- As National Eating Disorder Awareness Week comes to an end, I just want to say a few things. This topic is pretty sensitive for me but it’s close to my heart so bear with me. Eating disorders suck – Period. They are not glamorous and you most definitely don’t choose them.I’ve suffered from an eating disorder since I was 14. I’ve been through all of the ups and downs – the calorie counting and restriction, the excessive exercise, and the shame of feeling horrible in my own body.Some days, I would eat only one meal with a few snacks and then run or exercise to try to burn it off. I was cold all the time. I lost my period for three years! My brain was also in a perpetual fog. Even though I looked the most fit I ever had, I was not mentally healthy. Now don’t get me wrong, eating well and exercising can be great. As long as you don’t let it consume your life and thoughts – which happened to me.Going from 130 pounds to 108 pounds in a span of a few months was not healthy. Especially how I was doing it. I was so scared of disappointing my friends and family by telling them about my problems. I was always trying to fight my body’s natural needs. There were little voices in my head always criticizing me and telling me I was never going to be good enough. And for what? To try to get washboard abs? Or super small legs? Why would you waste so much time And energy over something so vain and futile? Why try to fight something that should be so simple? After all, it is a necessity in life. Why are we constantly letting the world dictate how we feel?No one should ever feel like they have to change who they are because someone tells them to. No one should ever let worth be defined by weight. Your. Wait. Does. Not. Define. You.Once you realize that you were meant to be on this earth for so much more than to shrink yourself, only then will you find all the joy life has to offer.Guest post written originally for Instagram by Claire Rivas of Birmingham, Alabama
My Relationship with Body Hair
Guest Post by Mallory (Mal) of Hyper Feminism blog
If you’ve seen much of anything on my blog you’ll know how strongly I feel about period positivity – and that, for me is mirrored in all things girls are brought up to feel ashamed about. Periods, body image, sexuality and our body hair (among others obviously) are all things that we learn to surround with shame and silence, where they should be topics coloured with conversation and choice.
In year eight I was desperate to shave my legs, all of the girls I knew were doing it but my mum wasn’t having a bar of it. She tried to explain over and over again that my blond leg hairs would only grow back dark and spiky and I’d never be able to stop, but I was on a teenage warpath. Eventually it was decided that I could remove my leg hair, but only if I used an epilator, which in hindsight I’m sure was intended to put me off immediately (if you’ve never seen one, it’s basically a little device that you run up and down your skin and it grabs your hairs and pulls them out, it’s not at all pleasant). As you can imagine, I didn’t stick with this for very long and would only use it occasionally, never really doing a great job.
I’m not sure that I ever actually cared about leg hair, then it was really just a thing I wanted to do because everyone else was. Then as I got older and started to swim more and more competitively my leg hair became a thing I only got rid of when I had a competition I deemed important enough to sit on the edge of the bathtub and wax my legs with the strips you warm up with your hands. Pro-tip: those strips suck and take far too long to warm up to cool back down straight away, but don’t resort to warning them up using a hair straightener, you will burn yourself.
Swimming is when I started to pay attention to the other hair on my body. I shaved my armpits and bikini line constantly for a long time, I felt so self-conscious being in just my bathers and having hair there, like people would be constantly staring and judging me. Eventually, I stopped waxing my legs myself and started getting them done by a professional (which was much quicker and there were no hair straighteners involved) and only before a major competition like states or nationals. I relaxed toward my underarm hair but kept shaving my bikini line, always resulting in ingrown hairs. I also started shaving my pubic hair, as I’ve mentioned here before ya girl gets very heavy and long periods and I hated having hair down there for that time of the month, but also for competitions because I didn’t like how it felt under my racing bathers. My skin is super sensitive and prone to ingrown hairs and I never talked to anyone about shaving my pubic hair and I had no idea how to deal with it aside from layering on ‘bump eraser’ cream and riding out the itchiness.
I shaved my legs for the first time when I was in year twelve. I still rarely shave them, it’s not a thing that bothers me, and for the most part the vast majority of people could not possibly care less and I refuse to feel ashamed about it, even though there are still people (in 2018!!) who feel like it’s okay to try and make me feel otherwise. Last year I started laser hair removal for Brazilian and underarms and I haven’t looked back. I don’t like having pubic hair and I don’t find underarm hair comfortable, so I made a choice to deal with it. A lot of it is a laziness thing, I hate shaving, but mostly it is a choice I made because of my skin sensitivity. I don’t get itchiness and ingrown hairs after laser and it doesn’t take me three days to recover from removing my hair, at this point, I hardly get anything growing back.
But the thing is, I don’t have to justify my choice, because it is just that, a choice. And that goes for any choice any woman makes about her body hair (and her body for that matter), it’s all personal preference and that’s all it should be. Feel however you want to feel about body hair, do whatever you want with it, but don’t let anyone else dictate what you want to do. Body hair is natural, but you’re no less of a woman (or a feminist) no matter whether you let it grow, trim it or get rid of it altogether. And remember that body hair is not an all or nothing situation, do what you want with the hair where you want to.
If you are going to learn anything from my experience – especially if you’re younger, you’re going to get rid of hair in your private areas, ask someone if you don’t know what you’re doing and don’t just suffer from itchiness in silence. And to my sensitive skinned humans who don’t like to have hair, maybe look into laser, it really did help me!
What about you, tell me about your experiences! You can comment below or hit me up on any of my socials!
PS- we love Mal’s body positive attitude! Want to check out more about body positivity? Click here for another GirlSpring article on this topic, https://www.girlspring.com/healthy-body-image-why-its-important-for-you-and-others/
Undressing in Gym Class
If you’re anything like I was in middle school, you dread[ed] having to change in front of the other students during gym class. It wasn’t because I felt like other girls were “checking me out” or being judgement, most of the problem came from how uncomfortable I was with my body. For some girls, it may be something else, such as a religion or just being timid in general. All in all, the root of the problem is the lack of instruction on how the situation could be handled or avoided.
I ended up pretending to be sick quite a few times, just so I could go see the nurse while everyone was changing. I even missed the school’s Scoliosis Screening tests each year, because I didn’t want to have to take off my shirt in front of the other girls or adults. As it turns out, I have a mild case of Scoliosis and could have been treated for my pain a long time ago with proper physical therapy. Instead, I played hooky with an ear infection and spent years with unidentifiable pain.
It wasn’t until high school that I discovered a few solutions to my problem:
- The other girls are more than likely not going to watch you change, in the same way that you probably don’t notice the other girls changing.
- There are bathrooms available to change in in most locker rooms.
- It is okay to be a different body size than the other girls, just as it is okay to have different marks on your body.
- If you still do not feel confident changing in front of other people, then try putting your gym shirt over the one you are wearing without putting your arms through the holes. Remove your arms from the other shirt’s holes and proceed to put them through the gym shirt’s. Then slip the other shirt either over your head or over your waist until you have removed it.
- If you need to change bras, follow the same routine as the shirt, just add an extra step.
- You can also wear your gym shirts/bras/shorts underneath whatever you choose to wear to school. Just be sure to wash them nightly or twice a week.
- If you have friends, try asking them to hold a towel for you to change behind, and offer the same courtesy.
I found this video with instructions on how to best change in a locker room for additional help: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=igbN_rPcwT0
Society and Unrealistic Beauty Standards
Nowadays, it isn’t uncommon to see how a young woman’s body standards can be so easily influenced by outside factors. Ever see a girl scrolling through celebrities’ Instagram pictures and hear them say, “They’re so flawless, I want to look just like her”? This scenario happens every day with teens and young women. Although some might express this as a light-hearted and innocent comment, some truly want to change their appearances to please society and their peers to be more desired and fit in better.
This isn’t to confuse with wanting to improve someone’s appearance for a positive reason, such as a healthy weight goal or changing the way one does makeup to enhance their beauty more. The problem arises when a girl wants to change how she looks due to seeing unrealistic perfection or because of the constant pressure from society’s standards of beauty.
It is no secret that, for years, the beauty industry has given this idea of looking flawless 24/7 to impressionable young women. We grow up looking at beautiful magazine covers, gorgeous makeup ads, and perfect looking hair, nails, body, etc. Although it’s understandable for a company to want beautiful models to sell their products, it gives off unrealistic beauty standards. Why? Because regular people on the street don’t usually look how companies and social media portrays women to be! If you don’t have an hourglass shape, that’s okay! If you don’t have white, straight teeth, that’s okay! Everyone is unique in their own way and should not change who they are because of what society says is “the best.”
Since social media is so prevalent among celebrities and young people, it worsens the problem even more. Different types of apps allow filters, editing, and photoshop. If a girl wanted to improve her appearance online, she has the tools to do so. This applies to physically altering one’s appearance as well, whether it be through plastic surgery, injections, fillers, etc. Of course, most celebrities do not like to admit that they have used certain measures to make their appearance seem better, but the girls viewing their content can easily think that “this is what perfection looks like, society likes this type of look, and I want to obtain it too.” These types of thoughts usually make girls compare themselves to others, and that is not a healthy thing to do, self-esteem wise.
Thankfully, companies are starting to realize the self-deprecation girls and can feel while looking at beauty ads or models selling clothes. More and more companies are allowing diversity into their ads, and this gives off a very positive message to young women who do not always fit the “perfect body type” or other types of standards that society has deemed to be “perfect.” Many people, including myself, are applauding these companies for their realistic models that look like the majority of people and not the small niche of beauty and fashion models that have a very specific and hard to obtain look.
This is a great step in the right direction for the beauty and clothing industry, and more companies should follow their example. The good thing for girls is that if you are aware that today’s beauty standards are unrealistic, then you won’t be as influenced. You can recognize that there are so many different looks of being beautiful. One person’s ideal may not be someone else’s. Don’t be focused on pleasing everyone else. It’s okay to focus on yourself! Self-love is very important for self-esteem and one’s mental health. Sometimes we’re so focused on little details, like always covering up your body or always covering up blemishes that they can take over our lives. Just be yourself, be happy with who you are, and everything else will fall into place.
What is “Beach Body Ready?”
What exactly does “beach body ready” even mean? Let’s start by looking at the origin of the phrase and how it was initially used in context.
In 2015 Protein World showcased a bold advertisement in the subways of New York for weight loss supplements. These ads featured a bright yellow background and the words, “ARE YOU BEACH BODY READY?” prominently displayed next to a thin conventionally attractive white woman in a yellow bikini giving the audience a smouldering look.
The ad garnered a good bit of criticism and negative attention. Two different feminist groups at the time spoke out about the ad, and why they felt like it was unacceptable. One of these groups explained that it contributes to a culture that hypersexualizes women’s bodies. Shortly after pictures of the ads circulated on social media, a petition was started on Change.org to have the ads removed entirely. The petition accumulated over 70,000 signatures.
Now, in 2018, a plus sized clothing brand is getting attention for using the phrase “beach body ready” in a way that subverts the message of the original ad. It features the same bright yellow background but with three different plus sized women standing next to each other. The words “WE’RE BEACH BODY READY” are prominently displayed next to the women.
So if we take into the consideration the origin of the phrase “beach body ready”, it’s probably safe to say that it is used to describe thin bodies. The previously mentioned plus sized clothing brand used the wording of the original ad to reimagine what “beach body ready” should mean, as opposed to what it actually means.
With all this discussion of what it means to be “beach body ready”, I wrote a short quiz that can be used to determine if you are “beach body ready”.
BEACH BODY READINESS QUIZ
Q1- Are you at the beach?
Yes: Great! Then you’re halfway there.
No: That’s fine, actually. You don’t need to be at the beach to be beach body ready.
Q2- Do you have a body?
Yes: Excellent! Then you are beach body ready! All you need to be “beach body ready” is have a body. It doesn’t matter what your size and weight is. Just wear what makes you comfortable. If you want to wear a bikini, then go for it. If not, then wear whatever you want.
No: I highly doubt that you don’t have a body. You probably wouldn’t be reading this if you didn’t have a body. Since you do have a body, congratulations! You’ve met literally the only requirement in order to qualify as beach body ready. Wear whatever makes you comfortable and happy in your own body. The world is a much more pleasant place to be when you are comfortable in your body.
Obviously that was kind of a joke.
So let’s go further into what it actually means to be beach body ready. The original ad implies that one must have a certain body type to be beach body ready, and presumably you must lose weight to achieve a thin appearance akin to the one that the woman in the advertisement has. The media constantly reinforces a very homogenous idea of beauty for women. In TV shows, we see mostly thin & conventionally attractive women with husbands and boyfriends of various body sizes and weights.
My best advice would be to take care of your body because it benefits your health and well being, not because you want to look a certain way. Take ownership of your body for you. Studies do tell us that exercising the appropriate amount and eating right has wonderful effects on our mood, muscle and bone health, energy level, skin health, and even memory.
But don’t ever let someone fat shame you as a way of motivating you into getting healthy. Studies also show that fat shaming someone causes them to gain weight more rapidly.