A letter to Hollywood

Dear Hollywood starlets,

I don’t care what your publicist tells you to spout to the world. Perhaps it’s true that you’ve had the body of a 12-year old all your life (I’m looking at you Shenae Grimes) or you have a super fast metabolism. Perhaps you really do enjoy eating salads everyday and have no sweet tooth at all.

And perhaps pigs fly out there in Hollywood.

We all know that you diet and exercise and work frigging HARD to get that 12-year old body that shows no curves and acts like a clothes hanger. We know that the pressures you face in your day-to-day worklife are enormous. And so we know – as much as you deny it – that your eating habits are not like most.

Almost every female star in Hollywood who has been associated with anorexia claims and denied them fervently has eventually admitted to them years down the track (Portia de Rossi, I’m looking at you) so how is it still the denial of choice? Why do female actors feel the need to be seen eating all the time and even seem to be going as far as to schedule interviews over indulgent lunches, ensuring that their eating habits are featured in the pages of glossy magazines?

Personally, I respect actors like Julianne Moore who have come out and admitted that staying slim in Hollywood is hard work and eating granola bars for lunch is awful but she does it to keep working. I respect people who admit that they exercise for hours on end to get that toned I-was-born-like-this look. I respect them because they admit that this is a product of their professional lives. In the same way that I maintain my computer skills and professional development, so they maintain their diet and exercise regime in order to stay professionally active. It’s in their job description.

Because when they admit that, I know that my lifestyle does not accommodate for that and it’s not me, it’s them. That, theoretically, if I decided to work out 3+ hours a day, I could look like that. If I had a personal chef, personal trainer and personal assistant to handle my, well, personal life, I could do it. It’s a funny little thing that makes me feel normal instead of ridiculous when I look in the mirror.

Yes, there are people who are naturally slim and have androgynous bodies. There are people who are active all day and who can eat dessert every night without feeling any ill effects. I’m not saying that every person who is slim and not trying to be is lying. But not everyone in Hollywood is like that. In fact, I’m sure if I tried, I could find statistics disproving the number of “naturally slim” actors vs. the proportion of naturally slim people in the world.

So to all those Hollywood stars and starlets, admit that you work hard to look like you do. Give the rest of us a fighting chance to feel normal and to admire your hard work instead of wondering if our metabolisms are crap and our bodies just hate us.


Our body image but their love

The other day I posted my EXPOSED photo post. I put myself out there for the world and while it was majorly empowering, it was also quite scary to tell the truth. For a few reasons.

It was tough at first to think of good things associated with body parts. I really didn’t realise how negative some of my self-talk was. Even my usual techniques of joking about how I have my father’s legs with my mother’s height to explain my short, stumpy legs is completely negative. The first thing I saw when I looked at my headless photo was the mini-muffin top over my bikini bottoms. And then I realised that this bikini NEVER fit me right and it’s the only one I have by default after my favourite bikini top snapped. This is more bikini fail than Gemfit fail.

But as I completed the post, I wasn’t all that nervous anymore. The exercise forced me to confront the negative self-talk and promote the positive in my mind. So I highly recommend this activity to everyone, even if you don’t post it on your blog. Take a photo. Annotate it. Make it ALL positive. Print it out and put it somewhere where you see it often to remind yourself of the positive.

And then I had another epiphany. Often, when we allow the negative self-talk to influence our self-esteem, we push people away. We joke, we deflect, we ignore because we’re allowing the negative to drown out any other positives. How often do we respond to compliments from friends and family by making excuses? I know my mother is the QUEEN of this –

“Mom, you look really nice tonight”

“Oh I need to lose 5kgs before this outfit fits me properly” (no jokes, I’m sure that’s been a real response)

First of all, that response is ridiculous. The proper response to a compliment is simple “Thanks”. Nothing more, nothing less. By joking or deflecting, you’re often crushing the person complimenting you instead of helping your self-esteem. By finding excuses for their compliments or love, you deflect any of the possible good for all the bad. I read a blog post the other day where the blogger was remarking on how shallow people were now that they were complimenting her on looking good (she’d lost a lost of weight but people were not remarking on the weight per se, but other aspects of her appearance and self). Instead of simply enjoying the compliments, she was finding the negative in why they were complimenting her, how they’d probably never even noticed that she had the same outfit for ages before, or that she’d worn those earrings before. It’s not important WHY they were complimenting her, she should have taken the compliment and enjoyed it. Said thank you, allowed the person to enjoy complimenting her too. It’s a two-way street.

So, an exercise for everyone. It’s a two-parter.

1. Go and compliment someone today. Something small. Could be a random person, could be family or friends. Be sincere. Notice something they’re wearing or doing. Notice how they respond and how you feel. If they say thank you and enjoy it, how does that make you feel? If they deflect, again, how do you feel?

2. When you get a compliment – be it today or anytime – stop before your usual response. Stop yourself from deflecting or joking or explaining. Just say thank you. See how that feels.

EXPOSED – baring all for better body image

I know this looks like I’m jumping on the bandwagon and maybe I am because damn, it’s a great wagon with some great people on board. That’s right, I’m joining the quasi-movement started by Mish at Eating Journey because I think we all need a body image boost sometimes.

I got the Boy to take the photo this morning in our hotel room in Wellington. I put on my bikini since I didn’t have anything else suitable (trust me, I’m not ready for a lingerie shot!) and I have to say, when I saw the photo, I suddenly wondered what the hell I was doing, putting a photo of myself up like this, for the world to see. I looked at the photo and initially, all I saw was the fat, the sag and the cellulite. And I was angry with myself for seeing that. I was annoyed with my mind for going there.

So, here I am. Sag, cellulite, stretchmarks and all. After all, this is me, this is who the Boy fell in love with, this is the body that has been through thick and thin with me, through depression, through homesickness, through sickness and through healthy times. It’s the body I cherish for all its quirks (why oh why did my ankle suddenly hurt this weekend I’ll never know) and it’s the body that’s going to take me through the rest of my life and damn, I’d better treat it well.

The only one I have

I was reading a post the other day on We are the Real Deal (great body image blog if you haven’t found it yet – go read!) asking what do you love about your body. I stopped to think and for the life of me, I couldn’t think of anything at that time. Everything I came up with was followed by a negative almost immediately.

I love my small waist but I’ve gained weight and now it’s not so small.

I love my strong arms but they’re still flabby and I hate the bingo arms.

My legs are really strong but I hate the cellulite I have and they’re short and stubby legs and I have cankles.

You get the drift.

And it made me sad. I do love my body. I’ve fought the battles of body-snarking and loathing. I’ve built muscles and strength and health. Other than my hip (or really lower glutes) hurting and getting tight, right now me and my body are getting along. We’re working together so things should be all unicorns, butterflies and rainbows.

And yet it’s not. I’m sabotaging myself. I’m eating crap, justifying everything, feeling like crap because of the crap food and self-medicating with more crap food. Sounds like a fun cycle doesn’t it? I look in the mirror and, depending on the time of day, I either grudgingly accept my body or I find a million flaws.

I feel fat and bloated. My thighs rub together. I notice the flab on my arms. I’ve gained 5 pounds. I’m a slob. I no longer fit into my smaller jeans and sometimes I feel that I don’t fit into my normal jeans either. I see myself in the gym mirror and I can’t believe how wide my hips are. I have days where I look at my belly in the mirror and I’m surprised nobody’s asked me if I’m pregnant.

And yet, when I go shopping, I constantly have to get the assistant to get me smaller sizes because I instinctively pick up the bigger size. I had to get a dress taken recently because it was too big in the back and they had no smaller sizes. It was an extra small. I was too big for an extra small.

I’ll let you sit with that for a minute.

How is it that my body and my mind are so far apart? How do I feel so awful but my body doesn’t reflect that? How do I get back to normal?

I want to get back to the me I used to be, where I loved my body for the strength, where I could revel in the weights I was lifting and the shape I had cultivated. I want to admire my muscles, my health, my vitality, myself. I want to nurture myself and stop pretending that popcorn and junk is nurturing.

I want to get back to me again.

The Psychology of numbers

For the last little while, I’ve been aware that my scale wasn’t exactly accurate (ie it would give me wildly different results depending on if I held my breathe or thought junk food thoughts) but it was nice to see the numbers as low as they were. But it wasn’t enough.

I wanted a scale that told me my weight in increments of 0.1 lbs instead of only 0.5. I wanted a scale that did more – told me my body fat % and hydration levels. I’d outgrown my scale and it was time to move on.

I bought a new scale on the weekend. It’s fancy glass and digital display and it tells me my weight, my body fat and %, my hydration levels and more. It is super cool.

It is also 3lbs heavier than my old scale.

Logically, I know I didn’t gain 3lbs overnight. Logically, I know that my pants are in fact fitting looser and my belly is flatter. I know all this logically but my mind is focussed on the NUMBER. The great big hulking NUMBER lurking in the corner of my bedroom, next to the mirror.

I tell myself that I’m getting stronger and fitter and I’m as skinny as I was when the number was lower but lying to me. I tell myself that the NUMBER doesn’t matter. But it does. In my mind, it does.

It does because my mother asks me about my weight EVERY TIME we talk

It does because I was so proud of myself for getting into a lower decade and now I’m not there.

It just does.

It’s all psychological but it’s a strong hold. And I feel sad that it’s there. I always wanted to not be my mother on this – not be held to ransom by a number. And here I am, turning into my mother.

“No, I’m not a jealous person but…”

I want to share a quote from an email I just got from a friend:

Distraction: Model thin and gorgeous girl from woman’s wear just walked past. My self esteem just plummeted to non existence. I HATE her and wish her lots of calories.

Why do we feel so competitive when it comes to appearance and weight? Why does a stick thin colleague elicit such a reaction? Normally I’d say it’s just X friend but really, we all do it. I was talking to some work friends today on the way back from lunch. Somehow we got onto the topic of bathing suits and how traumatic it can be to shop for a new one. I haven’t bought a new bathing suit in years and got around it last year by simply not going anywhere that required one. But I NEED one this year, hence the discussion. But it was interesting. Another quote, this one not verbatim because, well, I didn’t record the conversation:

The thing about going to the beach or whatnot is that you always know that there will be someone there who looks better than you and someone who looks worse. You just have to find that person who looks worse and use that to make yourself feel better about being in a bikini.

Again with the competing. The whole “am I the fattest person here?” If yes, then you feel like shit. If not, then you’ve been let off the hook until you notice the tiny girl in the corner or the girl with the muscles or the girl with the perfect flat stomach. And then you’re down. And you’re covering up, hiding, trying to reassure yourself that you don’t look AWFUL.

And none of these girls I was talking to had anything to worry about – all healthy, beautiful girls. And yet they were all talking and competing.

Is this something we’re conditioned to do as women? Men, do you guys do this kind of thing at all? Instinctively I’d say not but maybe I’m wrong. I’ve been wrong before.

Losing myself

Throughout my adolescent and adult life, I have been largely defined by my shape. The big bust, the tiny waist, the child-bearing hips. No matter what my weight may have been, my shape remained the same. I struggled as a teenager – women on both sides of the family are well-endowed and while many women wish for it, I hated the fact that at 13 years old, I was already past the pretty bras and into the minimizes.

Trust me, for a 13 year old, no minimizer is pretty. Not when her friends barely need to wear bras and go shopping for the pretty training bras. I think I wore a training bra for a month, if that.

I wore baggy t-shirts and sweaters. I refused to wear bikinis. I sobbed when I grew out of bras and had to move up another size. By the time I was 15, I was wearing a 32DD and my breasts were sagging and ugly. I called them my “granny tits”. My left breast was significantly bigger than my right and I probably should have been wearing a bigger size, but I refused to try anything larger. I hated my body.

My parents watched me hate my body. They watched me slouch – to hide the granny tits and because my back couldn’t take it. I found it physically painful to stand up straight.

So at 15, my mother took me to a plastic surgeon who agreed to perform a breast reduction if I didn’t grow any larger in the next 6 months. He wanted to make sure I had stopped growing. He told me all about the loss of sensation and the fact that I may not be able to breastfeed, but I didn’t care. I watched my chest carefully for 6 months and proclaimed no new growth.

I had the surgery 13 years ago and honestly, it was the best thing I ever did. no regrets. The only problem was that 6 months after the surgery, I emigrated to Australia with my family after a whirlwind process and proceeded to gain weight from then. Not a lot at once, but it all went to my chest. I ended up back at a 32DD but with a better shape (regular boobs, not granny tits!) so while it bugged me that I was still not really able to buy very pretty cheap bras, I didn’t feel ashamed. In fact, I owned the look – the hourglass, the sex-kitten. That was me.

I was the one with the enviable shape. The one who never needed a push-up bra. The one who would complain about guys never looking at her face while her friends groaned. It defined me.

Now, I’m losing that. Literally. I have dropped 2 bra sizes in the past 3 months. I’m down to a 32C for the first time since my reduction 13 years ago. All the sexy bras I’ve accumulated? Look ridiculous. My one cleavage bra? No longer produces cleavage. My empire waist tops now actually fit as they should and not half-way across the breast. I can now technically buy all those pretty bras.

So why am I sad? Explain to me why, after years of wishing I was smaller and more in proportion, I now look in the mirror and mourn my breasts. Why did I feel so sad boxing up all my old bras (not throwing them away yet)?

I’m struggling with seeing myself as I really am now. I still look in the mirror and see the old me – the boobs, the hips. I don’t know how to start seeing the new me and starting really inhabiting her body.