Tag: Body

My Unexpected (but Totally Worth the Wait) Journey from Diet-Obsessed to Body Positive

I’m not sure when I first started worrying about my weight, but I suspect it started around the same time I started growing breasts and worrying what boys thought of me. Or, more likely, what other girls thought of me.

Until then, I assumed that adolescent girldom came the way it was depicted in movies — at least back then. The “average-sized” girl always played sidekick to the model-type who had it all: the grades, the looks, and the boy.

So by the time I was 14, the word “diet” to me meant “eat like this until you reach your goal weight and then everything will be OK.” Though it never was, I spent those formative years trying to balance my love of food and my disdain for any form of exercise that broke a sweat outside the swimming pool — my weight yo-yoing within a narrow range through the remainder of my teen years.

When I went away to college, this range moved (mildly) up the scale. Still, since I constantly charted my weight, I didn’t see it as concerning. Instead of losing the initial five pounds, I’ll just have to lose 10 pounds, I thought. And on came the weeks, if not months, of fad diets before they officially entered the mainstream (paleo, keto, and Dukan come to mind) and charting my ups and downs — at first on paper with a habit tracker and later with a Fitbit.

At 24, however, I reached my heaviest: 137 pounds. I was two years into therapy and one thing became increasingly clear: I did not have “it” (whatever it was) together, especially when it came to my body.

Consumed by my day-to-day life — school, work, and the social life that comes with college — I didn’t even realize my initial weight obsession started out of sheer neuroticism. Working out blanketed me into believing I was in control of my anxiety.

With a Fitbit, I was constantly reminded of my daily goal and whether or not I had reached it. I would jog on the spot until midnight to make it, or excuse myself at a friend’s and take a freakishly long call or an extended visit to the restroom until the black band on my wrist started buzzing to signal that I was done.

On days I missed ticking a box or making my step goal, I’d mentally scold myself like a child, guilt myself into doing more tomorrow, and watching my food twice as closely in the days that followed.

Until therapy, it never occurred to me that my anxiety and eating were also enmeshed in something bigger — that gaining weight during my years of therapy was linked to reliving repressed memories.

When I happened upon old diaries from my teenage years, one thing became obvious: Every hundred odd pages, without fail, I’d start a health kick, hoping that “this” would be “it.” My monologue was always consistent: “If I’m 110 pounds, my anxiety will go away, and I’ll be happy and not have to binge-eat when life gets tough.” For me, food was comfort, and I needed extra comfort in those days.

But that was then – and this was now. I was at my heaviest weight ever, and something had changed. It wasn’t until the elastic of my underwear was digging into my hips that I realized this bout of weight gain was different. Unlike years gone by, this time I didn’t hate myself for it.

At my largest, I suddenly discovered that I was much more than my weight. For the first time, I didn’t feel exhausted by the continuous cycle of weight watching, and I realized that being healthy wasn’t at all about vanity.

I was, without knowing it at the time, body positive. So much so that when I did start working out again — on my terms this time — I questioned whether or not I was being true to my new, body-positive self.

I thought, just as many women did, that body positivity couldn’t go hand in hand with weight loss or healthy eating or working out. And that’s simply not true. As cliché as it sounds, for me, body positivity is a mental state that involves accepting my body the way it is today.

There’s a slightly cheesy quote I think of whenever I do weigh in after a swim, about how it’s not the destination, but the journey itself. For me, my journey involves swimming because I enjoy it and it expels anxiety from my mind — or choosing to meet a friend at a chocolate workshop because that’s something I enjoy too.

There’s so much more to a healthy life, I’ve found, without all the extra weight that comes with chasing a goal that ends where it’s met.

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The Guys Finally Making Body Positivity a Thing for Men

We’re finally at a point where people aren’t ashamed of their stomach rolls and are celebrating their mermaid thighs. This is true body positivity. Hashtags like #effyourbeautystandards and #allbodiesaregoodbodies are wildly popular on Instagram, and there are dozens of Facebook and YouTube pages committed to celebrating “real” bodies.

But almost every single body-positive blogger, Instagrammer, and celebrity is female. It’s true that women’s bodies have historically been subjected to more scrutiny than men’s, and that has led to long-term consequences we’re still trying to correct. But men also face pressures—to be stronger, taller, more masculine—and we need to make sure the body-positive movement fights against those too.

We’ve seen the first baby steps: Major fashion blogs like Chubstr and Notoriouly Dapper provide resources and community for men of all sizes. But compared to the size of the body-positive community for women, the representation for men just isn’t there.

The most well-known body-positive bloggers—@bodyposipanda, @plankingforpizza, @yourstruelymelly—post in a universal language. Messages like “love your chub” and “every body is beautiful” apply to women and men, after all.

Still, there’s a lot of value in seeing people who look like you tackle the same challenges you’re facing in real time. It may seem silly to connect with a random person on the other side of the internet, but that’s exactly how many people find the role models they need.

We’ve seen how successful representation can be. As the movement has grown, there have been real, tangible changes in the way society and media treats women. Aerie has sworn off retouching its advertisements, and models Ashley Graham and Iskra Lawrence walk runways and land the covers of magazines without anyone batting an eye. Actresses who aren’t super skinny—Amy Schumer and Octavia Spencer come to mind—are getting interesting, complex roles in Hollywood, and more schools and parents are teaching young girls about body image from a young age.

It’s time to do this for men too. That starts by building the community from the ground up, and luckily the process has already begun. Here are four men at the root of it all—they’re actively representing different body types for men and calling for more body diversity in the media. Eventually we’ll need more people like them, but for now, following these guys is a good start.

Zach Miko

Miko signed to IMG Models’ newly minted “brawn” division in March 2016, making him the first plus-size male model to join to a major agency. He’s seven inches taller than most other male models, and he’s got a good three or four sizes on them.

Kelvin Davis

As a fashion blogger, body-positive model, and one of the brains behind the @EffYourBeautyStandards Instagram account, Davis is a busy guy. But he believes in what he’s doing: One bad shopping trip made him pledge to never apologize for his body again, and he’s encouraging other men to do the same.

Troy Solomon

Here’s a guy who has cultivated an impressive Instagram following with his style posts and, presumably, totally relatable love of tacos. Solomon isn’t shy when it comes to talking about (or showing off) his plus-size body.

Matt Joesph Diaz

On top of having a really inspiring story, Diaz writes a lot about the importance of expanding the body-positivity community. He believes it needs to be more of a priority, and obviously, we agree.

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Trolls Relentlessly Body Shamed This Woman, but There’s a Happy Ending

Trolls on Twitter will probably never go away, but actress Zendaya’s response to a cruel meme is proof that haters never prosper. When she caught wind of a now-deleted body shaming meme, she clapped back with a super satisfying tweet.

Here's the meme:

Body shaming meme

And here's Zendaya's response:

But the story doesn't end there: Zendaya asked her followers to help track down the woman in the photo, so the actress could offer her a modeling contract for the clothing line Daya by Zendaya. And because the Internet is a magical place, Zendaya's followers found the woman, Ciera Davis, on Twitter. Davis said the offer was a dream come true:

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Dating Other Women Helped Me Love My Own “Imperfect” Body

How Dating Other Women Helped Me Love My Own "Imperfect" Body

The first time I fell in love with a woman, I was 16, and everything about her seemed perfect: her curly red hair, her freckles, the way she moved from one yoga position to the next so effortlessly she seemed bored. Her name was Ruby.

In hindsight, I’m pretty sure I over-romanticized that first encounter, as one does as a teenager in search of self. We were at an outdoor yoga class at my local park, and everything seemed to shine brilliantly with magic: the pink lemonade that I sipped at the entrance; the soft, dewy grass between my toes; and the smile of the girl who set up her mat beside me.

While I couldn’t see it at the time, of course Ruby had imperfections. But there was one thing I remember that would have been called a “flaw” by most beauty standards, though I didn’t see it that way: She had cellulite—small, sweet dimples appeared on the tops of her thin legs. And even in a public space, she didn’t bother to cover them up or seem embarrassed.

That sort of carefree spirit was so foreign to me, and I envied it. I had such a distorted body image, partially formed by an all-girls’ school obsessed with making us look like “little ladies,” that I couldn’t even recognize myself in photographs. I wished I had Ruby’s confidence, her grace, her aura of self-acceptance. I remember going home that day and stripping down to my underwear. I twisted my spine to look at my cellulite in the mirror and thought, “I have something in common with a goddess.”

In my social circles, I’ve often encountered the assumption that queer people inherently have fewer issues with body image than our straight peers, but I can assure you, dating women is hardly a cure-all for body image issues. In my case, dating women has sometimes felt like an obstacle to self-love. The women I date always seem to be thinner than I am; they’re also traditionally prettier, softer, more feminine. And while I’m trying to unlearn the idea that being fat is “bad,” it’s always hard for me not to compare myself to my partners and feel like I’m inferior. When you’re held to the same standards as the person you’re dating, it can be especially easy to see your so-called shortcomings.

Self-love isn’t a linear journey.

When my girlfriend grabs her stomach fat and talk about going on salt-water cleanses, it’s difficult to look at my own body and think that I look fine. I sometimes find myself worried that strangers see us holding hands in public and think I don’t deserve to be with the woman I love because of the way I look.

But on the other hand, there’s transference. The beauty I saw in Ruby’s “flaws” made it easy for me to see beauty in my own. I met Ruby back when I still believed in the concept of “leagues” — she would be out of my league by any mainstream teen movie’s standards. I thought she wouldn’t like me the way I liked her because I wasn’t as conventionally attractive, but she proved me wrong. She didn’t just love me; she actively pursued me. She didn’t just think I was beautiful; she worshipped me the way I worshipped her.

This surprising turn of events led me to think two revolutionary thoughts:

1. Maybe I’m attractive. Maybe, just as I loved Ruby’s thighs and untamed eyebrows, she loved something that would be considered “imperfect” about me—my soft arms, or my strange chin.

2. Maybe Ruby loved me for reasons other than my appearance.

Ruby and I didn’t last, but loving her was a learning experience. In loving her, I ultimately opened the floodgates to loving myself. When I saw beauty in her imperfections, I learned to apply the same eye to my own body. I found myself thinking of the things we call flaws, and wondering why we’re trained to think this way.

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I wanted Ruby not because she was “perfect”—she wasn’t—but because there was a light inside her that shined for me. So why should I hold my body to a beauty standard that I don’t hold my romantic partner to? When I try to be full of love, I can shine as brightly as Ruby did, and my so-called imperfections can’t stand in the way of that.

Self-love isn’t a linear journey; I still fluctuate between treating myself with the gentle kindness I deserve and wanting to cut my stomach off with a knife. But slowly, I’ve managed to transition out of thinking, “I hate my body” on a daily basis. For a while, I replaced it with the thought, “Actually, I look great!” But now I try to remember the most important part: “It doesn’t matter how I look. I love myself anyway.”

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The One Thing You Need to Read Anytime You Start Hating on Your Body

We’re working to get to the place where the little voice in our head is our personal cheerleader, not the one who picks out all of our flaws. But in the meantime, there are plenty of people you can follow on Instagram for a daily reminder that you (and your body) rock.

We’ve seen dozens of these messages before, but this self-love manifesto from eating disorder survivor @kellyufit stands out from the pack. It’s the kind of thing you should screenshot for the next time negative thoughts about your appearance start creeping in.

Go ahead, give it a read, and maybe try saying it to yourself in the mirror once in a while:

Photo: Instagram/ @kellyufit

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This Thanksgiving Use #BodyBeThankful to Share the Things You’re Grateful Your Body Can Do

The holidays are an easy time to go HAM on sweets, which almost always leads to self-loathing. Maybe you’re not happy with the way your belly jiggles or you’re frustrated your jeans don’t button so easily after Thanksgiving dinner.

The #BodyBeThankful campaign is here to remind us we should be grateful for the awesome stuff our bodies can do—and not get too worried about the way they look. Sara Haley, a fitness blogger, started the campaign to encourage people, especially fellow moms, to celebrate their bodies during the holidays. Here’s the post that kicked things off:

sarah haley Photo: Instagram/@sarahaleyfit

Participating is easy: Upload a photo of yourself, use the hashtag #BodyBeThankful, and talk about one thing you’re proud your body can do. It doesn’t matter if it’s doing squats at the gym, getting out of bed, or carrying laundry—everything counts. Here’s some inspiration:

#BodyBeThankful Photo: Instagram/@willpower.silk

body be thankful Photo: Instagram/@mikekarpenko body be thankful Photo: Instagram/@caracappel body be thankful Photo: Instagram/@the_mama_sagas

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This Woman Is Owning (and Wearing) Every Word Someone’s Said About Her Body

When it comes to our bodies, it seems like everyone has something to say. Even when those remarks are “positive,” they can make us feel like crap— especially since we aren’t asking people for their constant judgment. Plus when the comments are negative, they can lead to a lifelong body-image struggle. That’s why Jojo Oldham, a designer from the U.K., decided to do something about all the things people have said about her body over the years.

She took all the phrases—the good, the bad, and the ugly—and painted them onto a white dress. By wearing and owning them, not only does she looks like a total badass, but she also proves that we are way more then what what people say about our bodies:

Photo: Lucy Ridges You’ll notice that there are both nice (“stunning”) and nasty (“porky”) remarks, and that’s part of what makes it so powerful.

jojo oldham dress Photo: Lucy Ridges jojo oldham dress Photo: Lucy Ridges As she explains on her blog, Oldham didn’t make this dress for your pity or to show off the more positive comments. Instead, she’s trying to celebrate the newfound love she has for her body and hopes to inspire others to do the same:

“I’ve reached a point in my life where I finally feel at peace with my body. I still long to be in just one photo wearing a sleeveless top where my upper arms don’t look like giant hams. Or to find a pair of denim shorts that my thighs don’t bulge out of like sausage meat making a desperate escape from the confines of its casing. But I am very happy with my lot. I’m healthy (cross fingers touch wood), strong, and have a body that enables me to do all the things I love (dance, walk, wear tropical print jumpsuits, fling kettlebells around, and sit on my arse watching back to back episodes of The Walking Dead). So what if my upper arms continue waving long after my hand has stopped? Those same upper arms enable me to carry massive boxes all by myself, punch punchbags really hard, and wave my arms in the air like I just don’t care for a really long time.

I respect my body and I look after it. Occasionally I test its limits by trying to cram too much pizza or wine into it, or dancing a bit too enthusiastically, but on the whole we’re good. I’ve stopped treating exercise as a means of bullying my body into fitting into things it’s never going to fit into. Now I exercise in celebration of it, not in battle with it.”

jojo oldham dress Photo: Lucy Ridges Oldham also opens up about her own body-image struggles:

“The urge to delete unflattering photos of myself is overwhelming, even when they represent really happy moments which I never want to forget. I had an absolute blast at my wedding. I felt on top of the world and my husband and I loved every minute. But when I first looked at my photos, my stomach lurched. My eyes skipped past the smiling face, knockout dress and movie star hair and all I could see were chins and bellies. Everywhere. I had a go at myself for not sucking my tummy in more and not learning to smile in a more photogenic way when I’m ecstatically happy. Then I got over it. Turns out that when I’m having the best day ever my chins come out. All three of them. And frankly who can blame them. It was one heck of a party.”

jojo oldham dress Photo: Lucy Ridges Her message is one we can all get on board with— loving your body is not easy, but we all deserve to love the person we are right now:

“I’d rather be the me that isn’t afraid to go out or to eat the cheese or drink the wine or do the running man at wholly inappropriate times, than the me who’s half a stone lighter. And if that means I’m never going to find a pair of denim shorts I feel great in, and that my arms are probably always going to look like giant hams in photos, then I’m good with that. Because we should all be able to celebrate and love ourselves without fear of criticism from others, whatever shape or size we are.”

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