Archive for the 'Body Image' Category

Love is What I Got.

stop-hating-your-bodyToday’s the day! I’m back to my pre-baby weight (again) and done “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results” to quote Albert Einstein. 

Why is this time different? For starters, I’ve taken a radical* approach:

I’m self-motivating with love. By being kind to myself. By not beating myself up. For the first time EVER. 

I was motivated by negative feelings during my life on a diet. Being motivated by ill feelings I had for myself and my predicament lead to decades of yo-yo dieting. Hating your body as a motivation is very short-term. What’s more, when you’re fueled by negativity, you are more likely to self sabotage and beat yourself up when you have a “bad” day. You never feel worthy. It’s no wonder the weight always returns. The workouts wane. The cycle continues.

Then I gave love a try.

And I got real. I convinced myself I was worth loving at any weight, any health, any age. I realized getting real and finding love was the ONLY way I was going to endure yet another attempt at getting healthy. Big picture? Love is the only thing that will make my goals worth maintaining into the future. Because if you reach a goal by constantly being vengeful and hateful toward yourself, what are you left with? What is going to motivate you to maintain your goals? More berating? Exactly. So love it is.

And I embraced the fact that I’m a proud owner of a body that:

-Will never look like something out of a newsstand magazine without major surgery (or Photoshop!). And made total peace with that. Studies have repeatedly shown that plastic surgery does not make people happier overall, anyway, so F that noise. And besides, as one of our generation’s greatest wordsmith once said, “silicone parts are made for toys.” 

-Has borne two beautiful, healthy children, with a body to prove it, and I’m grateful. And damn, I have some incredible kids.

-That just is what it is because, genes. And the aging process. And gravity. That’s not some stark reality, that’s a gift – living is. Not to mention, my body’s inherent characteristics are not flaws. Besides, they have nothing to do with my actual character. I choose to love this body and use this love to motivate me to improve it in realistic, healthy ways. I am GOING TO BE HERE FOR A LONG TIME, YO!

So that’s it. Love. When I’m tempted to dig into myself, I just remember that nothing I can personally do will ever, ever, ever change my DNA and that what I’m dealing with is a 36-year-old, living body that’s been through a lot and will get through a lot more to come – and that’s amazing. There is no shame in that. Hell, that’s worth celebrating. I carry around the proof of life – a good life full of love, even at my darkest times – and that motivates me every day now.

That said, this whole loving-your-body thing doesn’t exist in a vacuum. All that self-love in the world is in vain if there are haters taking us down – think about that. It’s no accident that I’m powered by love. I surround myself with positive people and things by design. If you are constantly bombarded by things that trigger negative feelings about your body – be it from a partner, family member or friend, even (especially?) the media –  you will be up for an additional challenge to achieving your goals. Plus, that’s kind of crappy – jerks trolling your life, bringing you down, you know? So in addition to loving yourself first, if you have haters in your life, poof, be gone!  I mean, come on. F those haters.

Till the next goal!

*Loving oneself should not be radical, but because we’re socialized to hate our bodies and pick on others’ bodies, particularly women, I’m calling for a radical change in the body-talk, body-relationship narrative. Won’t you join me?

 

And now, some relevant motivational quotes from the web! 

Love-Your-Body loveyourbody quotes-body-01-bloom-600x411 love-your-body-17 LovingYourBody1 PLPT Love Note 122112 Love-your-body-quote Quotation-Harry-Papas-life-good-love-self-diet-understanding-inspirational-Meetville-Quotes-218569 b6cd86f3aff37e94285420acc3d8e382 stop-hating-your-body

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A Cookie Story

Photo: BeeInOurBonnet

Photo: BeeInOurBonnet

Ollie and I made oatmeal cookies last night. They turned out misshapen and crumbly. Kind of an aesthetic disaster, but tasted fine. We kept them. I ditched the recipe.

I dubbed them Ugly Cookies and got in trouble. “That’s not a nice thing to say,” Ollie said.

Stupid is a bad word, too. Sometimes J or I say something is “stupid” in conversation with each other, and you’d be surprised how many times you hear “stupid” on TV, even (especially) kids’ shows. The Bad Word Police corrects us. He’s got some serious radar for forbidden words.

Mean words, bad words – whatever you call them at your house – they hurt, period. And I’m glad we’re making Ollie aware (and he, us). Kids, with their innocence and lack of a filter, say things that hurt sometimes out of sheer ignorance. That’s why having these discussions, often, matter. You know, so you don’t end up with a bigger kid with a  mean-word problem (aka: a bully).

I think Ollie has a good handle on things, but we will continue our diligence. And he will continue his.

The part that kills me is that I can’t control what other kids say to my child. In my personal experience, as a sensitive kid, mean words hurt, fester, then dissipate, but never actually leave. If you’re dubbed “dumb,” “ugly,” or “fat” among peers (or god forbid, adults), even if you aren’t, even if they grow up, even as time passes, even if they forget – you never forget. Even though mean words are completely illogical, completely absurd when you think about it with your adult mind, your child mind still hangs on.

I guess we just have to watch what we, the adults, say at home. Make sure we’re very careful about throwing around mean words, even if it’s a joke. Even if we’re literally poking fun of cookies – that we made. And keep nurturing confident kids and keep building our kids’ self worth so if mean words come their way (and they probably will), they feel good enough about themselves to know better. It’s all we can do. Now excuse me, I’m going to go have one of those, um, cookies.

Girls’ Bathing Suits That Don’t Suck

It’s 2 degrees today in the Chicago burbs, but there’s an overnighter at a water park on my family’s horizon. We cannot wait!

D needs a new swimsuit. I struggled with how to present the utter disappointment I felt searching for one online. I have to assume if you like my blog, you would agree it’s not OK clothing designers sell string bikinis, high-cut bottoms, halter tops and so forth FOR BABIES. But that’s what I kept seeing over and over again online. Grrr.

For people who are curious as to how real this issue is – thinking maybe I’m exaggerating – google-image search “toddler girl bathing suit.”

I take solace in the fact that many of you parents with girls have crossed this horrifying bridge before – probably at least once a year. It just doesn’t seem right.

Well, instead of focusing on my icky feelings, show you some shocking examples and proceed to rant (I think I’ve done enough of that), I’d wanted to create a resource for parents seeking baby and toddler girl swimsuits that are age-appropriate, closer to the middle on the gender spectrum, affordable and cute as hell. And I have to say, putting this together demonstrated to me, to my relief, that there so many good options  that fall under one or more of those categories, I had trouble narrowing them down. Focusing on the good!

 Here we go:

One Piece 

Suit5

One Piece with Sarong 

suit3

Two Piece/Tankini

suit6

Suit with Rashguard

Suit2

Suit with Swim Brief

suit1

Learning to Hate Our Bodies, Part One: The Media

girlreadingmagazineThis is the first part in a series of personal stories about how I learned to hate my body, little by little, from as far back as I can remember. I’m seriously now just beginning to not pick on myself throughout the day. I am 35. Thirty five!

It’s not just me. I have friends of all shapes and sizes and ages who are still dealing with this, too. What we have in common is that we are all women who essentially came of age in the ’80s and ’90s in suburban America with its white girl mall culture and expectation of flawlessness. Ads, the media, peers, relatives, teachers, boys – their message has always been clear to us: You are imperfect and you need to be fixed.

How does this relate to my blog? Well, if I do nothing else as a person, I want to raise children with positive body images who respect their own bodies and other peoples’. I want confident kids. And that starts with being comfortable in your own body despite the mixed messages that are sent all day long. And that starts at home. So yeah. Totally relevant stuff here.

So here goes.

The media and its advertisers are EVER SO EAGER to help you be the image of feminine perfection. It’s a business model. There is money to be made off of your intrinsic desire to not be disgusting. I have been a member of the media since senior year in high school when I got my first newspaper clip. Despite my passion for journalism and fierce support for the First Amendment, pop media largely grosses me out. It editorializes stories like Angelina Jolie’s mastectomies, the “chunky” cheerleader and that pathetic Abercrombie & Fitch CEO who hates fat girls. At the same time, I’m so guilty of watching, reading and reposting.

The relentlessness of the media when it comes to telling you about your crappy body is alarming. You think it’s going to get better when you get older, wiser, get married, get a job, have kids. But, oh no. IT NEVER GOES AWAY. It just changes a little. When you become a mom, for example, suddenly you’re being marketed to as a new demographic: the ideal mother. Wholesome, nurturing and impossibly SKINNY with flawless skin. This same illusion of a mother always does the right thing when it comes to child-rearing, but that’s another post.

When exactly does the media begin digging in? For me, who knows, maybe it was the first time I saw a Barbie commercial. The first time I remember it really resonating was when I was a teenager pouring over Delia’s catalogs and YM and Seventeen magazines. Trust me, I hold all those teen glossies near and dear to my heart because they are synonymous with the best parts of adolescence: Sitting around in my friend’s bedroom, gossiping and prank calling randoms while listening to Weezer, Green Day, Mazzy Star and Milla Jovovich CDs on repeat. Outside of that otherwise joyful context, though, teen magazines are toxic.

They were and continue to be a huge contributor to our very specific self loathing be it our faces, hair, bodies,  odor, biology, clothes, friendships, boyfriends – pretty much EVERY aspect of our lives and specifically those that make us uniquely women. You know, stuff we should embrace, but were taught to HATE till they go away or are fixed. That’s why we starve. That’s why we cover up our bodies. They’re why we are still chasing some ghost of an ideal woman. At 30, 40, 50 …

Through being bombarded by self-help, diet, exercise, dating, beauty and fashion advice in teen mags, we’re basically led to think we are physically inferior, un-dateable and need improvement. And we by no means can do ANY of this by ourselves. We need help.

Teen mags are chock-full of pictures of pretty, skinny girls with good clothes and TONS of advice on how to fix your ugly self.

And forget about when we graduated to Cosmo (basically within the same year – we could not wait to check out this scandalous women’s magazine! It was our version of Playboy!).

Cosmo had fashion spreads of unachievable womanliness, Victoria’s Secret ads and hordes of graphic information about how to do sex right FOR YOUR MAN. I will never forget the how-to B.J. story that had us giggling for an hour. My friend read it out loud in a haughty professor voice. It was hilarious. But you know what? It essentially informed us how to be an object of pleasure for someone else.

My older sister had Sassy around the house – for skinny, alternative girls of all colors. It was a start. I didn’t see BUST till I flipped through it at a comic store in Chicago. It wasn’t love at first sight. BUST was so boldly sex-positive it scared me off at first. Not because I’m a prude, but because it went against everything I thought I knew about being a woman. The beauty tips featured normal-looking people. Normal people can’t be pretty! The sex guides were for, um, the reader (What? What a concept). It was only really when I bought my first issue of BUST that things began changing for me. Christ, I was in my 20s. Riot Grrrl and women’s studies classes were another big part of the change. I guess that sounds like a cliché feminist coming-of-age story, but it’s true, and studying women’s sociology, reading women’s lit and listening to angry lyrics about social injustices still happening IN OUR COUNTRY, IN 1998 certainly improved upon how I looked at myself and other women.

Then in my 30s, I began discovering intelligent and funny bloggers like Emily McCombs who writes through her body and addiction issues. The Internet has allowed me to totally hone in on writing that I care about by smart writers who are not interested in cashing in on making people feel bad all the time. Pretty sure Rookie, an incredible e-zine by Chicago teenager Tavi Gevinson, would have been my jam if we had the Internet as we know it in 1995.

I still subscribe to BUST – now in its 20th year and still writing intelligently for women (I even had the pleasure of interviewing its owners for a story and freelancing for them for a while). BUST is still helping all of us women like our bodies, right now, not in some fake future when we lose all the weight and buy all of the designer cosmetics. They’re still publishing awesome DIY guides and sharing information that actually matters.

Still, not a day goes by that most of TV, magazines, the Internet and all those ads in-between slam us with images of skinny, pretty, clean, smart, nice-smelling, unachievable womanhood.

I LOVE Pinterest, but between pictures of unreachable beauty standards, and “inspirational” quotes about what you’re doing wrong and how to do it right, plus endless tips and tricks to “live your best life,” sometimes I feel like I’m flipping through the absolute worst of those teen magazines.

True, I should really get off the Internet.

So tell me, did you grow up with teen magazines? Do you think they impacted how you feel about yourself today or were they just a girl’s rite-of-passage/get over it? 

If you’ve ever felt like the media’s influence has harmed your body image, do you still feel that way or are you moving past it? What’s helped? 

How are you ensuring your kids aren’t being beat over the head with the media’s seemingly never-ending Perfect Body Image Campaign? 

Illustration: pamf.org


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