I was doing a workshop a few months ago for teen girls. As my partner, makeup artist Melissa McNamara, and I were talking to the girls, the topic of “thigh gaps” came up. The thigh gap is that space between the thighs and the “gap” is what’s desired. Apparently, the bigger the gap the better. The girls we spoke with (and they were all girls, ranging in ages from 12 to 14) shared with us that many of the girls at their school were obsessed with thigh gaps, risking proper health so they could be skinny enough for that perfect “gap.”

In a recent blog for The Huffington PostBarbara Greenberg, a clinical psychologist specializing in the treatment of children and teens, had this to say: “One needs only to look at various websites to see that this is a far-reaching concern. Apparently, this started trending after the Victoria Secret fashion show in December. The teen girls just don’t want their thighs to touch. This odd obsession is certainly being fueled by social media like many other teen trends both positive and negative.”

Felicity Huffman's What The Flicka? - Seriously...The Thigh Gap?
The young girls in our workshop for self-esteem.

I feel as though there is a kind of tug of war in consciousness going on between what we, as adult women and mothers want our young girls and daughters to emulate, and what the media wants our young girls and daughters to emulate. But it goes deeper than that.

I am a mother of a 15-year-old girl and I want my daughter to see that her beauty comes from within. I teach her that what makes her unique is what makes her beautiful. I nurture her talents and stress healthy body image as opposed to “Hollywood” body image. Being a good role model is very important. Our daughters mirror us.

This means that we need to be vigilant about how we talk about ourselves—because if we tell our daughters that they are perfect just as they are and then talk about ourselves in a negative way, what sort of a message are we sending them? Our own low self-esteem influences our daughters more than we know.

Have you ever tried on a dress and looked in the mirror and said, “God I look fat?” Or perhaps not wanted to go to the pool because you don’t want to get into a bathing suit? Or looked at a piece of pizza, saying, “I can’t eat that, I’m just too fat.” How about looking at your daughter as she becomes a young woman and comparing your body to hers? It could be as innocuous as, “You can wear clothes like that. You’re young.” What are these seemingly innocent statements saying to our daughters?

Felicity Huffman's What The Flicka? - Seriously...The Thigh Gap?
My beautiful daughter, Sasha.

Our daughters look up to us. We are their role models. When they are very young, we are their world. If we denigrate ourselves to them, we are calling into question all that they see as real.

As my daughter continues to separate and individuate from me, I try every day to encourage her and support her. Because we live in a culture that perpetuates the idea that our beauty matters most (and yet the beauty that the media promotes is by and large unattainable and manipulated), I stress to her that beauty comes from the inside—that she can express herself through her way of dressing, her interests, her sense of humor, her intelligence, or her compassion. She is not defined by her looks. Beauty is so much more.

And, as I’m telling her these things, I am checking myself at every turn. I look at my behavior, because I know she is watching me. Children are experts at weeding out the truth. They can sense what is false.

I want more than anything to empower my daughter as she becomes a woman. I want her to be strong, and fearless, with a sense of self that is unwavering. Therefore, I must change my world as well and mirror that back to her within myself. I must learn and acknowledge that aging is beautiful. I must learn that I can still wear a bathing suit and not be embarrassed by my 57-year-old body. I must appreciate that I can eat and be healthy, giving up the “thin is better” mentality for “food is good for me and I enjoy it.”

It is our responsibility to show our daughters the way: that there is a difference between a “thigh gap” and a healthy sense of self. That they are beautiful just as they are—just like their moms.

This article was originally published on Holly’s SpeakingOfBeauty.tv.

Let me preface this story by saying that I believe it is absolutely unfair for attractive men to be in the gynecological field.

My yearly exam came around, and because I deal with endometriosis and a host of other female-reproductive issues, I had to see a specialist at the Army hospital an hour north. Fine. No problem. The doctor’s name was difficult to pronounce, and somehow that led me to believe it would be an old Asian man. I didn’t bother to landscape, if you know what I mean.

After checking in for my appointment, I waited in the exam room, refusing to sit on the paper-lined reclining chair that faced a ceiling featuring a bright pictured-tile of blooming branches to comfort the weary to patient. Instead I sat on the side chair intended for guests and played solitaire on my iPhone.

There was a knock at the door, and then Idris Elba walked in wearing a well-fitted set of Army-issued utilities. Okay, it wasn’t really Idris Elba (and if you don’t know who that is, please feel free to Google his name now) but the gynecologist staring at me with compassionate brown eyes was just as good looking. Did I mention that I didn’t landscape? Okay, I just wanted to be clear.

He looked through my file and told me that he didn’t think he was the right doctor for me. His specialty was female urological problems, and he wasn’t sure how I’d ended up in his exam room. He asked me numerous questions about my vagina and urinary habits. He had slightly graying temples and the shoulders of a linebacker. I stared at my knees whenever he brought up discharge or bowel irregularities. He asked me if I had any bulging, down there. Bulging? “No,” I answered. I wasn’t sure what he meant. He showed me a picture of a prolapsed vagina. “No, definitely not!” I blurted out.

He told me that I didn’t fit the criteria for his patients, but just to be sure, and just so the visit wouldn’t be a total waste, he’d do a vaginal exam. I smiled at the doctor then looked up at that stupid blooming branch on the ceiling. Then I tried to remember if I’d even bothered to shave my legs.

“Dear Lord,” I whispered under my breath, “this isn’t happening.”
I pulled off my pants and underwear and stared down at my risen bread-dough stomach. I looked at my legs. Yes, I’d shaven them, but the odd halogen lights made my light skin lighter and the black roots of my leg hair darker. It looked like the lower half of my body had a five o’clock shadow. He entered the room with a nurse a few moments later. I could feel my vagina clench together in horror. I had just told this man about all the strange issues I had, down there, and now, Idris Elba’s twin was going to come face to face with my shabby clam.

He snapped on the blue latex gloves. He had hands like a Trojan warrior. He flashed me a smile, pearly white teeth, before turning to the nurse to grab the bottle of jelly-lube.
“I think I saw you walking down the hallway earlier,” he said to me.
“Oh, me?” I asked. I felt his fingers begin the examination.
“Okay, I’m just going to feel around here,” he said.
I sighed. It wasn’t the sigh of someone enjoying the feel of a handsome man’s fingers caressing her labia, no it was the sigh of a woman trying her damndest not to turn hot pink with embarrassment and then run half naked out of the room.

“Everything ok?” he asked.
“What? Oh, yes. I’m fine,” I lied.
“Okay, I heard you sigh. I just want to be sure,” he said. His voice was like a cup of thick hot chocolate sitting on a wooden desk in an old library. Yeah, nerdy hot. I’m going to do us all a favor and skip over the speculum. I will say that around that time I finally understood why women do a Brazilian wax. Hindsight is a bitch.Then the doctor told me to cough.

“Excuse me?” I asked. I knew men were victims to having their balls cupped while having to forcibly cough, but me, a woman?
“I’m a uro-gynecologist. I need to see if I can make you pee,” he said. He had the same hot chocolate voice; and I had a heightened level of ‘this isn’t happening.’ So, the coughing game continued for three rounds, all while his latexed fingers were fiddling around inside my junk. I locked eyes with the nurse and I believe, in that moment, she understood, sister to sister, what I felt. Then she shrugged her shoulders and stared at my vagina, forcing me to look away. As if the experience hadn’t gone strangely enough, the pièce de résistance occurred next.

“Do you do Kegels? The doctor asked. He had looked up over the white sheet across my lap and smiled at me, waiting for my response. Memories of secret squeezes and magazine articles on tightened vaginal muscles unraveled.
“Yes, a little bit,” I managed to stutter.
“Okay, great. Give me a good one,” he instructed.

At 1:45 pm on Friday, September 14th, I Kegeled on a handsome doctor’s finger. It somehow was both the highest and lowest moment of my life. Then, the exam was over. He commented on how great my vaginal walls were before he pulled off the used gloves and exited the room. The nurse had an offering of a box of tissues and a wet wipe in her hands.

“Thanks,” I mumbled before she walked out too. Somehow, I found the courage to pull my panties back on and act like a grown up. I sat on the reclining chair and faced the branches on the ceiling. The stupid blooming branch wasn’t so stupid anymore. The pink flush of flowers felt like an acknowledgement of my humiliation. The doctor walked back in the room.

“Just as I suspected, you definitely don’t have the kind of issues I treat. But your vagina is in excellent shape. I’ll see if I can talk to another gynecologist and get you in for an appointment with her. Thanks for your patience,” he said. He shook my hand. His skin felt like a hug wrapped in one-thousand thread count Egyptian cotton. I left the office with the right doctor’s phone number and a mortified labia majora. It wasn’t until I reached my car that I felt a bruise on the tip of my tongue. I’d been biting it the whole time. I called my husband and confessed the entire affair. “Sweetie, I didn’t know he’d be that attractive,” I said. “Oh babe, I’m sorry you had to go through that,” he cooed. “I guess it would be like me going to see Robin Meade for a prostate exam.” “Yeah,” I said. I felt relieved. “Well, I guess it’s good material for a story, huh?” I asked. He agreed. Later at night, as we were falling asleep he asked, “How big were his fingers again?” Sleep invaded my brainwaves and I whispered, “Yes, they were.”

Some may call me…

OVERWEIGHT
BIG BONED
ZOFTIG
FAT
CHUBBY
PLEASANTLY PLUMP
FULL FIGURED
ROUND

However, I’d prefer if you would kindly refer to me as… Chubbylicious!! Girl Got the Muffin Top On!!!

Like a lot women, I have a relationship with food. It’s not sustenance, it’s a relationship! Food and I have tried to break up numerous times but we just keep getting back together. Ice Cream and I went on a break for several months without spending the night together, but I gave in. I’ve tried a lot of diets and they worked but the key is sticking to them. I fail! Big time! It’s hard to ride that pony! I keep falling off!

I guess you could also say that I’ve had body image issues since high school. I was thin but thought that I was fat. There was always something that I wanted to fix. I know that body image is a huge deal for a lot of people. I’ve found that the more that I obsess over my weight, and what I eat, the more weight I gain. After several conversations with my niece over the past few months, I have made a pact with myself that I need to love myself for who I am because, at the end of the day, I wasn’t happy with myself when I was thin either. I don’t want to take my body image issues and pass them down through generations.

People tell me or society or whomever that I should hate my body because I’m packing a few extra pounds. However, when I look in the mirror, (although there are times that I see a hideous beast staring back at me) for the most part I don’t hate my body. I honestly like my shape! It took my 4 year old niece to make me see the glass as half full, and give me a positive body image. I should be teaching her about positive body image. In a section I’d like to call “Sh*t My Niece Says…”

CONVO #1
NIECE: I don’t want you to leave… (INSERT sad face puppy dog eyes)
ME: Don’t you want me to go to the gym and get in shape so that I have more energy to play with you?
NIECE: No, I like you squishy!

CONVO #2
NIECE: Your boobs are so big! Are they real or water balloons?
ME: Real
NIECE: When I grow up I wanna have big boobs and a chubby butt just like you.

The truth is my niece loves me just as I am. Squishy! Does she notice my butt is chubbier than her mommy’s? Clearly! However, it is the role that I’m playing in her life and not the rolls on my body. She isn’t judging my flaws or my weaknesses. She just enjoys spending time with me because we have fun. She’s 4!

What she gave me is perspective! It’s all about perspective. I once worked with a woman who said that I was her goal weight. While I’m looking at someone else as my goal weight. A few years ago when I got fitted for a costume in a play the seamstress asked “how much do you weigh?” I said “A buck 85.” She said “are you sure?” I said “Fine, I’m a buck 65 plus boobs!” So there!

In some industries you’re required or expected to have a certain physique. We do live in a very visual society, but I think that beauty ultimately does come from within. Health and wellness do too! The good looking outside is just an added bonus! I’m attempting to do my best to lead a happy and healthy lifestyle even if I fail and fall off of the pony. If you don’t love yourself fat, you won’t love yourself thin, or in between. At least I didn’t!

I know that it sucks when you’re jeans don’t fit and you want to drop that extra 5 pounds. I know that you probably have a pair of skinny jeans that you’re “going” to fit back into. Mine are an old pair of Levi’s and I can “almost,” get them up my thighs.

If someone calls you fat (or says something about you that is rude or negative in general) the only thing that they should have is your rear view. That’s Booty Image! Ow! Get it! SNAP! When someone tells you that they hope to have big boobs and a chubby butt when they grow up and you embrace it, that’s a positive Body Image. You can have both! Rock it out!

Now go forth into the world and be someone else’s goal weight! Girl, get your confidence on!! Even if the girl got the spare tire, the pizza crust, or the junk in da trunk!!!