Category Archives: body image

I Choose to LOL (Live Out Loud)

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imagesAbout a month ago, I was in a real slump.  I was feeling inferior to other people (particularly women).  I was feeling insecure and questioning my worth as a human being.  I was feeling ugly and negatively judging my body.  I was feeling self conscious in my old mini-van and it’s lack of cool.   I was resenting my role as a mom.  The boys, they too, had stolen my cool factor.  I was doubting my ability to go back in to the work force and contribute quality work that others would value.  I began to become dissatisfied with the size of my home, the style of my clothes, the color of my hair, the small number in my bank account.  I was comparing, judging, and sitting in the ugliness of the stories my mind was creating and buying. The lies began their sneaky little job of creating this web of madness within me.

Once I realized that this funk was turning ugly and affecting the way I was viewing the world and treating the people around me, I decided I needed to take a hard look at what had changed to cause such unhappiness.  Adam had been out of town during this period of downward spiraling and I had engaged in a lot of, what I believed to be, harmless fun.  I watched Bachelor in Paradise from beginning to end.  I watched the Kardashians.  I lazily browsed on Pinterest and Etsy while watching music videos.  And I was on social media much more frequently…even adding the FB app to my phone.  Media was actually affecting my view of the world.  My view of self.

And there it was, the answer was that simple. I am sensitive to what I view and can easily fall victim to the solicitous agenda of media. I know that not everybody will be as sensitive as I am to overt sexuality and portrayals of what women should be.  Some of us are more sensitive to violence or consumerism or the top ten lists of how to be perfect in some fashion of life from parenting, religion, or home organization. We are all comparing ourselves to a standard sold to us. We are always “failing” at something according to someone. Even if that someone lives inside an electronic box selling a non-existent one-size-fits-all-perfection-solution.  I bought in to the lies, sold to me by the people inside that box, that my 36-year-old female self was all washed up. If I don’t look like the Kardashians, sell sex like JLo, have the same perky body of the women competing for “love” on Bachelor in Paradise, if I’m not as perfect as all my “friends” on FB, and if I’m not buying or wearing the latest/greatest…well then I’m not worth anything. I’m not attractive. My husband won’t want me for much longer. I need to make changes. Run faster. Workout harder. Get a six pack. Make more money. Eat less. Dress sexier. I’m clearly inadequate. I need to be better. Lie after lie quickly building a foundation of self hatred. I wanted to hide my insecurities from all of you. From my friends, my family, my husband. I wanted to appear stronger and more secure than I was. And so I hid. I had been hiding other areas of my life and just added my insecurities and self hatred to the dark corner of other secrets.  The longer I hid, the more insecure I felt. I was now living a false truth. Another mark against my clearly flawed self.

Lucky for me (and those around me), I was quick to recognize that my thoughts were turning into an ugly infestation and I was able to reflect quietly enough to identify the culprit. That damn media had its grasp again. I immediately turned off the media inputs, reached out to my girlfriends and was open about how I was feeling and I soon found myself worthy again. As I rid my life of the noise shouting at me who I was, who I wasn’t, and who I should be, I found who I really am.   In the silence, I found that I am me. Perfect me. And you are you. Perfect you.

 

One way that I have found my center time and time again is to be vulnerable in sharing. I find great healing in sharing in this blog. I become connected to those around me when I let down my guard and show vulnerability in sharing my struggles. I find that others open up and share too. We build a safe community where we can be real and genuine no matter where we are in our journeys. I recognized in this time of disliking myself that I had stepped away from my purpose of living out loud. I had started to hide for fear of being judged. I had gone inward and become alone. I had lost some of my integrity. I needed a good kick start to getting back to a life of vulnerability and authenticity. I was given that good kick-in-the- ass a few weeks ago when I had the pleasure of attending an event in which Cheryl Strayed, author of Wild, wa10174916_10152050667061493_5333993137919276168_ns speaking. In that forum, she spoke about Radical Honesty. Cheryl’s belief was the equivalent of my belief of living out loud. Here was a woman who was baring her life in a truly authentic way and I, along with so many others, connect with this type of vulnerability. I felt the pull and encouragement to come out of hiding and begin sharing again.

 

I’ve started by sharing my deep, dark, scary secrets with my best friend, my husband. He’s held such a safe space for me and encouraged me to share whatever my heart needs to share. With his encouragement, I am ready to restart the practice of Living Out Loud with Radical Honesty. I hope that you all will continue to hold a safe space for my sharing, for the sharing of others, and find your safe spaces for vulnerability too. Start by sharing one secret with someone you find trustworthy. Or even begin by writing down the scariest secret you can think of sharing and burn it or bury it. Just writing it down is one step toward healing and letting it go. Freedom from the lie that secret has sold you.  I think you’ll find the more you share the less scary it becomes. And you’ll start to love you a helluva a lot more. Others will gravitate toward you because your energy will be absolutely pure. And, before you know it, you’ll not only be your own safe place but a safe place for others to practice Radical Honesty.

 

So who’s with me? Who’s ready to LIVE OUT LOUD? Journey with me, Friends! Let’s change ourselves, our circles and our communities with a little bit of Radical Honesty!

 

 

 

 

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When Will I See Me?

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I’ve spent the last few months testing the waters with subsurface topics that are relatively safe from judgement and argument but today I feel I’m ready to plunge back in to the nitty gritty writing that requires a certain level of vulnerability.   I’ve written a list of topics that I feel passionate about and hope to explore during the next few months.  Topics that include same sex relationships, sex talks with kids, Why You Shouldn’t Have Four Boys, Secular Humanism, Being Vegetarian, Using Children in Politics, Gun Control, Who Am I?, Ken Ham in schools, Little League Pledge, Boy Scouts, The Harm in Media, etc etc.  There will still be humor, family blurbs, and positive posts mixed in but I’m a freethinking mama and freethinking mamas think non-stop.  And all that thinking needs an outlet.  Thinking With Vitality is my outlet.  Hope you’ll join me,starting today, as I share with you my journey toward acceptance.  Happy Reading!

I have this love/hate affair with my body.  Some days I love it.  Other days I hate it.  Some days I look in the mirror and think “looking good, Amy, looking good” only to see a picture of myself later that day and feel like I might just be the ugliest person known to mankind.  Now I know that’s not an accurate “truth” but for that moment in time, it’s my truth.  I’ve always had this twisted view of my appearance.  This view that tells me I’m not worth anything unless I am thin.  A view that tells me I don’t deserve to be loved until I have loved myself.  How will I know if I have loved myself?  Easy…the scale will read, XYZ, and my pants will read size ___.  Only then will I be worth loving.  Only then.  I don’t allow myself any grace.  For example, I had a back injury in June of last year that resulted in surgery in October.  Of course I had to quit running marathons (another craziness that I think I need to run marathons to be thin and healthy) to allow my body the time it needed to heal but I did not allow myself any amount of grace when it came to the weight gain I have experienced post injury.  Instead I have beat myself up on a daily basis for not being thin enough, for not looking like a true distance runner, for looking like the stereotype mom who sits at home eating bon bons, for having to give away my skinny jeans, for not being able to get back to the pre-surgery weight.  But here’s the kicker, if I had never had the injury and I was still running marathons I would still only see myself through fat glasses.  I thought I was fat (and ugly) in this picture:IMG_0081

And this one:IMG_0694

And now when I look back I was not fat in either of these pictures.  Or in the hundreds of others that I chose to delete or avoid.  I was healthy and in fantastic shape. In fact this has been my pattern for the last two decades (maybe three).  Hate myself for being fat only to discover later that I was not fat in any sense of the word and I often find myself wishing I had appreciated that moment.  I have felt sorry for my husband for having to be married to the chubby wife with acne.  I have felt sad for my boys that their mom isn’t ideal.  All of those beautiful moments marred by the fact that I was consumed with my weight.  I was ashamed when I saw the pictures.  Ashamed of the fat woman staring back at me.   Ashamed to be me.

I have seen this pattern playing a large role in my life again.  Creeping to the surface every single day.  Every Single Day I think about my weight.

I looked in the mirror today

I looked in the mirror today (Photo credit: Monroe’s Dragonfly)

I’ve become absolutely obsessed with ways I can get thinner.  My self talk has become insanely negative.  Just in the last week I was in Target and saw these beautiful dresses.  I decided they were worth trying on as summer is approaching and there’s nothing like a breezy,floral dress to make one feel beautiful.  Once in the dressing room, I tried on the dresses, only to find myself in tears and having concluded that I am no longer human.  I am indeed a whale.    Fast forward a few days and I was in downtown getting my hair done.  There were all these great clothing shops and I was dying to go in and find something that would flatter my figure but instead of going in to the shops I honestly felt that I was not worthy of shopping in those stores.  That since my body couldn’t do the clothing justice I didn’t deserve setting foot inside.  And with that I concluded that I would just get on the bus and go home instead.  Not thin.  Not worthy.

These thoughts have never translated to an eating disorder for me.  I guess I’m fortunate in that sense.  But I question how I can be so delusional when it comes to a healthy body image.  Why is it that I can allow a number on a scale and a number on the tag of my pants to consume me?  Why is it that I can let those numbers define me?  Why is it that I am unable to see reality?  Why do I reserve all judgement for myself and not hold others to the same standard that I hold myself?  And why is it that almost every woman I have ever known struggles with the same exact issues as me?

I wish I had all the answers but I don’t.  I do have a few ideas as to why women feel they never measure up but it’s certainly not an end-all list of reasons why.  I think our upbringing plays a vital role in our self talk and our view of self.  I think the way our parents view themselves also plays in to our view of ourselves.  If mothers of daughters are constantly criticizing themselves for being too fat, too wrinkly, too whatever, daughters are listening.  And if that daughter sees herself as part of you then she probably translates you not being happy with yourself as something that is also wrong with her.  If you are thin and constantly dieting or exercising to be thinner then she will also see the need to live up to your expectations of self.  If dad is constantly commenting on the sexy women on television she probably starts to define what sexy and pretty are.  If you tell her she’s getting chubby, needs to wash her face more to get rid of acne, is too hairy, her teeth are crooked or yellow (or if even you are saying these things about yourself) she is getting the message loud and clear that she is not good enough.  Even if you tell her how pretty she is all the time and the focus becomes external she will quickly learn that her external features are what define her.  If you comment on the physical features of other people your child will internalize that too.

Kourtney Kardashian

Kourtney Kardashian (Photo credit: SouthFloridaBeachPhotos)

Outside the home (and in the home) media plays a huge role in our ability to self accept.  A few weeks ago I was mindlessly watching an episode of Kim and Kourtney Take Miami (*gasp*) and Kourtney, who had just had a baby a few months prior, was complaining about her weight and how depressed it was making her.  The producers showed her stepping on the scale in her bathroom and the scale read an astoundingly small 115 pounds, to which she cried that she usually weighs 95 pounds and her husband likes her better when she’s not so large.  I sat there with my jaw on the floor thinking what a horrible message that just sent to all of her young viewers.  All the viewers that can never live up to that ideal.  And here she is calling herself fat and unworthy of a bikini photo shoot (in which she’ll be photoshopped to perfection anyhow).  When I was discussing this with my BFF she says,

I know, Crazy!  Kourtney does look a little chubby on television, even though I know she’s not.  Can you imagine what our fat asses would look like on t.v.!

imagesThis is the reason I got rid of my Women’s Health subscription and refuse to buy any smut magazines. These magazines and advertisements are full of body images and standards that I (and millions of other women)cannot possibly live up to.  They do nothing more than stir up a hatred of ourselves.  They fill us with a drive to be something we are not meant to be.  They teach us that our men don’t want us unless we are big breasted (with breasts that are sky high), thin waisted, firm assed, clear skinned, smooth haired and hairless where it matters.  They teach us that we aren’t truly a woman unless we meet these unrealistic standards of “perfection”.  And they teach us nothing about what it means to be a truly beautiful human being.  Everything is external.  Everything can purchased.  Everything is achievable in 10 easy steps.  And if you can’t achieve beauty when it’s made super simple for you then you aren’t a woman worth anything.  That’s the message.  The media even does this with our women in power.  They criticize Hillary Clinton when she starts to look older, they make fun of women running for office if they are ugly, Oprah rules the headlines if she gains weight.  It’s an endless battle to win a game that serves no purpose and has no end goal.  The only winners are those who never join the game in the  first place.  Those who have learned the true art of self acceptance.

I’m ready to step off the all-consuming physical perfection game.  I can’t win it and I’m not enjoying the

Broken Heart

Broken Heart (Photo credit: Gabriela Camerotti)

ride.I want to start seeing me for me.   To remove the glasses that are keeping me blind. I want to appreciate the wrinkles, the gray hairs, the saggy elbows, the weight fluctuations.  Me.  I want to appreciate me.  Not just me in the physical form, but me.  Amy.  The me that loves others, judges little, is an amazing mom, is creative, inspires, makes a great friend, is a wonderful spouse, is passionate, is genuine, is smart and is enlightened enough to know that this body is doing me a lot of good.  It may not be perfect by society’s standards but it’s perfect enough for me.  It breathes when it’s supposed to.  It runs for miles.  It pumps blood to all the right places. It heals when it is sick.  And it sustains the me that I am learning to fully love.  The me that will always be here even when the scale peaks, the pimples flare, gravity wins, or some other great calamity comes to scar my outward appearance.  The me that remains no matter what.  I’m ready to see me,  Flaws and All.  Because that’s what makes me perfectly me.  And perfectly beautiful.

My Big Fat Confession

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Confessional

(Photo credit: emilio labrador)

My heart is racing. My pulse and breathing, rapid. Palms sweaty. Adrenaline pumping. I’m about to confess. I’m not Catholic and yet I feel this need to sit my secular ass in confession and pay my penance.

Okay, out with it, Amy.   Seriously. Now.   Out.

Excuses first, right? Every one needs the context.   Yes.    Context. Necessary.   Without context this post would be a tad bit thin on words.

Context:
Fine. The reality is this. I’m stressed out. I’m exhausted. The truth of the matter is that I’ve been managing the four boys on my own most evenings. That in itself is enough to make me weary but add to that tired boys, 3 little league teams all with practice and games, a sudden onset of talking back, and the need to still feed them, bathe them, and get them all nicely tucked in and I’m at capacity. Falling asleep in random places, capacity.

Now throw in an unemployed husband who had a vital job interview today which has us chewing and spitting nails as we wait to find out if they will accept or reject. Stressed! Freakin’ pullin’ my hair out, stressed!

2 27 09  Bearman Cartoon Unemployed Dad 488

(Photo credit: Bearman2007)

The cherry on top. I established myself with a PCP today and we have this oh so fun convo:

Dr: Do you realize you are slightly overweight?

Me: Yep, quite aware. Been working on that.

Dr: Do you exercise?

Me: Yep, 3-5 days a week.

Dr: Hmmmmm, that’s plenty of exercise. Most people can manage a healthy weight with that exercise. And since you are making healthier choices with your food, eating vegetarian, and exercising I want you just to try really hard to get down to the 130s.

Me: uncomfortable laughter with this thought bubble: are you fucking crazy, bitch?!?

Me: I was barely in my 130s when I was running back to back marathons. And that was skinny for me.

Dr: Well a twin birth can really add weight. Maybe it’s that.

Me: yeah, not likely. Twins were 7 years ago. 130s was 2 years ago.

Dr: Okay then. Add more exercise. Let’s work really hard to see those numbers again.

Me: I’ll be happy if I see 140s again! 130s seems like a pipe dream. But I’ll try harder.

Dr: 130s. 140s is better. 130s is best. Keep at the vegetarianism too. It’s a good choice.

Mild internal tantrum in which I violently rip syringe boxes and anatomy charts from the wall while kicking those uppity rolling stools and screaming, fuckity fuckity fuck fuck fuck.

Now you have the context.   Busy.    Stressed.    Exhausted.    And a fat vegetarian.

I’m stepping in to the confessional.   Breathe.   And go….

On the way home from the twins’ (who theoretically helped make me fat) game tonight, I handled my stress in a really negative way and I need cleansing.

I drove 5 miles. City miles. Five effin city miles to find a McDonalds where I bought 4 kids meals (mommy guilt) and….wait for it….a Spicy McChicken meal for me.

Stress Management

Stress Management (Photo credit: Livin’ Spoonful)

I fell so far off the wagon I was transcended for a moment.  Transcended in to the heavenly saltiness of a fist full of fries. Blissfully forgetting the chicken(s) who had suffered and died only to be sandwiched between a bun and smothered in mayo and then chewed ever so violently by this wannabe vegetarian.  Every calorie I swallowed in a blind rage. Like a mama bear just awoken from hibernation. Calorie after salted fleshy calorie revengfully devoured.

Suck that, you 130 pushin’ MD!

And when I finished that chicken sandwich I looked in the bag to find that the devil is indeed my friend. Down in the bottom of that bag was a second Spicy McChicken poison apple.
I was Eve (only difference is that I would not of shared with Adam).  “The devil made me do it.”  Eve.

While I was off the wagon, I went ahead and jumped all the way off. Duck and roll, baby. I  washed down my calorie/meat fest with a glass of wine and four servings of jelly bellies.

130. My ass.

Exhale

Muffin Top Be Gone

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I recently read a post by Anna Luther called Cure for Muffin Top.  I read this because I’m a mom who has some chub in the middle but I still like my jeans.  I’ve discovered that since I’ve gained weight, my ass and legs will still fit in my skinny jeans but the button and zipper are in defiance of meeting in the middle.

Get them to button and Voila, major muffin top (and that’s if I get them to button).  I like me a good muffin top just not one that spills over my pants and amplifies my mid-section.

Muffin Tops Are Ready

(Photo credit: Mr. Ducke)

Normally I would just buy a pair of pants that fit but seeing as my husband has been unemployed for 9 months buying new jeans does not quite equate to the same need as, oh, I don’t know….feeding the kids.  Damn you responsibilites!  I want new jeans!

So I read Anna’s cure and immediately called a friend of mine to share the good news.  Goodbye muffin top.  Hello cut jeans (they’re not doing me much good these days anyhow).  My friend, who shall remain nameless due to the fact that she may not want you to know what she’s hiding under her shirts, begged me not to cut my jeans.

No, don’t cut them!  You’ll get skinny again and you don’t want to cut a good pair of jeans.

So to save a few bucks, listen to wisdom, and to prove that I have no shame, I am showing you what I’m hiding under my blousy, long shirts.  I’ve resorted to wearing my jeans like a pregnant woman and I haven’t been pregnant in over 7 years!!!!  No judging!

All You Need is a Rubberband or Hair Tie!

All You Need is a Rubberband or Hair Tie!

Want to save some money, jump on the rid-yourself-of-muffin-top-revolution.  It’s so worth the saved bucks and the pride of still “fitting” in your skinny jeans!  At least that’s the lie I’m selling myself for now.

Miss Representation – What is Media Selling You?

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Do you ever wonder how and what the male run media is selling to us?  Do you ever wonder exactly how the images and stories that are sold to us affect our thoughts and actions?  As a woman do you ever stop and think if media has played a role in your own personal story?

                                                                                                                                                          Well, I do.  And I wonder how my young boys are being affected and what ideas they may be forming about women in their society.  I want them to grow up with a healthy respect for women.  I want them to be leaders in the feminist movement.   By the time they are grown I would like to see more females in power without those women being referred to as bitches.  I would like to see a female president.  I would like to see a news station selling us legitimate news!  I would like to see zero women portrayed as nothing more than an object, an object to sell, an object to demean and criticize, an object to sexualize.  And I want them to recognize that capitalism is the real bitch…every image we see has a purpose of selling us an idea or product so that someone else can make a lot of money on our desires and/or insecurities.   So it’s important to always ask, what? and why?.  
I believe men and women both play an important part in the need for change.  Men need to accept women as equals.  Men need to start seeing past our breasts and asses.  Women need to continue to break the stereotypes and women need to start uniting rather than being our own worst enemy. 

Take two hours and sit down to watch this enlightening film, Miss Representation.  If you have teenagers (boys or girls) watch it with them.  Talk about it.  Talk about how media has influenced their thought processes and yours.  Then go out and make some positive changes!
Here are the changes I am making (I would LOVE for you to share the way(s) you plan to shed light on this problem as well)!!!!
1.  I’ve canceled my subscription to InStyle magazine.
 And I vow to not renew my subscription to Women’s Health ( a magazine that sounds rather innocent but is chocked full of stereotypes and nothing short of a kazillion standards the average woman cannot live up to).  I will also stop purchasing Smut like People, US, etc.
2.  I will stop watching the Kardashians!
(this one is really difficult for me!)  And I should probably give up ANTM too 😦

3.  I signed up to join the Miss Representation movement.  
And I will write letters to the media when an outcry is needed.

4.  I will continue to educate my boys to think beyond what is being sold to them.  

When we see a racy billboard or advertisement I ask them, “What do you think that woman is trying to sell you?  Why would she go braless to sell that? What other ways could they have sold us that product without using a sexy woman?”

Talk.  Talk.  Talk.  Too many people are afraid to talk to their children.  We never stop talking and there are zero topics off limits!  You’d be surprised what your kids are questioning and processing.

5.  I will introduce my boys to powerful, positive female role models.  
We know women business owners, teachers, doctors, therapists, athletes, scientists, authors, moms etc.  I’m going to show them that women can do as much as men.

6.  Break stereotypes.  

Mark and I will continue to educate our boys that there are no gender roles.  A woman is not required to stay-at-home with her children (that is a choice we made as a family because of x, y, z).  A woman can be his boss, can be president, can be anything she chooses to be.  A man is not above a woman.  And a woman is not above a man.  All things are possible for BOTH genders.  Crying, empathy, kindness, sensitivity, sadness, are all acceptable forms of emotion for males and should be accepted as well as expressed. 


7.  We turned off our cable television and we stopped watching the news.  
We discovered quite awhile ago that television has very little positive impact on a society.  And any real news will not be found on the morning shows or even the 24 hour networks.  If you have cable please invest in a DVR so you and  your family are not constantly exposed to advertising.
8.  I will be an example of change.  
I’ve removed my false lashes (my lashes are beautiful enough on their own).  I rarely wear makeup (only for special nights out), and I’ll stop obsessing about my weight. As long as I’m eating healthy and exercising it shouldn’t be about the number on the scale or the size of my pants.  I’ll be more thankful for the sustenance my body provides for me.  
I do think it’s fine to dress up, put on makeup, wear jewelry…I just don’t want to be obsessive about any of it or hide behind any of those superficial things.  
9.  I’ll constantly challenge myself to ask myself, why? 

 Why do I want those clothes?  Why do I feel the need to alter myself?  Why do I feel I need to be sexy?  Why do I feel like I don’t measure up?  And what message am I sending if I do x, y, or z and is xy or z worth that message?




10.  I will volunteer.
When all boys are in school and my time frees up I will look in to mentoring young girls through 
Girls on the Run…this organization encourages young girls to love themselves and their bodies through training for and eventually running a 5k.