Category Archives: health

Summer Cravings

Some say January is the worst month of the year, with the post holiday letdown and freezing temperatures. February is just as bad, but at least has the decency to be shorter than other months. Then we have March, which I find the cruelest of all. March teases you into believing it’s spring. the sun sets later, the stores are full of pastel candy, and you keep getting e-mails about sandals and bathing suit sales. And then, just when you’re thinking winter is done, the assault of cold air outside snaps you out of your warm weather delusions.

Recently, I’ve been fantasizing past the spring and have jumped full force into daydreams of summer. You can probably expect more posts in which I complain about the weather and long for the joys of springtime. Also, once it’s summer you can bet I’ll be whining that it’s too hot. Anyway, just for now, here’s what I’ve been pining for these last few weeks:

I am so sick of dry cracking skin, every time I wash my hands all the moisturize seems to disappear leaving me with scary mummy hands and the need to slather on gloppy expensive creams. The same goes for my face, I can’t use soaps or scrubs at all, they reduce me to an ugly flaking mess. I long for the humid days of July when I can once again be lazy and achieve a dewy glow without having to spend time and money dosing myself in products. Sure, I’ll complain about my hair frizzing up constantly, but right now, unruly hair seems like a reasonable trade-off for glowing skin.

There are people who always wear shoes, even in the house, they wake up in the morning and even if they’re not going anywhere they put on shoes—it amazes me! My husband is one of those people, he thinks I’m the crazy one because I never wear shoes inside. As soon as I walk in the door I have to get those things off my feet immediately. If it weren’t considered taboo by society I would walk around barefoot all the time (and yes, I’ve stepped in glass enough to know this is not a good idea). I hate having my poor feet trapped inside heavy socks and constricting footwear all winter long, toes want to be free!

When it’s finally warm enough to liberate my trotters, the first place they’ll be going is into the sand. It’s not a far walk, just a block away actually, I could go right now. Unfortunately I would have to wear my parka and would probably catch frostbite and then be sad about it. Boo March.

Don’t get me wrong, I love apples, they might just be the most versatile of fruits. Apple pie, apple crisp, apple butter, apple strudel, apples with peanut butter—dear god please someone give me some strawberries! It’s so much easier to eat healthy fruit in the summer when it’s in season and delicious. I bought strawberries the other day and half of them were mushy and rotten after a day, then I felt guilty for buying fruit out-of-season and killing the environment all because I’m impatient. I’ll go back to apples for another couple of months and continue to daydream about strawberries, watermelons and avocados (especially when they’ve been smashed into a delicious bowl of guacamole).

Come to think of it, I’ve been craving summer food in general. Not only fruit, but BBQ, hamburgers, chicken wings, salads and being able to eat outdoors. I’m sick of soups and stews, and being too cold all the time to eat anything that isn’t piping hot. I can’t even tell you about the lustful cravings I’ve been having for ice cream recently. I have to remind myself that enjoying a bowl of creamy cold goodness will just force me to add yet another layer of fleece to my already bundled, freezing body.

Obviously you can wear bright nail polish anytime of year, but for some reason it just feels better to wear it in warm weather. Somehow whenever I wear bright pink polish in the winter I feel like I’m lying to myself. This season the beauty world is telling us that darker polishes are in for spring—like Chanel’s black pearl, but I’m not buying it. Give me brights (especially on my toes at the beach) and I’m a happy girl. Save the black pearls for Fall, or for Liz Taylor—since they’ve always brought her luck.

I’m not only craving flowers, but green grass and budding branches. The other day in the supermarket I found myself staring longingly at the flower section, which was kind of embarrassing. I was literally stopped in my tracks by a bouquet of zinnias. This time of year I find myself trying to remember what the trees look like with leaves and what it feels like to go outside without being wrapped in down. I can’t wait for the first crocuses and daffodils to poke their heads out of the dirt. They’ll be a true sign that winter is over and summer, dewy skin tasty food and all, is finally on its way.

Anyone else having summer cravings? Let’s hear ‘em.

 

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Filed under cosmetics, health

Lady Porn Day: Porn and Plot

I’ve been invited to discuss a topic I rarely talk about on this blog—sex, specifically porn and masturbation as they relate to women. Now before some of you shy away, you should know that the point of this project is to get women talking about a topic often labeled as taboo. While I am the first to admit it might be outside my comfort zone, I also can’t resist a challenge. If you want to know more about Lady Porn Day and the awesome woman, Rachel Rabbit White, who got us all talking you can find more info. here. (slightly NSFW illustrations below)

I thought a lot about how to broach this subject because obviously there is a lot to say. The more I thought about it the more I wanted to pinpoint at least part of what doesn’t appeal to many women about pornography. For me, it can be hard to separate out the actress from the act—who is she? Is she happy? Is she safe? Is this her choice? I can be neurotic, and I often worry about these things and find them distracting, but that’s just one small factor, I find that pornography in general isn’t made for women. From the weird costuming to the unnecessary extreme close-ups and unflattering angels, there are a lot of things that distract from the romance of it. So the question comes down to, what is it that really turns women on?

I found one answer to that question in an article in this month’s Marie Claire (who woulda thunk?). The article was about a 27-year-old female pastor and her struggle with abstinence. At one point she mentions having a particularity hard time due to fantasizing about fictional vampire Edward Cullen of the Twilight series. And she is not alone, teens, moms, women of all ages, and apparently even women of the cloth are obsessively fantasizing about a teenage vampire who refuses to engage in sexual activity until marriage. So what’s the appeal? It might be that the lack of sex just makes the series that much more sexy, but it’s something else too—it’s storyline.

There is a reason why so much fan-fiction is dirty and porn spoofs and parodies of acclaimed movies are so popular too. They give you an automatic connection to the characters you’re watching engage in dirty deeds, and that makes things a lot more interesting. In most porn, a cheesy plot-line is set up, a delivery man is invited in or a woman randomly shows up at a guy’s house and—BOOM, sex. All you know about the characters is that they want to have sex and maybe that they received a package from UPS, no storyline, no development, which also means no seduction, no romance, no restraint. Women love romance, not all of us like the schlocky rom-com type, but some of us do, and even if we don’t I’m sure there are other forms of romance we do love. Erotica for example could be considered a form of pornography but it’s usually handled with sensuality, romance, and in-depth narrative. All you have to do is read Delta of Venus by Anaïs Nin to understand that descriptions of sex can be created with lyrical beauty and insight while still being incredibly pornographic.

There are plenty of men out there who love romance as well, and while porn as it is gets the job done, maybe they often find themselves fantasizing about women they know—wives, ex-girlfriends, maybe even characters from movies, because they feel more of a connection to them. I’m the last person to point out what needs to be done to change the porn industry, I don’t know nearly enough about it, but the task at hand was to talk about it and this is a point I find interesting. Obviously it’s not as easy as adding a better plot to porn films. As my husband pointed out, if you introduced real storyline to a porno, most men would fast forward to the sex, and most porn stars understandably wouldn’t know what to do with a script requiring them to play a developed character. Who’s to say that it can’t be done though? I hate the idea that pornography and art have to be staunchly separated. Just because something contains explicit sex shouldn’t mean it’s lacking in artistic value. Personally I would be more interested in pornography that was written with appealing characters or explored any number of new and creative ways to make porn about more than just people having sex on camera.

Porn is sex, but sex for most of us is much more than just the act, it’s a culmination of a relationship and emotions which for many of us are a very important part of what makes sex satisfying. I’m not saying that women need an emotional connection every time they have sex or masturbate, that’s a myth that many have worked hard to abolish. I do think that men and women think about sex differently, and for some of us sex itself isn’t as important as the relationship of the characters engaging in it as well as the atmosphere surrounding them. When it comes down to it women are all so unique it’s hard to say what turns each of us on, but we’re a big market so it would be worth it to figure us out, and it might be an educational experience for men as well. Character might be something for the porn industry to look into to get more women interested, it’s definitely something to think about, and I’m just glad I accepted this challenge and found my own small way to write about women and porn that made sense to me. I encourage all of you to read more about this topic from other women who probably have way more insight into the actual world of pornography than I do, if for no other reason than we don’t talk about it enough.

Happy Lady Porn Day everyone!

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Filed under acceptance, health

The Mythological “Perfect Bra”

Last week I wrote about boobs and how frustrating it can be to walk around with them attached to you. Breasts can be a constant burden, and in order to deal with them, somewhere along the line, the bra was invented. Compared to its predecessor, the corset, a brassiere would appear to be far less constricting and vastly more comfortable. Unfortunately though they’re still a constant source of torture for most women.

The way I see it, there is a holy triad of awful-to-shop-for items; jeans, bras, and bathing suits. The only reason I find bra shopping the least painful, is because I’ve pretty much given up. No, I haven’t been going bra-less, (though I would if I could) I’ve just settled for a brand that’s alright, and I deal with it. I’m sick of everyone from shop assistants who are toted as “miracle workers”, to Oprah telling me what size bra—and what kind of bra I should be wearing. Especially when after spending way too much money, and way too much time obsessing over it, I still haven’t found a bra that works for me. I’ve tried Victoria’s Secret, Olga, Bali, Natori, Calvin Klein, Wonderbra, Wachoal, Lilyette, and dozens of others. I don’t expect miracles (it’s underwear for god-sakes!) but I would like ample support, and not to feel like I’m wearing a torture device everyday.

I’ve been measured for bras three times. Once it was in Paris, which resulted in a purchase of one of the prettiest bras I’ve ever seen, but also hands down the most itchy and painful. Maybe in France you’re just supposed to suck it up and deal with it, or go bra-less. I’ve been told I was a 38B and a 32DD and neither of them were anywhere near comfortable. The variation in those sizes has led me to believe this whole thing is just a ploy to make money. I’m not sure if Oprah is in on it, but I’m disappointed in her. It’s not easy to find a good bra, and it’s not cheap either. I’ve found myself very frustrated while watching Ms. Winfrey expound the wonders of getting your bust measured, because it used to bring me hope, now it just pisses me off. The 32DD that I purchased actually bore welts into my back, I couldn’t believe it. I knew I wasn’t a 32, I had never worn less than a 34, but I let that saleswomen convince me that I had been misguided all my life and that with one $45 purchase everything would change. When you get measured, I swear they always tell you you’re a dramatically different size than you’ve always been, that way you get excited and buy a new expensive bra—it’s devious. I’ve learned my lesson and now settle for cheap, comfortable bras that don’t fit perfectly and require many wardrobe adjustments and, forgive my language, it’s a total pain in the ass.

The perfect bra is elusive, maybe you’ve never found one and are constantly in search of it, or maybe there was a bra somewhere in your past that seemed so flawless you constantly seek to find its match. It’s depressing that in order to appear “decent” women have to invest large amounts of money in a garment that is both painful and difficult to find, wouldn’t it be nice if they were subsidized? The real problem is we’re just all too different, no two breasts are ever the same, sometimes even if they’re on the same body.

My breasts are two different sizes, that’s a very personal and uncomfortable thing to admit, but I’ve learned that as women, we don’t talk about this stuff enough and if we want our voices to be heard (yes, even if it’s about bras) we need to speak up. So I’ll admit, one of my breasts is a C/D and the other is a D/DD, it’s not even noticeable, but it effects bra shopping and I know for a fact there are other women who have this problem. Tons of people have two different sized feet, so yeah, some of us have the same problem with boobs, that’s life. It’s also just one of many problems women encounter in search of a good brassiere. Some of us need a bra with extra padding, or thick straps, or generous coverage, or maybe we’d like one that actually managed to look somewhat attractive and didn’t make wearing scoop neck tops impossible—and heck, maybe some of use would like all those things at once.

A bra has to be form-fitting, it has to be precise or you get pinching under your arms or spillage over the cup, and then there are straps that slip or bands that rub. After years of wearing bras, and trying them on and being measured for them, I’ve come to this conclusion; we needs bras in more sizes, and those sizes need to be more available. I know it’s expensive, I know it’s hard, but I also know there is an enormous market for it—North American women spend $16 billion a year on bras, for real. I know so many women (myself included) who have sunk at least hundreds of dollars into the search for a perfect bra without success, so someone needs to start researching (any architects out there?) and come up with a new system, because I think this one has failed.

Bras distribute the weight of the breast in such a way that the pressure ends up on your back and shoulders. Even if you don’t have large breasts a bra can contribute to shoulder and back pain, there’s also research which shows wearing a bra may actually make your breasts sag faster, because the pectoral muscles atrophy from lack of use—I don’t know if I buy that one, but maybe I’ll start working my chest muscles more often, just in case.

Wearing a bra makes me feel more pulled together, I feel rebellious if I leave the house without one, but I’m not sure whether that’s because I’ve been wearing them so long, or that it actually feels strange to have my boobs out there with no restraint. I often feel bad for my breasts, all smooshed into a skin-tight garment, tucked and squeezed until they fit a shape utterly different from their natural appearance, it seems unfair and I think they deserve better.

Do we need bras, or do we wear them to appear appropriate? I understand the need for modesty in everyday situations, but why do they need to be so painful? I’m still waiting for the solution. I currently have the same bra in several different colors, and most of the time I feel like I’m popping out of it, but if I go up the next size (either cup or band) it’s way too big. I’ve worn supportive bras that lifted and separated my breasts until they were no longer recognizable, and no longer looked sexy or attractive with the added bonus of making it impossible to wear even modest necklines without bra peek-age. On the other side I’ve had bras that made my breasts look great, but also looked risqué even under a t-shirt. The search for the perfect bra may never end, but I continue to hope for that miracle invention, a bra that supports, pads, and comforts, while also appearing attractive. It shouldn’t be that hard, because boobs are pretty damn sexy all by themselves, and maybe we could work with that.

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Filed under acceptance, health, shopping

Diet is the New Religion

Have you ever been having a conversation with someone, and it dawns on you half way through that you’re being preached to? Usually the person you’re talking to has no idea that you don’t share the same beliefs as them, and though you’re interested to hear what they have to say, you probably aren’t going to convert. It’s a strange situation, because you have to be polite, even if what they’re saying contradicts your own beliefs completely. You’d think I was talking about religion, or a pyramid scheme, or maybe yoga, but no, I’m talking about diets.

Obviously a diet isn’t just what you do to lose weight, it’s the food you take into your body everyday, everyone has one, and some people think about theirs a lot more than others. I think it’s safe to say we’ve all experienced avid diet discussion, and maybe been guilty of it ourselves. You make a change in your life and it consumes so much of your time and thought that you don’t even realize you talk about it all the time.

Eating is life, without it we wouldn’t exist, but to humans, food is so much more than just nourishment, it’s our culture. How much of your life revolves around food? How many times a day do you think about it? If I look at a bag of potato chips (probably my greatest weakness) and a bag of carrots, my id and ego fight it out, and I’m sure I’m not alone. Who hasn’t had an ice cream binge on a day when you felt like the world was against you? There is nothing wrong with reaching for the carrots or the ice cream, but here’s the thing—it’s an individual choice and it’s not the same for everyone.

What could be more specified than what each person feeds themselves? I personally love olives, pickles, peanut butter, Nutella and mashed potatoes, but I’ve never been a big pasta person, mayonnaise makes me sick, and ricotta cheese does not agree with me. Do I know why I like or dislike any of those things? Of course not! If I could find a way to make my mind crave celery instead of chocolate I would be both skinny and rich, but that’s just not the way I’m wired. If it was easy to curb cravings, we wouldn’t have the very depressing statistic that 75% of dieters gain back the weight they lose. We’re all so individual, so remarkably and amazingly different, that there can be no miracle diet, no sweeping cure, and what I really think more than anything, is that we all need to stop obsessing.

This country is preoccupied with dieting, we can’t stop talking about it, or thinking about it, or judging our families or friends on it. We accept that obsession in other forms is completely unhealthy. We acknowledge that when someone spends so much time thinking, or fretting over one thing there is something truly wrong, but for some reason when it comes to food, it’s not only accepted it’s encouraged. We don’t step in until things have gotten out of control. Maybe the major cause of the so-called “obesity epidemic” is the focus on dieting. There have been many studies which show that taking the focus off dieting and emphasizing living and eating healthy (with room for forgiveness) actually has a greater benefit on people of all shapes and sizes—including overweight people. You know how when you were a teenager and your parents bugged you to clean your room, and the more they nagged you the less you actually wanted to do it? Yeah, it’s like that. We humans are a contrary bunch, and the more you keep telling us we need to lose weight, especially when that is WAY harder than cleaning your room, it really just makes us want to eat a cheeseburger or two.

Ok, so back to the whole diet is a religion thing; religion and diet have always been tied together. Most religions have some form of fasting, and many of them have dietary restrictions as well. There are Jews who keep kosher, Muslims who eat halal, there are Buddhists who try to prevent suffering by eating a vegetarian diet, and there are dozens of others as well. With religion on the decline in the US, it makes me wonder if part of the diet obsession is a need to fill some void. Diet is so practiced, so precise, so important to some people, that it takes on religious significance.

The other day my mom was telling me about a woman who was on a raw food diet, she told my mother that it has cured her son’s ADD and that she was sure it would prevent cancer as well. This woman truly believes the diet will save her, if that isn’t faith than I’m not sure what is. It’s worrisome, because while a devoutly religious person can’t know the truth for certain until they step out of this world, A person who stores their faith in the food they consume will suffer a crisis of faith when some unstoppable disease takes hold of their bodies. If that happens, they’ll have to suffer both the disappointment of years of healthy living, and the pain of illness, I’m not sure which is worse.

The idea that a diet can truly cure any disease has been proven false over and over, and yet people still tell my fiancé that he can cure his type 1 diabetes with a raw food diet, when in reality, going without his insulin for a day could land him in the hospital, or worse. Perpetuating the idea that you can not only diagnose, but cure someone of a medical condition by adjusting their diet (ahem Halle Berry) is just irresponsible and completely dangerous. I want so badly to cure him, and trust me I’d give anything to cure him, but I worry that there is less fact and more self-righteousness responsible for those who preach the wonders of certain diets.

The unfortunate, painful truth is that death is inevitable. I know that’s a total bummer, but it’s an absolute, I’ve struggled with it a lot, and I’ve found the easiest way to deal with it is to accept that it happens, and enjoy what you have. Even if you believe in an afterlife, you still know that you will pass out of this world one day. What worries me about the idea of the “messiah diet” is that it’s not about comforting that morbid knowledge, it’s about buying into a futile hope, and in some cases looking down on others who don’t buy in to it.

I’m all about living life, I have a firm belief that this life is meant to be celebrated, there is so much heartache, so much regret and loss, why do we put more on the pile voluntarily? If eating raw, or vegan, or caveman, or macrobiotic makes you feel great, and you love it, I could not be happier for you, and I wish I felt that way about one particular way of eating too. When your diet turns divine however, when you believe truly that it’s your savior, I can’t help but find that a bit unsettling, because while the belief in god or in religion brings comfort in a time of pain, putting faith in what you eat to stave off the certainty of aging, seems like a comforting delusion that I’d hate to see disappoint.

This post in no way is meant to insult, belittle, or devalue any type of diet, so please forgive me if I have offended. It’s just a discussion, and I’d love to hear some thoughts on it.

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Filed under acceptance, health

Say Ahhh…

Nobody likes going to the doctor, spending your day in a vacuum-sealed, poorly lit waiting room filled with magazines from three years ago. Once you’re finally called in, you wait again in a cold examination room, sometimes stripped down to nothing but a paper dress while you freeze and stare at plump Anne Geddes baby portraits on the wall, finally you’re poked, prodded, and asked to pay before you dash out of there fast as you can. It’s terrible, but for me, even with all that awfulness, it still cannot compare to a trip to the dentist.

I happen to have an exceptionally small mouth, so the dentist is particularly painful for me, the x-rays alone leave my mouth bruised and sore. I went to a new dentist last week and unfortunately found out I have a cavity. Boo. Now I have to go back to the dentist tomorrow, and I’m not happy about it. The whole thing got me thinking about teeth though, and how they can make you self-conscious. It’s no secret that Americans have a thing for straight, whiter than white teeth, and one of the first thing that happens when someone gets famous, is the sudden appearance of a blindingly white, perfect smile.

Zac Efron, Ben Affleck, Nicolas Cage, Catherine Zeta-Jones, 50 cent, that girl with the dreads on American Idol—have all had their smiles fixed up after hitting it big. We seem to hate seeing people with crooked teeth, probably because we’re supposed to try as hard as possible to be perfect, and that includes a smile that looks as generic and uniform as it can. When celebrities fight the pressure and choose to keep the smile they were born with—Anna Paquin, Lauren Hutton, even Madonna, it’s constantly pointed out as if they’ve done something exceptionally brave for keeping their own teeth, or we just make fun of them for it. I was trying to figure out if Kirsten Dunst has caved to the pressure, and the reports seem to be that she has, I hope it’s because Kirsten wanted to do it personally, not because her career has stalled.

Thinking about it, I feel like I rarely notice people’s teeth, maybe if they’re very distinctive in some way, but even trying to recall the teeth of those I know well seems difficult, because it doesn’t seem all that important. There are so many other interesting parts of the way someone interacts with others. It’ hard not to notice someone’s eyes because they often convey so much, and while a person’s smile can mean the world, I’ve witnessed some amazing smiles from people with less than perfect teeth, maybe their smiles were even more compelling because of it. I’ve always found something endearing about crooked or imperfect teeth, maybe it’s because I can relate.

My parents spent thousands of dollars on six years of orthodonture for me, so you’d think I would have a mouth full of lovely, straight teeth. Instead my orthodontist was going through an awful divorce when I was getting my braces off and lost the mold for my bottom retainer twice. Eventually he gave me a retainer which I’m positive wasn’t mine. It would pop out of my mouth when I opened it, had to be forced down over my teeth, and made me bleed whenever I wore it, it was nasty, painful, and didn’t do a damn thing since I couldn’t bring myself to wear it. As a result my bottom teeth are, as a dentist once sweetly put it, crooked “like a skull and cross bones”. My top teeth have remained fairly straight, because that retainer caused only moderate pain. I was pleasantly surprised that my new dentist didn’t mention that despite having braces for years I have a crooked smile. It’s sort of crazy that we are self-conscious of even our teeth, but when we are bombarded with images of straight, shiny, white, teeth everywhere we look, of course we see our own imperfect choppers as less than.

I’ve talked to dentists about having my teeth straightened again, and honestly it just doesn’t seem worth it. My major concern was my dental health, but I’ve been told over and over that my desire for straight teeth can only be justified as cosmetic, that having crooked teeth like mine, didn’t make them any less healthy. I know there are situations in which orthodonture is done due to a problem which needs fixing, or is causing pain, but for the most part, we don’t need teeth that appear perfect in order for them to be healthy.

Some might change their teeth because it’s a constant source of frustration, or because it is effecting their health, or just because it makes them more confident, there is absolutely nothing wrong with any of those reasons, but when I feel like I need to spend thousands of dollars to correct a row of teeth that is usually hidden, isn’t causing me any pain, and according to my dentist won’t cause any problems in the future, it strikes me that Americans might be a little too obsessed with perfect teeth. I think most people would even admit to being terrified of celebrities who go over board on whitening, the result being “chicklet teeth” (that means you Ryan Seacrest). It’s enough to make you wonder what we’re really trying to achieve with all this focus on conformity. What about a flawed smile is so offensive? Many beauty standards hide behind the idea of being “healthy” being thin for example, when really the truth is that certain people just don’t find extra chub or a yellow grin aesthetically appealing. If that is the case, then why give a damn?

So, if my dentist tells me I have very healthy teeth, and I’m only having my second ever (very small) cavity filled tomorrow, is there any reason to have my teeth fixed aside from feeling self-conscious about them? No, I don’t think so, and neither should anyone else. I don’t think we all need to look the same, and I think if asked, a lot of people would tell you they like their imperfections, including a gap in their teeth, because it sets you a part, and as long as you like it, why should it matter what anyone else thinks?

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Love Your Body

Today I present to you a guest post I did for Dana who blogs over on happiness is within where she has started a posting movement called Love Your Body. She asks women to write about their experiences with their own bodies and body image, and it’s a great project where women can draw support from each other’s stories. So check out her blog and the movement, and I’ll leave you with my post on body image.

I only started thinking about my body in 5th grade when a girl in my class felt compelled to let me know that I should be having thoughts about my body, and they shouldn’t be good ones—girls can be so nice to each other sometimes can’t they? Before then, I had been a skinny, energetic, and happy kid. The idea of what I looked like on the outside being of little consequence when I was so concerned with things like playing manhunt at nightfall, reading Sweet Valley High novels, and drawing in my sketchbook. I didn’t think twice about things like wearing a bathing suit or a pair of shorts, and it never occurred to me that anyone else might even notice the body I walked around in, it seemed unimportant somehow. I feel like I’ve spent half my life trying to get back to that casual relationship with my body, an un-self-consciousness that seems so easy but never is.

Things really changed for me when puberty hit at 10 years old. I went from having the body of a child to the body that I have now in what seemed like the blink of an eye. Adolescence is one of the most painful times in life, and I had mine thrust on me early. When all the other girls were still getting to be kids, I was already 5 foot 6 and wearing a B-cup. Everyone treated me like I was 16, but I still felt the same. It seemed like my childhood had been taken away, and I blamed my body for it, I covered it up; I tried not to look at it. I was teased, and laughed at, and it planted seeds in my head that I’m still weeding out. So many of us learn to hate ourselves because others tell us we should, and all it ever does is start a cycle of self-abuse that takes years to come out of, and that is a terrible thing.

I can honestly say I’ve never met a girl who hasn’t dealt with body image issues at some point, and I know some really beautiful women. Being a woman means constantly being told to be thinner, tanner, sexier, funnier, cooler, prettier, and just better, all the time. It seems we are constantly told that the way we are just isn’t enough. For me, the constant pressure led me to hate my body so much I didn’t want to burden the world with its existence, so I pretended it didn’t exist, I hid it away, and in doing so I hid myself away too.

Over the years I’ve come to a conclusion; it’s impossible to ignore your body, you live in it. It’s the greatest tool you’ll ever have and it’s the only one you get. If you have a body that’s fully functioning, you should bless your lucky stars. When I was an awkward adolescent and I would tell my mother “I hate my legs” she would go “puh, puh—be lucky you have legs!” and of course, though I didn’t realize it then, she was right. I don’t have a perfect body, few do, but it’s mine, it helps me do the things I want to do in life, and it’s precious. It holds my mind and my spirit and I need to love it, no matter what people might say about it, or how I may feel about it sometimes. We focus so much on how important our bodies are, how we need to “get fit” and “fight the fat” or “live a healthier lifestyle”, but we forget why that is all so important. Our bodies are amazing things, all of them, no matter what deficiencies they might have or we might perceive, we wouldn’t be here without them, that is why we need to love them and take care of them. We shouldn’t abuse them, or neglect them, or hate them, and we certainly shouldn’t resent them for not being the way we want them to, they’re way too important for that, and life goes by way too fast to waste so much time hating ourselves for no reason.

Of course I still struggle with body acceptance every single day, but I always try to remember why I need to love myself, and it helps. Sometimes we focus so much on the pieces—the lower part of my arm that jiggles, or the weird spot on my face, and that little belly bulge that sticks out, but when people see us it’s not all those tiny pieces they see, it’s us, the whole, and our body is just a part of that anyway, an important part, but not everything. We are made up of so many millions of mannerisms, and ideas, and beautiful, curious, idiosyncrasies that make us who we are. Our body is how we express them, and that makes it beautiful, that makes us beautiful, and we should never forget it.

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Feel the burn

How is it that I can feel ten times heavier if I am lax with exercise one week, even when I know it is completely illogical that I would have gained more than a pound? Whether anyone else can see it or not, I still feel so much worse during weeks when I don’t get much activity in. I know that I feel better when I exercise, but I still never have much motivation to do it. It helps when I schedule it in to my life so much that it becomes a definite part of my day, but some days I just can’t help but put it at last priority. I can always think of something else I could be doing that’s more important.

That’s the thing about exercise, or at least it is for me; I get into something, and then I get bored, and then I take a break and then I go back, or try something else, and then the cycle continues. I know there are some people who don’t have this problem, who are able to commit, and I am jealous of them, it’s never been me. I like to pretend that it’s because I’m so creative that I can always come up with something that I should be doing instead, when really that’s just an excuse.

I used to play soccer when I was younger, but then the girls on my team were awful to me and despite pleading from my coach not to, I quit. That sent me into laziness for most of high school (mono and asthma didn’t help either). I went to art school, so the first time most of us saw the gym was the day we lined up in it for graduation. I’ve tried gyms, I’ve never liked them very much, too many people strutting around in work-out clothes checking each other out. Then when I moved in with my sister, she introduced me to yoga, and it was great. I had finally found an exercise I liked doing. Unfortunately teachers leave, schedules get changed, and it’s impossible to get from Hudson Street to 14th street in 15 minutes during rush hour, no matter how much you try. Finally, getting laid-off and not having money has kept me from doing yoga recently. I always find it hard to adjust to a new studio, and it’s expensive too. So now I pop in a DVD and Denise Austin and I jump around my bedroom and she tells me to use my “rainbow arms” and we do our “fun cha-chas” and it was good for a while, but I think things have taken a turn in our relationship, sorry Denise, I’m bored. So how do we keep things interesting? How do we motivate? Usually for me at least, motivation comes from wanting to see a change, feeling bad about myself can be a great motivator.

I spoke before about the pressure you’re put under as an engaged woman, and how I’m trying not to let it get to me. Well, problem is, sometimes it does, and after going for my first fitting in my wedding dress I decided I would feel much better about myself on the big day if I had arms like Michelle Obama (why are her arms so amazing?). So for the last four months I have been lifting weights and trying to get some tone, arm curls, push ups, lateral raises, etc. When that first little hint of definition showed up it was so exciting, “it paid off!” I thought to myself, and then continued with my weekly routine, adding in some more difficult moves and some heavier weights. Sadly, after that initial little dip in my arm defining real muscle, there has been no new evidence of arm strength or definition, and I’ve nearly lost my motivation. ‘Cause you know, it’s really hot and sometimes I just think there are much more important things to be done than worry about a little indentation on my arm that nobody but me  (or my fiancé who I point it out to all the time) will notice.

My old yoga teacher always said that the hardest part of yoga was getting to the class, I think that’s true for any exercise. Once I get my work out clothes on, and I fill my water bottle and check my e-mail, and put the dishes away, and put my hair up—and let me just check that e-mail again, pet the cats, and then well, I just don’t have any excuses left. Then, I put on my DVD, or step on to my yoga mat, or feel the wind when I pedal on to the boardwalk, and I’m totally into it and committed, but the hard part is getting there. What I hate is that we’re made to feel like just “getting there” isn’t enough, you need to see changes too, or else you’re a failure.

I guess that’s my problem with aspirational images, so often they’re lies. How can we all share the same aspirations, when we’re all different people? For some, having Michelle Obama arms isn’t that crazy of an idea, but for most of us, it is. Maybe if I had started out with the goal just to be strong, instead of focusing on what that would look like, I’d be a lot more motivated. So instead of setting big goals for myself, I’m going to do something crazy and set little goals, then I’ll feel better about them when I succeed and maybe I won’t be so deflated when things don’t come easy. I’ll let you know how it goes.

I’d love to hear from you guys, am I the only one who feels this way about exercise, is it easy for you? Is it always a struggle? How have you managed to make it a part of your lives? How does it make you feel?

Also, just for kicks, my fiancé (James) and I met Pharrell Williams over the weekend, and he was incredibly nice. James freelances for a website he created—kidult.com, it’s for teens, so if you know some teens pass it on, cause Pharrell is a cool guy. I really just posted this to make myself look cool, did it work?

Oh, and also, if you will notice I’ve added a blogroll over there to the right, so check it out. I hope you’ll take a look at some of the blogs on there because they’re all really great and worth reading, I hope to add more soon!


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The Tricky Sun

It’s summer, which means sun, which also means sunburns, and they are never a good thing. For some of us they will fade to a lovely tan, but for a lot of us (like me) they don’t.

Yesterday I was the victim of an accidental sunburn. My friend Emily came over for a visit and we went to the beach. I then forgot the cardinal rule of sun protection—even when it’s cloudy you will get burned. I also had a beach chair with a canopy, so I was lured into a false sense of security, alas all the canopy did was give me a patchy, lopsided, sunburn across my arms and chest.

Gorgeous isn’t it? I think it’s a great new look for summer. I especially like the way my sloth necklace has now left a permanent impression on my chest, it’s just so flattering. What a great idea, you don’t have to worry about accessories when they’re permanently emblazoned around your neck!

But seriously, what’s wrong with me? Why the heck didn’t I put on sunscreen? I rubbed some on my legs because they were out in the sun (update: even the legs got burned), I really thought I was safe under a flimsy beach chair awning, but no, the sun’s power stretches far beyond the protection of cheap nylon. And besides, it was cloudy, right? I guess there are no excuses, I now have the punishment of a humorously unattractive, painful, burn that will soon peel, and later turn into a blotchy and uneven skin-tone, all while I panic about whether it will even-out before my wedding.

Why do we continue not to wear sunscreen? It shouldn’t be so hard right? Is it the texture of it? The way it gets in your eyes and mouth, or how it makes magazines melt leaving you with unwanted, accidental tattoos of models faces on your legs (that happens to other people right?).

Sunscreen can be unpleasant, the spray bottles always leave you with patchy spots, and the creamy ones stick in every crevice. It is goopy, and sloppy, and it makes sand stick to your body, and if you wear contacts, when it gets in your eyes it can be potentially blinding. But, of course, we need to wear it. I know I certainly do, and usually I’m really good about it, sometimes though, you make a stupid mistake. At least it happened early in the summer and reminded me that I need to be more careful, and now I can also remind all of you!

Seriously, skin cancer is awful, and all that sunburns do in the long run (even if they might fade to a nice healthy tan for a little while) is leave your skin blotchy and uneven. I now pay way too much money to buy creams that even-out the skin on my face due to damage I suffered as a teenager. It’s so often the case that something we do to make us feel beautiful backfires and makes us feel ugly, and then we spend more money to bring us back to our original state.

I don’t know why we are all so resistant to something that seems so logical, maybe there is some collective need to worship the sun and let it transform our bodies in some way. I really don’t know, but if that is the case then the sun really is a tricksy devil, and I’m not very happy with him. More likely we just forget, or we’re lazy, or maybe it feels good, or we think it makes us look better. We usually also know that it could cause us great pain, both immediately and in the future from melanoma.

Now in case you’re thinking to yourself, “I’ll just stay inside” well, that could give you cancer too. Recently there has been new evidence that tells us how badly we need Vitamin D to prevent all sorts of other diseases that could kill us, and the sun is really the only way to get enough of it—but don’t burn, stay out just long enough to get what you need, then cover up.

According to most dermatologists you are supposed to get 15-30 minutes of unprotected time in the sun, and no more. I think we’re all learning the key to good health overall is “everything in moderation” fat, alcohol, salt, sun, coffee, chocolate. All these things that are constantly volleyed back and forth over the line from healthy to hazardous, are in part good for us, but only in small doses. So that’s the hard part then, knowing when to stop.

Coincidentally, there was a great article about Vitamin D and sun exposure in The Huffington Post yesterday by Dr. Frank Lipman. He clears up a lot of things, including that Vitamin D isn’t really a vitamin, but functions more like a hormone, and that it is nearly impossible to get enough of it through food. We need the sun. Unfortunately he also points out that sunburns are always really bad for you, but we all knew that already. So, maybe someone will invent a sunscreen that doesn’t kick in for half an hour and then lasts all day, that would be perfect wouldn’t it? Until that happens, I’ll be setting the alarm on my cell phone the next time I go to the beach, and then I’ll slather on one of these sunscreens:

I’ve been trying this one on every time I go to CVS, they have a special relationship with this company and are always promoting it, they’ve almost got me too. It seems to work pretty well, not cheap though.

La Roche Posay Anthelios SPF 40, $32.00

This is my standard sunscreen for body, I always have some, It works very well, it is goopy yes, but it isn’t runny. They also sell it in bulk at Costco, so of course that is a big bonus for me.

Neutrogena Ultra sheer Dry-touch SPF 30 sunscreen, $9.99

This is one is a splurge, I have a sample of it and it’s pretty good, smells nice, dries matte, and isn’t greasy, not sure if I can afford it yet though.

Shiseido Ultimate Sun Protection Cream SPF 55, $35.oo

My go-to sunblock for face, it is slightly tinted, which for me is good since it’s pretty close to my skin-tone. The one down side is that it isn’t so great under makeup.

Clinique Super City Block Oil-Free Daily Face Protector SPF 40, $17.50

Luckily the M.A.C. concealer I’ve been wearing for years now has an SPF of 35, so I can cover up my brown spots while also protecting my face from future damage.

Studio Finish Concealer SPF 35, $16.50

So don’t forget to go out and play in the sun, it’s for your own good!—just don’t forget to set that alarm so you don’t get burned.

Anyone else have sunscreen suggestions, what products do you use to keep yourself protected?

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