Nothing hits a girl’s self-esteem harder than middle school and high school. Suddenly, you go from the happy-go-lucky girl playing outside, getting bruises, and generally not worrying about how you look to a girl who obsesses about her appearance and compares herself to other girls. The switch happens lightning-fast…at least it did for me.

My concerns about my body image began in high school. Puberty had kicked in and my high metabolism disappeared a day later. Instead of being able to eat anything without gaining a pound, I would gain weight just by looking at a cookie. The weight gain came, and it was unexpected.

By the end of my freshman year, I was convinced I was fat. Looking back, I probably was about 15-20 pounds overweight, but not fat. (It didn’t help that I got on a scale once and a well-meaning uncle expressed shock at my number and told me I should probably lose a few pounds.)

I found myself looking at other girls and comparing my body to their lithe, thin figures. My figure was nothing like that. I first sprouted boobs at the age of 10. By the time high school began, I was already wearing a C-cup. Just my boobs alone made me feel self-conscious. I wore large tops to hide them.

Unlike many girls in my class, I had wide hips and thighs. I walked a lot and rode my bike everywhere. My thighs weren’t fat, just muscular. I didn’t consider that as a reason though. It must be fat. After all, my 9th grade gym teacher told my class that if our thighs touched then we needed to lose weight since it was an indication we were fat. (The recent craze about thigh gap irritates me because of this reason alone. It’s a bunch of crap!)

I was on the Junior Varsity cheerleading squad when I was a sophomore in high school. When ordering uniforms, a fellow cheerleader let me know that another “bigger” cheerleader from the year before might be willing to sell me her uniform. She made it clear she thought I was big and emphasized all the ways she recently lost some weight. It only confirmed what I knew to be true: I was fat.

I became obsessed with being thinner. I ate less and less. I was obsessed with the numbers on a scale; numbers that never seemed to get as small as I wanted them to be.

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By my senior year, I was borderline anorexic. I say borderline because I never gave up eating, completely or allowed my weight to take over my life. However, that said, I knew I could go up to 24 hours without eating anything without issue. Once I got to 36 hours, I would have a spontaneous bloody nose. So, I would make sure I ate something at least that often.

Breakfast was a slice of plain bread. My usual lunch was either a small fry with cheese or a packet of Cheez-its. Dinner was whatever my parents served, but nothing beyond one small serving. Oh, and forget snacking. I avoided it like crazy.

What killed me with my obsession was that I couldn’t lose more weight. The smallest I got, with my 5’8” frame, was 145 pounds with a 27” waist. And guess what, I still thought I was fat. It didn’t help when my grandmother emphasized that she thought I shouldn’t put butter on something because it would add to my weight. It only confirmed what I knew. I was huge.

I wish I knew then that I wasn’t fat. I wish I knew then that I was thin. I wish I appreciated how great I looked and knew that what I was doing to my body wasn’t helping me. Not one bit. I couldn’t lose weight because I wasn’t feeding my body properly. I couldn’t lose weight because I was probably at my perfect weight at the age of 17.

I wish I had known that my body had just developed curves earlier than others in my class. That instead of shopping in the junior’s section at the department store, I should have avoided it. I didn’t know that those clothes were cut to fit a slimmer, less developed body. I let the size I was (an 11/13) become justification in my need to lose weight; to get slimmer. If I had gone to the misses section, I might have discovered I would fit in a size 8 and been satisfied. But, I wasn’t. I couldn’t be. I was ashamed of myself and my body. In my mind, a size 11/13 only confirmed that I was fat.

It wasn’t until college that I began to appreciate my body and my weight in a new way. My new college friends didn’t judge me or my weight. Like others, I gained the freshman 15, and by my junior year I had gained 30 pounds. I decided to do something about my weight then. Not because I was obsessed with the number, but because I wanted to feel good about myself. Instead of starving myself, like I tried to do in high school, I just ate healthier (less late night pizza runs) and started power walking. I ended up losing 20 pounds, settling in at a healthy, fit 155 pounds.

I also had a conversation with my mom about my grandmother’s comment about butter. My mom laughed and told me that she made comments like that to her when she was younger and had a 23 inch waist. It was just my grandmother’s own issues with weight and body image.

Today, I’m far from that slim, weight-obsessed high school girl, and my body is definitely not a healthy and fit 155 pounds. I am now a plus-size woman and though I’m not happy with my weight, I love myself and the body that has given birth to two marvelous little girls and allowed me to go on many adventures in my life. I work to get in shape, not really to lose weight, although that would be pretty great. (After all, all the cute clothes are in the smaller sizes.)

If I had only known as a teenager that obsessing about what my body looked like was not nearly as important as loving myself for who I was. I can only imagine how much happier I would have been in high school. I know that now and I’m grateful. Now, as a mom to two precious little girls, I hope I can pass on the lessons I learned on my way to loving myself and my body.

Denise is a 40+ year old KU alum and SAHM trying to navigate the world of motherhood. She blogs about parenting, food, and has been featured a few times on BlogHer and has an upcoming feature on Scary Mommy. She enjoys solving mysteries (Okay..reading mysteries or watching them on TV), cooking, and drinking way more caffeine than she should…basically, doing anything she needs to do to survive the toddler years.  Follow her on FacebookTwitter, and Pinterest.

This post was originally featured on Jill Robbins’ blog, Ripped Jeans and Bifocals. Photo via

My body is not perfect by any means. My fingernails are uneven and haven’t had a good manicure in a LONG time. My toenails need trimmed. I currently need a shower. My graying hair needs to be redyed sometime soon–the three grown out inches do not blend well with the rest of my chestnut brown hair. It also needs a trim. When I fail to put mousse into my curly hair, it’s the frizziest mess you’ll ever see. My thighs touch (gasp!). My belly is the furthest thing from flat. My arms could give someone a black eye when I wave at people. I have no eyebrows or eyelashes unless I draw them on. I rarely wear make up. I’ve got a black chin hair that grows back more rapidly the older I get. I’ve got wrinkles around my eyes. I’ve got stretch marks and dry skin on my body. I’ve got a double chin in pictures.

READ MORE: Seriously… The Thigh Gap?!?

And yet I am more beautiful than I’ve ever been.

My finger nails are uneven because I was so busy coloring with my kids that I forgot I only filed one hand. I failed to trim my own toenails because my daughter wanted her toes painted “just like mommy’s pretty toes.” I didn’t shower this morning because I wanted the fifteen extra minutes of sleep after being up until 1:15 a.m. (no I wasn’t up with a child, I chose to binge watch “Once Upon A Time.” Don’t judge).

I haven’t made time for a hair appointment because I’ve been having too much fun living life: an extra busy Christmas season spending time with those closest to us, I published a book, I went on a trip, I’ve taken my kids to the science center, we baked cookies, I took my kids sledding, I grew my business, I made new friends, I held new babies, I had date nights with my husband.

READ MORE: I Feel Fat

I often don’t put mousse in my hair so my kids can easily play with it. They love seeing how big it can get and I love that something that simple can make them laugh.

I carry the extra weight that comes with having three kids in under four years and not being able to afford a personal trainer and too busy to make time for a 5 a.m. class at the gym. Yet, I hike for miles on a whim with my kids. I haven’t worked out my arms in years because, well, I really hate arm exercises. And I’m okay with that because I’m finally aware of all that I truly dislike, what I can stand, and what I love to do.

READ MORE: I Have Never Felt Beautiful

I hardly notice my lack of eyebrows or eyelashes. I’m just thankful to have not had any other medical issues. It’s amazing how little focus others put on your flaws when you yourself no longer notice them.

I can be beautiful without the make up. It’s fun to done a full face of make up, a cute outfit, but that’s not my day to day attire. I feel just as beautiful and more myself in my yoga pants (which has a growing hole in the thighs from them rubbing together) and an oversize sweat shirt than I do in my new Banana Republic number that I spent too much money on.

The chin hair I could do without, but if anything, it shows my age. An age that I am at ease with. I don’t dread becoming older because I can look back on my years and know I’ve lived them with no regrets.

READ MORE: What I Wish I’d Known About Body Image

My wrinkles are from smiling because I’m happy, laughing, and smiling my way through life. This is something my grandma once told me as I danced on her feet around her kitchen and something I’ve never forgotten. It’s something I tell my children to remind them to smile through everything.

My stretch marks and scars tell the story of my last 7 years. The story of my children’s births, of my love of dark chocolate, of my surgeries. They show the maturity that I’ve come to find in my journey through motherhood.

READ MORE: Change The Way You Look At Pregnancy

How does any of this accumulate to being beautiful? Because beauty isn’t how you look, how much makeup you cake on to cover the flaws, and it’s most definitely not restricted to a size. Beauty is embracing who you are. It’s living your life the way you want to live it. It’s embracing your flaws and owning them. It’s confidence in yourself and willingness to try the things that you’re unsure about.

READ MORE: Breast Reduction Surgery: The Real Deal

I may not be the 5’11 size 6 twenty one year old I once was, but now I’ve got something I didn’t have then: I’ve got the belief that I have the power to do anything I want. I have the power to laugh at myself: at the finger nails being different lengths, my hair being extra frizzy, my stretch mark shaped like an S for our last name (according to our kids), my chin hair that I forgot to pluck away before I left the house, I’ve got the confidence to simply be me.

Once you learn to love all of yourself and be yourself, true beauty will shine.

Photo via Jade Beall’s A Beautiful Body Project

“They might not even know that they have these insecurities…so it’s really important that we dig them up.”

This is pure heaven. John St., a Canadian-based agency, put out this parody promo that absolutely skewers this marketing trend we’ve seen develop in recent years – femvertising. Companies put out commercials and ads that are meant to empower women, but they merely bring to light a vast array of insecurities that we face everyday!

While the video is ridiculous and hilarious, it’s also very informative. Companies are feeding off of the struggles women face and wrapping it up in a sentimental bow. We love the badass factor in this parody. It’s also important to note that obviously, these cheesy commercials are extremely preferable to the horrible ones women face constantly. As a writer of Feminsting explains perfectly:

“It’s certainly preferable to the slew of blatantly sexist ads that remain a staple of the marketing industry. I was glad, for example, that Always’s tear-jerking #LikeAGirl ad ran during the SuperBowl. And I’d be happy for the fictional ‘All hair is beautiful’ campaign in the video to replace the real Veet’s ‘Body hair will literally turn you into a dude’ one.

But as Alexandra has written of Dove’s brand of self-esteem boosting, such faux-empowerment may make you feel a little better about yourself today, ‘but doesn’t help create a better world.’ And this spoof highlights how fine the line between empowerment and exploitation can be when companies are still relying on targeting women’s insecurities in order to ‘sell more stuff.'” (via)

We love it.

I’m not a fan of exercise. Who is, really? It’s a necessary part of life, but that doesn’t make it any less horrible. When I was in high school and college I worked out all the time; so much so it was almost an addiction. Sometime in law school I found a new addiction: Oreos. And Doritos. And pizza. And Taco Bell.

Of course, I also discovered fat rolls.

I’ve gone back and forth with different workouts over the years but nothing has really stuck. So I turned to the only option left. Yoga.

Yes, yoga. At first I thought this would be a great workout because it meant I could sit down and call it exercise. I also loved that I didn’t have to wear shoes. I figured it couldn’t be that hard if it didn’t require footwear.

Obviously I was greatly mistaken. After trying yoga several times I’ve decided that I hate it. No. I despise it. I realize there are people who think it’s great, but there are also people in the world who don’t like cookie cake. It takes all kinds of crazies to make the world go ’round.

Since I want to save my readers from the misery of downward dog, I’ve created a fat girl’s guide to yoga. It’s pretty with pictures so it’s easy to read. Yoga requires effort but following a guide on how to do yoga should be effortless.

The other day as I walked into our living room to pick up some of the 250 toys that had been throw about that afternoon my five year old looked at me and said

“Look mom you should get that.” He was pointing at the television and when I realized it was some type of a weight loss product commercial a lump was suddenly in my throat.

“Honey, why would mommy need to get that?” Because it will help you lose fat and gain muscle. You know because you always say you feel fat.

Suddenly that lump turned into a giant boulder. Instead of feeling fat I just felt like a big fat failure.

Before I could say anything else my husband chimed in from the kitchen and said “Buddy mommy isn’t fat and it’s not nice to use that word when you describe someone.”

I could suddenly see the look of confusion on the face of my five year old. After all he didn’t actually call me fat. He simply repeated the fact that I often call myself fat. A wave of panic came over me.  All this time I never thought about what my fat shaming or body issues could be doing to my children. Why? Why had I not considered that they may be soaking it in? Why had I not realized that they were listening to me? Why had I not noticed them in the room when I would say things like “Ugh if I don’t fit in a run soon I won’t fit in my pants.” Why had I not noticed them looking at me when I would ask my husband if the jeans I put on made my butt look big?

Then it hit me like a ton of bricks. I never thought about it because I have boys.  I have often thought to myself that if I ever have a daughter I would really have to watch how much I complain about my body. The last thing I would want is for her to grow up with a warped body image.  I never once thought about what it could be doing to my boys.

As a society we have become so used to constant chatter about diets, weight loss, good foods, bad foods, the best workouts for better butts, arms, legs, abs and on and on and on that it doesn’t seem anything but normal to us. BLEH!!! I dare you to turn on a news program in the morning and last a whole hour without hearing anything about diet tips, the best foods for weight loss, how to cut out sugar FOREVER, jeans that make you look skinnier, taller, richer, anything but bigger.  Pull up Facebook at any given point in the day and try to avoid statuses about shakes, diet pills, powders, potions, new workouts, new workout gear, diets with no fat, diets with no carbs, no sugar, no solids, protein only diets, eating protein while running in place and lifting weights above your head diets.  You can’t. You would have to actually look away to not read anything about these things in your newsfeed. Oh and you can just forget standing on line at the grocery store. Every single magazine has something about diet; get a butt like celebrity A and legs like celebrity B. Maybe you want your left toe to be just as skinny as celebrity C in her last blockbuster. They hold the secrets to all of this and more.

Our kids are saturated by constant information about weight loss. CONSTANT! How do they stand a chance?  We have become a society obsessed by what we eat, what we don’t eat and what we do in between eating. There are so many commercials on all about weight loss it’s actually become absurd. The fat loss industry has taken over and I for one am over it. I am over the fat talk. I am over using the word fat in my every day life.

I have boys.  The last thing I want is for my boys to grow up with a mom who is constantly saying she feels fat. I run. I eat healthy and I should feel good about my body. I’m going to be 38 not 18. If I don’t embrace my body now I never will. I want my boys to know that there is so much more to a woman than her body.  I do not want my boys to grow up calling people fat. I do not want my boys to grow up and be so superficial when it comes to picking a partner because I will never forgive myself. I’m going to make an effort to talk about the positive instead of the negative. I’m going to set an example that I run because I enjoy it, which I do, rather than have them associate exercise as just a means to burn calories. I’m going to enjoy ice cream with them in the summer and pizza with them on a Friday. Oh and on birthdays I’m going to have my cake and eat it too!  I’m going to allow my children to see me live life in moderation not in desperation.   I’m going to start loving myself instead of constantly focusing on the negative.

The phrase: “I feel fat” is officially banned from this house.

I loved playing Barbie with my sister. My sister’s Barbie was blonde and had a “bubble-cut” hair style. My Barbie was blonde as well, with longer hair. I thought Barbie was beautiful and could only dream of being like her. We had Barbie houses, Barbie cars, and all the Barbie clothes my mother would buy for us. My sister and I thought Barbie was the epitome of beauty.

I think I still carry with me the fallout from my “Barbie-obsessed” childhood. I spent years trying to be a size 4 or 6, while trying to look as perfect as possible. And I spent years in therapy trying to undo the harm my “Barbie-obsessed” childhood/adulthood had on me.

I recently read about Galia Slayen, a young woman who built a “real-life” Barbie when she was in high school in 2007. She was looking for a way to make her peers realize the importance of eating disorders and body image issues. She had quit the cheerleading squad, and was frustrated with pressures to look a certain way. She also had an eating disorder that had been controlling her life. She built a “Barbie come to life” for part of the first National Eating Disorder Awareness Week (NEDAW) at her high school and later introduced her “Barbie” to Hamilton College during its first NEDAW in 2011.

Felicity Huffman's What The Flicka? - Barbie In Real Life
Real-Life Barbie and Galia Slayen

Galia’s Barbie stands about six feet tall with a 39″ bust, 18″ waist, and 33″ hips. These are the supposed measurements of Barbie if she were a real person. She would weigh 110 pounds.

I want to share some statistics with you:
-There are two Barbie dolls sold every second in the world.
-The target market for Barbie doll sales is young girls ages 3-12 years of age.
-A girl usually has her first Barbie by age 3, and collects a total of seven dolls during her childhood.
-Over a billion dollars worth of Barbie dolls and accessories were sold in 1993, making this doll big business and one of the top 10 toys sold.
-If Barbie were an actual women, she would be 5’9″ tall, have a 39″ bust, an 18″ waist, 33″ hips and a size 3 shoe.
-Barbie calls this a “full figure” and likes her weight at 110 lbs.
-At 5’9″ tall and weighing 110 lbs, Barbie would have a BMI of 16.24 and fit the weight criteria for anorexia. She likely would not menstruate.
-If Barbie were a real woman, she’d have to walk on all fours due to her proportions.
-Slumber Party Barbie was introduced in 1965 and came with a bathroom scale permanently set at 110 lbs with a book entitled “How to Lose Weight” with directions inside stating simply “Don’t eat.”

I believe my life would be different if I had been able to understand some of this, way back then. I applaud Galia for her honesty and her mission – and I applaud all the women around the world who are advocates for change.

My daughter never liked Barbie as a little girl. I breathe a sigh of relief about that. I like to think that she will be moving into adulthood where the images of women are realistic and inclusive of all races and body types, allowing her to see that beauty lives within every human being. One step at a time…that’s what I tell myself.