The imperfect figure: accepting our bodies

body-types-shapes

We are all born to look a certain way. It’s not until we are exposed to beauty expectations that we start to have issues with the parts we have.

Have you ever looked in the mirror and decided there was something about yourself that you didn’t like? I can answer be honest and say that, yes, I have had that experience.

The women in my family—including my mother, my grandmother, and me—have all been “blessed with” a not-so-prominent backside. I’m talking about our butts. This fact was so well known that for a while I was called “little butt.” To me, the name was always a joke until one day I looked at it in the mirror and was like, “Wow, they weren’t kidding!”

I’m sure that each and every person alive—man or woman—has looked in the mirror to observe a part of their bodies at least once. But what tells us something is wrong with the way we look? Is it the magazines that retouch every photo we see? Take Kim Kardashian, for instance: she’s well known for her booty, so why is it that her photo was still fixed to make her bust, waist, and hips look smaller?

Kim Kardashian

Kim shared this photo with fans and even admitted to having cellulite and not being bothered by it:

“So what? I have a little cellulite.”

This makes me wonder why is it that we label people or point out what’s different about their bodies. Small, skinny, thin, big, wide, fat, average: the names are endless and pointless.

Comfortable is a word that should be used more often, followed by happy.

When I look at myself in the mirror now, I say that my size isn’t small or skinny or thin or average. It’s just my size. And unless I decide to have surgery or retouch every photo I’m, in I’ll always look like this… until I grow old of course. Even then I’m going to accept my wrinkles like I’ve had them my entire life because they won’t be going anywhere.

When it comes to self-acceptance, there isn’t a limit on how much we can achieve. Simply put, we all need to love our bodies and everything that comes with them.

Brittany Eldridge

Freckles: beauty or beast?

Freckles

I got my first freckle when I was almost nine; I had noticed it on the left side of my chin. My first case of denial was born; I didn’t want freckles. I wanted to have clear skin like the numerous models I had seen in make-up commercials.

Since I was still a kid, I had never paid attention to the fact that everyone in my family was covered in freckles. Especially their arms. When I finally did notice, I was terrified. I couldn’t tell you a specific reason why freckles scared me, but I knew I didn’t want them.

Skip ahead to when I was thirteen: the dreaded puberty began, and so did the agglomeration of freckles. My arms were targeted first and then my face. For a long tome I had a bridge of freckles that traveled from one cheek, across my nose, and to the other. It sure wasn’t the way to make me feel pretty. I hated them, and I hated when people would point them out and call them cute. What was cute about freckles? The way they made people stare? No.

When I first started experimenting with make-up about a year later, I discovered concealer, but to my dismay it refused to work for freckles. Still, I was determined to make them disappear. I wanted my skin to appear smooth and free from any sort of discoloration.

But what I didn’t know then was that I was doomed from the start. They just kept appearing, and eventually I started to lose track of how often new ones would pop up. Before I knew it, I was covered from head to toe.

Yes, they are even on my feet. Weird, I know.

And my upper lip. I literally have a freckle mustache.

The strange part about it all? I started to be okay with it. I suppose once you’re forced to deal with something for so long, you learn to accept it. And the thing is, no one really cared that I had freckles. It was just me. And now, at almost twenty-one, I wouldn’t want to look any other way.

I love my freckles. To be honest, they make me feel pretty. I think they draw out the better things about my face, and without them I  wouldn’t recognize myself. They have become an integral part of my identity. I smile when I see them, and while it took me a good amount of time to get to this point, I can honestly say I’m happy to be here.

Embrace the freckles.

Brittany Eldridge

Shailene Woodley’s carpe diem approach to life

Shailene Woodley

Have you ever wanted to meet someone who lived by “seizing the day”? I have, and the person I want to meet who does this is Shailene Woodley.

I’d be thrilled if I could sit down for ten minutes to pick her brain about living a natural life, enjoying every moment, and—more controversially—rejecting feminism. Yes, rejecting feminism.

When she was asked in an interview by Time magazine about whether she considered herself a feminist, this was Woodley’s initial answer:

No, because I love men, and I think the idea of “raise women to power, take the men away from the power” is never going to work out because you need balance.

Woodley goes on to talk more about the need for balance and how she sees herself as 50% feminine and masculineI think balance is an ideal that permeates her life. But part of me also wonders whether or not she’s familiar with all that feminism entails.

A lot of people wrongly think feminism is based on the idea of women hating men (maybe because of the name) or wanting to “rise above” men as Woodley says. But, in truth, feminism is about equality between the genders. And hate doesn’t even fit into that equation.

Despite her misunderstanding of feminism, there are plenty of reasons to admire Woodley. She’s chosen to live a natural lifestyle in which she claims to be completely “in tune” with her body. She’s learned what her body needs and considers herself a part of the Earth, as it’s a part of her.

I’m amazed by Woodley’s commitment to and passion for healthy living. Woodley told Natural Health magazine that she relies a good deal on herbalism, which is defined as the study or use of medicinal properties in plants. She says:

I started learning about all the wild plants in my area, as well as all of the wild medicines that I could gather and create for myself. I was in control of my body, and I could feel what was happening. It was eye-opening.

Woodley also says an herb that is a part of her regimen is called stinging nettle (stinging? yikes!), which she seals in a jar with boiling water and then strains it before drinking, something she does this before every menstrual cycle. She claims stinging nettle is full of natural vitamins and minerals that women require and she would much rather do that as a tea-like infusion that take pills.

In addition, Woodley doesn’t seem to worry about body weight or her looks. She claims to shop at thrift stores and only buys clothes she can wear multiple times. Woodley also claims that, in order to be healthy, she doesn’t stress or worry about what could happen:

Living in a state of fear makes no sense…If I have X number of days to live, I am not going to live them in fear. Where’s the laughter in it? Where’s the joy?

I think we should all take a page from Shailene’s book of life. A healthy way to live is a happy way to live.

Brittany Eldridge

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