Thursday, October 22, 2015

Simply Extraordinary Photo Project: Model Call

Seen Through My Eyes: A Body Positive Photography Project

     Beauty is not based on size, shape, measurements, or specific facial structures. Beauty is how we see the world around us; it is how we choose to see those around us. When we see this beauty, we can begin to recognize the beauty within ourselves.Through my camera I hope to inspire moments of feeling beautiful. I hope to capture soulful smiles and heartfelt giggles. I hope to capture confidence, apprehension, strength, weakness, sexiness, modesty, poise, and unruliness. I hope to capture the beauty of the woman in front of me, in all her unique glory. 

     Simply Extraordinary Photo Project is my way of giving back to those around me. I treat each portrait as art without the use of Photoshop to change my model. Our bodies are gloriously beautiful as they are, no editing needed. Each person that embarks on this self-love moment with me is treated with care and sensitivity. Each person that opens up about an insecurity not only sets herself free in front of my camera but also passes on the gift of self-love to someone looking at the portrait.  

     I want to inspire self-love and self-acceptance.  I am looking for women to model for my project. I am looking for women that want to let go of beauty standards and embrace themselves, even if it seems impossible. I am someone who has been on the weight journey of up and down my entire life. I am someone who has recovered from eating disorders, self harm, and self hate. I understand the pain of fighting to love oneself. I want to help others overcome their own battle of self-hate. 

     What is a session with me like? I take the time to get to know you. We'll talk in whatever method works for you. Emails, phone conversations, or even sitting down face to face. I want to know what you love about yourself and what you do not like about your physical self.  What you share with me is confidential. Each photo session is tailored to each model. Each photo session is a truly customized experience just for you. Your hair, makeup, and outfit are worked out ahead of time and will need to be done by the model before arriving to the location. The session itself take about an hour. 

     After the photoshoot it takes me a few days to go through the images. I select 4-5 shots and edit them. I do NOT photoshop the model in anyway. I treat the entire image as a piece of art, this may mean I colorize it in a unique way or do nothing at all. Each model will have a piece written up about their photoshoot. Without going into personal detail I explain who the person is and what "issue" they were working on in the session. For example, I had one model who never took a full body picture of herself. She always hide behind her kids or wasn't in the picture at all. No personal details given but a clear understanding of what she wanted to be freed from. I allow every model to review her article before I post it publicly, I will make the necessary adjustments to ensure comfort levels are met. 

Please take a look at previous models I have worked with for Simply Extraordinary: 

Samantha: click here

Liz: click here

Jacie: click here

MarCia: click here

Jackie: click here

       If you are interested in details and being a model please email me at I should also mention this is free. I do not charge to photograph anyone for this project.      

Monday, October 5, 2015

The Fight For My Health! Recovering From Weight Gain with the Help of Self-Love.

     I swore I would never see 200 again on the scale again after losing 125 pounds. I managed to successfully maintain my weight within a 10-15 pound fluctuation over 7 years. I ran, danced, and walked to maintain my size. I watched what I ate, most of the time, and found a groove to live by. This worked fine for me until this time last year when my feet started to kill me. I was in agony. My world came crashing down around me when I found out I had developed plantar fasciitis and heel spurs. I could no longer do the physical activities I relied on for weight maintenance. It felt like the beginning of the end. Little did I know this would forever change me...

     The first several months of losing my feet were mentally and physically devastating. Most days, simply moving around my home would cause tears to fill my eyes as the pain was unbearable. I lost my workout routine. I lost walking my son to school. I felt like I lost everything. I had shots in my heels, braces to wear at night, stretches to do, and a ‘let’s hope for the best’ talk from my doctor. I could feel myself slipping away into a depression.

     It did not take long for the weight to creep on. I had already purged the scale from my life months before. The number no longer defined my self-worth. However, the day I could not put on my jeans or anything else I owned, I pulled the scale out of its hiding place and forced myself to stand on it. I felt the shock might light a fire in me to do something before I lost all control. There I stood with 207 pounds staring me in the face. Somewhere between disappointment and frustration, I just cried. I sat on the floor and cried. How could I have not stopped a 30 plus pound weight gain?! The weight came on fast. I put on 30 pounds in 2-3 months. I fell back into binge eating habits and with zero physical activity my body was declining rapidly. 

     I dug deep and decided this would not be the thing that defeated me. Since I could not use my feet to exercise, I had to get creative. I formulated a plan. I found spin and aquatics classes. I launched myself into diet mode. I had some success after a few months but change of schedule, boredom, and depression eventually caused all the weight to come back. Talk about feeling like a failure. I tried again. I was finding success....then it came back. I worked at getting the weight off and again, getting desperate and try old dieting ways to get the weight came back. I fought the same chunk of weight 3 times within the past year and watched my health deteriorate.

PCOS causes hair loss and breakouts. This is my truth.  
     The yoyo effect was wreaking havoc on my body. My hair started to fall out again (I have PCOS Click here), I was struggling to like myself, struggling to enjoy a relationship with my husband, struggling to not hide away, and struggling to keep from sinking into a pit of doom. I refused to spend money on clothes in bigger sizes; I survived with a few pieces I found at the thrift store. My body was suffering, my mind was clouded with desperate attempts to not hate myself, my self-confidence was shot, and my blog had taken a back seat. How could I write about health and self-love when I was struggling with my own? 

My wake up call picture 

      Nine months of up and down on the scale was destroying me. I was on the upswing of the scale (again), when a picture taken of my husband and I in June really brought it home. If I did not take control I will be right back to where I started all those years ago. I also had made a promise to myself and to my readers that I would sport a bikini in the name of self love over summer. I told myself that my mental health came first. I would not back out of my bikini moment simply because I was not at my skinniest, I would salvage my self-worth and feel bad ass when I put it on because size does not dictate confidence! I truly believe that I am worthy of loving myself. I told myself that regardless of the weight gain I was still worthy of rocking a bikini. I saw hundreds of empowered women of all sizes sporting bikinis and I wanted to be one of them. Damn it! 

     I made myself hit the reboot button on my health. I made myself look up healthy recipes, and I forced myself out of my comfort zone with foods and got creative. Pintrest has become a valuable tool for finding recipes. I rededicated myself to spin classes (I did not return to aquatics classes because I needed to be pushed harder) and added Jillian Michael’s 30 Day Shred to prepare for my bikini moment. I was relieved to discover that my feet did not hurt after her workouts. I made myself workout. I fought through the sore, I woke up early, I did all 30 days without fail. I was thrilled at the results not only physically but mentally and I felt strong again. I finally felt in control. I felt my personal empowerment fire back, lit on high. I wore my bikini with pride and confidence. I was incredibly proud of myself, even with more weight to lose to get my healthy back, my confidence was back and she brought with her a feeling of being bad ass. Self-loving myself regardless of my size empowered me through my healthy reboot. I rocked my bikini and felt like a million bucks!

     This time around, I did not stop my heathy reboot after my bikini moment, I kept going. I asked myself, “What happens if I don’t stop?” I was done with the up and down yoyo crap. No more. That became the moment that changed my life. I set physical goals for myself to take my mind off the number on the scale. 10 real push ups was my first goal. I reached it!! I have video of me falling on my face simply trying to do one and then 8 weeks later I have video of me busting out 10. I started out doing a plank for 30 seconds, I am now up to 3:30 with 5 minutes being my ultimate goal! Jumping lunges, rockstar jumps, and more! Unbelievable the come back that I have made.

     I have been working with Jillian Michael’s DVDs for 16 weeks. I have transformed my body and more importantly, my mind. I have lost 20 pounds, which according to my past, would mean that I still do not fit into my clothes. WRONG! Not only do I fit back into them, I am shrinking out of them. The amount of muscle I have developed makes the number on the scale useless now. Finally, after 4 attempts, I have successfully found my healthy again. I bounced back in better physical condition than ever! Never in my life have I been able to do what I can do now.

     With every set back is the opportunity for a comeback and I fought for mine! The number one question I am asked is how do I keep up my motivation and determination? My answer is simple: I do not focus on a number. I do not think about a size. Instead, I focus on my health; my physical and mental well-being. If I feel amazing, then who cares what the scale says or what my size tag says. I thrive on feeling strong in my body. 

     There are medical reasons that I fight for my health. PCOS is a huge motivating factor for me. Regular cycles without the help of pills are a driving force. Without regular cycles women with PCOS are at a high risk of ovarian cancer and uterine cancer. With proper diet and exercise, I can keep my body on track without medication. I also do what I have to do in order to prevent more hair loss. I can’t grow it back so I have to treat what I do have like gold. Nutrition is key to keeping hair happy.

     Back pain is another reason. Back pain is genetic with the women in my family. I have watched my grandmother and mother struggle with pain for decades. I thrive on muscle work as a preventive method to avoid such pain when I am older. I will do anything I can do today to help the me of  tomorrow be strong and healthy. Abdominal exercises may hurt but back pain and surgery hurts worse. There is also a history of heart attack in my family. That motivates me during my cardio workouts. 

     I learned over these past 16 weeks that I am capable of so much more than I ever gave myself credit for both physically and mentally. I keep a few of Jillian Michael’s quotes close to me at all times. One is, “Why not you?” Yeah, why not me? Why can’t I be strong and athletic? I am the only person holding myself back from my true potential. So I got out of my own way and stopped quitting. The second quote is, “Why are you choosing failure when success is an option?” I say this to myself every time I want to quit. Those last few reps that feel like they will tear my arms out of their sockets used to make me quit. Now I just switch to “beast mode” and do it. I do it because the feeling of accomplishment and pride is worth every bad word and drop of sweat I give.
I read it. Highlighted in it. Wrote in it. I reread it. I gave myself
reasons to fight for my health beyond a weight and size. Jillian
works for me. Who works for you? 

     I am not saying to run out and jump on the Jillian band wagon. I picked Jillian because her tactics work for me. I like to be pushed. But that is just me, I am telling you to use what works for you. Find a trainer you love. Find videos you will enjoy doing.All of my workouts I found on YouTube. My summer of healthy reboot was done on a dime budget. Read books that inspire you by people you connect with. Once you find what you enjoy, Do Not Quit! Keep going! I watched the scale go up and down on my reboot, it's going to! Weight fluxuates. Daily. Do Not Quit! Even if you are doing the same video day in and day out. Do Not Quit!  Push yourself to do the advanced moves. Sure I can quote Jillian’s 30 Day Shred DVD but I can also keep up with the advanced moves. That took weeks to do! 

     WIth every set back is the opportunity for a big comeback and that is what I have been working towards; my comeback. I am not the only person who has lost and gained. It is the balance to life, sometimes we are on top of it and sometimes life shakes things up and knocks us off track. No matters how far down the road we have traveled there are always exits! Always! I encourage everyone who is struggling to reset their healthy to be patient, start slow, and love yourself through the process. Remember, I wore my bikini at a weight I have not been in years because weight and/or size and/or shape does not determine confidence and personal empowerment. You are worth fighting for!!

     About my feet. Over time the pain and swelling dissipated. My workout routine does not bother my feet. I wear orthopedic shoes, thankfully times have changed and I find fashionable cute shoes. I'm careful with my feet. Enough time has passed that I can enjoy family walks every now and then. I appreciate the hell out of our walks because I truly thought I lost them. It was a year of trial and error. It was a year that taught me what I am made out of and it is some tough stuff!