Changing the conversation around having the “perfect” body

Question: would you want this little girl growing up to feel disgusted with her body? Would you want her to spend her days thinking about how unhappy she is with herself?

Of course you wouldn’t.

But often without knowing it, we are contributing to a culture that will lead her in this direction.

If we want the world to be different for women and girls – it starts with US.

If we are tired of living in our heads and feeling so disappointed and unhappy with our bodies – then we have to STOP acting in ways that support that cycle.

If we wish women (and girls) felt less pressure to have the “perfect” body, then we have to change the conversation.

This is one of my life missions, but we can all contribute to changing the conversation in very practical ways.

Here are 5 practical ways to change the conversation and create change:

  • Stop engaging in conversations about how much weight you need to lose, how fat you look, how other people look, or why you “shouldn’t” be eating something.
  • Stop judging other women’s bodies. If you don’t want that pressure and if you want things to be different, stop assessing other women’s bodies (whether you’re envying someone else’s abs or being critical of the way they look in their clothes). Notice how often you do this and start replacing these thoughts with something more constructive and worthwhile.
  • Pay attention to your body language & facial expressions while looking in the mirror – especially if children are watching. They often speak louder than words.
  • Stop believing that you need to lose 10 lbs (or 20 or 30…) before you do something. I am in FULL support of healthy weight loss for those who genuinely have weight to lose, but so many of us are constantly setting arbitrary weight loss requirements before special events which ultimately leads to guilt and shame that further engrains the cultural pressure to find our worth in the size of our body. Next time you’re tempted to believe you NEED to lose weight before a special event, remind yourself that your weight has nothing to do with your worth and simply focus on one healthy choice to love and respect the body you have today.
  • Shower women and girls with compliments that are NOT related to the size/shape of their body. For example: Your smile lights up the room! Your laugh brings me so much joy. I really appreciate the perspective you bring to our conversations. You have such a big heart.

So, what do you say? Will you join me in this mission?

Let me know your thoughts in the comments – let’s get this conversation started.


P.S. If you’re looking for more posts on this topic, check out 5 things I want my daughter to know about imperfection.

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67 thoughts on “Changing the conversation around having the “perfect” body”

  1. I loved this article! There’s something about seeing this advice in writing, and then being mindful to how often this really does happens, that makes you open your eyes!

  2. I didn’t want my baby girl to have body/food issues like I have since I was a child. I thought I was so careful but she too has faced these issues. I think we’ll both always struggle. I’ll share a photo of us from her college graduation on FB with The Sisterhood.
    The concept of swimsuit readiness perhaps should be abandoned if we are ok just the way we are….

    1. Love this Robin! So well said and a great reminder to myself to be mindful of both my inner dialogue and my spoken words about my body and other’s bodies!

  3. Laura Tweedell

    Amen! It has taken most of my 58 years to come to a place where I can say…I’m JUST FINE THE WAY I AM! I’m still working to lose a little and get fit but it’s because I want to be my healthiest self. Sometimes self-doubt still raises its ugly head but mostly now, I’m just grateful to be alive! To be up, around and walking. To be living and enjoying my grandsons, my parents and my husband. My biggest regret is not getting to this place decades ago!

  4. This article is spot on! I am a 60+ female who most definitely lives in a world of body size focus, often clothed in comments about being ‘healthy’, but underlying the real bottom line conversation of body size. I am going to try, starting this evening with my gal group, to find a way to move these conversations into a different direction without making my friends look at me as if I have grown a unicorn horn. Wish me luck!

    1. Elisabeth Callahan

      That’s so great! It takes courage to try to change the conversation but starting with our own friends and family can make it easier. We are cheering you on! 🙂

  5. Joamnne McCaffrey

    Hi Robin,

    Is there anyway to share this on FB? I have so many young Mom friends who could benefit and would appreciate your perspective and support.

    1. Hey, Joamnne, you could just copy and paste the link to your Fb page. The blog is public; it’s not just for Sisterhood member, so it can be shared. 🙂

  6. First of all, what a beautiful baby! And absolutely! I feel I share this message already. I’ve been an RN, for over 30 years, and have been teaching group fitness for over 35. I do encourage healthy bodies, and Pilates for a strong and stable spine and core, over a skinnier waist!! I had major spine surgery in 2012, and my surgeon said to me the first time we met, “ you need to do Pilates for the rest of your life”. He says every yearly checkup that I’m doing so well despite the xrays, because of my core and Pilates. I share that with my classes.

    1. Hi Pam! I have had 2 cervical spine surgeries in the past 16 years (and I am only 51) and have found the most support and relief from Pilates. It’s a beautiful thing to feel good, strong and healthy! Have a good day and enjoy your workouts! Janet

  7. Hi Robin, I don’t usually find the time to read your emails let along try some of the routines, so I’m really glad I took the 5 minutes of respite to browse and read these words of wisdom. Thank you!

  8. I love this article, I totally agree with it! I do try to practice this in my everyday life, but, it is always good to be reminded! Thank you Robin! Terry B

  9. Susan Somerville

    Such an important message Thanks for putting this out there. The beauty that comes from inside is so much more important than the vessel that holds it!

  10. This is great and true and a big part of why so many of us love Robin and the Sisterhood!

    I just turned 53 and am struggling with that middle weight gain. I am still on a mission to figure out what’s healthiest for my body and would love to slim down, but my main reasons are for health and comfort; beauty is secondary. This year, I got rid of most of my pants and shorts that were too tight and bought a size up. It’s surprising how much better I look and feel in clothes that fit and aren’t too tight. I’m giving myself grace and am thankful to have been able to buy some new clothes that make me feel good.

  11. Patty Bartnick

    Someone put this on my daughter’s wall and i thought it was beautiful. For years I’d say all the wrong things about my body and it contributed to (this same daughter’s) an eating disorder. There were other factors certainly, but it has been a journey. She is now a young healthy mother herself (5 little ones 6 and under) and is embracing grace in so many ways. Young mamas, listen to Robin’s post! And these were great alternatives to what the culture is saying: Non-Appearance Related Compliments, – You light up the room. – You have the best laugh. – You inspire me. – I love how passionate you are. – You make the world a better place by being in it. – You are one of the bravest people I know. – You make me comfortable to be myself. – You are an incredible friend. – You have a really refreshing perspective. – You are so smart. – You are truly making a difference. . . . . Happy day friends!

  12. Thank you for the reminder! It is so easy to have your mindset slide to that “perfect body” mentality especially with summer here. I have always tried to teach my daughter to focus on her whole self rather than what she looks like in a bathing suit, etc. and to pick a strength to celebrate when she feels herself going that way. Easy to teach to another but we need to remind the teachers as well.

  13. Dana Mortensen

    I’m all in!! Thanks for the reminder and your dedication to continually fight this battle. I don’t typically leave comments online but something different spoke to me today. In order to be “all in” I needed to commit out loud and publicly that I want to be part of the solution. Thanks for sharing your 5 tips – I’m off to change the world…or at least my small corner!

    1. Elisabeth Callahan

      That’s so awesome Dana! We appreciate you commenting and more importantly, joining in this vision. Cheering you on as you change the world! 🙂

  14. Such sensible advice and I always say that to young girls. I’m a Nanna of 62 and think the media target women to be a ‘perfect size’. My mother’s advice was a little of everything and I’ve always followed that.

  15. These are all great sentiments! I’m working on it but these valuable reminders provide a great perspective. I was at a social event with friends this past weekend and just noticing the different mindsets around the room was interesting but also made me aware of my own shift and how far I’ve come already.

  16. Love this!! This is so important for all of us to hear and work to disassemble pervasive diet culture. I highly recommend The Eating Instinct by Virginia Sole-Smith for anyone looking to learn more.

  17. Robin I’m on board with this. As a mother of 3 daughters I would love to see the world a better and more excepting place of everyone. We all need to be more thoughtful towards each other. ?

  18. Sheila Forgham

    I will make a conscious effort to step away fro m conversations relating to body image, weight, diets etc. All of this makes such good sense but people like to judge – be it good or bad judgements. I’ll step away from that as well . To each their own and be happy!

  19. I’m on board! I’m guilty of daily negative self-talk and will work with the ladies of this sisterhood to replace those thoughts with positive, uplifting thoughts which not only benefit me, but the people around me. Happiness invites happiness. 🙂

  20. Yes! I needed this reminder today. I want to model positive body image for my girls and love myself and my body for what is is already doing for me.

  21. jacquietaylor

    Yes!…let’s all contribute to a more healthy way of thinking about and appreciating our bodies! As a ‘senior woman’ I have spent too much time wishing I was thinner, taller etc. I am now learning to be thankful for my body’s strength, flexibility and capabilities that give me a satisfying life and enable me to play with my grandchildren. Also let’s remember that our young boys also need positive messaging about body image in the same way we strive to raise healthy active girls. Thanks Robin for your passion and your expertise in helping us all be healthier…in both mind and body!

  22. Vivian Reynolds

    These are lovely ideas. As a mom of boys, I too want them to grow up recognizing their worth, not super focused on their weight or size. I so much want them to value the girls in their lives for who they are on the inside, not the package they are wrapped up in. Thank you Robin – We can all help to change the conversations. 🙂

  23. Sadly, boys need all of these suggestions as well. There is an obsession of thinness in our young males.

    Loved the post!

  24. Thanks for bringing up this very important itopic! I know this is an area I need to work on.
    Being healthy is the most important thing we can do everyday! Being perfect should not be the goal!
    This is one reason I was drawn to the Sisterhood and enjoy working out with Robin!

  25. Suzanne Stoffregen

    Love this post about the issue of body needs to be perfect. I’m 56 years old and have two sons one is married and one is about to get married. My daughter in laws are wonderful and I would never tell them that they are too fat. I have a granddaughter and I want to lead by example that what is important is not a perfect body but a great personality and God created you in his image. Be beautiful in your own skin and want others think of you is not important. They are loved unconditionally. And for my self, I just want to be healthy and strong for my children. I may have battle scars, but that doesn’t change the way I feel inside. The glamour of Hollywood is so superficial. They also fail. So love the body you were given, and take care of it!

  26. This email came right after a text I’d received from my slimming world consultant wondering if I was ok as I’d missed group. Given me grace to not feel guilty that I didnt make it. I totally agree with all that you’re saying Robin.

  27. I’m so in! I’m the mom of 2 grown boys, so I haven’t had the same dialogue as a mama of girls, but I’ve daily tried to watch my words so that I’m teaching them what a healthy, strong woman is. I also teach middle school, so I have lots of opportunity to show by my habits, words, and action what healthy is.
    Robin – thanks for jumpstarting this conversation!

  28. Yes yes and more yes’s. I really feel the responsibility with a 6yr old, 2yr old and newborn girl and postpartum body.

  29. I loved this article and practice this all the time with friends, and people I don’t even know. My granddaughter with here positive statements like how strong she is, and she can do anything. This is how to make that change. ?

  30. I totally agree with you Robin, we need to get women of all ages to take a good look at themselves and feel proud of who they see in the mirror, I myself enjoy working out and being active not for weight loss reasons although it’s nice to see results but for me personally it’s the feel good feeling I have when I’m active whether it’s walking or biking or just doing a quick 10 minute workout, it leaves me feeling energized, more optimistic, vibrant and alive ready to take on my day. Too often I see women in my circle , my sister, my daughters and it’s alarming to hear how they see themselves or how they feel about their bodies so yes I’m on board to help change women’s outlook.

  31. Great article, Robin! A few years ago I started complimenting women when I thought they looked great (any size/shape) rather than just thinking it. I know it makes my day if I receive a compliment and it might just give someone confidence when they are struggling. Support each other!

    1. Thanks, Robin, for this thoughtful, loving post. It’s one that I’ll come.back to when I need to remember gratitude, not judgement when thinking of my body.

  32. Amanda Coxhead

    This is so refreshing to read. We are much too focused on the ideal body image, I am just as guilty as the next person. Well done Robin for attempting to change a trend that has been going on far too long. I am on board for sure.

  33. Maryellen DeTurck

    Yes! I SO agree with these ideas. My daughters, 12 and 9, both dance. They see and hear older girls talking about such things. Every time they say something to me about a body part or ask a question, I tell them they are beautiful just as they are, just the way God made them! Since I joined TBL in 2017 my own thinking has completely changed. I’ve got some weight I could lose but am much happier in my own skin than I was 2 years ago! Thank you, Robin, for being who you are and for encouraging not only us, but out daughters as well. This is so empowering for us and THEM!

  34. Arielle Simone

    Yes! This sadly requires constant and continual vigilance because the messages against our bodies are SO LOUD, but I am committed to making sure my daughter (now 14) does not grow up with the same size-obsessed attitudes I grew up around.

  35. I so love this approach to being kind to ourselves and to other women. Everyone is beautiful in their own unique way and it’s time to focus on that – not just on an image. Well done for encouraging others to look at life differently Robin xx

  36. Robin, thank you so much for your dedication to encouraging a healthier mindset about women and about our bodies. Thank you for your help! I look forward to sharing this with my adult daughter who has two small boys. It’s a biggee for me too. I obsess over my physical image.

  37. This peanut is cuteness overload!! She is blessed to have you as her advocate assuring that she will not be plagued with the poor self image that many of us have been made to feel.
    Well done Robin for taking on a worthy crusade!! I am sure that having read your article there are many others who will be willing to support you in the cause!

  38. Yes, yes, yes!!! We can be that change, and show our kiddos acceptance for our own body and even love, just the way we are.

  39. marion_muirhead10

    I So agree with you. I need to change my mind set to be a good example to my granddaughter and my daughter in law. Let’s be happy with who we are, because we are amazing!
    Thank you for an enlightening article.

  40. Show up and be present for your own family, friends and your husband if you’re married! Focusing on what you think you lack won’t make it easy to listen, look and care for anyone other than yourself, and that “caring” won’t be the type that makes you stronger or happier. Seek balance in everything you can and accept you aren’t perfect because no one is! Enjoy your wrinkles and decide what you want to really spend your own sweet life doing and being!

  41. Such a great article!! This is SUCH an important issue, and it has a life-changing impact. My college-age daughter (my youngest of 3 girls) recently texted me and said, “I’m discovering that so many people have bad body image issues because of how their moms talked to them about their bodies and their own bodies.” What we say about ourselves does matter, and I’m accepting your challenge to be more vigilant about this.

  42. Thank you Robin for bringing this topic up… It is very important for our young girls and boys to love themselves and the body God gave them.. We need to remind our children, grandchildren and others how beautiful they are… We grew up at a time when people would freely give advice on how we should and not look . I was constantly reminded to eat and gain some weight and called ‘skinny’ for years. Now I am who I am and feel good about me…. I may not be perfect but I am happy.. Thank you for all your encouragement to all people.. A..

  43. Thanks for this Robin, it’s a habit that’s so prevalent and so easy to slip into, I know I do it myself. Great to have a reminder and some tips, especially about other ways to compliment a young woman.

  44. Rebecka Mustajarvi

    Thank you Robin, parental attitudes certainly shape our children’s ways of viewing themselves – my mother’s negative body image and yoyo dieting absolutely affected how I valued myself and my body when I was younger. I dont want to replicate that with my own family.

  45. Denise Darula

    Thank you god your words of wisdom. I am 61 years and unfortunately have spent most of those years unhappy with my body and my looks. I have dieted, missed milestone events and have beaten myself up daily being unhappy with myself. It’s a daily battle to renew our minds and to stand worthy in our self doubt and to except being “the beloved”. Thank you Robin and your crew for continuing to pull me from my wrong thinking and reminding me what I’m worth, just as I am.

  46. Love this article so much! As a 49 year old who has felt discouraged about her body for many years, I’m finally learning to appreciate the strength and beauty that comes with simply eating well and moving my body. My struggle now is watching my 21 year old daughter love off a diet of fast food and no activity. She has gained close to 50 pounds in the last year and her dad and I aren’t sure the best way to encounter to take control of her eating and treat her body better. Because this involves her body, we feel like bringing it up to her is taboo. My husband says, “If I thought she was drinking too much I would say something to her. Why should we not say something about his she’s eating?” Any advice or thoughts on how to handle?

    1. Elisabeth Callahan

      Hi Jill. Thank you for sharing. It’s so hard to watch your loved ones engage in behaviors you are concerned that concern you. In my own life, I try to bring up concerns honestly and with love, being careful not to shame. Maybe you can talk to a trusted friend or advisor to determine what might work best for your family and particular situation. Sending lots of support as you navigate this!

  47. Shannon Violette

    This is an absolutely beautiful post!!! It’s amazing how we don’t even think about the way we judge ourselves in front of children; then how they in turn learn to judge themselves. Awareness of our words, actions, and expressions is critical!! This post is a great reminder of that.

  48. I absolutely love this and need to read it often to remind me! I’m the worst at being negative with myself. I have 2 daughters who I’m very mindful about how I talk to them about their bodies. I need to remember that they look to me and learn from how I see and talk about myself. Thank you for the reminder!

  49. Lori Laufenberg

    I am so with you on this Robin! It was a good reminder, and I will revisit these 5 points as a reminder. I sometimes find myself judging other women (not verbally, but in my thoughts), and I need to change my thinking and focus on positive things. Thanks for this reminder, Robin.

    I just love the Sisterhood and all the positive, kind support and encouragement given here! It is really a wonderful and uplifting place to hang out!

    Thank you!

  50. I totally agree with you here. It is so sad that so much of people’s self confidence is being wrapped up in how they look. It is a horrible reflection on society the pressure women put on themselves and how shallow and consumerist we have become. As I get older the conversations around cosmetic enhancements is scary how people now feel the need to go under the knife or inject themselves, they say it is for themselves sometimes I’m sure it is but still I question the need and influence of society, especially in Asia where I am currently living.

  51. I just now read this email, and I can’t stress how important and touching your message is! Sadly the majority of our population spend far too much time and energy comparing/judging themselves and others that we lose our true focus of mutual love and respect for life. I love this community even though I’m new to it, your message is sorely needed in our world.

  52. Love this, Robin! Please don’t forget this topic pertains to boys as well. Body image issues are part of the development of boys now. Thin is this image that many male youth see as ideal. I realize now, that my remarks about dieting and body image affected my boys when they were growing up. They are in their 20s, work out every day, and are focused on thinness. I can’t turn back the clock, but urge mothers of boys to apply the same healthy “body” and diet communication to boys.

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