The Today stars shared their experiences trying to find their self-confidence

By Julie Mazziotta
April 25, 2019 04:13 PM
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Jenna Bush Hager and Meredith Vieira discovered that they shared a similar experience as kids — a constant struggle with their body image.

The two spoke about their experiences searching for self-confidence on Wednesday, when Vieira filled in for Hoda Kotb on Today with Hoda & Jenna. Hager brought up the new cover of PEOPLE’s Beautiful Issue, featuring Jennifer Garner, and how Garner said that she never considered herself attractive.

Hager and Vieira said that they could relate, and added that they were both “chubbier” growing up, which led to their body image problems.

“I had a big butt … I had this bike and I was rounding the curve, and I thought this was one of my good friends sitting on the curb with a little boy, so we had to be, like, 8, maybe, and she referred to my rear end,” Vieira said. “To this day … I remember all of it … and to this day, it sticks in my head. I always see that person.”

The mom of three said that her classmate’s comment sent her on a “ridiculous” diet.

“All I did was drink Tab [soda] and eat like five Ritz crackers a day for the entire summer,” she said. “Maybe 10 [years old] when I did that for like a month and a half. Which is the most unhealthy thing you can do. I already had body image problems. It was maybe something waiting to happen.”

Meredith Vieira and Jenna Bush Hager
Credit: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire/Getty

Vieira said that she “can still conjure it up as if it was yesterday,” and that she still isn’t always happy with how she looks.

“I’m always struggling with it,” she said. “And we live in a looksist society where even when you think you’re looking good, there are plenty of people out there — especially if you’re in front of a camera — who make it their point to tell you, ‘Nah, not so much,’ or they’re constantly judging you. We’re all human beings and we’re all sensitive.”

Hager said that she had a similar experience, even though her mom, former first lady Barbara Bush, never said anything negative about her or her twin sister Barbara’s bodies. She said her body image problems also started at a young age.

“I opened my first grade journal, and I must have been 7 or 8. I could barely write, and I certainly couldn’t spell, and my new year’s resolution was to lose 4 lbs. and I actually scratched out 7 and wrote 4,” she said, adding that her sister Barbara recently found the journal and “then cried for her little twin sister. Or larger twin sister. And then decided not to show me ‘cause she didn’t want it to break my heart and then I found it.”

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Hager, who announced Monday that she’s expecting a third child that will join daughters Mila, 6, and Poppy, 3, said that she doesn’t want to pass on her body image issues to her kids.

“I see my perfect little girls right now. And they look at themselves in the mirror — and they’re so proud — and I’m like, ‘How can I leave that? How can that stay?’ I don’t know the answer,” she said.

Vieira said that her body image problems didn’t seem to spread to her daughter Lily.

“I’m happy to say that Lily, who’s 26, I don’t think has ever had a body image problem, so maybe something’s getting through, I hope,” she said.