I have a special treat for all of you today. We get to chat with Leslie Goldman who blogs at iVillage for "The Weighting Game" which many of you may know, and she is the author of the book "Locker Room Diaries", a peek into the dynamics of what women really say and think about their bodies when they get naked even after a good workout with the treadmill and weights. Yes! Fascinating indeed.
BISJ: Leslie, we
are very excited to spend a few minutes with you to talk about body image.
First, I love the idea behind your book "Locker Room Diaries" because
I have to say that it took me a long time to stop judging and comparing my body to the other ladies in the locker room with me.
Can you tell us what inspired you to talk about the locker room scenario
Leslie: Well, first, let me say that I think BISJ is fabulous and I am so happy to be interviewed by you! Ok, so basically the premise of Locker Room Diaries is that I spent about five years observing and talking with women of all shapes and sizes about their body image. Why is it, I wanted to know, that almost no one seems satisfied with her physique? I chose the locker room because, yes, it can be a nice retreat, a place to toss aside our worries of the day. But it is also where our flaws become most apparent beneath those awful fluorescent lights-- and where most of us can’t help but wonder how we “measure up.” Who hasn’t tried to sneak a peek to see how we stack up next to the woman at the locker next to us – Does she have cellulite? What does her stomach really look like under that t-shirt?
When we are naked, we are at our most vulnerable — physically and emotionally. There are no Miracle bras to lift our breasts to magnificent heights, no control-top panty hose to smooth away the dimples, no high heels to coax our calf muscles out of hiding. And without the armor of clothing, insecurities emerge, with nothing to hide us except a measly little towel. As someone who works out a lot and spends a lot of time in the locker room, I started hearing these comments from women – horrible comments that, if our partner or spouse uttered them, it would be considered emotional abuse…but if we say them to ourselves, it’s somehow acceptable. Things like, “If I could just cut off this part of my leg, then I’d be perfect” or “The scale says 120…I’m so fat! Why can it just say 116?” I realized how what goes on in the women’s locker room can be viewed as a distillation of our of body-obsessed society’s impact on women.
BISJ: Oh yeah! I remember the days when a step on the scale would trigger f-bombs (in my head) followed by depressive sulking. It’s amazing how much a number on a scale can impact our entire day. So, let's delve into the self beating up topic a bit more...
Personally, in my 20's, I was unrelentless in the harsh treatment towards my body which was part of having the eating disorder bulimia, but after years of treatment and healing, and maturity and wisdom, I started to grow more accepting of my body and more loving toward myself. Heading into my 40's, I'm 20 pounds above my ideal weight, but it doesn't bother me like it would have in my 20's.
Now that I'm older, I also have other life issues that have become more important to me than obsessing about my weight, not to mention that I have a man who loves me just as I am. For the book you spoke to a wide range of women from different age groups, from your observation in general terms, would you say that as women get older they get more or less uptight about how they feel in their own body?
Leslie: I’m so sorry you went through that; I, too, struggled with an eating disorder — anorexia — that crushed my self-esteem during my first year of college. I shed 30 pounds from an already slender 5’11” frame before winter break through a diet of salsa-topped salad and seemingly endless nighttime runs across the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s campus. My face grew gaunt; my clothes hung from my skeletal frame. I remember all around me, chaos ensued – “What should we do with her? Why did this happen?” Meanwhile, I was busy hammering out my daily caloric intake on my calculator. I just didn’t get it. I mean 5’11” and 120 pounds – that’s what models weigh, right? In a sad bit of irony, I was majoring in – and acing -- nutritional sciences.
While interviewing all of the amazing women who spoke out Locker Room Diaries, one of my favorite parts was talking to women in the 60s, 70s and 80s for the chapter on “the older generation.” These women had so much wisdom to impart – many of them spoke of how the years have allowed them to view their body as more than just eye candy, but a tool for building a family, fighting off disease, caring for grandchildren. It became less about vanity and more about keeping themselves healthy and strong.
Then again, there were women who did still struggle with body image issues, who were still dieting and weighing themselves constantly. Plastic surgery came up quite a bit in our discussions; hair dye, Botox, things like that. And a number of ladies realized, upon looking back into their youth, that they did indeed have an eating disorder when they were young…it’s just that 50 years ago, no one used words like “anorexia” or “bulimia.” You were just “on a diet.”
BISJ: So, you are now one of the new bloggers at iVillage for the blog The Weighting Game. That is so cool! How did you come upon this opportunity, and what do you find most enjoyable about contributing to this outlet?
Leslie: The Weighting Game opportunity presented itself and I leapt at the chance – I’d never blogged before, but I do write for a number of women’s magazines and thought this would be a wonderful forum for women from all over the country to gather and discuss their concerns and passions. My favorite thing is the ever-evolving process of learning what gets readers riled up, what sparks conversation, what gets women thinking out loud. I might post something about a current news event (always diet/body image/fitness-related) that I personally find so interesting and two days later, still barely a response.
Then, I’ll recount a conversation I had with my friend and BAM! Everyone is talking because it either reminds them of a convo they had or I asked for their advice and they’re there to help me. It’s great! I don’t know if that’s what you find here on BISJ, but it’s like that on iVillage…such a wonderful, symbiotic and honest community. I feel very loved and hope the readers feel my love and respect in return.
BISJ: Actually, I see the same thing on BISJ. On straight news topics, there tends to be low comments, but when I talk about something personal in my life or think out loud about something like “Remember when a size 6 was small”, the conversation really gets going. Right now, from your iVillage work, what is the top trend that you are seeing in the weight loss area? Meaning, what are people asking you the most about?
Leslie: Right now, women seem to respond to anything binge-eating-related (Binge Eating Disorder is actually the most common ED in the country) and we also had a phenomenal discussion recently related to a post about my friend who has endured strangers coming up and making remarks about her little five-month-old baby’s weight. You can read about it (and post!)
It’s ridiculous…strangers think they can say whatever they want
about other people’s appearances – especially weight when it’s at an extreme
(either very skinny or very heavy.) Fortunately my readers had some strong,
BISJ: Thanks again so much for your time Leslie. This was very fun and informative! Can our readers contact you if they have any more questions or observations?
Absolutely! Come visit me at www.lrdiaries.com to learn about the book – it’s just now being released in paperback – or visit us at The Weighting Game. Definitely post - that’s what makes the magic happen:-)
Thanks for the great interview!!