Body Image is an important topic to me because our relationship with our bodies and our body image is complex, especially for women and girls, and it lasts a lifetime.
The societal challenges to healthy body image don’t stop…and just like any relationship, having a healthy relationship with our bodies typically requires ongoing attention.
My guest today, Pam Luk, is intimately familiar with how the world can make you feel uncomfortable in your skin, and what we can do about it. She’s passionate about body diversity and empowering kids to have a healthy body image.
Listen to hear:
About Our Guest, Pam Luk
Pam Luk is the founder of Ember & Ace, an athletic wear brand for plus size kids. Growing up playing sports, Pam learned firsthand the importance of finding active wear that fits. Not finding it is one of the main reasons kids quit sports. Ember & Ace launched their first five-piece essentials collection on February 2nd 2023. Visit emberandace.com to learn more.
To learn more about Pam and her work, connect with her here:
About Your Host, Carmelita / Cat / Millie Tiu
Mom, spouse, coach, podcaster, wordsmith, legal eagle. Endlessly curious about how we can show up better for ourselves – because when we do that, we also show up better for our kids and those around us. Visit carmelitatiu.com to learn more about Cat, and for info on 1:1 coaching, the mom collective, and her monthly newsletter.
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there's a quote that I, I remember reading and it sort of stuck with me. I think it's Lily Tomlin, um, the actor and comedian. She said, you know, I, I saw a problem one day and I said, somebody should do something about that. And then I realized, I'm someone.Carmelita (Cat) Tiu, Host:
Welcome to know them at be them. Raise them a show to help busy, mindful growth oriented moms. Stay informed and inspired. As they navigate their daughter's crucial tween. And teen years, so they can show up for themselves and their daughters the way they want to. I'm your host Carmelita too. And I am grateful. You're here. Remember to follow me. @knowberaisethem on Instagram or Facebook and check out no B raise them.com. I actually just included a tab that includes information about what I've been doing on the coaching side. And there's a link to. Schedule a complimentary 30 minute coaching conversation if you'd like. So if there are things in your life you want to accomplish, whether it's a bucket list goal. Redefining yourself after a life transition. We're getting clear on how to make the impact you want to at work or at home. Let's chat. If nothing else we'll both leave the conversation with a new connection. So if you've been listening to those podcasts for a while, you know that I've done past episodes on body image and body positivity. With Debbie Serafin, for instance, she's a body relationship coach and Emily Lauren Dick, a body positivity expert and author. I'll link to those in the show notes, or you can go to Noby raise them.com and click on the body image podcast category. The reason I hit on this topic repeatedly. And it's so important. Is because as you know, our relationship with our bodies and our body image, Is complex, especially for women and girls. And it lasts a lifetime. The societal challenges to healthy body image. Don't stop. And just like any relationship, really having a healthy relationship with our bodies typically requires ongoing attention. My guest today pam luck is familiar with how the world can make you feel uncomfortable in your skin and what we can do about it She's passionate about body diversity and empowering kids to have a healthy body image. She's also the founder of Ember and ACE and athletic wear brand for plus sized kids. She grew up playing sports and learned firsthand the importance of finding active wear that fits. Not finding it is actually one of the main reasons kids quit sports. Amber and AEs launched their first five-piece essentials collection on February 2nd, 2023. Here's our conversation welcome Pam. I'm super excited to chat with you about what you do and Ember and Ace and let's, let's, I guess just jump into it.Pam Luk:
Sure thing. Well, I'll be very formal and introduce myself and say, hi, I'm Pam Luck. I'm the founder of Ember and Ace which is, an athletic wear brand exclusively for plus size kids and. My story is really what led me to start Ember Ace. I have been plus sized my entire life and I played soccer and I danced as a teenager and I struggled to find soccer clothing. I was a goalkeeper, so a goalie shirt and pants that fit me. I remember in high school having to shop in the men's department to try and find something that would fit, which is not fun when you're 17, fyi. And for dance, you know, struggling to find leotards. And so I have a daughter, a teenage daughter, and she loves dance and we're struggling to find leotards. And so I'm like, it's been 30 years since I danced and it's still a problem. Why is this still a problem? You know, keeping kids involved in activities that they love is something that really matters to me as a parent. And I'm, so, I'm like, I can help solve this. This is a problem that I understand. It's a problem that I'm passionate about. This is a group of kids that I used to be, I, I was a plus size kid, so I said, I can partner with the right kind of folks to help me make this happen. And so I just decided, and it was time, let's, let's solve this problem because it's so solv.Carmelita (Cat) Tiu, Host:
I love that you saw the problem and took that additional step of making yourself part of the solution.Pam Luk:
Yeah, there's a quote that I, I remember reading and it sort of stuck with me. I think it's Lily Tomlin, um, the actor and comedian. She said, you know, I, I saw a problem one day and I said, somebody should do something about that. And then I realized, I'm someone.Carmelita (Cat) Tiu, Host:
Hmm. That just gives me little goosebumps. Um, so I'd love to know your thoughts on why it's important for kids to have clothes that fit.Pam Luk:
Yeah. Well, I think any of us can relate to not having clothing that fits you well, right. As you, maybe as your body has changed and sort of how you feel. But, you know, I think for me it's one of the reasons kids leave the activities that they love. There was a, a qualitative study that was done in the UK and just they asked a bunch of kids and they said, look, the, the uniform doesn't fit and the shirt rides up and I'm worried that my belly's gonna show like I want no part of it. They want no part of it. And so, A lot of times, and you know how teenagers can be, they don't wanna talk to their parents. So like all of a sudden they're not interested right in that sport anymore. They're not interested in dance and you try to get an answer. But for a lot of these kids, they'll just quit the things that if the uniforms don't fit, they'll just quit. And you know, I remember how much. I love dance, and I remember how much I, being a part of the team for the soccer team, that's where all my friends were, right? When we used to go to away games and you to ride on the bus and all of the, I feel like, oh, there's a lot of connection, particularly in your teenage years for doing things like karate or dance or soccer or basketball, and even in the summertime, right? Doing summer recreational programs so these kids don't get to be part of. And so they're losing out on these opportunities to be members of a team, to be in community with their kids, and just all the benefits of physical activity, right? The mental health benefits, improving your sleep, just all of the good things that come from moving your body. And now because they can't find these clothes, they just can't participate. And I think I remember very distinctly feeling like this isn't a place for. If this was a place for me, they would have clothing that fit me. And so it, you start to feel like you don't belong in those spaces and that can be a really tough message. Particularly you can carry that into adulthood where these places aren't for you. And so I think it's really important. We have to make it clear that these activities are for you and you do belong in these spaces as young as possible. And for a lot of kids, they're outgrowing clothing when puberty sort of hits junior high, right? So to me, it's really important that we try to catch this as early as possible and say, you do belong here and it's okay for you to be in these places and, and to do these things that you love.Carmelita (Cat) Tiu, Host:
That is so true about the importance of, of addressing it at a younger age too. Cuz you think about all the lessons that you start to internalize just because you repeatedly are exposed to them. Whether it's witnessing your parents volunteering, like once you see it over and over, it becomes ingrained as part of an identity that you can assume or you can kind of own as like an extension of your family values and who you are. And to your point, if you're repeatedly seeing, that clothes don't fit you, then absolutely. I can see how that can become, um, like a negative thought that just starts coming back over and over and, and could even I would imagine, affect kids to where it, it could extend even beyond a particular activity, but not just, I don't belong in this activity, but I don't belong in this space. I don't know if I belong in this class, in this world. You know? And the, that negative spiral of, um, feeling excluded could be potentially really painful, I would think.Pam Luk:
Yeah, for sure.Carmelita (Cat) Tiu, Host:
Well, having been through a lot of these experiences yourself and now in the stages of iterating a product for, plus size kids, what, what would you say are some tips for parents that, that have kids who feel uncomfortable in their bodies? Like are there things that, we could say, or potentially things we should do?Pam Luk:
Sure. Um, I will say definitely start with making sure that they have clothing that fits and I, I mean that, you know, sometimes you feel uncomfortable in your body because maybe you've grown from spring to fall, right? And so you're trying on some of the things that used to work and they don't feel comfortable anymore, and so sometimes you, you have to realize the problem isn't your body, it's the clothing. So trying to address and get a few pieces, and I know it's tough, kids grow so fast, but having a few pieces that fit really well that they feel confident and comfortable in, So really, and some kids are great about saying, Hey, these don't fit really well anymore. They don't work for my body anymore, and some kids don't. So trying to just tune in and, and check on things like that. But I would also say first and for. Don't panic that you're gonna get it wrong. It's okay to sort of fumble through it a little bit, but always start, I think, by just acknowledging sort of what they're saying. I think there's always this rush to be like, no, you're okay. It's okay. And you move right past. Maybe the emotional, like, let's just work through how this feels for you, um, and try to get a handle on, I understand that you're struggling, I'm struggling with, with your body and some of the changes and how you feel in your body and maybe how it looks relative to some of the other kids in your class. And sort of just trying to ask questions I think is also a big piece of this. Trying to not put words in their mouth per se, but sort of tease out a little bit, sort of what's going on. Um, and try to listen more than talk. And I know it's hard. I I have a teenager. Single word answers. Yes, I understand. But I think sometimes what ends up happening in my house is I'll raise something, we'll talk about something. It'll be a really brief conversation because what she's doing is sort of marinating and working through that. And so that same conversation will come back around. So I guess that's the other piece. Don't feel like you have to get it all handled in a single talk. And this is also gonna be something, um, that comes. a lot as bodies just continue to change for your entire life and through the rest of your junior high and high school. Um, and I would also say let's, yes, we can talk about the things that are challenging, but let's also talk about like what are you excited about? What makes you feel strong in your body? What makes you feel good in your body? And can we find a way to maybe bring more of.Carmelita (Cat) Tiu, Host:
would say the same for me if I'm struggling with something like, what can I do that makes me feel strong or makes me feel grounded or makes me feel good? And let's try to do some of that in sort of, yes, absolutely working through some of the tough feelings about maybe what's going on, but also let's talk about the things that my body does really well.Carmelita (Cat) Tiu, Host:
Yes. Yeah. And, and I love that it's, it's focused on kind of the doing of it. Um, I had an interview with a, um, she runs a, a group called Body Confident Moms in Australia. in any event. she really emphasizes when you're dealing with tweens and teens and there's that dip in confidence inevitably, especially for girls, to really look at your body as as a tool and not as an ornament. So exactly what you were saying, looking at what, what am I really excited about, what my body can do, how, what can my body do that makes me feel proud? you know, removing your value from, the looks can be really, really empowering.Pam Luk:
and I, I think an another piece of the puzzle that's sort of along that line is, Social media. I mean, I know we all have a lot of good and bad feelings about social media, particularly when it comes to our kids, but I think we can find a way, again, to try and pull out some of the positive components of having social media access. And one of those things is try to diversify the kinds of bodies you see in your feed. There are a ton of plus size athletes that do basically every single sport you can possibly think of. I follow surfers, bikers, hikers, dancers, marathon runners, I mean the list basketball players, the, the list goes on and on, and so, You can find people that have bigger bodies and that do the kinds of activities maybe that you enjoy, and seeing people being successful and having fun and getting out and doing the things that they love. So I feel like to see your body is sort of this tool to, to do these things, it helps you to see others doing these things, and particularly others in bodies that look more like yours than maybe what you would traditionally see in most mediaCarmelita (Cat) Tiu, Host:
Hmm. I could not agree more that the absence of representation can really skew someone's understanding of what's possible and what's healthy and what's normal. Like I, I was a kid in the eighties and, and there was a very specific type of model you saw in advertisements and catalogs, and I'm so grateful that we've evolved somewhat. Um, but obviously there's room for more growth and hence em Reneece.Pam Luk:
Yeah, and I would say the one final thing I want folks to sort of try to take away as they're thinking about conversations and things that they have with their kids about bodies and modeling the kinds of behavior. This goes back to what you were talking about, right? About what your kids see you doing and saying, we all as adults have to stop talking about individual bodies, including our own, particularly in a negative way. And I think. That's tough for a lot of people, but I think it's a really good place to start is to try and really catch yourself you're making just a off the cuff remark, right and so how are you talking about your own body in front of your children? How are you talking about other bodies', celebrities? People at your high school reunion coworkers, right? How are you talking about their bodies? And your kids are sort of hearing all that. And, and so if in one breath you're saying all bodies are good bodies and they do amazing things, but then they hear you talking about, Ugh, I put on 15 pounds.Carmelita (Cat) Tiu, Host:
right? Yeah.Pam Luk:
It's sort of unravels, right? They're hearing That's a very two different messages. So which one is it?Carmelita (Cat) Tiu, Host:
Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.Pam Luk:
So I know it's hard, and particularly we in the United States are bombarded and surrounded by diet culture. It's billion dollar industry. But that's a small step. If folks are like, okay, that's, I'm trying. Tell me how, what's one thing I can do? And one thing you can do is be mindful about how you talk about your own body in front of your, in front of your kids.Carmelita (Cat) Tiu, Host:
Hmm. You know, it's funny, I, what you said just brought up for me this idea that somewhere along the way in, in parenting daughters and them, I, learned that we shouldn. Comment on how pretty a girl is or the, you know, because they might think that that's the primary source of value and then become, you know, obsessed with that. I do have to say though that I've recently started to question that and kind of, challenge it a little bit when you have girls as daughters or there are girls in your sphere of influence that do not fit a standard of beauty that diet culture embraces. um, or not even diet culture, but I'd say mainstream media hasn't been as quick to embrace. So whether it's, you know, different physical abilities or different sizes or, um, skin tones, I, I kind of feel like if you're dealing with kids that are outside of, this western ideal of beauty then have at it, like compliment them left and right because they're not gonna get it from the outside world or from the media for the most part. Maybe things change, but you know, the, the messaging so far outweighs to the, to the negative in a way. that hearing some positive reinforcement from you that they're okay and their body is beautiful to me, feels. It feels like they need that. Otherwise, the only input they're getting is that they don't see anyone like them in this setting or that setting. that just came up for me relatively recently, but how do you feel about that?Pam Luk:
I think as an, there is no, there's no black and white here. It's always gonna be, I think it's like in all things parenting, right? when are there times when that needs to come up? And then when are there times when you're also focused on other things? And I think the flip side of that coin is also, Starting as kids get older to start to understand who benefits from making you feel poorly about what you look like, who benefits from feeding you a certain story about eye shape or skin color or body size, who benefits from those things. And then sort of talking about the messaging that we're getting, and so not seeing those things as truth, but understanding what the message is that they're sort of receiving and also, so they're defining beauty one way. Why would they wanna do that? What are they trying to.Carmelita (Cat) Tiu, Host:
What's the benefit they're looking for, but also how do you see, and then asking, asking your own child what's beautiful to you. What, what do you see as beautiful? What, you know what I mean? So trying to even just, yes, and it, I would say yes. I think it can be challenging to not hear that your body is beautiful, particularly if you struggle with your size, but also trying to just broaden and talk about other things and beauty in a different way, I guess asCarmelita (Cat) Tiu, Host:
at the same. Um, because I do think to your point, particularly girls, so much value is tied into physical aesthetic and just all the things that to some degree you don't have a tremendous amount of control over. And that's gonna obviously change over time. Right? As you age suddenly your value diminishes what is happening? I don't know. No, that's not, that is not the case. SoCarmelita (Cat) Tiu, Host:
Right. you know, something that, I noticed when you talk about Ember and Ace and the population that it serves, you use the term plus size kids I'm curious what your thoughts are on that and you know, are there nuances we should consider?Pam Luk:
I think there are, I will start by saying I have reclaimed the word fat, so I do invite people to use the word fat to describe me when you're talking about my body. Because there is a, an effort to sort of take that word and actually use it in a way that it was intended to be used, which is a descriptor of a body that has more fat than another, right? You have a thin body that has less fat, you have a fat body that has more fat, and sort of, that's where the definition ends. And I think, the challenge is around, there is still, there are those two things I would say. First that word is still used and has historically been used to try and harm people in bigger bodies. Um, and they do that by attaching other attributes. Other fat didn't just mean bigger body, it means lazy.Carmelita (Cat) Tiu, Host:
uneducated because obviously if you were smart and not lazy right, you wouldn't be fat anymore. So they've, all these other things have been sort of wrapped up in that word and used to try and inflict harm on people. And so I think for a lot of people that are fat, it's very difficult still to sort of hear that word. And there are still people that use it in that way to inflict harm. And so there are folks that don't use it, and I completely understand that. And. of my reason behind choosing to do plus size kids as the term that I use for these kids was because I feel like it's a word that you have to make a choice for yourself to use and to then share with others that they're allowed to use it with you as well. But it starts with you making that choice for yourself. And I didn't wanna sort of force that word onto these kids who are already sort of struggling during a difficult time to sort of navigate all the things going on with their body. And I will say this, I do know that a lot of parents, particularly with younger children, are talking about fat and thin in that very like the way we wanna be using it, right as a descriptor. And that's where we start moving the needle, right? And starting to make a change. And I think the, they're just, it's again, a yes and yes, do that, but also say people use that word to try and hurt people, and some people are not comfortable with it. So, you know, just being mindful of the conversations that you're having and how you're using that wordCarmelita (Cat) Tiu, Host:
Yeah. Hmm.Pam Luk:
And I would say there are some people that also don't wanna call out plus sizes being different from, you know, standard size or thin kids. But part of why I think it's important is because these kids can't find clothing, right? I need folks to be able to find the clothes that are gonna fit their kids. So that's part of, you know, there are brands that are working toward it and maybe that's something we can, you know, hope for, for the future. But until that day comes, I want these kids to know that I'm here to serve you and I am making things specifically for your body.Carmelita (Cat) Tiu, Host:
I love that. Yeah. And, you've put a lot of thought into how you can best serve your audience and, and so the choice of terminology, um, I really respect how you approach that. It makes a lot of sense to me.Pam Luk:
Thank you. There's a little teenager inside of me that's sort of running that whole making process. I think, you know, and that's where, you know, this being something that's so close to my heart because of my daughter, but also because I grew up as one of these kids. I understand to some degree, and it's not that it's the same experience for everyone, but I think there's common themes that, you know, come up for just the things that we all want for our kidsCarmelita (Cat) Tiu, Host:
Yeah. Oh, as we wrap up, I was wondering if you'd like to leave the audience with a parting quote or, or thought.Pam Luk:
I have a quote that I use that I try to put on my website and on my social media, and that is this. An athlete isn't defined by their size, and you can be a runner. A biker, a biker a dancer. You can be all these things regardless of size. So I think it's important that people start to hear that and internalize it.Carmelita (Cat) Tiu, Host:
Oh, I just got the chills because that was never a message that I heard growing up, And so I am, I'm happy to support that message through this platform as well.Pam Luk:
I appreciate it and thank you so much for letting me come and talk about this and I hope you know if folks have questions. You know, please let me know, but I, I'm hopeful that they'll think about what they've heard today, even if it's not something that they've necessarily given a lot of thought to, or if it's, they've had different ideas about bigger bodies and people that are plus sized, but I'm hopeful that they'll just sort of take it all in.Carmelita (Cat) Tiu, Host:
I have to admit one of my favorite things about interviewing guests is when I'm forced to confront my own biases and areas for growth. I never thought about the ripple effect of not having athletic clothes that fit. How that messages to kids and adults. That this activity isn't for you. This was a sobering reminder of how bias and privilege work, where I didn't even really see how structures might exclude others because they didn't create friction for me. Any who. It makes me want to try and see better to have fewer blind spots so I can be more inclusive. So here are today's key takeaways from my conversation with Pam. Number one. As early as possible, we have to make spaces and activities for kids as inclusive as possible. By giving kids and teens access to active wear that fits them. We're telling them that they belong. It's okay for them to be in these places. And you. You can do these things that you love. Number two, help your daughters find clothes that fit. If they don't feel comfortable in clothes. They may think it's a problem with their bodies when it's actually fixable by getting them better fitting clothing. Side note. I had to check myself a couple of years ago. When my daughter was asking for new pants again and saying she didn't like the clothes I bought her three to four months earlier. My knee jerk reaction was to think that she was being fickle and was falling prey to a consumerism. But when she tried her pants on, they were short and the waist was really tight. So, yeah. Um, that was a lesson to me to be open to dialogue. Don't assume, you know what's going on. Um, especially when thinking about clothing and your girls and what works best for them. Number three, listen to your daughter when she's grappling with her body image. Remind her that even if she's struggling with a growing or changing body, It's still a good and valuable body. Ask her. What makes you feel strong in your body? What makes you feel good in your body? Encourage her to. To think of her body as a tool, not an ornament. Number four. Diversify the kinds of bodies you see in your social media feeds, there are different accounts that feature bodies of all sizes. So challenge your own unconscious biases by. Widening your lens. Number five, stop talking about how individual bodies look including your own. Catch yourself. If you're making comments. And number six. Encourage your kids to be media literate. When you see advertising. I help them question. Who's benefiting from this. What message are they sending? What are they trying to accomplish? Media literacy, encourages critical thinking. It helps kids see how media affects our culture and it teaches them how not to be swayed by persuasive techniques that advertising and influencers might use. To learn more about Ember and ACE and their athletic wear for plus sized kids. Visit Ember and ace.com. That's E M B E R a N D a C e.com. The five-piece essential. His collection is available now. Thanks so much for listening and if you haven't done so already follow on your favorite podcasting platform. Tell a friend about the show and leave a review. Also visit knowberaisethem.com. And follow me on Instagram @knowberaisethem. I hope you have a wonderful week and here's to strong women. May we know them? May we be them? And may we raise them?