Angela Tuell 0:05
Welcome to Media in Minutes. This is your host Angela Tuell. This podcast features in-depth interviews with those who report on the world around us. They share everything from their favorite stories to what happened behind the lens and give us a glimpse into their world. From our studio here at Communications Redefined, this is Media in Minutes.
Today we are talking with women's health writer and body image expert Leslie Goldman. Leslie is a frequent contributor to Oh, The Oprah Magazine, Better Homes and Gardens, Prevention, Women's Health, Parents, and more. She has authored and contributed to six books and speaks at colleges and universities on the topics of body image, media literacy and female empowerment. But her true claims to fame are that her grandfather invented jogging, and Beyonce once touched her elbow. Hi, Leslie, thank you so much for joining us today.
Leslie Goldman 1:01
You bet. Thanks for having me.
Angela Tuell 1:03
So you have been a freelance health writer for more than 22 years. How did you get started in that field? And were there any other jobs you tried before becoming a health writer?
Leslie Goldman 1:14
Oh, well, I started writing for my school newspaper when I was in college. And that was where I kind of got my first taste of writing for publication. I got my very first magazine article was for Details Magazine in 1998, which was the assignment, it was a Q&A for the Health section. And the question was, how can I get rid of a hickey? So I got the call of the American Academy of Dermatology, connected with a DERM who could help me how our readers is very important information. And then, you know, I started writing for Details and then Details closed, but my editor went to Mademoiselle. So then I had an in at Mademoiselle. And then, as you know, that happens a lot. But um, yeah, I just started kind of building up contacts and industry.
Angela Tuell 2:03
So you became a women's health guru over the years? How did that - besides this article, you know - how did that continue and stick with it throughout your career?
Leslie Goldman 2:12
Well, it's just something that I was always super interested in from a very young age. And I was a nutritional sciences major in college. And I was pre med the entire time, took all those horrible classes and the MCAT. And then I had to take a journalism class to fulfill a requirement my senior year, and I just completely fell in love with it. Unlike those other classes, where I had to just really kind of kill myself to get good grades. It came so - writing came so easily. And that professor was the first one who said, you know, you can help people with their health in many ways. You don't have to become a doctor. You could write about it. Yeah. And that, and then I wound up. After college, I got a job at a small newspaper, in my Chicago suburb hometown. So I worked for them for a year. And then it wasn't, I didn't feel like it was very challenging. I wasn't growing as a writer. So I went back and got my master's degree in public health, specifically to lend credibility to my health writing.
Angela Tuell 3:12
Okay, and you saw that, that that that helped.
Leslie Goldman 3:16
Absolutely. I think it definitely helped. I mean, I blocked out a lot of stuff about, you know, epidemiology and biostatistics, but definitely helped. And I think I think it made, you know, helps editors take me more seriously as well.
Angela Tuell 3:31
Yeah. And it was probably after that point that you started appearing on the Today Show for many years discussing everything from curvy Barbie to why women have so much trouble taking a compliment. You know, what was that like to get to that point in your career where you're on the Today Show?
Leslie Goldman 3:45
Well, so that happened, because I so I worked for the American Medical Association for several years in doing writing and communications. And then while I was doing that, I was selling my first book, I sold a book proposal that was for Locker Room Diaries. And when I, when that book published that is when my relationship with Today Show began, they expressed interest in having me on to talk about it. And Natalie Morales interviewed me out on the plaza at Rock Center. It was so exciting. And that was how, you know, that was my foray into Today Show.
Angela Tuell 4:21
That's amazing. As you just mentioned, the Locker Room Diaries. You spent five years talking to women of all shapes and sizes about their bodies. What did you learn while writing that book?
Leslie Goldman 4:32
I learned that no one likes the way that they look. No, really no woman that I spoke with, you know, at that point had super positive things to say about their relationship with their body. It was, you know, really shocking. I had come into that with my own negative experiences with body image and eating disorder in college. So that kind of, you know, informed my research. I've come a long way. Since that book, I mean, you know, in terms, I have zero body image issues right now, I just ate a lemon bar before I got on the phone with you because I think about something like, I'm gonna eat this and it's gonna make me feel better. And it did. Yeah, no, I mean, I like having kids really helped with that. And also, you know, just getting older, I'm 45. And like, just, there's just so many other things that require my attention that, you know, cellulite just cannot be one of them.
Angela Tuell 5:34
Cannot be one of them. Right? That is so true. You just mentioned kids, you know, you have two daughters. I have a daughter as well. What sort of things do you say? Or teach them? Or what do you allow, or don't allow to help raise them to be healthy and have positive, you know, body image?
Leslie Goldman 5:50
Um, I mean, we do a lot of kind of the standard things, you know, like, we we don't really talk about, you know, looks very much like we've never been a compliment our kids, like, you're so pretty, it looks so beautiful. It's almost always about, you know, their skills and their achievements. Yes, we don't have a scale in the house. And we never have. We, I tried very hard to normalize the word fat and different body types. It's not as easy as you know, our kids are seven and 10. And kids in their grades are already weaponizing the word fat and using it as an insult. So it's an uphill battle, you know, that we're fighting to try to help them understand that you can be many different shapes and sizes, just like you can have any skin color or love anyone you want. And everything you know, and you should be able to do whatever you want. And we also talk a lot about you know, as a woman's health writer, they're constantly hearing me on the phone, interviewing people and talking about women's health, saying the word vagina, saying the word breast, saying the word (inaudible) they hear it all the time. And so I think that that's really helping them they don't feel any stigma or any shame or anything or surrounding that. Everyone's naked all the time. My kids are just like doing cartwheels constantly naked. Right, we're very pro, you know, pro, you know, open openness house.
Angela Tuell 7:26
Sure. So do you cover how you know Women's Health is such a broad topic? What type of health stories do you gravitate to within that topic?
Leslie Goldman 7:36
Um, definitely love anything women's health related. So anything related to, you know, cancers, that tends to happen more often to women. Psychology, nutrition, I like kind of, you know, ideas that are also like women's health adjacent. So I just wrote a piece for Parents on try how to help your kids not say the word "like," and what I thought was going to be just this like, kind of like pop-cultury, how to help them stop sounding like bachelorette contestants actually evolved into like a real feminist exploration. Because it turns out these language experts I interviewed, it turns out that women are often on the receiving end of language policing, and being told, "Don't say like. Don't end your your statements with a questioning voice." And that actually, I shouldn't try to make my girls stop saying like, I should allow them to speak. They want to speak it's part of an evolving language. So... Yeah, it was, I loved it. It was great.
Angela Tuell 8:40
Yeah, you know, over the years, I don't I don't even know if you could, if you could narrow this down. But what has what has been some of the best health advice that you've given or tips that you've found or that sort of thing?
Leslie Goldman 8:52
I would say so one thing that comes up in so many different articles, no matter who I'm talking to, is the notion that we have more control over our health and medical destiny than we give ourselves credit for. And the role that stress management can play in that meditation and deep breathing come up constantly no matter what illness condition, psychological state you're talking about. Whether you're talking to someone who's like a mainstream, you know, Western doc or a holistic doc everyone those are some, some really common themes. So I meditate, I use the Peloton meditating app a lot and do deep breathing a lot.
Angela Tuell 9:39
How do you feel about social media and if that has added to your body image issues. But, you know, on the other hand, it's such a great tool to share your advice and articles in it positive messages for women.
Leslie Goldman 9:51
It is, it is. But it is also super toxic and yeah for what you see is a complete fabrication. So you know, our kids, we are very stingy with the screens here. I'm in charge of the wait until eighth initiative at our school, which helps parents, you know, band together now and agree not to get their kids a smartphone until eighth grade. So they won't have that. They will certainly not have social media anytime soon. Because I can already see even just like there's some social media-esque features on their homework apps that they have or school where Right, right like things and they already are, you know, get excited about people liking their homework or whatever.
Angela Tuell 10:35
You can see it starting.
Leslie Goldman 10:36
Yeah, but I also very frequently will point out to them if we see pic, like, when you're watching the Super Bowl, this has been for the last like four Super Bowls where there have been women dancing with extreme, you know, hair, I will point out, that's not their real hair. That's a wig, that's extensions. When we see ads in magazines, I will say like, Look, do you think that that could possibly be her body? No. And so they know what airbrushing is. They know that it happens and all the images, whether that will translate into a better body image remains to be seen, but just always trying to remind them that what they see is all smoke and mirrors.
Angela Tuell 11:11
Yeah, that's great advice. I'm sure that's important for both daughters and sons, you know, to really be talking to both of them about that.
Leslie Goldman 11:19
Sure. I mean, it's important for sons, not only because men are airbrushed and photoshopped to look stronger and bigger, but also because they need to have realistic, a realistic understanding of what would it look like.
Angela Tuell 11:32
Right, right. What type of current, or what current projects and or articles are you working on?
Leslie Goldman 11:39
I'm constantly juggling a slew of articles. I love it. I'm so happy and excited every morning. I mean, I sometimes I take on too much. And it's turns into stress. But right. I love that I can like, just before you call, I got off of an interview with a woman for a story on deprescribing, which is the this you know, when you have older adults who are taking multiple medications, and some of them have they've been taking for decades, and they don't even know why they're taking them anymore. You can deprescribe. So get them off those meds and it can actually improve their health. Oh, I'm working at a store for Prevention about like six or seven common health pieces of misinformation that people think are true and talking to the experts and finding out why they're not true and what the real, what the real answer is.
Angela Tuell 12:24
That's great. I can't wait to read those. How do you find your stories? Or are they usually assigned?
Leslie Goldman 12:30
At this point in my career, they're usually assigned. In the beginning, it was obviously just a total slog of pitch after pitch after pitch, right? But then, you know, it's kind of cool how you see it evolves and you go from desperate pitching to more strategic pitching to, you know, developing relationships with editors. To now I have I have editors who I've worked with at several publications over the decades, we sign up, we sign our emails, XO, and like it's very, you know, one of my editors, one of my close girlfriends I met she was an editor at Women's Health. We went on a press trip together to Colorado. That was you know, 15 years ago now, when I visited her New York, we, you know, spoon in bed. We went from Oh, totally, you know, just editor-writer relationship to really good friends. So it's great, it's rewarding. And now, what I'm trying to work on and my husband was helping me was saying no, when stories come and I'm totally already overburdened, because I have a very hard time saying no.
Angela Tuell 13:32
Yes. Oh my goodness, a lot of us do. So I feel you. So how can PR professionals help you? You know, since your stories are assigned, do you not really prefer getting pitches? Do you prefer reaching out?
Leslie Goldman 13:44
I mean, I do both. I reach out to PR professionals all the time for stories. I don't do a ton of product mentions in my stories. I certainly do sometimes. But I'll reach out to PR people for you know if I need a good source for a story that I'm working on like hospital, university PR people. I'll reach out to doctors individually, I'll reach out to companies if there is a product that I'm interested in trying and seeing if they can help connect me with someone. But I also I'm fine with being pitched. I don't respond to the vast majority of them but my, that doesn't mean that I'm not seeing it. And what I'll often do - I just did this today, I'm working on a story on chronic pain. And I was looking for someone who could talk about you know, chronic pain with women and my email and I searched "chronic pain women" and there you go, I've got all these pictures that I've gotten over the last several years with with sources that I can go through and then I you know if it's if it wasn't too long ago, usually I can just reply back and say hey, are you still representing this person and we can go from there.
Angela Tuell 14:47
That's great. Do you have any pet peeves with PR pros?
Leslie Goldman 14:51
Um I'm pretty sick over hearing about CBD. And, and definitely if you get my name wrong or like, yeah, just says, Dear xx, you know? Yeah, I told her I mean, listen, I don't really care. I just like I delete, just delete it and move on but it's like, you know? Yeah, not great.
Angela Tuell 15:13
Yes. So before we go, I also need to ask about the elbow touch with Beyonce and about your grandpa inventing jogging.
Leslie Goldman 15:23
Yes, two things that are both true and both in my Twitter bio and I think Instagram, too. Yes. So my grandpa helped popularize the sport of jogging. It was not really looked at as an exercise back, you know, back in the day, but in the 50s and 60s, he got very into physical activity. And he started working with the City of Chicago, the public, the public health departments to start kind of spreading the word about how if you if you walk very fast, you break into a jog. And by doing that, you can actually experience different health benefits from it. And there's this Chicago Tribune article that we have a photocopy of where the lead is something like if you see a ball, he was bald early. He's like, if you see a bald man with a moustache and glasses running past your window, don't worry. The police aren't trying to capture a criminal. He's just jogging. Jogging was in quotes. And then Beyonce was I was on today's show episode with Beyonce's mother, about 10 years ago, the mom had her mom had just started a line of size inclusive clothing. So it was me, her mom, Hoda and Kathie Lee, and they had a bunch of models coming out modeling. So basically, the clothing line was the same outfit, they would have on like a size two model and on a size 20 model to show you that everyone looks good in these outfits. So they had like four pairs and models came out. And I was talking and doing my body image stuff. You know, while they were being, while they were showing off the outfits, and then all of a sudden, the end Crazy in Love starts blasting and Beyonce walks out. They then promptly forgot that I even existed. I was like pushed off to the side and Beyonce sat in my chair. They brought out a little stool for me. So then they started talking for the rest of the episode. And then at the very end, Kathie Lee, like lean leans over and she's like, we didn't mean to forget about you, Leslie. And that's when Beyonce turned to me and touched my elbow, as if to say, yes, sorry, we forgot about you. And then so she touched my, she touched my hand on my arm. I mean, and then after that, we took pictures in the studio. It was me, Beyonce and her mom. Her mom was in the middle. So I had one arm behind her mom, Beyonce had another arm on her elbow. It was super soft. And that picture ran and lots and lots of different outlets like People, Us Weekly, but with me cut off.
Angela Tuell 17:52
Oh, no. Do you have the picture with you in it?
Leslie Goldman 17:56
I have a picture. Yes. From my phone. Yes.
Angela Tuell 17:58
Digitally. You can send our way so we can post it in the show notes. Sure. Okay, great. Thank you so much. We cannot wait to keep reading all of the wonderful advice from you.
Leslie Goldman 18:10
Thank you. I appreciate it.
Angela Tuell 18:12
You can find Leslie on Instagram at Leslie Goldman Writes and Twitter Leslie Goldman and on her website at LeslieGoldmanWrites.com. We will have all the links in our show notes. That's all for this episode of Media in Minutes, a podcast by Communications Redefined. Please take a moment to rate, review and subscribe to our show. We'd love to hear what you think. You can find more at CommunicationsRedefined.com/podcast. I'm your host, Angela Tuell. Talk to you next time.
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