Friday, September 20, 2013

Weekly Roundup: Nudity Week #2

After our two posts this week on the subject of nudity (Naked Dark and (Not) Streaking at College), we're excited to announce our next topic: mental health. We wanted to talk about the ways that mental health issues are part of our bodily experience. [For example, depression is not a symptom of sin, it's about chemical imbalances in the brain.]

So: How have you experienced mental health issues in your life? Has it been related to your body? This could be directly, like if exercise helps mitigate its effects, or perhaps indirectly, such as if body image or expectations cause you anxiety or stress. Tell us your fears about it (will I ever conquer it?), your successes (I helped a friend find great counseling and now we can joke about it!), or anything else! NB: we previously hosted a series specifically on postpartum depression specifically (view the entries here)--but don't feel like you can't write on that if it's the aspect of mental health you really want to share.

We've got a little bit lined up, but we THRIVE on your submissions! Send us your thoughts and experiences using the info in the upper right. Also, we may be publishing one or two more submissions on nudity as they come in/get edited, so if you were thinking about writing something up, you can (and should!) still send it in.

A few weekly roundup items from around the internet related to this week's posts:
  • Alicia's awesome post from Monday included this absolutely lovely meditation: "When I am lying there looking at the underside of the universe from the water, I think about the thing that someone told me once: that our bodies are made from the cosmos, that we are literally made of star dust. Star dust has scattered and floated through the universe and settled on our humble planet and given life to the crops and animals that have fed me and given me life. The wind and air I breathe has risen up and settled into Earth’s atmosphere from the heights of heaven and the force of stars’ eruptions. This prayer is a prayer of communion with the entirety of the universe, and with the largess of God." Well, that someone who told her that was absolutely right! Listen to none other than astrophysicist superstar Neil deGrasse Tyson tell you all about it:
  • There was almost going to be one of the greatest collisions of opposite cultures ever in early October in Utah. The Utah Underwear Run was planned to head past Temple Square just as LDS General Conference was getting out on Saturday--but it looks like the city was worried about shepherding runners through all the traffic and so it will take place slightly later :( The organizers of the run were worried they might have to delay it another weekend, and that is trouble because "scheduling the run any later into October risks frigid, underwear-unfriendly temps" :)
  • You have to love the internet: of course there's a Mormon Skinny Dippers forum! With threads with titles like Can Mormons be Nudists? and Modesty & Nudity, it sounds interesting.
Any thoughts on our posts from this week or these random tidbits? Any suggestions? Leave a comment or submit something!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

(Not) Streaking at College

At the school I attended for my graduate degree, there was a tradition among students to streak down a very large quad at night. Not everyone did it, of course, but it was a commonplace sight there after about 11 pm. I once talked to some security guards posted nearby about it; they just laughed about it and said they never interfered. So I kind of really wanted to. I've never streaked (struck?) or skinny-dipped in my life. I figured this would be a great opportunity to do so in a way that I wouldn't get in any trouble--socially or academically--for. But I never did.

Why not? Well beyond the normal hesitation I think most people raised in American culture feel about being nude in public, I'm also kind of shy and didn't want to do it alone--but also didn't know anyone who would be interested in doing it with me. I blame* that mainly on most of my friends being fellow Mormons. That pretty much ruled out my female friends: even though I knew a few who might have possibly been OK with it, I just didn't know how to start that conversation ("hey member-of-the-opposite-sex, want to run around naked in public for a few minutes?") and didn't want to risk the awkwardness if they said no.

Male friends didn't seem like a much more promising pool of people, either, sad to say. Honestly, I think part of it was my fear of vague societal homophobia--I'm already semi-outspoken about LGBT issues, will guys in the ward kinda look at me weird if I ask them to run around naked with me? [To be clear, this isn't something I'm proud of, but I have to admit it did factor into my apprehension about asking any Mormon male friends to join me.] But even without that factor, I hadn't seen any of my male friends nude before, and vice versa, and it's not easy to offer to change that.

So I think the main reason I didn't ask anyone to join me streaking (and thus why I never did it) was the weird taboo our culture (American generally, but especially the Mormon sub-part thereof) has about nudity. There's just no non-awkward way of being naked in someone else's presence unless you're in a sexual relationship with them. If you have experiences with breaking that ice in a non-sexual context, I would love to hear about it, though! How do you ask someone to go skinny-dipping or streaking with you?

Anyway, this cultural nudity taboo is sad to me. If nothing else, it means I missed out on a fun, safe, liberating experience. But hey, I guess there's always reunions!

* I use "blame" in a not-carrying-any-bitter-connotations kind of way, just describing reality. I have nothing against Mormon friends! :)

Monday, September 16, 2013

Naked Dark

by Alicia Harris

I am a Christian woman, and I believe that my spirit is embodied.

The most beautiful nights of my life were spent in deep water under stars and clouds and without clothing on.

In so doing, I submit my most vulnerable flesh to the elements of the world. From doing this, I have learned about God and I have come to grow in sacred trust and belief in the greater good. I learned that my breasts float and that nothing would harm me in the still darkness of mountain lakes. I learned that the bodies of others are unique and beautiful when they are reflected in the moonlight. I have seen their pendulous bellies and arms flinging through water and then resting on wooden docks in the middle of the night. I have been scared and felt exposed, but I have always left these experiences feeling powerful and capable. I have never left a conversation about hemlines or necklines feeling this way. I have only left those feeling judgmental or judged.

I remember being very small and my dad reminding me that everything that was there in the dark was the same that was present when the light was on, and so there was no need to be afraid. I want to extend that assurance and say that everything that is there when your clothes are on is still there when they are not. There is no need to be afraid of the things you see when clothes are off, because that is all still with you even when you cannot see it. Naked dark enriches the spirit. It is where we learn to trust and know our bodies and trust the universe.

My favorite thing to do in the middle of the night is to float on my back in the quiet depths and let my belly, thighs and breast float above the surface. I don’t want you to talk to me when I am doing this because it is a form of prayer. When I am lying there looking at the underside of the universe from the water, I think about the thing that someone told me once: that our bodies are made from the cosmos, that we are literally made of star dust. Star dust has scattered and floated through the universe and settled on our humble planet and given life to the crops and animals that have fed me and given me life. The wind and air I breathe has risen up and settled into Earth’s atmosphere from the heights of heaven and the force of stars’ eruptions. This prayer is a prayer of communion with the entirety of the universe, and with the largess of God.

I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and I have been endowed with many gifts inside the Mormon Temple. Because of that, I wear a reminder to nourish my body and my spirit under my shirt every day. In the naked dark, I feel nourished in both. In the naked dark, my body reminds my spirit that they are connected. In the naked dark, my spirit reminds my body that it is alive inside, and that it won’t be left to silence and covering. 

I worship in the LDS temple in Winter Quarters, Nebraska, regularly. I am often struck at the depiction of Adam and Eve. Prior to their partaking of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil (is that not THE longest name for a tree!?), they are undressed. They only become awakened to their nakedness by Satan’s pointing it out to them after they have eaten of the fruit, and thereby are capable of understanding the possibility of indecency. In this instance it becomes a shameful thing to be embodied because, in Mormon theology, Satan is disembodied. Evidently, therefore, there is power in the bodies that God has created for Adam and Eve, and Satan seeks to attack these very innocent and marvelous bodies before they are even expelled from the garden. It is literally the very first thing that is attacked by the force of evil. When God returns, He inquires about their covering, concerned at the sudden distance that His children have now experienced from His work (Genesis 3: 7-11). It is the first moment when the human family senses its distance from God. In the naked dark, I demand a return.

My family has never been one of shame for our bodies. My people are big. I never realized that I was bigger than my peers until I left for college and “body image” was the hip thing for girls to be concerned about. I moved in with three former pageant contestants who weighed themselves three times a day. I hadn’t ever stepped on a scale outside of a doctor’s office. It was startling to be suddenly situated at Brigham Young University as a bumbling 19 year old who was unaware that constant body critiques and calorie counting were a mandatory component of sociality. I didn’t know that you were a bad person if you ate a bagel. Weren’t we taught that we are Daughters of the God of the Universe? How could we claim our imperfection as integral to our selves? It was a stark contrast to the soft comfort of my mother’s breast, or the encouragement that my father gave me after a good long run that we often took together. My body was so much alive, until I was told that it was too big, too tall, too round, too brown, not brown enough, too stinky, too young, and now too old. I just wanted to go back to not knowing. 

While I was raised in a family for whom body image seeks health, I was also raised to understand modesty, and the gravity of sex.  There is power in these things, and I know that this power is embodied literally.  But I contest that the over- and under-sexualisation of the body is removed from modesty. The claim that bodies are to be shamed, or in some way disallowed to be sexual, is a removal from their innate function. Further, the denial that bodies are capable of more than reproduction or use for gratification is a perversion. I believe that more is meant when we, as disciples of Jesus Christ, are asked to be modest. Maybe modesty isn’t even about sex at all. Maybe it is an extension of the entire mission of Jesus Christ: to further our love and reverence for one another. In being asked to view one another with respect; we are asked to protect the sovereignty of our fellows, and in so doing we reflect our own.

I do this in the naked darkness.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Weekly Roundup: Nudity Week #1

We had two great posts this week on the subject of nudity, and we've got a few more in the pipeline for next week, so stay tuned!

Today is also our first in what will hopefully be an every-Friday feature: a Weekly Roundup of links to interesting blog posts, websites, and other miscellanea we've come across during the week (or had sent our way--please do share anything you find!) on the current topic:

  • First, this is a great short post by a masseuse titled "What Real People Look Like." With the subtitle of "Women have cellulite, men have silly buttocks," you know it's a must read! :)
  • Then there's this classic of the Mormon blogosphere, "High Priest Sauna Night." Written by a member of the LDS church living in Finland, it ends on this hilarious note: "It would be difficult to come to High Priest Sauna Night and say, sitting naked in a small room heated to 95C hip-to-hip with the stake patriarch and a deacon, ‘You know, the church is the same wherever you go.’" You know you wanna read it.
  • Finally, a recent project has started that showcases tasteful, artistic, nude photographs of Mormon women. It's called Mormon Women Bare (potentially NSFW, depending on where you work), and here's an excerpt from the introduction: "The women shown here are not paid models. They are your daughters and mothers, sisters and friends. They are different ages, shapes, and sizes. What they have in common is a shared history with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a tradition that seeks to both exalt the body as divine while treating its natural impulses as temptations to be overcome. These women show incredible bravery and vulnerability to share their stories through their words and their bodies. Together, we aim to show that bodies are beautiful and sacred, flawed and powerful, earthly and divine."
So that's a bit of what's been going on around the embodyed internet. Please share any thoughts, impressions, or responses to these links in the comments--and point us towards anything we've missed!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Two Views of Nudity

by Anonymous

I got two different stories in my youth. My mother constantly told me to cover up, to wear shorts over my bathing suit even when it was just family in the pool. I think I was 6 in the backyard playing soccer with my brother when I took my shirt off due to the 100+ degree heat and my mom came flying out of the house telling me to put it back on. My mother has always been uncomfortable with bodies, how they function and what they look like. My dad’s approach is totally opposite. He’s a doctor, and to him a body is a body is a body and nothing to be embarrassed about. He has no shame and will answer any question about bodies like you asked what was for dinner. I saw my dad naked countless times, but it never seemed weird. Actually I think it was really healthy, because I was never afraid of the male body and felt like I knew more than most about how bodies worked.

That being said I was still a shy kid and very afraid of people seeing me naked. Come high school I had some crazy friends who thought running across bridges over the freeway at night naked was fun, and other such antics which I won’t go into. So I tried it, and it felt amazing. So free! All different shapes and sizes of teenaged girls running naked, one at a time, across the freeway with no fear. I also ended up seeing most of my male high school friends naked as well either running naked laps or playing truth or dare. And I don’t think it was a bad thing. Being nude and seeing my friends nude was empowering.

In college I found myself quite alone in my body confidence. There were so many girls that thought they were fat and ugly, it was easy to let it rub off. Eventually I found friends that were a more positive influence and I felt we were free to do and be who we wanted to be, and that sometimes included skinny dipping, underwear dance parties, etc…

The biggest jump in my views on nudity came a few years ago when I got married. I remember taking my clothes off for my husband on our wedding night. It was crazy, and when he took his off too I was like whoa that’s so cool! Now it’s a totally normal thing. I may come home to find him sitting naked at the kitchen table—doesn't even phase me. I have inadvertently started cooking dinner naked, but why put clothes on if it’s hot in front of the stove? I also don’t mind if people see me naked, honestly I think I look better naked than clothed anyway. I always thought it would be fun to pose for an art class. Pretty sure we've been naked in every State Park we've visited; it’s kind of a running joke. Something about nature just makes you want to take your clothes off and be free. It’s also pretty exciting wondering whether or not you’ll get caught. What’s going to happen if somebody sees us, their eyes are going to melt? Ha ha, blinded by the beauty! Modesty is respect for your body, not being ashamed of it. I think more natural and normal nudity would be a very good thing for society. Seeing normal people naked, like my dad when I was a kid, or my friends in high school, my husband, even the men peeing in the street on my mission has never been a bad thing. In fact I feel lucky to have been influenced by so many people that are comfortable with their bodies. And it has had a very positive impact on my confidence in my own body. There’s a reason so much art is of nudes, because the human body is beautiful!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Explicitness is not the issue. Here's why.

(With some help from Naomi Wolf.)

Let me preface this by saying I have been thinking about this post all week and realize that in honestly expressing where I stand and how I feel, I will probably alienate persons on both sides of the issue (this seems to happen often these days just by being who I am). 

However, it's a risk I'm willing to take.  I didn't start this blog with the hopes that everyone would love my opinions and thoughts all the time, but with the hope that what I write will open dialogue and get folks thinking and speaking and deciding and problem-solving and changing.

I believe in the importance and benefits of chastity and in modesty (there are conversations to be had about either topic in a completely different post/series of posts).  I believe in the sacred nature of the human body.  

I also have some feelings about nudity and the naked body that sit outside of the conservative Christian mainstream.  I will share them and some pretty powerful quotes but FIRST we (Naomi Wolf and I) need to tell you what "beauty pornography" is.  

"Beauty pornography looks like this: The perfected woman lies prone, pressing down her pelvis.  Her back arches, her mouth is open, her eyes shut, her nipples erect; there is a fine spray of moisture over her golden skin.  The position is female superior; the stage of arousal, the plateau phase just proceeding orgasm.  On the next page, a version of her, mouth open, eyes shut, is about to tongue the pink tip of a lipstick cylinder.  On the page after, another version kneels in the sand on all fours, her buttocks in the air, her face pressed into a towel, mouth open, eyes shut.  The reader is looking through an ordinary women's magazine.  In an ad for Reebok shoes, the woman sees a naked female torso, eyes averted.  In an ad for Lily of France lingerie, she sees a naked female torso, eyes shut; for Opium perfume, a naked woman, back and buttocks bare, falls facedown from the edge of a bed; for Triton showers, a naked woman, back arched, flings her arms upward; for Jogbra sports bra, a naked female torso is cut off at the neck.  In these images, where the face is visible, it is expressionless in a rictus of ecstasy.  The reader understands from them that she will have to look like that if she wants to feel like that."  

Did that last paragraph make you feel uncomfortable?  It should have.  And yet, why would it, seeing as beauty pornography is, quite literally, everywhere?  What Naomi Wolf describes embodies the social cues we absorb about "beautiful" female bodies and female sexuality and you certainly don't need to be a connoisseur of pornography to take in daily an overwhelming diet.  

I love to skinny dip.  I have loved it since I was seven years old and my girlfriend I made while visiting my grandma asked me to go swimming naked with her in her family's pool while no one else was home.  Pools are alright, but mountain lakes are the best!  Especially when it is late at night and the sky is saturated in starlight reflecting perfectly off the black glass your naked body is enveloped in.  Recently on a church camp-out, I took a group of four girls who had never gone before.  One by one they consented.  One 19-year-old girl who months prior swore up and down she would never go gleefully exclaimed once naked and in the water "This is one of the most freeing experiences of my life!"

Yet there's always the frustrating fear of "what if we get caught?"  And worse--what if we get caught and there are children?  (As a public school teacher, the risk of sex-offender status is a pretty good deterrent in broad daylight on trails with heavy traffic.)

And yet I wonder why my naked body in a mountain stream is obscene while one and one's children are bombarded on every side with beauty pornography, with no petitions, and no laws.  So does Naomi Wolf.

"Obscenity law is based in part on the idea that you can avoid what offends you.  But the terms ordinarily used in the pornography debate cannot deal adequately with this issue.  Discussions of obscenity, or nakedness, or community standards do not address the harm done to women by this development: the way in which "beauty" joins pornography conventions in advertising, fashion photography, cable TV, and even comic books to affect women and children.  Men can choose to enter an adult bookstore [or visit pornographic websites]; women and children cannot choose to avoid sexually violent or beauty-pornographic imagery that follows them home.

"Sexual 'explicitness' is not the issue.  We could use a lot more of that, if explicit meant honest and revealing; if there were a full spectrum of erotic images of uncoerced real women and real men in contexts of sexual trust, beauty pornography could theoretically hurt no one.  Defenders of pornography base their position on the idea of freedom of speech, casting pornographic imagery as language.  Using their own argument, something striking emerges about the representation of women's bodies: The representation is heavily censored.  Because we see many versions of the naked Iron Maiden, we are asked to believe that our culture promotes display of female sexuality.  It actually shows almost none.  It censors representations of women's bodies, so that only the official versions or visible.  Rather than seeing images of female desire or that cater to female desire, we see mock-ups of living mannequins, made to contort and grimace, immobilized and uncomfortable under hot lights, professional set-pieces that reveal little about female sexuality.  In the United States and Great Britain, which have no traditions of public nakedness, women rarely--and almost never outside a competitive context--see what other women look like naked; we see only identical humanoid products based loosely on women's bodies."

Thus it is.  Most women have little to no idea what is actually going on underneath the clothing of other women (even those scantily clad).  To quote the brilliant Kate Savage from her entry on this blog, 

"Maybe the best way to finally outlaw real, human, sexual bodies is to replace them with purified simulations. We’ve got our own heavy paper to paste over the indecent materiality of flesh: only ours are printed with porn. Behind that heavy paper, the punishment and shaming of women’s bodies -- of our breasts, our thighs, our asses -- hasn’t let up, in all these centuries, for a second."

This conversation is only getting started, but let me share an experience I have had on several occasions that I wish I could give to every woman in my life.  

I love to run and I LOVE to run relay races.  I ran my first Hood to Coast this year, and I've run two Ragnar races.  Look 'em up.  All-through-the-night, three legs per runner, twelve people, 200 miles, two sweaty vans filled with six sweaty humans each.  Looking for a shower?  The course provides several high school locker rooms where you can strip down and join the other thirty (plus) naked ladies under your own stream of hot water as dirt trickles off your body and races to the drain while steam and conversation fills the room.

Naked bodies, and lots of them.  This, THIS is diversity.  I had no idea that breasts and nipples came in so many different shapes and sizes and colors.  Some bodies are bigger than mine, some are smaller.

Short, tall, squatty, lithe, pears, apples, carrots, hourglasses, women!  

Scars, cellulite, stretchmarks, muscles, bones, skin, hair, lungs and hearts beating blood circulating women talking, laughing, living, thriving.  

How healing it is to see real naked bodies.  They are, in my opinion, the only balm for the deep scars beauty pornography has left in our minds and hearts about bodies.  Our bodies.  Why are we so afraid?

Women--imagine for a moment how your life would be different if advertisements were replaced by real-life, first-person experiences with real, naked, female bodies.

Imagine if on your 14th birthday you were taken to the bath-house with your mother, your grandmothers, your aunts, your sisters, and all of your female role-models.  Imagine that you all sat with only a towel between you and the wood, in the steam and the heat, no posturing or posing, only soft bellies and thighs pressed down taking up delicious space.  Imagine being surrounded by naked, real women.  Imagine that these women only spoke well of their own bodies--praising them for their capacities, strength, miraculous feats, stories, and all that they are. You were encouraged to look, to ask questions--about bodies, about menstruation, ovulation, the complexities of sex and love.  Imagine you were encouraged to be confident, respectful, and never ashamed of your body.  Imagine the woman you respected most stood before you bare, in all of her flaws, looked at you boldly in the eyes and told you emphatically that she was in love with her body.

How would you be different today?

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

[insert idiom about reviving this blog]

This blog which began in the spring of 2012 was chugging along nicely until yours truly (my name is Dana if we haven't met.  I guess I sorta started this thing?  Hi there!) let her professional duties (oh you know putting on a full-fledged high school musical production.  If that doesn't sound too time-consuming, let's talk,) completely overwhelm her.  Everything that wasn't absolutely essential (food, sleep, running) went to pot.  Sadly, that included this blog.

In the months between then and now, I have received private messages and emails from quite a few of you asking what happened to this blog, and expressing a desire for it's return.  After months of emotionally and mentally wrestling with what to do with and about this blog, we are ready for its return.  My friend (and fellow moderator) Austin and I have decided the time is now.  

With that being said, please understand this blog exists because of submissions from readers like you!  We need your thoughts, experiences, feelings, and words on these topics.  

So let's get this ball rolling!  Let's get this show on the road!  Let's do this!  Vamanos!  Давайте!

The first topic (of MANY) we'd like to cover is nudity.

As a woman with many, regular, and varied locker room and skinny-dipping experiences, I am of the mindset that we in America don't see enough REAL nudity.  Our experience with what real human bodies (not airbrushed/photo-shopped/well-lit) look like underneath clothing is very limited.  What are your thoughts on this?  What has been your experience with nudity (whether of the same or opposite gender--whether your own or the nudity of others)?  Share one with us.  Do you feel uncomfortable about it?  Why?  Why not?  How does that word make you feel?  Nudity.  What is it like to look at your naked, relaxed body?  Do you wish this experience was any different?  How has it developed over time?  What influence does media have on the way you experience naked bodies, especially your own?  What scares you about the body?  What excites you?  

Submit your responses to dana.rose.fleming@gmail.com

We will begin posting next Monday.  You can expect a post every Monday and Wednesday with a "Weekly Body Roundup" on Friday.  The weekly roundup will include articles, blog posts, pictures, etc. that we found relevant to this blog from around the interwebz and which will hopefully prove interesting, inspiring, insightful to you!  

As a reminder, we are always accepting submissions on any topic regarding the body in general.

Welcome back, welcome back, welcome back!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Awakening

My teens poke fun at me for lots of reasons.  My mormonism, my perpetually disorganized desk, my djembe drums and hippie skirts, my weird (read: AWESOME) taste in music, my unapologetic misuse of the word "tenacious", and the list goes on.

One area they never neglect is what they call my "radical feminism".  I don't mind the term feminism, though the word radical upsets me.  It upsets me because I wish my ideas about women and specifically the female body were not seen as strange or deviant.  It upsets me but I will exercise patience because I remember being where they are.

I remember being in the thick of at eating disorder, yes, but I also remember something much worse: something worse than compulsive and destructive behavior.  Something worse than addiction.  I remember being in the thick of seeing the world and my place as a woman in it.  I remember what it was like to play the game of body-shaming, image-coveting, and oppression, not because I loved the game but because in my mind, it was the only game in town.

This was, in my mind, not some phase I was going through.  Nor was it a battle for me to really fight.  It was the way of the world.  There are just some things you must accept and cannot change.  One day our planet will run out of petroleum, the poor will always be with us, and the way a woman looks matters more than the way she thinks or feels.

So.

Hop on that capitalist treadmill and keep running.  Why?  'Cause it's the only game in town, that's why. You cannot hop off.  You will get tired, but you are a woman and this is your race.

I believed this.  Until I learned that there may not be other games in town but I don't have to live in town.

I remember the moment I began to wake up (it's always a process) from my zombie treadmill run.  It would take years before I packed my bags and left, but I remember the moment I saw the crack in the door and realized I could leave and might someday have the courage to do so.

Age 14, sick, and as small as my body would let me get

My friends had known about my eating disorder for a while individually.  Eventually, several of them turned me in, my parents knew, I ended up in the hospital, and there was no longer a point in hiding it.  Everyone knew but we didn't talk about it most of the time.  What was there to be said?  Yeah an eating disorder is a bummer and I should probably stop but let's get real.  We're all playing the game--eventually it plays us to some degree or another.  

Not everyone felt this way though.  Danica Parkin was well ahead of her time.  I remember one summer day when I had ran to her and her brother Grahm's house.   I sat on his bed while we shot the breeze.  Danica told me that they had a gift for me and to wait.  She brought out a package.  I opened it up to find a pair of beautiful blue pants, size 13.

"Something to grow into".  She said.

"Thanks" I mumbled, mostly confused.

"Dana, we don't want you to be afraid of getting bigger.  We want you to get better.  We want you to stay alive."

I didn't understand the significance of that gift then.  I didn't understand it for years.  Danica was giving me a message that was an entire 180 from the one I was being bombarded with on a daily basis.

"Please.  Gain weight.  We want you to gain weight.  Gain plenty of it.  Don't worry about that size 2.  Here's a 13.  Go here and beyond, just please stay alive.  Please choose living.  Please choose freedom."

Danica wasn't playing the game and she was inviting me to step off too--to join her in a world where women are more than numbers, shiny hair, and pore-less skin.  A world where women don't have to pluck the personality, laser the life, and starve the heart and spunk out of their bold and brave bodies.   A world where I could say "I love my body," and leave out the "in spite of my this or even with my that or I will when it looks like her body."

"I love my body.  Period."

Thank you for the invite all those years back, Danica.  Sorry it took me a while to join you.  I don't know why I waited so long.  I was in a deep, deep sleep I suppose, and waking up isn't easy.  It's easier to stay asleep.

But it's better to wake up.  It's better to be alive.

Age 26 beautiful and vibrant and alive--many pounds heavier, many times happier.  

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Life is Good -- C'mon, Get Happy --by Rebecca W.

My initial emBody write-ups were about trials I had been through dealing mainly with my poor self-esteem and body image. All had good things to say that others could relate to. But after reading through each draft, it never felt like that was the post I was supposed to send. While reading through a recent post on my own blog, it dawned on me that I finally knew what I really wanted to write about. A topic I love; a topic that resonates with me.

Today, I want to use that same post with a little bit more elaboration.

A recent conversation I had with a friend shed some light on my life, where I stand now and where I can go from here. I answered a question with a phrase I’d thrown around for years. However, it wasn’t till this particular chat that I realized exactly what I had meant by it and how much it rang true for me.

Ken and I were catching up. Having not seen each other for years, the topics addressed were the normal ones for young, single, college grads from Utah – work, money, dating (of course), future plans and dreams.

“I have this film project I really want to do. I won’t feel whole till I can complete it…I just need funding. It’s like I’ve finally realized what I’m suppose to do with my life. I dream about it every night-it completely occupies my thoughts and then I just…know. You know? What about you, Bec. What’s your dream?”

I’m living my dream

“Haha seriously though – what’s your dream?”

After thinking about it for a while, a smile came across my face. I looked right into his eyes and said:

In all honesty, Ken, I AM living my dream.

He had a puzzled look.
“What the hell do you mean? What you do-your job you have now-that’s your dream?”

Let me explain. My life has had its ups and downs, just like everyone else. I’ve been no exception to misfortune, sadness, internal struggles and feeling like the entire universe is working against me to keep me from having things I want. I’ve experienced the death of my father, several forms of eating disorders, purposefully injuring myself, dealing with an addiction to codependency, and have battled depression. I use to live from one pity party to the next, constantly comparing myself with others in every possible aspect of life and I was determined that I was one whose “problems” were far beyond repair. Notice that its past tense.

In the last two years, I’ve discovered a different way of living – a better way of being. I didn’t change any eating or exercise habits or increase the amount of time spent reading through scriptures.
I learned to live out of drama, to live with no shame.

As human beings, are constantly bombarded with subliminal (and not so subliminal) messages telling us that who we are is wrong: how we dress, talk, eat, move, look and think about ourselves.
Don’t believe me? Take a look at this commercial by Dove.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9zKfF40jeCA
In its simplest form: I have learned, through massive amounts of practice, to completely believe with my entire soul that I – who I am right now – am ENOUGH, and know it to be true. I am enough. I am enough for God; He loves me regardless of how big my thighs are, any lack of intelligence or the fact that there will always be one person better than me at something. I am ENOUGH for Him and that is all that matters. Period.

So, back to the original topic of conversation – my dream is to always, no matter what my circumstances are, be truly happy. And the best part about that dream is that it’s completely attainable for anyone who wants it. I have things I do now and that I want to do in the future which I consider steps to help make it possible for me to always be happy. Once I discovered and practiced this way of living, my life became clearer which lead to simplicity and higher self-esteem. I was finally completely at peace with how my body looked; I could see my true self in the mirror instead of mistakes; I was able to find the beauty in my “imperfections”; I was able to love myself for who I was and not torture myself for not being flawless.

Sure, I’m not perfect, and yes, this whole thing might sound crazy. But I have learned that it’s not the trials I’ve been through that determine who I am-it’s the way I choose to deal with my trials, the emotions they bring, and any repercussions they may have that determines the kind of person I am now and will continue to be.

There are five steps to this life.

Step one: Get out of drama. Pretty tricky because IT’S EVERYWHERE. Own whatever you need to that is rightfully yours. Don’t deflect responsibility by pointing out others faults. Don’t spread yourself thin trying to make things perfect for everyone else. Don’t mope about, taking the blame for everything and dwell on the thought that things are always your fault. When you take ownership for something you did, be accountable without feeling shame about who you are. You made the mistake-YOU AREN’T THE MISTAKE.

Step two: Take care of yourself!  You only get one body, one mind, and one spirit.  Sleep. Eat well. Exercise. Smile – it’s been proven to actually make difficult tasks feel easier. Strengthen your relationship with God. Believe in His love for you with every ounce of your soul. Trust it; build on it; know that you are enough.

Step three: Choose happiness. Everything is a choice, including your emotions. Though different feelings and emotions are brought up, every minute is an opportunity to choose how to be effected by coworkers, social media, family and your own thoughts. You can feel anger and choose to not dwell on that anger. The same goes for sadness, frustration, alienation…you get the idea.

Step four: Positive affirmations. They work, people! Here’s a darling little girl as proof:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qR3rK0kZFkg

Ones I love: I can do hard things; I am strong; I am enough because I know who I am; God loves me, I am enough in His eyes, and that is all that matters; Everything will go my way today.

Step five: Trust yourself. Love yourself. Always be moving forward and living IN THE CURRENT MOMENT. What happened in the past doesn’t matter and it should stay in the past. Don’t go digging things up. “Life by the yard is hard; life by the inch is a cinch.”

For me, living those five steps each day is crucial.

Where I am in life, right now, is great. It’s even more great because I know I’m not going to be stagnant and in the same place forever – I’m going to grow through all sorts of experiences. I’ll move, change jobs, find new passions and make new friends, all of which will make me happy for I’ve learned how to deal with anything life throws at me, including degrading thoughts and feelings about myself.

So, I start off each day with my affirmations, a happy/upbeat song, a dance party (literally, it helps), some exercises and stretching and a smile that doesn’t leave my face because I know that every day will be the best day possible because I choose that it will be. I am the only who can determine my attitude and how the events of the day will impact me. That, my friends, is POWER. Combining that with the truth that I am enough for my God whose love is endless and unmatchable and I am guaranteed a whole, authentic happiness.

It’s the best feeling in the world.

My life is good.
I am true to myself and am striving to always by my true self.
I know I am enough.
That is how I live my dream every single day.
I love it.
And I wouldn’t change it (or any of the hardships that helped mold me to where I am now) for the world.

I have found my happy.
If you haven’t yet, I recommend that you go and find your happy as well.

Delightfully,
Becca

Monday, February 18, 2013

V-Day

A day late (or four days late) and a dollar short, but that's how I roll these days.

Happy V-Day, Valentine's Day, Your Ex-Boyfriend's Birthday, WHATEVER you celebrated on February 14th!  (I happened to have celebrated all three!)

I'm certain it was an amazing day for some, a terrible day for others, and just another day for most of us (it would have been for me HAD THERE NOT been red velvet cupcakes in the staff room.)

I want to apologize for seriously dropping the ball with this blog.  It is a passion of mine but life has gotten busier than I'm used to.  But get excited, folks, there are some good things coming.  As always, if you feel inspired to write about anything in the scope of this blog, send it my way!  (Which several of you have done, I just need to post those bad-boys).

Eating Disorder awareness week is coming up (February 24th-March 3rd) and so we'll find some great/informative reads for you to spread the awareness.

In this month of Valentines (and presidents) I challenge all of us to fall in love with our bodies.  Rekindle that old flame.  Think of the last time you loved your body.  Maybe you weren't even aware that you did.  Maybe you just loved what your body could do and the way your body made you feel.  Fall in love with running, singing, dancing, walking, biking, stretching, hugging, kissing, eating, hiking, seeing, smelling, hearing, and breathing.  Fall in love with your smile.  Fall in love with your thighs.  Fall in love with being alive.


a tired (but happy) drama teacher and a red rose to match the color of her stress-induced acne.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail--by Mackenzie D. P.

This summer I joined the ranks of thousands of dreamers, schemers, and believers and set out from Springer Mountain, Georgia and started walking north. 140 days and 2,184 miles later, I ended up on Mt. Katahdin in central Maine. It was the best and hardest and craziest experience of my life.

I first decided I wanted to thru hike the Appalachian Trail when I was 14 and hiking a 50 mile section with my church group. Me, 10 other girls, and a few leaders met a few thru hikers and listened intently to their stories and adventures.  I kept it in the back of my head as a “bucket list goal”. 10 years later I found myself in between jobs and thinking about goals and achievements.  I decided on that day that if I wanted to thru hike, if I were really serious about leaving everything and walking from Georgia to Maine, I would have to commit and just do it. No one would gather my gear, research logistics, and put me in Springer Mountain.  There will always be a million good reason not to thru hike- always money to be made, promotions to be achieved, or semesters to be studied.  I decided, with my husband’s full support, to put all that on hold and plan on leaving the following spring.

10 months later my parents dropped me off in Georgia and I found myself completely alone. Not quite literally- approximately 2,000 people attempt to thru hike each year. Most start in early spring in Georgia to go northbound, while others start in early summer in Maine going south.  There are about 250 shelters all along the trail, basic lean-to structures that usually provide a water source, a privy, and most importantly a hub for hikers to interact and share information via shelter journals.  Starting out that very first week reminded me of the first week of camp. Everyone is excited to be there, testing out their new gear and making new friends. Hikers adopt “trail names”, sometimes humorous, descriptive, or motivational. I adapted to a new routine, aiming for 9-14 miles per day.  Some days I hiked with a new friend, others by myself.  While I did feel more lonely than I expected, I enjoyed the feeling of self sufficiency.. I was carrying everything I needed in life on my back- all 28 lbs of it. While I always planned to stay around a shelter or designated camping area for the evening, I loved knowing that I could stop wherever I wanted and have everything I needed at the ready.

I came to the trail fairly physically fit and didn’t find the terrain overwhelming.  It was exciting to increase the mileage goal each week and see my body become stronger.  I found a hiking rhythm with each step and plant of my hiking poles. I was developing muscles I had never even seen before.

After the first month, my husband decided that he was missing out on too much fun and came out to join me for the rest of the trail. What a blessing this was!  He joined me in Tennessee, and, after an adjustment period for him to catch up and get his “trail legs”, we hit our stride.  I finally felt like I was a real thru hiker.  We had a wonderfully simple and dedicated plan: up at daybreak, breakfast of oatmeal, pack up our stuff, and walk. Take lots of snack breaks, and walk. Stop walking after 20-22 miles, set up our tent, make dinner of mac n cheese or mashed potatoes or dehydrated soup and go to bed. Repeat! Our life became a series of 4-5 day hikes in between trail towns. Towns were an oasis, full of luxury.  Our accommodations were run down motels or hostels, but they offered showers, laundry, internet, and access to restaurants and grocery stores for resupplying.

Food became fuel. While I’ve never experienced an eating disorder, I have always been very conscious of what I’m eating and how much energy I’m burning. Climbing up and down mountains with a pack on your back, all day every day, burns about 3,000-4,000 calories per day.  Replacing these calories is a big priority. In towns, this was awesome. Words I had previously never uttered were coming out at restaurants: “Can I sub that for french fries?” “Which of your pasta dishes do you recommend?” or, our favorite, “What is the largest thing you have on your menu?” You know those sections of the menu that is a platter for two or more people? One thru hiker, easy. All you can eat buffets in trail towns are known to have time limits to prevent hikers from staying all day and eating continuously. It was, in short, amazing.

On the trail, however, you’re obviously limited to what you can carry in your food bag. Food that is high in protein and calories are the most desired- peanut butter, protein bars, and Snickers are staples for thru hikers. Huge spoonfulls of Nutella smeared on tortillas (or straight out of the jar!) is commonplace. I found eating to be a chore during the day. I’m hungry again, seriously? This feeling was really surprising for me. I’d never been one to dislike or turn down food- freshman year of college I took the Freshman Fifteen very seriously, completing the weight gain in just one semester.  The buffet style cafeteria was a danger zone to me and I overate constantly.  Now, for the first time in my life, I saw food as the source of energy and life. Without the feeling of self restraint, as I normally experienced meals, I actually wanted to eat more conscientiously because I didn’t have that “forbidden” feeling.

Despite all this, weight loss is inevitable. I was curious to see what I would weigh by the end of my thru hike. I was surprised to see that the lowest number I saw while I was hiking (weighing in at random hostels or stores that happened to have scales) was just a few pounds lower than my usual weight, and still definitely in the “normal” range for my height. I looked great, but not really that different than a lot of girls who are naturally thin and don’t work out. Interestingly enough, it was common for women thru hikers to keep some body fat even in these condition while men gradually looked more and more emaciated. Ladies, this is just how we are made. 

Just like I had detached myself somewhat from an emotional response to food, I saw my body in a different light. After seeing that at the very peak of human physical condition- probably a state I will never see again- I could still pinch fat on my stomach and my thighsstill touched and I still didn’t have cute tiny arms.... but I didn’t really care. I could out hike, out run, and probably out leg-press anybody you put me up against that did have those characteristics. I was strong. Super strong! A machine! I put food in so to make my machine go, and who cares that my machine has thick thighs and carries weight in the midsection.

Even more than that, I was mentally strong. I stuck with this impossible goal to walk over 2,000 miles carrying everything on my back because I thought it would be cool. I can’t tell you how many times I thought to myself, “And WHY did you think this would be a good idea?” But, I never ever wanted to quit. I questioned why on earth I chose THIS THING as MY THING, why didn’t I choose running a marathon (that only takes a few hours!) or volunteering in a third world country (then you’d at least be helping people, c’mon Mackenzie) or just stay home like a normal person. But I chose to do this, to thru hike the Appalachian Trail, and that’s what I was going to do.

And I did! It was even better than I imagined, because I had my husband there experiencing it with me. The Appalachian Trail has a beautiful culture. I love how it makes people be a little kinder and a little more generous. My fellow hikers and I rode in countless cars driven by strangers willing to pick up a hitchhiking thru hiker. We were delighted to find "trail magic" at random points in the trail, usually in the form of a cooler left with goodies for hikers or a spread of food out of the back of a car. I heard stories of hikers who, at the end of a meal in a restaurant, were told that another diner had picked up their check and to enjoy the rest of their hike.

I think about the trail every day, and am both saddened and relieved to think that it’s really truly over. It’s hard to summarize a 4 month and 18 day hike, covering 2,184.2 miles, in just a few paragraphs. I tried to keep a decent log of our journey on my blog,www.beauandmackenzie.blogspot.com. If the Appalachian Trail interests you at all, don’t hesitate to get involved! There are hikes that appeal to all levels and interests on the AT. There are flat easy parts in Pennsylvania, rolling hills in Virginia, steep and technical climbs in New Hampshire. Once the AT is a part of you, it will change your life forever.








Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Don't Compare Yourself To Celebrities--Submitted By Jocelyn M.

Fascinating link sent to me from a dear old friend.

With a world so saturated with photo shopped adds, a little reality check is nice.

Click Here

Monday, January 28, 2013

I'm A Mormon... And I Struggled With Anorexia

I've casually enjoyed a video or two of Lindsey Stirling's--she's the one who does the awesome dance moves while playing violin with techno music providing the beat with crazy ice structures in the background, if that rings a bell. I knew she was Mormon, which was kind of in the "well that's cool, sure" category. So I started watching her Mormon.org video profile expecting to hear about some of all that. And while it starts off pretty conventionally, I was really impressed by her willingness to open up in the middle of it about her struggles with anorexia. I thought it was a great video.


What do you think? Is this a helpful way to continue opening up dialogue about body issues?

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

why i no longer resolve to lose weight





New Year's Resolutions have always been a sore spot for me.  It seems that every year I would resolve to floss my teeth, and it never happened.  I just got tired of lying to myself, so I gave up.  

My childhood memories of the approaching new year are littered with adult women eating "one last slice" of pumpkin pie, or that "one last log" of cookie dough with the knowledge that come January 1st they were hitting that gym and banishing that sugar and renewing that Weight Watchers membership.  

Commercials and advertisements flood December as I sing the words with my local congregation "peace on earth good will to men."

"Join Bally Total Fitness with our New Year Resolution discount and get the body you've always wanted!"  "Jenny Craig will help you meet this year's goals and get the body you've always wanted!"  "New Years discount on the Bowflex--call for yours today, and get the body you've always wanted!"  "Why not spice up this year with something new?  Visit our website to check out great deals on cosmetic surgery and get the body you've always wanted!"

The body I've always wanted.  Always.  Since the dawn of time.  Before I wanted survival, or milk, or warmth, or friends, I wanted to look smokin' hot.  

You can see her, can't you?  

I'll just copy and paste her body parts onto mine.  Her washboard abs over my strong but soft stomach.  Her clear skin sewn over my own, blemished.  Her large and perfect breasts.  Her big doe eyes and full soft lips.  Her shiny, voluminous, tame hair.  Her tight butt and tight face.  

You resent her and you envy her.  There is, of course, no point in doing this because she doesn't actually exist.  But it doesn't matter.  You will resent and envy what you see of her in other women.  So often we piece our ideal selves together--at perfection we are not an entire, whole, complete woman, but rather parts.  I'll take her lips.  And her shoulders.  But she can keep her thighs.  Give me HER thighs instead.  But not her waist.  I'll take HER waist.  And her hair.  But not her smile.  

From Kate Savage's recent essay on this blog, "A Victorian lady couldn't show her legs: a modern woman an only show legs that have been lasered to have all hair and veins removed.  Surrounded by silicon sacks, a carbon-based breast isn't worth the adspace...Maybe the best way to finally outlaw real, human, sexual bodies is to replace them with purified simulations.  We've got our own heavy paper to past over the indecent materiality of flesh: only ours are printed with porn.  Behind that heavy paper, the punishment and shaming of women's body--of our breasts, our thighs, our asses--hasn't let up, in all these centuries, for a second."

But you still want her breasts, her thighs, and her ass.  And this is your year to get them.  2013: Year Of The Rockin' Bod!

And if you purchase OUR products and pills and programs and plans at these REASONABLE prices, 2013 WILL be your year.  You will arrive.  

Wake up.  No one arrives.  Ever.  Look around.  We've been had.  

Let me repeat that.  No one arrives.  The diet/fitness/makeup/fashion industries make BILLIONS of dollars each year fueled by our resolutions get the hell out of our own bodies.  Our insecurities and self-loathing builds those empires.  Marketing is clever.  So clever that most of us don't even realize what has happened until we find ourselves at Weight Watchers in Februrary having lost 20 pounds and wondering why we're still so, so unhappy.  We expected the sorrow of the world to recede as our bodies did.  

Don't you see it?  The world needs you.  And the world needs you HERE.  All of you.  Ready to fight the GOOD fights.

So I stopped.  I'm stopping.  I am no longer making promises to eat less and exercise more.  That is terrifying for some to hear.  Lest you imagine me with a bucket of KFC on the couch all of 2013 you need to understand that I'm not giving up on my body.  I'm giving love to my body.  I'm giving gratitude for my body.  I love being healthy!  I love being able to hike mountains in beautiful places and run long races.  I love being able to buck hay bales and build fences.  I love being able to hug friends and talk late into the night.  I went running this morning and will most likely run tomorrow morning, but this is nothing new for 2013.  I've been living that way for years.  I will eat a lot of fruits and vegetables today and most likely chocolate.  It has been that way for years and will continue to be that way.  I will continue to nourish and learn how to nourish this beautiful made-in-the-image-of-Deity gift.  In 2013 I will, in many ways, be the same woman I've always been.  I will find small changes daily to make in all aspects of my life and will strive for sustainability.  I will try to prioritize and remember that health (physical, emotional, spiritual, mental) is more important than numbers, and that forgiveness and empathy are more essential to exalting relationships than my dress size.  

Step off the "capitalist treadmill," my sisters.  Aren't you tired?  Let's waste and wear out our lives in a more noble cause.  Don't give up.  Give in to something better in yourself.  You're so good


Happy 2013, everyone.


 "I am stepping off the capitalist treadmill. I am going to take a deep breath and find a way to survive not being flat or perfect. I am inviting you to join me, to stop trying to be anything, anyone other than who you are. I was moved by women in Africa who lived close to the earth and didn’t understand what it meant to not love their body. I was lifted by older women in India who celebrated their roundness. I was inspired by Marion Woodman, a great Jungian analyst, who gave me confidence to trust what I know. She has said that 'instead of transcending ourselves, we must move into ourselves.' Tell the image makers and magazine sellers and the plastic surgeons that you are not afraid. That what you fear the most is the death of imagination and originality and metaphor and passion. Then be bold and LOVE YOUR BODY. STOP FIXING IT. It was never broken."

--Eve Ensler