Thursday, May 31, 2012

Real Women are Beautiful--by Naomi Jackson

I knew the moment I started really paying attention to this blog that I wanted to make a contribution to it at some point, but it completely escaped me as to what. What could I possibly contribute that could be anywhere near as inspiring and mind-opening as what has already been contributed? Then I saw something on Pinterest (yes even that wonderfully awful time-waster) that really hit home for me. The pin said this: "Stop using the term 'Real Women' to refer to curvy girls. Tall skinny girls aren't imaginary. Regardless of how a girl looks: All women are real women."
And that is exactly right. Too often in our society, we believe the only way to feel good about ourselves is to tear another person down. Sometimes we don't mean to, but it happens anyway. I don't believe curvy women mean to say that thin women are somehow 'less woman' because of their body shape. Rather I think that the term "Real women have curves" came about as a means to protect ourselves from the airbrushed media ideal. To fight back against the idea that thin equals beauty. I think that we (for I am one of these "curvy women") only meant to remind ourselves that we are in fact beautiful, no matter what anyone tells us.
Sadly, this method of bolstering ourselves has created a divide in our minds. The media isn't our only enemy anymore, it's also other women! I believe this wasn't the intent, but it has become the reality. I will say with some shame in my heart that I have fallen victim to this mindset. I have thought that since I have curves, I am somehow better than those skinny girls. I am the epitome of beauty, because I have what they lack.
But it's a lie.
I don't feel beautiful because of the way my body looks. I don't want to be "curvy." I want to look like those skinny girls do in their skinny clothes. Tearing down those I want to be like doesn't make me feel good for long. It doesn't change me, it doesn't make me different, and above all, it doesn't make me beautiful.
I am slowly coming to realize and accept that I am more beautiful for the way that I treat myself and others than for the way I physically look. I've decided that I want to be beautiful more than I want to be thin. I'm working on loving me for my positive personality traits, and not for any physical trait that people either like or dislike about me.
More importantly, I'm trying to look at other women without regard to their physical shape as well. I think that if we move away from the notion that "real women" look a certain way, we'll realize that real women are women who are beautiful inside and out. All women are real women. 

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

my (Dana's) incredible teens performing a beautiful dance with their incredible bodies!

A dance class at a rural high school--these guys come with little to no formal experience.  Nevertheless, they are hard-working, dedicated, and beautiful dancers.  Modern is my favorite form of dance, because of how quickly participants LOOK and FEEL like dancers.  You, you reading this.  I wish you could have been there tonight with me, to watch them perform this live.  Their powerful bodies moving on stage, telling their stories.  Gave me chills, I tell you.  Chills.

My Body is Not Public Property--by Sarah Lucy

for the original post on the author's blog, head here!  Thank you, Sarah-lucy!

Things people have said about my body in the last few years:
-you need to loose weight.  you’re too big.
-you’re getting too thin.  I’m worried about you.
-you have fat thighs.  fat fat fat.
-you have huge boobs.
-you look Calista-Flockhart-thin.
-you have a huge butt.
Now just to be clear, these were not comments made in the midst of conversations about bodies.  Each and everyone of these conversations was made completely out of the blue.
And each of them was very upsetting.  (Yes, even the ones that might have seemed complimentary.  Because it was so uncomfortable for someone to comment on my body completely out of the blue.)
When I was in high school I weighed about 140 lbs.  I thought I was fat.  I thought I had huge thighs.  I did beauty pageants when I was a teenager (yes) and my beauty pageant coach (yep) told me a good competing weight for me was 120 lbs.
120 lbs was not a realistic number for my curvy 5′ 9″ frame.  But at the time I thought it was.  I believed my coach when she told me I was 20 lbs too heavy.  I believed my brother when he told me my calves were fat.  And in every picture of me I noticed my enormous thighs.
And then, the summer after my senior year I had a job I really hated, and to deal with it I stress ate myself to a 20 lbs weight gain.  I stayed at that weight for a year and a half, and then the stress of my freshman year of college brought me up another 25 lbs.
I stayed at 185 (about a size 14-16) for about 4 1/2 years.  I hated my body during most of this time.  I had hated it before of course, but now I hated it even more violently.
Until I slowly stopped.
And then, for a year, the weight slowly came off.
I once again, weight about 140 lbs (and wear about a size 4).  I’m not sure if this is my natural weight, or if more weight might come off (because I eat healthier now than I did in high school.)  We shall see.
And now I have people–people who know nothing about my lifestyle or eating habits–telling me I’m too thin.  And half-jokingly asking if I have an eating disorder.
And that’s how I’ve learned that no matter what my body looks like, people will feel entitled to comment on it, to tell me there opinion of it, to tell me that they think my body should be bigger or smaller.
To them I say: my body is not public property.
Unless you’re going to tell me that I look awesome, I don’t want to hear your opinion unless I ask for it.
My body is MINE.  And I don’t give a damn what you think about it.  Let me say that one more time: I DON’T GIVE A DAMN WHAT YOU THINK ABOUT MY BODY. 
Because you know what?  I fricken love my body.  I love my big boobs, and my tiny waist, and my juicy thighs, and my totally-and-completely untoned calves.  I love the freckles, and the pasty white skin, and I love that going up stairs is easier than it used to be.
And you know what?  I loved it when it was 185 lbs too.  I loved it when my boobs were bigger, and I still had a big curvy butt.  I loved my body when my stomach was another curve, a little buddha belly, instead of flat like it is now.  And so did my boyfriend, who told me on our very first date (awkwardly) that he liked my 185-lb-body.  And then we cuddled till 5:45 the next morning.  (But no kiss, cause I like to play hard to get like that.)
And he’s liked every incarnation, every size my body has been since he met me.
I like to tell him that since he told me that on my first date, I reserve the right to get chubby again if I feel like it.
And here’s the thing:  I was only able to loose 45 lbs. (and keep it off) because I loved my body at its chubbiest, at its biggest, at its most voluptuous.  Because you can’t hate yourself into changing. You can only love yourself into change.
But I’ll talk more about that later.
This post is about the way we talk about bodies.  The way we treat other’s bodies as public property, something to be commented on, scrutinized and evaluated.
When he saw my dramatic weight loss, my brother (the one who told me the last time I weighed 140 lbs that my calves were fat) told our sister that I looked to0 thin.  That my eyes looked too big for my face and they poked out.
She responded by telling him about a time I was really hungry and ate an entire package of bacon in one sitting.
And then he said he was glad I wasn’t anorexic.
I love my brother.  I love pretty much everyone who has inappropriately commented on my body, actually.  I’m not mad at them.  (Not mad at you Reed!  Love you bro!)  I’m mad that we live in a society that teaches us to make unsolicited comments about peoples’ bodies.  I’m mad that we live in a society that teaches people that it’s okay to tell people that their bodies need to be bigger or smaller
So kindly keep your opinions to yourself.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Anonymous Stories

So, maybe some stories surrounding the body might be a bit too painful, a bit too personal, or just a bit too fresh to discuss with your name.  But maybe you still desire to share them.  We need to hear them.  I have created the anonymous email as an option for remaining entirely anonymous.  Please, please, please respect this email account and only use it when you need to.  I have placed the log-in information on the side bar to be accessed any time.

Here is the gmail information

gmail account: embodyanon
password: embody2012

Here is the information/instructions in the inbox.

And welcome to the anonymous email address for the embody blog.  This email was created so submissions, if so desired, can be truly anonymous.  If you would like to make a submission to the blog, make certain to do the following things:

1. Make certain that you've changed the names and/or locations you want (and let me know if this is the case)
2. Give your piece a title
3. email to (be sure to include any documents or links or pictures)
4. go to the sent folder and delete what you've sent
5. go to the trash folder and "delete forever"

As a reminder, if you would like to be anonymous to readers, but don't mind my knowing your authorship, you can simply email from your address and request to be anonymous--this is ideal if you'd like to communicate with me about the piece or if I need to communicate with YOU (ie: discuss changes, clarify things before posting).  

The anonymous option is for when you really need it to communicate openly and honestly about something that might be painful, embarrassing, or just too personal to relate with your name attached to it.  PLEASE use this if you so desire.  That being said, when you can, own your work.  There is something very healing and empowering about owning your experiences, and you never know who you can help by doing so.  

Best, and happy writing!  Happy healing.  Happy bodies.  

the skinny on skinny or MOASB #13--by Heather

Ever since Dana Facebooked me about this topic, it’s been on my mind. The more I think about it, the more I realize I DON'T get it. I have been trying for years to understand it—why women I perceive as beautiful inside and out aren’t happy with themselves; why my body may have been a roadblock to others befriending me at times; why we believe there is one perfect size, shape, etc.

I understand that those are the lies media and others perpetuate. But why do we buy into something so wrong? I don’t get it.

And I have come to the conclusion that the reason I don’t get it is because my mindset about the human body may be a bit different from that of others. I grew up in a home where weight, size, and shape were hardly talked about, and definitely never gossiped over or judged. There was healthy and there was unhealthy—and it was not merely based on physical appearance.

One of my closest friends in high school was 5 foot 5 and bigger, but put a shotput in her hand or ask her to run a 100 meter sprint and she was one of the best athletes on the team. For her, healthy was 160 lbs, active, social, confident, happy.

Growing up, I was a little on what would be considered the short, chubby side. I was a healthy, happy tomboy—participating in soccer, swimming, softball, hockey. My freshman year of high school I grew four inches and began my four-year career on the track team, for no other reason that that I was happy competing and running. I was lean, but I never lost my chubby cheeks—I don’t hate them; the only reason I mention it is because others would comment on them at times.

I don’t remember ever noticing a difference in how others treated me because of my physical appearance. I was made fun of by the popular crowd for always having my head in a book, for not caring to date the boys at my high school, for not giving them the time of day, for not growing up with a lot of money.

I spent my weekends and summers working on the family farm, where I learned to be confident in my skills and abilities as the only girl out there, and where I learned to work hard and take pride in a job well done.

I suppose if I had given up some of my less “cool” activities, the popular crowd might have welcomed me in because I fit their physical ideals. I am also willing to admit that although I wasn’t cool, I may have had it easier than some others because I was physically closer to the “ideal”—I received my high school diploma at 5’5” and 105 lbs.

I’ll be 24 in a month and a half. I graduated college 2 years ago and have been working ever since. I am 5’6” and weight 120 lbs. I just realized that means I’ve grown one more inch, and gained 15 pounds with that inch. Never did that math before. It didn’t matter to me. What matters is the following:

1. I FEEL HEALTHY. I can play Frisbee with my husband. I can hike a mountain and enjoy it. I will be able to chase and play with my children. I enjoy eating a variety of foods that are good for me.
2. I LIKE WHO I AM. When I look in the mirror, I see a woman who has accomplished much, who finds joy in serving others, and has goals to continue to progress.
3. I FEEL PEACEFUL AND HAPPY. For me, that peace and happiness comes from believing in a loving God and living my life cleanly.

I think it all goes back to the fact that from day one, those who mattered the most to me—my parents, my siblings, my best friends—taught me through their words and actions that my worth, my happiness, was not tied solely to my looks, although I was taught to always be clean, respectable, and presentable.

My feelings of worth were tied to my family’s and friends’ unconditional love for me and their support in my endeavors—whether those endeavors were great successes or horrible failures. Today, my husband continues this tradition, telling me I’m beautiful everyday, regardless of how I look, and cheering me on in all I do. I know when I carry our children, he’ll still think I’m beautiful. And as I age, soften up, earn my wrinkles, he’ll still think I’m beautiful, because he understands my worth lies beyond those things.

We need to change our definition of what is beautiful—of where our worth comes from. And others who look at us need to change their definition, as well.

Monday, May 28, 2012

the skinny on skinny, or MOASB #12--Anonymous

if you're just tuning in, go here for an explanation

Maybe I just don’t understand, but I know that my Mom just doesn’t understand.

You see, I believe myself to have a decent understanding. I know very well that she does not. And therein lies the conflict. 

Growing up 10 minutes away from the beach, I just … was skinny. So was everyone. You were skinny, or you didn’t matter.

My Mom was a cheerleader in high school. I … was not.
She was popular in high school. I … was not.
She was skinny in high school. So was I.

The basis is similar, but somewhere along the lines, my sweet Mother, realized for perhaps the first time that she was aging. I was 15 and she was 40.

She was 40. I ... was not.
She was gaining weight. I ... was not.
I grew boobs. She did not.

Our relationship grew strained. Suddenly, I was no longer a little girl, and she was no longer a young woman. I was accused of “taking something” to obtain the perky things on my chest that I had obviously not received genetically. I felt betrayed.

I thought she was my best friend. She … was not.

Her weight gain and image issues became my issues. “Stop eating so much candy!” she begged me. I did not. “You’ve gained weight, you know.” I had not. “You’re outgrowing your pants.” I was not.

The fact that my mother and I look so much alike was no longer something cute that a little girl and her young mother shared. It was the stark difference between 15 and 40.

Suddenly we were almost the same height. She had wrinkles. I did not. She dyed her hair. I did not.

A move brought new conflict to our lives. I gained weight. At last, my mother had something to point out. “You’ve gained weight you know.” To my astonishment … I had. “You’re outgrowing your pants.” Shockingly … I was. “You’ll never get dates that way.” I did not.

Not that I had any dates in the first place.

My weight was the basis for my happiness for too long. I cannot blame my mother entirely, but I cannot entirely accept the blame for what I think of myself.

I only forgave her when on one particular evening, wandering a parking lot, I could finally tell one man how much I hated myself. How much that “extra weight” dragged me down. How much I wanted to tell her she was wrong. How much I wanted to love myself but could not.

He didn’t tell me I should hate myself.
He didn’t tell me to hate her.
He only said that I was beautiful. And for the first time, I believed it.

I may not believe it every day, but it helps when I wake up next to him and he reminds me. He still thinks I’m beautiful. He’s been telling me every day for a couple of years now, and it seems like he just might keep it up.

When one man changed the image I had of myself with one word, I could forgive my mother for what she had done to me. But I still know what it was. Can I completely absolve a woman who is so clearly obsessed with the body image not only of herself, but of her three daughters?

“You’re really pretty when you lose the extra weight.”
“Well, she’s skinny, but she’ll never look it for those broad shoulders.”
“She’d be skinny if she wanted to be, but she’s just not … active.”

Actual sentences uttered by an actual woman who was meant to love us.

Maybe I just don’t understand, but there’s no way she does.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Jocelyn and Abigail--by Jocelyn

I never much worried about my weight. I’m 5’5” and roughly 140 lbs. I’ve been that pretty much since I stopped growing sometime in early high school. I say roughly because my family didn’t often have a scale around, and it’s still that way at my house. I think I might have one in a closet somewhere that we use for weighing luggage before flights. I’ll fluctuate to about five pounds on either side, but that’s about it. That excludes pregnancy, of course, but even post-pregnancy I dropped back down to right about 140 lbs within a couple of weeks. I was not-so-nicely teased about that a few times, dropping the pregnancy weight so quickly, but for the most part I haven’t thought about it much. I never really have.  It’s just how I am. I guess that makes me one of the “skinny girls” even if I do have curves. Especially in light of the other stories I’ve read here, I know that I have been incredibly lucky. Though I did have the common enough teenage phase of “I’ll never be pretty enough” I have a strong foundation, a supportive family and a bit of a tough-as-nails personality, and between all these things and the grace of God I have stayed pretty content with how I look and feel. I should confess that I do still fight the urge to seek reassurance that I’m not fat, that I am pretty and desirable. I haven’t ducked the societal bullet of “this is beautiful and nothing else; seek it” quite entirely. Sometimes it doesn’t matter what you know, it matters what you feel, and society is very good at making a normal, healthy young mother feel fat. I know I am not, but sometimes I seek reassurance anyway, and I wish that weren’t the case. Nonetheless, I know I am blessed and I am deeply thankful for it.

I guess it is pretty obvious that I don’t have many of the usual body image problems in any intensity; not with being too heavy or too skinny. I worry sometimes, but not too much and it isn’t too hard to shake. So why I am I writing this? It’s certainly not to “rub it in”—I’ve been profoundly moved by the stories I’ve read here, the testimonials I’ve seen. The strength of all these women to grow and change and overcome obstacles is inspiring. I’m writing to offer a point of view that isn’t yet represented: addressing body issues as they pertain to someone else, that is, as a mother. Let me tell you about my daughter. Her name is Abigail, and she just turned one year old. Abigail is thriving. She is very intelligent and certainly plenty healthy. She got her father’s build and my eyes. He’s 6’5” tall and roughly 185 lbs—to be clear, he’s a tall, thin man (and this is the heaviest he’s ever been, and he’s by far the most fleshed-out member of his tall, thin family!). Abigail is off the charts for height, and 60th percentile for weight. So, that makes her look a good bit like Daddy. She eats plenty and has chubby little baby thighs, a round belly, and curvy cheeks. Those eyes like mine are even bigger in her little face, blue and shiny. She’s adorable, in fact (okay, so I’m biased, but she is! Just look at the picture). She’s smart and quick. She is a little behind the curve on physical skills (she isn’t walking yet, but she’s working on pulling up; if you don’t spend much time around babies, that means she’s about 2 months slower to gain those skills than the average kid). However, she’s been that way since day one; precocious intellectually and a little slower to gain physical skills. It’s been posited that this is in part an effect of her build. She has more bulk to move around and it’s in a different distribution than that of many kids. One way or the other, it’s never before been anything to worry about. It’s not even a developmental delay, in the clinical sense. She just has her own, easily measurable pace for growing. It’s a delight to watch her learn and change and take charge of her world, even as it is also a challenge to deal with some days!

Abigail’s relative slenderness has never been a point of difficulty or concern … until her 12 month checkup at the doctor’s office. She had gained weight and height, as usual, but her percentile weight had gone down some, as had her percentile head circumference. Her height was still off the chart, so who knows about that. Apparently, when more than one stat goes down we’re supposed to start making concerned faces. Now, let me clarify—she still gained weight between appointments, just not enough to keep her at the same percentage marker on the charts. It couldn’t be that she is growing into her body type or anything <sigh>. Instead, I got lots of advice about how to adjust her eating to contain more fats and proteins and a “gentle” mention that, if Abigail’s stubborn aversion to eating chunkier foods (she likes things pureed and isn’t a huge fan of this “eat the green bean by chewing it yourself” plan—we’re working on it :D) wasn’t worked out by her next appointment she’d be recommended for “food therapy” (that exists?! For babies? What??). I was upset when I got home from this appointment. No matter how many different ways they say it, a mother still hears “your baby is broken, you did a bad job feeding her, now go be a better mother and fix it.” For the record, my baby eats a lot. She’s always been a vigorous nurser and she slurps down her solid foods.  As every member of my family, extended and immediate, went out of their way to say, Abigail is healthy and the doctor clearly just doesn’t understand her body type very well. When I had pretty much gotten over it (though I must admit, I still worry some now even though I don’t need to), I got an entirely unsolicited and unexpected letter in the mail from the doctor. It was entitled “how to fatten up your baby” (what a hurtful title!) and listed most of the same suggestions the doctor said at the appointment. It sent me right back into the spiral of worry.

It’s amazing how much one little comment, one chart created from a generalized survey and societal expectations about growth, can destroy someone’s confidence. I talked about my own history of relative non-issues with my body to give a baseline; I am not particularly susceptible to body image problems. I don’t have a history of worrying about this stuff. But someone tells me my daughter isn’t quite right and all that resilience goes right out the window. I never thought I’d have to start wrestling these questions when Abigail was this little. Sure, right now the doctor is just expressing mild concern based on health, but my child is fundamentally and demonstrably healthy. She routinely startles this same doctor with her intellectual development, activeness, and playfulness. She’s fine. But what I’m hearing is focus on how her body isn’t what the charts expect, and I can’t help but think: is this what my baby is going to hear for the rest of her life? “You’re too skinny”? Not just, as others on this blog have talked about, from people who are jealous or think they’re joking, but from her doctor? From people about whom I, her mother, can’t really say “They don’t know you and how God made you to be, so let their criticisms roll off.” After all, her doctor should know her body type, should know that this is how she grows and that she is healthy, eating well, exercising and all those good things (should they be true, of course, as they are now).

I was lucky; my mother and relatives told me that I was healthy, that I was pretty, and they were correct and meant it. I’ve always planned to pass that support on to my kids, but will that be enough? How do we raise our children, especially girls, to know that their overall health is what matters, no matter how they’re built, when we’re hearing from age one that they don’t conform to the standard and that we must take action to deal with it? When will that become “you don’t have enough curves like the rest of the teen girls, take action to deal with it?” These are the questions that others writing here have talked about, of course, the questions that drive this entire discussion. What shapes our body image, who tells us what it should be, and how do we deal with the negative messages that come with a cultural assumption of a single kind of beauty. But what I never realized was how early these messages start turning up, and how insidiously. Yes, I do believe that Abigail’s doctor was speaking out of genuine concern for her health, not because she isn’t pretty or some such nonsense. But Abigail is rapidly acquiring language. Though I’m sure she wasn’t tuned in to any of the talk at this last appointment (she was happily playing with the doctor’s aide in other corner of the room), what if such concerns are raised when she’s three, or five? Certainly old enough to hear what we’re talking about, to absorb that this figure of authority thinks something is wrong with her and that we should do something about it. Just how young do our children begin to see their normal bodies as something that need to be fixed? When does it start? As her parents my husband and I fully intend to give her all the help having a healthy idea of her own body and growth as we can along with all the other support one wishes to give a growing child. We’ll do our best. But why, oh why, am I already hearing “Your daughter isn’t what my stats say she should be. Maybe you should do something about that”? Maybe, just maybe, we should all watch what we say: to our friends, to our family, and, most of all, not just to our children but around our children.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

"I Love How I Look" by Jenni Schaefer--submitted by Sara Vranes

CLICK HERE to read what was the lead article on the Huffington Post website quite recently.  Great little post about changing the way we talk, think, and eventually feel about beauty and our bodies.

You will find much you like here, but what one of my favorite things she brings up is how women have a tendency to bond over negative self-talk, and how damaging that is.  A-men.  I had a wise roommate my sophomore year who refused to engage me on such conversations, and it literally changed my life.  Fight negative self-talk.  If a friend starts to talk about how fat she looks or how big her thighs or pimple-y her face is, change the subject.   Leave the conversation.  Express a love and gratitude for your own body.  If you have time, sit down and have a serious discussion about why she feels this way and what really matters in a woman.  ANYthing but the oh-too-common "No you don't!  My thighs are SO much bigger than yours.  Plus, I have stretch marks!  Ew."  And on, and on, and on.  Let's stop the madness!  Be courageous!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

the skinny on skinny, or MOASB #11--by Rachel

When I was in high school, I asked my best friend if pretty people knew that they were pretty. I don't remember her precise response. (Nor do I remember her response at all.) What I do remember, however, is that she was one of those (very) pretty people, and I don't think that she knew.

Lately I have been wondering something else: Do skinny people know that they are skinny? I wonder this because I am one of those skinny people, and I don't always know. In fact, I rarely know. Generally only when I am looking at pictures of myself, even if they were taken just days before. Hardly ever when I am actually living.

It doesn't matter that I have received very kind compliments from friends, classmates, strangers, and ex-loves about my body (for instance, a friend's sister once asked me how it felt to have the body of a model, and the next day a male classmate told me I was "model-esque.")

There are probably a few reasons for this. One is that I have a very tall, very thin family, so my 5'8" 120 (or so) pound frame never seems that tall or that thin. Two is that I live in a society that cares a lot about thinness, and a lot less about health. Every magazine, movie, and media outlet tries to convince us (both you and I) that what may count as beautiful fits in an extremely narrow confine.

While I am closer to the "ideal" than some, I am not immune to the seemingly never ending calls to compare myself. I was reminded of this recently while watching this short video by Miss Representation (which may or may not have already been posted on this wonderful blog). Around 40 seconds it tells us that after looking at fashion magazines for 3 minutes, a large percentage of us wish that we were skinny as models.

I was surprised and saddened, and my first thought reflects this. It was: "Oh. Other women feel this too." I had no idea. I thought it was just me. I would prefer that it was just me.

So, what do I do? When I am riding on the LA metro on my way to school, I look at the people. There are lots and lots of chances to see different types of people and bodies. And guess what? They are all beautiful. Truly. I make a game out of looking for their beauty, and I win nearly every time.

On good days I also try to turn my hurtful internal dialogue around. If I am negatively focusing on a specific part of my body, I try to remember something positive that that body part does for me. For instance, when I am bemoaning my less than tone arms, I consciously recall that they are strong enough to hold, hug, and carry my nieces and nephews. Or, when I think about the fact that my legs do not look the same as they did when I was 17 and a high school high jumper, I remember that they are strong enough to bike me across whole countries, and that they have done so in the last year. (I am immensely grateful to them for this.)

I also remember something my now-husband said to me while we were first dating. He told me that I had a beautiful body as well as a beautiful mind. It drew me to him, because it meant that he saw all of me. He saw me as a whole person. This is how we should see ourselves. This is how we should see others.

The beauty myth hurts everyone: those who are less-than-thin by worldly standards and those who are thought of as thin. It objectifies individuals of every size, by trying to place them in a small box of what they should look like and what they should be.

Allow yourself to look beyond that box for beauty, in your own person as well as that of others.  It is liberating.  More importantly, let yourself look beyond that box for self worth.  Undo the forms of those who would do emotional (and sometimes physical) violence to you.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

the skinny on skinny or MOASB #10--by Brenna

Dear Dana, 

I've been thinking all this last week about the message you sent. Asking about my experiences with my weight and body type. I have been thin throughout my life, wait, not thin--skinny. My biggest struggle with my body-image has roots in how those around me view my weight.

I have never understood why it is inappropriate to ask someone, "have you gained some weight?"  but it seems perfectly acceptable to many people to say, "you"re too skinny!". As if one is a huge insult and the other a huge compliment. 

[As a side note, why is this always one of the first things we say to one another? I'm pretty sure since the dawn of time the first thing out of everyone's mouth when greeting a long absent friend or family member is some comment about their weight or appearance. Seriously, was it the first thing Adam said to Eve… the first thing Josephine said to Napoleon when he came back from war was--"have you gained some weight?" anyways, I digress…]

I have heard the latter of those two comments many times, and for me it is not a compliment. In fact it has become my biggest source of negative self-esteem. For me, how skinny I am is synonymous with my level of happiness. I think this is an idea I have picked up from being born a Phillips. In my family, when we are unhappy or anxious--we don't eat. Which means we lose weight, therefore, if you are thin you must be unhappy. I am an anxious person, something that large amounts of yoga and prayer and therapy help me with. And just my having anxiety…gives me more anxiety. I have anxiety about my anxiety. You can see how quickly this can get a little crazy. So what I've learned to try and do, is separate my anxiety and my negative self-esteem as much as I possibly can, so as not to compound my own particular brand of craycray (crazy). 

When others say to me "you look sooo skinny!" or "Are you eating?!" all I hear is "you look so unhappy/unhealthy/terrible". And when I hear others says it, I begin to believe it about myself. This is my own private battle,  learning to be confident in my own self-worth and happiness despite what others see about my outside appearance. But it would help if we could all agree to focus a little less on how we look and a little more on each other's overall well-being . Words are powerful, and we can hurt each other with the most casual of comments. So, on behalf of all women (of any size) I would just like to say: please stop asking questions about my weight loss/gain, I am so much more than a number on a scale--ask me about me instead.

love, Brenna a skinny (but still vulnerable) biotch

Monday, May 21, 2012

You're Beautiful

This is my first post on this blog as a contributor. I'm a little apprehensive that I'll not be able to instill as much confidence in loving yourself, while the other contributors seem to be seasoned professionals. So I'll start with a post that not only will help build my self esteem that I'm clearly lacking at the moment, and will maybe help you as well! It's a beautiful song, by a favorite artist of mine. The lyrics are a positive message to all you girls who try to be someone else besides who you are, or those that wish they were in someone else's skin. Enjoy!

Youtube won't let me embed the video, so here's the link to the clip.

gchat conversation with C about women and men and conversations about body image and beauty

me: It's okay. It was a good experience.
5:26 PM hey--have you checked out the body blog at all? (or even heard of it? I know you're so busy...)
5:29 PM C: Is it the one you've been posting on Facebook?
5:30 PM me: yupperz
 C: I haven't been to it yet, but I've seen your posts
 me: you should check it out if you get some time.
 C: Yeah, I will
5:31 PM me: This is the most recent post
  i helped a girl make a documentary about eating disorders.
  anyhow...the blog naturally attracts female readers, and I'm okay with that. I wish there was a way I could better reach the male population as well.
5:32 PM C: Yeah
  I was just noticing that most of the followers are women
5:33 PM me: the people who make comments, the people who like and share the posts on facebook, and most of all, the people who contribute
5:35 PM C: That's tough
  The problem is, guys don't worry about what girls worry about when it comes to bodies
5:37 PM me: for sure. But do guys ever worry about the girls in their lives, and what they worry about?
  suffer anxiety over/spend money on/experience depression over/etc?
5:38 PM or just about bodies in general
5:39 PM C: Yeah, I worry about girls' perception of their bodies but the overall message I get is "don't bring it up because if a girl has a problem, talking about it with you isn't going to help"
 me: I think these posts (so far) can be valuable to anyone who interacts with women or who might one day be the father of a daughter. Also, I'd like to find a way to make it more directly related to men--find a way to get somem ale authors.
  I'm sorry that's the impression you've gotten
  that kills me.
  I think it would be SO HEALTHY for women to have an open dialogue about these things with men.
  and for men to have it with women.
5:40 PM I think it could be very, very healing on both ends.
5:41 PM C: Yeah, but would it really help if I brought up eating disorders with a girl who has one?
5:42 PM me: of course!
  do you know a girl who has one?
  i mean, obviously it depends on who, and in what context.
  but I think about when I had my eating disorder, and how healing it was/would have been for men I trusted to speak openly with me about it.
5:43 PM C: Would you have believed them?
 me: in what sense? Their sincerity?
5:44 PM (this conversation we are having right now is VERY interesting to me, especially if it is repesentative of how other men feel)
5:45 PM C: Yeah, like would you have believed a guy talking to you about how he perceived your body if you had an eating disorder?
5:46 PM me: hmmm...give me an example because I feel like you're referring to something specific. You don't have to use names, etc.
5:47 PM C: Oh, I'm not
5:48 PM Well, I guess I'm talking from a High School Health class that I took
  (that's the last time I talked about eating disorders in a big way)
5:49 PM The sense I got was that talking about a girl's body to her would only insight more of a problem
5:50 PM It didn't matter if what I was saying was true or not, it was just better to not talk about their bodies than to say positive things
 me: well. Here's what's true. Words DO contain a lot of power, and I understand the need to play it safe out of fear of doing greater damage.
5:51 PM But these things are already on the mind. ESPECIALLY on the mind of a girl with an eating disorder.
  She's being talked to every day by imaginary voices coming from imaginary men. (they actually come from diet and fashion industries, but you get the point)
5:52 PM These voices tell her that how she looks means EVERYTHING.
  That she isn't thin enough, her boobs aren't big enough, her stomach isn't flat enough, her hair isn't smooth enough, her skin isn't clear enough, and the list goes on.
5:53 PM That all men fear that the women they date/marry/etc. will gain weight, get wrinkles, will have soft bodies post-pregnancy, etc. and as soon as this happens the men that loved them will leave them for someone younger, firmer, smoother.
  THIS ISN'T TRUE (Am I right?)
5:54 PM I'm not denying a need to feel physically attracted to the opposite gender.
 C: Hmmm
  I can see your point
 me: but the qualifications for attraction aren't so streamlined.
5:55 PM And love (I pray and hope) is not so shallow as the state, qualilty, size, and age of a woman's body parts.
  what women need
  is more conversations with real men.
  we don't know how you feel about our bodies both in general and specifically.
  and I could be wrong
  but I get the feeling that the truth (how you really feel) is far less frightening than what we fear.
5:57 PM C: That's true!
  I love women.
  In general.
  And their bodies.
  Just in general.
  Love 'em.
5:58 PM me: Right. And think about the girls you've dated. I doubted you thought to yourself "Gosh...I wish this part of her body was just a little more/less ___."
  it was probably more along the lines of "Gosh! I love this girl!"
 C: Yeah
  That's a total media scam
  at some point or another and to varying degrees. but yes. even the very wise.
5:59 PM C: Well, how do I get you guys to come to my store and buy my opinion?
 me: lol
 C: Haha
  I'm serious.
 me: share it. We'll take it! We just don't know it exists, and sometimes we're afraid to ask.
6:00 PM Also, in regards to women you don't have a crush on, you can still share affirming thoughts and words.
  I think both sides would be surprised in this conversation. I think you'd be surprised how much we want to have it with you. And I think we'd be surprised at what you have to say.
6:01 PM C: Huh
  That's cool.
  I want to have that conversation more, now
 me: here. Let me give you an example. You may or may not remember this, but I know you were in the room.
  it was right before I left Utah.
 C: I remember it.
 me: Do you?
6:02 PM when I was expressing frustrations about my body and how I felt it kept men from giving me a chance, etc?
  and then S piped up. S didn't say "Dana! I think you're smokin' and I have a crush on you!"
6:03 PM he said "Dana, those guys are shallow. The last girl I dated was around your size or bigger, and I thought she was beautiful."
  Are guys who date skinny girls necessarily shallow? No. Was S professing his undying love for me in affirmation? No.
  S gave to me something that I didn't know he had, and in the moment, didn't believe that the male gender could possibly possess.
6:04 PM the capacity to find beauty in a woman larger than a size 8.
  That was SO HEALING. I wrote it in my journal and think of it often.
 C: That's good.
  Know what else/
  Most of us don't even know what 'size 8' means.
  Nor do we care.
6:05 PM This is super fascinating for me.
6:06 PM me: I think about when I had my eating disorder--I had conversations like that from time to time. They were few and far between, but they were heaven-sent. And though they didn't cure me overnight, they contributed greatly to the healing process.
  We need and crave real conversations with real men.
  about these topics
  but we fear it is as uncomfortable for you as you fear it is for us.
6:07 PM C: Yeah
  is a really good point
 me: I just imagine a world where fathers could have these kinds of conversations regularly with their daughters.
 C: "but we fear it is as uncomfortable for you as you fear it is for us."
 me: Can I give you a challenge, C?
6:08 PM It's Monday. First day of the working week. Can you try and have a conversation about bodies/body image with a woman in your life this week?
  she can be a crush or just a friend. It doesn't matter.
  (and this doesn't count :) )
6:12 PM C: YEah, sure
  I'm down.
 me: Will you? I will ask you how it went if you don't get back to me before then.
  Maybe you should write down some questions you'd like to ask.
6:13 PM Ways to start the conversation.
  And then just be a good listener. I'm really curious to hear her reaction and your experience.
6:15 PM Also...would you mind if I shared this conversation on the blog? I can take out your name if you like.
6:18 PM C: Yeah, go for it.
  That's actually what I was thinking.
  This is how you can get guys interested
 me: right! :) Okay. So, I want you to have that conversation, (hell! have a few if you ilke!) and I want you to write about it. It only need be a page.
6:19 PM Can you do that for me?
 C: Haha, sure
  I'm not a great writer but I can do it.
 me: Thanks, C. I really appreciate it.