It’s All About That Body


You have likely already watched the music video for “All About That Bass”, I know it has been popping up in my facebook feed for over a month now. The beat is catchy, there is a musical reference to JT’s Sexyback in the middle, and the dancing/aesthetic is perfectly adorable. The message of the song is body-positive, and there is a refreshing mix of body types represented in the music video. So, really, what’s not to love? See below:

So why am I writing about it now? While most of the dialogue I have seen surrounding this clip is positive, there is a concerning thread that I have marked from time to time. Somehow, in the movement against photo-shopping and “thinspo”, a charge has been taken up by certain communities that women who are on the smaller end of the body scale are not “real women”. You’ve all seen and heard the phrase “real women have curves”.

As a plus-sized woman (and don’t even get me started on the fact that the designation “plus-size” exists and is something humans have to shop and live by) I can understand and appreciate how this saying may have gained popularity. I spent years (and still spend long moments) agonizing over my body and all of the ways it is not what it ought to be according to the messages I see and hear. However, no matter how genuine and empowering the intention, any time a proclamation is made that “real _________ equals __________”, the truth is that whatever population does not equal that blank is being marginalized. For example, look at what else popped up when I searched for that phrase on Pinterest:

[And don’t get me wrong, I love this model and have shared photos featuring her before. It’s the callous message some user slapped on that I find problematic].

Can you see how this messaging is equally problematic?

I have felt dis-empowered too many times by comparison to want to intentionally perpetrate that dynamic with anyone else. Rather than comparing ourselves to others in order to see what is lacking, why cannot we as humans support each other and recognize the beauty that lies within each of us?

I am not being trite or disingenuous or naive when I ask that question. From personal experience, I have found that in the few moments when I am truly able to drop my judgment and tallying up of individual little bits I am surprised by how beautiful I find everyone to be. Truly. And I’m not talking inner beauty or personality either. I am talking the (purely physical) inherent majesty and artistry imbued in the human body. In all human bodies. Try it.

How ridiculous is it that we judge our body types and shapes according to some arbitrary standard, when we have no control whatsoever over our bone structure? I will add, as well, that body and physical beauty standards differ dramatically by culture, geography, time period…(not even going to touch the sub-cultural influences of so-called gender identity and sexual orientation within all of those other parameters).

Let’s take a look at that music video again. While the verse includes the lyrics I find to be the most important, “Cause every inch of you is perfect/from the bottom to the top”, there are some other lines that are not quite so universally empowering. For instance, the chorus:

“Because you know I’m all about that bass/’bout that bass/’bout that bass/no treble”.

A clever play on musical terms, the bass references plus-sized women, but through other lyrics such as “boys they like a little more booty to hold at night” as well as the booty-grabbing that occurs in the video, it is clear that the “bass” refers also to booty. I’ll admit that as much as I love the song, the first time I watched the video I felt a little sting because of these lyrics. You see, I’ve got the teensiest little bass. I mean, I happen to think that my booty is perfectly adorable, but I have certainly never qualified as having “junk in my trunk”.

Isn’t that horrible? In this body-positive video, featuring a singer that has similar physical attributes to myself, one of the few things I focused on was the fact that I do not feel that I possess enough booty for men to “hold at night”.

(Again–not going to touch on the message of women as sexual objects either, that’s another post).

What is that?!

If I had let it (and have certainly done at times in the past), that tiny little moment could have been enough for me to spiral down the body-shame rabbit hole that leads to the “this-is-why-no-one-will-ever-love-me” oblivion, which in turn is absorbed and trapped by the wet blanket of perpetual self-repugnance.

Luckily, I instead chose to acknowledge the moment as my peculiar little friend, acknowledge its existence, and continue with nodding my head and finger-tapping along. (Thank you therapy).

I have a feeling that this experience is not unique. Indeed, the lyrics that directly proceed the message about body perfection highlight the universality of insecurities, “Go ahead and tell them skinny bitches Hey/No, I’m just playing, I know you think you’re fat”. While not all “skinny” women may think of themselves as fat, there are just as many body expectations and judgments happening on the other side of the spectrum as well–just take another look at the images pasted above.

To be completely clear, I am not saying that we should not be good custodians of our bodies and our health. I have blogged copiously on the subject of my health, my weight, and my body image journey. I am currently working on this area again, and not only have I lost 12 pounds in the last few months but I intend to lose more. What I would posit, however, is that not only are we all beautiful, but our beauty is unique and not dependent on our size. In other words, comparing one person’s beauty to another’s is the surest way to negate everyone’s.

And yes, there are times when beautiful is the furthest thing from what I feel.

You want to know what’s funny though?

As a sort of body experiment I’ve been taking some wardrobe risks lately. I decided that I was tired of waiting to wear what I want until I feel that I have carved out a body “worthy” of being shown. So, as a result, I have adopted something I am internally calling “Slightly Skanky Saturdays and Sundays”. All this movement entails is showing more skin than usual, but in a classy Emilie way. Slightly sheer shirts with a hint of bra showing through, short skirts without tights or leggings, and gracefully plunging necklines have all been a part of this experiment. My “racy” looks are likely not even a blip on most people’s wardrobe radars, but for me they have had a profound effect. The most marked instance of success during this experiment happened a few weekends ago when I wore an actual bikini to the actual beach. I frolicked in the waves, ran on the sand, and even had some photos taken to document the occurrence.

What I have found to be the most helpful about these experiments is not what I expected. Yes, I feel beautiful much more of the time now no matter what I am wearing. Yes, I feel empowered when wearing my slightly skanky ensembles. But honestly, the most powerful realization I have had was that I actually think about my body much, much less when I’m not worried about covering it up. That’s right. Instead of the non-stop inner narration I’ve been accustomed to that tracks every inch of clothing, every roll of fat sitting or standing, every slipping strap or seam alignment–instead I am experiencing a new form of freedom.

Do you have any idea how much more enjoyable life is when one layer of background tracking and judgment is removed, even for a moment or two? This is truly heady stuff.

Of course those scripts do not just disappear. After seeing the photo of myself in the full body bikini shot I had an immediate “well, I should do some core work” reaction and chose not to post the photo online. But then I moved on. And that moving on? That is a hugely important and monumental success for me.

As the internet continues to grow as a platform for education and liberation, I want to encourage intentional thought and inclusion versus comparison in our discussions surrounding beauty and body-image. I focus on my experience as a woman because that is what I know and what I have to offer, but I know that body messages and insecurities are not constrained by so-called gender roles. Tragically, they are the demesne of all humans.

Rather than parrot “It’s All About That Bass” as an example of us versus them, I hope all-sized humans can enjoy it as a fun, and meaningful, jam.

And if anyone has a lead on that mint-green hot-pant body suit please send my way–my teensy bass and I would rock it.

Sincerely,

Emilie

 

 

 

 

 

Hello, Beautiful!


You all know that I’ve been through a bit of a roller coaster physically, mentally, and emotionally. I went from thinking I was fat when I was sleek, to overindulging and not noticing when I became grossly overweight, to working hard and finding that healthy middle ground. While completely satisfied with my current weight and appearance, I have still been laboring to become trim and slim, with very little effect. I look great, but my efforts to bump off that last ten to forty pounds has not been successful.

You know what? I am so over it.

I am tired of trying to change my body. I am tired of feeling like I’m just not quite there, or that my accomplishments aren’t good enough.

I am done trying to be smaller.

I am not done with exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy BMI, and eating well, but I am done with that hideous business of always having a smaller goal. So what if I am a size 12? So what if I stay a size 12 forever?

I’m hot!

My whole life (excluding, of course, those troll-like middle school years) I have had people tell me I was beautiful. Men, women, children, they all said the nicest things. The sad part? I never, ever believed them.

My friends know that I have an addiction to my reflection. When I pass by a mirror, a window, a recently-shined countertop, I cannot help but to examine myself. To see my body positioning, my facial expressions (after all I have to know how I look onstage!), and to critique. For years all I saw were flaws. Now? All I see is beauty.

I obviously have those moments of regret and self doubt, where I wish my neck were longer or belly flatter or rib cage less wide but I recognize these moments as what they are, weakness, and I can see past them to who I really am. I am not saying that if more weight loss came as a result of respectable exercise I would flip out, but I am saying that that is no longer my goal.

I am here today to tell you that I finally believe. I finally feel, even on my frumpiest days, somewhat beautiful and confident and powerful and sexy and intelligent and like the force to be reckoned with that I am.

I declare, for now and evermore, an end to this frightening and exhausting business of a “skinny campaign”. I choose happiness.

I will not deny some chocolate or a lazy day or midnight breakfast sausage, because I have reached a place where these silly but happy-making choices are tempered with smart healthy-making choices. Instead of being ruled by a culture of “no, no, no” I will now embrace a lifestyle of “yes, yes, yes”.

Yes to freedom, yes to running and lifting weights and jazzercising and dance and leafy greens like kale and spinach and less meat and more core workouts because they make me happy not because they make me different.

Goodbye, unhappy and “never good enough” Emilie.

Hello, ecstatic, sexy, goddess-like, roman statue stunning, free-willed and strong-willed, intelligent, wise beyond her years, self-sufficient, healthy, and sustainable Emilie.

Today is the day I declare war on my previous campaign and instead embrace a lifestyle of respecting and loving the body that I have and the person that I am.

Sincerely,

Emilie

How the 2011 Summer Martha-Approved Exercise Plan is Going to Help Me lose 30 More Pounds:


Martha Stewart may be my greatest female role model.

I love her more than Meryl, which is quite shocking to think of loving anyone more than I love Meryl.

I haven’t always been this way, there was a dark time in my past (I shudder to recall) when Martha and I were enemies. I misunderstood what the Homemaking Queen was all about, and mis-labeled her as a fraud. I thought that she cheated by using ideas made by other people and then branding them with her name. Several years ago I was given her house-keeping handbook by my mother (long before it was relevant to me) and liked Martha even less for enabling the giving of such an odious Christmas non-present.

Then something beautiful happened–Martha went to prison for insider trading.

Now, I realize that this may have been a negative turning point for some Martha-lovers but for me, an avid Martha despiser, it was an epiphany. Martha Stewart was, and is, a visionary–she recognized that women (and men) deserve and desire confidence and elegance in their homes, but were clueless as to the “how”. Ideas were around but scattered, and Martha gathered them together (as well as offering some herself) and made them easy, user-friendly, and extremely aesthetically pleasing. Martha liberated home-making and made it kosher for the liberated woman to participate in, freeing the remnants of “crafting/baking/cleaning is anti-feminist” clutter from the minds of powerful women. Martha is a savvy businesswoman, promotes healthy body image, and a satisfyingly constant breeze of fresh, albeit somewhat cleaner and sparklier, air.  When Martha got locked up, rather than resting on her laurels or spending all of her time and energy trying to lie and hide, Martha took the opportunity to spread some of her signature magic to the lives of her fellow inmates. This made me respect her. Martha’s conviction made me a convert.

Ever since then I’ve delightedly perused the pages of my housekeeping bible, determined to embroider month labels for my mattress so I know when to rotate it and resolving to clean up everyday. (Something which worked well for a week until I took a break and bang–a mess appeared! I’ve swiftly started again.) I check her website(s) frequently, and have spent many an hour following link after link that have helped me to better my living.

The reason for this gushing Martha endorsement is that I have been having some trouble lately with my Healthy Me Campaign. Yes, faithful readers, I hit a genuine slump. You all know that I took a break from serious exercise for finals, and afterward it was hard to begin again. I re-started up daily exercise, green smoothies, and calorie tracking recently (and was sticking to it–minus theatre/theater outings) but somehow the same old plan wasn’t quite as shiny as it was before. Effective, certainly–the original plan helped me lose thirty pounds. But this time, I wasn’t enthused. Also, because of graduation my workout buddy can no longer come to the school rec center, whereas I can because I am working on campus. Sadly, it isn’t very much fun to do machine weight training on my own without the conversation to spur me forward. In other words–last year’s plan is now boring.

I want to lose another 30 pounds, but I can tell you right now that I wasn’t going to make it if I stuck with the same old routine, especially on my own. I decided to start google-ing. I wanted something that incorporated weight training and cardio, preferably something I could do a lot of at home, so I could use the rec center mostly for cardio and then beat the traffic rush home to continue there with very loud music.

Martha Stewart (via WholeLiving) to the effervescent rescue!

I followed a link on Martha Stewart Living to the WholeLiving website, and this delightful (and beautifully photographed) amalgamation of yoga, pilates, and weight training popped up with focus on different areas of the body. I was sold. The website has cool healthy me tips and worksheets, tools, skin tips, exercise tips, and a whole lot more in exemplary Martha presentation. I highly recommend checking it out if you are looking for something to do. The only thing I didn’t like was that I had to click to different photo galleries for the different break-ups of exercises, but I compiled it all in a Word document for myself. A lot of the stuff I was already doing, and doing more of, so I’ve modified the routines a little. It does have a fresh new feel, and Martha endorses this, so I’m sold. I’m also excited. I can do all of this at home, and Martha can smile down on me from above. (Or from the East Coast. Wherever.)

Just as a comparison, here is my old exercise routine, Jakercise (named after its creator):

And here is my new routine, thanks to the gracious Martha and her faery-like minions:

I’ve already purchased my tennis ball and I am ready to begin tomorrow.

Sincerely,

a re-animated health-seeking

Emilie

P.S. I am going to be doing a weekly poll from now on. Please vote on it. Really, it’s not that hard to look at the right hand of your screen and click a button. I see my blog stats–I know you’re out there.

Body Image: Awful Poetry Edition.


The Problem With Mirrors and Magazines.

#1

What is wrong with my brain;

I’d really like to know?

It seems that when I drop a pound

fifteen more start to show.

#2

I am me

I am not She

She is not Me

but she’s who I’m supposed to be.

Or is she?

#3

Work, sweat;

Progress.

Wake, look;

Setback.

#4

I spy, with my mind’s eyes

Something that isn’t quite right.

My head, it knows,

But my stomach it shows,

And something inside of me lies.

The numbers are there–

they don’t matter.

I spy, with my real eyes,

Something that isn’t wrong

My head, it knows

But my stomach again shows,

And something inside of me lies.

The numbers, who cares?

I think that voice is broken.

While I may have just gone off the dramatic deep end , I do have a point to make  with my awful poetry. You lovely readers know that lately I have been making an effort to become a healthier person. (Yes, I fail many, many times but I always start anew.) So far in this process I’ve lost two pant sizes and over fifteen pounds. You would think that this would be a great victory for me, the girl who slowly gained weight during the first three years of college until she resembled a miniature blimp–albeit a blimp with great legs.

For a while, it was. When I first saw the number on the scale, when I first zipped up those skinny jeans I haven’t been able to wear since Freshman year which have been living in the basement ever since and now are too large, I was ecstatic. I had accomplished something, and I was looking good.

Then, I took another look. That tummy is still rather rotund, the upper arms and legs are not as firm or as thin as could be desired, and the face is still buried in flab. It doesn’t matter that I lost that weight, I’ve still got thirty five pounds to lose, I cannot believe I allowed my self to reach that god-forsaken state of heft,  people were probably embarrassed to be around me. They probably are still.

I am not writing to lament over what I like to jokingly call “my predicament.” It is my fault, and my fault alone, that I became unhealthy. I refused to exercise regularly and did not eat well. I spent my time in sedentary pursuits, and I made excuses for why I could not possibly be healthy.

I am not writing for a self-esteem boost, or fishing for complements. I know that I have made good progress, and I hope to continue to do so. I know that the changes I am making now will help me to be healthy and have a full life as years go on.

I am writing because my way of thinking, while almost universal, is not ok. The mind adjusts very, very quickly to changes in appearance, and the idea of “never being good enough” is far too prevalent. Yes, it is good to strive to excel in life, but not at the price of mental well-being and actual health. It is good to try hard, to not be lazy: it is bad to think “no matter what I do I can always do better.” Because what does that really mean? “I will never be good enough.”

So please, women and men, next time you look in the mirror, try taking a few moments to go over some of your positive attributes rather than just the ones that could be improved on. I will try to do the same. I will try to look back and say, “look at how far I have come.”

I recognize that I am still on a journey, but if I refuse to recognize my successes then I render them impotent.

Sincerely,

Emilie

P.S. “Awful Poetry” title borrowed from grapesofrad.

–E.E.A.S.

Heels V. Flats


Today’s topic:

The great foot debate–to wear the hot heels or the more sensible flats?

My answer, dear friends, if in doubt always go with the heels.

You may ask why?

Why are a few vain hours worth the potential back problems and quite probable calluses?

I will tell you why.

CONFIDENCE.

When a woman wears heels she exudes confidence: her gait improves, no longer is she the shy wallflower or the awkward twitterpated youth, now she is a gliding WOMAN sure of herself and her goals. This woman holds her head high, she breezes past obstacles that may have stumped her if her line of sight was a little nearer the ground, and d*** her legs look good!

I have noticed (not only in myself) that a simple pair of heels can change the outlook of the entire day.

Take yesterday for example: I was at the mall with my  mother. I had left the house earlier in the morning knowing that my hair looked good, that I had been losing weight, and that my makeup was outstanding. I also knew that I would be doing a lot of walking at the mall so it would be wiser if I wore flats. So I bravely pushed aside my beautiful heels that would have gone perfectly with my outfit and opted for the comfortable flats instead.

After an hour of walking in those shoes I was certain of several facts: 1–I was so much fatter than I had thought that morning (even though I was trying on sizes much smaller than I had been a few months ago) 2–My hair looked absolutely terrible (even though it had not changed one bit from that morning when I was sure of how cute it looked) and 3–My outifit made me look like a style-less freak.

After grumbling in my own head at how bad I looked I had to stop myself and figure out what the problem was.

The only thing that had changed since my earlier evaluation of my appearance was simple–I had been picturing my outfit with heels. One teeny little difference of 2 or 3 inches was enough to ruin my entire day.

Other examples: In multiple rehearsals I have come wearing flats and have not been able to perform the same way I do when wearing heels.

I have noticed in other people women around me this same change. They will come in one day in flats and have a merely passable day, but then the next day they will come in heels and everyone will start to notice them.

This is not shallow– I am not merely talking about outside appearance. I am talking about the underlying confidence, the feeling that what you are doing is right. Yes, you too can get this from a pair of heels. (Almost like how our buddy Harry felt after drinking the F.F.).

ATT: Women who do not know how to walk in heels with proper balance and posture–I will give you free lessons!

And if you spend your whole youth worrying about how you are screwing up your body for later than life–knock it off. There are totally surgeries that can fix things..or if not there will be. And in addition–according to Hollywood we aren’t going to make it past 2012 so you should start building your confidence now.

Don’t hate.

Sincerely,

Emilie

Busy Busy Me


The musical was a roaring success I would say, and people were very kind to me in their feedback.

I think I kind of rocked it.

Thanks to everyone who came!

In other news:

Now that the show is over I have to make up for all of the programs I didn’t do before.

Coming up asap are

and

I am not as woefully behind as I thought I was, but I am not all caught up. And I have a raging sore throat.

That is all.

I know I keep teasing, but hopefully there will be a real, written, update soon.

Sincerely,

Emilie