"Healthy is the new Skinny: Obsession with body perfection"

Today I had my call with Dr. Andrea Pennington on blog talk radio. My portion is the first few minutes of the show, and you can listen here

I wanted to mention something that I briefly touched on. I mentioned the term "Mommy makeover" and realized I may have offended some people by talking about this. This was not my intention, and I apologize if I may have offended anyone who has undergone a tummy tuck and/or breast augmentation after having a baby. My overall point is that after having a baby, many times a woman's body is not the same as it was before. Fat is in places it wasn't before, extra skin may be on the tummy and breasts sag. One of my good friends has even told me her husband calls her breasts "udders". Nice. What I want to emphasize is that if we work on accepting these body changes for what they are: body changes and nothing else, we can learn to live with them instead of relying on plastic surgery to give us back what (we thought) we needed. Whose standards is it that we have to have a flat stomach and perky breasts? That's what I'm asking. That when did it become so important that we all look like Barbie? I'm not ecstatic that my body doesn't look like it did before I had kids, but I'm working on loving it for what it is instead of going under the knife. I'm not better than anyone who does get plastic surgery; I know many smart, beautiful, amazing women that have, but I want all women to know that you can have body peace and happiness without plastic surgery. It is possible. 

Photo courtesy of Angelina :)

I've got beef

Passion and purpose go hand in hand. When you discover your purpose, you will normally find it’s something you’re tremendously passionate about. ~Steve Pavlina

I have heard that when a person gets angry or worked up about something, it's important not to respond either in person, over the phone or in an email unless at least 24 hours has passed. I believe that's true about blog posts. Yesterday for some reason I came across 2 or 3 articles that made my blood boil. I try to be as diplomatic as possible on my blog, in other words, I do my best not to piss anyone off. But my patience is running thin.

We have all seen our fair share of articles, advertisements and books about weight loss and a time in a woman's life when weight loss may be of concern to her is after she has a baby. Last week I wrote a post about body image during pregnancy because it's such a conflicting time of loving your body because of the amazing miracle of growing your own child inside of you, coupled with the changing body over a short period of time.

A few weeks ago a New York Times article was published about a disturbing new trend which has been dubbed "pregorexia", a term given to pregnant mothers with a preoccupation with weight gain during pregnancy that turn to excessive exercise and calorie restriction. I have no doubt that these women have been suffering from an eating disorder before becoming pregnant and just continue it. In my opinion, this can be just as dangerous as having an addiction to drugs or alcohol and continuing these habits during pregnancy. My beef, or I should say what I am angry about is not the women who struggle with an eating disorder during their pregnancy, I am angry with all the people selling products and encouraging fast weight loss after the baby comes. AND the people that advertise their products/services to not gain too much weight during your pregnancy. Good Lord, it is hard enough to get through each day with a newborn baby, the last thing we need is to be bombarded with "Get into your skinny jeans NOW" ads. I was still in maternity clothes for 10 weeks after my son was born. WHO CARES?!?!? Did I eventually lose the weight? Yes. Did it bother me that it took 8 months? Somewhat. But in the last 2 years something inside of me has shifted, I guess I had my "aha" moment, or perhaps just had ENOUGH of all the crap diets, and just the bombardment of my surroundings telling me I wasn't good enough unless I had my pre-baby body back. I just let it happen when my body was ready. I did have to exercise and eat sensibly, but no diets, no diet pills, no cleanses, no obsessing over it necessary.

If a quarter of the people that spend all their time writing, talking, selling and promoting weight loss shifted their focus and encouraged everyone to love themselves and their bodies first and foremost the uprising of this message would be so loud and maybe, just maybe, people could keep the weight off and/or not become overweight in the first place. Or maybe I just live on another planet to believe this.

Some people may think that read this and say, "How could you get angry with people promoting weight loss when you have never had a weight problem yourself?" This is true, I have never been technically overweight, but I believe it is just as painful and detrimental to one's mental health (and physical health) to have an eating disorder that rules your thoughts. To be so obsessed with calories, weight, food, clothes size and anything else that associates with the body and how it looks is really no way to live. Ruled by voices that said I was nothing unless I was thin. I can't even begin to image the hell and agony a woman must face while in the grips of an eating disorder while she is pregnant.

So to all of you people that push, promote and sell ridiculous weight loss "secrets" and perpetuate the notion that it's oh-so important for a woman to get back to her pre-pregnancy size ASAP, I ask you WHY? Please leave us alone. We get it.

Photo courtesy of JelleS

My view of pregnancy and body image

By far the most common craving of pregnant women is not to be pregnant. ~Phyllis Diller

Woah, mama!

I've been thinking about writing this post for some time now and there is no time like the present because I am now 27 weeks (about 6.5 months) pregnant. This is my second baby and this time it's a girl!

First off, I think there is some shame involved in complaining about our bodies when we are pregnant. I remember before I had experienced pregnancy, myself and a girlfriend were standing in line next to 2 women who looked like they were in their mid-20's who were both pregnant in what looked like their last trimester. I made the comment that they looked so cute (which they did) and one of them scrunched up her face and said, "Yeah, it's cute when it's on somebody else. But when you're the one feeling like a rollie-pollie, it's not so cute". I didn't get it. I mean, how could you feel so "rollie-pollie" when you're experiencing something so beautiful?

Then I got pregnant and ate my words along with an entire bag of Milano double chocolate cookies.

Nothing can prepare you for the rapid changes that happen to your body during pregnancy. Everything from the expanding belly, to stretch marks for some, breast changes (that includes nipple color), veins showing, and for many, extra fat on the hips, thighs and butt. When I was first pregnant with my son, my mom bought me my first pair of maternity jeans. I turned them around and held up the butt. "These ARE HUGE!" I told her, and informed her and my sister that I would just wear my regular jeans with one of those belly band things and wear them unzipped. My mom and sister exchanged glances. Mom said, "Honey, they might not fit in other places besides your belly." BLASPHOMY! How dare she spew such nonsense! Several months later I wore the "huge" maternity jeans almost every day. 

But in all seriousness, for many women, these changes that we have mostly no control over can be overwhelming. How we view ourselves on the outside is often a direct reflection of how we feel on the inside. I envy those women who can be pregnant and look in the mirror and think, "Look at me! I am a goddess!" I will admit I love my pregnant belly, there is something magical about it and it makes me a little sad to know this will be the last time I will have one, but it's the rest of the body changes that have been difficult, at least for me.  It's also not helpful when we see celebrities splashed across the covers of magazines with headlines reading, "Ms. Celebrity loses her baby weight in 4 weeks!" 

So, here is my armchair psychologist speech about what you can do to keep your body image in check during pregnancy: 

Remember that you are not alone. Women have been pregnant since the beginning of time, millions and millions of them. Try to remember that there is a good chance your body will not look exactly the same as it did before the baby. Your body just had a complete transformation and created another human being, not to mention kept it alive and allowed it to thrive for 10 months! But know that these feelings are normal and won't be permanent. And there may even be a time in the future where you miss being pregnant! 

Breast feeding will not help you lose your baby weight all by itself. I remember hearing this and assuming I would get back into my pre-baby jeans because I was nursing. For me, the weight stopped coming off around 3 months and I had to work (gasp! Yes, exercise) to get the additional 15 pounds off I was holding on to. It took another 5 months. 

Don't beat yourself up if you are a few pounds heavier than before and/or if your clothes don't fit the same. After I had my son and I was back to my original weight (many, many months later and with great effort), but I was surprised that some of my pants didn't fit the same and others didn't fit at all. My body was not the same, plain and simple. Belly changed, boobs changed, it was like weight got rearranged in other places. I'm pretty sure this is why "mom jeans" were invented. 

And this one is for the dads: 
The mother of your child needs you now more than ever. Some men view their wives differently when they are pregnant and have a hard time in the intimacy department. Some men find their partners extremely sexy and have no problem in that area. But if you find yourself not remembering the last time you made love to your pregnant wife, make sure you communicate with her. She may be glad for the break, she may not. And here's something else: In many women pregnancy and the changing body can bring on insecurities. We need extra love, attention and affection during this time. More hugs, kiss our bellies and tell us we are beautiful. Now is not the time to be oogling over skinny models. Just last week I had a dream that I overheard my husband tell his buddy he wanted to start going to strip clubs. I told my husband about the dream and had a meltdown. We are not crazy during this time, just a little vulnerable. 

P.S. If you're struggling with an eating disorder either pregnant or not pregnant, please get help. Contact NEDA (National Eating Disorders Association). Call them at 1-800-931-2237.

Photo courtesy of daviddesign

5 steps to finding authentic health and wellness

I was a guest blogger this week for a really cool site- Girl Get Strong! Check out my article here.

A little thing called Perfection

"Once you accept the fact that you're not perfect, then you develop some confidence" -Rosalynn Carter

A few weeks ago I wrote a post telling you what I was reading right now. I had just started reading "Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters" by Courtney E. Martin and at that time had just started it. Before getting too much into the book I assumed it was mostly about girls struggling with perfectionism that had suffered from eating disorders. But Martin goes deeper into the soul of these perfect girls and discusses that she is not necessarily talking about starving for food.

I was compelled to write this post to tell you how astounded I was when Martin described who this "perfect girl" really is. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry when the words on the page described me almost 100 percent exactly. Did Courtney Martin secretly know me? I doubt it, but I think she knows this girl so well because she was one and knew so many that were. And so do I.

Here are some quotes from her book describing who these girls are that grew up being told "they could have everything", but heard "You have to be everything".

Yet these perfect girls still feel we could always lose five more pounds. We get into good colleges but are angry if we don't get into every college we applied to. We are the captains of the basketball teams, the soccer stars, the swimming state champs. We are the girls with anxiety disorders, filled appointment books, five-year plans.
We take ourselves very, very seriously. We are the peacemakers, the do-gooders, the givers, the savers. We are on time, overly prepared, well read and witty, intellectually curious, always moving.
We are living contradictions. We are socially conscious, and anti corporate, but we still shop at Gap and Banana Republic.
We are relentless, judgmental with ourselves, and forgiving to others.
We must get A's. We must make money. We must save the world. We must be thin. We must be beautiful. We are the anorexics, the bulimics, the overexercisers, the overeaters. We must be perfect. We must make it look effortless.
We grow hungrier and hungrier with no clue what we are hungry for. The holes inside us grow bigger and bigger.

I spent much of my 20's wondering what the hell was wrong with me. I had so much ambition, so much going for me, but couldn't figure out why my head was spinning out of control all the time. I was in all honesty, furious when I was diagnosed with Anxiety Disorder, thinking it was a flaw in my persona. I wanted to hit my therapist in the face for telling me, then my general practitioner for echoing her diagnosis. Medication helped and I got over it; the stigma and the disorder.

I'm still trying to figure out where it came from. My parents never put any unnecessary pressure on me like I had seen in other girls. Perhaps it was the validation for doing things well. I have some idea that it was for me, and I think many, just the personality we were born with. And perhaps the generation. I don't know for sure just yet.

As I embark on parenting, it's very important to me to not pass on any of these perfectionistic traits to my children. When I was pregnant with my son (he's almost 2 now) I stumbled across a book called "Freeing Our Families From Perfectionism". I flipped through it and came to a check list of personality traits common to people who suffer from perfectionism. Some of them are:

Competes fiercely
Always does last minute cramming
Fear of appearing stupid
Fear of being rejected
Fear of appearing incompetent
Ashamed of having fears
Discouraged easily
Guilty about letting others down
Constantly comparing his/herself to others
Frequent stress and anxiety

Again, I looked around because I thought someone had followed me and wrote a book about my life. I bought it and am working on being able to let it all go. It is possible. But if gone unrecognized (or ignored) it can be dangerous. If you think you may relate to any of this, I encourage you to read both books. Also, check out Dara Chadwick's blog posts "Re-defining Perfect" I can't tell you enough how much my life has changed by just recognizing this and learning to let it go.

Photo courtesy of thomashawk

The truth about my skinny jeans

Here I go again talking about body image.

I've received advice from two women I trust that are in the field of eating disorders and body image. One is a MFT (therapist) and one is a certified life coach. Both have told me that being a professional in this field can be difficult because it is a very heavy topic. I was also told that this is an adjustment phase. Since I've been making so many connections with people who either help those with these issues, or people that are dealing with these issues themselves, I feel the weight of it all. Part of me wants to swoop in like one big superhero and save them all and another part of me wants to run from it. Far, far away.

I had no idea just how heavy this would be to me or the impact it would have on my life.

I've had to ask myself what is going on inside me. In a way I'm somewhat embarrassed that I don't have it all together in regards to this topic. That I feel so empowered and excited that I've found my voice and suddenly realized it's not all rainbows and roses. I suppose I thought that now that I've found which direction I want my coaching to go that I could just skip on through and do my job. Not so fast. My eyes keep getting bigger and bigger and pretty soon I feel like they are just going to fall right out of my head. It's a combination of seeing how widespread this issue is and my own issues with it. It's a lot to let into my head and my heart all at once.

If you know me, you know that often times (I'm getting better at this) I'm in a hurry to do things. Healing is one of them. An issue comes up for me and I think, "Okay, here it is, let's get this taken care of by Monday." Which is ridiculous. I remember sitting in my therapists office telling her all the things I was doing right after I found out I was getting divorced: Support group, reading, etc. She said I seemed to be doing all the right things to get through the grief process and I told her, "I intend to get over this as quickly as possible" She just raised her eyebrows at me. So, enter my own body image/self esteem/eating disorder issues. Accepting that this is a lifelong healing and empowering journey is part of the process in making us more powerful individuals.

And for the record: I'm scared. I'm scared that I still have these feelings of perfection. I'm scared that sometimes I fantasize about being a size zero again. While I'm at it, I have a confession to make: In the very back of my son's closet are some old clothes of mine. I have pants and jeans that I haven't worn since 2006 that are so small I couldn't get them past my thighs right now and possibly came from Gap Kids. Why have I kept them? I'm not the kind of person who holds on to clothes; I donate at least twice a year. But why have I kept these "skinny jeans"? I think about getting rid of them and always put them back in the closet. Somewhere in my distorted thinking there is a voice that says, "You can fit into those again. And when you do, everything will be complete". What is complete, you ask? Perfection.

Realistically (and biologically) my body does not like to be that thin. It was a job to be that thin; one that could have taken my life. I actually had to work to remain that thin. I was miserable. I am blessed with good genetics and if I exercise regularly (and sensibly) and eat a well balanced diet, I wear a size 6. I admit this not so people can say, "Skinny bitch, then what are you complaining about? We get it." Say that if you want, but I know there are plenty of women that are my size and still hold on for the quest. To pump your fist in the air when you can button the size whatever pants but realistically you are way too thin. Or, more importantly, you (like I once did) get immense satisfaction from being a certain size.

I received a message from someone struggling with an eating disorder on Twitter. She asked me, "You just "look perfect." Do you think you have to live up to that image or are you comfortable w/yourself?" I must have read that 5 times before I responded. Several thoughts flooded me....Yes! I've done it! People think I'm perfect....Ugh, the image is exhausting. Do people really think that? Am I trying too hard?....No! I'm not perfect, please see that!

I told her that no, I'm far from perfect. And that when I was in her shoes, I often wished I was someone else. I thought everyone else had it together but me. I would beat myself up for my imperfections. While it's okay to admire someone else for their attributes and qualities, don't self hate for being you.

Going back to the skinny jeans, I think I need to do more than just get rid of them. For me, they represent something big. They represent a time when I was deep in sadness, darkness, denial and loneliness. Stay tuned for their fate...

Photo courtesy of wererabbit.

Are we ever truly "over it"?

I like to say that I am now happily married and at the same time happily divorced. I’ve come to the realization that my ex-husband and I were never meant to be together forever. We grew apart in our 20’s and instead of breaking up to fix it, we got married instead. We were both in denial and I think we both thought marriage would help us. It didn’t. But I learned a tremendous amount and I know for a fact that my current marriage would not be as successful as it is without my past relationship. So I have no regrets. 

I had a coaching session with Larry Laprade and while I can’t remember the exact topic I brought to him for coaching, but during the session I expressed my frustration that my past was still effecting me in certain areas in my life. Not that I still love my ex husband or wish I was never divorced, but that in general I’m angry that I still get angry about the whole ordeal. I asked him, “Shouldn’t I be over it by now? And if I’m not, what does that mean?” 

Larry asked me to back up for a moment and answer this: What does being “over it” mean? More specifically, what is the criteria? (Don’t you just love coaching questions?) 

For me, in this particular situation, I suppose being over it means that I never think about it, or if it briefly must cross my mind for whatever reason, I don’t care. At all. My past relationship does not effect me in any way, shape or form.  If I can do that, I am truly over it. Reading what I just wrote makes me think that in order to do this I must be a robot. 

I was also asked about my anger towards the situation and what it means to have an emotion about someone else. Does it mean that we still care? That we still love that person? I guess not necessarily. It's just an emotion, but it doesn't define anything. Often times we confuse feelings with emotions. Larry said there's not a rule that says you can't have emotions about a past event or person. It's not the same thing as having feelings towards this person. I sat with that for a little while and felt better about it. He also emphasized that denying these feelings makes us tense, which is what I had been doing. I felt like if I had any feeling at all about my past relationship, positive or negative, that I was disrespecting my current marriage. Larry made me realize this wasn't the case. 

I don't believe it's possible to spend a significant amount of time with someone, split up (for whatever reason) and not have that relationship effect you in some way or another. Not necessarily the person, but the relationship. I think where the mistake is made is thinking you are disrespecting your new relationship by having these thoughts. I would not be where I am today without my past relationships. Especially the 13 year relationship I had from when I was 17 to 30. Sadly, divorce is so common and I think that many long term relationships are like a divorce when they end. Instead of despising the person we are no longer with, regretting time spent with them or pretending we don't care at all, try spinning it into a more positive way. For me, I am thankful for all the things I learned in my past. I have some great memories. I have also found who I am because of this relationship. But most importantly; I appreciate my husband now so much more than I would had I not had that past relationship. I suppose that's the reason I am not "over it". 

Perhaps we put too much emphasis on the term. I'm not sure. But I would love to hear your comments! 

Photo courtesy of Segozyme.