Fit vs. Fiction's Blog

Why I started Fit vs Fiction and why I won’t shut up about it

We live in an image obsessed, fat-phobic, one-size-fits-all, thin is in, skinny jean wearing, thigh gap measuring, binging and purging, body hating society where kids barely out of pre-school are begging their mothers to keep them home from school because they feel like they’re just too fat to fit in!

And NOT..Okay.


Latest Book review from VictorianEDTreatment Center, Newport Ca

Book Review: The Body Image Survival Guide

by mhurst220— last modified Apr 24, 2013 04:05 PM

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The Body Image Survival Guide for Parents by Marci Warhaft-Nadler is a must read for every parent raising a child in the 21st century. A negative body image is a contributing factor for developing an eating disorder. Eating disorders are on the rise in children. There was a 119% increase of eating disorder related hospitalizations among children under 12 years old between the years 1999 and 2006.

Watching a family drop off their daughter at the Victorian – Eating Disorder Treatment is heart breaking. Emotions are high; crying, screaming and bargaining are all quite familiar. Our staff calms the parents and client reminding them that they are making a wise decision to seek help for this deadly mental illness. It is a scenario every parent dreads – acknowledging their child is sick and in need of professional help. Many question if anything could have been done to prevent the eating disorder? A genetic and social disease, preventing eating disorders is hard to quantify. However, a new book titled, The Body Image Survival Guide for Parents by Marci Warharft-Nadler, eating disorder survivor and Certified Personal Trainer provides several preventative tools to navigate a child towards a healthy body image.

The Body Image Survival Guide is broken down into chapters addressing issues for every age group:
•Ages 0-3
•Ages 4-8
•Ages 9-12
•Age 13 and up

As well as how to address body image in a variety of scenarios:
•Body image issues with boys
•Building self-esteem
•How to help an overweight child
•When parents need to lose weight
•Post-pregnancy dieting
•Role modeling positive body image
•The dangers of negative body image
•Media literacy

My favorite thing about the book is the way Nadler breaks up the chapters with real questions from parents. The “Dear Abby” format of the book quickly makes it seem as if Nadler is simply one parent talking to another. I highly recommend The Body Image Survival Guide for Parents to parents, teachers and school counselors.

You can purchase The Body Image Survival Guide HERE

and follow Nadler on twitter here: @fit_vs_fiction

The Body Image Survival Guide for Parents:Helping Toddlers, Tweens and Teens Thrive

Front20cover20no20spine   This is my book.
The book I wish my own mother had had when I was struggling and she felt so powerless. It states the problems but is full of solutions, games, projects, resources and cheat sheets for when your kids ask you sticky questions… and you need solid answers. The negative messages our kids will hear from the media and society will be loud. The positive messages we give them as their parents need to be even LOUDER!
As of today (Friday, March 15th) You can order your book from (or from my website
These are the tools you need to empower your kids to grow up with the self-confidence and self-esteem they deserve.
Self-worth shouldn’t be measured in pounds! xoxoSee More

Young, sad, sick girls just got themselves a new role model. Thanks Amanda Bynes!

If there’s one thing we’ve learned about social media is that it makes it possible to share everything and anything we’re feeling the second we’re feeling it. While this is perfectly harmless when talking about the delicious sandwich we just ate or the soccer goal we scored or the hilarious thing our kid just did, it can be extremely dangerous when we use it to promote unhealthy behaviour and a hell of a lot MORE dangerous if you’re a celebrity.
It’s no secret that Amanda Bynes has become a bit of a train wreck recently. Two DUI arrests and a lot of erratic behaviour have put her on the “needs some drastic help” radar for some time now and this latest development just reinforces that point.
Amanda has decided that she needs to lose weight and for some bizarre reason she’s decided to choose 100lbs as her goal weight. The problem is that at 5’8 inches tall, weighing just 100lbs would make her completely unhealthy. It is just NOT a healthy place for her to be.

Why do I care?

I care because she has chosen to document her feelings and weight loss plan on social media and has even posted pictures of her thighs on Instagram.

This is particularly disturbing considering the latest trend in body shaming among young people which involves measuring their “thigh Gaps”.

As a celebrity, even one whose star is fading quickly, she needs to be responsible when it comes to what she shares with the public. By saying that she needs to lose weight from her already healthy physique, and posting critical pictures of her body parts, she is sending a very dangerous message to her young fans.

I asked a couple of young women how they felt about Amanda’s goal and one teenager shared,
“I think this is going to affect a lot of young girls because so many of us grew up with her as a role model. It’s disgusting what a smart confident woman has become.”
The other said, “If a girl is 5’6 and weighs 110lbs she’ll assume she’s obese when that’s totally underweight! She’s in the media and young girls will see this and think, “Oh she’s pretty and famous, if I want to be like her I should want to be 5’8 and 100lbs.”
Amanda is obviously going through a very hard time and I’m not judging her for that. Having battled my own severe body image and eating disorder issues for over 20 years, I can certainly relate. BUT, while I’m not judging her struggle, I am having a HUGE problem with how her actions may bring a lot of young girls down with her. Like it or not, being in the public eye gives her voice and her actions more attention than the rest of us and with that comes a lot of power. Her comments through social media are reaching millions of young people and can end up causing disastrous results for some of them.

The great thing about social media is that it can connect us to almost anyone, anywhere at anytime. The terrifying thing about social media is that exact same thing.

But I don’t want my daughter to be mad at me! (When you need to step in anyway)

“I just knew something was wrong with my daughter. I just FELT it.”

Yesterday, a woman approached me and shared her experience of finding out that her 13 year old daughter was struggling with an eating disorder. It’s been many years and a whole lot of therapy and hard work, but her daughter is finally walking the road to recovery. What I found really inspiring about this mom, was her ability and willingness to listen to what her gut instincts were telling her.

“There were no obvious signs. Things were subtle at first, a little gradual weightloss, small changes in her eating habits and a stronger interest in the calorie content of foods she was eating. But I just knew that something was up.”

One night, during a family dinner, this mom noticed that her daughter was indulging in way more desserts than usual and seemed a little stressed. The next thing she saw was her daughter head upstairs towards the bathroom and her gut told her to follow right behind her. When they reached the top of the stairs, her daughter turned to her and said, “Mom! What are you doing?!” Her mom didn’t explain that she was worried her daughter was about to stick her fingers down her throat in an effort to purge her body of the candy and cookies she had just consumed and wasn’t about to make it easier for her. Instead, she just told her that she was going to stand outside the bathroom door and wait for her. Thus began an angry exchange of not so pleasant words where her daughter begged her to STOP being so nosy and rude and to leave her ALONE! Her mother refused. After several minutes, her daughter went into the bathroom and walked out a minute or 2 later, unable to accomplish what she had set out to. Her mom looked her in eyes and said gently but firmly, “We are going for help.”

It is so important for parents to listen to their gut instincts when it comes to their children’s well being.

Another mother recently told me that she has a strong feeling her 17 year old daughter is struggling with something and thinks she is using food as a sort of coping mechanism. She’s worried but her daughter does not like to talk about her feelings, keeps to herself and gets angry everytime she tries to initiate any conversation.

“I don’t want her to be mad at me,” Her mom explained.

Being the mother of a teenager myself, I understand that it is no fun when our teens get moody and confrontational. They can get downright mean. But while there are times when we need to just back off and give them space, there are also times when we need to put ourselves in the line of fire and risk taking a few shots if it means saving our kids.

Vanessa was 15 years old when her body image issues started turning into an eating disorder and she was 16 when her mother figured out what was going on. Vanessa shared her feelings about “Meddling” parents with me:

“I think that kids who are suffering with this WANT their parents to know about it and to ask about it. Even if they seem mad at first, it’ll feel good to be acknowledged. They’ll feel safe. For me, my food issues got worse when I was stressed and a lot of my stress came from school. It was very difficult for me to open up about my food issues and a lot easier for me to talk about school. It was great when my mom asked me how things were going at school and about regular life stresses because it helped relieve some of the pressure I was feeling. Feeling less stressed helped with my food situation. I know it may seem like kids don’t want to talk about their problems with their parents all the time, but we really do need to know that they’re there and that they care.”

If you feel that your kids are struggling with something, step in, ask questions and let them know that you’re there for them if and when they ever need to talk. They may not be ready to share what they’re going through with you right away but at least they’ll know that you are ready to listen when the time comes.

Do NOT worry about them getting angry at you. It’s better to have an angry, healthy kid than a sick one. I promise, they will forgive you. As parents, we can’t always help our kids, but we need to know that we’ve done everything we can to at least try. You’ll never regret trying butting in, and you never want to regret staying silent.

Let’s spread holiday cheer not weight gain fears on to our kids

Is it just me or does it seem like around this time of year almost every month includes some kind of holiday which encourages our families and friends to get together and our grocery stores to be FILLED with aisles and aisles of candy and cake?

Halloween leads into Christmas which leads to New Year’s, then comes Valentine’s Day, Easter, Mother’s and Father’s Day. That’s a lot of celebrating and a lot of opportunity to indulge in the types and amounts of food we might usually try to avoid. Along with the overdulging come the inevitable feelings of GUILT it brings and I think it’s time we scratched that part off our holiday To Do lists. Does that mean we should eat until our pants can’t close? Nope. It just means that we have to let ourselves eat the foods we love, enjoy the food we love and then MOVE ON. It’s the guilt that can drive us to eat  more than we even want to. Sometimes we feel like we’ve already ruined our diet so we might as well keep eating..and eating. Other times, it’s the promise to spend EXTRA time at the gym to repent for our food sins that lead us back to the kitchen a few too many times. Food is good. It can however become “less good” when we throw a ton of emotion around it and let our emotions guide how much or how little we eat.

The biggest problem with how distorted our emotions get around food during the holidays is the impact it can have on our kids. It so important that kids learn how to listen to their bodies. It’s all about balance and moderation. They need to learn how to eat when they’re hungry and stop when they’ve had enough. How we act around food and our bodies around our kids will have a huge affect on  their own relationship with food as they get older.

Here are a few DOs and some DON’Ts when it comes to the messages we send to our kids about food during the next few months:

DO remember that while food plays a big role in how we celebrate, the holidays aren’t actually ABOUT food. Remember to focus on spending time with your friends or family.

DON’T make comments like:” I’m gonna wear my fat pants tonight!” Seems harmless but our kids might get the message that overeating is expected when they should always be listening to their body’s natural hunger cues.

DO get physical during the day: Is a big dinner on the agenda? Plan some family activities during the day to balance things out. Keep it simple. Try going for a long walk or taking a trip to the skating arena, for example.

DON’T say: “I’m going to be spending a few extra hours at the gym this week to pay for the damage I just did!”

We really want to stay away from negatives when it comes to how we eat and exercise. Exercise should be something we do because we like our bodies, not what we do to punish them for eating badly.

DO try to find healthier options when possible. That does NOT mean swapping Aunt Helen’s homemade cookies for some “diet” option that will leave you feeling less than satisfied, or nibbling on lettuce leaves all night long. But when given the option, choose more of the items that haven’t been soaked in butter or deep fried in oil and make sure you’re eating your fruits and veggies so they’ll be a little less room for heavier stuff. Demonstrating this kind of eating for your kids will send a healthy message without you having to say a word.

DON’T deprive yourself or your kids. The last thing you want to do is forbid yourself to eat the foods you love, you’ll only set yourself up for overeating them later on. Remember, balance is key. There’s nothing wrong with saying, “Honey, one piece of pie is enough, if you eat more you’ll just feel sick later” but you want to avoid things like, ” Pie is so fattening, you should eat an apple instead!” It’s the holidays…live a little.

DO move from the table once the meal is done. If the party is at your house, move to the living room or den. If  your sitting in front of the food it will continue to tempt you..even if you’re full.


DO be as kind and generous with yourself as you are to the guests in your home. Show your kids that holiday feasts are more about creating memories with loved ones than about eating until you burst and then complaining about it afterwards.

What do you think? Does the idea of holiday meals fill you with joy or anxiety?

Treat or Treat..afraid to eat? Don’t be!

Halloween is almost here, which means that kids have started getting excited about the bounty of candy they’ll be getting and their parents are getting anxious about the very same thing. I don’t think I’d be shocking anyone by calling our society weight obsessed and fat-phobic. It’s the truth. We are. There has been so much focus being put on the issue of obesity recently that we have become terrified of every calorie or fat gram we consume and are unfortunately, passing this fear on to our kids.

It’s unneccessary.

When I was growing up, Halloween was simply a fun opportunity to dress up in silly costumes, hang out with your friends and get candy from neighbors. I remember when local news programs would talk about the trendiest costumes and the neighborhoods with the scariest haunted houses. But now I’ve seen things change in a way I am not thrilled about. It seems that there are things that have become much more terrifying than witches and werewolves and these things are called…brace yourself…..CALORIES!


Gone are the days when we can unwrap and enjoy a piece of caramel or licorice without immediately calculating how many calories they contain. I watched a news segment last night that was all about the amount of calories in “Fun size” treats. Here’s the thing, I have no problem with adults understanding what goes into the foods they and their kids are eating. Actually, I think it’s important that we know what we’re putting in our bodies. What I DON’T want, however, is for us to hit our kids over the head with this information.

Kids are being inundated with messages about “Good” and “Bad” foods and these messages are not teaching them how to eat properly, but instead are creating an irrational fear around food in general. Contrary to all of the recent anti-obesity campaigns that use fear and shame to get kids to eat better, there is another way. The problem with focusing on fat and calories is that we make it an issue of WEIGHT instead of HEALTH. When people think of calories, they automatically think of weight and we want our kids to eat in a healthy way so they can be HEALTHY, not skinny.

Some Halloween candy tips:

1. DON’T point out how many calories are in the treats they bring home. Instead, decide (together) beforehand how many treats they’ll be allowed to have each day and explain that if they eat more, they’ll FEEL icky….besides, the candy will last longer.

2. DO show them that even candy is okay to eat IF it’s part of an overall healthy, balanced lifestyle ( including regular physical activity). Demonstrate that by providing healthier options throughout the day so they understand how the sugary/salty snacks should play a much smaller role in their diet than the healthier stuff.

3. DON’T put a deadline on candy consumption.

Some parents let their kids go nuts for one or two days and then toss the rest of it in the garbage (or hide it in their own closets..but I don’t judge). Bad Idea.

The last thing we want to do is encougaing any kind of binge eating. Again, it’s all about balance. Letting your child eat a few gummy bears or chocolate covered raisins is far less dangerous than being OVERLY restrictive and creating a kind of “forbidden fruit” situation where ALL they can think about is finding a way to get to it. I’ve heard stories of kids actually hiding candy in flashlights and pillowcases so they wouldn’t have to give it up. Now that’s scary.

Do explain that our bodies need lots of exercise and good nutrition in order for them to work well and FEEL good. The better we treat our bodies, the more energy we’ll have and the stronger we’ll be. Again, no mention of weight is neccessary. We want our kids to eat well because they want to FEEL good, not because they’re worried about LOOKING bad.

DON’T worry so much. Your kids will be ok. Even if they have a little more candy than usual for next couple of weeks. Besides, there are scarier things to be concerned about when it comes to Halloween. (Have you seen the limited number of costume choices for girls these days that don’t have the word “Sexy” in front of them? But that’s another issue…).

Just think…in a few weeks, the treats will be gone and you’ll have survived another food driven holiday….just in time for Christmas. :o)

Happy Halloween!

The media doesn’t make us sick, it just keeps us that way.

Eating disorders are on the rise. We know this. We also know that our society is obsessed with beauty; a very limited interpretation of beauty. Everywhere we look, we’re bombarded with images that glorify thinness and youth which has resulted in an epidemic of self-hatred. Kids want to look like adults, adults want to look like kids and both are willing to go to extreme lengths to achieve these unrealistic expectations.

Eating disorders don’t care if you’re male or female, under 10 years old or over 50 years old, they’ll destroy anyone who’s ripe for the taking. When I speak at school or to parents about body image, the issue of media manipulation always comes up and for good reason. We are definitely influenced by what we see and hear in our magazines and TV screens, but does the media CAUSE eating disorders? I say no.

To say that eating disorders are caused by the media would be simplifying an incredibly complex situation. It’s just not that easy. After having suffered through a very severe eating disorder for 20 years and being lucky enough to find recovery, I can tell you that I still don’t know what caused it and probably never will. I have a good idea of what brought it out, but that’s different from what caused it. Losing my brother when I was 17 years old taught me in the cruellest of ways, that there were things in my life I couldn’t control, as a result, I turned to the one thing I could control; my body. By starving myself, I felt like I had a say in what happened in my life. However, as anyone with an eating disorder quickly finds out, the feeling of control is fleeting and very soon life because even more unmanageble than ever.

Why did I turn to food and not drugs or alcohol? I’ll never know. Genetics? maybe. But I stopped asking “WHY?” a long time ago and started asking “WHAT NOW?” and that’s when I started looking for help.

Sadly, I found that the hardest part about recovering from my eating disorder was the fact that while I was trying so hard to do everything I could to get healthy, it seemed like the world wanted me to stay sick.

THIS is where the media comes in. The media didn’t give me an eating disorder, but it sure as hell made it hard to recover from it. While my family was telling me that I was too thin, magazines were telling me I wasn’t thin enough. While my doctors were telling me  I needed to eat to be healthy, diet ads were telling me I needed to stop eating to be beautiful. As desperate as I was to be free of the control my negative body image had over me, I also felt an intense need to look the way society told me I needed to look and this made it very difficult to get well.

The constant pressure from the media doesn’t cause eating disorders in the same way that cigarette ads don’t cause Cancer. Don’t get me wrong, cigarettes cause Cancer, but cigarette ADS do not. I could, for example, be bombarded with commercial after commercial glamorizing cigarette smoking and I would not be the least bit affected by them. Someone else, however, could see the same ads and find the urge to smoke incredibly hard to resist. For some people, the commercials can create a desire to buy the cigarettes and by buying and then smoking them, will have their chances of getting Cancer increase.

There are plenty of people who can see ridiculous images of impossibly perfect women in magazines and not be affected, they can hear diet campaign after diet campaign and think nothing of them, but there are more people who will take notice and who’s self-esteem will be impacted. Negative body image doesn’t always result in an eating disorder, but it does result in time wasted judging and disliking ourselves.

Cigarette ads don’t cause Cancer, yet they’ve been removed from our magazines and TVs because they glorify dangerous behavior, well so do photoshop, airbrushing and our insane adoration of emaciated bodies and wrinkle free skin.

Eating disorders are complicated, insidious and unrelenting. They are far more difficult to understand than most people realize, which is why I don’t believe that the media causes us to get sick, but the absurd and harmful ideals it insists on perpetuating, keeps us that way.


Open letter to Fitness Trainers r.e. Holiday weightloss pressure:

Dear Fitness trainers,

Let me start by saying that I have tremendous respect for your dedication to helping people get and stay fit; having worked in the fitness industry for over 20 years myself, I know the hard work and discipline that goes into helping others achieve the results they seek.

That said, I find myself becoming more and more disillusioned by how our society tends to confuse LOOKING fit with actually BEING fit. More and more people are focusing on the esthetics of their bodies instead of the mechanics of it and are forgetting how important it is to be healthy from the inside out.

I’m writing this letter because of how FRUSTRATED I have found it to go to my gym during this holiday season. It feels as if every workout comes with a free serving of guilt and fear. While it’s true that people tend to overindulge during the festivities, and there are many people who will feel the need to eat less and workout more as of January 1st, I think it’s REALLY important that you understand that there are also a lot of people who don’t want to be reminded of every extra cookie they ate or glass of wine they drank.

I suppose I’m a little sensitive about this issue because of my history with food and eating disorders, but it’s taken me years to get to a place where I workout out because it FEELS good and because I like knowing that I’m doing something GOOD for my body and not because I want to fit into a bikini by Spring break. I know I am not alone in this. During a spinning class last week, I was given no choice but to hear about how many cookies I was burning off per song and how many glasses of wine I was “earning” per workout. The woman on the bike next to me said, “Great, I WAS feeling I just feel guilty.” I also don’t want to be told that if I work hard, I’ll get the 6 pack abs I want. Truth be told, I’ve had the perfectly sculpted physique and watched my body fat whittle away to almost nothing and I felt like crap. My goal these days to be HEALTHY and STRONG and I truly believe that THAT should be what we’re taught at the gym.

So please Mr/Ms Trainer, don’t tell me that we’re going to work extra hard to repent for enjoying the holidays or assume that I want to lose weight even if I’m a little softer and rounder than I could be and PLEASE don’t be offended at what I’ve written. We’ve become so caught up in the fit vs fat battle, that it’s become difficult to mention a fabulous meal we’ve eaten, without feeling the need to apologize for its calories and that’s a shame.

Different people of different ages, sizes and fitness levels join gyms everyday and we need to make sure that they are getting the healthiest messages possible. It’s all about progress and not perfection. While some people find diet talk motivating, I bet there are many more who wish it would just go away.

Let’s put the HEALTH back into “Health Clubs”!

Eating Disorders: What’s PAIN got to do with it?

“WHY would someone starve themself or Binge on food so badly that they feel sick, I don’t get it!”

I hear this a lot….just heard it recently at a workshop I led on Body image and Eating Disorders for teachers. Eating Disorders are incredibly difficult to understand because, frankly, they don’t make any sense. Trying to find something logical in the illogical is a complete waste of time. Which is why it can be so frustrating for the loved ones of something battling one.

WHY would someone who seems to have so much going for them “Choose” to hurt themselves with food?

I think the answer comes down to 2 words: Pain and Control.

There are several factors that play into why someone develops an eating disorder, but oftentimes it’s a way of controlling a situation that seems completely out of their control. When something in life feels overwhelming and beyond our control, we turn to the one thing we have complete control over: Our bodies.

We can decide what,when and how to eat..or NOT to eat. It can give us the feeling of power in a world where most of the time, we feel pretty powerless. But it’s only temporary. As anyone who has battled an Eating Disorder will tell you, it doesn’t take long before the Eating Disorder takes over and we are once again, feeling powerless and this feeling is incredibly painful.

PAIN is a big part of this disorder that most people do not understand. It is hard to understand WHY someone would knowingly do something that hurts them. Here’s my explanation:

There are so many reasons for why someone would develop an Eating Disorder. For a lot of people, it begins with a trauma. That trauma can come in many forms: Abuse, death of a loved one, divorce or even a big change like starting a new school or moving to a new city. There are SEVERAL reasons for why someone would feel the need to take control of their lives through their bodies.

Transfering Pain:

There are 2 kinds of pain: Emotional and Physical. Truth be told, for many people, especially kids, emotional pain can be much harder to deal with than the physical type. Physical pain is easier to understand because it makes sense and usually you can SEE it. If you cut yourself, you feel pain, you bandage it up, you feel better. If you break your arm, you feel pain, you get it fixed, you feel better. Easy.

But by not being able to SEE an emotional heartbreak, it is far more difficult to deal with it. So the idea is by transfering an emotional pain into a physical one, it becomes easier to CONTROL.

Eating Disorders HURT. Whether someone is starving themselves or compulsively overeating, there are side effects like stomach aches, nausea and headaches to name just a few. But this type of pain seems manageable compared to the emotional pain that’s driving them.

I’ll use myself as an example: When I was 17 years old, my brother Billy got sick and died. He was 21 years old and my hero. His death shattered me. I had never had an issue with food until my brother got sick. When Billy died, the pain of this loss was ENORMOUS. I could not wrap my head around the fact that he was gone and the pain was much too intense for my teenage brain to  comprehend. I turned to food..or rather, away from it.

By starving myself, I felt a sense of control through the mayhem. I felt sick most of the time, but the pain of my empty stomach was EASIER for me to understand than the pain of knowing that my big brother was gone. The more I could concentrate on stomach cramps and headaches, the less I had to think about my heartache.

Basically: The pain that comes from an Eating Disorder seems easier to manage than the pain that’s causing it.

For many people, in order to recover you must hit a type of “Rock Bottom”, which can happen when the pain of what you’re doing with food becomes MORE intense and destructive than why it started in the first place. We can’t heal from what we can’t face.

The best advice I can give someone who is watching helplessly as their loved one battles an Eating Disorder is to stop trying to understand it and just BE THERE with love and compassion. Eating Disorders bring with them feelings of shame and guilt, knowing they are loved unconditionally can help someone suffering get the courage required to seek out the help they desperately need.

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