Growing up flawed: Living with acne

acne-cartoon

When most people hit puberty, they develop acne. We are told, by doctors, parents, and those much older than us, that it’s a part of growing up and that “it will go away.”

But for some of us it doesn’t go away. And unfortunately that’s been the case with me. Sure, it’s not as severe as it was when I turned fourteen and started high school with a face full of little red mountains of fury (gross, huh?), but now that I’m in my early twenties, I’ve noticed that my skin does more than just break out—it’s dry and/or red in certain areas, and it’s discolored from past acne. Also, there’s more hair growing on my face.

All I do when I look in the mirror some days is frown. Shouldn’t my skin be at it’s prime when I’m entering my twenties?

I can’t even begin to explain how many times I’ve looked up remedies for blotchy skin or those damn blackheads that never want to leave. Pinterest has provided me with more than enough information, which I never seem to try. Why is that?

I wonder if maybe it’s because I don’t want to be one of those people who blow through tons of money trying numerous products filled with chemicals that could do more harm than good. Instead, I’m trying a new approach that allows I’m comfortable with my skin and accept that it’s flawed. After all, it was flawed when I was young, it is now, and will obviously be when I’m older.

I see far too many celebrities who still look 30 when they’re more like 50 or older, like Cher or Madonna, and it makes me feel slightly uncomfortable. 

They’re talented, yes, but I can only imagine what they have to do on a daily basis to keep that flawless skin. To me, that seems like much more trouble than it’s worth. What’s going to happen when the inside of their bodies: heart, lungs, liver or kidneys, doesn’t work anymore and they can no longer take care of their faces? I hope that they are taking care of more than just cosmetics. Isn’t it important for us to take care of our entire bodies and to accept that one day we will look older? It doesn’t mean that we won’t or can’t be beautiful.

I’m not saying I don’t take care of my skin; I do. I wash my face daily, remove my make-up before bed at night, and moisturize to keep the dry and flaky patches at bay. But I’m tired of fighting my skin and feeling like I’m in a losing battle.

Recently I tried something I’ve never been able to do before. I had gotten one of those really big red bumps right beside my nose and couldn’t touch it without making it have a heart beat, so I left it alone. Yeah, my behavior surprised me too. But it also helped me realize that I can have some acne and be okay with it and the way I look. Self confidence is literally just that. Self. I realize now that as long as I’m okay with it, then being imperfect doesn’t really matter.

Brittany Eldridge

Feeling rad about clean, organized eating

Cauliflower

Have you ever looked at the ingredients of a food that you were about to eat and then asked yourself what you were about to put into your body? I have. In fact, I do it all the time.

So I decided to cut things out like canned soups, frozen dinners, hot dogs and bologna, fast food (who knows what’s really in that stuff) and more. The truth is, eating those types of things, especially fast food, was making me feel awful. I was constantly tired and my energy was nonexistent, my skin was vacillating back and forth between clear and a war zone, and I had no confidence.

I just wanted to feel good again.

One of the things I’ve started doing since I began this new clean eating approach a few months ago is making sure I eat my fruits and vegetables. I’ve always like them, but I never took the time to make sure I ate them with my meals. Now I make sure to eat some everyday. Sure, it may not be the exact amount that doctors say I need, but some has to be better than none at all.

But now that I’ve been doing this I want to take clean living a few steps further…

First of all, I want to learn to control my meal times. I think eating at the same time every day can help me avoid snacking throughout the day (when I tend to gravitate towards cream cheese doughnuts).

Second, I’m always on the hunt for recipes that substitute healthy ingredients for unhealthy ones. Like mashed potatoes. It’s not hard to replace the potato with cauliflower, and the end result tastes great, maybe even better than the original.

And lastly is breakfast. I’m also not a breakfast person. I can’t wake up in the morning and sit down to eat. I’m just not hungry that early. So I came up with the idea to try making a green smoothie. I had been doing a lot of research on how they can give you energy and make you feel full until lunch time. Well, my “green” smoothie turned out brown. Yikes. I added kale, strawberries, apples, and orange juice. It was a simple recipe, but somehow I messed it up. On top of being ugly, it tasted bad. It was just too healthy for my taste. But it’s all about trial and error; I plan to try again and hopefully next time it doesn’t look like mud.

I’m going to try more foods soon and hopefully my eating will become a little more clean.

Brittany Eldridge

Will the real slim shading please stand up?


Every Girl is Beautiful Photo

 

It’s no secret that I am my mother’s daughter. We have similar facial features, the same hair color, same attitude, and same body frame.  It’s always a common joke in my family to poke and prod at our bodies because we have no meat on our bones, as if we’re a couple of Thanksgiving turkeys on display. But the truth is that it seems as though the older I get, the more my family seems to notice that I’m skinny, or more importantly, underweight.

My doctor of fifteen years has always tried to push me to eat more than three meals a day just so I can put on a few extra pounds. But I found that more and more I was eating foods with a high fat and grease content in the hopes that it would give me the boost I needed, but instead the weight didn’t stick. And I would just be left feeling gross and empty.

From the time I was fifteen until I turned nineteen I felt guilty about being skinny. I felt like something was wrong with me. How could I not when every time I would see a relative they would ask if I was ever going to put any meat on my bones and if I still ate like a bird? (Many times I wanted to correct them and say that birds eat quite a bit of food even for their small sizes.) There were even times when people in high school would ask me if I was anorexic because I “just kind of seem a little sick…”

But who were they to make me feel a way I didn’t want to? It took some time, but I finally realized that I could be happy with the body I have. Instead of eating all those fatty foods, I started to balance what I was eating by making sure my body was getting the vitamins and other things it needed. For a while I took an iron supplement to get myself away from borderline anemia. It helped with the pale skin and sickly look that everyone thought I had. I also started to take a daily vitamin, and I made sure to drink water and eat the best that I could.

It took a couple of years, but now—at almost twenty-one—I am maintaining a healthy weight for my age and height: I weigh approximately 120 pounds, and I feel good. There is no longer any guilt or question about whether or not I’m underweight. I can look in the mirror and smile at myself, and to me that’s a victory. Of course my family still says I’m too skinny, but I think they do that now just to give me a hard time.

I think it’s important for people to be proud of what they have: you’re the one who has to live in your body so I recommend making it a home.

Brittany Eldridge

 

A big welcome to our new intern, Brittany Eldridge!

IMG_0007_2

I am so happy to introduce our new spring intern at I Will Not Diet.

Her name is Brittany Eldridge, and she is a junior at Western Kentucky university majoring in creative writing and minoring in professional writing.

Brittany hails from Morgantown, Kentucky and enjoys reading various genres from fantasy to romance. She claims she is a fiction writer down to her bones, but likes to dabble in the occasional poetry writing. Brittany has a Miniature Pinscher named Izzi she adores completely.

I hope you will make Brittany feel welcome by liking her posts on our Facebook page. Thanks!

—Molly

View from the Quarterlife

woman-in-a-mirror-theo-van-rysselberghe

A little over a week ago, I turned 25.

Wow. That sounds… old.

When I was a teenager, I never thought much about what exactly 25 would look like.

I had plans.

I had goals.

I (generally) knew what I wanted my life to be like.

In the grand scheme of things, however, I didn’t think of 25 as a particularly exciting birthday. It wasn’t a sweet sixteen. It wasn’t 18 and the transition to adulthood. It wasn’t exciting like 21.

Nonetheless, there were parts of 25 to look forward to. I grew up hearing the oft-touted fact that the human brain doesn’t finish developing until age 25. That always struck me as kind of odd. We have to make so many important decisions before age 25. We have to decide if we’re going to go to college. If the answer is yes, we have to decide where to go to school and what to study. Once we’re finished, we’re launched into “the real world” and have to find a way to support ourselves.

That’s a lot of stuff. All these decisions we make determine the trajectory of our lives.

I’ve spent some time pondering all these big decisions I’ve made, wondering if I made the right choice. That’s too big a question to answer, though. I had to come at it from a different angle.

I’ve spent 25 years crafting myself as a person. I have habits and values. I have things I care about. I know what’s important.

I asked myself this question: all these things considered, am I the person I would have hoped to have been?

If the answer was no, the question became: how I can I change that?

This is what I’ve been writing about these past few months. 15-year-old me would hate to see 25-year-old me struggling with the same issues with self-confidence. Ten to fifteen years is a long time to dislike what you see in the mirror.

It’s no way to live.

That recognition, however powerful, was only the start of a long process. I’m still working on loving myself and what I see in the mirror. Changing my habits has helped tremendously. I feel more in control of my feelings, habits and actions. Knowing I’m the one behind the wheel, so to speak, gives me a sense of confidence I never expected.

It’s still hard, though.

Some days I just don’t feel good about myself. I don’t feel prepared to face the world. I’m too inside my head to really be comfortable around other people.

That’s when I have to stop myself. I can’t control how other people view me, but I can control how I view myself. I can control how I react to things.

This hasn’t been a cure-all, but it has helped. I’d encourage anyone to consider this as a way to battle issues with body image. Think about all the time you’ve wasted worrying about your body. Hasn’t it been long enough?

—Lauren Bunch

Paparazzi Headlines and the Female Body

Earlier this year, I stumbled upon a BuzzFeed post that featured several celebrity gossip headlines that had been reimagined by readers. The post complied several photos that came as a response to this challenge, courtesy of Vagenda Magazine:

Vagenda magazine's reworded version of a paparazzi headline

Vagenda magazine’s reworded version of a paparazzi headline

Reading this post and looking at all the headlines really made me think about the way female celebrities are written about.

Most people are exposed to celebrity gossip in one form or another. Even someone who has no interest in celebrity culture might have a difficult time avoiding the headlines splashed across the gossip rags that line the checkout lanes in the supermarket.

Our culture is obsessed with celebrities. I’m certainly guilty of a certain interest in the lives of the beautiful people. In spite of all the unnecessary  attention I’ve paid to these matters, I’d never considered the way these headlines were worded.

But reading this BuzzFeed article changed that.

In retrospect, it seems so obvious! In a society that is just as obsessed with celebrity as it is with female bodies, headlines like this are inevitable:

Emmy Rossum on The Daily Mail

Emmy Rossum on The Daily Mail

What a weird and creepy headline. What part of this outfit invites this kind of commentary?

I feel a little ashamed that I never recognized this kind of thing before. I’ve always considered myself a feminist. I think I’m in tune with women’s rights issues. But in spite of this, I’d never seen headlines like this as problematic.

As I said before, that’s all changed now. And, oh, how the floodgates have opened.

Let’s start with the photo above. What part of Emmy Rossum’s outfit makes this kind of headline appropriate? The big question this article made me ask was this: What does a woman have to wear in order to not invite commentary on her body?

Let’s look at some other examples. Here’s a post about Drew Barrymore:

Drew Barrymore

How exactly is she “hiding” her figure? To me it just looks like she’s wearing clothes the same way anyone else is. The phrasing here really irks me. It seems to suggest that a female star’s body is subject to objectification and criticism at any time. Barrymore is hiding her figure from the people who feel they have an absolute right to see it.

This is very much a gender-based thing, too.  Compare a couple of headlines from the same website featuring male celebrities:

Seth Rogen

No mention of what Rogen is wearing as he “plays the role” of dutiful husband. The only thing the headline is making a big deal out of is Rogen helping his wife carry bags of groceries. There’s no reference to Rogen “hiding” his figure under his clothing. There no mention of clothes or bodies anywhere in this article.

The following headline does mention the male celebrity’s clothing, though not in the same way you’d see a female celebrity being talked about:

Kelsey Grammer

The author of this piece does make a point of describing Grammer’s attire, though it’s not written in the same breathless and voyeuristic tone used to when describing female celebrities above. Again, there is no mention of Grammer’s body. He apparently has nothing to hide.

As I said before, after I started noticing these things, I was unable to stop. Headlines like this are everywhere. They’re a symptom of a culture that constantly polices women’s bodies.  How are normal women supposed to feel good about themselves when glamorous movie stars are picked apart by tabloids? And is there a solution?

The answer to that last question is pretty difficult. I’d say one step to changing things like this is awareness. Now that I recognize what a problem this is, I can speak out and try to change things. I don’t have a lot of power, but I do have my voice. You do as well. Actions like this, however small, can make a difference:

Amal Alamuddin and George Clooney

Amal Alamuddin and George Clooney

We just have to keep trying.

Is there an expiration date on exercise? And if so, how do we get past it?

In my last post, I wrote about the difficulties I’ve had while trying to eat healthy. The second part of that “mission” has been starting an exercise program.

Exercise poster

I’m about a month in and things seem to be going well.

Naturally, however, I’ve hit some problems and anxieties along the way.

One of my fears is that I won’t stick with my new habit. There’s precedent for this fear. I’ve been known to start exercising around this time every year. I can go for a month or two of diligently working out five or six times a week, but I always eventually stop.

This isn’t uncommon. A lot of people have this problem. In a way, I suppose that’s comforting, but I desperately want this time to be different. At this point, I feel totally committed, but I’m not sure how I’ll feel in a month or two. With that in mind, I’ve been giving my past attempts a close look to try to figure out why I haven’t stuck with it.

Woman lifting weights

I am naturally a very anxious person. When I start a workout regimen, I constantly worry about what I’m doing.

Am I exercising enough?

Am I working hard enough?

What is enough?

Will it work?

My mind is constantly inundating itself with new fears and anxieties. If I read an article that lists “10 Ways You’re Ruining Your Workout,” I become convinced I’m doing something wrong.

Being anxious isn’t fun.

Perhaps I stop exercising because I spend so much time obsessing over these things?

In retrospect, I suppose part of the reason I’ve quit in the past is because I got bored. Again, this is a common problem for people who start a workout regimen. There are several articles that say the key to keeping up the habit is variety. With that in mind, I’ve been trying to mix up the different workouts I do every week. I’ve been rotating a few workout videos throughout the week along with heading to the gym to use workout equipment. I haven’t gotten bored yet, but I also haven’t been doing it for very long.

Lastly, I’ve had to confront how easily I get discouraged.

Looking back, my previous attempts came to an end after I missed a day or two of working out. If one thing goes wrong—if I miss one day or two—I feel defeated and find it harder to keep going. This time, I’m trying to be kinder to myself. I’ve had days when I didn’t feel well enough to exercise, or days where I wanted to take a little breather. Instead of beating myself up, I’ve committed to getting back into the habit as soon as I can.

This has been really helpful. It’s helped me change how I see my new habit. Before, I saw my attempts as stretches of time that, no matter how much I was determined to keep going, had inevitable end dates. Now, I think of my regimen as a constant endeavor. Hiccups and missed workouts aren’t the end because there is always a new day coming.

—Lauren Bunch

Mission impossible: can middle- and working-class people eat healthy in America?

Fruits and Vegetables

I heard these are supposed to be good for you.

Lately I’ve adopted a new mission: eating better. This is easier said than done, of course, especially in my case.

I am (sadly) a very picky eater.

I have been since I was a kid. I’ve gotten better as the years have gone on but there are still many foods I find completely inedible.

In spite of this, I’ve pushed on, pouring through blogs in an effort to find new recipes to try.

The good news: I’ve found a few promising options.

The bad news: I’m remembering how difficult it is to find healthy foods on a budget.

For example: on one site I saw several recipes that used quinoa. I figured this would be something worth trying out. The worst possible outcome, I thought, would be if I just didn’t like it. No big deal.

During my next trip to the grocery, I stopped in the health food section and found what I was looking for.

Quinoa, cooked

Quinoa is pronounced KEEN-wah

It was eight dollars for a ten-ounce package.

Eight dollars.

Ten ounces.

I am a poor college student. I work within a limited budget. I can’t afford to spend eight dollars on a tiny box of food.

I suppose this might seem like a lot of outrage over a little matter. But this is indicative of a much larger pattern affecting millions of people.

There is a statistical relationship between poverty and obesity. According to the Food Research and Action Center, “wages were inversely related to BMI and obesity in a nationally representative sample of more than 6,000 adults.” This means people with lower wages have higher BMIs and an increased chance of obesity.

This is odd, isn’t it? Wouldn’t it make sense for those with lower incomes to have lower BMIs?

Admittedly, the relationship between obesity and poverty is a little more complex and depends heavily on race, gender, and age. That being said, those with low wages are much more vulnerable to obesity.

Some of the reasons for this might be obvious. As I said before, healthy food often costs significantly more than junkier and processed foods with refined grains, added sugars, and fat.

Many people don’t even have access to groceries and farmers markets where they might buy healthy foods—or if they do, the food is of lower quality.

Lower-income neighborhoods often have an abundance of fast-food restaurants and a limited number of healthy options.  Many low-income families don’t have time to make a home-cooked, healthy meal. Instead they depend on the convenience and low cost of fast food.

Burger and friesWith all these factors working together, is it any wonder that obesity is such an epidemic in the United States?

As I said, I’m a poor college student, but I do all right. I don’t have to worry about where my next meal is going to come from. So if it’s a struggle for someone like  me to buy healthy food, how hard is it for someone working two jobs? For someone with a family to support?

The sad truth is that as long as junk food is cheap and abundant compared to healthy food that is expensive and difficult to obtain, poor nutrition and obesity will continue to be prevalent. There has to be a fundamental change in the way things are.

—Lauren Bunch

Jennifer Lawrence: doing her part to fight body shaming

Jennifer Lawrence

Jennifer Lawrence

Jennifer Lawrence made waves when she publicly said she wouldn’t “starve” herself for a role. In the years since she’s spoken out about body-image issues and fat shaming. She’s been quoted as saying, “I just think it should be illegal to call someone fat on TV.  I mean, if we’re regulating cigarettes and sex and cuss words because of the effect it has on our younger generation, why aren’t we regulating things like calling people fat?”

She’s further criticized the media’s negative impact on body-image: “We have the ability to control this image that young girls are going to be seeing. They see enough of this body that they will never be able to obtain and it’s an amazing opportunity to rid ourselves of that in this industry.”

Amen! This issue is near and dear to many hearts and it’s great to see a young actress speaking out and making this issue more well known.  It’s also great to see a highly-visible celebrity talk about food in a healthy way.  The first step in changing things is talking about the problem, and Jennifer is doing her part to continue the conversation.

—Lauren Bunch

The inherent misogyny of photo leaks
… and what we can do about it

It seems like everyone has a cell phone these days. Most of us walk around with nice cameras in our pockets, fully equipped and ready to blast our image to whomever we choose. This incredible technology is so commonplace we don’t even stop to think about it.

As I’ve said before, I am pro-selfie. But the selfie has taken on a more sinister connotation over the past month. The ultimate tool of self-love has been turned into a tool of hatred and exploitation.

Again.

Yes, I am talking about the latest celebrity nude “scandal.”

Over Labor Day weekend, a hacker (or a group of hackers) breached the iCloud accounts belonging to several celebrities. The victims include actress Jennifer Lawrence, model/actress Kate Upton, singer Rihanna, and many others.

Before we move on, I’d like to note that there is not a single male on the list of people who’ve had their pictures released. Let’s hold onto that thought for a minute.

Not a single male had his photo hacked.

The leaked photos have been released on sites such as Reddit, 4chan and imgur.

In a situation like this, a celebrity has a scant few choices as to how to react. The first is to deny, as Nickelodeon star Victoria Justice did last month:

Option 1: Deny

Option 1: Deny

The second choice is simply to ignore the leak and go on like nothing has happened. Third is to “laugh it off” as no big deal. Fourth and final is to go after the hackers via lawsuits. This is the strategy that seemed to work for Scarlett Johansson a couple years ago—the person who hacked her photos and leaked them is currently serving a ten-year jail sentence.

Lawrence and Upton have both released statements confirming the photos and announcing intentions to prosecute the offenders. Lawrence’s spokesperson responded to the leak with this statement: “This is a flagrant violation of privacy. The authorities have been contacted and will prosecute anyone who posts the stolen photos of Jennifer Lawrence.”

Jennifer Lawrence

Any sane person would agree that these leaks are a massive violation.

There are plenty of people decrying the leaks and insisting those responsible be brought to justice. That’s easy enough to agree with. But with situations like this, hypocrisy abounds. Some of the people complaining about the invasion of privacy are the ones scouring the internet for links to the photos. What really troubles me are the people who insist these women “had it coming.” Even those expressing sympathy will turn around and mock the victims for being stupid enough to take pictures of themselves.

In the culture we live in, victim blaming is so common it’s almost expected. Sadly, it’s not surprising to see dozens of articles popping up on various websites insisting that the violation is offensive but inevitable. If you take pictures and allow them to be uploaded to the cloud, they reason, you should be prepared for them to be seen by everyone with access to the internet.

How on earth does this make sense?

These pictures were taken for private use. They were stored on devices with a reasonable expectation of privacy. Such technology isn’t impenetrable, of course, but that doesn’t mean people should live their lives in constant fear of being hacked. And if they are hacked, it’s certainly not that fault.

Imagine your credit card information was stolen. How would you feel if someone told you this kind of thing was inevitable—that you knew the risks when you went to the ATM or the grocery. How would it feel to be blamed for the crime someone else committed against you?

It wouldn’t feel good.

It’s also important to consider the fact that many people don’t understand exactly how “the cloud” works. A person can buy an Apple product and take a picture without ever realizing that photo was automatically uploaded to the cloud. Even deleting the photo on one’s phone won’t take it off the cloud.

What’s really frightening is how common this is. It doesn’t just happen to celebrities. There are plenty of “revenge porn” websites where disgruntled people can send risqué photos of their exes. Unlike celebrities, the women this happens to—and the victims are, of course, overwhelmingly female—don’t have the power and money to go after the men who share these images and post them all over the internet.

It’s a disturbing trend, and it’s only getting more pervasive.

This kind of violation is a virtual sex crime. Some of the hackers held photos hostage until they received deposits to their BitCoin or PayPal accounts. This is, simply put, the commodification of women’s bodies, and it’s happening completely without their consent. This isn’t just about sex for the viewers of these images—t’s about the power they feel from seeing women naked without their consent.

Earlier I mentioned the fact that none of the pictures leaked have been of men. The only male depicted in this “scandal” was Upton’s boyfriend, baseball player Justin Verlander, and he was shown in a picture next to Upton. I find it unlikely that a massive undertaking like this (the hacker said it took him two years to build his collection) wouldn’t produce some pictures of men. It’s more likely that the hacker did obtain some male nudes but chose not to share them.

Kate Upton

Yes, women were deliberately targeted. Again.

There are so many hurdles facing girls today. They’re constantly bombarded by a media that tells them their bodies aren’t good enough. And “scandals” such as these drive home the message that their bodies don’t just belong to them. It teaches girls that society wants to rob them of their agency and is cruelly invested in taking away their power.

It’s a scary world to live in. There are things we can do though.

The first is to refrain from clicking on these pictures. These women have already had their privacy violated—there’s no need to violate them further.

The second is to not let anyone get away with these attacks. This includes legal action, of course, but it also means calling out those who continue to spread the images. This is something we can all do. We have to make it known that this kind of breach is unacceptable, and that viewing and spreading the pictures is just as bad as leaking the photos.

Lastly, we need to look out for each other. In the weeks since the initial leak, the hashtag “#leakforJLaw” has been trending on Twitter. Ostensibly this was a tag started by women where they would post topless photos of themselves in support of Lawrence and the other victims of the leak. This was, of course, a hoax made up by some 4chan members in an effort to get more photos of naked women. It’s not unthinkable that some women might think of this as a legitimate way of showing support for the victims.  That being said, blatant deception like this has to stop. That means we need to protect ourselves and each other and call out schemes like this.

Time will tell if those responsible for these leaks are brought to justice.  In the mean time, the inherent misogyny in our culture has to be fought against and weeded out.

—Lauren Bunch