Something happened this morning and I feel like I can no longer be quiet about this. I have been targeted for so long by distributors and salespeople selling body wraps and creams claiming they can “fix” my “broken” body. Every time I make a post talking about how I am okay with the stretched skin I have on my stomach from carrying two ten pound babies I get literally hundreds, if not thousands, of emails, comments, and private messages from people who claim their miracle product or pill can fix my “problem”. I’ve always stayed silent about it because I never knew how to gracefully acknowledge the situation, but I will no longer be picked on, bullied, and shamed. I am using my voice and standing up for myself.
I was tagged this morning by someone who follows my public Facebook page (thank you Lindsey!) and she let me know that someone had stolen my photographs and used them to sell their It Works! wrap:
**edit: Since this post went live, I went back in and I blacked out this guy’s name and phone number. I found out he was getting hate texts and hate messages from my post, which isn’t something I would condone and I kind of feel bad for him so decided to protect him from future hate.**
To see my photographs and my hard work stolen and used by someone to sell a product I would never endorse was gut wrenching. My heart started racing and my palms started sweating as I stared at my phone looking at my picture on this false advertisement. These photographs were taken for an article I wrote for Bodybuilding.com called, “8 New Mom Fitness Rules“. In that article, I encourage moms to be kind to themselves, to remember that it’s not a race to lose any weight you put on during pregnancy, and to be proud of your progress along the way. I never, ever would have told a new mom that she needed a wrap to feel good about herself. In fact, the irony of the situation is that I encourage just the opposite!! I have started the Own It Campaign encouraging women to own their stories and to find beauty and strength in their vulnerabilities. I have helped Heidi Powell with her Perfectly Imperfect campaign encouraging women to accept and love their imperfections.
I reached out to It Works on social media with this post:
Facebook must have shown that post in the newsfeeds of people who follow my page because a lot of people started commenting and liking my post. I was upset about the whole situation and needed to clear my head, so my husband and I rounded up the kids, got in the car, and headed to the gym for a morning leg workout. My phone was blowing up, but I was waiting until my workout was over until I read, commented, or responded to anything. I was told that this post had thousands of likes and shares, but It Works! must have decided to delete my post because when I got back from the gym and got online to check my post, it was gone.
To be fair, I did receive an email from It Works! later this afternoon apologizing for the situation and stating that the independent distributor broke policy by using my photographs.
I have had some time to think about the turn of events this morning, and I recognize that it wasn’t It Works! sharing false photographs, but rather an individual that is a representative for the company who used unethical marketing. This is where I believe we need to change the conversation and start talking about a very disturbing trend in the way women are marketed to.
I am somewhat ashamed to type this out, but I used to hate my body. Truly. I was a long distance runner for most of my life and I never looked like the other runners on my team. Most of the top athletes had long legs with a petite build, and I was born with short legs, a long torso, and a naturally more muscular build. I never had the long, lean legs synonymous with the image of a marathon runner. I would spend hours twisted around staring in the mirror and wonder why (no matter how many miles I ran) I couldn’t get the cellulite off the back of my thighs. I don’t remember ever wearing regular swimsuit bottoms in high school and always covered up with board shorts because I was embarrassed of my thick thighs. Growing up my stepdad would tease me and my nickname growing up was “puddin” because ‘whatever I puddin my mouth would go straight to my thighs”. From a very young age, I was teased and taught to be ashamed of my body. I used to flip through magazines and stare wishfully at celebrities bodies and wish I could just look the way they did. I thought that if I could change the way I looked I would finally be happy.
Do you know what changed that horrible, self-degrading, inner vicious dialogue? Let me give you a hint. It had nothing to do with a wrap, a magical pill, or an expensive shake. It had everything to do with the way I started to talk to myself and by focusing on self care. I started setting tiny (micro) goals for myself. I started to prove to myself that my worth was more than the way I looked, and that I could set out to do something and actually achieve it, even if the goals were tiny. Eventually I got brave enough to start setting goals that weren’t so tiny. Very slowly, over a long period of time, I started to believe that my value wasn’t dictated by the leanness of my legs or how I looked in a bikini. I started setting time aside each week to focus on improving myself, which included things like regular exercise that I enjoyed and cooking nutritious meals. I allowed myself to have interests and self-improvement goals outside of just being a mom and a wife. I started spending time on things that actually made me happy and proud of myself, instead of wasting my time wishing I could look like a celebrity or changing a part of my body that was genetically never going to change. I stopped telling myself that I needed fixed, that I needed to look like someone else, and that I wasn’t enough. I learned that sharing things that made me feel vulnerable took the power and fear away from those feelings and I started building true, inner self confidence.
The reason I am talking about all this is because of how hurt it makes me feel when I see slimy, shameless, and deceitful marketing techniques targeting women who feel the exact way I used to feel. Women who hate their bodies, who feel insecure, and who wish they could look like someone else are being targeted by companies who claim they can “fix” these women. I mentioned earlier that I have gotten thousands of emails, messages, and comments from people selling skin-firming products. I see the same trends over and over. People telling me, “you are beautiful, BUT…” or “you look amazing, BUT…”:
Or phrases like, “We all have imperfections and we all hate them”:
These are just a few examples of the thousands of spam messages I get all the time. **edit: two of the people that sent these messages have since reached out to me and apologized for the way their message came across. I think it shows a lot about their character that they reached out to me, and I have no hard feelings on my end. The photos were less about them and more about just showing a sample of the endless messages I get.**
The thing that is so heavy on my heart is knowing that I am at a place now where I can easily dismiss these messages as people using bad marketing techniques, but there was a time in my life (majority of my life actually) where I wouldn’t have been able to dismiss them so easily. Those insecure voices would have started to creep up in my head, those negative thoughts would have started getting louder, and my paper-thin self confidence would have crumbled while wondering if maybe I wasn’t enough just the way I am. I probably would have given in and spent a lot of money trying to get fixed.
This is where I believe major changes need to happen. Since when did it become acceptable to approach a friend (or stranger) and tell them you could fix a part of their body? A plastic surgeon would never walk up to someone with a big nose and tell them they can “fix” their face. That would be flat out rude! An orthodontist would never come up to an insecure teenage and tell her he could make her beautiful by fixing her smile. That would be borderline unethical. For some reason, however, it has become acceptable for representatives of these skin care and body wrap companies to target postpartum moms, who are already in an emotional and vulnerable phase of their life, by telling them their bodies need to be “fixed”. The bottom line here is that there is a right way and a wrong way to market yourself.
Two of my favorite bloggers have already opened the conversation on this topic. Jennifer from Mama Lion Strong witnessed a team of It Works! representatives attacking a new mom group at her local mall. She writes, “Some new Moms are strong. Some new Moms are confident. Some new Moms are very sure of themselves and their journeys.
But many are not. Many are tired. Many are struggling with their self worth. Many feel lonely and isolated. Many cry in the bottom of their showers wondering whose body they are living in and if their husband finds it as disgusting as they do.
Nobody wants to feel that way. Most would do anything to not have to feel that way anymore.
And this is why new Moms become diet/fitness/cosmetic industries #1 target. This is why my local “it works” team plants itself outside of a new Mom exercise class.”
January, founder of Birth Without Fear, talked about how she clicked on the hashtag “postpartum” recently on Instagram and saw the hashtag being spammed by thousand of independent distributors. In her own words, “Getting healthier and fit is awesome! Moms come in all shapes, sizes, and fitness levels. We are all on our own journey and progressing and working through our crazy, tired, postpartum, motherhood lives the best we can at any given time. This is not about comparing. This is about becoming united.
We do not need to be told we are not good enough.
We do not need chemical laden lotions, potions, or seran wrap. What we need is love, grace, friendship, and support.”
At the end of the day, what have I taken away from this event that happened this morning (that has consumed way, way too much of my time today)?
1) I wish that It Works! and other similar companies would put a MAJOR emphasis on the right and wrong way for distributors to market their businesses. This should be done in all new distributor training, not just hidden away in the small print of policy and procedures. There should also be harsh punishment for using non-compliant advertisements and it should become company culture that there is a zero tolerance for unethical marketing or using non-corporate ads. Corporate culture is created from the top-down. When corporate addresses this is a problem within their organization then true change can occur.
2) I don’t have a problem with multi-level marketing or direct sales companies. Direct sales can be a great way for many at-home moms to make extra income if they have a legitimate product and are done the right way. I don’t even have a problem with It Works! distributors or their product line in general. What I do have a problem with is distributors who use shady and slimy marketing techniques to earn their commissions. If you are a leader or a top-ranking distributor in your direct sales company, use your influence! If you see someone on your team targeting postpartum moms or using language in their posts that might make someone feel less-than, step in and stop them! Do team training and talk about how marketing this way can potentially jeopardize your personal brand. Lead by example. Make your parties so fun that party guests want to host their own parties, but please, please don’t target someone who you think has stretched skin or cellulite and tell them you can help them out if they host a party for you.
3) For the record, I have never used an It Works! wrap and all my results came through proper nutrition and exercise over a long period of time (no quick-fixes). I regularly get asked about things like body wraps, fat burners, etc and I always let people know that I don’t use them. They are very expensive products that only provide short-term results. Instead, I encourage women to spend the $100 they would have spent on a wrap or fat burners and splurge on something like really fun workout clothes that they feel really comfortable in, or find some new, fun recipes and use the money to buy some nutritious and wholesome foods that you may not normally purchase. Things that seems too good to be true usually are.
4) Lastly, if you have been targeted by someone trying to sell you a product to “fix” your body when you didn’t think you needed fixed, I hope that you can find comfort in knowing you are not alone. Those of us who have been attacked can stand together, find a strong voice, continue to share this message, and we can stand firm and united in our belief that we. are. enough.