How to make peace with the mirror

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Lindsay (left) and Lexie (right) share body positive messages online at beautyredefined.com as well as Facebook (facebook.com/BeautyRedefined) and Instagram (@beauty_redefined). (Photo by Matt Clayton Photography)

Lindsay (left) and Lexie (right) share body positive messages online at beautyredefined.net as well as Facebook (facebook.com/BeautyRedefined) and Instagram (@beauty_redefined). (Photo by Matt Clayton Photography)

Beauty Redefined, a non-profit organization created by identical twins Lexie and Lindsay Kite, teaches girls and women how to trade shame, jealousy and unrealistic expectations about their body for a healthy self-image that will help them achieve their goals. The Kite sisters, both of whom earned doctorate degrees studying media, share their message in Utah Valley through research-backed online education, social media, speaking engagements and an eight-week Body Image Resilience program.

In our Q&A session with Lexie, we learn how to avoid negative thinking traps.

[pullquote]

Four Sources of Body Positive Power

1. Mental
a. Increase media literacy by understanding how and why media is engineered the way it is.
b. Think critically about beauty and health ideals.
c. Critically self-reflect about your own beliefs and choices.
d. Make conscious decisions about the media you consume.

2. Social
a. Consider your influence in the way you talk about your body and others’ bodies.
b. Understand implications of how you treat your body.
c. Use your influence to support others and to promote positive messages in conversation and social media.

3. Physical
a. Use your body as an instrument rather than an object by setting and achieving fitness goals.
b. Redefine health for yourself according to internal indicators about how you feel.

4. Spiritual
a. Understand you are more than just a body and tap into higher level thinking in whatever way suits you.[/pullquote]

UV: What inspired you to create Beauty Redefined? 

Lexie: My sister Lindsay and I both took a media class at Utah State University. We learned about how the media is engineered to affect us in certain ways and how it is driven by advertising dollars. We started thinking about how much that approach has damaged women — including ourselves. We wanted to help people recognize and reject these harmful ideas. We kept studying these topics and eventually earned Ph.D.s. We think our research and training is important because the world needs credible experts who can help women tackle this issue.   

UV: What makes Beauty Redefined’s message unique?

Lexie: There are many well-meaning organizations and viral videos that attempt to help girls and women feel better about themselves with the overarching message of “You are beautiful.” But that message is still completely centered on what we look like. And think about it like this — do people ever try to boost a man’s self-esteem by saying “If you only knew how beautiful you are . . .” No! Beauty Redefined is not focused on telling people they are beautiful. We focus on teaching people that they are more than bodies. We teach them that they have purposes other than to decorate the world.

UV: What have you learned from researching body image? 

Lexie: For my dissertation, I studied 100 women along the Wasatch Front from ages 18 to 30. I gave them a basic questionnaire and didn’t specify I was studying body image. When we asked how they felt about their body, 80 percent of all participants talked exclusively and negatively about the way their body looked. Responses ranged from worrying about losing baby weight to thinking they are anorexic. The research also shows that this body anxiety negatively affects relationships and intimacy in big ways.

UV: Did your research uncover any positive findings? 

Lexie: Yes! There were rays of shining light, too. Ten percent of the women I studied talked about their bodies in positive ways, specifically the things their body could do — like carry and deliver a child.

UV: So what should we do about all of this? 

Lexie: We have found there are four sources of power to breaking free from self-objectification: physical, social, mental and spiritual. Our Body Image Resilience program addresses these topics. One practical tip is to go on a media fast for three days. Studies have shown a correlation between how much time we spend on social media and body anxiety. When people go on a media fast, they start to become re-sensitized to those negative messages that once felt normal. They can learn how to unsubscribe and unfollow that mode of thinking. Meditation is another great tool. Being physically active has huge benefits, too. When women set physical goals about what their body can do, whether it is walking at lunch or running a certain number of miles, the results are positive. We want them to think about using their body as an instrument, not an ornament.

UV: How can mothers cultivate healthy body image in their daughters? 

Lexie: Moms are central to their daughter’s body image. Pledge to never say a negative comment about your body in front of your kids, even when you are talking to your husband and you think your kids are not listening — they are. Don’t talk about celebrities’ bodies in either positive or negative ways. Change the way you talk to your friends. Unfortunately, many of us bond over body shame. Plus, when you talk negatively about your body, you are reminding others to fret about their perceived imperfections. Instead of always giving looks-based compliments, start praising personalities and personal attributes. People will remember and appreciate those compliments so much more anyway.

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Kate Lehnhof Nash first joined Bennett Communications as a summer intern in 2009. Now, as an associate editor, she writes for magazines including Utah Valley Magazine, Utah Valley Bride and Prosper. Kate lives in Springville with her husband Steve and enjoys running, reading, sushi and her french bulldog, Chief.

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