FAMILY BODY ISSUE [START OF PODCAST] Jeffrey: Welcome to the Chalene Show! Chalene has helped thousands with her books, seminars, and online academies. She’s the author of the New York Times best-selling book, “Push,” and a mother of two.
Chalene: Hello? Hello? Is anyone there? I don’t know. It’s like crickets over here. I didn’t hear from many of you this week. You are my fuel. When I hear from you, it’s like having a tip jar. I love it when you share with me your favorite parts of episodes. I love when I hear from you when you go to my website, chalenejohnson.com/podcast, and you leave me a voicemail. Just tell me what you thought about the last couple of episodes. Let me know what guest you would like to hear from next.
And if you happen to be listening to this episode in the month of December and you’re just wracking your brain trying to figure out the perfect gift for Chalene. If I happen to be on your list, let me make this simple for you. Drum roll please.
Yup, you guessed it! The only thing on my list this year is new subscribers. I want to meet your friends. I want the people who you love to be a part of this family. So if you have it already, will you do me a favor? Will you send me a text to someone who would fit with our family and just let them know that you would love for them to meet your BFF, Chalene, and get them to subscribe to the podcast.
That’s all! I’m really a very low-maintenance, simple kind of girl. I actually am really uncomfortable when people give me gifts. I love letters. I love words of affirmation. And I love subscribers. All I want for Christmas is some new subscribers, some new subscribers, and maybe some singing lessons from Roger Love. I love to sing. I didn’t say I’m good at it.
Today’s episode is about body image. I thought I better be silly at the intro because we get pretty serious on this one. We’re going to talk about some of the things we may have heard as kids that have affected our beliefs about our body, our body image, and some of the things we might still be saying to ourselves or perhaps saying in front of our own children that is affecting they way they view their bodies.
This is a really important episode. Whether you’re a parent or not, we all have struggled with a family member, somebody that we really care about who we see doing some really destructive things with their health. And in this episode, we will address some of the best ways that you can address these things with a loved one without driving a wedge between the two of you and to inspire the people who are closest to you to take control of their health in the most loving and supportive way.
Whether you’re a parent or not, if there’s ever an opportunity that you can influence family member, a brother, a sister, a mother, and, of course, most importantly your children, this message is for you.
I am joined today by my friend, Keith Harris. I love talking to him because he’s been there, he’s lost over a hundred and twenty-five pounds, and it’s just a real conversation. So, without further ado, let’s kick it with Keith.
What’s up, Keith?
Keith:Yow, Chalene! What’s up?
Chalene: Not much!
Keith: Not much. Alright, so listen. This one is kind of deep.
Keith: This one is kind of deep.
Chalene: Oh you know I like that. I just said that nice and straight.
Keith: So today I want to talk about how to be a positive influence on people, the people that we love when it comes to food and fitness and how damaging our own families can be when it comes to our development. So this is really deep.
Chalene: Wow. That is deep. And it’s such a good topic. I’m so glad you brought this up because you and I get a lot the same questions, like every week people ask us the same things and that’s one of them. That’s like, “How do I get the support of my family?” And that’s kind of like the adult question. But when I talked to people, and you have too, who’ve lost like 50 pounds, 75 pounds, a hundred pounds, but they struggled with their weight, like a lot of their adult life. And even if they they’re a healthy weight, they still struggle with that. Like thinking about their weight as every day, every conversation, every time they get dressed in the morning, they’re always thinking about their weight.
And I’ve found from the letters and the heart-felt conversations with people that so much of this tortured way of thinking about our body stems from something from our childhoods, you know, body image that we’ve kind of adopted from our parents or one of our parents. And to realize how much influence we have as adults on the children whose lives we’re in, not just your own kids, but if you’re a teacher, or an aunt, or an uncle, and for those of you listening to look back on it, something you may have seen in your own home that helped to shape the way you view your own body. It’s very powerful.
Keith: This is really like deeply psychological. It requires some pulling on the weeds. You know, you do like really get down in the weeds and really like kind of digging up some stuff that might be a little bit hurtful. Like I remember being a child and would see my mother emotionally eat. It was obvious that she was upset. And of course, I’m looking at this in hindsight. I wasn’t like super intuitive as a kid. Now that I look back on it, I can remember her obviously taking out her frustration or anger or whatever that emotion was on a pint of ice cream.
And then, as an adult, I saw a parallel between the stuff that she did, those same behaviors, and then the behaviors I was doing as well. So I would emotionally eat. I wasn’t really aware of it. I just noticed that I was doing the same type of things.
Chalene: Well, and for those people who are just hearing you and I together for the first time, Keith and I go way back and Keith is about a hundred and twenty-five pounds less than when I first met him. So you speak from a place of expertise of going through this journey. And it is a big piece of it, being self-aware and we learned from our parents how to treat food.
And if you think about it, from the time a child is an infant, like when I brought my babies home from the hospital, you soothed them with food. I mean I nursed both kids and when a baby cries, there’s a reaction that happens within your body that says, “Feed the baby.”
And so, we condition small children to be soothed by food. And we grow up in a household where we see the way our parents and the people who influence us deal with emotions with food. Then we just say, “Well, this is what we’re supposed to do.”
You know I remember in my own home just a lot of things, like everything revolved around, like all family gatherings and, you know, “I love you, and so here’s a pie!” and “Oh, someone died so let me drop off a casserole!” Like food is love, is care, is how you kind of take care of emotions.
So it’s not uncommon that a lot of our cues, and as you and I both talked about like, you know, we love our parents and I’m sure that they didn’t do any of this stuff intentionally. But we just have to be self-aware of some of the things we picked up from our parents and then realize those of us who are parents that, whether we mean them to be positive or negative, our children are watching us and taking cues for how they will treat food based on what we’re doing.
Keith: Like, so those were our childhood experiences and we kind of developed the same behaviors. And now we have kids. I would ask the question like, “What’s the best way a parent can be supportive of a spouse or a child who hasn’t really exactly embraced a healthy lifestyle?”
Chalene:Yeah, yeah, that’s good. I mean, ‘cause let’s face it. It starts with whoever’s doing the grocery shopping. And many times, you and I have seen this happen, where it’s the whole family is out of shape, the whole family is unhealthy. And one person decides, “I’m going to change this.” And they start with education, learning about the right type of protein shakes, the right type of food, and what it means to have, a high levels of sugar. And they start educating themselves, and working out, and then they feel all the changes, and they get excited about it, and they want to just kind of like. They want to help their family, but at the same time like they’re suddenly saying, “Hey, the rules have changed!”
And it can feel, on behalf of those who are not yet there like they are eating the old ways and they still have the weight to lose, it can feel like number 1.) You’re being judged, that “You’re bad and now this food that you have brought to us is bad food. And now I don’t get your approval because I’m overweight.”
And then there’s also from oftentimes a spouse, this kind of like angry resentment about the whole health thing. Who would be angry about being healthier? Nobody. But it makes people fear change. So when one partner is suddenly changing, and they seem more confident, and they’re eating differently, and they’re taking care of themselves. And the other partner starts to act with resentment and passive-aggressive ways, bringing home foods that sabotage. That isn’t because they don’t love you. And it’s not because they don’t see the value in health. It comes from a place of fear, fear that things are going to change, fear they you won’t need them, fear that they’ll be left behind, fear that you will think less of them.
And so the way we treat a spouse is a little differently than how I believe we should treat our children. And the most important things in both ways, children or spouse, is an unconditional love and open communication and never pointing you’re finger and saying, “This is what we’re doing. Or this is good and this is bad. Or you need to (fill in the blank).
Keith: You, know I found. (I don’t have any kids.) But my wife, I find with her, the best way for me to encourage is really by example. Like, so we don’t really talk about it very much. I won’t say the easiest way, but I would say the most effective way for me to maybe kind of get a point across or like maybe try to do something a little bit different in the household as far as eating is concerned is to just start doing it. And then eventually, she kind of comes around and I find that to be the most effective way. It just ends up being or getting a little too sensitive at times.
Even with people who haven’t struggled with their weight, you know, you’re right. You changing does something to someone, like it’s kind of makes them feel like.. I don’t know, Inferior maybe. I don’t know what the case is, but it just kind of makes them feel a little bit funny because there’s some change happening.
Chalene: Yeah, they fear that their relationship will shift and, you know, we hold so tightly to our relationships that fear can come sometimes in the form of, it feels like anger, or like “they’re not supporting me.
And what you just described with your wife is what I would prescribe as the very best way to do this. It’s modeling. And I can tell you that I attribute much of my healthy body image. And sometimes it’s like to a fault, it’s like in the industry that I’m in, maybe I should be obsessive about my body fat. But I’m just not! And it’s not as important to me as it is to many of my colleagues. And that’s because it’s not who I am. Who I am is like a whole person.
And that was very much modeled to me by my mom. I never ever once in my whole life heard her talk about her body or other women’s bodies or my body. I think the best thing a parent can do is rather than saying like, “Oh, honey. That dress doesn’t look that good on you.” Or “do you really think you should wear those pants?” or “How much fat is in there?” or “Do you really want to eat that cake?”
That’s the kind thing. But I’ve also heard really terribly mean examples. Parents saying, “Your sister can wear that, but you’re too thick or you’re too big to wear that.”
Keith: That hurts my heart.
Chalene: Right! It’s sad. But to learn to replace those. ‘Cause those are the phrases you’re saying to yourself, but when you speak them out loud by accident, your child carries them with you forever.
When I was first personal training in my 20’s, and I remember I had a client who was in her late 50’s, and I trained her three times a week. I would say two out of three times a week, she brought up a conversation like a broken record of overhearing her mother when she was a child talking about how she, this client of mine, was the chubby daughter. And it was a conversation that she overheard her mother having and you could just see, here is this woman who’s approaching sixty. And I see her three times a week. And it’s coming up two out of three, like it was her. And she was super fit and had been all of her adult life. But she says that overhearing that conversation haunted her her entire adult life. And she never ever looked in the mirror and thought she was okay.
Keith: Wow. That’s incredible. I mean it reminds me that we just really have to be careful what we say to people, especially our children or our spouses or our loved ones. But just friends, or colleagues, whatever the case, we really have to be careful about what we say to people because it could very well stick with them for the rest of their lives and affect them for the rest of their lives. That’s pretty incredible.
I was always the big kid and I’m still the big kid.
Chalene: When you say the big kid, like would you be teased for being overweight or did just people say, “He’s the big guy.”
Keith: Yeah, I was just always the big guy. And my height did a whole lot for my weight. Had I been six/seven inches shorter, I might have been the fat kid. I don’t know.
Chalene: Oh sure, yeah!
Keith: But, yes. So like I’ve always worn my weight well, as they say. And so I don’t ever remember being teased necessarily. There was something about being called big, though that bothered me a little bit.
Keith: I can remember as early as like maybe fourth grade, so like maybe being ten or eleven. So, yeah. There was something that always bothered me about being big or being called big. And then after a while I embraced it because I realized that I was just bigger than anybody else. But I can only imagine if that big was a fat or, you know, so like if people swap out calling me big for fat. And like how that would affect me. I was able to just kind of manipulate the big and make it something positive, but I can only imagine what it would be like.
Chalene: And that was at, you said, at age ten?
Keith: Yeah, ten. Maybe earlier than that. But, yeah.
Chalene: Well, that’s where it starts. The National Eating Disorder Association, they recently did a study and they found that, as of today, 40-60% of elementary-age girls are concerned, when they interviewed them, concerned that they’re becoming too fat. And that most of them are already looking at. They don’t even know what the labels mean, but they look at fat content because, unfortunately, we made fat the monster, you know, the evil demon, when really it’s too bad we don’t have them looking at sugar. Like I would kind of happy about this study if we knew that kids were looking at labels and looking for sugar content. That would be kind of cool. But they’re not. They’re worried about being fat and they’re worried about being big.
And we know the reason why this happens. And even if you don’t have kids, it helps you to think back on how your own body image has been shaped by TV, by images that we see on magazine covers, and how it’s always changing, and how so much of it is out of our control, and it’s been Photoshopped, and it’s not even real, and we’re comparing ourselves.
And then we hear adults saying like fanning over like the super thin like, “Wow, look how much weight she’s lost!”and like, “Look at Miss [17:16 inaudible], and it would seem she’s lost all those weight.” And everyone like, you’re suddenly relevant and lovable again when you’ve lost all these weight.
So the message, even if it’s not what your parents have said to you, if you hear adults talking about that, if you see all of the attention on TV and on the magazine covers like being super think must be good, must be lovable, must be better, must be more beautiful. And so that’s where some of that starts.
And then there’s the opposite. There’s people who are super thin and they can’t gain weight. And for whatever reason, people dismiss that as a true struggle. And I guess it’s because most people do have to manage their weight and it’s an issue. But there’s a whole bunch of people out there. And I see them and I meet them who say, you know, “I’m ashamed to say this because people scoffed it off as like, ‘Oh, wow. That must have been terrible.’ But it’s hurtful, and I couldn’t gain weight, and I was always teased. And I was called beanpole, and chicken legs, and everybody always teased me. And I desperately wanted a different body.”
It’s so sad that we think God makes perfect people, and He doesn’t make mistakes. And it’s just sad that we allow that to happen, like it’s okay to tease people and to mock them because we think, “Oh, we’re actually paying them a compliment because they’re so thin.” Well, that hurts too.
Keith: That’s a really, really good point. And then much of it I haven’t thought about it in that way. Because that just hasn’t been my perspective.
Keith: Yeah, somebody who can’t gain weight for whatever reason doesn’t fit into this body type that’s been glorified by the media. They are dealing with the same type of issues.
Chalene: Yeah, and the truth is I never thought about it either until maybe the last ten years when I had a chance to meet so many people. I could just look into someone’s eyes and I could see the pain when they would talk about being a beanpole or being teased or ridiculed for being thin. And that even adults would do it, and coaches, and teachers, and just do it so publicly. And I think to myself, “Gosh, we would never imagine a teacher making fun of a kid in class for being heavy!” And that for the stories of people just saying, “I would wear three pairs of jeans just so that nobody would tease me about my legs.” And being accused of having an eating disorder. Why don’t you just eat and they just couldn’t gain the weight? And that was equally as painful.
So I guess the message here is that if we lead with love, you always win. I think anyone could look in the mirror and see what they’re dealing with. And the better people feel about themselves, the more likely they are to make changes. Nobody makes a change when you are wagging a finger in their face and making them feel less. People are motivated to change when they feel loved and supported unconditionally, you know, when you feel beautiful inside and out. And we’re talking about just being healthier; not losing weight or inner thighs or outer thighs, but just being more energetic, having more energy, having the ability to just do things that are fun.
And as parents, we’ve got to catch ourselves talking negatively about ourselves in front of our children because they adopt that.
Keith: It’s true. It’s very true.
Chalene: You know, growing up, you said that you remember your mom eating to soothe herself. And you have sisters? One sister?
Chalene: Three sisters, okay. So was there dieting going on in your house? Did your mom talk about her body and..?
Keith: Oh yeah. Oh yeah. Like my mother and her friends would get together around the latest and greatest, and newest diet fad, whatever it was at that time.
Chalene: Yup. Like the cabbage soup diet!
Keith: Right. Right. Exactly. I kind of remember those moments. I definitely remember being discussed some of the same things that you’re talking about in terms of kind of projecting. So I can remember my mother saying certain things to my sisters about their weight and a lot of it had to do with her weight. I’ve personally, first-hand witnessed this happening in my household.
Chalene: Yeah. It’s sad to say, I’ve seen friends do it to the point where it took my breath away. Like I’ve been in a situation where it’s me, a girlfriend, and her daughter, and heard her say something say that like literally, I felt like I’ve been punched in the stomach, and thought, “That’s going to stay with her forever and you just said that so freely in front of other people. I can’t imagine what you’re saying to this young girl.”
And now that young girl is in her 20’s, and she just struggle with her weight, and she just struggle with her body image. And, you know, as a friend, you can only say so much to a friend about the way they parent and the things that they’re saying. And so much of it is you’ve just got to be aware of are you helping or are you hurting. And then the things you say about yourself and to realize that your five-year-old kid in the back seat can hear you on your cell phone talking to your girlfriend saying, “I feel so fat. I feel so ugly. I need to lose this fat.” They hear those things and whatever you’re saying about yourself, just imagine saying that about you saying that about your daughter or your son. Because that’s the way their little brains process. Like if you look in the mirror and you say, “I look ugly and fat today.” You might as well have turned to your child and say, “You’re ugly and fat today.”
You know, it’s that powerful. It’s just a gift. And just luck of the draw that I have great parents and my sister does and my brother. And a big piece of our confidence was because they always spoke highly of each other, of themselves, and of us.
I think if you could give a gift to your child, it would be to give them the gift of confidence. And when you do that, you give a gift to the world. Because when we have healthy children, we have a healthier world.
Keith: Yeah. Wow. I can’t even imagine what it must be like. It was pretty bad when I was a kid, but the imagery that you see. I think that the kind of the only, you know, there were magazines and TV. But right now there’s the internet, like social media.
Chalene: Yeah! And Photoshop!
Keith: Yeah! Wow! So I can only imagine what it must be like for a girl or boy to hear these things from their parents. And now that they’re kind of trying to figure out what they’re supposed to be like and what they’re supposed to look like, so they turn to these images and, wow!
Chalene: But they’re not even real. Like I shared the story before where I was using a freelancer on Elance and I sent just a ton of photos for them to square them up and clean them up and just remove stuff and make them all look consistent and brighten them up, bla bla bla, right? And this freelancer (luckily I have a positive body image), but this freelancer sent me back a sample and he’s like, “Hey, I just thought you might want to see what I can do with your image with Photoshop.” And I’m like, “Oh, God. I don’t even want to look at this.”
And I opened it up and he’d like made my waistline like super duper small and then made my butt look like a big old shelf. I was like, “Wow, that would be great except that I have to see people in real life.” And they would go, “What happened to your shelf butt?”
And then I was like, for a moment there I was like, “Well, maybe what he’s trying to say is that’s what I should look like.” You know, it kind of messed with my brain for a minute. And then I looked at those two pictures side by side. It made me realize like this is happening every day, all day. And we don’t know what out there is real and what’s not.
And unfortunately, our brains accept that. Like for example, that in particular, like the big butt, is now like all the rage. And you and I both know all those squats in the world, I am never going to have, never going to have Iggy Azalea’s booty, nor am I going to have J. Lo’s. Or who else do we love? Nicki Minaj. It’s just not going to happen. ‘Cause that’s not squats. That’s DNA or whatever else you’d like to hypothesize. And so to measure yourself against something that you just can’t have, like love what you have, you know.
Keith: That’s a good point.
Chalene: Well, it’s been awesome.
Keith: It’s been great. Thank you for kicking it with Keith.
Chalene: You know it! Talk to you soon!
Keith: Talk to you later.
[END OF INTERVIEW]
Jeffrey: Thanks for listening, lifers. Chalene invites you to join her for her free coaching program designed to help you get organized, productive, and laser-focused on what really matters. To sign up for her free video coaching program, please visit 30daypush.com.