It wasn’t hard to choose our inaugural Kick-Ass Kentuckian of the Month. Molly Galbraith’s fearless post and bikini-clad photo made waves around the world. Here’s a side of Molly you haven’t seen.
On New Year’s Day, Kick Ass Kentuckian Molly Galbraith posted a bikini-clad photo of herself on Facebook, along with a caption explaining why, for the first time in her life, she is making no resolutions to change her body.
“This is not a before picture. This is not an after picture,” she wrote. “This just happens to be what my body looks like on a random Tuesday in December of 2015—it’s a LIFE picture.”
The post went viral, and Molly’s message of radical self-acceptance has been featured on major news outlets, including ABC, Good Morning America, People, The Daily Mail, and Women’s Health, and has been shared by George Takei, Lil Wayne, Zooey Deschanel and Ashton Kutcher, among others.
The comments came pouring in, and with good reason: Molly touched on a universal theme. Everyone struggles with body issues. While reaction has been largely positive, some missed the point and judged Molly’s looks, either positively or negatively.
In a way, this picture doesn’t have anything to do with me. I’m at a point where I don’t let others’ words—good or bad—define me.
But Molly is taking it all in stride. This is not the first time she’s shared intimate details of her life online. As the owner of Girls Gone Strong, an online resource for women’s health and fitness, she’s on a mission to help women get healthy, fall in love with their bodies and define their own beauty standards.
We caught up with Molly to see how she’s handling life in the social-media spotlight.
This is not the first time one of your posts has triggered a reaction. What compelled you to start blogging about your body?
In late 2012, I had an emotional breakdown after experiencing a series of challenging life events. I unexpectedly lost my father [Gatewood Galbraith] earlier that year. Three weeks later, I began experiencing chronic back pain that limited my physical abilities; and soon after that, I left a six-year relationship and went back home.
During that time, I focused more on taking care of myself emotionally and less on exercising and eating well, and I gained some weight. Or as one commenter put it, I “ballooned” to 183 pounds. At almost 5’ 11”, I was still strong and healthy, but I got a lot of criticism from the community and even from my colleagues.
In 2013, I wrote a post called “It’s Hard Out Here for a Fit Chick,” which spoke out about how female fitness professionals are held to an impossibly high standard. People think we never struggle with our bodies, or that one dimple of cellulite or a few stretch marks affects our credibility and value as a professional.
A lot of people shared stories of their own self-acceptance journeys in the comments on your post. How are you dealing with that?
I’m honored that people feel comfortable sharing, but it’s also an internal tug-of-war because I want to respond to everyone, and thankfully I have people in my life who say, “Molly, you can’t spend three days in bed crying and responding to Facebook comments, and if your mission truly is to get this message to as many women as possible, you have to be thoughtful about where you’re putting your energy.”
In a way, this picture doesn’t have anything to do with me. I’m representing an idea, and I’m okay with that. I also recognize that what people say about my picture has everything to do with them, and nothing to do with me. I’m at a point where I don’t let others’ words—good or bad—define me.
Love it. Rampant criticism of women’s’ bodies on social media is a big problem. How can we do better?
We can start with the way we speak to others and ourselves. When a woman walks by and you say, “She needs to eat a cheeseburger,” or “She eats too many cheeseburgers,” you are essentially saying that to all the other women around you.
We have to hold each other accountable. When a friend mentions someone’s weight, I think it’s important to say, “I don’t feel comfortable talking about that.” I used to love gossip. I was uncomfortable with myself so I wanted to know what everyone else was doing. But now it just makes my skin crawl.
People often approach fitness as a finite goal, when in reality it’s a journey that changes over time.
Right. In six months I might say, “I think it would be fun to lean out and see what my body can do.” Or maybe I won’t. Maybe I’ll go through another emotional struggle and gain five pounds.
I think it’s about getting to a point where you feel comfortable making any decision you want. I don’t want people to think that fat loss is a bad goal. It’s not. But coming at it from a place of, “I’m not good enough” is problematic.
I don’t want people to think that fat loss is a bad goal. It’s not. But coming at it from a place of, “I’m not good enough” is problematic.
With Girls Gone Strong you’ve been giving women the tools to make those decisions. What was the inspiration behind it?
It started with a group of seven female fitness professionals. We got together one weekend to work out, and we realized that we had a common goal of helping women to be strong—physically and emotionally. It’s grown into something much more than that over the past several years. We are changing the way health and fitness information is presented to women. For years, the only information came from the multibillion-dollar weight loss industry that preys on insecurities; telling us we should be less instead of more.
We have a global advisory board of experts in different areas of women’s health and fitness, and we offer a variety of solutions at different price points. We have tons of free information on our website, as well as an online group coaching program. We feel that, by providing women with this information in a compassionate and positive way, we are changing the conversation about women’s bodies.
It’s not difficult to see the parallels between your principles and those of your father.
Definitely. My dad gets a lot of attention, and he did amazing things, but in the same conversation you’d be remiss not to mention my mother, Susan Sears, as well. She was president of the Bluegrass Rape Crisis Center and organized the “Take Back the Night” marches. She housed El Salvadorian political refugees and made sure we were at every Martin Luther King Day parade growing up. She stood up for social justice wherever she could. They were both such trailblazers.
Do you feel that people want you to carry your father’s torch?
People say that all the time, and I think it’s very sweet, but I feel like I’m carrying it in a different way. Our paths are parallel—we have both spoken out against major corporations taking advantage of people’s fears, insecurities and illnesses. They are profiting from making peoples’ lives worse. Whether it’s the criminalization of medical marijuana and industrial hemp, or making them feel like they’re not okay the way they are, simply for profit.
My dad often said, “Baby, it’s not what they call you, it’s what you answer to that counts.”
I’m grateful for the work my parents did, and I’m very grateful that I grew up in a supportive household where I was taught to stand up for what I believe in, no matter what other people may say. My dad often said, “Baby, it’s not what they call you, it’s what you answer to that counts.”
What kind of response have you received from the local community?
It’s been wonderful. And I love that Kentucky is getting positive press for something wonderfully progressive. I feel super grateful for what seems like the whole city tagging me in posts and saying things like, “I love the work you’re doing,” and “Your dad would be proud.” I feel like I’m representing my hometown and my home state in a positive way.