My name is Marci Warhaft and I’m a body image expert, founder of the Fit vs Fiction Body Image workshops, and author of The Body Image Survival Guide for Parents and The Good Stripper: A Soccer Mom’s Memoir of Lies, Loss and Lap Dances. I was born and raised in Montreal, Quebec, but have lived in Ontario for over 20 years. I’m also a mom to two amazing young men.
When I was 7 years old, I believed I could be anything. By the time I was 17, I believed the only thing worth being was skinny and that belief almost destroyed me. Life started out perfectly for me. I had two parents who loved me as well as two older siblings to look up to. I was 10 years old when life began to throw some major challenges at me starting with my father abandoning his family and leaving my mom to raise us by herself. It was challenging but she did an incredible job. My brother took over the role as man of the house and I adored him. When I was 17, my big brother got sick and passed away. This completely altered the course of my life. I no longer felt safe in the world or deserving of the space I was taking up in it. I felt that my brother deserved to be alive more than I did. I tried to be “perfect” in order to earn my place on this planet and that led to a 20 year struggle with a severe eating disorder.
As ruthless as my eating disorder was, it served as a distraction when I continued to be faced with trauma after trauma. Some of these traumas included: A bank robbing stepfather, several miscarriages, the deaths of both of my parents, my own near death experience, and an extremely dysfunctional marriage.
When I was in my early 30s, I suffered something called “Traumatic Overload” which led to dissociative behaviour and a destructive secret, double life. I was barely eating or sleeping and heading for disaster. I had reached a point where I had completely given up on myself, but knew that my sons deserved a mother that was healthy and happy. I decided to make the changes necessary to reclaim my life. The first thing I needed to do was face my eating disorder and I did so by entering a treatment program. I was determined to recover and was lucky enough to reach that goal.
This experience inspired me to become an outspoken advocate and activist in the body image movement. I felt compelled to save other kids from going through the body image and self-esteem issues I battled with for so long. I created The Fit vs Fiction Body Image workshops, which is an interactive program for grades one through 12 that empowers kids with the information they need to grow up with the confidence they deserve. I created a program for parents and teachers as well. I continue to counsel people of all ages on how to live with healthy self-esteem in an image obsessed society.
What would you say has been the biggest shift in your life since turning 40 (or 50)?
Turning fifty gave me a sense of confidence and strength that I had yet to experience. It also involved two major life shifts.
- I decided to write and publish my memoir. I always knew that if I was going to share my story, I was going to do with 100% brutal honesty. A big chunk of my story is messy, painful and somewhat salacious. I had spent years letting shame and guilt from the traumas I had experienced and the sometimes self-destructive ways in which I handled them, keep me from enjoying my life. I decided that it was time to forgive myself for my mistakes and release the fear I carried about my secrets being exposed.By revealing my secrets myself, I was able to put them behind me and focus on my recovery, my strength, and the warrior spirit that kept me fighting and alive. In sharing my story so publicly, I prepared myself for backlash and judgement, and was surprised when I was met with compassion and understanding instead. Countless readers reached out to me to thank me for helping them feel less alone with their own struggles and feel hopeful about the future.I cannot properly express how liberating an experience that was. I discovered that I didn’t have to be afraid of living authentically. I believe that for the first time in my life, I can say, act and feel whatever ways are right for me, without worrying about judgement from anybody else. This revelation allowed me to discover things about myself I had yet to acknowledge, which brings me to shift #2.
- When I took the time to really think about who I was and who I wanted to be, and when I reflected on my past relationships, I came to a realization that wasn’t a complete surprise to me. Despite living as a heterosexual for most of my life, I know now that I am not straight. I haven’t figured out exactly which, if any, label is right for me, but I am 100% sure that any relationship I have going forward will be with a woman. Once again, I feel liberated.
I have no idea what the future holds for me, but what I do know is that turning 50 last year gave me the insight and courage to fearlessly follow whatever paths bring me the most joy. I feel extremely grateful for this.
When do you feel you are most powerful?
There are two times that I feel the most powerful.
- Blasting music through my speakers and dancing around my house is when I feel most in touch with my body and clears my head of any stress or anxiety I may be feeling. Music is a powerful mood booster and so is moving my body to its beats.
- I am a very outspoken advocate against an kind of discrimination. I am not afraid to stand up to anyone spewing hate or stand up for anyone needing defending. I feel extremely powerful when I am speaking out against injustice.
What are the top 3 most important things to you right now?
My children will always be the most important people in my life. I am incredibly proud of who they are and am excited to see who they continue to become.
My health is very important to me, however, It’s not enough to focus on physical health when mental health is just as important, if not more. I’ve lived in extremes when it comes to my physical health. I’ve overtrained and put myself on unhealthy diets in hopes of achieving the ideal physique and I will never do that again. I have since learned how to include rest and ALL types of food into a lifestyle that keeps me strong physically, emotionally and psychologically.
I am dedicated to teaching people how to live with healthy body image in an image obsessed society and how to love themselves unconditionally, in spite of any self-perceived flaws or past mistakes.
How do you make sure your actions are aligned with what’s most important to you?
I know as long as I am honest with myself about who I am, what I want, and what I need to be truly happy then I can encourage others to do the same thing. I focus on the strength it took me to overcome my challenges and use that strength to set new goals.
What seeds are you planting today for the future?
Truth be told, I’m not much of a planner. If life has taught me one thing, it’s that I never know what’s ahead for me. I just know that if I keep myself focused on the things I want to accomplish, I’ll get there when the time is right and when I’m ready for it.
What advice would you give someone who is interested in redesigning midlife?
The idea of change is much scarier than the actual process of it. A lot of people fear the unknown, but I always see it as an opportunity filled with hope. Staying where we are can feel safe, but offers very little chance to evolve and grow. Taking that first step to make a change can be intimidating, but I promise you, it’s absolutely worth it!
How can people connect with you and your work?
My Body image website: fitvsfiction.com
Facebook or Instagram: Marci Warhaft