Tag Archives: body acceptance

Channeling Amy Schumer’s Boldness

I’ve heard a lot of talk recently that some women feel part of the reason why women are encouraged to be thin is so that they are “diminished.” As Amy Schumer said in her recent interview in Glamour Magazine: “For women, we’re taught to eat less until we disappear. And trained to believe that if you don’t look like everyone else, then you’re unlovable.” Man, that’s harsh.

via Glamour.com

via Glamour.com

But sadly, so true. Growing up, I always felt I stood out as the chubby one. I shrank myself behind prettier, thinner friends, letting them shine in the spotlight because I didn’t think I was supposed to do so. I didn’t date much at all, honestly believing that guys wouldn’t be interested in me because of my size.

It took time, way too long, in fact, for me to realize that I am allowed to shine. I am lovable, no matter what I weigh. I had kind, supportive people in my life who helped show me that. And I learned a lot just by growing into my own skin and accepting myself for who I am.

It’s still a work in progress, don’t get me wrong. I am not always fearless or full of confidence, that’s for sure. In the past five or six years, working on my health has helped me become more confident. And it is not because I am trying to shrink myself or fade into the background. It’s not to succumb to society’s narrow definition of what is beautiful.

Instead I am finding strength in my own physical and mental strength. I am finding it in the motivation to work out, the energy I get from eating healthy foods and drinking a lot of water. I feel good when I can handle a hard spinning class or run 3 miles.

Working on my health has helped me feel good about myself, but strong women like Amy, Mindy Kaling, Tina Fey and many others have also helped me learn how I want to present myself to the world. I’m learning that you have to want to work on these things for yourself, not to meet someone else’s standards.

Getting healthy or maintaining your health isn’t about size. At least not for me. And it’s certainly not about being small so that I’m not a burden on anyone — God forbid my presence is a nuisance simply by being a woman and being a plus-size woman at that. To that, I emphatically say: Fuck you! (Amy inspires me to curse, too.)

Being comfortable in my own skin is all about me. It’s all about being the person I want to be for my husband, my family, my friends, and myself. And there’s a lot of boldness in recognizing that!

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Be Like Serena: Don’t Fear Your Strength!

My legs are strong.

me bikini

Sure, they’re not perfect. Some may see them as too thick, or see the cellulite or scars and think, “How can she be so proud of her legs?”

But I am proud. Six years ago when I first started working out on a regular basis, my legs weren’t as shapely as they are now. My calves weren’t as muscular. I couldn’t do as many squats or run as many miles.

These legs have carried me through two half marathons, a few 10ks and more than a dozen 5ks. They stick with me through long walks and propel me while swimming laps. They keep me cycling at spinning class and do some fancy footwork at Zumba.

They hold me up while I carry my niece, and walked me down the aisle to say “I do” to my husband. They travel with me to sight-see in foreign countries, or Southern cities with my best friends.

While I may fight with my own self-esteem sometimes, one thing I will always be proud of is the strength of my legs.

So you can imagine my anger when I read this weekend about The New York Times article discussing Serena Williams’ physique and how other tennis players avoid getting as muscular as she does.

I about near screamed.

It’s insulting to diminish a woman’s accomplishments in any field by commenting in any way about her physical appearance, but especially to disparage her figure.

An athlete, whose job it is to be a strong player, should never feel she can’t gain too much muscle for fear that she won’t look feminine enough.

She should never fear being strong.

I was so happy a couple of weeks ago when there was such a positive response to Amanda Bingson’s appearance in “The Body Issue” of ESPN magazine because here’s a woman who isn’t afraid to be strong, and who doesn’t care how society perceives her body.

She accepts herself for who she is and loves her body.

“I don’t look in the mirror and think ‘slim,'” she says. “I look in the mirror and I’m like, ‘Whoa, beast!'”

Serena is also an amazing example for young girls because she has dealt with people commenting about her body for far too long. And she keeps a great perspective about it:

“I learned to be proud of my curves and to embrace my large boobs and my butt,” she told Fitness magazine. “It’s all about loving who you are and realizing that you’re beautiful.”

It’s infuriating that when a woman achieves the pinnacle of her career, she is still criticized for her looks. Instead of focusing on her achievements, articles are written about her body shape.

We should celebrate the hard work these women put in to make their bodies strong enough to achieve these amazing athletic feats. No one should ever think that too many muscles makes you less feminine. Just like one’s body size or shape should not factor into one’s measurement of success.

I am going to celebrate the strength of my legs, and I hope we can learn to hail the strength of these women.

And never fear being strong.

Learning To Be My Own Best Friend

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I love to eat lunch alone. I choose the restaurant, the dish I want to eat, my beverage, and I settle in with an episode of “Reign” on Netflix or a chapter of Outlander. I take time when needed to make to-do lists, send and read emails, work on freelance assignments. It’s my quiet time to do what I want and take a breather from a usually hectic day.

I wasn’t always so comfortable eating alone, however. In fact, I wasn’t always comfortable being alone, period. Throughout my childhood I moved from one state to another, the daughter of an Air Force captain. My only friend, in many instances, was my sister, Karen. I had a bad habit of first befriending girls at my new school who were intrigued by the new person, but swiftly excluded me once my “newness” wore off. It would take time to discover my real friends and bond with them.

I went to a college where I knew no one, and that cycle repeated itself. It wasn’t until my sophomore year that I really felt I belonged at Penn State. And, although I moved home after college and hung out often with high school friends who remain my friends to this day, I worked at a job that required me to grow comfortable with being alone. As a newspaper reporter, I traveled to assignments by myself, killing time before evening zoning board and school board meetings by eating on my own, reading books. I bought so many copies of Chick Lit back then, I’m not sure I ever read anything of much worth! I also liked to shop; the bustle of the stores made it seem less lonely.

It was when I moved away to grad school in Chicago that I really felt I was OK with being on my own. Though Penn State was five hours from my parents in New Jersey, Northwestern was really far away. Again, I was at a school and in a city where I knew no one. I was lucky to form a fast friendship with my roommate, but there were lots of times of riding the El by myself, walking around Evanston or downtown, exploring. It was there that a lot of the insecurities surfaced, keeping me in a shell, a shell I don’t think anyone knew of because on the outside I’m pretty extroverted. But the thought of rejection, the idea of dating, of finally tackling issues like self-esteem and confidence and body image — those were buried down deep. I was OK with being alone — but I was not OK with me.

But I finally started breaking out of that shell while at Northwestern. Assessing where I really wanted to go professionally. What I really wanted out of life. I even started dating.

Then, during an internship in London, I felt I really broke free. I worked at a fashion magazine, despite my hesitation at being the heaviest woman on staff. At being probably not as fashionable as I would like. At being a small fish in a really, really big city. But I did whatever I was asked to do, and with gusto. I explored every inch of this city that I had loved from afar for many, many years. I was grateful to be there with my grad school roommate, though we lived separately and had different days off. It was nice knowing I wasn’t completely alone across the pond. But it afforded me enough freedom to explore as I wanted to. As I needed to.

I came home from that internship nervous to begin again in another new place — Birmingham, Ala. — but ready, too. Ready to fully begin my publishing career. Ready to continue breaking out of that shell and continue discovering who I am.

Since my move to Birmingham, I can truly say that I’ve become my own best friend in a lot of ways. I stopped being so shy about dating and eventually met my husband. I stopped worrying about surrounding myself with friends constantly and grew to like my own solitude at times. To actually choose to stay in on a Friday night and be happy with that choice. And I grew to become comfortable with what I need from other people. I learned that I don’t need them to feel fulfilled, but their presence simply makes me happy.

I’ve had ups and downs since I moved here. I’ve lost my job, and had to steel myself against feeling like a failure. I started new jobs, learning to navigate new workplaces. Over and over again, through tears and anger, I’ve had to motivate myself to try again. Try harder. At love. At my career. At being OK with myself.

And that’s where I still have work to do. While I may be OK with depending on my own friendship, I’m still not always my best cheerleader. I still look to others for validation. And whereas I can give pep talks to my friends, tell them how wonderful they are — especially when they doubt their looks or their body image or their abilities — I still have a hard time doing that for myself. I try to talk myself up on the inside. I list my good qualities. I list the reasons why I’m worthy, why I’m good at what I do or what makes me special. But many times it feels as though it’s pretend. I’m going through what I’m “supposed” to say, but not really believing it.

This is where being your own best friend is hard. Because we can also be our own worst enemy. It’s a battle that must be fought, though, for true acceptance of yourself. To love yourself fully. So, this journey that has taken me many places is still a road I’m traveling down. But at least I can hold my own hand now and notice when I’m not being kind to myself. And I can give myself a stern talking to. And learn to be my own best friend.

Give Women A Break!

This past week held a lot of great news for women — and a lot of news that made me want to tear my hair out! I can’t understand how people don’t see that they’re belittling a whole sect of the population and that they don’t see anything wrong with that!

Yup, I’m on my soap box. Watch out.

First up, the lovely Melissa McCarthy. She earned a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame last week, and I was so happy for her! I was definitely distracted by the beauty of her dress at the event — she looked gorgeous!

via CBS

via CBS

But when I started reading articles about the honor she earned, I started getting angry that all the sources wanted to talk about is that it looks like she’s lost weight. Wait … what? Why is that important? Why is it that no accomplishment in this life seems as important to some people as losing weight? If she had accepted the star and she was the same weight or, God forbid, had gained weight, would the honor be any less cool? No.

Sadly, the headlines in the British tabloids were the worst, as they usually are.

Daily Mail

via Daily Mail

Look at the words they use — “shrinking,” “one of the biggest female stars in show business … even if there is less of her.” And I love that they say she’s hiding her figure “in an unflattering billowing frock.” Really?

Really?

It’s time people got recognized for more than just their size.

Which moves me to my next issue — Tess Holliday. I think it is so, so awesome that People Magazine put her on the cover. Her accomplishments in bridging the gap between straight-size and plus-size models are so admirable, and now she’s on the cover of a magazine that usually touts weight-loss, bikini bodies and moms “getting their body back.”

But why do they have to call out her size, as if this number is the only thing that can describe her?

tess holliday

As Lesley said in her great piece at XOJane.com, her name almost always comes with the descriptor “size 22.” It’s kind of a shame that we can’t just call her model Tess Holliday. Do I need to start introducing myself with my size? Or my SAT score?

I don’t think we should be ashamed of the size we wear or the number on the scale, but I also feel this shouldn’t be THE THING that’s used to describe a person. Not to mention, as Lesley points out in the article, this also invites unfair comparisons. And we all need to stop comparing ourselves to others. 

The third piece of news that had me raging this past week had to do with another number — age. Apparently Maggie Gyllenhaal was passed up for a role because she wasn’t young enough to play a 55-year-old’s girlfriend. And she’s 37. Um … what?

As someone who just realized that this year’s high school graduating class was born the year I graduated high school, I may be a bit age-sensitive right now (ha!). But I just think this is ridiculous. I am grateful to work in an industry where age doesn’t seem to be an issue … but sometimes it is a “perceived” issue — that somehow if you’re younger, your ideas are fresher. Not to mention your salary can be lower, so you’re cheaper to have on staff. But Hollywood seems to have ageism locked up — especially when it comes to women — and it’s sad. Gyllenhaal is a talented actress, and saying she can’t play a 55-year-old’s girlfriend is completely ridiculous.

Finally, I had to address the high-heel fiasco at Cannes. As someone who has a lot of problems with my feet, sometimes heels just aren’t an option for me. And to turn away a whole group of women for not wearing heels seems ludicrous.

Apparently the dress code also includes “black tie” for men, and I know wearing a tie isn’t necessarily comfortable either. There must be a way for Cannes to evoke an air of glamour without having all of their attendees forced to wear what a certain group of people deem is “acceptable.”

It’s amazing to me that with all the strides we make — plus-size models on major runways and in ad campaigns, women like Mindy Kaling running and starring in her own show, are just two examples — that we still beat women down a lot more than we build them up. And the worst thing, in my opinion, is when other women do it to each other. I’m a firm believer in celebrating other people’s successes. And maybe if we concentrate on doing that more, news like this past week won’t be “news” anymore!

amy poehler

Three Cheers For Lane Bryant’s I’m No Angel Campaign

I’m a few days late in commenting about this awesome new advertising campaign from one of my favorite stores, Lane Bryant. When it was revealed on Monday, my first reaction was “how clever!” Then I stepped back and thought, “why does it have to be us v. them?” As in, thinner girls v. curvier girls? Screen Shot 2015-04-09 at 7.59.15 AM But after thinking about it for a few days, I realize now that it’s not saying that curvier is better. What it does is give some power to women who, for a long time, have been shunned from media campaigns, who have been hidden under big T-shirts and cardigans, rather than showing off their shapes proudly. And that? That I’m all for! These women are stunning — and so are you!

Encouraging women to redefine sexy, to broaden that definition, sounds like a great goal to me, so I’m glad that Lane Bryant has taken that leap and asked women to share their personal statement of confidence using the hashtag #ImNoAngel. To me, this isn’t about pitting women against each other. Similar to the “healthy is the new skinny” movement, I believe efforts like this help to change society’s ideas of what “perfect” means. In fact, I hope it helps us realize that there is no “perfect” and that our differences are beautiful. photo (9) I have friends of all shapes, some who wish they were curvier, some who wish they were thinner. I hope for a day when we can all celebrate our bodies, no matter what size they are. Whether you consider yourself thin or curvy or plus-size or whatever — you should love who you are and learn to present that body, yourself, to the world with confidence!

Ban The ‘Fat Talk’

photo (11)

On Sunday, I posted an article from The New York Times on my Facebook page called “The Problem With ‘Fat Talk.'” The author, Renee Engeln, a psychologist and professor at Northwestern University, says that studies have shown that fat talk “was linked with body shame, body dissatisfaction and eating-disordered behavior.”

While this is something many of us have known for a while, that and that fat talk rarely helps anyone lose weight, studies have also shown that fat talk doesn’t only harm the person doing the fat talking, but it’s “contagious.”

“We can’t control a lot of things in this world. We can’t stop advertisers from Photoshopping images. We can’t stop the fashion industry from preferring skinny models. But we can control the words that are coming out of our own mouths. And when women question whether their bodies are good enough, they may well be causing other women to do the same.”

When I read this, it really spoke to me. Sadly, I have been the one doing the fat talking on occasion, though it’s something I am really trying to stop. I know that it doesn’t do my self-esteem any good to comment out loud that I don’t like my body … it doesn’t do any good to say it internally, either.

But to know that I may cause other women around me to think poorly about themselves, or to join in the damaging fat talk, that makes me want to think twice before speaking.

And it’s because I know how they feel. I have been around plenty of women who say things like, “I’m fat.” Or “this shirt makes my stomach look huge.” You’ve all heard the comments. And how did they make you feel?

I’ll tell you how they made me feel — badly about myself. I would automatically either chime in with something like, “You look great, but these jeans give me a definite muffin top.” Or internally I would compare myself to that woman and think, “If SHE feels fat, what does that make me?” I’d wonder how someone so thin or fit could call themselves fat — as if being fat is the absolute worst thing in the world — when I am so obviously overweight.

All this kind of talk does is make us question ourselves and society’s ideas of how we’re “supposed” to look. I think women often think they’re deflecting attention, or maybe they’re fishing for compliments … or maybe they really do have a disillusioned idea about their own bodies.

Not only is that not good for themselves, but it’s also bad for everyone around them.

Learning not to talk about ourselves this way is hard, some would say impossible, especially when we’ve been bombarded with images and opinions about the “perfect” female figure since we were children. When we’ve been taught for so long that only certain body types are the acceptable body types, we, of course, are going to question our own bodies and, most likely, make disparaging comments about them.

We have to start banning the fat talk, and it has to start with not just the words that come out of our mouths, as the author of the article says, but also with the words we allow to bounce around our heads.

When we start to think negatively toward our own bodies, we must stop ourselves and replace those thoughts with things we do like. We must rely on a list of the positive attributes about ourselves to build up our self-esteem to the point that those negative thoughts never enter our minds.

And when those thoughts don’t enter our minds, they won’t be on our lips. And we won’t cause other women to think negatively about themselves, too.

It’s Not Us vs. Them: Why Skinny & Heavy Women Should Get Along

I’m the first to admit it: I’ve been envious of skinny girls.

Growing up, they seemed to always have it easy. They had plenty of boyfriends, no trouble finding and looking good in fashionable clothes. They got picked easily for sports teams and just seemed to walk around feeling, literally, lighter on their feet.

What I could never understand is why my skinny friends would say things like, “I’m not pretty.” Or “I feel fat today.” Or “This outfit looks terrible on me.”

To me, they looked great! Better than great. They had the type of body I thought I was supposed to have. And I was jealous.

What I realize now is we really do have the same struggles. No matter what you weigh or what you look like, it seems we are taught to obsess over something different. We as a society are never OK with how we look or who we are. We’re always wanting to change, to be thinner, to be curvier, to be brunette or blonde or tanner or lighter skinned.

Sadly, we are not supposed to just be who we were born to be.

And this is as true for skinny women as it is for heavier women … and I’m not going to put parameters on what is “skinny” and what is “heavy.” That’s for you to decide for yourself.

Because really, I was just fine growing up. There was nothing wrong with me. In fact, though I do work on my fitness and weight-loss is a goal of mine, there is nothing wrong with me. There never has been.

photo 1 (8)

And there’s never been anything wrong with girls who are naturally skinny. It’s so easy sometimes for us to judge others. I know I’ve said things like, “She needs to eat a cheeseburger.” Just like I’m sure others have said about me that “She needs to eat a salad.”

The fact that we say these things, or think these things, about other women who we consider “too thin” or “too fat” just goes to show how alike we are. And not in our body types or hair type or skin color or eye color — because how boring would that be?

But in the way we think. The way society has trained us to think. We have the same insecurities, the same lack of confidence, the same doubts and fears. And we all judge each other’s weaknesses.

What we need to do, especially as women, is celebrate each other’s strengths. Is hold up each other’s differences. We need to accept one another, as we are, for who we are.

photo 2 (10) If we can start to do that as individuals, my hope is that society will begin to change, too. It will be wrong to judge someone as too heavy or too skinny. We will just accept the bodies we have, and others have, even if that person is striving to be healthier or stronger. Because then it won’t be about fitting someone else’s idea of what’s “right.” It will just be about what’s right for ourselves.