How Our Body Image Influences Our Confidence
Updated: May 12
Welcome to The Impostor Syndrome Files! Join Kim Meninger and Anne Poirier as they talk about how a woman’s body often becomes their identity. Anne shares what led to her fitness career, as well as what led her to re-evaluate her relationship to fitness and her body. Anne talks about how deep-rooted experiences and beliefs led her down her path, including an eating disorder at 12 years old. She shares how her mindset changed and that ultimately, the key to staying healthy in both mind and body is by listening to yourself first. A lot to learn from this episode about self-love and how it affects the people around us as well so stay tuned!
Keeping your body up to your standards:
Anne shares that due to internal and external pressures to achieve a certain body type, she started a fitness career knowing that it was the career that would help her stay in a body that was socially acceptable. Only when she suffered an injury did she realize that her mindset towards being fit was not healthy. This gave Anne a wake-up call that what she thought was healthy was actually harmful.
Listen to your body:
Anne shares that people commonly use external factors to control their diet or exercise, such as using an app, following a plan, or scheduling routines. What Anne does to keep fitness a healthy practice is listening to the primarily affected variable, which is her own body. Is she hungry? Does she feel like going swimming? Would she rather meditate or nap? These are just some of the questions Anne asks herself to make sure that she’s listening to her body and making the right choices for her.
About Ann Poirier:
Having overcome her own eating, food, weight, and body image challenges and drawing upon close to 4 decades of experience, specialized training and advanced certifications, Anne Poirier created the Body Joyful Solution and wrote ‘The Body Joyful’ to share her highly personal and life-changing journey. Anne is a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor and Body Confidence Coach, Self-Talk Trainer, Eating Disorder Specialist and Author.
Anne is the Founder of Shaping Perspectives, A Woman’s Way to Joy and the leader of the Body Joyful Revolution Community, an online source of support and encouragement for women of all sizes, shapes, and weights. This group of women is committed to rejecting society’s thin ideal and diet culture, so they can feel more comfortable and confident in their bodies and selves.
To learn more about Anne Poirier, visit https://shapingperspectives.com or follow her @annepoirier11 on Instagram.
For a free digital copy of the book, drop an email to email@example.com ~
Outline of the Episode:
[02:02] About Ann Poirier and getting into fitness [08:06] What made Anne realize that something’s not healthy [12:34] How to distinguish being healthy and being harmful [17:52] What were Anne’s resources to get to her current mindset [20:11] The deal with appreciating other people’s courage [22:46] Taking responsibility for how we affect other people [26:20] Anne’s difference from her previous self [25:42] More about Anne’s book
And many more!
Links to Anne’s resources:
The Body Joyful book: https://www.amazon.com/Body-Joyful-Anne-Poirier/dp/1949116816
The Body Joyful Revolution: https://www.facebook.com/groups/bodyjoyfulrevolution
Shaping Perspectives: https://shapingperspectives.com/ (blogs and resources)
Connect with Kim and The Impostor Syndrome Files:
Join the Slack channel to learn from, connect with and support other women
Schedule time to speak with Kim Meninger directly about your questions/challenges
Resources mentioned in the episode:
• Health at Every Size, Linda Bacon
• Intuitive Eating, Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch
• Body Kindness, Rebecca Scritchfield
• The Body Keeps the Score, Bessel van der Kolk M.D
Brave Women at Work podcast by Jen Pestikas
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Join the free, private Brave Women at Work Facebook Community: https://lnkd.in/esnSb-s
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Kim Meninger Welcome, Anne. I’m really looking forward to this conversation today. And I’d love to start by inviting you to introduce yourself.
Anne Poirier You’re welcome. Thank you for having me, Kim, I’m excited to share a little bit about my own impostor syndrome file, I guess is the best way to say it. My name is Anne Poirier, and I worked in fitness in the fitness industry for over 30 years. And really, my body was my identity. And I think that that’s what I always was thinking about. That’s when I was always acting as if I was the fit person, always worried about what other people were thinking about me, always making sure I was acting, according to who I was with, depending on if it was an owner of a gym or a fitness facility, or if it was the class that I was teaching or any of those things. So I was always kind of stepping into whatever role I needed to step into. So with that 30 years, I just had a little bit of a switch in the way that I saw myself due to some injury. And so now I work with women, to help them feel more comfortable and competent in their bodies, no matter what size or shape or weight they are, so that we can be more confident and step into being ourselves. So that’s what I do now. But I spent many, many years in fitness. So it’s been an interesting switch over for my career.
Kim Meninger That is so fascinating. As I was saying to you before we hit record, this is such an important part of the confidence conversation. And for most of the conversations that I’ve had, so far, we’ve really talked about work as the biggest source of our identity. And this body piece is so important, especially for women, because of the messaging that we’ve all been given implicitly or explicitly throughout our lives. I want to pick apart your story a bit because there’s so much there that I can imagine will be helpful. So how did you get into fitness in the first place?
Anne Poirier Well, it’s interesting, because growing up as a kid, I was a tomboy. But I didn’t really fit in with the way I looked with the other girls. So you know, short hair, stocky build, I was a chubby little baby. That’s the way my dad described me. My mom described me as stocky and sturdy. And I think that those, those words and phrases really planted seeds in my head that I’m not quite right. I was adopted. So there’s another little inch, you know, piece of the equation that’s there. And I remember and I write this, I write, I wrote about this in a book, running upstairs to play football with my brother. And he and his friends had this nickname for me called me Annie Fannie farmer. And so they’d have this little rhyme Annie Fannie farmer that they would say, and all I heard was a fanny. And so it was my interpretation of their words. And I must be not right, my fanny’s too big. And then all of a sudden, the fat word came in. And I just took on this identity of being, of being too fat for who I’m supposed to be. You know, my dad always weighed himself, my mom always weighed herself. It was very, you know, we, we talk about this image like you shared in our society, and the way that we’re supposed to look in our bodies, and the way that society has told us and cultures have told us that we should look this way. And that ca,n can really harm I think, young girls at a very early age. And that’s really when my disorder started. I had an eating disorder at 12. And that’s, I just fell into fitness because I figured it was the career that would keep me in a body that was acceptable to society. Wow. Wow.
Kim Meninger And it’s, it’s amazing how you’re able to go back and connect those dots. Some of the messaging, I think, is on the, on behalf of the people delivering it. They don’t necessarily intend any harm, right? I’m thinking of the language that you described as stocky or sturdy, you know, those kinds of things? Probably your parents had no idea that’s how you were translating.
Anne Poirier Exactly.
Kim Meninger Were you able at any point to have a conversation with them later about that influence?
Anne Poirier Not really, because I think what I’ve done is I’ve taken responsibility for my own brain, kind of holding on to all of these things. You’re exactly right. They didn’t mean anything. Babies are chubby and cute, right? That’s the way we describe them all the time. And just those words on top of a series of other events that once I thought in my brain that I was, I did not look right. And then I was, quote-unquote, fat. I looked for proof, it’s that, it’s that RAS, that reticular activating system in our brain that says, Okay, I’m going to buy a red truck for my next vehicle, and then all of a sudden, you’ve just recruited your brain to look for all kinds of red trucks. So as soon as I identified myself as being fat, quote, unquote, I use that term, you know, trying to use that term in the way that I was talking to myself. And then everything that happened, you know, going to the doctor and having them weigh you, trying on clothes at the, at the girls’ department. So there was this kind of a, one after another after another that these seeds of belief I called them just got planted and rooted in my brain. And then I made decisions around that because that’s, that’s who I, who I was, that’s who I am, I have to work really hard to make sure I, I looked the part, and I don’t look outside of the norm. And that’s really where the, where my whole fitness career stemmed from.
Kim Meninger So when you got into fitness, and you were there for such a long time, were you aware at all? I guess at what point did you become aware that this was not necessarily a healthy relationship?
Anne Poirier That’s such a good question. Because it really was forced upon me due to an injury. So I had an injury in college, that just exacerbated as I continued to pound on my legs. And so it was, I was in a hospital room, getting ready to have a part of my leg actually broken to straighten my leg so that I could continue to pound on it. When the doctor said, you know, I just want to want you to know that if I get in there, and the knee’s too bad, I’m not gonna be able to do the surgery. And when he left, I knew he wasn’t gonna be able to do it. And I knew that now what? Now, what am I supposed to do? Like this whole flood of emotion came through me. And it was, I can look back and say, that was the best thing that happened to me because it made me step back from my, my life a little bit and take it, take a completely different perspective of where I was going, what I was doing, how was I actually being part of the problem when it comes to society and diet, culture, and all of that I was promoting that in fitness. And that’s when I really started to shift my thought process around all of it and said, Wait a minute, there’s going to be another way, there’s going to be something different that we can do here.
Kim Meninger Well, it’s really interesting to me that, and I’m not suggesting that you didn’t have an array of emotions in response to that, right. But the fact that you’re highlighting this, there’s got to be a better way is, I could also imagine a scenario in which you were devastated, where this was just completely pulling the rug out from underneath you, and having been, had this identity that was so tied to your body for so long, might not have moved you in a direction of thinking, how can I support other women but might have just broken you.
Anne Poirier Yeah, and I, I don’t know, other than reaching out for help. And realizing I was struggling, I think the early, the early eating disorder and then having relapses and realizing I’m not helping myself, is this the way? I have two daughters, they’re adults. Now, young adults, is this the way that I want to be a role model for them, as they move through their lives, and being very saddened by the fact that I was not there for them in the way I wish I had been, you know, forgiving myself obviously, and, and being forgiven by them, because I was obsessed with other things. But the relationship we have now is so much different and better. So I do believe that there was a driving force with them, as well as just realizing that I was continuing to move towards other medicators, you know, and when I say that, anything else that could numb me from the feelings, you know, so it was food, it was exercise, it was alcohol, it was scrolling, you know, searching through social media, right. So all of those things to just take your brain away from the pain and realizing that that wasn’t helpful, either.
Kim Meninger And yeah, yeah, well, and it’s so, it’s so interesting too, because I think that we have in our minds images of what unhealthy medicators as you described them are right. And we know substance abuse, we know eating disorders are often a cover for an underlying problem that we’re not addressing. It’s a, it’s a way of detaching from the pain. But it’s interesting because fitness can be perceived as something that’s a healthy choice, right? If you’re exercising, and you’re taking care of yourself, that might be seen as go you Right? Like, that’s a great thing to do. So for people who are listening to this, how do you distinguish between healthy fitness and caring about your body in a way that is healthy and productive? versus where it maybe has crossed that line into dysfunctional or harmful?
Anne Poirier That’s another good question. And I really believe it’s why are you exercising? You know, what’s the outcome that you’re looking for? Is it to be stronger? Is it to be more flexible? Is it to be able to, you know, get down on the floor and get up and carry things and live your life to the fullest? Or is it to lose weight? And is it to shrink your thighs? And is it to make you look different? And for what reason. So I believe it becomes the why behind fitness and exercise. And I’ve actually shifted, I shifted away from using the word exercise a little bit, and just movement and joyful movement and what feels good for your body. And if you like what you’re doing, you’re gonna do it, if you hate it, and if it’s forced, then, you know, that’s not always so helpful. So it is not a sustainable to.
Kim Meninger Yes, that’s really true. And I’ll say, from my own personal experience, I’ve certainly had my own battles with this, this whole conversation that we’re talking about of never feeling like my body was right, for whatever comparison group, you know, and we just, we grew up with these expectations and these images. And, you know, as I got older, and I had kids, and I have a husband who loves me, for who I am, I started to get a little bit comfortable, especially during the pandemic, where we had, you know, easy access to the snacks and things and I, I put on some weight and wasn’t really mindful about it. And I remember this was probably the first time in my life where I thought, Okay, what’s my motivation here? What is, is this, because I’m being self-conscious, is this an extension of some of my other challenges that I faced, and I, you know, I really got to this place where I said, you know, I’m going to be 50, not, not too long from now, I have two young boys, I want to be able to keep up with them. I want us to be able to go on vacations, where we, we went to on a national park tour not that long ago. And it was pretty intense in terms of physical activity, I want to be able to be take part in those kinds of physical activities and to be a role model for them in that way. And that really helped me because it’s not only motivated me, I’ve lost, you know, 20 pounds or so since, since I started, I exercise more regularly, I feel better. But I’m not tied to this superficial image of the ideal woman on the cover of magazine, I think because I’m older too. But I really like what you’re saying about understanding your why. And it’s not sustainable to, to always be trying to be somebody that you’re, you’re not or to, to have these unrealistic expectations, especially as we’re moving through different stages of our lives.
Anne Poirier Yeah, our bodies are always changing. Right. And I think when you, when you talk about comparison, I think that’s a really important thing to talk about a little bit because especially with social media, there’s so much comparison of happiness, joy, of success, and of bodies and of beauty and all of those things and how can we start to model something different for you know, our next generation, so they don’t have to be always thinking they’re not good enough, you know, in the bodies that they have. And a lot of the comparison I sometimes I talk about the comparison to a younger you too because a lot of people that I work with are comparing themselves to a 20-year-old person. And oh, well, if I could just, if I could just lose the weight because I was, I looked good. They’re, they’re looking back on a picture. And I will ask, Well, how did you feel when you were there? And they will always say, Well, I didn’t like myself when I was there. Right? Because in the space, they’re always looking for something else, or wanting to be something else or wanting to look different. So the comparison of not only other people in our world, but comparison to yourself, is not usually helpful, because you’ve lived a whole lot of experiences between, you know, when you’re 20, or 30. And when you’re 50, there’s a lot of stuff that goes on in there, and a lot of other, our bodies change, and they are going to keep continuing to change. I’m not going to look the same in 10 years. So, you know, it’s how can we start today, seeing our, our bodies differently, and starting to appreciate what they do for us versus what they look like?
Kim Meninger Right? Yeah, that’s a powerful statement right there. And I’m curious, because this was such a big part of your life, what resources helped you to get from that mindset to the mindset that you have today?
Anne Poirier Well, I think that body image when I, when I looked at my own body image of my own kind of body dysmorphia, and I laid it out on a timeline, I did a little body timeline for myself. So I kind of saw how my body changed throughout the years, depending on circumstances, depending on what was going on. And that helped. When I chose to switch careers, I went back to school to get my eating disorder certification at graduate program, at my alma mater, believe it or not, and where I’d been disordered before, but so a little bit of memory there, but it was actually really a great full circle. And so some of the resources, Health at Every Size is a great book. And Intuitive Eating is a great book, those two resources have really been inspirational in my own recovery journey. And that’s kind of why I wrote my own book was to just share my story and to let people know that they’re not alone. And that we have these thoughts and beliefs about ourselves that we can question. There’s a couple of other great books, Body kKndness. And the Body Keeps the Score, which is really interesting because that’s about trauma and different ways that our body holds on to certain things. So there’s some really great resources out there around all of this.
Kim Meninger Oh, that’s really great to know. Because I’m imagining that there are people listening who would think I don’t even know where to start. I’m seeing myself in your story, but I don’t even know where to start.
Anne Poirier Yeah, and in the, in the book, at the end, I do have some resources, you know, because I asked for help. And I think we, we sometimes think asking for help is weakness, but asking for help, is the, the most courageous thing we can do. Because we’re becoming aware of something that’s not, that it’s something that’s not right with us. And I need some help here. And who do I turn to? What do I need? What kind of help do I need? Sometimes it comes from books, sometimes it comes from therapists, sometimes it comes from medication, you know, sometimes it can come from a doctor, but it’s, it’s seeking the help that you, that you need for what’s going on with you.
Kim Meninger I’m glad you said that about asking for help as a courageous act, because I couldn’t agree more. And so this is your work, right? This is what you do. How do you, what are some of the ways that you help people,
Anne Poirier I listen to their stories. And I think one of the biggest pieces of the work that I do is I validate every single thing that people have gone through, I have not had somebody surprise me with any of their story. And I and I, only because I have I’ve lived a lot of it. And I haven’t lived some of it. But I understand the feelings that are underneath it. Understand the shame, and I understand the guilt. And I understand all of the, the hard feelings that we try to ignore and push down. And so allowing them to speak their story and letting it come out of their mouth actually as a healing process without judgment, and then allowing them to see their story from a different perspective, that it’s not them. It’s what they’ve lived through and experienced, but it’s not who they are. And how can we look at it and see it differently. And work because it is what it is, our past and our story is what it is, then. And so now where do we go? I can’t change the past. But I can look at it differently. And I can stay in this moment in the present moment and say where do I go from here? With all that that happened? And with all the beliefs that I held on to tightly what beliefs are here to stay? What beliefs do I want to hold on to, what, what’s beliefs support me? What’s working, and then what’s not really working? What’s not supporting me? It might have supported me and been a lifesaver 20 years ago, but now it’s not supporting me. And we can, we can actually thank that particular belief system for, you know, 20 years ago helping you get through in a really emotional time. Because it did, you didn’t know how, you didn’t have any other tools to move through it. And so it helped, you know, so I said, I sometimes will say thank goodness for the food, you know, the food, the food sometimes saves us from ourselves in certain periods of time. And yet now, it’s it isn’t doing that serving that same purpose. So how do we move forward from here?
Kim Meninger I love that idea of recognizing the purpose, and the role that it played at a different point, and that you simply don’t need that anymore. There’s another way. Yeah, so you mentioned having daughters? What’s it like for them to have grown up with you and your story? You mentioned their forgiveness. Did you have conversations out loud around this? How did you, how did you get to a better place with them?
Anne Poirier That’s exactly what I had to do. I first wrote a forgiveness letter and a letter, forgiving, you know, asking for their forgiveness, but an apology to my daughters, you know, missing out on certain events, I don’t think that they remembered certain things, I can feel them more than they can remember them. But I don’t remember certain events, because my brain was somewhere else, you know, I was off somewhere else thinking about this or that.. Or how many calories is it you know, all the numbers and the things that would go on in my head. And so I missed out a lot on what, what they were doing, although I was always present, but not present, if that makes sense. So we did have some conversations. And as I learned more, I shared more. And I shared the books that I was reading, and I shared the information that I was learning and I had no idea about this. And I had no idea about this. And did you know that and they are, they have grown up to be comfortable and confident in their bodies. And, you know, I keep my fingers crossed, my oldest just had a baby. And she’s, you know, this is my body. And she’s, she’s doing her workouts because she likes to do them. And she feels good doing them. She keeps you know, keeps her strong. But she’s like, Mom, my body will be whatever. So she posted in a year. So mom, there’ll be things in my closet that we’ll just have to, you know, get rid of or whatever. So she’s very, you know, just love seeing that attitude around her body changing as she’s getting older.
Kim Meninger So what a gift to both of them, because even had you not had your story, they would have been exposed to the same media and societal pressures that the rest of us have been. So their opportunity to learn from you and to be able to approach this head on in ways that many women aren’t is such a gift.
Anne Poirier Yes. And I think that they still, you know, there are still those moments, because we all get them especially I think this time of year where it’s everywhere you look. Yeah. And that, that always, it’s always such a hard time of year for me even just to see it over and over and over again. And why can’t people know the truth about this or the truth about that or all the stuff that goes on in my head, but that’s my stuff. It’s not, it’s not you know, the beauty industry and the weight loss industry are billion dollar industries so they’re gonna keep doing their thing. And I’m a person fighting for, for something different. And there’s a series of us that are doing that, you know, lots of anti-diet coaches out there now and intuitive eating coaches and body confidence coaches who are doing this work. So there, there are places to go for, for some help and support in this in this space.
Kim Meninger That’s a really good, really good sign or it brings me hope too because you’re right, I mean, we’re having this conversation in January, a new year when the messaging is just so loud and, and it makes me wonder too, you mentioned this a little bit but after all that you’ve been through, do you get triggered? Do you find yourself having to consciously prevent yourself from slipping, like what does it look like today?
Anne Poirier Not, not anymore. Today I see things and I more have an anger space. Right. But I you know, validate that and understand why and where it’s coming from and I try not to push any of any of that on others. So it doesn’t trigger me as it used to. I mean, even, even during healing, there were triggering times. And every once in a while, when there’s someone close to me that’s doing something that I might not necessarily agree with, or I just have to have conversations with myself and say this is, this is theirs. And, you know, I can shift my conversation away from body. And we don’t have to talk about weight, we don’t have to talk about body and we don’t have to talk about foods, we can, there’s plenty of other things we can talk about. So I call it my own sandbox, like my body is my sandbox. And so if I want somebody to talk about my body, I’ll invite them in. But for the most part, it’s not, it’s not their body, it’s not your business, right? It’s my body, and their body is their body.
Kim Meninger So they get to, get to set their own sandbox boundaries. Exactly.
Anne Poirier They can play in their sandbox, and if they want me in there, I’ll go in and play with them.
Kim Meninger I like it, you know, just one of the things that I was thinking about going back to what we talked about some of the medicators is, you know, if it’s a substance abuse problem, it’s really hard to go back to any kind of a moderating our moderate, not sure what the right word is, … , to drinking in moderation or using a substance in moderation. And so a lot of people who’ve overcome substance abuse have had to let go of those substances entirely. But obviously, we can’t let go of food and exercise. And so when you think about just taking care of yourself today, and whatever kind of exercise you do, or eating thoughtfully that you do, would you say that it’s been primarily the mindset shifts that have helped you to stay on a path that’s still healthy, but doesn’t cross that line into the…
Anne Poirier The other side. I think, for me, it’s really tuning into my body and allowing myself to tune into my body. You know, it was learning how to understand what hunger felt like for me, listening to my body after I ate certain foods, how does it feel? Am I lethargic? Do I have a stomachache? Or don’t feel good? Or does, am I full of energy? Do I feel good after these particular foods, so no food is off limits. There’s no right or wrong or good or bad. It’s just how food feels for me. I eat pretty much when I’m hungry, right? So I listen to my body for hunger cues, I listen to my body for fullness cues, I really respect what my body’s trying to tell me. Before I was always using something external, I should do this, I should do this, I have to do this. This is the plan I’m on. So it was always an external plan or something that I was following. And now I’ve just switched it to let me ask me, How do I want to move my body today to take a walk? Do I want to stretch? Do I want to do some, some strength training? Do I want to go swimming? What do I want to do today? What’s my body feel like doing? And sometimes my body says, let’s just take a nap and meditate or something versus actually moving. And other times, you know, we do some movements. So it’s, it’s different. It’s a different way of seeing my body and treating my body.
Kim Meninger Oh, that’s so inspirational. It’s really, really powerful to hear you say that that’s where you are today, having come from such a long road to, to get here. I know you mentioned your book. Do you want to tell us a little bit more about that?
Anne Poirier Sure. Well, it is basically my story. And at the end of each chapter, I do have what I call stepbacks. So you know, stepping back from our life and asking a couple questions so we can see what has been planted, you know, what seeds have been planted in our brains and what beliefs are we holding on to and what our support, what things are supporting us and what things aren’t. So there’s all of step backs all the way through the book to the last chapter where they’re step forwards, and I kind of share you know, the tools that I used. I share the people that I, I either followed or read their books. I share all of that … lays out my, my journey from in the subtitle is from self-loathing to self-acceptance, and that’s really, it’s called The Body Joyful. So it’s finding joy pockets and peace pockets and love pockets through my days and keeping, keeping moving forward. So yeah. For your listeners, I would like to offer, if they would like a digital copy of the book. I’m more than happy to send them a digital copy. They just have to email me at Anne@thebodyjoyful and I will send along an email copy for them because I want to make sure that if people need this book that they, they can get it.
Kim Meninger That’s so generous, generous of you. And, you know, I can, I can tell that this is very mission-driven for you. Yes, my. So I just want to thank you so much for this powerful conversation. I’ve learned a lot. And I know that there probably isn’t a woman on earth who couldn’t benefit from your story. Any final thoughts as we’re wrapping up today?
Anne Poirier Well, if people do want a support place, a place where there’s a different conversation around food and eating and weight and exercise, I have, I do have a private Facebook group. It’s free, called the Body Joyful Revolution. So we’re a community of women who are just, we share different resources that they might not see, especially today. You know, it’s all about intuitive eating and self-talk and our mindset and taking care of ourselves and body image. So there’s a different conversation and a different feel to that group. So anybody is welcome over there, too.
Kim Meninger Oh, that’s wonderful. And we’ll link to the resources that you shared in the show notes too, for anybody who is interested. And thank you again, Anne, this has been such a great conversation and one that I think is really valuable for everyone to hear.
Anne Poirier Thank you for bringing impostors and this, the impostor syndrome out into the open and letting it be seen because I think it’s so important for, for women to be able to see when they’re stepping into being somebody that they really aren’t. And that, that we could shine the light on who they are. So thanks Kim for this conversation.