Nothing Compares 2 Slut Shaming

Date: July 20, 2015

posted by Lee / Comments: No Comments / Tags: , , , ,

Last week, former 90’s icon of rebellion, Sinead O’Connor dropped a ‘c bomb’ on a fellow famous lady for having the cheek to do her job. Kim Kardashian, irrespective of what you may think of her personally, is a pop-culture icon. As such, it is not unusual for her to appear on the cover of any magazine.

 

According to O’Connor’s logic, ‘the music has officailly died’ due to the featuring of a non-musician on the cover of Rolling Stone. What about Miranda Kerr’s cover in 2009? The band played on, right? I mean, people have been making music since then, right? Ms. Kerr has even less to do with music if you consider Kim’s at least married to a musician. So by O’Connor’s standards, how is her Rolling Stone cover in any way less offensive than Kim’s? The reality is that since it’s first publication in 1967 Rolling Stone has featured musicians, actors and models on its covers, so the idea that Kardashian as a cover model is somehow underqualified is rediculous.

 

Kim Kardashian constantly divides opinion, but love her or hate her, she can still stir up controversy. The irony of O’Connor’s vitriolic comments is that her response is the very reason Kim continues to be booked for cover after cover and sell a hell of a lot of magazines. The fact that she’s never released an album is irrelevant. She could be on the cover of Monster Motors and sell millions and she doesn’t drive a truck either.

 

I used to love Sinead’s music. I respected her as an artist, a feminist and an activist, but sadly in recent years she’s become one of the prominent slut-shamers of our time. The three open letters she penned to Miley Cyrus were depressing. Here was a 20-year-old girl expressing her sexuality in one of her music videos and citing Nothing Compares 2 U as the inspiration. Instead of a ‘thumbs-up’ from one of her mentors she was shot down and told, ‘None of the men ogling you give a s*&t about you either, do not be fooled. Many’s the woman mistook lust for love. If they want you sexually that doesn’t mean they give a f*&k about you.’ Woah!

 

Be this sage advice or not, why make it so public? If O’Connor’s intentions were truly noble, why not write Miley an email and express her concerns genuinely and discreetly? These letters’ intent was at least partially to humiliate Cyrus who being 20, responded in the way most 20-year-olds would and trolled her on Twitter. I’m not condoning her reaction, but a more considered retort would have been a total waste of her time.

 

I agree wholeheartedly when Sinead wrote to Cyrus, ‘whether we like it or not, us females in the industry are role models and as such we have to be extremely careful what messages we send to other women.’ So why then is she so happy to call other women whores and c*&ts? Is it not easier as women to be kind to each other; especially women struggling to occupy their place in such a ruthless industry? What would it take for us to lift each other up instead of tear each other down?

 

I was disgusted and disappointed to read O’Connor’s comments about Kim Kardashian’s most recent cover. If she wanted to spew venom why not at Rolling Stone? Surely it was the magazine that disappointed her by booking Kim for the cover and not some band she’d have approved of. Kim was just doing her job and is laughing at her slut shaming haters like O’Connor all the way to the bank.

 

This is not a piece in defence of Kim Kardashian. I am really quite ambivalent towards her, but I think it’s irresponsible of us as women not to react when we see a well-respected woman like O’Connor speak so disrespectfully about another; especially when Kardashian has done nothing to O’Connor to deserve such public degradation. Shame on Sinead for behaving so poorly and calling women terrible names for simply daring to earn a living. #BoycottRollingStone? #BoycottSlutShaming.

 

A Body for Everybody

Date: July 14, 2015

posted by Lee / Comments: No Comments / Tags: , , , , ,

Last week, sporting magazine ESPN released its annual Body Issue. A clever play on words that conjures up, for me at least, images of my own dimply thighs. However, this Body Issue isn’t what’s in your head making you insecure…it’s the exact opposite. A huge number of athletes have posed completely naked, most of them whilst engaging in the sport they love on the pages of this month’s ESPN Magazine and it’s an absolute feast for the eyes. It is a thing of beauty, the human body and there are no finer examples than the ones on ESPN’s recent pages.

What caught my attention about this issue more than issues in other years was their choice of cover model, 25-year-old American Hammer thrower, Amanda Bingson. There is no doubt that she has an incredible body- a powerful body that does incredible things, but regrettably it’s a body we don’t usually get to see much of on magazine covers.

Amanda has a broad frame and describes her body as ‘dense’ but also says in the same breath, ‘I’ll be honest, I like everything about my body.’  Yes! More of that please! This is a young woman who didn’t take up Track and Field until 2009 and now, just 6 years later, she’s poised to head to her second Olympic games. Inspiring? Hell yes.

Another incredible story in the latest issue of ESPN is that of Natalie Coughlin, the only female U.S. Olympian to win 6 medals in one Olympics. Her photo is absolutely stunning; her long, lean frame is captured underwater and completely nude, but her tan lines create the illusion of a swimsuit. I have never been jealous of tan lines before. I want her tan lines.

Coughlin says, ‘I was turning 30 and married going into the 2012 Olympics, so everyone assumed I would retire, have babies and disappear. There are teammates on the male side that don’t get those questions.’ Preach! How interesting to hear the stories of these incredible female athletes who so rarely get to talk about anything other than their sport of choice and their latest competition.

Coughlin goes on to talk about the extreme body issues that young women face in her sport and how, ‘there were times when I wasn’t happy with my body, but I always knew that I was really fit and that it was what allowed me to be successful in the pool.’ These are the kinds of stories I wish I was reading when I was 15 and too shy to go out for the swim team because I didn’t want to be seen in spandex.

This issue of ESPN Magazine is filled with stories of triumph and of heartbreak, but mostly, as the name of the issue would imply, it’s filled with stories and photos of and about bodies- all different kinds of bodies. I urge all you parents to pick up an issue for your pre-teen or teenage child and look at it with them. In a society so saturated with manufactured and unrealistic representations of what we’re all supposed to look like, it’s refreshing to see so many shapes, colours and sizes all in one place and all being celebrated.

Our Wardrobe Malfunction

Date: May 25, 2015

posted by Lee / Comments: No Comments / Tags: , , ,

I arrived back in Sri Lanka on Saturday morning, after fantastically rare, stress-free 19-hours of travel. This place has felt like a second home to me since I first came here to volunteer in 2013. It’s so nice to see that not much has changed and that the gentrification of Asia has been slow to reach these shores. The odd McDonald’s can be found, but the vast majority of the landscape is traditional and beautiful.

I find one of the most challenging things about working here isn’t the heat, the spicy food or even the occasional communication issue; it’s adhering to the conservative dress code that’s expected of those living and working in the local community. That’s not to say it’s a challenge adhering to it, it’s not that at all. It’s a challenge to actually be able to purchase appropriate clothing in western countries like the UK and USA to adequately prepare me and other women for our travels in countries where women are expected to dress modestly.

Grab a shirt from your wardrobe. No seriously, try it. Now put your hand inside it and hold it up to the light. Can you see through it? Of course you can. Western clothes are designed to be sexy, even if you were holding up a collared business shirt and not a burnout tee from Target, I bet you could see a lot more than you wanted to be on show round the office. We as women have had to adapt our wardrobe by adding layers or upping sizes to avoid being sexualized at every turn.

How about a pair of trousers, jeans or pants? How tight are they? Even if they’re not meant to be ‘skinny’ are they? I had to go up two sizes to get to a comfortable level of bagginess in the legs of my khakis; everything else was clinging like you would not believe and they were labeled as ‘loose fit.’

To those of you thinking…’just get stuff out there.’ Of course that’s possible, but I’m taller and bustier than the average woman in Sri Lanka, so the skirts are always a little short and the shirt buttons in my bust area are always pulling, threatening to pop off and take out someone’s eye. But that’s not the point, is it?

I should be able to walk into a clothing store in London and in Illinois and buy clothes that not skin tight or sheer. I should have the option of a low or high neckline and whether or not I’d like you to see my bra underneath. I can’t remember the time I last caught a glimpse of a man’s nipple through his shirt, but a woman’s bra? Every. Time.

We’ve seen this before with children’s clothing. This mom highlighted shorts for girls and shorts for boys were sold at drastically different lengths and there was absolutely nothing in between for anyone. From a young age we are sold the idea that shorter is better. That sheer is ‘sexy,’ but I’m just trying to work here and I don’t want to be sexy at work. Especially when the national team have managed to turn up to the meeting looking great and professional and we look like a Lady Gaga/Miley Cyrus tribute act.

I am working in 95 degree heat here and I want some nice clothes in some damn breathable fabrics, OK? I want chinos that don’t get stuck in my crotch from all the sweat and the too-tightness and I demand a collared shirt I don’t have to put another shirt on underneath of because: 95 degrees! Am I asking too much?

I think not. So here is my proposal to clothing companies everywhere- give us the choice. Let us choose how much of our bodies are put on show and give us the option to pick between the opaque and translucent. I want clothes that cover my body because I do not want to be sexualized or ogled at work. I want to do my job and I want my outfit to have no more or less bearing on what people are thinking about me than my male colleagues. How about that? How about a choice? I think it’s about time.

Body-Loving Burlesque

Date: May 19, 2015

posted by Lee / Comments: No Comments / Tags: , , , ,

I know it’s a bit of a cliché, but burlesque really helped me to love and feel comfortable in my body. I’m in no way a professional, I’ve just got a few lessons under my garter belt and I can’t recommend it enough.

I was 18 when I was introduced to Burlesque. As a gangly teenager who was always on the stage performing in musical theatre shows, I was instantly intoxicated by the delicate femininity of the performers juxtaposed with the raw sensuality of the art form itself. From my second-row seat, I watched as woman after incredible woman took the stage and transformed it into a boudoir, a bus stop, a cake factory and more.

The great thing about Burlesque is that there are no rules. Purists might say that to be a true Burlesque dancer you need to remove a certain amount of clothing or include a few signature moves in your routine, like the Bump and Grind, but really, you can do whatever you want.

I’ve seen fire-eaters, mimes, gymnastics, fans and fireworks in routines before. I’ve watched, giddy and amazed as feathers flew, rhinestones glinted and sequins spun across the floor, unable to withstand the G-Force of the nipple-tassels they were once attached to as they twirled and blurred from the speed. Burlesque is pure fun and fantasy and what’s not to like about that?

It was at a friend’s bachelorette party when I first attempted this kind of performance for myself. When we arrived, after some awkward introductions and a few glasses of bubbly, a gorgeous and voluptuous redhead took us through the basics of walking, glove peeling and shimmying. In a dance studio covered with mirrors, you really couldn’t hide from yourself, so if you wanted to have fun, you had to watch yourself wobble.

We were a diverse group; most sizes, shapes and colours were represented and we made a pretty pathetic troupe. But man, did we laugh! After a short while it ceased to matter that most of us, including myself, had the grace of a drunken elephant. I felt graceful. I felt sexy.

There’s something about opera gloves and a feather boa that make a girl feel good, so good that I signed up for lessons that day and started the following week.

The first day of class was s bit unnerving. I’d had quite a bit of champagne at the bachelorette party, so turning up sober was a bit of a shock and I started to second-guess my decision. But once the rest of the women filed in and we got to know each other I was glad I came.

As before, we were quite a mixed bag. Single mums to pole dancers, lawyers to architects and everything in-between. We were bigger and smaller than each other, but no one seemed to be self-conscious. Our fantastic teacher took us through a series of moves and over the course of four weeks we’d learned a routine which culminated in all of us twirling our tassels as fast as we could.

To get bare-breasted in a room full of strangers was optional, but we were all up for it and all admiring each others’ tassels at close range. Feeling empowered through movement and character, even the shyest in the group was transformed into a little minx by the last class.

Even now I flirt with the idea of getting on an actual stage someday, in front of an audience who aren’t friends or fellow students. I choreograph routines in my head on my way to work most days, but have yet to really commit to the idea and give myself a name and a persona.

However, those classes gave me confidence in myself, in my body and I made some lifelong friends. I fully recommend trying this yourself. You’ve got nothing to lose (but a few pesky clothes) and everything to gain.

All Beach Body Ready

Date: May 4, 2015

posted by Lee / Comments: No Comments / Tags: , , , ,

Sadly I’ve just returned home to chilly, wet London from sunny, beautiful Jamaica. Already the warmth and the sand between my toes is but a distant memory.

 

Seven incredibly restful days were spent lounging on the beach with my husband, and although I’d love to report that my mind was totally engrossed in the novel I had my face buried in, it was not. I spent much of my day, as I observed the many other women at our resort, preoccupied with thought about Protein World’s latest advert and the controversy surrounding it.

 

Yup, as I listened to the waves lazily lap at the shores in paradise; I was also greatly considering our latest body image crusade, and just in case you missed it, I’m talking about this-

 

This image has created a storm of publicity that Protein World couldn’t have hoped for in its wildest dreams. Whether you love the ad or hate it, it’s been causing a visceral response all over the country and beyond. So much so, that people gathered this past Saturday to protest its publicity and have it completely removed from sight. So what’s all the fuss about?

 

It started with a few people defacing the posters, their message? That all bodies are ready for the beach, irrespective of how closely they physically resemble the model in the photo. In theory, I agree. If you have a body and it is on the beach, then you have a beach body. However, I don’t agree that by protesting one kind of body you are doing much for the cause of body positivity.

 

That model, Renee Somerfield, actually looks like that. Protein World is adamant that they haven’t Photo Shopped her image, and if you Google her, you’ll see that they haven’t. She’s a fitness fanatic, a vegan and has a gorgeous, healthy body. How is Protein World, by using Somerfield’s image telling the rest of us we can’t go to the beach?

 

Ladies, I can tell you from a whole week of field observation in Runaway Bay, JA that no one has let this single advert dictate their right to frolic in the sand. Literally no one, in fact I knew all about these adverts, and the big image you see at the top of this article is my very ready beach body.

 

In addition to myself, there were women of all shapes, sizes, colours and textures in bikinis, one-pieces, tankinis, thongs and everything in-between. On the beach, no one is worried about this one company’s poster, so what’s the big deal?

 

Showing one singular idea of what’s beautiful doesn’t render all other ideas obsolete. It’s an ad, nothing more, but we women are giving it so much power. This ad doesn’t say ‘you are not good enough.’ This ad doesn’t say ‘if you don’t look like this, you can’t be on the beach.’ This is a fitness company using a fitness model to promote a fitness product. It is not a personal attack on the rest of us, who let’s be honest, will need more than a protein shake to look anything like her.

 

Protein World has now been informed that their posters will be removed country-wide, but I have to wonder if this kind of censorship is healthy. I support the right of every woman to have the body she wants, and I totally agree that society shouldn’t dictate what the ideal body is, because that is not a universal aspiration.

However, by protesting these advertisements, the women who are standing up for their right to love their body are actually taking away some of the love from the women in the world who look like Renee.

Let’s stop comparing and competing, so then these kinds of promotional stunts can’t affect us so much. We are not each other’s enemies. There’s plenty of room for all of us on the beach.

 

Kelly Clarkson: Weight Idol

Date: April 13, 2015

posted by Lee / Comments: No Comments / Tags: , ,

In 2002, I, along with millions of others world wide, tuned in to the first ever season of American Idol and watched Kelly Clarkson kill it week after week and eventually win. I was transfixed by her talent and since then I’ve always been a fan. I love how she can seamlessly transition from pop to blues to R&B and make every genre sound incredible.

Since her win, over a decade ago, Kelly has become a successful musician in her own right, releasing six albums and a seventh is on the way. A recent video of her covering Tracy Chapman’s ‘Give me one Reason’ went viral and reminded all of us yet again, why Kelly Clarkson’s career has endured after Idol, when so many others have not.

However, it wasn’t her music that was the topic of discussion recently on The Mike Gallagher Show, it was her weight. In this short recording you can hear two men, Chris Wallace and Gallagher discussing Wallace’s own weight issues, when suddenly, out of nowhere, he asks Gallagher, ‘have you seen Kelly Clarkson lately? Man has she blown up.’

These are two grown men, giggling like children about a woman’s weight. A woman, whose vocation has nothing to do with her BMI. A woman, who these two seemed to delight in publicly shaming for putting on weight, because how very dare she.

Gallagher tries to claw back the conversation by saying that ‘Kelly Clarkson’s got a lovely voice, but she could stay off the deep dish pizza for awhile.’ Burn. Who are these men sitting in judgement from their radio booth on high?

For me Kelly Clarkson has always been an inspiration body-wise, because like most other human women on the planet, her weight fluctuates and she doesn’t go into hiding because of it.

Incredible talents like Clarkson and Christina Aguilera have frequently come under fire about their weight ‘issues’ and what I respect about these two powerhouses is that they never apologise for the way they look. Clarkson has yet to dignify this incident with a response, which is spot on. She doesn’t need to. But recently on Ellen, Clarkson remarked, ‘I yo-yo. Sometimes I’m more fit and I get into kick-boxing hard core and then sometimes I don’t. And I’m like ‘I’d rather have wine!’

Yes, Kelly! Sometimes I just want wine too! Kelly’s body is hers and I’m so pleased that she hasn’t gratified these idiotic shamers by saying something self-deprecating. When are people like these two radio hosts going to get that other people’s bodies are not fair game to comment on?

In the recording you can hear one of the men say ‘she’s had a baby recently, but…’ but what, sir? Where were you going with that exactly? The very idea that these two men felt that it was appropriate to have this conversation on air is disturbing, and thankfully they have since apologised, but in my opinion, the damage has been done.

Clarkson is an incredible singer, so let’s focus on that. She’s also beautiful no matter what her size. Having fantastically talented women in the public eye, who represent different sizes and shapes should be celebrated, not criticised.

I for one, hope that Kelly Clarkson is at home tonight, curled up with her family, a deep dish pizza and some wine.

Finding Fitness Away From Home

Date: February 24, 2015

posted by Women Enough / Comments: No Comments / Tags: , , ,

Shay de Silva

For the majority of my life, I didn’t give much thought to my body. I always exercised to feel good. An argument with my family in high school would be followed by a run. A late night with friends would be followed by a morning at the gym. Exercise gave me energy and helped ease my stress, so I viewed it as a luxury rather than a chore. Having a fit body was just a nice side effect.

After finishing my MBA, I launched a marketing and project management consulting business. I was fortunate to have truly interesting projects and incredible clients. In 2009, my husband’s job took us to Singapore. I was thrilled to get to live in a new part of the world, but traveling back and forth to the US to meet with clients really took a toll on my body. Between the jet lag and seriously long days, I found it difficult to keep up with my healthy eating and fitness routine. I was constantly exhausted and sick, and my pants were getting tighter by the day.

I spent a lot of time looking for a fitness routine that fit my lifestyle, but I had a tall order. I wanted to be able to download my workouts to my tablet or laptop, and I wanted workouts that didn’t need any extra gear—no weights, no equipment, no sneakers, no bands.

After struggling for more than a year, I decided to take responsibility for feeling good again. I couldn’t find a fitness program that worked for me. I felt awful, and things weren’t going to change on their own. For every trip, I started writing down workouts I could follow on the road and packing my own snacks.

Really focusing on how my body and mind were connected was a huge challenge for me. This whole experience ultimately led me to launch my own fitness business to help other busy women get and stay in shape. After struggling for so long on my own, I knew there must be other women out there with the same issues.

Entering the fitness industry with a normal woman’s body was also a bit of a challenge. I have a strong Pennsylvania Dutch background, and I’m fairly short, which means I’ll never look like a model no matter how much I work out and how well I eat. This is something that I’ve slowly learned to accept, but I think it’s something almost all women struggle with at some point. Regardless of how we look, we can always find someone who looks just a little (or a lot) better.

For me, exercising and eating healthy helps diminish those thoughts, because it completely changes my relationship with my body. Taking care of myself also helps me value what my body can do for me instead of what it looks like. I feel sad when I hear women talk about punishing themselves for eating a slice of cake by running the next day. Changing that focus to how we feel after eating a slice cake and how we feel after running makes a huge difference. Just those few seconds of attention that we give our bodies changes the way we make decisions.

Through my experience and work with my clients, I’ve learned that we all have different reasons for taking care of our health. No matter what those reasons are, I think we all just really want to feel good in our bodies. It’s easy to think we need the perfect house, or a big bank account, or an amazing wardrobe, but it’s hard to enjoy any of those things if we don’t have our health. Running around with kids, traveling, walking along a beach, and enjoying a beautiful day are all much better when we’re healthy.

My top three daily habits for having a happy and healthy body: get at least 10 minutes of fresh air, eat at least seven servings of fruits and veggies, move your body for at least 20 minutes. Create your own list of what makes you feel happy and healthy and post it somewhere you’ll see several times a day. We’re all different, but we can all feel great about our bodies.


Shay de Silva loves helping women look and feel their best by eliminating all excuses for not exercising and eating well. You can check out her online health and fitness programs at Fast Fitness To Go and follow Shay on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.


 

Image: Hartwig HKD. Find at Flickr here.

A Victim No More

Date: February 22, 2015

posted by Women Enough / Comments: No Comments / Tags: , , ,

Beenie Mann

Growing up in an abusive home led me to have an unhealthy relationship with food. There were times I wasn’t sure I would eat at all. So, every time there was food available, I ate. I ate way past the ‘full’ point. In a way, food was comfort to me. Needless to say, as the result, I grew heavier and heavier.

Being overweight, I was ridiculed in school and later by grown-ups. My self-esteem was pretty much nonexistent, my body had trouble handling the excess weight, and I was miserable. I was physically and mentally falling apart. Yes, I saw the looks, the glares; heard the whispers and snide remarks under people’s breaths. Many people assume fat people must be stupid and there were many times I felt like a 3rd or 4th class citizen. At the beginning of 2004, my body and soul ached so much I wanted to end my life. I just couldn’t deal with any of it anymore.

Fortunately, I have an awesome husband and amazing kids. I couldn’t quit on them. Changes had to be made. The following day, I made an appointment with my doctor (we were stationed in Germany at the time) to explore my options. She suggested weight loss surgery. With nothing to lose and everything to gain, we started the process. In August of 2004 I was scheduled for gastric bypass surgery. That was the day I got a second lease on life. (Thanks to the surgery I have lost 180 lbs and over the years kept all but about 40 off).

The spring of 2004 I enrolled with the University of Maryland Europe and started on my associate degree. I was able to take about 1 class per semester and graduated at the top of my class in 2007. I felt so good and knew I could do anything I put my mind to. Losing all that weight and getting my degree really helped me gain self-confidence, self-worth, and most of all self-esteem. It really does wonders.

Unfortunately, the years of abuse, neglect, and the massive weight took a toll on my body. Currently, I am dealing with the after effects of it all. Strangely, I am ok with it. It all made me the person that I am today and because of it all, I am able to help others by sharing my story. It always warms my heart when somebody gives me a big hug, a smile, a thank you, because my story has helped them.

Due to my health, I am unable to have a regular job. However, I am not the type of person to sit around and wallow in self-pity. Totally not my style and really, it wouldn’t do anything anyway! Since I was not able to find a regular job, I decided to become my own boss. With all the opportunities out there to work from home, it gives me the chance to contribute to our family fund. Aside from the income, one of the aspects I like most, is the personal development that is being provided.

It wasn’t until this year though, that I really took advantage of the resources available to me. Because of it, I have learned so much about myself and I am learning more every day.

For the longest time I blamed my parents, my circumstances, or whatever I could think of for my misery. All those years I saw myself as a victim and acted accordingly. In the past few months I learned to consciously take responsibility for my feelings and actions. It is not easy and it is a lot of work. The rewards however, are immeasurable. I feel a lot more at peace with myself and the people around me. It really is hard to describe. Yes, I still catch myself falling back into the old patterns but I am catching myself a lot faster these days and then can re-direct my thoughts and feelings.

They say after every storm there is the sun and a rainbow. Well, they are right. I am so glad I never gave up and always believed that there is something good in any situation and circumstance. My husband and my two sons are what kept me going. They were always by my side, loving me and cheering me on, and kicking me in the rear when I needed it. Most of all, they never gave up on me. I love them so very much and will be forever grateful.


Beenie Mann is an entrepreneur, a mom of two incredible sons, and an Army wife. There is usually always a smile on her face because it is good to be alive. Connect with her:

Facebook - Get Well With Chocolate (Matters of Perspective)

Her website - Beenie Mann. Twitter.


Image: Gisella Klein. Find at Flickr here. License details here. 

Raising Boys To Value Women Starts With Us

Date: February 16, 2015

posted by Women Enough / Comments: 7 Comments / Tags: , , , ,

Valerie Boucher

As a mother of three boys I never really felt that concerned about the campaigns where the focus was on how to raise young girls and empower them with self esteem, how it is important to change the message that the fashion industry sends and how we need to start changing our own behaviors as mothers to set an example.

But then one day we were looking at a movie and one of my boys said that this actress was fat. As I looked at the screen I could not believe my eyes. This character was far from being fat. In fact, she was a very beautiful lady who in my eyes was just glowing.

That was a wakeup call for me. That is when I realised that being the mother of three boys I had a responsibility as well. To teach them what is real beauty. What a real woman looks like.

As they grow into young men, I decided that since they will be the ones looking at their wives in the future I need to make them see what I believe beauty is. And it needs to start at home, with me, how I was seeing myself.

If a woman feels beautiful, she glows, and it shows in every aspect of her life.

Being their mother, we are the first woman that our boys see naked. We are the first woman that they look up to. And if we don’t see ourselves as beautiful individuals, then how can we expect them to see us any differently. If we let the media, the fashion industry with their standards and the magazines everywhere influence our young men on what a woman should look like, then we are missing half of the problem. We may do all the campaigns in the world about empowering women with our real beauty; if we forget our boys then the battle will be so much harder to win!

This past summer I decided that I was going to wear a bikini at the beach with my kids for the first time in years. I avoided going swimming because I did not feel comfortable in my own skin. That was then.

I went to a bathing suit store, tried many of them, finally found one that I felt was fit for my body type and we went to the beach. When I heard my boys telling me how beautiful I looked I almost cried. Because I realised right then, that everything starts within you.

The scars of my pregnancies did not matter anymore. Because I had achieved one thing. To teach my boys that even though I did not look like the magazine covers, I was a beautiful woman. And we went to the beach every single day that we could.

And I began to talk to them in a way to make them see that the messages the media was sending were wrong. I showed them over and over the pictures of me pregnant, and I even let them see the scars on my belly as they called it their little house!

Focusing on the little girls to raise them as future powerful and confident woman is vital and necessary. But teaching our boys on how real women look, so that in the future, when they put their eyes on their wives they will make them feel beautiful too, is also important.

We as women, mothers, sisters and friends have a responsibility, and it’s to make the world see us as beautiful as we are.


Valerie Boucher: As a mother of 3 boys that are  all  into sports, hockey and soccer  i am surrounded by men. I feel it is my responsibility to help change the world and it starts at home.

Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/valerie.boucher.121

Email: eranaee@gmail.com


 

My eating disorder ate me and my life as a model

Date: February 10, 2015

posted by Women Enough / Comments: 2 Comments / Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Kimberley-Rae

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” ~ Maya Angelou

It has finally just hit me – I am free.

As I sit here, and do the dreaded task of organizing thousands of photos from my Iphone to folders on my USB, previews flash before my eyes. Photos from previous trips, photos from my “vacations” back at home, and everything in between. The one photo that hit me hard, and gave me the realization of freedom, was one of my mother and I at the airport just prior to my last departure.

I really feel as though I am a bird, finally being released from my cage.

Looking at the photo allowed me to visualize a different life. If I don’t want to, I never *have* to go on another modeling contract overseas again. Now, currently I am calling this return home a “break” but it may even be time I hang up my towel, other than the odd side job or direct booking. But I won’t set it in stone, or cry wolf.

This photo made me feel overwhelmingly joyful, an indescribable happiness that brought me to tears.

The painful airport goodbyes and stressful curiosity of what each contract would bring… no more. I would not need to worry further about when I will see my family, friends, and boyfriend next. I wouldn’t need to stress about the amount of calories I ate on the plane ride over, or if my body would be measured immediately after landing (who isn’t bloated after flying, right?). I would no longer need to wonder how many girls would be bunking (literally, bunk beds) in the same tiny a room, or how many I could befriend. Restrictions on how I live my life were now erased. If I wanted, I could now cut my hair, have flashy nails or even bronze my skin.

The past 5 years have been a non-stop motion of turbulence. Especially in the last 3 years, as I had been traveling 7 months of the year usually. I will say on one hand, I am blessed. I have gotten to see some of the most amazing places in Asia: Singapore, Tokyo, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Hong Kong. I also have gotten to meet some lifelong friends, receive special treatment when partying (models party for free in Asia) and attend exclusive events with A-list celebrities. I have seen myself appear on television, been on billboards, and have been asked by people seated beside me on flights, if they can take a photo with me, as they recognize me from the magazine in front of them. These moments surreal, but at what cost? Before you decide to jump into the industry of modeling, I ask you to consider everything. I don’t throw these examples out as “bragging rights,” but as a contrast to say “these are great things” BUT look at what is worth much more. Like peace, sanity, loved ones, self-love and freedom, the ability to let go of control.

My irreplaceable friendships I made overseas, the self-exploration, financial “luck” that allowed me to pay off schooling, and the opportunity to see places I never would’ve seen without this job… Make me grateful.

If you ask me, if I could go back – would I do it again? I just don’t know.

The real reason I am blessed is because I have a strong army of support behind me back home that kept me going.

Ever since I can remember, I have always had anxiety (generalized anxiety disorder). I worried more than the average person, handled stress differently, care a lot, and think differently, this made daily activities a lot more difficult. When I started traveling it forced me to spread my wings and take a leap of faith.

My first trip was the most intense one for me, being 6 months long, a lot happened in that timeframe.

When I returned home from that trip my anxiety and depression was at an all-time high, and I took time off from working internationally to seek help. It was too much all at once. Never had I traveled much before, and within the 6 month time frame, I dove head first into learning and embracing new cultures and countries, had a traumatic experience where I had to lock myself in a room to protect myself from outward forces, had nearly been physically taken advantage of, experienced the death of a loved one, the loss of a romantic partner, had possessions stolen from me, the realization of corrupt governments, visa complications, and personal illness on top of everything. As I mentioned, it was too much.

After 7 months of returning home, I finally recovered from my depression. Although I was “better,” I knew depression was a mental state that could return again at another time (and it did). My anxiety was also a lot more tamed, thanks to an amazing counsellor who guided and taught me how to manage these overwhelming feelings with useful techniques.

As time went on, I returned overseas to take on more contracts. I returned stronger than ever, but eventually slowly ran myself down again.

During trips overseas I would find the industry a difficult place even for the well-equip.

I would stress about booking jobs and the financial uncertainty. Agencies take a very large percent, and when you work overseas you are “advanced” all of your necessities such as accommodation, flights, photos and pocket money expenses. These fees are all eventually paid back through the hours of slavery the models put in. My longest job was 23 hours. If you are lucky, at the end you make profits. I, for the most part, had been very lucky.

I experienced restless days and nights, with the pressure to be thin. I can actually remember the day my perception on my own beauty changed. I had called my very first agency to ask them some questions about an upcoming test shoot (free photoshoot for portfolio usage, I did these for 3 years before traveling, to build a strong book) and that’s where the turn of events had happened.

“By the way, what are you doing for exercise now a days?” asked the director of my former agency.

As I excitedly told them about different fitness classes I had been enrolled in, step class, running, etc, he stopped me mid-sentence – “You need to stop, these workouts are making your legs bigger! Just walk. Walk every day for 90 minutes, and then your legs and hips will be smaller.” I agreed, hung up the phone, and cried.

I hadn’t even meant to fall into the traps of the industry. I had started out doing acting gigs and was a dancer when I was younger. As I aged I needed to get braces to straighten my smile, and that caused me to take a break from the acting side of work, and eventually I quit dancing for other reasons. To do modeling was just the urge to try something different. Little did I know that I was “the exception to the rule,” and that at just under 5’6 I would need to be extra thin to compensate for my lack of height. I hadn’t known that girls my height usually don’t get these opportunities I was being given. I also thought I was indeed, blessed.

These statements pushed me down a road of self-hate and carried on for years, until this day even. For years afterwards I would step on the scale, and measure my body by the inch each and every morning. This gave me validation. The good or bad news I would receive from the scale and my measuring tape would dictate my mood for the day, and let me know what foods I should/shouldn’t eat that day.

I could recite the caloric content of any food or beverage if asked, and always had my day’s intake calculated. I figured out the chemistry, the code to my body… and knew what I could and couldn’t eat together in a day to stay thin. When I would miss the mark, and over eat, I would sit in deep shame, often binge eat because I had “blown it already” and work extra hard the next week to ensure I get back to the body I had the week before. If my weight caught up with me, and I had access to a treadmill, I would stay on until I saw the number “1000” decreased from my caloric intake.

On one trip in particular I began feeling my depression immensely again, and when I am depressed, I often turn to food for comfort. I was never the type to “restrict” foods, or so I thought. If I was hungry, I would always eat. In fact, I ate every couple hours out of fear of getting too hungry and binge eating later. When I say “restrict” in quotations, it’s because I did in fact rule out many different foods deeming some good and others bad. Moderation wasn’t possible because I wasn’t allowing myself a little of the foods I love when I would crave them… it was often all-or-nothing, black and white thinking. I preferred to eat alone.

I was never the “puking type,” and when I had fellow model friends overseas who used methods of starvation, diets or purging, I hid my own insecurities and would reassure them they were beautiful, and thin. I would try to assure them they can’t do these things to their bodies. It is unhealthy.

I never wanted anyone to feel the pain I felt. I didn’t think they deserved it, and I knew they were indeed all so beautiful already.

See, I thought my problem was much less severe because I was still eating, and knew too much about food. I had been confused if my obsessive 24/7 thoughts of food and calculations were enough to be deemed a disorder, or if it was a “wimpy” disorder because I wasn’t actually puking.

During my depressive states, I would “lose control” and eat and eat until I couldn’t breathe. As though food was the one thing I had control over in my life. I kept eating and eating, and eventually on one of my trips, I found my solution. I began to use laxatives nearly every day to release the emotional and physical abuse I was doing to myself. My weight fluctuated a lot in the past 5 years.

This scarred me not only physically but most of all, emotionally, and left me with misconstrued perceptions on life that I still need to overcome.

When I receive a compliment, I would think it meant I needed to work harder. And worst of all, when a loved one or partner would tell me they love me… I could only wonder how they loved me, when I didn’t love myself.

My eating disorder and most of all my anxiety disorder… make me feel as though it takes up an entire half of me.

The other half I am left with is the real “me,” the “me” who is a good person, who likes to have fun, with personality, and a big heart. I often still wonder how people can love me as much as they do, when because of my disorders, they only get to experience half of me. The other half is constant worries and stress about life (anxieties other than my ED), depressive episodes where I am at a low point and in tears, and moments where I don’t feel in control. Sometimes I feel detached from my body. Medical professionals refer to anxiety as “The Beast,” as when it takes over your body, you aren’t really *you* in those moments. My anxiety has the tendency to make me always want to be in control of everything, and stress easily - I hate uncertainty.

Besides the financial and physical uncertainties, there were many other battles to deal with such as being away from the ones I love most, finding true and trustworthy friends and relationships overseas, slaving at jobs only to receive 60% of it, experiencing the nervousness of visa extensions and spending a lot of time alone.

I am now back at home in Vancouver, Canada and in returning home from my previous trip, my depression again cured. I am so happy to share this, and while I am working very, very hard around the clock to keep it in check when it creeps back… I am also actively seeking further help with my anxieties and for help for my newly diagnosed eating disorder.

I am very nervous to share part of my story with the world, but in doing this my intention is to extend a hand out to anyone who is feeling alone or who needs support.

I have an army of unconditional support behind me, and as I struggle to fight through all of these difficult battles, they will be there for my victory when that day comes. My amazing family, friends, mother agency and boyfriend are the most precious to me; they are always there when I need them.

Since I have returned home, and wanted to genuinely make a change, I have been making progress. I have taken the scale and measuring tape out of my bathroom. I have been trying my best not to calculate my caloric intake, and have been resisting forms of purging. I am learning to give myself grace, and trying to eat a wide range of foods I have excluded from my diet for so long. I will be reprogramming and using my anxiety techniques learned to serve me better and bring inner peace preventing depression.

The obstacles I am fighting will be exceptionally hard to break after 5 solid years. At times I feel physical pain and discomfort, leaving me in emotional distress…but I am on my way, wanting to finally recover from these nightmares. As I am not perfect I surely will be taking “wins” and “losses…” but I do hope to come out as the victor.

Credit: Originally published by Thought Catalog at www.thoughtcatalog.com.


Kimberley-Rae is an international Canadian model who has spent the last few years working abroad all over Asia. She believes strongly in body image empowerment because of her personal past and experience working in the modeling industry. Kimberley aims to break the stigma around mental health and work to empower other women to regain their life back and not base beauty on the exterior.

Blog: www.kimberley-rae.tumblr.com

Facebook Fan Page: www.facebook.com/kimberleyraec
Twitter: www.twitter.com/kimberleyraexo
Instagram: www.instagram.com/kimberryrae

YouTube: www.youtube.com/kimberleyraec

How To Ditch Diets For Good: It’s Not What You Think

Date: February 6, 2015

posted by Women Enough / Comments: No Comments / Tags: , ,

Ellie Savoy

Losing weight for the last time in 2011 has been deeply liberating, empowering and totally freeing. No more conversations about being good all week, bad on the weekends, off the wagon, on a diet, feeling deprived, counting calories, pretending, making excuses or scrambling to lose weight for a special event.

I was never a chubby kid, an overweight adolescent or young woman, yet I never loved the body I was in. A bit of fat on my hips or stomach gave me reason to deprive myself of something I liked, usually chocolate! This negative body image stuck with me for years.

The dieting roller-coaster kept me trapped for over 25 years even for wanting to lose as little as 5 lbs. I never totally loved what I saw in the mirror. In addition, stress played a big role in my life as early as 20. I was an over-achiever always striving for the next thing. I had no idea that my body needed to be respected and appreciated. I thought it was a machine that would keep going forever. I would only stop when I was forced to because of exhaustion.

This happened many times. My eating habits, stressful lifestyle and lack of respect for my own body led me to being 30 lbs. overweight at my heaviest. You know how we often need some kind of trigger for change? Well, it took me three!

Trigger #1 - On June 8th, 2008 my mother died after being in ill-health for eight years. I heard many times throughout my life that you can’t take your things with you when you die and this really hit me between the eyes when my mother died. Nothing was going with her. What had I been thinking?

I charge up my mobile phone when the energy is low and I don’t put diesel in my unleaded gas car. Why was I paying attention to that and not to myself? Why was I striving for more and more at the expense of my most valuable asset – my body and health? This was the beginning of a deeper inner journey and asking myself a lot of questions about my choices in life.

Trigger #2 - 21 months later on March 14th, 2010 my father passed away. It was so sudden and it knocked me sideways. I could hardly believe the news. This time my siblings and I had to take care of the funeral arrangements, all their belongings, sell our family home, paperwork and all the legalities. I felt like I was having an out of body experience. It just didn’t seem real that both my parents were gone in less than 2 years of each other.

The grief felt like navigating my way through thick fog and I felt deeper confusion around my own journey. My own mortality became a very real thing and it brought into focus how much life is a very precious gift.

Trigger #3 - The final trigger came in 2011. I was diagnosed with two uterine fibroids. I was given four options by my Gynecologist. Three of them involved surgery one of which was a hysterectomy. The other was to do nothing. I was freaked out by this news. How could this have happened within one year? I had no desire to have surgery. My life wasn’t being threatened but I knew I had to do something and I wanted to do something. I didn’t realize at the time that this would be the catalyst for changing my life for the better for good!

My focus shifted to becoming healthy, not being obsessed about my weight and being consumed with a bit of fat here or a blemish there. Over-extending myself and pushing my body beyond its limits stopped. I learned to say “no”! I started a hormone rejuvenation homeopathic program for three cycles that required a change in my diet and lifestyle along with using natural creams and drops.

I was totally committed. I did everything that I could to heal myself because I was afraid of what the alternative would be and I intuitively knew this was a gift. I had pushed the envelope far too many times and it was not sustainable for the long haul. The good news is the fibroids got smaller!

Looking back and reflecting upon the decisions I made over many years, it is so clear to me now that if I had kept things simple and made myself a priority instead of focusing on having more, I wouldn’t have been a yo-yo dieter, I would have been less stressed, slept better and felt more connected to my life’s journey and purpose. I don’t judge this. It has provided great personal growth. This journey has led me to helping other women ditch diets for good, find peace with food, focus on health and make themselves a priority.

I strongly believe the key to a healthy and happy life in this world lies in the decision of every woman to simplify her life and focus on making herself a priority instead of putting herself last. Our health can’t wait for us to be ready. Without our health what do we really have?


Ellie Savoy is President and founder of Diet Free and Healthy, Inc. She is a common-sense Board Certified Holistic Health coach who supports, coaches and teaches stressed out, over-weight and time starved women to break free from the drama of diets, lose weight naturally, look great and feel fantastic. Connect with her:

Facebook - Diet Free And Healthy, Twitter & LinkedIn.

Website: www.DietFreeandHealthy.com


Image: Foto_Michel. Find at Flickr here.

 

When Eating Disorders Are Not About Beauty. My Story.

Date: February 3, 2015

posted by Katie Ashley / Comments: 2 Comments / Tags: ,

It seems that talking about eating disorders and positive body image is en vogue lately. Stories of recovery, calls for help, and encouragement to heal are splashed all over social media and major online publications. The stories that I am seeing are heartbreaking. They are all from individual perspectives, and yet they have a lovely sense of sameness.

 

It is the story of a woman struggling with self worth and self esteem as a result of an onslaught of images of unrealistic hypersexualized women from the popular media. It is the story of body shaming experiences that were endured at a tender age. It is an infuriatingly common story that chills me to the bone and lights an activist fire in my soul.

 

But, it is not the only story. I know it wasn’t mine.

 

I heard only positive things about my body when I was young. I was always told how tiny I was, how flexible, how talented, how fearlessly willing to push myself to my limits. All good things to hear as a young dancer.

 

When I began getting the attention of boys and men I continued to hear only praise. I can remember standing in the basement of a house that belonged to the parents of a friend of my first boyfriend surrounded by a group of 16 year old guys. I was the only girl. They were discussing how flat my stomach was and how luck my then boyfriend was to be dating me.

 

The positive feedback was not limited to my body. I was also told regularly that I was smart, creative, a good student.  I followed the rules so well.  I was so responsible. I was a good friend, a democratic leader. I was a role model.

 

The praise from so many people in my life felt amazing. It felt sustaining. If felt like a part of me, like part of my own internal dialogue.

 

Until it didn’t.

 

I began to realize that my perception of myself wasn’t mine.

 

I began to go deep into myself to figure out what I believed in, what made up the core of me. I jumped down the rabbit hole - silently, without warning, without telling anyone.

 

My eating disorder was a misguided attempt at independence. It was a way for me to feel that I didn’t need anything. It was a distraction from all of the anger and sadness that I didn’t want to feel. It was a way have something for me that was not in concert with the needs, beliefs, and desires of someone else. It was a way to be my own person. It was a turning away from the deep connection to spirituality that I was feeling, but which was in direct conflict with how I perceived the religion in which I was raised. It was a way to mirror physically the way I felt - unseen and unheard.

 

In truth though, it wasn’t any of these things. It wasn’t really working in any of the ways that I thought it was. Instead of finding my true self I had given complete control over to a part of myself that was terrified of living life on my own terms. I gave into fear and uncertainty and the eating disordered part of me took control.

 

Just as my experience with Anorexia was not about my appearance, neither was my recovery. The process of deep healing was long - much longer than it took to get to a healthy weight and cease all eating disordered behaviors.

 

I had to question everything. I had to let go of all that I believed and clung to. I had to drop the story that I had been telling myself. I had to drop the meal plans, the “therapy talk,” the identification with my self as an Anorexic. I had to leave behind my tendency to be the good student and the desire to rebel against system. I had to accept the unknown and get really comfortable with letting faith guide the way - even without a plan or set of rules to follow or break.

 

I had to take what resonated deep within in my soul and leave all the rest. I had to drop judgement of myself and others. I had to get really vulnerable and really brave. I had to find my Self and my voice.

 

Finding my voice and using it to create a life that felt authentic continues to be a phenomenal journey. I made many wrong turns at the beginning, but each misstep taught me a lesson and propelled me further into freedom from my eating disorder and into a place of trust and love for myself.

 

I see this time and again with my clients. They come for help with healing from eating disorders. They have made some progress in recovery in the recent past, but they are not happy. Just as I was over a decade ago, they are hyper-focused on food, exercise, and numbers of all kinds - on the scale, food labels, clothing tags, and on the clock.

 

The real issue is never the food or the body. The real pain is never healed by just gaining weight, losing weight, or letting go of eating disordered behaviors. The real healing comes from getting to the core. We truly heal when we find our voices and begin to use them. Full recovery is possible and it happens when we go deep and open ourselves up to knowing and being who we really are.

 

Katie Ashley is an international whole health coach who specializes in recovery coaching for those in the processes of healing from eating disorders, disordered eating and body image struggles. Her home is in Charleston, SC where she falls in love with her life everyday.

Katie loves to connect via social media. Reach out and say hello.

 

http://www.katieashleywholehealth.com/

https://www.facebook.com/KatieAshleyWholeHealthCoach

http://instagram.com/katieashleythrive/

 

An Ode To Blubber, Burgers And Self-Love

Date: December 6, 2014

posted by Women Enough / Comments: 1 Comment / Tags: , , ,

Carina Lyall

Do you strive for perfection or feel shitty when you look in the mirror? Are you pretty sure that Self-Love is a short drive from Minsk? These are my thoughts on why being called fat in public once again pushed me to change how I related to myself - for the better.

My weight… Just writing that sparks so many thoughts I have a hard time keeping up. Feeling forced to relate to how I look, what I weigh and most importantly what am doing about it has swung into my life again and again.

Some have said I am easy on the eye, others say there is so much of me I am hard to miss. This is a recent story about getting my personal space invaded by other people’s opinions and the ripple effect of them on me and my life.

The foundation of my work is that you belong here exactly as you are. I believe that there is no perfect ideal to strive for. Body image, intellect, beauty, coolness. It has been the work I needed to do with myself to feel free in my life, and it is how I support women to feel content, happy and strong as they are.

I know that for me not owning that statement has been exhausting. In motherhood I read books, looked at women who wizzed through the challenging parts smiling and looking great, and I felt like a constant failure. Going to meetings with oatmeal in my hair, or saying that “I just” gave birth to excuse the blubber on my belly.

The art of comparison once again left me feeling less worthy. The foundation of being wrong or less than, isn’t a nice place to be and very, very seldom leads to a life with happiness and ease. The self-compassion practice showing up just as I am changing my life.

Does this mean that that foundation is never shaken? No. But it takes a bit more to get the earth quaking, and it happened a few weeks ago.

This is a little story I want to share.

I was out for drinks with my two sisters. We had a great time and we decided to end the good times with a burger. Now it is no secret that I have put on weight after 2 pregnancies and what not, but burger it was – Yolo or something.

In the queue some guys thought we had cut in line. One looked at me and said that I probably shouldn’t be in there anyway, considering my weight. Tears galore came and I felt like crap. Reduced to an unworthy lump of Blubber (did you every read Judy Blume’s book? It’s awesome… anyway).

The sense that everyone in there were looking at me deciding whether they agreed or not felt humiliating. I had to get out of there. Shaken by how someone could effect how I felt about myself stayed with me for days.

Fast forward 2 weeks and my man and I are away for the weekend at a music festival. As I am coming out of the toilet area a woman stops me. She is a scout for a model agency and thinks I would be an awesome model for the normal size/curve department. Huh?

All of the sudden someone’s opinion of me steered me in another direction.

So which “truth” do I go with? A third – my own? How I see myself? How I feel about myself? Or do I let either of their perspectives rule and dictate whether I feel worthy just as I am? Do I wait till I have X weight to go out again or do I pout my lips and work it like a supermodel? The “you belong here, exactly as you are” reminds me that none of the above is my truth. It is their eyes looking at me. What matters is how I look at me. And this has been such an awesome reminder.

BMI and weight has nothing to do with it. I feel it is irrelevant for most women. I believe it begins with how you feel. Does the need to shift come from “I am a problem that needs to be fixed” or does it come from a deep knowing of worth and compassion and from the asking of “So what do I want?”

This is what we can work on – how you see you. And knowing that you belong here, because hey you already are!


Carina Lyall is a story worker and meditation teacher. She has lived in 4 countries, worked with the American and British army and picked herself up from severe anxiety. She now works with women in supporting them to more self-compassionate lives. She has co-written a book on healing from within and creates online courses on story work and self-compassion. She strives to keep it profound and humorous and blogs about her life over at www.carinalyall.com and Facebook at The Self Compassionate Woman.


Image: Christi Nielsen. Find at Flickr.

Yes, Women’s Bodies Are Still Causing A Stir

Date: December 5, 2014

posted by Women Enough / Comments: 3 Comments / Tags: ,

Amy Jones

Along the way in any journey, one is bound to hit a few bumps.  While we all know this is part of the process, most of us secretly hate the idea that we might be faced with rejection, failure, roadblocks or obstacles of any kind. And yet, it is the exact obstacles that throw us into the crucible to come out the other side polished, more solid and more certain of what we are bringing to the world.

The beauty and potency of the GO BARE campaign strikes both awe and inspiration as equally as it does critics and rejection. The reactions to the campaign are fascinating to watch, because take even a quick look at mainstream media, or your newsfeed on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, and you will undoubtedly find: scantily clad pop stars and models, nude photo celebrity scandals, women posing naked for breast cancer awareness, and countless Dove, Pantene, Equinox Fitness (or some other new to the band wagon “love yourself” marketing campaign).

What I noticed with the GO BARE campaign is that if a women’s nudity strikes controversy, sells something, pulls on our heartstrings, involves celebrities or continues to send the same message about thinness and reinforcing the status quo, it is just fine. But in the case of BARE - a bold, courageous and provactive campaign that serves to be real about the lived experience in a female body - this cuts just too close to the bone for some folks.

The BARE images are untouched, raw and reveal the true essence of each woman who is bold enough to let herself be vulnerable and seen by anyone who chooses to really pay attention. It is a stark departure from how we typically see women’s bodies, which is either smooth and photoshopped to perfection, or as broken, something to give our sympathy to, something to raise money for this cause or that.

When Women Enough received the rejection that the BARE campaign was “too out there” but promoting naked women to raise money, sell products or other commercial endeavors was not, it rattled me a bit. Was it true that an image of a naked woman was only okay if she was naked for moneymaking reasons? That a campaign that strives to change the conversation and paradigm around women’s bodies is too edgy, too controversial?

Well, so be it. I’m with Women Enough on this one. I believe in the beauty and power of women, their bodies and the stories they have to tell. I like the edge and controversy of campaign; knowing that the obstacles encountered are the catalyst for bigger growth, more awareness and more power for the change we seek to create. I am grateful and moved by the women who pose for this campaign who are stepping out of the polished and perfect stereotype of female beauty and helping to build the new women’s empowerment movement.


Amy is a life and relationship coach, specializing in working with women and couples around food, sexuality, body image and the search for deep and soul quenching love.  You can find Amy on Instagram, Facebook or at http://www.foodlovesexlife.com.


 

You Get What You Get, Don’t Get Upset

Date: December 5, 2014

posted by Women Enough / Comments: 6 Comments / Tags: , , , , ,

Alison Tedford

It was Christmas. The lesson was Christmas morning etiquette.

I knew many gifts had been carefully selected for my growing son, and that he lacked a filter for his words (much like his mother). I asked him what he was expecting for Christmas and how he planned to handle it if he received something he wasn’t expecting. He looked at me as if I were asking the most obvious question in the world.

“You get what you get, don’t get upset. That’s what my teacher told me. That’s my plan.”

This is a particularly valuable message for me, as I look down at my 31 year old form some days. This was not what I expected. I have a history of harbouring a certain level of disappointment around my ability to meet my own expectations. Elizabeth Gilbert recently had a very powerful message around perfectionism and its relationship with fear. I think for some of us, as women, we pursue this perfectionist concept of how we should look to insulate ourselves from the risk of rejection. We fear rejection in our relationships and in our professional lives. We fear that this fat that we carry says something to other people about our commitment, our work ethic, our viability as a lover or even our intelligence.

Rejection is something that I have feared because I am far from perfect. There are soft spots, wobbly spots, things that jiggle and sway. I don’t know that I necessarily fit the ideal. The ideal changes a lot too so it’s really hard for anybody to fit the ideal. I don’t know what I expected exactly. I don’t know what 31 is supposed to look like. There’s a lot of conflicting messages from the world about how I should look.

The other day some article on the internet tried to sell me recipes that would get rid of my “flabdomen”. I’m an entry level dance teacher, and my anatomy is rusty, but I’m pretty sure “flabdomen” is not actually a thing. It’s actually a cutesy marketing gimmick that has the added bonus of making fun of something women are already self-conscious about so they might buy your product/idea/philosophy in desperation. Apparently, bellies are not supposed to have fat.

It might not make a lot of sense, but in some ways my fat is like an annoying younger sibling. I’m going to pick on it if I want to, but for goodness sakes don’t presume to pick on it for me. For that reason, I couldn’t disagree more with the external suggestion that my belly isn’t okay because there is fat. My happy fat is privileged, thank you very much.

It’s happy fat because part of the reason it’s gained this shape is my greatest source of joy. The most perfect child I have ever laid eyes on was miraculously formed in the depths of my magical belly. That’s my son’s “humble beginnings”. Some people may not think it’s much, but it’s all he had, and it is home.

It’s really even more than a home, it’s a temple. It’s something to celebrate. My belly is evidence of so many of life’s celebrations. I wouldn’t trade the slice of cake I had at my Grandfather’s 80th birthday for all the cauliflower “rice” in the world, whether it got rid of my “flabdomen” or not. That was a celebration I got to participate in and witness, and being a witness is so powerful.

I’m a First Nations woman, and our culture involves ceremony. Part of Coast Salish ceremonial tradition is that you feed the witnesses, so that they have the strength to witness the “work” or the ceremony that is to take place. I have witnessed a lot in my life, and my body has been fed so that I might have the strength to witness more.

More is something I’m not afraid to be. My body is part of who I am. The journey to accepting my body has turned out to be one about accepting me as a person so that I can be “more” than I was before. My struggle with eating disorders was about disappearing and being “less”, needing “less”, using “less”. I want to be “more” now. I want to be present.

When it comes down to it, my body is a present. It’s a gift and an unexpected one. I used to feel like it was a Christmas sweater: itchy, unwieldy, grating against my skin. Time has weathered it somewhat and it’s now soft, inviting and cherished, lumps and all. It might not be what I expected, but it is a gift to be celebrated. It was given to me with love. Like my son says, “You get what you get, don’t be upset”.


Alison Tedford is a single mom from Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada. She is a data analyst, a pole dance instructor and an eating disorder support group facilitator. She documents her journeys in fitness, parenting and feminism on her blog Sparkly Shoes and Sweat Drops. Follow her on Facebook and on Twitter.


Image: Mishi Yoshihito. Find on Flickr.

Transforming Teenage Suffering Into Success

Date: November 30, 2014

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Jacqui Letran

My life was rather easy and carefree, until my teenage years. Overnight, it seemed that all of my friends had transformed from girls into women! They began to wear make-up and dressing in expensive and sexy clothes. They flirted with boys and flaunted their boyfriends in front me. I, on the other hand, remained trapped in my boyish body. And with my strict mother, wearing make up, sexy clothes and even dating were not options available to me.

I felt different and isolated; I didn’t know what to say or how to act around others. I felt awkward and left behind as if I didn’t belong anywhere. I became more and more withdrawn as I wondered what was wrong with me. Why hadn’t I blossomed into a woman like all of my friends? Why was life so difficult and unfair?

I blamed my mother for my problems. I thought that if she weren’t so strict, I would be allowed to date and have nice, sexy clothes. At least then I would fit in and everything would be perfect!

I felt very angry. My life had taken a turn for the worse and no one seemed to care or even notice. I started skipping school, began smoking and getting into physical fights. I walked around with a chip on my shoulder and an “I don’t care” attitude. But deep down, I only wanted to be acknowledged and accepted as I was. I wanted to belong. I wanted to be loved. Instead, I felt invisible, unimportant and unworthy.

My wishes were answered when I was sixteen. I met a man who was five years older and he showered me with his love and affection. I felt as if I were the most important person on earth. Three months later, I was a pregnant high school dropout living on public assistance. If I had felt alienated before, I felt even more so now.

Everywhere I went, I felt judged and looked down upon. I was certain my life was over. I had no future. I just knew that I was destined to live a miserable life. I felt truly alone in the world.

Except, I wasn’t alone. At the tender age of 16, I gave birth to my son. That’s when everything changed! The moment I laid my eyes upon my son’s angelic face, I knew that it was up to me to not only break this cycle of poverty, but also the cycle of self-destructive thoughts and behavior.

I vowed to be different. I vowed to make a difference.

I had earned my Master’s Degree in Nursing and became a Board-Certified Nurse Practitioner when I was 23. My passion for working with teens led me to start my own medical clinics - the Teen Choice Medical Centers.

For more than seven years I was a medical provider, counselor, and confidant to thousands of teens who sought help at my clinics.  I loved every moment touching the lives of so many teens – guiding them through important decisions and often-difficult circumstances.

I was not completely satisfied, however. It had become clear to me that the care of our youth must extend beyond pharmaceuticals treatments. My young patients were facing bouts of depression and anxiety, but prescribing drugs with serious side-effects couldn’t be the only answer. I was determined to pursue post-graduate training to find the most effective, results-driven, and time-proven methods for genuine healing.

What I discovered was amazing! I witnessed healing and personal transformations for many who were unsuccessful with traditional therapy and medication. I knew I had found what so many people needed – a faster, more effective, and permanent way to take control of their lives and create the happiness they deserve.

As I reflect back on my painful teen years, I realize how I played a major role in determining my life experiences. My low confidence paralyzed me from taking action, reinforcing my misguided belief that I was somehow different or inferior. My personal transformations taught me a powerful lesson in how changing my thoughts can significantly change the quality of my life. I knew I had to share this knowledge to empower teen girls.

Combining my experience as a nurse practitioner with powerful newfound healing modalities, I launched Teen Confidence Academy. My mission is to teach teen girls to overcome their insecurities and self-doubts to create a mindset of confidence and success so they can live the happy and fulfilling lives they deserve.

My passion for helping teen girls is as strong today as it was twenty-five years ago when I myself was a teen with a newborn baby. I am living and honoring the vow that I made as that scared little sixteen-year-old girl in a hospital room - and I love every minute of it!


Jacqui Letran, NP & CEO-Nurse Practitioner and Chief Empowerment Officer at Teen Confidence Academy—Empowering teen girls to love themselves, be confident in who they are and live happy, successful lives.  I invite you to contact me at Success@TeenConfidenceAcademy.com or (949) 287-3113 to learn about how our simple, yet powerful 8 week program can help transform your daughter into a confident, happy and successful young woman.


Image: Eric Vondy. Find at Flickr here.

Shine Bright Like A Diamond

Date: November 30, 2014

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Diane Hopkins

I never used to shine bright like a diamond. I was hiding my beauty – the inner and outer – tucking it away inside my body so no one else could see. A few brave souls ventured there anyway, somehow seeing through the layers of walls I had put up to protect myself through to the real me. But to most of the world I felt invisible - unseen and unheard. I was outwardly expressing myself in my academic career as a lecturer but outside of that world I kept myself censored and locked up.

Why was I hiding? Because I was scared of what other people might say about the real me. Who I really was appeared not to conform to what was normal or desirable. It seemed safer to hide away anything that could be the subject of criticism, humiliation or other forms of negative attention.

I was teased and mocked a fair amount when I was a child and teenager because I looked different. It was mostly my very pale skin and freckles that made me stand out but it didn’t stop at my skin. Other things about my physical appearance seemed wrong - my lips were too fat and my bottom stuck out too much. I remember feeling like I wanted to crawl up and disappear into a big hole in the ground. Of course I tried to keep a brave face and pretend I wasn’t hurt. After all, this is what we are taught by society – to act tough as if nothing affects us.

Whenever I did let on that I was hurting I suffered from accusations of being ‘too sensitive’. The comments usually came from girlfriends and they hurt very deeply even if they were delivered under the guise of playful mocking. I remembered each of these words as if they were arrows to my heart and kept them with me as reminders of how unsatisfactory I was.

Instead of dealing with my hurt feelings I spent my teenage years trying to change myself. I wore fake tan, considered bleaching my freckled skin and even attempted to suck in my bottom by keeping it clenched when I walked. Unfortunately none of these things were very convincing. The fake tan looked orange, freckles would return in the sun, and the bum clenching thing was totally unsustainable.

But it wasn’t just the way I looked that seemed unsatisfactory to others. I often felt I needed to hide my positive qualities to limit positive attention too. Friends and teachers seemed uncomfortable when I shone too brightly so I hid my high-scoring test results from them and pretended I needed help. When I look back upon that time I realise I must have started toning myself down from a very early age to try and be more like other people. It didn’t feel safe to be seen as different and all I wanted was to belong and be loved.

The sad thing was I wasn’t keeping myself safe nor was I really belonging. I was just faking it. Looking back at photos of myself I can see how inward my eyes looked as if I was afraid to really shine my essence forth into the world. It took people a long time to earn the trust needed for me to feel safe to be myself around them. I only dated men who I’d been friends with beforehand and only showed my more extroverted and playful side to very close friends. I’m surprised I let anyone in.

Over the past few years I have been gradually unwinding the fear and hurt feelings that kept the real me invisible to the outer world. I’ve done this by revisiting those painful feelings from my childhood and teenage years with emotional release therapies and through empowering myself to face my fears by exposing my true self more and more as my comfort zone keeps on expanding. My fear of what might happen if people truly see or hear me has started to dissolve as I prove that many of my fears were not founded in truth. I’ve been able to stand up at open mic nights and read my personal thoughts out aloud. I’ve begun dressing in a way that allows my outer beauty to show. I’ve started salsa lessons. I’ve stopped shying away from social interactions. I express myself more.

The most transformative thing about this whole journey is that I now truly understand that if people don’t like what they see or hear in me, then that is perfectly ok. I can handle it and it doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with me. Other people’s views and preferences do not take away from my intrinsic value or worth. It’s not my job to please them.

With this newfound wisdom I claim my birthright to shine bright like a diamond. If not now, when?


Diane Hopkins is Managing Editor at Women Enough. She left behind her career as a lecturer of Urban Planning to go on an adventure in the unknown and follow her passion of writing. Diane is currently completing her first memoir novel on following the signs to love. You can follow her writing about living a life beyond limits at her blog Coffee Shop Guru and on Facebook.


Image: Pedro Ribeiro Simões. Find at Flickr.

My Eating Disorder Became My Source Of Empowerment

Date: November 6, 2014

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Erin McKelle

When I was 12 years old, I developed an eating disorder. I was healing from incest, while also coping with bullying and harassment I was experiencing at school. It was the first time I ever felt truly alone and I didn’t know whom to turn to or how to express what was going on to anyone. I was living in shame and denial.

This was also the first time in my life that I no longer had a bedtime set by my mom, so I could stay up as late as I wanted. She usually hit the hay around 9pm, so typically I was the last one to retire at night.

I remember one night around 10pm I was hungry and decided to get a snack in the kitchen while I was watching re-runs of Friends. I found some food and brought it back to the couch with me to eat while I watched. Then, I wanted more. I soon couldn’t stop myself and after about a half hour of this, found myself sickeningly fully. It was somehow, strangely relieving.

I kept doing this and never really stopped. It reached its peak during my freshman year of college, where I lived in a single dorm room and had unlimited supplies of food available to me. I was breaking off an abusive relationship and simultaneously relapsing back into depression. I used food to cope more than ever before.

One day I was at the doctors and when I stepped onto the scale, saw the number 200 flash before my eyes, which was in my mind, was the threshold I would never reach. Plus, it was 15 pounds more than I had weighed 2 and a half months before. It was a serious wake up call and I knew that I had a problem.

That was last October and I’m proud to say that since then, I’ve recovered a significant amount. I’ve managed to maintain my weight, get a handle on binging, and have started to develop a passion for fitness. Getting to this point was a struggle though and admitting to myself that I had an eating disorder was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. I felt like an imposter, like I couldn’t be trusted. I dealt with horrific dieticians who caused me to internalize my shame even more. The hardest part was telling people close to me. I’m a perfectionist and always appear to have it together; I felt that this diagnosis would destroy all that I’d worked to create.

It was when I realized that all of this was an image, a façade in a sense, which I put on for the world to mask my true state of being, everything suddenly clicked. I knew that I couldn’t spend my life living a lie or hiding my true self and that I deserved better. Asking for help and admitting my flaws would in fact make me stronger. The more that I owned my experiences and realities, the easier they would be to embrace.

If there is one thing I can tell you about eating disorder recovery, it’s that it will take you as far as you want it to go. You can heal from more than just disordered eating in the process and also find new ways to empower yourself through your body, if you open yourself up to those possibilities. When I realized it wasn’t going to be easy, immediate, or constant (most people relapse, it doesn’t make you a failure), the easier it was to heal.

Having an eating disorder is no longer a hindrance to me, instead it’s a source of empowerment.


Erin McKelle is a fearless feminist, writer, and activist based out of Cleveland, Ohio. She will soon graduate from Ohio University with a degree in Women and Gender Studies and currently works in communications and social media management. Visit her website, follow her on Twitter or Instagram, and follow her Tumblr blog.


 

Pretty Is Just My Face

Date: October 2, 2014

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Tui Anderson

I am 5’6” and naturally thin. When I do put on weight (the usual few pounds in winter), it goes to my breasts first and comes off there last. I have pretty green eyes and an above average IQ.

Now, before you start resenting me, I am 41, have grey hair (under the Loreal #4) and live in Nepal- I am no threat or appeal to anyone! So why have I told you all these things about me? Because it is not the stuff that matters about me. You could admire me for these traits. You could resent me for them. You could downright hate me- whatevs.

You see, none of the things I have described above, bear any reflection on me. They are not achievements, they are not things I have earned- they are simply the package I arrived in. Something over which I have absolutely no control and hence can take no real pride in. Not only am I not my appearance, it is not something I value.

Oh, don’t get me wrong- I appreciate it. I understand the subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) ways in which it has made my life easier. Yes, in this era, it is a huge advantage to be thin. However, in previous times, I would have been considered way too skinny (and would be a bluestocking spinster to boot), so this being an asset is merely an arbitrary function of the timing of my birth.

Compliments on my appearance leave me feeling uncomfortable- it is sweet, but holds very little meaning to me. These are attributes over which I have very little control. I would rather you notice that I am kind or funny or interesting. Or that I have emotional integrity, or that I love my family. These are things I can value. These are things I have worked for and, at times, struggled for. These are (some of) the markers of who I am as a person at this time.

The personal attributes that I value are the things that I have had to choose to be. Things I have had to work at, work for. I wasn’t always kind- I used to be a bit of a bitch. Often accidentally, fuelled by my insecurities, but mean none-the-less. I have worked to stop that. I try to be funny without being mean. Emotional integrity has been a journey of learning to not dump or blame or hit out reactively. Liking my family is not always easy with my sisters. They can push my buttons and I could choose to not talk to them, but I choose to see the love and care in their words, rather than any other interpretations. I choose to be their loving family. These are my choices, these are the things I have earned and worked for and achieved. These are the things I value about myself.

I have always said that pretty blond children grow into very dull adults. They peak in their mid-teens and never learn to be anything more than pretty. If you spent your whole childhood getting compliments for something that was just there, would you work to be anything more? Some of the most interestingly beautiful women in the world have described themselves as being awkward children. So they became more than their appearance, eventually becoming beautiful adults, but also being more than just their looks. Don’t we admire our kind and interesting movie stars just a tiny bit more than the merely pretty or even beautiful ones? Isn’t Meryl Streep far more attractive than Jessica Simpson, even though perhaps not as conventionally pretty on the surface?

So what would happen if we all spent the same amount of time and effort on our mind and heart as we do on our body? How would the world look if being kind and clever (rather than just smart) and generous were as magazine-worthy as being pretty and skinny? What if, rather than that new lipstick, you bought a book? For someone else? What if, rather than spending 30 minutes on your face, you spent 30 minutes on your heart?

What if we were not only kinder to ourselves in all these things, but were more vocal to our friends and out children about these attributes. What if we praised little girls for their kindness instead of their hair color? What if we reinforced little boys when they showed love and emotional courage rather than sporting prowess?

What if we set the same goals around growing our personal values as we do around losing weight? What if we stared into our souls the same way as we stare at the bathroom mirror? What if we bronzed and highlighted our hearts the same way we do our eyes and cheekbones? What if we styled our kindnesses and love to stay in place throughout the day, like our hair? What if we groomed our insides to look as good as our outsides?

You can choose where your values lie. We do get to choose our weight or height or eye color. These things are not achievements. But the height of your kindness is an achievement. The weight of your integrity is a true asset. The color of your heart is everything.

PS. As for the Loreal #4, I am trying to be self-aware, not dead!


 Tui Anderson is a traveling homebody with a busy brain and a calm soul. She accidentally became a writer after the Universe answered a frustrated question with a profound thought. In the words of one Buddhist teacher, she is a “fluffy spiritualist” who believes there are no wrong roads to happiness. You can find her on her public Facebook page Tui Anderson.


 

Image:{✿D-Munkhuulei✿}. Find at Flickr here. License details here.

Deal with Yourself

Date: September 4, 2014

posted by Women Enough / Comments: No Comments / Tags: There is no tags

For most of my life I’ve believed that if a guy didn’t like me it was because I wasn’t as pretty or skinny as other girls- or because he thought I was fat. I was raised being told I was ‘big boned’ and if I just exercised more I would tone up and look better. There was always a striving and never ending feeling of not being enough.

I didn’t want to be big boned, I didn’t want extra meat on my bones- I wanted to be the enviable thin girl- the one with the perfect hair, body, clothes and life.

As an adolescent, I begged my mom to send me to <strong>fat camp.</strong> I mail ordered juice fasts and she would go ahead and send them right back. I resented her for that. I went to the doctor and exclaimed I was too short and must have had a growth problem because I should have been taller.

I got my period at age 12, developed faster than other girls and boys on the school bus called me Thunder Thighs. I wanted to fit in, I wanted to be accepted and <em>cool</em>. But beyond that, I wanted to feel wanted and loved and chosen for just being me. And because I wasn’t- I felt something was wrong with me- otherwise I would have had a boyfriend.

Instead, I tried and chased and needed and pleaded to be loved- in all the wrong places and with all the wrong faces. I kept piling up evidence of my lifelong belief of not being ‘enough’ and figured that if I were thin, if I were skinny- that would solve all of my problems. and most of all, I’d be wanted.

It’s a creeping old thought that sometimes resurfaces as an adult- if only I were thinner, blonder or or had bigger boobs- then life would be good. However, now that I see it- I can choose a new thought because I now know it’s a cop out to think so limited and so small and vain.

People value, respect and choose us when we value, respect and choose ourselves.

It has taken me years of discovery; I set parameters for myself, follow them for a bit and then fall off the bandwagon. I start over and ask myself the same questions and come up against the same challenges and struggles- and it all comes down to the lack of consistency I have in my routine for how I care for myself.

Whether its managing my time- doing meditation, writing, exercising, sleeping at a consistent time- taking breaks from work instead of piling through when I’m exhausted or need a break. And those choices impact whether I indulge in foods that are not good for my body, or whether I drink too many cocktails to numb myself out.  It has been a journey to realize the many things I put before my own care in order to achieve something or please someone.  I’m learning how to manage my energy and I’m learning what drains me and what truly feeds me.

In the past 90 days I’ve started listening more and talking less. Partially, because I’ve become sick a couple times and from that place of forced surrender- I have seen how everything is energy- what I put out to the world, what I give, what I receive and the people I’m around- all impact my ability and level of focus and energy.

After launching the Bare Campaign by Women Enough I shut down; I received a lot of media attention for the cause and subsequently many women reached out with interest to partner, be involved, or go bare. Now, while it’s something that I’ve wanted and I’m grateful for- I didn’t know how to energetically respond to it all. I felt like everyone wanted something from me and it was overwhelming.

And the reason why I shut down and felt overwhelmed was because I’m learning how to really care for myself- how to manage my energy and time and it takes practice to discern what feels and what is really right for me.

I’ve observed that boundaries come up when we aren’t comfortable managing some aspect of our lives- and when we are learning to love, care, value, choose and respect ourselves, it can be difficult to define what is ‘right’ for us and subsequently communicate it to others.

As I’ve ventured further into the unknown- with a nomadic lifestyle that’s outside the prescriptive “American Life,’ that’s where I’ve become more deeply attuned with myself. I believe that when we take ourselves out of our comfort zone- the world of distraction from life and work and technology and accessibility- that’s where we are forced to deal with ourselves.

And in that dark place, that little dark room is where the self love is developed.

 

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