to "normal." One day, she was laying in bed, and she saw America's Top Model on television. She was pissed that the girls on tv were forced into modeling nude. She video-taped herself talking about the show, posted it on YouTube, and was discovered by Stephanie at Back in Skinny Jeans.

Heather: All of you are bloggers. All of you are influencers. We'd like to call you to join us at We are launching it today. This is the quote that just kills me:

 Young girls are more afraid of becoming FAT than they are of cancer, nuclear war, or losing their parents. - Lisa Bergains, Dying to be thin

2% of women describe themselves as beautiful. Why?

I'll ask a group of girls to tell me something about themselves, a
quality that makes them amazing. Across the board, there's a tremendous
amount of hesitation. Girls are afriad to take credit for any of their
positive qualities, not just beauty.

Roni: I think women are
raised to be humble. We condition ourselves. We have no problem
complimenting our friends, but when it's pointed at us, it makes us
very uncomfortable.

Claire: Yes! It's easy for them to compliment their friends, but it's very hard to point out things about them.

Carla: It is uncomfortable to say "this is what I'm really good at" and then leave it.

As a child, my appearance was always talked about. A lot of girls want
to lash out against that. I was tired of people saying "look how blond
she is" 

My father was ecstatic about my getting married. Before
that, I had a career. I had a bachelor's degree, a master's degree, a
house. My dad valued only that I got married instead of all of those

Kate: I think women are conditioned to think
that beauty is only something that others decide for us. It's not
something that we say about ourselves, but something that's left up to
others to judge.

Roni: Telling little girls that they're beautiful shouldn't be the only thing. They're either going to be 

Heather: With a son, it's how athletic you are! So then I tell him, and you're so cute!

Roni: Right. Or you're so big! Or you're so strong!

It's good to talk with children about gender stereotypes. For a
one-year old, there's a difference in their birthday cards. Girls are
supposed to be cuddly and sweet. Boys are supposed to be all fired up.

90% of girls want to change at least one aspect of their physical appearance.

People judge you based on what you look like. We can't change that.
There's notthing we can do about it. The majority of my readers are
between 12 and 17, and I sometimes want to pull them out of where they
are and tell them, "You aren't your parents" or "You aren't your
surroundings" I'm a total realist on my blog. Any of you have thoughts?
Is that the best way?

Carla: It's worth it to also give them
hope. It gets easier when you get older. People judge your appearance
less and less and you get older.

Claire: I interviewed high
school girls, and asked them to give them advice to middle school
girls. They all said the same thing, which was "It does get easier."
The pressures are even more intense now with the messages from the
external media. It's always been a tough age.

Heather: Does it get easier? Isn't that why we're here?

It did for me. I had a lot of self loathing in higgh school, but the
other I got, I realized that there were other things that made me feel
good about myself. I say to girls, "Do you want to be thin or do you
want people to like you better?" It's not the same thing. Some [eople
will always hate you for being fat. Those people are assholes. 

Fit: 90% of the time, people's reactions have nothing to do with you.
That was the gift of getting out of high school for me.

Roni: You
can immediatly see that someone is unconfident in their body when they
walk into a room. At any size, confident people 

Carla: People
perceive shyness as self absorption. I always waited for people to come
and talk to me. I thought it was a given that I was worthless and ugly,
so I would wait for somoene else to talk to me. But then I realized
that half of the people were thinking the same thing. They weren't
thinking "Oh, she's fat and ugly. Why is she talking to me?" They were
actually thinking, "Oh my gosh, I'm glad she came over to talk to me."

I've alaywas had the opinion that I don't care what people think of me.
Do you know how much time we spend freaking out about what other
people's opinions? At a certain point, you just have to say "No. I'm
me." As dorky as it is, I found sewing when I was 17. I feel all the
fabric. I love it. I do needlepoint. I quilt. I sew. I tell girls to
turn off the tv and go outside. They need to expose themselves to
people who don't care so much.

Audience member: I always wanted
to have sons so that I wouldn't pass my issues with my body on to
daughters. I have two beautiful sons, but they're not immune. My
younger son is six and is aware of whether clothes make him look "fat."
My older son is ten and won't wear a swimsuit without a t-shirt.

Heather: Where do you think that's coming from?

Audience member: It's not coming from our house. I think it's coming from the media or their peers.

from La Viva Feminista: I'm one of three girls, and I wanted to have a
son. If you look at music and some of the Hollywood stars, you see the
men posing in sexually provacative ways just like the girls have. There
are sixteen year old boys with six-packs. The new GI Joes have
six-packs, where the old ones didn't.

Heather: As much as I don't want it to affect boys, it's good to see that it's not just girls.

Parenthood blogger: I put some condoms in the back. Please help
yourself. In talking to boys and girls, they seem to all have the same
concern, and that is "Am I normal?"

Roni: I wanted to remember
myself when I was 13. I looked different from my peers. I carried
weight on my belly, and I had flabby arms. I compared myself to ther
kids in the gym and at the mall. I'm not sure that it's all the media's

Carla: It breaks my heart that girls hit puberty, grow
breasts and hips, and they think they're getting fat. It terrifies me
that they perceive it as fat. When I was ten years old and crossed the
100 pound mark, I was devastated. I was the only one. I got pamphlets
that said "Your body is changing. It's normal." But it doesn't feel
normal. Add to that getting fat is worse that getting cancer, and now
you're getting fat in places you didn't have it before. Now what?

Moms especially have to be careful. If you're a mom, and you're
constantly berating yourself or weighing yourself, your kids are going
to do the same thing.

Kate: My mom never said anything to me, but I knew that being skinny was much more valued. That's what all of my peers wanted.

We have to be so careful with our words. THe issues and insecurities
are already there, but the trigger could come from a parent or a peer
or the media.

Roni: I have a four year old son. He saw an
overweight gentleman walking, too, and he said "Look at the fat guy!" I
wracked my brain trying to figure out why he said that. Do we point out
fat people? How do I address that with him without

Jessica Ashley
from Sassafrass and Yahoo Shine: This speaks to my education and
personal life so much. My little boy is five, and I always call him my
beautiful boy. He said "I'm your handsome boy." I told him that, in our
house, beautiful means having a great spirit and a wonderful heart,
etc. I'm a healthy living editor. He knows about high fructose corn
syrup. He's afraid of being fat! I try to show him that it's about
being helthy and being able to run. Where do we become obsessed? When
is it too much? For the boys and the girls, where is the line between
obsession and just happy and healthy.

Carla MizFit: Talks about
the "You are beautiful" project. To my daughter, beautiful is not creul
or mean. We see a gentleman who has a really bad skin condition. My
daughter loves him, and she thinks he's the most beautiful person. I
hope I can encourage her to see beauty as spirit and all that.

second part is how can I practice what I preach? My daughter knows that
every day, she hangs out with her dad while I spend 25 minutes on my
exercise bike. I want her to see it being a part of my day, but not so
much that it encourages obsession.

Claire: So many women beat
themsevles up. Just being aware of the issues is enough. Try not to
give yourself such a hard time about it. That can be damaging, too.

What your son said is normal these days. How do you be real? Being
afraid of being fat is normal these days. Maybe your self confidence
isn't where you wanted to be, but come on. We all have our bad days. Be
real and talk to your son. My daughter is older, and I talk to her. I'm
real and I tell her what's bugging me.

Carla MizFit: Make sure that home is always a safe place.

I'm a nurse who went through the counseling to help girls with eating
disorders. A 14-year-old girl was crying and said "I know I'm going to
way more than last year." I said "Of course! This year, you're 3 inches
taller. You have boobs and hips!" But she still cried.

Every woman I know remembers exactly when they hit 100 pounds. Why? Who decided?!

part of my training, I had to take classes for sensitivity and
counseling, but at the same time, nutrition. They tuaght us to count
calories and watch our food. I don't allow a scale in my house, but
it's still so easy to become obsessed with it. A girl will stand on it
every day.

Heather: On our new blog, we have The Deal that we're
asking everyone to agree to The Deal. One of the sticking points is to
get rid of your blog. There's no way to have it and ignore it. There's
nothing necessary or normal about weighing yourself every day. Weigh
yourself at the doctor once a year.

Roni: I taught myself to use
the scale as a tool. Don't you think that we give too much weight to
it? It's not the dreaded scale, but you can use the scale as a tool.
You may not be able to do that. There's probably a large number of
people who can't. I don't think the scale is evil. I went through a
period of  weighing myself when I was dieting and then not weighing
myself when I wasn't. Then I started using it as a tool. There was no
emotion, just a scientific tool. I would notice that I weighed more the
day after I ate a lot of salt. It was fascinating. 

Carla MizFit: People who are fascinated by numbers can do that easily.

We're taught to assume that we should all know exactly what we weigh. I
don't know exactly what I weigh. I just guess. I think I weigh about
200 pounds. To some extent, I saw that for shock value, but I also
don't know exactly where it is in there. A woman I talked to bought a
digital scale so that she would know when she's up two tenths of a

Claire: It's about your relationship with the scale. If
you're getting on it every day and feeling badly about it, that's bad.
With my book on pregnancy, so many women are focused on weight gain.
It's so acceptable for people to ask "Oh, how much weight have you
gained? How fast did you lost it?"

Carla: As a trainer, I never
weigh people. When you'er a parent, you are a role model for your kids.
If your little son or daughter sees you weigh yourself every day, they
see it. It becomes part of them.

Heather:Do any of you know what
Pro Anorexia is? Google it. They think that anorexia is not a disease,
but a lifestyle. There are thousands of videos. They have a whole
creed, and I've talked about it on my blog. There are avatars of girls
and women in their underwear showing their bones on tv. I've posted
pictures of teachers and kids and professionals.

Claire: This type of image is not typical of people with eating disorders. I just have to put it out there.

The Obesity Epidemic

Kate:Whenever the media talks about the obesity epidemic, we
always see these pictures of people who are very very very fat. The
reality is that most of us will never get to that point. It's like 4-5%
of the population. THey show a headless fat person in a sweatsuit,
further dehumanizing. That's not true. I'm what obesity looks like. The
vast majority of people look like me. The other stuff we see is
sensationalized. The obesity rates have leveled off. They'd leveled off
in 1999. It's been ten years since obseity rates have increased. The
average America has gained 7 to 10 pounds since the 1960's and grown an
inch. IN people who are morbidly obese, there has been a 20-30 pound


Heahter: What's Oprah's problem? She looks
awesome. She's setting a great bad example for all of us. She's showing
us what not to do.I remember seeing her when she was dancing with Tina
Turner, thinking she was beautful. She looked so voluptous. And then
she said that she felt like a big fat cow.

Audience Question:

from FickleFeline: My mother battled her weight. She told me I was
smart and beautiful and terrific, but I battle my weight, too. I weigh
167 pounds, and I worry about my weight. The only thing that stopped me
from beating myself up all the time was that I have a 3 year old with
autism. I have a one year old daughter now, and we are not going to
have diet products in my house. I'm never going to diet in front my


Heather: We chose to align oursevles with Dove and
their Self Esteem Fund. They're the one corporation out there who's
really doing it right.

(Unedited. Will edit ASAP)

Posted by Tara from Feels Like Home