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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.

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Get Stronger: Be Strong, Sexy, & Confident

The other day at the gym, I got the pleasure of putting one of the regular guys to shame while working out my back in the free weight area. He had that look on his face that just screamed: “Wut. But you’re a girl.”

7 Weeks ago that would have never happened. fitspo

My husband is in law enforcement and he has a physical fitness test coming up in a few weeks, so a month ago when he came home from work and told me that he needed to get in the gym, I challenged myself to get in there with him!

I’ve basically done a 180 from the workouts I was used to doing (i.e. cardio, cardio, cardio, abs, cardio) and went to weight training 4-5 days a week for about an hour at a time. As a weight lifting noob, I was pretty self- conscious about being in the free weight area with all of the manly men. However, my husband was right there with me. We did the exercises together, he showed me proper form, and over the last month I have gotten a lot stronger!

I tell you all this because lifting weights has changed the way I view myself and my body.

I feel strong.

I feel powerful.

I feel like I can face any challenge and conquer it.

I can already see the changes my body is making to compensate for the damage I do to it in the weight room.

And that is really, really, cool.

I don’t know about you friend, but the hours I used to spend on the elliptical seem nearly ridiculous now. I never felt strong or powerful on the elliptical. The little emergency band that keeps you tethered to the machine was my mindset. I was a slave to cardio and to always eating at a caloric deficit. But now, I’m slowly increasing my caloric intake. All the research I’ve read tells me that it is impossible to build muscle when eating at a caloric deficit.

infographic weight trainingTo lift weights, to build muscle, we need to eat!

And eat well!

Since high school I would say that I ate a healthy balanced diet. Lean meats, lots of veggies, lots of fruit, almond milk (I can’t drink normal), whole wheat. I mean I ate really well! But a couple weeks ago, I stumbled across this blog and she was describing my life. She had always eaten pretty healthy, but wasn’t seeing the results she wanted. So she started tracking her macros (i.e. grams of protein, fat, & carbs).

So I went to a few of the different macro tracking websites: MacroFit,

Elite Impact Labs

and http://macronutrientcalculator.com/.

The numbers these give you will be different! Take an average, pick the one you like the best and start there! All of my calorie estimates were almost 1200 calories more than I’d been eating, so I’m slowly working my way up to that! I’m currently at 1600 per day, but even getting that high is a struggle for me some days! My compensation for this is that I focus on my overall percentages of my macros. I’m eating 40% protein, 40% carbs, and 20% fat. So my goal every day is to eat those proportions of calories throughout one day!

And let me tell you….I feel awesome! I have energy, I’m not hungry all the time, I feel like my body is utilizing every single calorie I give it!

And this new weight lifting regimen coupled with my new found love of macro tracking has given me my biggest boost of confidence in years!

I feel sexy, confident, and beautiful!

So…what’s holding you back?

I challenge you to click on some of those links I posted, read about macro tracking, read about weight lifting! And then get out there and try it! Grab a girlfriend, boyfriend, husband, whoever and do it together. Commit to a lifestyle change that will give you both a huge boost of confidence and make you feel awesome!

Well I need to go hit the gym. It’s leg day.

Friends don’t let friends skip leg day.

Stay smiling, & Stay strong, beautiful!

Happy and Confident look great on you (:

 

Abuse: Deeper than Bruises

Hello, My name is Sarah and I have been a victim of an abusive relationship.

This is my story.

Before I share my story, I want to get us all on the same level.

Abuse is defined as the “cruel or violent treatment of a person (or animal) especially regularly/repeatedly.”

Abuse encompasses more than just physical violence, in fact there are 6 main forms of abuse that occur within violent relationships:

Physical 

Standing over you, getting “in your face,” blocking a doorway, grabbing you if you try to leave, kicking, punching, biting, slapping, choking, threatening to harm you, using weapons, throwing things, breaking things, punching walls or doors, driving recklessly, burning, cutting, pulling hair, stabbing, strangling, tying or confining you, preventing you from seeking medical care, murder.

Emotional

Insults, put downs, intimidating you, embarrassing you in public, talking down to you, not listening to or respecting your feelings, making threats, telling you you’re not “GLBTQ,” “man,” or “strong” enough, being jealous, possessive, controlling; excessive or threatening texts, wanting access to your messages, email, FaceBook/MySpace, spying, checking up on you, accusations of cheating, making you feel like you need to justify yourself, giving you no privacy, shaming you for your sexual orientation.

Verbal

Yelling, shouting, swearing, continuously arguing, interrupting, talking over you, put downs, using loud and threatening language and tone to cause fear, name calling, intimidating you, mocking you, abusive language.

Economic

Withholding money, opening up a joint account but you don’t have access, forcing you to leave your job, forcing you to get fired, shaming you for how you spend your money, not allowing you to work or get an education, putting all the bills/credit cards in your name, preventing you from using a car.

Mental

Playing mind games with you, twisting everything around so nothing is their fault and all of their behavior was caused by something you did or didn’t do, accusing you of doing things that they are doing, lying, manipulating you for control or sex, threatening to “out” you to parents, friends, classmates, distorting reality so you think you are losing your mind.

Sexual

Rape, unwanted sexual touching, vulgar comments, pressure for sex, forcing you to have unprotected sex, forcing you to get pregnant or to have an abortion, sexting, forcing you to have sex with other people or to watch your partner have sex with someone else, forcing you to use or participate in pornography.

ImageMy Story

In the summer of 2010, I met a guy at the summer camp where we worked. We hit it off and soon enough he asked me to be his girlfriend. He seemed like a great guy: funny, personable, charming. So of course I agreed.

That’s when it all started to go downhill.

It wasn’t too long before he started putting me down verbally. He would make comments about how I wasn’t “smart enough” to understand whatever it was he was talking about at the time. He would tell me to just “stop talking.” I didn’t really think anything of it…he was just being a guy right? Wrong.

From there he moved to my emotions, he would continue to make off handed comments about how my body wasn’t “hot”, “fit”, “attractive” and how he wished I looked more like celebrities like Megan Fox. So I started dieting. I lost about 20 pounds in 2 months. But even that wasn’t enough to make him happy.

The previous two behaviors continued for weeks…it became my new normal. I didn’t even realize that anything was amiss. Then things got worse that winter. He followed me upstairs at his parent’s house one day when they were out.  He proceeded to makeout with me. This wasn’t anything out of the ordinary, but then he started making moves that I was not at all comfortable with. I kept saying “No. I don’t want to. Get off me. Stop.” Over and over and over again. That day he stopped.

Sometimes he would stop if I said “No.” enough times. Other times he wouldn’t.

Over time…there were times when I wouldn’t even protest. I felt like I was just an object. It didn’t matter what I did or said, I could just be used. He manipulated me into thinking that if I didn’t go along with it that I was a bad person. In my clouded head, I didn’t even realize that what was happening wasn’t normal and that it was incredibly unhealthy.

As a devout Christian, I also felt shamed, soiled, used, disgusting, violated and I felt like it was my fault for letting it happen over and over again. So I didn’t say anything to anyone. I pretended like everything was wonderful between us.

It wasn’t, but I was afraid of what he would do if I broke up with him. He was prone to violent outbursts when he was angry and I was legitimately scared that he would do something to me if I did.

So 2 years later with continued manipulation and abuse, I even agreed to marry him when he proposed.

About 3 months later though, he cheated on me. And in that hurt, I finally found the confidence to walk away. And even at that moment, I never even realized that our relationship had been abusive.

It took me a long time after we broke up to realize just how toxic our relationship was.

I knew that it was bad, sure, but I would never have said that he had abused me. It wasn’t until a psychologist explained to me the different kinds of abuse and that my situation fell within those bounds that I came to terms with it all.

Once I said the words: “I was in an abusive relationship.” I was able to start healing.

Healing took time. It took tears. But it happened.

I always have been a strong willed, independent woman and it scared me that even I could have so blindly been in an abusive situation. And the fact that I did, doesn’t make me any less of a person. It doesn’t make me weak or unworthy. It is an experience that I would never wish on anyone, but I am stronger for it.

Conclusion

I am now happily married to a wonderful man who is incredible and who loves me for me. I know this week’s post is a bit different than what I normally discuss, but my low self confidence in my own beauty was a huge factor in my situation, and I want to make sure that other women know the different forms abuse can take. Abuse doesn’t have a standard form that it takes, it’s unique to every relationship. However, there are common threads that I believe everyone should be aware of.

Thank you for reading my story.

You are a beautiful, strong, human being.

So stay smiling, 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. 

 

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