Tag Archives: body acceptance

Celebrity Body Image Role Models

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In a recent article, I wrote about a few of my personal “body image role models,” women who embody healthy body attitudes and have helped me to cultivate similar perspectives.  Now it’s time to consider the celebrities…

We often hear about the negative effects of the media and the damage created by trying to live up to celebrities in terms of beauty and thinness.  While it’s true that many stars are not good role models for young (and older) women, there are some women in the limelight who possess refreshingly positive attitudes related to weight and body image.

Today’s post shares a few quotes from some of my celebrity body image role models, as well as my commentary on what they had to say.   The women quoted represent various professions – an athlete, a model, a singer, and a reality TV star – but they all have powerful insights to share with those who are working to rehabilitate a negative body image.  It is my hope that you will gain a few tidbits of wisdom or “aha moments” from reading the quotes below.

Beautiful Inside and Out!

 “What I’d like to teach my daughter about self-image and self-esteem is that you’re beautiful on the inside and the outside, and not to get obsessed with pictures that are out there in magazines of skinny models.  I had an eating disorder in college and wanted to look like those models and be thin.  So I’ll probably share that experience with her and let her know that you’re beautiful just the way you are.”  – Dara Torres, Olympic swimmer and mother to a 6 year-old daughter

I have been a fan of Dara Torres for years, both for her athletic prowess and her tenacity to keep pushing herself to succeed at an age when most people in her sport have hung up their goggles.  Now I can add another item to my list of reasons for admiring this remarkable woman.  She is striving to cultivate a healthy body image and self-esteem in her young daughter and hopes to spare her from the pain that she herself endured while growing up.

Parents really can have a positive impact on their daughters and help mitigate some of the damage caused by the unrealistic standards perpetuated by the media and entertainment industries.  Dara is sending a positive message to her daughter that we should cultivate both inner and outer beauty – and above all, self-acceptance!

A Healthy Perspective on Aging

“I don’t have anxiety about [getting older], so I’m not running to get Botox.  Maybe that will change, but I don’t think so.  I feel comfortable in my skin and comfortable with aging, so I think it’s okay that I get wrinkles.”  – Heidi Klum, supermodel and host/producer of “Project Runway

Heidi Klum has always looked beautiful, healthy, and vibrantly youthful.  Her attitude toward aging is a healthy one.   It may help that her heritage is German instead of American.  I’ve found that European women don’t tend to be as obsessed as American women with being wrinkle-free, perhaps because older people are celebrated more in other cultures than here in the United States.

Whatever the reason for Ms. Klum’s attitude on growing older gracefully, it’s a welcomed and refreshing message!  I join her in avoiding Botox and other such anti-aging treatments.  I do my best to take care of my skin, but I’m a 46 year-old woman and it’s okay for me to have some wrinkles!  I don’t need to look like I’m 20; I just want to look like the best possible version of myself.

Accentuating the Positive

 “I am not a sample size, and I am okay with that.  I’m good with who I am.  I like to accentuate the positive.  My waist is something I love to show off.  I’m also happy that more and more women are embracing who they are, because everybody’s different.  You don’t have to be a size 0 to be pretty.  You just have to be comfortable with who you are.” Jordin Sparks, American Idol winner

I think that all women should strive to identify and accentuate the positive aspects of their bodies instead of simply lamenting the aspects they feel are flawed.  This is something I encourage all women to do!  We all have positive attributes that can be highlighted and celebrated, regardless of our size.

Most women are unable to achieve a model-thin figure without excessive diet, exercise, and obsession, but we all can look our best and show off our best traits.  For me, it’s my arms and shoulders.  I am blessed with toned and slender arms and broad, square shoulders.  I do my best to highlight those features through the way I dress.  I am also grateful for my height and long limbs.  I am much happier when I reflect upon my positive attributes than when I curse my hips and thighs.  It’s all about where we place our focus!

Embracing Your Curves

“All my friends were super-skinny.  I watched my mom and she helped me with my outlook.  I have curves and that’s never going to change, so I’d better start embracing them.”  – Kim Kardashian, reality TV star and entrepreneur (on growing up in Hollywood)

Kim Kardashian is echoing the positive message expressed by Jordin Sparks above.  Ms. Kardashian not only embraces her curves, she is known for them and has become a very wealthy woman as a result of being a “poster child” for curves in Hollywood.

I, for one, am happy to see women with curvier bodies becoming famous and being regarded as sexy and beautiful in our society.  Had Kim Kardashian hidden her curves or dieted down to a standard Hollywood body type, I doubt she would be as successful and famous as she is today.  She also embodies confidence and self-acceptance, which are as sexy as her curves, in my opinion.  Kudos to Kris Jenner, Kim’s mom, for teaching Kim to be proud of who she is and to love herself and her curves.

Who Are YOUR Celebrity Body Image Role Models?

I know that there are many more celebrity body image role models out there. If you have any quotes you’d like to share, I welcome your feedback and may even include your quote in a future post.

Body Image Role Models

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Body Image Role ModelsA lot of attention is given to celebrities who have enviable figures.  We’ve all seen magazine articles with such titles as “The Hottest Hollywood Bodies,” “Body after Baby,” and a multitude of other stories chronicling celebrity weight loss and body ideals showcased by the stars.  Similarly, many of us know “real people” with amazing physiques and we may compare our own bodies to theirs and find ourselves coming up short.  Seeing beautiful bodies can either motivate us or deflate our spirits, depending upon our mindsets and how we feel about our chances for achieving our body goals.

While it can be helpful to have body role models, it is even better to have body image role models, especially for those of us who are working to rehabilitate a negative body concept.  This post will highlight a few of my personal body image role models and show what I’ve learned from the women in my life who embody healthy attitudes toward their bodies.

Role Model #1 – Refreshing Friend

For much of my twenties and thirties, I found it exceedingly rare to meet a woman who didn’t continuously expound upon her diet and weight loss pursuits.  As someone who was desperately trying to overcome a deadly eating disorder, it was not healthy for me to engage in such discourse.

This is why I found it so refreshing to find one friend who didn’t waste a single moment disparaging her body or discussing her battles with weight and food.  She didn’t have to make an effort to avoid such talk; it simply didn’t occur to her to worry about these things.  She embraced her body for what it was, ate what she wanted when she was hungry, and went about her life.  Yes, it helped that she was naturally slim, enjoyed exercise and outdoor activities, and had grown up eating natural, healthy food.  However, as she gained weight in her late thirties and early forties (as can often be the case), she continued to love and accept her body and treat it with honor and respect.

Wrong Clothes, Not Wrong Body

I am grateful to this friend for being a body image role model to me for close to twenty years.  She showed me an alternate way of thinking and behaving in regards to body image, and it was healthy for me to spend time with someone who refrained from negative body talk and obsessive diet and exercise activities.

I remember shopping for clothes with my friend on a number of occasions. When she would try on garments that didn’t fit, she didn’t blame her body, as is common for women to do.  She either grabbed the next size up or decided the particular clothing style didn’t suit her and moved on to something else.  She knew she was just fine the way she was, that garment manufacturers tailored their clothing to particular body types, and it was just a matter of finding the right brand and style for her body.  In short, the clothes were wrong (for her), not her body.  A powerful distinction that is important to remember!

Role Model #2 – Confident Family Member

Another body image role model is a relative who has fluctuated in weight quite a bit over the years.  She has vacillated between having a tight, taut and fit figure and being dramatically overweight, and I never know how she will look when I see her.  However, no matter what she weighs, she has never expressed any feelings of shame toward her body.

This woman has no problem getting changed in front of others and will proudly strut around in the buff regardless of whether she’s thin or heavy.  She has a freedom around her body that I truly envy and greatly admire.   She also doesn’t make her weight mean anything about herself as a person.  She knows she is intelligent, capable, lovable, and fabulous no matter where the needle on the scale may fall.  She doesn’t let her body image dictate her self-image.  Who she is consists of infinitely more than what she weighs.  I aspire to be more like her in this regard and I honor her for what she’s taught me about body pride over the years.

Role Model #3 – She Loves Her Curves!

I have a new friend who is also a body role model for me.  This woman is beautifully curvy with a figure similar to the wonderful Christina Hendricks.  She proudly showcases her curves in body conscious clothing that makes the statement, “I love my body and enjoy showing it off.”  Her outfits are always beautifully put together and give off a powerfully confident “bombshell” vibe.

I already admired this woman, but then I learned she used to be sixty pounds heavier.  Amazingly, when she started to accept her body, take more pride in her appearance, and dress the body she had, she was able to drop the excess weight.

I could tell her story, but she chronicles it so beautifully herself in her own words that I will let you read it for yourselves.  Of note is that she reveals both her highest weight and her current weight in her article.  There is absolutely no shame attached to either number for her.  I aspire to be more like this amazing (and young!) woman.  That she was able to overcome her body image issues at such a young age is a tribute to both her strength and fortitude.

Lessons from My Role Models

In closing, I would like to recap the lessons I have learned from the three body image role models I briefly introduced above.  These three magnificent women have taught me the following:

  • There is so much more to life than dieting and weight loss.
  • All bodies are worthy of love and acceptance.
  • Take pride in your body regardless of its shape and size.
  • It is normal and natural for our bodies to change as we age.
  • Dress for the body you have, not the body you wish you had.
  • If clothes don’t fit you, your body isn’t bad or wrong!
  • Your body image should not dictate your self-image. You are not your weight or shape!
  • We all have positive body attributes that are worthy of showing off.

The list could go on and on, but the items above capture the most powerful lessons I’ve learned from my personal body image role models.

Body Love and Acceptance

When you look around for role models related to your body, I encourage you to search for those who will help you feel better about your body instead of worse.  I urge you to find those women in your life who embody body love and acceptance and who can help you develop those same desirable qualities.   We can all find bodies to admire and envy, but real growth and empowerment come from emulating those who can push you toward the ultimate prize, true body acceptance!

Shopping and Body Perspective

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I recently found a journal entry I made following a shopping experience I had in 2004.  I titled my journal entry “Perspective.”  I’m sharing what I wrote eight years ago because I feel it’s still relevant today for those who struggle with body image issues. 

NOTE:  I have modified the original text slightly for the sake of clarity and removed references to specific sizes, as such information may be “triggering” to some and is not pertinent to the overall message.

Size – It’s All Relative…

Shopping and Body Perspective

I was in a department store buying clothes the other day.  While waiting in line to pay, I overheard a conversation between the customer in front of me and the saleswoman behind the counter.  The customer was buying a lot of new clothes and told the saleswoman it was because she had recently lost quite a bit of weight. I noticed the clothes she was buying were all several sizes larger than my current size, a size I feel is unacceptable.  I also noted that this woman was approximately six inches shorter than me.  While I would have been dismayed to be purchasing those larger sizes at my height, this woman was absolutely thrilled to be wearing that same size.

It struck me at that moment that it is all about perspective. I don’t like wearing the size I am now because I used to wear two sizes smaller (or even four or five sizes smaller during my anorexic years). In contrast, the woman in front of me loved the fact that she was buying her current size because she used to wear a much larger size. What depresses me thrills her.  Interesting how perspective affects how we feel about our size – and ourselves.

Powerful Questions

Some powerful questions came into my mind following the above experience:

  • What would be possible for me – or for any of us – if we were to change our perspectives?
  • What if I could be grateful for wearing my current size, as well as grateful for the fact that I am basically healthy and have many advantages in life?
  • What if I could focus on what’s right instead of what’s wrong in my life?

What’s Right…

Many things are right about my life.   Despite my continuing struggle with my weight and body image, a number of things are also right in that area of my life.  Here are a few things that are right for me at this point in time:

  • I no longer have lists of good and bad foods.
  • I no longer suffer from the utter tyranny of diets!!!
  • I now have a life beyond worrying about my weight and what I eat.
  • I am no longer a captive to the scale. (In fact, I no longer weigh myself at all!)
  • I am gradually learning to define myself in ways outside of what I look like, and learning to love myself for who I am instead of what size I wear.

Those are just a few things that are right in my life regarding food, weight, and body image.

Eight Years Later…

Looking back on my words from eight years ago, I am reminded of the importance of perspective in the body image recovery process.  There will always be things we don’t like about our bodies or our lives.  If we choose to focus on those things, we will be miserable and dissatisfied.  If we instead choose to focus on the areas of our lives – or our bodies – that we do like, we will experience a much greater degree of happiness and peace.

My “right things” from 2004 are still right for me!  In addition, I can add some more things to my list:

  • I am now in touch with my body and have learned to eat only when I’m hungry and stop when I’ve had enough.
  • My weight has leveled off at a point that is healthy and attractive, and I am able to maintain my weight fairly easily through eating nutritious foods and moderate exercise.
  • I have learned how to dress to maximize my unique figure, highlight my greatest assets, and downplay the areas that are not my best points.
  • I am able to look in the mirror and more readily see the good instead of criticizing the “negatives.”
  • I have fully committed to recovering from my negative body image (and I am making good progress!).

Closing Questions

For those of you who also struggle with body image issues, it might be helpful for you to ask yourself the following questions:

  • So what’s right for you in terms of food, weight, and body image?
  • What do you have to be grateful for in these areas?
  • How can you shift your perspective in a positive direction to help with your body image recovery?

We are all a “work in progress” and each new day presents new opportunities for growth and change.  We all deserve to love ourselves and our bodies, and shifting our perspective toward gratitude and appreciation can help us reach those goals.

Clothing Size Obsession

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Are you obsessed with the sizes of your clothing?

Do you refuse to buy an item if it is a larger size than you normally wear?

A recent article on the Weight Watchers website describes this phenomenon.  Many women have a specific size in mind when shopping for clothing and are extremely hesitant to buy anything larger than that “magic” size.

Size Inconsistencies

Some highlights of the Weight Watchers article include:

  • There is no standard sizing convention among women’s clothing manufacturers.  Often, the more high-end the designer, the smaller the size.  Even within a single brand, there are disparities.
  • “Vanity sizing,” in which measurements run larger than standard, is used by the majority of manufacturers today. One exception is the dress-pattern market, in which the measurements for the McCall’s size 8 correspond to the current 0 or 00 on the Banana Republic website!
  • Vanity sizing is driven entirely by marketing psychology.  Women like to fit into a smaller size and single digits sound better than double digits.
  • The average American woman is 5’4.5” and wears a size 12 top and a size 14 bottom.
  • The dream size for most women on the Weight Watchers plan hovers between an 8 and a 10.

My Reflections…

After I read the article, I reflected upon how it relates to me and my situation.  I know I feel good when I can fit into a smaller size even when I haven’t lost any weight and know it’s just a reflection of vanity sizing.  On the flip side, I feel a bit deflated when I am forced to grab the next size up when shopping for clothes.  Despite the fact that I am aware of the random nature of women’s clothing sizes, I still fall prey to the psychological pitfalls inherent in size variance.

A Plethora of Sizes!

In my closet right now, I have pants and skirts ranging from sizes 4 to 10 and tops from sizes extra-small to large.  All of these items fit me at my current body weight and size.   This fact alone should be enough evidence of size insanity to stop me from obsessing over the numbers when shopping.   In truth, I am less reluctant to grab one size larger than I used to be, but if I ever need to grab an item two sizes up, forget about it!  This size madness doesn’t work in the reverse direction, however.  Should I ever need to size down two sizes, bring it on!

No One But You Knows Your Size!

The funny thing is that unless one is wearing a pair of Levi’s jeans with the size plastered on the back, no one else knows what size we are wearing.   The important thing is whether or not the item fits and is flattering, not what size is on the tag inside the garment.

One suggestion for getting around size anxiety is to cut the size tag off after purchasing the item.  That way, you won’t need to flog yourself over the number and can instead celebrate the fact that you found something that you love and which flatters your unique figure.   This suggestion may be helpful to those of us who obsess over the meaningless numbers that are clothing sizes.  Clip it out, and then forget about it!

What Do You Think?

I would love to hear what others think about the Weight Watchers article and the issue of women’s clothing sizes.

  • What is your experience with clothing sizing when shopping?
  • Does the size of a garment affect whether or not you will buy it – or even try it on?
  • Are you more likely to shop at stores in which you can fit into smaller sizes?
  • Do you feel that the sizing of women’s clothing should be standardized, as has been proposed from time to time?

Body Confidence

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Awhile back, I watched an episode of “The Tonight Show” featuring a plus-sized model named Ashley Graham.  ABC had recently refused to air her Lane Bryant ad during “Dancing with the Stars” on the grounds that it was too revealing.

Jay Leno heard the story and felt ABC’s decision was ridiculous, particularly in light of the many Victoria’s Secret ads regularly shown on television.  Leno wanted to increase awareness of broadcast double-standards and discrimination toward plus-sized models, so he invited Ashley Graham to appear on his show.

Confidence, Magnetism, and Self-Love

Watching Ms. Graham on “The Tonight Show” elicited a strong and unexpected reaction in me.  When Jay Leno introduced her, Ashley glided out on the stage dressed entirely in spandex!  While she is a very beautiful woman, she’s definitely much curvier and voluptuous than most models we see in magazines and on runways (I read that she’s a size 16 at 5’9”).

While I didn’t feel the spandex ensemble was the most flattering thing she could have worn (this applies to pretty much anyone, mind you… – the outfit above is a much better option!), that’s not what struck me most about Ashley Graham.  What I noticed first and foremost was her abundance of … confidence.  She carried herself with pride and poise and looked every bit as statuesque, sexy, and elegant as any movie star who might walk onto the Tonight Show stage.  I was mesmerized by her magnetism and evident self-love.

Body Image Lessons from Ashley Graham

What can we learn from Ashley Graham?  Here are a few thoughts for women (including myself at times…) who could use a shot of “body assurance serum”:

  • Sexy and beautiful are not attached to a certain size or to a societal ideal.
  • There are many definitions of beauty, not just one!
  • If a woman acts and feels attractive, others will see her that way as well.
  • If you love your body, others will, too!
  • If you carry yourself with pride and “own” every inch of your body, you will feel more confident.

Self-Love at Any Size!

We can’t all look like Victoria’s Secret models, nor should we.  But we can strive to be our very best and love ourselves through each step of our life journey.  We can learn to love our bodies for what they do for us and for the fact that they carry us through our lives faithfully and steadily.  We can learn to embrace and celebrate our best points and release our judgment about those parts we don’t like so much (clothing can definitely help in this pursuit!).

We can end the war within and enjoy our precious, beautiful, and all too brief lives.  That is my solemn wish – for all women (and men, too) who struggle with body image issues.  We can learn to love our bodies as they are and one day stride onto the “stages” of our lives with the grace and assurance of Ashley Graham!

Fashion Isn’t Frivolous!

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I have always enjoyed clothes and shopping, but over the years I’ve also come to learn the power of what we wear to help improve our body image.

I’m not necessarily referring to being a “fashionista” or a slave to trends, but rather the way that clothing can help to enhance our positive points and encourage body acceptance.

“What Not to Wear”

I’m sure many of you have seen the television show, “What Not to Wear.”  In case you aren’t familiar with this program, the premise is that a woman gets nominated for a makeover by a friend or family member because she dresses in a way that’s either frumpy, age inappropriate, or just plain over the top.   That person then gets “ambushed” by the show’s hosts, Stacy London and Clinton Kelly, and is shown secret footage of her “crimes against fashion.”

The hosts then throw away virtually all of her clothes (actually, the clothes are donated to charity) and give her “rules” to shop for new clothes that will best suit her body and lifestyle.  She is given $5,000 to shop for a new wardrobe and is also treated to a make-up consultation and a new hairstyle.   In the end, all of the women look infinitely better, and many of them also appear ten years younger and ten pounds thinner, all through the magic of clothing.

An Added Benefit…

The fact that the women look better is no big surprise.  It stands to reason that a new wardrobe, a flattering hairstyle, and professional make-up would make anyone shine.  What’s not so obvious is the transformation which takes place in the women’s confidence and body image.  They all stand up straighter, smile more, and reflect a genuine glow and sense of pride in themselves.

Many of them actually seem like different people in terms of their attitude and demeanor, in addition to their appearance.  It is a joy to watch the metamorphosis that takes place in the makeover contestants, and I don’t doubt that they end up experiencing a higher degree of self-esteem and happiness once they return to their everyday lives.

My Personal Experience

During my many years of struggling with eating disorders and negative body image, I adopted a kind of “quirky and bohemian” style of dress that primarily consisted of loose-fitting garments in which I could hide my body.  I always did my best to look nice and paid special attention to my grooming and accessorizing, yet my clothes didn’t flatter me nearly as well as they could.

As I entered my late 30s and was inching ever closer to the big 4-0, I decided it was time for a change.  Over the next few years, I gradually transformed the way I dressed.  I began to wear more form-fitting clothing that showcased the positive aspects of my figure.  Along the way, I started to feel better about my body.  I found myself feeling slimmer and more proportionate, as well as more vibrant, attractive, and confident.

I sometimes still struggle with body image issues and have days when I feel fat and down on myself.  But if I take the time to dress in attractive and flattering clothing, I get a boost of energy and a shot of extra self-esteem.  What I wear really does make a difference!  Clothing helps me to take more pride in my appearance and my body.

At age 45, I feel like I look better than I’ve ever looked!  Even though my weight may be a bit higher than my personal ideal, I can see that I look good in what I wear.  I am gradually learning to accept my body as it is and stop striving to reach unrealistic ideals.  If I wear clothing that fits, but doesn’t pinch or bind anywhere, I feel slimmer and more readily accept my present weight and size.

When I shop, I buy items that fit me now, not 5 or 10 pounds from now.  The size number is becoming less important to me as I focus more on fit and style.  After all, who else sees your size tag besides you?  If it bothers you too much, you can always cut it off!  I used to do that, but now I am more able to let it go and enjoy having clothes that fit, regardless of the number.

The Power of Clothing

Some will still say that fashion is frivolous, but I have a very different view.  I believe that clothing has the power to help us look and feel better, and it doesn’t have to be expensive or especially time-consuming.  Once you determine what looks good on you, you can apply the same basic formula to a variety of outfits and occasions, and you can find beautiful pieces at all price points.  While I love to shop at Nordstrom and Bloomingdale’s, I have found some fabulous pieces at Target and JC Penney as well.    No one need know where you bought what you’re wearing; they will just notice how fabulous you look!