We rarely (ok never) have interviews here at Cranky Fitness 'cause honestly we don't tend to get out much. However, thanks to the Amazing Invention of E-mail, we are actually going to bring you a conversation with someone not of this blog, Leslie Goldman.
Who is Leslie Goldman?
Well, she's the author of “The Locker Room Diaries,” (based on years of locker-room interviews with women about their bodies and body image), as well as a co-host of the Chicago TV show Fit Today. And she hosts the awesome blog The Weighting Game over at iVillage. She’s also an accomplished speaker who tours the country talking about women’s body image and eating disorders. Plus she contributes to the hugely popular The Huffington Post, and has written stuff for most of the major magazines you’ve ever heard of.
Yet it’s hard to hold any of that against her! That’s because Leslie is so darn nice and down-to-earth and funny. If you’re not already a regular reader of The Weighting Game, consider bookmarking or subscribing, and you may want to check out her book too.
Cranky Fitness recently caught up with Leslie recently despite our busy schedules (Leslie was just back from speaking at the Menninger Clinic; Crabby was in her bathrobe sipping coffee trying to work up some motivation to go to the gym), but despite the daunting obstacles we made it work! So here to class up the blog a bit is Leslie Goldman.
Crabby: With all the conversations you've had with women about their bodies, what surprised you the most?
Leslie: Well, I spoke with little three-year-old girls who talked about being on diets because they were "fat" (WTF?), pregnant women and new moms battling their shifting weight, women of all different ethnic backgrounds, women who had undergone gastric bypass, women who had overcome eating disorders like anorexia, bulimia and compulsive over-exercising, and women in their 60s, 70s and 80s for the chapter on “the older generation.”
Bottom line: The grass is always greener. Everyone wants what they can’t have (tall vs petite; slim vs athletic; 34A vs 40DD) and very, very few women were happy as they are. Of those who are, the majority of them fell in the “older women” category, which is why I especially enjoyed interviewing Harriet, June, Kookie, etc. 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.
It sounds like you've had your own struggles with body image. Is that hard to share that publicly? What kind of reaction do you get?
Yes...and I'm completely and totally open to talking about it. I let it all hang out because I find that women not only appreciate it and learn from it, but feel more open to spilling their "secrets" to me.
After I tell a room of hundreds of girls about how I used to go running at midnight...alone...on a Big 10 college campus, they probably thinks, "Wow - she was even crazier than I was!" Because I was in a total cloud. During my first semester of college, I shed 30 pounds from an already-slender 5’11” frame through a diet of salsa-topped salad and those seemingly endless nighttime runs. My face grew gaunt; I lost my boobs and period. My family freaked out but I just didn’t get it. I mean 5’11” and 120 pounds – that’s what models weigh, right? Now, I can see how deluded I was. There are dogs that weigh more than 120 pounds. I did not look good. In a sad bit of irony, I was majoring in – and acing -- nutritional sciences.
Admittedly, I'm an insanely open and extroverted person to begin with, which helps. For example, in my book, I write, in detail, about my first Brazilian bikini wax. Graphic detail. My father and grandfather have read my book. It made for some interesting dinnertime discussions.
What helped you overcome some of your own body image issues?
First, I have to say being ready personally was an important step. You can’t really help someone if they don’t want to be helped. So once I was mentally and physically prepared to make a change, I made damn sure I had a good therapist. You can and should couch-hop a couple times if you don’t click with the guy or lady right away. I found a male social worker who is challenging and doesn’t coddle me. Some people like a softer approach. I wanted confrontation.
Also, I have to give a shout-out to medication. Honestly, Luvox saved me. I’m know some people out there are anti-antidepressants and so was I for the first few years of college. I thought there was a stigma. Little did I know that 10 years later, 95% of my friends would be on Zoloft, Paxil or Lexapro. That’s an exaggeration, obvs, but I do maintain that being on an SSRI helped to clear away the clouded vision I had of my body. It didn’t make me feel instantly pretty or skinny or sexy, but I feel it put me on a level playing field to fight the disease.
What's it like appearing on TV--is it easy and comfortable or a bit scary?
The first time I starred opposite Brad, I was nervous but pleasantly excited. He was my first kiss.
Oh, you mean after my childhood star blossomed? I actually really enjoy TV appearances. You get so pumped up before and your adrenaline (hopefully) carries you through. I remember walking across Rockefeller Plaza before the Today Show in June of 2006 and all those people who cheer for Al Roker and Meredith Viera fell silent as I came out because they were like, “Who is THAT?” But then, once the interview started – Natalie Morales was the interviewer – it was exhilarating. I remember afterwards, lots of people complimented me on my shoes (I was wearing $14.99 satin peep toe pumps which I never thought would be seen on camera, but because Natalie and I were seated on a faux locker room bench, my legs were crossed and my ankles were up by my ears. Good things I’d done a quick self-pedi beforehand.)
One would guess that there might be some pressure to look as attractive and slim as possible on TV. Is there? And if so, how do you keep it from messing with your head?
This is a good question – I feel like we live by the adage “The camera adds 10 pounds” in our society. Which is why products like THIS exist. Just kidding. I think that camera is sad and gross. But seriously, during a photo shoot for the Fit Today show, I was wearing a tiny sportsbra/tank and too-tight Nike pants and the photographer was having me pose in this crazy ballerina pose where I was standing on my right leg and holding my left foot in my left hand, extending it out like some kind of flying ostrich. And I’m holding the pose and the photographer is saying, “Suck it in! Suck in your stomach! Suck, suck, suck!” And I was already sucking so hard, I might as well have been Jessica Simpson’s latest movie. My stomach is a part of my body I’ve never had any qualms about and still, that episode bummed me out a bit because it made me think, “Um, how flat can a stomach possibly be?”
And advice to women who struggle a lot with feeling dissatisfied with their bodies?
One thing I recently learned about is called "body checking" - this is something I think many women (even myself, admittedly) likely have taken part in without even realizing it. It's essentially the over-evaluation of one's shape and weight via any number of methods...examples include looking at yourself in the mirror (to obsess over a body part - not simple grooming); hopping on the scale numerous times a day to track your weight; trying on a pair of jeans or other item of clothing to see if you "still fit" into it; pinching fat on your body; worrying that your thighs are jiggling when you run; comparing yourself with other women, whether celebrities or the woman standing in front on you at the GAP.
I compare these kinds of activities to jealousy - a pointless emotion that only serves to drive you mad. I would tell women to try their best to give up these behaviors. Also, be aware of the rampant airbrushing which exists in magazines and movies and billboards and lingerie catalogs and everywhere else. No one looks like that. Maybe Gisele, but that's it.
Are you planning any more books?
I want to write another one so badly I could scream! Trust me, it’s on my mind every day. But it’s so hard to chase down an idea. The locker room concept evolved very naturally – I’d overhear women talking in the locker room (eavesdropping…research…same diff) and write it down. For the next one, I know it will be a) non-fiction, b) about women in some way and c) well…that’s all I know, actually. Two out of three ain’t bad!
A lot of Cranky Fitness readers are health, fitness or weight-loss bloggers themselves. Any advice on building a successful blog or book audience? How did you manage to get gigs at iVillage and HuffPo and otherwise become so successful? (Oh hell, Crabby will drop the pretense--forget the readers, this question is for her).
I think...and you can back me up on this, Crabby...that in order to be a successful writer, you've gotta be determined, almost to the point of stalkerish. Editors get 1000 letter a month from other potential writers. You need to stand out. Whether that means specializing in a certain niche like health or movies or sports, or having an awesome, sarcastic sense of humor (ahem...you!), or whatever. You need to be responsible, creative, deadline-oriented, self-motivated. This last point is important - it's just too easy to say "I'm going to write in my PJs today" and then pass out in bed with a box of cereal spilling across your chest. Not that that's happened to me or anything. At least not in the past three weeks. Oh, and work any connection you can. Your roommate's brother's best friend is in advertising at Men's Health? Call him.
There is a rumor you were responsible for putting videos of (1) fornicating gorillas and (2) women with bouncing breasts on the front page of one of the most popular websites on earth. Any truth to this rumor? Anything to say in your defense?
Um…in my defense? Don’t you mean in my glory? The fact that I was able to drop this kind of knowledge on the world at large is one of my proudest achievements. When I saw the first-ever National Geographic photos of wild gorillas having sex face-to-face (which, according to scientists, never happens), I freaked out. I mean that in the best way possible. For some reason, I just found this so romantic, so awe-inspiring, so human. And afterwards, the male ape held the female ape’s hand. I mean…*melting*.
For more on bouncing boobs, you can check this out.
Thanks so much, Leslie!
So, Awesome readers, do go check out Leslie's blog The Weighting Game--(though beware, a certain Crab may be rambling on about nothing in an interview of her own there later this morning).
And if you have any observations or opinions on body image or anything else Leslie mentioned, please share! We always appreciate your thoughtful comments.