getting real about body image

i'm enough A reader, Tanya, made a comment a few weeks ago about how she noticed my perspective on food & body image has made a subtle shift over the years.

It has.

I think personal evolution is inevitable, & hopefully, for the better.

Personally, I’ve always I had a feeling of deep inadequacy which has caused me to be the one in my family who is easily offended (having 3 older brothers who loved to tease doesn’t help). This inadquecy, similar to a short-man’s complex, has caused me to work hard. Because I know I’m not naturally gifted/talented in so many areas of life, I work hard. That’s one thing I know how to do. I don’t give up, & I keep on truckin’, even when by most people’s standards I’d be considered crazy.

This sense of inadequacy I don’t think has been a bad thing, entirely. I feel I have greater empathy, compassion, & understanding, particularly for those who struggle with life, because I know what it’s like to struggle, for things not to come easily. That said, I have unbelievable high personal standards, & those standards at times have caused me to have unrealistic expectations for myself, especially when it comes to issues of body image.

My twenties were rough in this respect. I went through periods of not being skinny enough (sheesh, even at a completely toned 140 lbs.–ridiculous), not being strong/fit “enough” (even when I could run a 6 minute mile & teach 3-4 fitness classes a day).

You know what has helped me, though?

Having kids, & having those kids get older.

(I talk about it more, here.)

Especially having daughters.

the girls

I want my daughters to grow up confident, strong in the knowledge that they are much more than their body, their looks, their sex appeal.

At a recent doctor’s visit, I sat in the waiting room, & read this article in the USA Today.

Though not shocking (what is, anymore?), or new information per se, I became deeply saddened after reading this article.

Why, after all the advances for women, all the strides that have been made, are we choosing this? To chose, to be sold/bought/valued only for our sexual appeal?

I read this article, just shortly after posting my thoughts on pornography.

Between pornography & issues with warped body image, my kids have it cut out for them. How can I, as a parent help them to navigate these waters?

I certainly don’t have all the answers.

But I’ve realized (& this is where my shifting perspective has sprouted), that I must be the example.

The way I view myself (even in my thoughts, as we all know manifest themselves in actions), the way I dress, treat my body, what I say about my body. This has been motivation enough for me to work on my own thoughts regarding my body image.

I know my kids are watching, they’re learning from me. As intimidating as it is, I won’t back down from this challenge. I will do everything in my power to teach, to show, to discuss, all of the things my kids need to know so they will have the confidence & tools to rise above the tide of our culture’s distorted perspectives on body image & all of the negative behaviors that can accompany that.

For more body image/empowerment food for thought, watch this:

Why we can never live up to the magazines, the billboards, the advertisements, the pornography

& read:

meg’s doll suggestion for girls
erica’s post about how society treats fat people

Please share your thoughts. 


  1. Lauren @ Breathe & Nourish
    on November 13, 2013 at 7:50 am said:

    Yes. I’m so glad that you’ve seen a shift in your approach, I definitely had noticed that as well. I really appreciate that you care about your girls and want to set them up for success. You’re a great mom!

    Let’s keep repeating that to ourselves, “we are enough”.

  2. lfwfv
    on November 1, 2013 at 1:24 pm said:

    Amen Janae. It is crazy how much I agree with everything you’re saying, but how hard it is to live out. I am in a much healthier place with my body in the past few years, but there are still days i crave a “smaller” body, a “thinner” body, a more “perfect” body/face. It’s so insane. I know it is because when I weigh “x”, i always still want to weigh even less, so i know it is definitely an idol of vanity/control, and it is not healthy in the least. At this point, i eat freely of whole healthy vegan foods (including calorie dense ones–nursing hunger is indeed ferocious! ha!), and i haven’t weighed myself at month. That helps keep the dissatisfaction beast at bay, but there are still days that even that is not enough to quiet the voice that says “you are too fat”.

    In my heart, i know the body is just a vessel and I am so grateful it is what allows me to love and nurture my family, walk many miles, have energy to live and love and use my gifts for the Lord. But, at the same time, there is this idea in my mind that if i could just control it more, life would be more perfect. I know it’s insane, and terribly unhealthy, and not *at all* what i want to pass on to my kids.

    It has helped me greatly to think about how I want my son to think about his own body…i want him to honor it as God’s temple, to be grateful for it, to respect it and treasure it by taking good care of it and being careful what information and resources he allows to enter it. The appearance part is really sooooo minimal.

    I look at my son and admire him because he is a beautiful, unique creation. I delight in his body. But not because it’s “textbook perfect”, just because it’s a part of him and i love him to bits. All of him. i long to come to that same place of acceptance with my own body. And i hope i’m closer to it in the event we do ever have a girl. Not that boys don’t also pick up on subtle body dissatisfaction from parents, but i think girls are even more sensitive.

    Anyway, i’d love to hear more from you on this topic in the future if there is more to share…how you encourage healthy body-image in your kids, how you talk about healthy eating with them, how you encourage a focus on the more important things in life. I think most of it is “be the example”, but i think there are still going to be times when “conversations” will arise that are focused on these topics.

    Thanks as always for sharing with us!

    • Janae Wise
      on November 1, 2013 at 7:19 pm said:

      Where do I start? You bring up so much with which I’m familiar.

      I remember watching a special on 20-20, when I was in my teens, about girls with anorexia & a woman who was able to really help most patients who saw her. I don’t remember all of the details, but the essence of it was, any type of disordered eating behavior is a mental illness/issue, & the only way to really “cure it,” or rather cope with it, is with love.

      I know that this is true. It’s relationships, it’s love that will help us manage/cope/deal with obsessive/disordered behaviors, whatever they may be.

      It’s funny because when I was at my thinnest, I very well may have been my unhappiest, body wise. The thing is, you start down that path of so-called perfection & there is no end. There’s always a “better” point to be at, & it’s a constant cycle of discontent & shame. Not a good place to be in.

      I think a turning point for me was to get away from the fitness industry (as much as loved so many aspects of it–especially my students & I do LOVE the joy of movement, but I didn’t love the constant scrutiny & focus on body), stop worrying about oil/fat, & focus on eating well, satisfying my hunger & eating intuitively. My body KNOWS what it wants. I just have to listen. I’ve always been painfully aware of how food makes me feel, which is why it’s not hard for me to stick with a vegan, mostly whole foods diet–I feel awesome this way. I can honestly say though, when I was eating super-strict & never made any allowances for “indulgent” food, it was not a good/healthy place for me.

      I have plenty more thoughts on all these things, but for now, I’ll say, thank you for sharing your experience. Dealing with this is something that I think may never go away, but like I said, requires daily doses of love & connections with people who respect & care for you.


  3. luminousvegans
    on November 1, 2013 at 12:32 pm said:

    I can relate to this post so much even though I don’t have kids. I have evolved a lot in terms of being more comfortable in my own skin. I just recently became 100% comfortable with not wearing makeup in public. I have a lot of cystic acne scars that I felt needed to be covered up. But somehow at some point I just stopped caring. I think letting go of “caring” was helped along when I shaved my head recently. It definitely helped me let go, not care and yes in some sense be “free” to be just me. I think it’s great that you are considering this notion of what it means to be confident and beautiful with your children.

    • Janae Wise
      on November 1, 2013 at 7:08 pm said:

      Good for you. Learning how to be comfortable, happy in our own skin is one of the test of life, I believe.

      (& how do you like having no hair? I can only imagine–no worries about getting it “messed up,” huh? 🙂 )

  4. michelle
    on October 31, 2013 at 7:52 pm said:

    Great post, absolutely true, I have found the same evolution too though it is not yet complete! I really loved this post I came across, hope you do too. :

    • Janae Wise
      on November 1, 2013 at 7:22 pm said:

      Michelle, thank you for that link! I LOVE all the great insights she shares & will share on my next MM post.

      (also, you have a beautiful family–that baby is gorgeous!)

  5. Laurie
    on October 31, 2013 at 6:48 pm said:

    I don’t even have kids, but I think what you’ve said is very true. Once I babysat a friend’s little girl while she was at a conference. We spent the day at an amusement park. I don’t like roller coasters or any scary rides, but I didn’t want to let my little friend know that because I didn’t want her to catch my fear and miss out on such things for years. So, I rode any ride she wanted to ride even though my knuckles may have been white the entire time. I think children can make you consider and try to enact your best self…or at least that’s the way it should be.

    • Janae Wise
      on October 31, 2013 at 7:25 pm said:

      Wow, that was such a kind thing of you to do Laurie. And took a lot of courage! That is the essence of parenting/nurturing children, right there though. Giving up your fears & insecurities for your kids (regardless of whether or not you birthed them).

      “I think children can make you consider and try to enact your best self…or at least that’s the way it should be.”
      I completely agree. Anytime we are responsible for others in any capacity, it ought to make us think twice about what we think & do. Lovely thoughts, thanks for sharing!

  6. Aubree
    on October 31, 2013 at 4:28 pm said:

    For a video that you can show kids on this topic search YouTube for the Dove Evolution video.

    I am loving every single one of your posts lately.

    • Janae Wise
      on October 31, 2013 at 7:22 pm said:

      That’s a great video! Thanks for the recommend. I love what Dove has done in recent years with their true beauty campaign. I hope that more companies will follow suit.

      And thank you, you’re very kind.

      (also, you have an adorable blog–love your style!)

  7. Emma
    on October 31, 2013 at 3:01 pm said:

    You’re so wise Janae. I can relate a lot- I also have 3 older brothers, all of whom are handsome, popular, academically successful and now have amazing careers. Needless to say, I’ve always felt like I have a lot to live up to! I’m getting there in my body confidence though I’m still not as at ease with myself as I’d like to be.
    Hopefully I won’t have to wait until I have kids before that happens, as that could be a long way off!
    You’re setting a wonderful example for your children.

    • Janae Wise
      on October 31, 2013 at 7:20 pm said:

      Emma–we have a lot in common! I too have 3 older, very successful & wealthy brothers (& they’re all marathon runners to boot). Being the baby girl of the family, I can definitely relate to the feeling like I have a lot to live up to. I guess we should remember that they’re always going to be ahead of us because they’ve lived many more years than us.

      “though I’m still not as at ease with myself as I’d like to be.”
      I’m guessing you’re still in your 20’s? Give it time. I think the 20’s for a lot of women is challenging simply because you’re trying to figure out so many things. And you’re trying to grow out of many adolescent insecurities which, takes experience, time, & a good amount of self-introspection/awareness.

      • Emma
        on November 1, 2013 at 4:53 am said:

        Thank you Janae. I’m only 23 so I suppose I do have a lot still to figure out!

  8. Melissa
    on October 31, 2013 at 11:33 am said:

    Well said. I made a goal to stop saying negative things about my body. I don’t have children yet. But I decided they would never hear their mother talk in such shallow ways about herself. I want them to realize that people are a sum of things, the smallest fraction of which is appearance. Of course they will be bombarded with media and peer messages, luckily the home dialogue is powerful too.

    • Janae Wise
      on October 31, 2013 at 1:38 pm said:

      “I want them to realize that people are a sum of things, the smallest fraction of which is appearance.”
      Such an important principle–I think many people learn this lesson far too late in life.

  9. Erica { }
    on October 31, 2013 at 10:03 am said:

    Love this, and that you are conscious about setting such a good example for your girls!