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Author Jennifer Weiner on body image advice she wishes she had growing up

When best-selling author Jennifer Weiner heard her young daughters say they were worried they looked too chubby, she knew she had to act.
/ Source: TODAY

Jennifer Weiner is known for her best-selling novels, including “Good in Bed” and “In Her Shoes,” but the author is also making waves as steadfast proponent for positive body image.

Earlier this summer, she launched the #weartheswimsuit campaign, encouraging women to put on a swimsuit no matter how they look and have some fun.

It’s a subject that hits close to home for Weiner, who has two daughters, ages 8 and 13.

Tamara Staples

The #weartheswimsuit movement was inspired by a conversation she overheard them having with friends, about feeling too chubby to wear a tankini.

“It just broke my heart because if the daughters of women like me, at this age, are already carrying this baggage around, then our culture is broken,” she said.

“And if it takes me saying ‘wear the swimsuit’ 100 times every summer, then maybe that’s what I have to do. Even if it feels redundant and repetitive, even if it’s just one tiny voice in a sea of ads and shows and movies telling girls that they’re not OK the way they are.”

In her latest book, “Hungry Heart: Adventures in Life, Love and Writing,” she tackles other “topics that women don’t talk about,” the author told TODAY Style.

The author's new bookMaarten De Boer

“It’s all sort of out there,” she said of her first nonfiction work, out this month. “I’m interested to see how people are going to react, and I’m a little nervous about it.”

One example? Addiction. She writes about her father’s addiction to heroin and crack, and a half-brother she only learned about after he died. In another chapter, she writes in detail about miscarrying when she was 45 years old — an essay she says she wrote after realizing how little literature there is for women about miscarriage, despite its frequency.

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“I remember that I Googled and I was looking for stories, and what came up was super clinical ... and then (the stories of) women in Brooklyn eating their placentas,” she said. “And I felt, there has to be something in the middle.”

Weiner, who underwent gastric bypass surgery in 2006, also talks about weight in the book — hers, her characters’, and that of the women she read about in books or saw on TV and in movies.

“I think what my generation is learning is that the media girls are exposed to is a strong, strong force,” she said, referencing the oft-cited logic that the more people see bodies that look like theirs in the media, the more they’ll feel like their own bodies are acceptable.

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The tough talks with girls are important, Weiner added.

“(My younger daughter) says, ‘Why am I so much bigger? Why am I taller than the boys?’” she said. “So we have conversations: ‘There are many different types of bodies. As long as you’re healthy, you shouldn’t worry about anything.’ I can tell she does worry, and that’s hard. Because, I think like many women who have struggled with these issues, we’d hoped to raise daughters who were not going to feel conflicted about the way that they look.”

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Weiner’s encouragement for her daughters — and all women — to embrace their bodies translates to fashion, too.

When pressed for style advice she wish she had when she was younger, she had this to say: “Only wear things that make you feel great. Don’t think, ‘Oh, I’m going to spend money and buy beautiful things when I’m 10 pounds thinner.’ Wear things that make you feel beautiful in the body you have now.”