Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Open Your Purse and Empty Out Your Self Esteem

No expression lines, no freckles, nothing....

     The latest issue of “Shape Magazine” arrived in my mailbox, and before chucking it the recycling bin I flipped through it. There is no doubt in my mind why I spent years hating my body; all I saw was Photoshopped flawless beauty. Ad after ad. Article after article. Nothing but airbrushed perfection.  No expression lines on anyone. Not a freckle to be seen.  Not a stretch mark in the entire issue.  This flawless species must be kept in air tight containers somewhere because I do not know a single human being that is flawless! 

     As a consumer, I have the power to keep these Photoshopped lies out of my house. I will not open my purse for a self esteem crushing magazines that only tells me I am fat, wrinkly, and should have sex on my brain.  “Shape” arrives at my house from a free subscription I signed up to receive. It was not until after the first issue arrived that I really started to get offended by all the "perfect" women filling the pages - these flawless, sex driven women that I am supposed to be like and if I am not then I am shunned to the ugly  corner.  Enough already! 
Buy our product; look unreal

      I vow to no longer waste my time on lies and b.s. that's only purpose is to make me feel bad and buy whatever product is being advertised. Here - smear these chemicals all over you face, it will melt the wrinkle off forever. Or, here - take this pill and watch your body shrink to a rock hard toned babe with zero freckles, stretch marks, or cellulite.  Meanwhile readers feel like crap and companies are raking in the money from low self esteem and body image issues. Sickening! 

     Companies want our money. We have the power to make these Photoshopped ads disappear and/or be labeled. Did you know that Israel is the first country in the world to require all Photoshopped images to be labeled that they have been altered? If a company fails to label the image they will be heavily fined.  Think of an ad of a perfect young girl in a bikini. These images made me hate my body as a teenager. Now picture the same ad with an easy to notice label that reads: 'This image has been altered by Photoshop'. Now how do you feel? Not so crappy? 

Flawless faces and bodies. We're not stupid! 

     I will never be a super model and neither will anyone else. There is no such person. I like reality; there is a lot less pressure realizing no one has a blemish free body. I am done playing dumb to a culture that assumes I don't know models and actresses are being Photoshopped.  I will not allow these fantasy images to influence the acceptance of my body.  I am human, I am normal, and my body is healthy and strong.  I choose to love myself, to value myself, and to cherish my body.  I will now be removing the "sucker" sticker off my forehead. No one can make me feel bad about myself anymore. 

Monday, April 21, 2014

Kicked the Scale to the Curb!

I was reminded today of the resolution I made for 2014.  I resolved to no longer weigh myself. I was addicted to the number on the scale and I wanted to be free. To read the post "Addicted to the Number" click here.  I struggled at first. I weighed myself on December 31st and then not again until January 4th. I thought that was good, so I went a few more days. Then on Monday, January 6th I was back to weighing myself everyday and writing it down. I told myself I would stop after I got my holiday weight off. I could stop when I wanted (additive behavior warning!)

The last weight written in my calendar is on February 7th, the last day I weighed myself.  It has been over 2 months without stepping on the scale. I hide the scale. I hide it so well that I'm not sure where I put it.  The first month it felt like a 'how long can I stay away' challenge. Every day that I didn't crack was one more day I was strong.  After a few weeks, the challenge aspect of it wore off and I stayed off the scale because I believe I no longer need to know how much I weigh. I believe that weight is just a number and does not reflect how healthy I have become overall. 

For those that are on a healthy body journey and are losing weight, I understand the need to stand on the scale. In Weight Watchers, my weekly weigh-ins are what motivated me. Six years after losing my weight I still lived in fear of gaining it all back. I refused to go back, and the ideas of getting out of control on the scale made me obsess about the number on it.  I haven't seen 200 pounds on the scale in 6 years, let alone 300.  At what point was I going to accept the person I had become? When was I going to give myself credit for conquering my weight struggle? 

In Zumba, a friend commented on how good I look and asked if I had lost weight.  I said thank you and I may have lost weight, I don't know. I don't stand on the scale any more.  Two things happened in that moment: 1) I realized I have accomplished my New Year’s resolution and 2) my friend looked at me like I was nuts. "You don't stand on the scale?! Why not?!" I did not have much time to explain before class fired up, so I simply said, "I am not defined by a number and the scale doesn't weigh awesomeness."  I meant what I said. I almost got choked up when it sunk in what I had said, it rolled of my tongue naturally. I, from the bottom of my heart, believe I am worth more than a number!

There came a point in my life where I wanted to be set free from the entire hateful inner monologue I have been plagued with since third grade.  I trust myself to maintain a healthy lifestyle, both physically and mentally. I trust myself and the changes I have made are not a phase, the changes have become my second nature.  I no longer need the scale to tell me what my worth will be for the day.  I no longer eat with fear of how it will reflect on the scale in the morning.  I eat and exercise for me, for my body, and for my health. Not for some plastic box, not for a number, and not for size.  I am free from the addiction to the number and it is liberating! 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Looking Naked in the Face

My husband and I. 
It's a Saturday night and I am going out with my husband. I have taken my time on my hair and make-up. I have completed the jump dance into my Spanex and I have on my bra that completes my silhouette. My dress is form fitting and looks amazing. I look amazing. I am proud of my reflection. I worked hard to transform into a woman who can look into a mirror and mentally high five myself.  I feel spectacular and I am ready to knock my husband’s socks off and enjoy date night.  Until....

The date is over and we find ourselves back at home. I am now faced with the process of de-sexing myself. There is a moment when I feel sad. The clothes hit the floor and I free myself from my undergarments…this has often times been the end to my confidence.  My body loses its wow factor in my eyes. The pile of clothes at my feet took with it my glamorous body. The reality is my body is scared and will always remind me of the body I once had.  I can point at, poke at, and pinch all the parts of me I wish were different.  

I was frustrated with having changed my body only to end up disliking it more.  My bigger body left my smaller body with empty spaces. A good bra hides the truth until it comes off.  I struggled with feeling like my husband would notice the emptiness and be disappointed.  I used to push him away because I could not handle my own feelings of embarrassment.  I felt ashamed of my stretch marks, extra skin, and emptiness.  

I struggled with feeling sexy and feminine. My body was not the beautiful body I see on TV. I had lost so much of my hair (click here to read about my struggle with PCOS )I had to cut it all off, and my padded bra reminded me daily that I was missing real sexiness.  I hated that I was a lights off woman. A strip and dash under the covers woman. This was not why I lost weight! I wanted to feel confident in my body without clothing.  I had to dig deep and fix what I saw as beautiful. I needed to heal my disappointed body and mind.  I sought out role models to help me learn to embrace my body.  I encourage everyone to find role models for themselves. Who makes you feel good in your skin?

I have been asked why I like Tess Munster. After all, we're two different body types, what could I get out of being her fan? Confidence. That is what Tess Munster gave me.  Confidence to embrace my body the way it is and to treat it with respect. Tess makes no apologies for her body and is rocking the modeling world (hello Italian Vogue!)  Tess embraces her body with such confidence so I thought to myself, why can't I do the same? 

Sexiness is not a body type, or size, or feature; it is an emotion, a feeling, an attitude. Sexiness radiates from the inside and it feeds off confidence. I am always reminding myself to embrace confidence, hold my head high, and remember that being a woman has little to do with body parts or pant size and everything to do with how I live my life and how I see myself.  

Elly Mayday is a young Canadian model who taught me to embrace what I have because we do not have our bodies for long. Things can go wrong with our bodies.  What we have today is not guaranteed for tomorrow.  Elly bravely battled ovarian cancer publicly, inspiring thousands.  She does not hide the scar on her stomach from her surgery to remove her uterus at 25 years old!  When she lost her hair from chemo her bald photos were nothing less than stunning. Her bravery showed me I should be thankful for the hair I have and not let hair be the thing that takes away my sexiness. 

Tess and Elly have been huge contributors to my vow to not give away my self esteem to anyone; I protect how I feel about myself. Eleanor Roosevelt was a brilliant woman and no truer words were spoken; "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent."  I will not let the photoshopped lies effect how I see my body. We are not stupid and everyone knows the magazine covers are lies, so why do we let them dictate how we feel about our bodies? Not anymore!  

I discovered a project called Under the Red Dress that forever changed that way I will look at my breasts. The ugliness I have felt looking at my breasts after losing 125 pounds crushed my self esteem.  I hated my breasts. I desperately wanted implants.  Then I found Under the Red Dress and quit my bitching on the spot. I learned to be thankful for what I have because my breasts may not be perfect but I am blessed have them! I could no longer hate what so many women sacrifice in order to live. I felt selfish having cursed my body for not being perfect. I am strong, my body does what I ask it too, and I am not the hideous beast I have pictured in my head. 

A room filled with women, all stripped down, we would see how similar our bodies actually are to each other. We all have stretch marks, we all have different shaped breasts, we all have things we can pinch and poke. These are our bodies. Real bodies. Strip down the model or actress on the magazine and we will see that their bodies are actually just like our bodies. They get special lighting, air brush body make-up, and Photoshopping to make them look perfect. However, naked body to naked body we are all cut from the same mold. The mold of imperfect bodies that tell our individual stories.  

I have made peace with my body, most days. I am not perfect and will catch myself critiquing my reflection or pushing my husbands hands away. I stop myself now as quickly as I can. I stop the negative inner monologue. I stop pushing. Someday I will look back on my life and wish that I had loved my body more. I am going to look back and wish I had accepted the touching and love. Someday I will look back and think I was insane for thinking I was anything but stunning.  My body is not my enemy. I will dress it up and showcase it with pride and I will set it free and embrace what nature and my choices have given me.  My body is mine and it is like everyone else on the planet....perfectly imperfect! 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Photoshop and My Son

My 9 year old son asked me what Photoshop was at dinner last week.  I explained that it is a photo altering program that can do thousands of different things to change an image. He seemed satisfied with that answer. Then he asked me why I do not like Photoshop.  I knew this moment was going to happen one day; that his little ears were picking up things I said to friends and family. As the mother to a boy I feel it is my duty to raise a son that respects women of all sizes and understands that all bodies are beautiful.  I want my son to understand the images that he is bombarded with are not real. No one is flawless.  I want my son to question an image that looks perfect and understand women and men are not perfect in "real" life.  

     I explained to him that it is not that I do not like Photoshop. Photoshop can be used to create art or enhance a photograph.  What I do not like is that Photoshop is used to create flawless looking people. No one is flawless in life and looking at perfect people can make someone feel bad about how they look. I do not looking at ads that are lying to me with a Photoshopped model.  I could see the questions forming in his face. 

     I pulled a magazine from the recycling bin and showed him ads of women with perfect faces. I told him to look at my face when I smile, "See the lines that I get around my eyes? Now look at this model selling tooth paste. Where are the lines around her eyes? Smile like she is and feel around your eyes. Feel the wrinkles on your face. Wrinkles around the eyes are natural to everyone when they smile. Yet, this model doesn't have any? Seem odd to you?"  He nodded with wide eyes. I could see the veil beginning to lift off his eyes. Then I showed him the Dove commercial. He sat with his mouth open watching the transformation take place. 

     It is a rare moment in life when my child is quiet. We sat in silence for a few moments while he processed what he saw. Finally he turns to me and says, "I understand now why you do not like Photoshop." What he did next brought tears to my eyes. He got out of his chair and came to give me a hug. It was not just any hug; my little boy hugged me tight and stayed there for a few minutes. Finally he says, "I think you're beautiful and so does Dad. I hope everyone has someone to remind them they are beautiful." 

     My son gives me hope that I can teach him to not just accept the images he sees.  I believe the next generation should be taught that the images they see are lies. My son now understands why my magazines go in the recycling bin without me looking at them. He took it upon himself to toss one in the bin this week on my behalf.   My son sees me with no makeup, messy morning hair, and sweaty after my workouts.  A mother to a son is the most beautiful person he knows and I hope by showing him my realness as a human he will internalize the realness of women (and men).  

     While my son is young I am the role model for women to him. How I treat myself is how he will grow to view women. He is part of my motivation to maintain a healthy body, physically and mentally.  My wish is that I represent strength, intelligence, kindness, compassion, and class to him. My wish for my son is for him to grow up to value women for who they are and not base their beauty on the unrealistic physical lies brought about by Photoshop.