Calling Someone Else Fat Won’t Make You Skinnier

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We all remember Cady’s revelation at the end of the comedy Mean Girls, when she realizes that criticizing Carolyn Craft for her bushy eyebrows and outfit that looks like it’s been picked out by “a blind Catholic school teacher” wasn’t going to help her solve the math problem in front of her for the North Shore Mathletes competition; her epiphany that calling someone else ugly won’t make you any prettier, and calling someone else fat won’t make you any skinnier. Girls can quote that movie scene by scene.

So why don’t we get it?

Not a day goes by that we don’t hear each other, our roommates, our best friends, strangers talking a table over, criticizing and complaining about their own bodies and constantly making comparisons to others. According to an article on World of Psychology eighty percent of women in the U.S. are dissatisfied with their appearance And instead of building each other up, the trash talk continues.

Gone are the days of Marilyn Monroe where full-figured women were celebrated. “In 1975 most models weighed 8 percent less than the average woman; today they weigh 23 percent less,” says the same article from World of Psychology. And at least a fourth of icons that girls are looking up to today meet the criteria for anorexia.
In a country that has the highest rates of both obesity and eating disorders in the world, we need to look at the messages our society is sending its young people about what we value in ourselves and other people. When 42 percent of first to third grade girls want to lose weight, and 81 percent of ten year olds answer that their biggest fear is being fat, we have to question what we have been showing children and teens on television and in the media. If 50 to 70 percent of normal-weight girls have the perception that they are overweight, we have to ask where they are getting these ideas from.

Spewing hateful words and insults about other girls is not going to make anyone in the room better looking. It only adds to an atmosphere where girls are constantly reminded that they have to look perfect or they will be the topic of conversation next time.

When Stella Boonshoft, a full-figured student in New York, boldly posted a picture of herself in a bikini on Facebook in October of 2012, the post went viral, even receiving recognition from Brandon Stanton, creator of the Humans of New York project, who used the picture in a collection of street portraits across the city. The picture, which got 2.4 million views on Facebook, read in the caption:

“WARNING: Picture might be considered obscene because subject is not thin. And we all know that only skinny people can show their stomachs and celebrate themselves. Well I’m not going to stand for that. This is my body. Not yours. MINE. Meaning the choices I make about it, are none of your fucking business.”

The picture generated 26,000 comments in 14 hours. There were several supportive comments towards Boonshaft’s obviously courageous choice to post the picture, but there was still hateful backlash.

Scott Redecopp on January 27 at 12:38: “Take a lap”.

Dalton Bailey on March 21 at 1:47pm: “Now as we come upon a wild african hippopotomus in its natural habitat..”

Lohrasb Amjadi on March 2 at 5:09am: “Contrary to what you’ve heard sweetheart, big is not always beautiful!”

My question is, why have we engrained into our society that it’s worth our time to speak words of hate at other people because of their weight? Why, with all of our jobs, and school work, and responsibilities, do we still make time in the afternoon to make a cruel comment to a teenage girl making a brave statement meant to empower women of all sizes? How has any of this bullying made our lives better?

And how did we become a society that sparked Stella Boonshoft to write these words at the bottom of her caption:
“MOST OF ALL, this picture is for me. For the girl who hated her body so much she took extreme measures to try to change it. Who cried for hours over the fact she would never be thin. Who was teased and tormented and hurt just for being who she was.”

There are currently over 90,000 comments on this picture.

If we have so much to say, it’s time that we use our words to empower each other and create an environment where the young girls after us won’t have to grow up making an enemy of their own bodies. We have so much to offer as women today in this world, and it’s a shame to we waste any more energy on tearing ourselves down.

Inspiration: Heather Forziati, Girl of All Trades

A college student busting the myth that a girl can’t balance school, work, and fitness

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Any doubts I could have had about the intensity of the workout I was in for should have been smashed the moment I walked into Club Metro. From the bottom of a wide staircase that is at the entrance to the gym, I could see my trainer for the day standing at the top, all 4’11’’ of her, and her client, a young girl with weights in hand, face red, sweating from head to toe, panting out of breath. Both turned and smiled at me.
“She has one more set left,” said the dedicated personal trainer who was about to bring me death by lunges, little did I know.
The client turned to skip back down the stair case as I began to ascend it. As I was reaching the top where my trainer waited, the client was turning to charge back up the stairs, two steps at a time.
As the client was leaving, her session so fortunately at an end, she wished me luck because I would need it, “seriously,” she said.

Heather Forziati is a personal trainer at Club Metro in Old Bridge, New Jersey, as well as a full time college student. She’s been working since she was just 13, starting with babysitting when she first began to notice how hard her parents had to work to pay the bills.
“The reasoning behind my work ethic I would say comes straight from my mother.” Growing up the daughter of a single mom, Heather said she found it difficult to ask for things after seeing how hard her mother needed to work for the things she earned.
Heather worked at an Italian Ice parlor when she was 14, and then held subsequent jobs at daycare centers, one being the daycare center at the gym Club Metro. At times she was balancing up to three jobs at once.
Heather never thought about becoming a personal trainer until she was offered the position. “After being promoted to front desk, someone had witnessed me working out and liked my technique.”
Soon she was asked if she would be interested in getting certified to be a personal trainer.
“I jumped right on it and got certified.”

Now, about a year later, we’re heading over to the weight section, which is flooded with huge Herculean men of ages ranging from 20 to 50. My trainer and I almost look outlandish as the only females. She starts me with some variations of squat moves using weights, and it takes me a few minutes before the red in my face fades away from bending down and repeatedly sticking out my gluteus maximus for all to see. Heather is unfazed, and her confidence is inspiring.
It was leg day, as I would become painfully aware of, specifically in my thighs.
I was instructed to switch off from 25 reps of legs lifts to 15 lunges forward and 15 lunges back, repeating the process three times. At this point, sweat was pouring from my face down to my back and I realized that this workout was going to be no joke. After I completed my three sets, she announced that we were going to do more lunge work. I begged for something with abs until my legs could consolidate.

Having always been into athletics, Heather says that the exercise came easy to her when she got the job, but she never realized how much she enjoyed it until she began to train her clients.
“I always found it difficult to bring myself to the gym after a long day at work on my feet.” Being at the gym with her clients as they sweat through her grueling sessions actually motivated her more to work out in between or after appointments. She says she’s been able to find more time to balance all areas of her life since combining work with exercise.

At the moment she’s leading me to a bench for an abdominal exercise. I was instructed to pull a rope from overhead down across my body, while simultaneously lifting up both legs. By about my eighth rep, I could feel the stomach muscles ripping through my skin. I was only able to pause for a moment before Heather offered me some desperately needed words of encouragement.
“You only have three more left, that’s three seconds of your life, you can do it.” And with those words, with the strange yet wonderful power that simple optimism can have, I pulled through.

Personal training not only enriches areas of her life outside of fitness; she said it also allows her to fulfill one of her greatest joys.
“I’ve always enjoyed watching family and friends open presents because it brings happiness to them, and it’s kind of like that. I’m giving them a gift that they’ve always wanted, and when they open it they feel more confident and happy. It just brings a smile to my face.”
One of the biggest challenges about the job she says she has is clients who don’t show up. Clients who aren’t going to try to make a different for themselves, she says, are aggravating to her, not to mention being extremely inconsiderate of her time. “It’s my least favorite part.”
She says the best part of the job is hearing from her clients that they are reaching their goals. “It feels amazing when a client of mine tells me they are seeing results on their body that they want. Helping people make themselves happy is the greatest fulfillment.”

Exalted at being at the end of truly one of the hardest workouts I’ve experienced, Heather nonchalantly mentioned she was going to do some sprints after I left. She had done every rep of every set with me during our session, which had gone for about an hour and a half. I bid her farewell, and said a little prayer in my head for her sanity.
In a lot of ways, the way I left her reflected the type of work ethic she embodies. Always going above what is anticipated of the average person her age. Putting in the extra effort, giving herself the extra push, the extra job to save up for the car she bought herself at 17, the extra time to give a client a quality session before a journalist arrives for a joint workout/interview.
“I learned to stand on my own two feet a lot sooner than expected, but I don’t regret it for a second,” she said.

Q&A: Is Your Relationship Healthy?

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TV dramas and movies today bombard us with what unhealthy and even abusive relationships look like: the never-ending Amber vs. Gary saga on Teen Mom, outrageously adulterous couples on Maury, and the phenomenon of duplicitous cyber relationships on Catfish. The focus is so often placed on the bad things that we can forget what we’re supposed to be seeing in a healthy relationship.

While pursuing a post-doctoral degree in developmental psychology at University of Pittsburgh, Candice Feiring started following a group of infants. She was given the opportunity to study these infants and the relationships they developed as they grew, starting with their parents, then as they grew older with their friendships, but then they hit adolescence.
She began studying the romantic relationships that came about in the lives of the young participants in her sample. “This area in the field of developmental psychology was still growing in 1999,” says Dr. Feiring. “We started realizing that this was not just puppy love. These relationships set the stage for future relationships.”

Dr. Feiring was intrigued by the shift that occurs once relationships become voluntary. She went on to concentrate on research on sexual abuse and how sex abuse effects development. Today, she is Editor-in-Chief of Child Maltreatment, The Journal of the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children, as well as the Director of the Center for Youth Relationship Development at The College of New Jersey. Give your relationship a check-up with some sound advice she offers on what every girl needs to know.

What are some of the most surprising findings on youth relationship development?

One thing that we have found is how common conflict is in a healthy relationship. It’s challenging for a young adult to fully understand what their partner is going through when you’re angry because you’re focused on your own emotions and a sense of being accused that you are “wrong”.
There has also been new research showing that when young couples are asked about how much they negotiate, they’ll say “yes yes yes, we negotiate all the time on everything,” but when we ask them to give examples, they really don’t do it so much. It’s easier to talk about times when your partner has hurt you as opposed to talking about times when you have hurt your partner. We’ve also found that people who have been routinely less satisfied in their past relationships are less likely to have the skills to negotiate. The more you’ve experienced being unappreciated in your relationships, the less apt you are to negotiate on things with a partner.

What characteristics definitely need to be present for a relationship to be considered healthy?

Healthy relationships need to be reciprocal. Partners should feel like they mutually influence each other. Your partner should be respectful and responsive to your needs and vice versa. Instead of a tit-for-tat mentality, where it’s about “I’ll do this for you, you do this for me,” there needs to be more focus on the relationship’s importance. When there isn’t a balance, that’s when people can lash out and call their partner names and blame their partner. People in healthy relationships show support to each other especially during times of stress. This means that when you are stressed about courses and exams, for example, your partner is listening to your anxieties or helping you study.

How can you determine whether you really have a reason to be angry with your partner or if you should just let it go?

If your partner, for example, is going out with other people and not telling you, this will undoubtedly be experienced as betrayal. You’ll naturally start to develop strong negative emotions towards your partner, feeling as though your needs are not being met. Another example may be making a date with someone and they don’t show up. If this happens over and over, the destructive feelings of hurt and rejection will progress to a point where you will naturally feel insecure and threatened in your relationship. It’s important to feel a sense of commitment; that your partner is willing to make time for you and wants to be with you.

Sometimes it’s difficult to let your guard down. Just how open with your partner are you supposed to be?

Being able to talk about your vulnerabilities, things you worry about, or would like to change about yourself, builds intimacy. One very important aspect of this that a lot of people don’t want to talk about is sexuality. You should be able to talk about your desires, anxieties, and about your sexuality. An important aspect of a healthy relationship is security. You should feel that you can go to your partner with anything and you should feel safe doing this.

What do you think is the most important thing college students should know about what it means to have a healthy relationship?

During the time of young adulthood, the amount of conflict goes up. Your relationships prior to college were probably more about status and the focus was not the relationship itself. Once the shift occurs that puts more importance on the relationship, more factors are involved and more conflict will naturally result. And there has to be conflict, otherwise it’s probably a superficial relationship. Conflict needs to be understood as a way of becoming closer to your partner. The most telling predictor of whether a relationship is going to last is how the couple handles conflict.

What’s the best way to handle conflict?

The constructive way to deal with conflict is to recognize the negative emotions, and try to take your partner’s point of view. Try to come up with an understanding of what each other is going through. On the flip side, conflict can be beneficial in the way that it can teach you whether you really want to stay in the relationship. This is where relationships can teach you about who you are and what you really want.

For information on dating violence, check out The Teen Dating Violence Awareness Project at http://www.liveyourdream.org/volunteeropportunities/teendatingviolence/teendatingviolence.html?gclid=CNL65cyqg7cCFcXe4AodjRIA1g

If you or someone you know is experiencing teen dating violence, call the Love is Respect Dating Abuse Hotline at 1-866-331-9474 for immediate assistance. You can talk to a representative 24 hours a day, seven days a week.