One Mom’s Journey from Fat to Skinny to Confident


Do you believe what you see?

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I’m so sick of being force fed images of bodies that don’t exist! As someone who constantly felt bad about herself from around age 12, I can’t help but think seeing images of a completely unattainable female form had a wee bit of influence on me.

Sure, some people are smaller then others. Some have bigger hips, thinner arms, longer legs, larger breasts but darn it… we are all human. Our skin has flaws, we have dimples and cellulite, we have rolls and stretch marks, moles and freckles. We aren’t meant to look like dolls. And for God’s sake.. we age. Yes… AGE! Wrinkles and age spots are apart of that process.

Image from

Image from

Image from

These women weren’t flawed in the before shots.. they were real! Sure.. touch up the lighting and color. I understand that you have to make the picture look good for print but do you really have to smooth out all wrinkles, elongate body parts, and change waist size? I mean, why bother with a real women at all? Just go all digital.

The few examples I picked out are mild as compared to what’s out there. I chose them because of this fact. We see things everyday that we assume are reality but in fact are edited, yes.. even images in the news. If you want to see what’s possible simply visit a few portfolios like this or this.

On one hand, part of me admires the technical and artistic skill necessary to create these images but on the other I’m tired of living in a world where I have to question everything that I see. Even just an image of a young women on a billboard…

So this week’s question may be a bit rhetorical (I was in a mood, can you tell?) but in a way it’s not. I really want to know if you believe what you see. Do you let it effect how you feel about yourself? Do you go out of your way to educate your children that reality is so easily manipulated?

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There are 38 comments so far.


    July 6, 2010

    Great post, It is so hard to not let ourselves be manipulated by what we see and read. Thanks for the reminder that they too have flaws.


    July 6, 2010

    As hard as I try to remember that most images are insanely retouched, its still fairly difficult not to feel bad about myself when I see people who are shockingly beautiful plastered in the pages of glossy magazines and huge billboards. This is a great post because its nice to have the occasional reminder that the people in magazines don’t even look like “people in magazines” haha!


    July 6, 2010

    Great topic. I hate how the magazines are all airbrushed. Why are these people famous for being beautiful if they need to be airbrushed??

    Lynn C

    July 6, 2010

    I went back recently and was in an 80s movie mood… watched a bunch of flicks like Breakfast Club and Johnny Dangerously, and my self-esteem went up A LOT, since Molly Ringwald and the girl who played Lil’ Sharon were not tiny stick figures. I actually have a similar body-shape to Lil’ Sharon and I thought she was HOT…


    July 6, 2010

    I’ve come to not rely on images of celebrities as references of a desireable body type. I think it also helps to hang out with a lot of grounded guys who aren’t afraid to say what they find attractive. I think women are far more harsh about their appearance than need be. We think that men want stick-figure women, but in reality, most men like curves of some form, and they don’t typically nit-pick like we do. They like real women. In fact, this past weekend at Hooters, the guys all agreed that the most attractive waitress there was actually the “plainest” looking one of all of them. Her hair was her natural color, she had arguably the smallest chest, the least makeup, and her skin wasn’t obviously fake-and-baked.


    July 6, 2010

    i have come to the point where i don’t even pay attention to magazine covers or online ads anymore… yes, i wish they used more “real” models (wrinkles and fat included) but i still think we have a way to go unfortunately… i also think that the more we (consumers) speak-out against over-photoshopping by designers – they may get the hint that it’s just not attractive…


    July 6, 2010

    i have a hard time NOT being influenced. i live in LA and work at a job where i read basically every women’s magazine printed in the US and it’s impossible for me to see those images every day and not be somehow affected.

    still, i have a little dove chocolate wrapper on my desk that reads “be good to yourself today” and i try to remember that. whether it be giving myself a special treat, or a break, or not being mentally negative toward my body. it’s good to remind yourself that nobody is perfect and nobody should be!!!


    July 6, 2010

    Bravo! I do let what I see pressure me into seeing myself as flawed. This video and the revealing photos give me confidence. Thank you for this post!


    July 6, 2010

    I didn’t used to. Now I’ve seen some before and after pics, and more from this very post. I don’t necessarily disbelieve the magazines, but I do find that I respect my own body a lot more.

    I’d be gorgeous as a cartoon character!! I showed this to my 13 year old daughter, great post!

    Elaine Huckabay

    July 6, 2010

    Just a few days ago I was sadly reflecting to my husband that I don’t even know what a real woman looks like. I’ve been fed media for so long and grew up on the internet, so I don’t even know the difference between real and airbrushed. I’ve been fed fake for so long. It’s so sad. A little girl in my life (7 y/o) told me she wanted to grow up to be skinny. Whatever happened to growing up to be the first female President?

    Krista S.

    July 6, 2010

    It does affect how I feel about myself to a certain extent, but I also try to remember that *I* am a real person who doesn’t have a magic mirror to smooth out the lines, wrinkles, bulges, etc that the media sees as flawed. As a mom of two boys, I try very hard to make sure that they realize that what is portrayed on tv, movies, and in magazines is not the truth and to not expect their future partners to have what we have been conditioned to believe are “perfect” bodies. Everyone comes in different shapes and sizes and we really need to learn (& teach our kids) to love ourselves and others based on what is on the inside rather than the fancy wrapper.

    It is so hard to look at those pictures and not think it is their real looks until you see them untouched. I try not to compare myself against them but it is hard. I just need to be more confident in myself instead of the image the media portrays.


    July 6, 2010

    Unfortunately I have to say yes to this question. Well really the second question.

    I don’t believe what I see. But it totally screws with my self image and self worth.

    Sad. yet true.

    I consider myself pretty educated when it comes to body image and the truth about media images of women – I was a Women’s Studies major, for pete’s sake! But the truth is that while the logical, rational part of me knows that the images aren’t “real” or accurate, there’s a more subconscious part of me that is still affected. The key is recognizing that other part and continuing to challenge those assumptions…over and over again.


    July 6, 2010

    When I saw the picture of Madonna, I thought of Sharon Stone’s face in the “Catwoman” movie (with Halle Barry).

    It looks so fake and plastic. It’s such a mind game!

    Jen @ KUrunner

    July 6, 2010

    I think I may have linked this to you before, but even absolutely stunning models get photoshopped. It’s ridiculous — especially with all of the celebrity gossip sites out there that show unretouched photos. We know that Madonna has wrinkles. We know that Britney Spears has cellulite. Guess what, women have wrinkles and cellulite. Why hide it?

    And I’ve taught my 8 year old all about photoshop. Growing up thinking that everyone can look like Marissa Miller with enough dieting and exercise is dumb especially when Marissa Miller (in real life) doesn’t even look like Marissa Miller (in VS).


    July 6, 2010

    I REALLY want to say THANK YOU for this post. I have the worst habit in the world of comparing my body to others! In some cases, it boosts my self-esteem – I am, after all, a size 10! (Formerly size 18). But inevitably it does get me down sometimes.

    I find that at my gym, I tend to skip over the younger girls who have never had any kids (I’ve given birth to FOUR, so I have an excuse) but I still do comparisons with middle-aged/older women. It has been on my mind for months now… I keep coming back to those Michelangelo sculptures… Curvy is sexy. Curvy is healthy. Curvy is what I aim to be. Skinny repulses me now, thank goodness. But now I can see that the “skinny” girls in the magazines aren’t “skinny” at all! I should lighten up and go easier on them. It’s not them after all! It’s just photoshop. How shameful!

    Jenn (GH)

    July 6, 2010

    No I don’t believe what I see and it doesn’t bother me one bit. I know they are touched up so it would be silly to compare myself. I actually like to imagine how fun it would be to have the best photographers, lighting designers, and photoshoppers in the world play with my image. I don’t even think about whether an image is real or not. I automatically assume they are not. Even ones that look candid. I know my opinion is different than the majority of bloggers, tho’. :-) I do think it’s important to teach our kids that images are deceptive….to look at them as art as opposed to reality.

    Jenn (GH)

    July 6, 2010

    Oh yeah…reminds me of Glamour Shots when I was in middle school!!! Those were fun!


    July 6, 2010

    Here’s the thing. I’m not even 30 yet and I’ve always been either a perfectly healthy weight or somewhat thin. I’ve also been completely broken for all of my adult life when it comes to self-esteem. And you know what? It’s damn humiliating how much of my time I’ve wasted worrying about 3 pound fluctuations in my weight, rather than being incensed about the utter absurdity of being expected to look like a 12 year old. (Really, it’s absurd). And when I should’ve been focusing on becoming the most well-adjusted, friendly and happy adult I could be, I focused only on calories and pants size.

    It makes me crazy when I hear perfectly fantastic women being apologetic about their figures. Are you freaking kidding me? If anything, women like this should be receiving apologies. Because the thing is, these ridiculous expectations create so much suffering in women. And they also do some pretty serious damage to the concept of sisterhood, what with all the cattiness and competition and all.

    I don’t think the situation is hopeless though. I think it’s important to be stubborn on this issue, because there was a point in time where the idea of a female CEO would’ve seemed insane.


    July 6, 2010

    and this is why I did the ‘Exposed’ Movement

    nah, i don’t believe anything i see in magazines, and i haven’t in years. i know they’re airbrushed to $%@, so i know better than to compare myself. but i guess that’s what sells, which only makes me wonder – why does that sell? if women say we don’t want that – why do our pocketbooks prove otherwise?

    on a side note, i wished we (i mean society) idolized athletic bodies instead of the super-skinny. like those girls on so you think you can dance – they kick massive butt! healthy and strong, that’s what we should be aiming for. imho:)

    I totally used to believe it all, before taking Photoshop classes myself and realizing just how “magical” the program can be. I think that even when you realize the images aren’t real, though, it doesn’t necessarily stop the comparison game most of us play. These images of what is beautiful and acceptable are deeply ingrained in us after years of seeing them and it’s hard to break the habit.


    July 6, 2010

    This doesn’t happen just with women, you know? Just look at Men’s Health… ¬¬


    July 6, 2010

    lol I know. I didn’t mean to disregard men. I’m just not a man and unlike you, most of my readers are women. ;)

    Barry Hughes

    July 6, 2010

    I am totally at a loss. I do believe everything I see. Now that I have read this post it is almost like telling me there is no such thing as Santa :)


    July 7, 2010

    MANY years ago, SHAPE magazine used to feature athletic, healthy looking women on its covers and in its articles. When they started using skinny, unhealthy looking celebrities, I dropped my subscription.
    I do recall hearing a supermodel (can’t remember which one) say a few years ago that in real life even SHE didn’t look like her images in magazines. She was refreshingly honest.

    Mad Woman

    July 7, 2010

    You know, one of the best magazine shoots I ever saw was the one Jamie Lee Curtis did that showed all her wrinkles, cellulite, lumps & bumps. It was awesome.

    I try not to let myself be influenced by the magazines and hype. I feel bad for the celebs who see their pics all touched up….you gotta wonder if they question their OWN self esteem.

    My biggest mission right now is trying to convince my 8 year old daughter that real women do NOT look like that.


    July 7, 2010

    *jaw still on the floor from watching the video* Honestly, why spend the money on a model at all…. Couldn’t they just CGI something on there? :P


    July 7, 2010

    Thank you Roni! It’s so hard to remember that the images we see every day are NOT real!!!

    Thank you thank you thank you.


    July 7, 2010

    Great topic Roni. I guess I have been pretty good to myself because I never compare myself to magazines. It’s unrealistic no matter if the girls are touched up or not. Everybody is different and there is no comparison. I evaluate myself based on my own body and my own past before kids and weight gain. My own sister couldn’t be more opposite of me. She is bone thin and yet this doesn’t make her any happier than me. She has her own challenges like not being able to fill out a dress and always wearing push-up bras (sometimes even two at once). Sometimes I think she has a worse view of her extremely skinny body then I do of my over weight one. The media definitely has warped our views…remember seeing images from the 60’s and Marilyn Monroe was the hottest thing around…now a days she’d be the before photo! I used to subscribe to Allure magazine but it’s all some alternate reality…everone is gorgeous and wearing $6000 dresses…that’s not for me!


    July 7, 2010

    What a great post Roni!! I love love love your honesty and your blogs. I am turning 36 in September and have been freaking out about my wrinkles around my eyes. I was a sun worshipper for far too long and have sun damage and wrinkles. And yes I do look at photos of women in magazines and in movies and compare my face to their’s. I feel terribly because they have such smooth faces, I mean look at Courtney Cox and Jennifer Aniston who are in their 40’s and look 20!! But none of it’s real and you’re so right. . .we are supposed to age and wrinkle, it’s part of life. I really wish we didn’t live in such a youth obsessed culture!! Wouldn’t it be amazing if we looked up to the seniors in our society instead of making most of them punchlines in a joke?

    I’ve loved that Dove campaign for real beauty for years.

    I stopped reading both fashion & celebrity mags because I think they are really dangerous to good self-esteem.

    This topic makes me crazy – it makes me wonder if teenage boys will ever be able to think the girl in class is “perfect” looking or if they will think even 17 year old beauty queens should be photoshopped…


    July 7, 2010

    Thank you for the reality check! It’s refreshing.

    I see something totally different when I look into the mirror than when I see a picture, the mirror tells a better story to me, the pics are reality, it most definitly effects my mood when I see a terrible pic and I try desperatly to teach my boys that reality can be manipulated but I have trouble since I struggle with it myself. Oy vey!

    Marie Cohoon

    July 9, 2010

    At 61 yrs of age, I no longer entertain the thought, “Someday, I’ll be beautiful!” Beautiful is long gone. I have set a goal to be trim and fit…for my health! I hope this video opens a lot of young girls’ eyes that being “super-model” beautiful is a SHAM!


    July 13, 2010

    I was looking at the before and after retouching portfolios and honestly, I think many of the models look so much better before being “photoshoped”. Why is it considered better-looking to have skin like plastic rather than with real color, texture and tone? The airbrushed plastic-looking skin isn’t just unrealistic. I don’t find it appealing! I think what all the airbrushing, widening eyes, narrowing noses, enlarging breasts, narrowing waists and whatever else serves to do is depict all models and celebrities with a frightening uniformity! It’s like they’ve all had their unique, individual looks evened out. It’s gotten harder to tell them apart.