After kids called her fat, metro 9-year-old inspires anti-bullying, body positivity event

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OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — More than a hundred moms and daughters got moving Saturday to take down negative body image and build each other up.

The inspiration behind “Girls in Real Life” is Leah Carmichael, a fourth grader at Harmony Elementary.

“Yeah, I liked the ropes,” Leah said. “You had to slam the ropes against the ground, and you could get all your anger out, and it felt really good.”

Leah was angry and hurt after kids her age in the community were making fun of the way she looked.

“The flat out ‘F word’ was thrown out a few times, meaning fat,” Leah’s mom, Heather Carmichael, said.

Carmichael became concerned when she saw her 9-year-old carrying weights and even a scale into her room.

“It made me feel like I wasn’t good enough,” Leah said.

So Carmichael took to Facebook, posting a reminder to spread kindness.

“I thought spreading that message, maybe no other little girl would feel that way,” Carmichael said.

Family friend and local personal trainer Michelle Marshall wanted to roll out that message — and empower females of all body types — on a bigger scale.

“We’re all supposed to be different sizes and shapes and heights, and to respect each other and to understand that this is real life, that not everyone looks the way that they see on Instagram, the models or in magazines,” Marshall said.

So the annual “Girls in Real Life” event was born.

Marshall works to teach them about fitness, nutrition, balance and respect.

“To see people’s reaction and how many people it just affected to something personal, on a personal level,” Carmichael said. “And we saw so many people with tears in their eyes.”

“It’s always better to know that you’re not the only one and that other people are going through it, too,” Leah said. “And then you guys can work together and then you guys can be kinder to other people, and they might, they’ll probably be kinder to you.”

Thanks to her support system, Leah knows she’s a strong girl with a bright future.

“I want to grow up encouraging other people to be the same as Michelle helping other people and just spread kindness,” Leah said.

Next year’s event is already scheduled. It will be held August 8, 2020, at the same location in Olathe.

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