acceptance

Pretty Hurts

Pretty hurts, we shine the light on whatever’s worst
Perfection is a disease of a nation, pretty hurts, pretty hurts
Pretty hurts, we shine the light on whatever’s worst
We try to fix something but you can’t fix what you can’t see
It’s the soul that needs the surgery

This is such a powerful video and song. My favorite part is where the pageant host asks Beyoncé the contest what her aspiration in life is…Beyoncé stutters for a moment before deciding that her aspiration in life is to be happy. While the rest of the video is showing just how unhappy she real is maintaining this pretty façade.

Pretty hurts. We shine the light on whatever’s worst.

So many women are spiraling out of control. They’re abusing laxatives, abusing diet pills, purging, cutting their wrists all the while wondering if any of it will ever make them pretty….or happy.

Reading this blog will not make you pretty. It will not make you happy, or satisfied, or content.

Pretty is a societal standard wrapped up in years of somebody else deciding what perfection is.

Beauty comes from within. If you believe that you are beautiful. That you have worth, then you do and you are. No one can take that away from you.

If you are currently struggling and you feel like you’re at the end of your rope. All you can see around you is a never ending tunnel of abuse, depression, purging, and darkness…then please visit the National Suicide Hotline. You can click, call, whatever works for you.

But as a friend, let me tell you that you are beautiful. You are loved. You are worthy. I want you to stick around and live an amazing, full life.

If you’ve been to my blog before, you know that I’ve experience just how badly Pretty Hurts.

A 2001 study looked at 13,601 high school students and asked them to record where they thought their weight lay in comparison to “right about the right weight for me.” 64% of participants were actually within the healthy weight range for their height/age, however over half of all participants felt that they were “too fat” or “too thin.” And it was the self reporters saying that they were an either edge of the extreme that were twice as likely to have suicidal thoughts and to act on them.

19% of the participants had had suicidal thoughts in the last year.

~10% had attempted to take their own life.

All this because of a distorted perception of beauty and its ideals.

Why do we obsess over perfection? Over a number on a scale? Over every single, solitary calorie that passes over our lips?

I can’t answer that. I don’t know why we do it.

But I know the effect.

It means that almost 1 in 5 teenagers have thought about ending their lives over it. It means that 1 in 10 have tried.

We try to fix something but you can’t fix what you can’t see
It’s the soul that needs the surgery

It’s the soul of a society that needs surgery.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

But revolutions don’t happen over night.

They start in the hearts and minds and souls of those who can be affected by change.

Change your mind about your  body.

It’s a magnificent thing.

The very fact that we don’t have to think about breathing astounds me. We don’t have to tell our red blood cells to clot when we get a scrape. We don’t tell our immune systems to fight off infections. Our bodies do this all on their own.

You’re body is amazing.

Love it.

Respect it.

Smile, beautiful. (:

Happy looks great on you.

Blurring the Line: Sports Illustrated meets Barbie for the Cover

Can you believe that it’s been 50 years since the first Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition?

No? Me either…but that doesn’t change the facts. In 1964 the first edition hit newsstands and ever since had sparked controversy concerning objectification of women, pornography, and other hot button issues. But this year, Sports Illustrated and Mattel either sank to new lows or soared to new heights depending on your personal convictions. Barbie will be the cover model, and in my opinion, both organizations have successfully and completely “blurred the line between women as objects and actual plastic objects.” (CNN)

We’ve all seen a Barbie doll, but just in case you’ve never seen the blonde bombshell, here she is on the cover of the magazine:

sports-illustrated-swimsuit-edition-2014-barbie-doll-377x500Her make up is flawless, her features completely exaggerated, her feet contorted to the form of permanent six inch heels.

Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition has long been criticized for only promoting “hypersexualized images of women” (Nicole Rodgers, editor-in-chief of RoleReboot.org)  and a homogenous form of beauty, emphasizing thin frames, little clothing, and leaving almost nothing to the imagination. But this pairing between the magazine and Mattel blurs the line still further. Rodgers argues it this way: “Barbie is not a woman, she’s an inanimate object. Juxtaposing her alongside real women as though the two are indistinguishable is dehumanizing, and in a literal sense, objectifying.”

But does any of this really matter? Are the little girls that are playing with Barbie actually influenced by her unrealistic portrayal of femininity? Some say no, but a growing body of research says yes.

Multiple studies over the past decade assert that play is an essential element in children learning who they are and how they fit in to their world. Point being that when they play with toys that portray an unrealistic sense of beauty, promote unrealistic values of femininity, and are generally distorted fabrications of reality, the children themselves are much more likely to experience low self-esteem and feelings of inadequacy.

It was this body of research and popular opinion that inspired Nickolay Lamm to create an image that portrayed Barbie, a doll with extremely unrealistic body proportions, next to a doll made with the proportions of an average 19 year old female in the United States. He wanted to challenge the notion that average is not beautiful and in challenging the status quo, he flipped it on its head.

normal barbie  This image is a representation of what Barbie would actually look like as an average 19 year old. When the internet rejoiced at Lamm’s creations, he took it a step further and began working to produce an actual doll. He created a crowdfunding site to get Lammily into production that has now raised $470,802 of the requested $95,000.

Lamm made a statement about his new Lammily doll: “[she] is an alternative to dolls with unrealistic beauty standards that dominate the market, like Barbie, or the hypersexualized Bratz dolls,” “My doll is a cool-looking doll that just happens to be average.”

lammily

Lammily is a wonderful beginning to what can hopefully be a new trend in children’s toys. While children themselves don’t care about what their toy looks like, as long it looks like fun, their parents do. Think of it this way, if your child doesn’t like vegetables are you just going to say “Ok, you never need to eat them.”?

Of course not! Vegetables are required for their growth and health, but you might try to disguise their cauliflower into their mashed potatoes. That’s what Lammily does. She’s a cool doll that provides a natural representation of beauty. Most likely, the girls playing with her won’t notice anything different about her than a Barbie, but most likely the girls self-esteem will be the better for it in the long run.

There has been some flack about Lammily; most notably that she is fit, white, and not all encompassing of racial diverstiy. Lamm has plans to release other dolls, “I’m hoping to extend the line to embrace diversity. From race to body type, I want this doll to be true to you!” (Lammily.com) Lamm does not promote that Lammily is the standard of normalcy, only stating that “average is beautiful.” As for Lammily’s fitness level, on the website he also asserts that Lammily promotes a healthy lifestyle and as a result of that lifestyle she has a fit body type. So, yes. Lammily is fit and white and she doesn’t encompass every single body type or race that exists today. However, there are plans to make more models that promote this diversity; and there is no denying that this is a step in the right direction.

As a woman living in the United States today, it is impossible to escape the hypersexualization of women from media to advertising to film to college campuses. The skirts keep getting shorter, the V-necks keep getting lower, the make-up keeps getting thicker, and overall — our level self-worth and self-confidence isn’t getting any higher. Thanks to big name companies that prey on the weaknesses of men and the sexiness of women like Sports Illustrated and Mattel, America has crossed into precarious territory. Their objectification of women took a step over the guardrail and now we’re dangerously close to the edge of accepting that women are like Barbies – plastic objects to be ogled and touched and undressed all while keeping our make up looking fabulous. 

Thanks to people standing up and calling for change like Nickolay Lamm, Stella Boonshoft, Lady Gaga, and many more there is still hope that women can be seen as humans again. We have the ability to affect change by instilling values into our daughters and sons that promote healthy body image.

Don’t sweat being average. Don’t sweat not being perfect.

None of us are.

Barbie isn’t a real woman.

Hell, those women in Sports Illustrated are only photoshopped manipulations of their former selves.

So be you.

Be normal (whatever that is).

Be who God created you to be.

Because, like Lammily’s slogan reminds us:

“Average is Beautiful.”

And so are you.

Stay Smiling, Beautiful (: Happy looks great on you.

 

Visit www.lammily.com/average-is-beautiful for purchase or more information on the Lammily doll 

 

 

I Had No Idea… | The Power of Words

This past week was National Eating Disorder Awareness Week.

I know what you’re thinking…

There’s a week for everything these days….Zzzz….Zzzzzz…

And you’re absolutely correct…there is a month/day/week for just about everything. March alone is home to National Puppy Week, Pi Day, Skipping Day, and British Pie Day just to name a few.

But, this really is a cause that deserves its own week. Up to 24 million people of all ages and genders suffer from an eating disorder (anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder) in the U.S according to ANAD.

This is nothing to scoff at.

In the last 6 weeks, this blog has posted on topics ranging from eating disorders to body image to photo manipulation ethics, but this week I want to discuss something different.

I want to talk about you.

What is your struggle?

Do you look in the mirror and poke, push, and grab every part of your body that you don’t like?

Do you get anxious about leaving the house without makeup on?

Do you use filters on your pictures in order to give yourself a “better” appearance?

If you answered “yes” to any of those questions: you probably struggle with some form body image issues.

You’re not alone…I’ve been there too, and so have a lot of other women.

There is no easy answer to this epidemic. If there were, we would have figured it out by now. But as it stands, three quarters of US women are unsatisfied with what they see in the mirror.

NEDA’s campaign revolved around the phrase: I had no idea…

I had no idea that so many women and men are affected by poor body image.

I had no idea that I wasn’t alone in my struggle.

I had no idea that those who meant well in my life, lied to me when I was young.

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me. 

Bullshit. A more honest phrase would have been:

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will crush my heart, soul, and self esteem.

I had no idea how powerful words could really be.

I had no idea how devastating words could be to my psyche.

I had no idea how uplifting words could build me up but also cause me to doubt.

I had no idea how complicated life can be.

I had no idea about you.

In life there are always insiders and outsiders. In groups and out groups as the sociologists would say.  And it seems to me, and most likely to you as well, that no matter what you and were always in the outgroup. So what happens when a bunch of so-called outsiders band together?

We become an IN group.

According to Erin Morgenstern “there are never really endings, happy or otherwise. Things keep going on, they overlap and blur, your story is part of your sister’s story is part of many other stories, and there is no telling where any of them may lead.”

Even in our darkest days, our ugliest days, our days when the darkness of our beds are the only comfort, “things keep going on,” your story is wrapped up in my story and “there is no telling where any of them my lead.”

You and I are in charge of our own stories, yet they are both intertwined. We do not exist in isolation. We were created for community. You keep me accountable for the words I say and think about my body, and I will do the same for you.

Because we are beautiful.

And no one should tell us otherwise.

Stay Smiling Beautiful! Happy, looks great on you.

Going on a Binge

“Going on a binge.” 

I hear that phrase getting tossed around quite a bit especially in the college world where it is usually accompanied by a lot of booze in a very short time frame. 

But Binge Eating Disorder (BED) is a very real thing and it doesn’t get a lot of air time. It’s estimated that 1-5% of Americans suffer from BED, of those 60% are women, 40% are men. (NEDA)Image

BED is “type of eating disorder that is characterized by recurrent binge eating without the regular use of compensatory measures to counter the binge eating.” (National Eating Disorder Association) So in laymen’s terms, this is consuming a lot of calories in a very short amount of time, without self induced vomiting or laxative abuse (or some other weight control measure) directly following the binge. 

Symptoms of BED: 

  • Frequent episodes of consuming very large amount of food but without behaviors to prevent weight gain
  • A feeling of being out of control during the binge eating episodes.
  • Feelings of strong shame or guilt regarding the binge eating.
  • Indications that the binge eating is out of control, such as eating when not hungry, eating to the point of discomfort, or eating alone because of shame about the behavior. (NEDA)

To be clear, the key word in diagnosing BED is recurrent. The occasional Ben & Jerry’s pint, mountain of french fries, or pre-PMS food monster do not fall into this category. Especially us women have had the occasional food attack where we must consumer everything in our sights, but that doesn’t mean we all have BED. BED consists of frequent, recurring episodes of eating a very large amount of food. We’re talking 1,000s of calories in a sitting. According to DSM-V there are several behavioral and emotional signs the frequency must be at least once a week for 3 months, eating a larger amount of food than normal during a short time frame (any two-hour period), lack of control over eating during the binge episode (feeling you can’t stop eating or control what or how much you are eating). (Binge Eating Disorder Association)

Just like any eating disorder, treatment is almost always necessary for recovery. If you or someone you know suspects that they may be suffering from BED or any eating disorder, please seek treatment as soon as possible. Most treatment options are considered outpatient, meaning that they do not require overnight stays. Treatment can include: 

  • “Level of care” assessment and treatment planning
  • Individual psychotherapy
  • Support or therapy groups
  • Family/couples therapy
  • Family member support/education
  • Specialized nutrition counseling
  • Medical/psychiatric support and medication management as needed

The first step in receiving any care is to talk with someone you trust about it and then schedule an appointment with your family doctor where they will prescribe the route of treatment. 

As always, 

No matter what anyone says or thinks, 

Not your mom,

Your sister, 

Your grandma, 

Your dad, brothers, grandpa, 

Your friends,

Not even you,

Not matter what they think,

You are beautiful.

You are worth knowing it, believing it. 

So keep your chin up. 

Embrace you

Stay smiling beautiful. 

 

Ethics in Photo Manipulation

There’s two sides to every story. I’m not sure who first said that statement but I firmly believe it to be a lie. There are dozens of sides to any story including the ethics of photo manipulation in the fashion and beauty industries. 

There are articles plastered all over the web slamming photo manipulation. Proclaiming it to be harmful to our self esteem and self image. Many articles make the case that it is “altering images and our minds.” And while the supporters of these views are screaming loud and proud against any and all photo manipulation, I would be willing to put money that those same authors have used an Instagram filter. 

This is an ethics debate. Where is the line in photo manipulation? When is it okay to remove a piece of spinach caught in someone’s teeth, to completely smooth an 80 year old woman’s skin? Is it ever acceptable to make minor changes? If so, what is the line between minor and major changes? 

As a general rule of thumb according to Glenn Halbrooks, simple photo manipulation is acceptable – removing red eye, adjusting color and lighting – as long as it’s fully disclosed. The areas that are fuzzier include overly fixing unflattering photos, deciding why you’re using (un)flattering photographs to begin with, and unfairly presenting an image of a person whether positive or negative. 

The fashion industry is strangely silent on the topic, even in the face of massive criticism from the media and other sources. There’s an old saying that goes “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it.” From my perspective, that is exactly where the fashion industry is coming from. There isn’t enough backlash to warrant change and they’re still selling plenty of magazines with highly modified images. 

Assuming we all agree that minor modifications (filters, removing spinach, etc.) are acceptable, why don’t we see more backlash about images that have been heavily modified? 

That answer lies in history. 

There is a fascinating article concerning the history of photo manipulation and it all started with an iconic photograph of Abraham Lincoln in the 1860s.

 Image This is Abe Lincoln meets John Calhoun, a Southern politician. Lincoln’s head was cropped onto Calhoun’s body in the 1860s. 

The first photograph was taken in 1814, so just within a few years of photography’s invention people were already attempting to distort reality. People want to put their best foot forward in life, so equivocating some simple alterations is an easy choice to make. But what people are facing now is the idea that perhaps people like their reality distorted; they like the unattainability of perfection. And that is scary stuff. 

This article isn’t about presenting my opinions. I simply want to get you to think about something difficult. Struggle with it. Discuss it. 

Do we condone photo manipulation because we are dissatisfied with ourselves or because we believe that we are capable of more than we are? 

 

You’re Worth More Than That | Disordered Eating

I was a chronic dieter. I honestly do not remember a time from 6th grade through sophomore year of college that I wasn’t dieting in some way shape or form. I would skip meals, restrict calories, exercise obsessively, and overall be dissatisfied with my body. It wasn’t until last year that I realized what I was doing to myself had a name, and that it wasn’t normal or healthy behavior.Image

I was a disordered eater.

The National Eating Disorder Collaboration (NEDC) defines disordered eating as “when a person regularly engages in destructive eating behaviours such as restrictive dieting, compulsive eating or skipping meals.” Examples of disordered eating behaviors include “fasting or chronic restrained eating” also known as chronic dieting, skipping meals, binge eating, self induced vomiting, unbalanced eating (restricting just one food group perceived to be ‘bad,’ and using diet pills/laxatives. 

According to a study by McCargar and McBurney published in the U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, almost half of Americans suffer from Chronic Dieting Syndrome. Most of those who suffer from it started dieting at an early age (typically teenage years). A staggering 78% of participants reported extreme dissatisfaction with body size and shape. The kicker of this study is its age. It was published in 1999. And disordered eating habits have only gotten worse. 

In a US News Report in 2011, “nearly half of boys and girls in grades three to six want to be thinner, research suggests, and about 37 percent have already dieted.” And when students were surveyed again 5 years later after reporting they would continuing dieting, most weighed more than non-dieters. 

These habits are simply not healthy. They lead to psychological problems and complete body dissatisfaction. 

This article hurts my heart to write. It hits too close to home. Almost every woman I know has struggled with disordered eating. Including myself. And even though I’ve conquered my own self-loathing, it is not something I want my children to struggle with. 

I want my kids to know that they are beautiful and that they are loved. 

And I’m sure that what all of you want for your kids too…

So why don’t you want it for yourself? 

Why not tell yourself you’re beautiful? 

What kind of role model can you be for the kids in your life if you don’t believe what you’re telling them? 

This week, I want you to take 5 days off from counting, obsessing, exercising, all of it. Eat when your hungry. Eat what tastes good and what makes your body feel good. Take a walk. Rock climb. Play with your dog. Breathe in. Breathe out. Be free. 

You are more than the sum of the calories you take in; and you are more than the ones you burn off during your workout. 

You are a beautiful human being. You are the product of all your experiences and the ones of your ancestors. You are the culmination in a unique pattern of genes that combined in your mother’s womb to make you. No one else has your fingerprints. No one else has your exact eyes. No one else has the mole on the inside of your left pinky finger. You are the only you there is in the whole world. To quote Whitman: “O me, O life of the questions of these recurring. Of the endless trains of the faithless. Of cities filled with the foolish. What good amid these, O me, O life? Answer: that you are here. That life exists and identity. That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.”

What will your verse be? 

Stay Smiling, Beautiful (:

Happy looks great on you!

You’re More than Photoshop.

Image

The main promotional image used for Victoria Secret’s 2010 “I Love My Body” campaign

Victoria’s Secret is one of the biggest sellers of “sexy” in the America. They know this; America knows this. Therefore, what Victoria’s Secret sells as sexy, America literally and subconsciously “buys” as sexy. The women in this photo are extraordinarily thin and tall. I’ve never seen a woman look like these women. They have perfect skin, breasts, legs, hair, and stomachs. They don’t even have pores. In the real world, these women do not even exist. They are created. They are created using photo editing techniques (commonly referred to as Photoshop) to shrink their already tiny waists, erase any moles or lines, and airbrush a smooth look over their entire bodies. Why does this photo manipulation work? It’s because it is just real enough. It teeters on the edge of imitation and genuine. Women want to think that they could look like these models even though it is an unreasonable, even unattainable standard of beauty. 

This week in class I was given the privilege of playing with Photoshop, so I took it upon myself to see if I could manipulate an image of myself and my family from my wedding over the summer. As a Photoshop noob, I figured the realm of cinching waists and airbrushing skin was beyond my abilities. I was wrong. Within 20 minutes I had smoothed my grandmothers’ wrinkles – taking off an easy 25 years from their appearance. I had also managed to shrink my waist, slightly accentuate my breasts and hips, smooth my complexion,and overall give me a celebrity worthy experience. 

But here’s the problem. 

It wasn’t me. 

It wasn’t my grandmothers. 

They were creations. Representations of who I made them. 

They weren’t real. 

My grandmothers’ wrinkles are signs of their wisdom and years of experience. They give them character. They make them unique. And Beautiful. 

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) the average American woman is 5’4″ tall, weighs 166 pounds, and has a waist circumference of 37.5″. Alessandra Ambrosio (one of the women in the above photo) is 5’10”, 112 pounds, and has 24″ waist! How is it acceptable for the largest seller of lingerie in America to perpetuate this ridiculous fantasy? In September 2013, one VS model even exclaimed to Telegraph UK: “I don’t look like that picture.” 

Image

Love My Body vs. Real Beauty Campaigns

Women in America are suffering from “Photoshop Syndrome.” We are seduced by images of impossibly beautiful women with impossibly perfect features but that’s just it. They are impossible. Real women don’t look like that.

Some are slender, some are curvy, some lie in between…but all of them are beautiful.

And while Dove’s Real Beauty Campaign has met with some criticism, its overarching claim is that real women are beautiful and should always remember it. We should stop focusing on our “flaws” and focusing on the beautiful fact that , as Stella Boonshoft puts it, “Our bodies are all beautiful because they are vessels for our souls. They allow us to feel, express, hurt, love, laugh, cry, and most importantly create change in the world.”

So go out – women of America!

Go out and love your body. 

Go walk your dog, dance in your underwear, sing in the car, workout, binge on ice cream!

Do what makes you happy. 

Do what makes you feel beautiful. 

Be kind to your body. 

Love your body. 

It is the only one you get.

You’re beautiful. 

You’re more than Photoshop.

You’re you. 

Unique. Exclusive. Alluring. Dazzling. 

Beautiful.

You.

Stay smiling! Happy looks great on you

From Body Hate to BodyLove

0814-lizzie-miller_vg

The above picture is of Lizzi Miller, also known as “the woman on page 194”, of Glamour Magazine. She appeared in the magazine in the September 2009 issue and started a body image revolution. She’s a size 12-14. Considered “plus-sized” by industry standards, but to you and me is a normal, happy, American woman.

The pursuit for perfection is an incessant, sometimes perilous journey that affects nearly all American women and over half men. In the U.S., this quest often manifests itself in the form of disordered eating, eating disorders, and exercise addiction. According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, 91% of women surveyed on a college campus had attempted to control their weight through dieting. 22% dieted “often” or “always.” That is not acceptable. Nearly every photo that is published of a celebrity is edited in some way: some drastically, others only minor changes are made. But why is altering one’s appearance the norm? Who is setting this unattainably high standard of beauty? How is it affecting children, teens, and adults? And perhaps most importantly, how can the individual change their view of themselves for the better and what can be done to combat this unattainable standard?

This project is near and dear to my heart. As an elementary student, I was obese, depressed, and lonely. As a middle school student, I was average, critical, depressed, and deeply unsatisfied with myself. It wasn’t until high school that my body hate hit its deepest low; I found myself in my bathroom staring at a reflection, honestly believing that if I worked hard enough, if I obsessed long enough, I could make myself beautiful. I obsessed over calories. They were my God. I worshiped them; idolized them. I lovingly tracked every single calorie that entered and exited my body. In my eyes, if I were thin I would finally be beautiful and people would love me. It wasn’t until I eventually injured myself partially from over-exercise and partially due to poor nutrition for years that I realized that I was not in a good place and that only I can determine if I am happy – not a number on a scale or a flat stomach. That moment began my quest for Body Love. It’s been a long and difficult road but I can happily say that now, 95% of the time, I love my body simply because it is mine.

However, I know that this is not the case with many women my age and it’s killing them and me. I want this blog to raise attention to body hate and help women along the way to Body Love.  I will do this by doing research on the various manifests of body hate such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, disordered eating, bingeing, chronic dieting, etc. I will also look at the various medias that promote thinness as the only acceptable form of beauty. Women are beautiful and unique in their own right and there is no reason for them to not see their own beauty inside and out.

Smile, you’re beautiful, and happy looks great on you.