Middle School Boys Body-Shamed Me More Than The Girls Ever Did

When I was at the height of puberty, the popular girls I was friends with at school decided to have a “spa weekend” sleepover. We brought bathing suits for the pool, razors and Nair to remove every inch of our body hair, and self-tanner to get our glow on. I had just gone bleach blonde and was feeling awesome about myself, even if I hated how I looked in a bikini.

As we lathered up the self-tan lotion, eradicated all of the peach fuzz from our legs and self-consciously compared each other’s bodies in the mirror, I couldn’t help but feel like I belonged to a group of peers who were so much cooler than the rest of my peers. All of these girls seemed to like me, and my self-esteem soared that weekend.

We had solemnly promised to wear sleeveless shirts and shorts to school on Monday to show off our newly smooth and tan limbs. When I got home from the sleepover, I noticed that my mom had a bottle of Neutrogena “Deep Glow” self-tanning lotion in our bathroom that seemed to be calling my name. I grabbed it and voraciously plastered the orange goo over my body to make myself even tanner. As I fantasized about how awesome I’d look as a sun-kissed babe, I failed to notice that my hair had turned a slight shade of green from being overly chlorinated in the pool.

In hindsight, I totally should have stayed home from school that week. But I didn’t. Because I desperately wanted everyone to see my societally approved body alongside the popular girls who had befriended me. While I was definitely a thin kid, these young ladies always appeared to be thinner than me, especially when puberty rolled around. I wanted whatever they had going on, and I went to great lengths to look exactly like them.

I remember walking down the locker-filled halls with an ear-to-ear smile, even though I kept getting strange looks from random classmates. To my great disappointment, I walked into my class and saw that none of my friends had kept their promise. I was the only one there with shorts and a tee-shirt on, and I immediately felt a wave of embarrassment as I found my seat.

Then lunchtime rolled around, and life as I knew it would never be the same.

I heard the loud chanting as soon as I entered the dining hall. A bunch of the most popular boys in my grade seemed to be playing some funny game at one of the tables. They all had dinner rolls and orange Snapple cans in their hands, and they were laughing up a storm while they belted out the words I wish I’d never heard. As I curiously walked closer to get an earful of what they were singing, my eyes welled up with tears. These middle school boys were taking the “Oompa Loompa” song from “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and adding my name into it. Worst of all, they made faces to imply that I was fat as they sang the body-shaming anthem.

This wasn’t the first time I’d been made fun of, but it was definitely the most hurtful. I’d already been called a “grandma” in fourth grade because I liked to go sock-less in penny loafers and don vintage shirts. As a kid, I thought that what I wore would be the only source of appearance-based ridicule I’d encounter, but that assumption was painfully shattered after I got my period and started developing.

As soon as I entered middle school, I was told by some random 14-year-old guy that the reason no boys liked me was because I had a fat butt. My seventh-grade boyfriend called me “wide load” behind my back after I broke up with him. And my all-time biggest crush in the whole wide world laughed in my face and loudly said me I was a “tubby bitch” when I disagreed with something he said in class.

It bears repeating that I was told all of these hurtful things while living in a body that the world considered skinny. Sure, my hips had widened a bit, boobs had appeared for the first time on my chest, and there were new stretch marks cascading across the sides of my legs from the recent changes of puberty. I’ve also always had a little junk in my trunk, but that never seemed to be a problem until the male classmates at my school made it one. By the end of seventh grade, I got the message loud and clear – boys hated my body, I was much too big in all the wrong places, and nature was trying to punish me.

Maybe if this had been the only type of bullying I’d encountered, I might not have struggled so damn hard with my self-esteem. But life at home made things infinitely worse. I was a child who endured physical and mental abuse and was verbally bashed on many occasions for physically evolving. Comments were regularly made about parts of my body that left me riddled with self-hate. I learned quickly that the only way to be truly lovable was if I conformed, became scarily skinny, and pretended I was okay all of the time. And yet, despite successfully doing all of that shit, I still encountered cruelty from the boys at my school.

I had already spent years watching movies and television shows that had me blindly believing that mean girls were the enemies to fear, and their sole purpose was to make your life a living hell. When the boys unexpectedly became the real threat to my body image and the heartbreaking reality didn’t match up with the skewed media messages I had been inundated with, I just chalked it all up as the product of my own failure to get it right as a girl.

From that shame-based place, I started obsessively monitoring my food intake and ultimately dove headfirst into a diet pill addiction and an eating disorder. Body dysmorphia also became an insidious struggle in my daily life. I went to dangerous lengths to recreate images of the skinny models I saw in magazines, but I never felt thin enough, pretty enough, or good enough.

Thirteen-year-old Lindsay didn’t deserve any of this. She deserved to feel inherent worth no matter how much her body changed and to spend her days not totally hating herself for existing. I wish I could go back in time, give that little kid a big bear hug, and assure her that she was never the problem. It’s been 23 years since I was body-shamed by middle school boys, and I finally understand now that society – and not me – was the problem all along.

Here’s the information that my seventh-grade health teachers should have included in their curriculum, but sadly didn’t. On average, a girl can gain 40-50 pounds during puberty, and a boy can gain up to 60 pounds. Stretch marks, wider hips, and breasts of various sizes are natural fucking changes that many girls encounter when they get their period.

Astonishingly, many preteen children have already been overwhelmed by media imagery that idolizes thin bodies and unrealistic beauty ideals by the time they hit puberty. According to the National Eating Disorders Association, 69% of elementary school-aged girls who read magazines say that the pictures influence their idea of a perfect body, and 47% report that the images they see make them want to lose weight.

We have got to start teaching our children, no matter their gender, how damaging appearance-based bullying can be. Teasing an adolescent about the size of her butt or the width of her hips can have grave consequences when combined with the toxic diet culture that pervades our society. Boys need to be held accountable as much, if not more, than girls and taught to value and respect people of all sizes. The moment we realize how damaging and destructive it is to incorrectly teach our kids that their worth exists outside of them is the very moment we can help them discover that it’s been living inside of them since the day they were born.

I’m a mother now to a four-year-old girl, and I am doing everything in my power to ensure that she will always feel at home in her body. It begins with giving myself the love that I lacked for way too many years and mourning all of the times when my inner light was dimmed because a bunch of boys thought that it was okay to shame a girl for taking up space however she did.

As painful (and a little funny) as it is to know that I’ll never go near self-tanner again after being traumatized by the experience, it’s also empowering as fuck to know that I never needed it in the first place. Younger Lindsay was awesome all on her own, and the boys were so fucking wrong about her body.

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I Was Accused Of Skinny Shaming On Instagram

When I started sharing my eating disorder recovery journey on Instagram, I never expected that one day I’d be verbally attacked for doing it.

I’ve worked hard to build an online community filled with safety and inclusion, and the overwhelmingly positive response to my work has shown me that I’ve succeeded in many ways at achieving that. Inspired by the original roots of the body-positivity movement, I’ve also chosen to publicly advocate for the inherent rights and dignity of anyone walking around in a body that society has deemed as “less than.” I also speak out about the atrocities of fatphobia and diet culture, joyfully celebrate living freely in a larger body, and work to end the stigma around mental health and overcoming trauma.

I’ve learned the hard way that no matter how well intentioned a person can be, not everyone will like or agree with what you stand up for, especially if it goes against the societal status quo. While I expected to receive some pushback from health shamers on my page, I never in my wildest dreams thought that writing about my painful past in a thin body would lead some folks to accuse me of skinny shaming women.

But that’s exactly what happened.

Last month, I posted a side by side image of myself. On the left was a photo of me as a young adult grappling with body dysmorphia and extreme dieting. On the right was a picture of me now as I exist in the fat body I’ve spent the past three years learning to love. My goal was to turn the traditional “before and after” weight loss comparison photos on their head and to share that I’ve realized my natural born worth and lovability in a body most people don’t aspire to attain.

“I used to live for a flat stomach and a skinny body,” I wrote. “I used to believe that weight gain was a sign of weakness & failure… I used to restrict my eating so much that the idea of intuitively eating was too uncomfortable to even consider… I used to harshly judge anyone in a larger body. And worse, I used to believe I too had a larger body while living in excruciating thinness.”

I explained that not a single moment while living in a skinny body was a happy one. I never felt comfortable with myself, and I was always aiming to lose more weight. All that changed when I gained 75 pounds after two pregnancies.

“These days, I feel so at home in this current version of myself that weight loss or restrictive eating is out of the fucking question,” I shared. “I love my fat body with such fierceness and such compassion that doing anything to jeopardize that love is totally off the table. My body may look nothing like it once did. But I couldn’t be more grateful for it.”

My main goal in posting this image was to help anyone struggling to love their larger body to challenge the societal conditioning that have led many of us to hate ourselves. I wrote my post for younger Lindsay, who never believed she would be valued or respectfully seen in a fat body. I shared my story because I know that other women like me are suffering in silence with eating disorders and desperately need more of us to create positive visibility of how recovery can look.

One woman saw my post and immediately assumed the worst, however. Her words shocked me to my core and challenged the very nature of the work I do online.

“Do you not think you’re shaming the ones who are skinny like you used to be?” she asked. “Do you not think that we’re happy because we aren’t fat? Do you honestly think your body weight determines whether you’re happy or not?”

Needless to say, this was quite a lot to unpack. I did what I usually do when negative comments about me are posted. I immediately deleted her words and privately reached out to her, respectfully advising her about my “no hate” policy on Instagram. Sometimes I block someone if they’re only on my page to tear me down, but this seemed like something different. I felt the pain in her words. I encouraged her to only follow me if it felt good to do so, and I told her I was curious why she’d think I was ever shaming anyone for existing in a thin body by merely sharing my story and truth.

The conversation that followed blew my mind.

After a few uncomfortable interactions, this woman began to trust that I could be a safe harbor for her and slowly leaned in to being vulnerable. She revealed that she’s been living in crippling thinness like I once did. But it’s not because she destroys her body or even diets to get there. She is desperately trying to gain weight and deals on the daily with anxiety from not being physically able to pack on the pounds. She has resorted to shopping in the kids’ section of clothing stores, something she reluctantly shared with me. Seeing me speak out about my shame in a thin body triggered her deeply. Here I was, a fat babe smiling brightly, and this lady felt envious of my inner freedom and ability to live large (metaphorically and literally).

I’m grateful to say that I hung in there with her and tried to help her determine what was at the heart of her reactive comment. Four days and many messages later, we not only came to a loving understanding, but she bravely allowed me to share our private interaction on Instagram.

In a video update to my followers, I explained how I responded to the human being who initially saw discrimination and divisiveness in my post. I went to great lengths to help this woman understand that there is a key difference between inner shame in a thin body and the societal shame of existing in a fat one. While her feelings and struggles were valid, it was important for her to realize that living in any kind of thinness comes with a certain level of privilege. Our world has demonized larger bodies to the point of fear-mongering and spreading profit-driven propaganda to keep us small. We reward people in thin bodies with constant praise and the dangerous assumption that they’re always healthy. Fat folks have also been culturally oppressed for far too long, and it is so critical for activists like me to openly call it out.

It’s one thing to hate yourself because of the inherent pressure to conform to diet culture. It’s quite another to hate yourself because diet culture doesn’t value your very existence based on your size. Once I made this powerful distinction to the woman, she started to connect the dots. I’m tremendously thankful that she did.

Of course, I don’t plan to go into endless dialogues with everyone who misinterprets my journey. But I’m sure glad I did with this amazing human being. Women living in thin bodies, especially the white gals, need to pop their personal bubble and see beyond it to those who are being harshly judged and demeaned on the daily in fatness. No matter what you’ve been through or how abusive you or others have been to force you into thinness, you’ve got to also educate yourself on the devastating challenges of being someone who fears simply walking down the street and being ridiculed for their size.

If anyone reading this is wondering what they can do to be a fat ally, I have some suggestions. Check yourself before you decide to ask a larger person if they take care of themselves. Educate yourself on the fatphobic roots of diet culture. Open your eyes to the ways you have benefited from the privilege of living in a skinny body. Check out the growing list of statistics out there for the youth who are inheriting our toxic societal obsession with thinness. Support fat folks in your community and speak up for those who face prejudice. Most importantly, do whatever you can to heal your own relationship with your body no matter what size you are.

I had no clue what thin privilege was until I no longer had it. Now that I know what I know, I can only work to heal what once was broken. I’ve made it my mission to advocate for marginalized bodies and human beings. I hope you’ll join me. Let’s all consider the revolutionary idea of giving a big, juicy middle finger to the profit-driven institutions that are keeping us more divided than united.

And finally, please enjoy my new take on an old adage. If you don’t have something nice to say, dig deep and ask yourself why.

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Give Up On A Flat Stomach, Folks — Let’s Celebrate The VBO

You had a baby. Perhaps you had more than one baby. Perhaps, like me, you had several babies. Or maybe you are raising a child you didn’t biologically carry. Or you lost your baby.

Maybe when you got pregnant the first time, you had a flat stomach. Maybe it was perfect, the teenage-dream belly, a flat, perfect plane of skin that ran in one line straight from your breasts to your … you know. Maybe back then you could look straight down and see your … you know … without leaning forward a teensy bit. Maybe you mostly still can, kinda.

But you, very likely, don’t have a flat stomach. Short of surgery, you will probably never have a flat stomach again.

Give. It. Up.

As we say in the South, let go and let God.

And the Lord God, the universe, the flying spaghetti monster, or basic human evolution decided when a woman got pregnant, her stomach would stretch. After this stretching, there would be no need for her body to look the same as it did before. It didn’t need to. She was fine the way she was. So her formerly flat stomach remained somewhat stretched. No longer did she look like she used to; she looked like she’s a mom.

That’s because she is a mom.

So after you have a baby, even if you lost alllllll the baby weight, even if you fasted yourself down to the same weight you had in high school, your stomach will probably  never look the same. It will never tighten up. It will never completely flatten out. Your formerly flat stomach will pooch. It will squish, or sag, or maybe some skin will hang down in weird little wrinkly folds (I have weird little wrinkly folds).

Give it up, folks.

Yeah, you could get surgery to take care of that. And that’s okay. Your body, your choice. But many of us  don’t have the money/time/inclination/desire to do so. We look exactly the way we’re supposed to look. We look like we had a baby.

Make it normal, people. Let’s normalize a VBO. Let’s normalize a belly pooch. Let’s normalize squishy bellies. Because they are normal.

Zachary Reed/Reshot

Stop walking around acting like you’re supposed to look any goddamn different. Stop being ashamed. When you look down at your belly and think, “God, if only I looked …” just shut that shit down. Your body is beautiful and amazing.

They have built an entire industry on making you think that you should have a flat stomach. It’s called “shapewear.” It’s clingy and sweaty and sticky and sometimes makes it hard to breathe, and you tend to bulge out the edges of it. I should know. I wore The Most Popular Of Shapewear for years, come depth of winter or sweltering heat of a Southern summer. I would not allow myself to be seen in public without it. Why? Because if people saw me, they would know I didn’t have a flat stomach.

They knew I didn’t have a fucking flat stomach. I was carting three children everywhere.

Because here’s the other secret: everyone knows you do not have a flat stomach. 

If you are someone who has procreated or is raising kids, we know your stomach is (more than likely) not flat. We know it (more than likely) sags or bags or flops or pouches or pokes or shelves or does one or many of the things that the female stomach does when it’s asked to stretch big enough to accommodate an eight pound human being for a certain period of time. Y’all, think about that baby one more time. Close your eyes. From a sheer that-thing-was-in-my-body point of view, that baby was fucking enormous. It literally shifted your vital organs around for the better part of a year. The whole world knows that.

Once you take the shapewear off, you’re left with the same stomach you had before you put it on. What are you going to do, wear that shit to bed? I sure hope not. You deserve comfort.

“Lose the mummy tummy”? Shut the hell up, tabloids and the Western beauty standards driven by capitalism to make us feel bad about ourselves. Moms have tummies. Period.

A flat stomach might be nice. So would some of those really expensive, weird gadgets in the Williams-Sonoma catalog that you wonder who the hell even seriously contemplates buying. So would a unicorn. A unicorn would be cool. I could hang towels on its horn or something.

A flat stomach is about the same. Pretty to look at, but not necessary. Not necessary to be an amazing human. Not necessary to live your best life.

So, try make your peace with your belly. Look at it. Realize that it will never be the same as before, short of surgical intervention, so you might as well learn to appreciate it for what it is right now. Be less self-conscious. That doesn’t mean you have to wear a crop-top (unless you want to). But you can drop the shame. You don’t have to look like you did before.

You can look like a mom. It’s okay to be a mom. There’s nothing wrong with being a mom. Moms are awesome. So are soft bellies, round bellies, stretch-marked bellies, all the bellies.

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Fat Positivity Requires Me To Be Positive About Every Kind of Body

I’ve been fat my entire life. Literally. The whole entire thing. If you’re in a fat body like me, we probably have some things in common. I’d love to chat with you today because I think there are a few things fat people should probably consider when we talk about bodies and self-acceptance. I think we can do a little better.

I hated my size for most of the first 30 years of my life. Honestly, I still have my days where the voices in my head tell me I’m not good enough. But over the last few years, I’ve come to see my body totally differently than ever before. I’m happy now. My body size is just not important to me anymore. I care more about my health and happiness than some kind of bullshit ideal size or shape.

A big part of getting here was confronting my own internalized fat biases. It was an uncomfortable idea. It hurt me to realize how much I detested fat bodies. But I admitted it anyway, dealt with it, and did intentional work to change my mindset about weight and size.

I would venture to say most of us are dragging around some ideas about fat people and our bodies that really need to be dealt with. Like, now.

It’s not our fault. We have lived in the disaster of diet and “wellness” culture for so long.

But it’s still our responsibility to be better.

Maybe you are clinging to some idea about the hierarchy of fat body acceptability, believing smaller fat people with fairly even proportions are inherently more attractive than larger, rounder fat people simply by virtue of being closer to the cultural ideal. Do you have unwritten and unspoken limits for how big a person can get and still be considered beautiful, sexy, and acceptable?

Do you think you can tell someone’s health just by looking at them? If a person was very large but reported that they received a clean bill of health from their physician, would you high five them while raising an internal eyebrow?

Those are just a few examples of size biases that might still be clanging around in your brain, effing with your chances to see yourself and other people as whole and well and beautiful.

It’s time to let them go.

We have to end the obsession with thinness as a prerequisite for health and beauty, and we also have to reject the idea of health as the gold standard for worth. If we can only validate and respect people who are healthy, we aren’t honoring bodies of any size. Health is not attainable for everyone. Some people of every size are sick and will always be sick. They still deserve a place in the conversation about self-love, body acceptance, and living peacefully in your skin.

I can’t imagine a world where I will ever go back to seeing some bodies as inherently better than others. It was such a heavy state of mind. I am grateful for the way I see things today. It is a more peaceful place to live. I feel better now that I can honestly say that I don’t think my body is inferior to thin bodies.

Everyone has the right to live happily in whatever body they have.

If we, as fat people, see any woman for the shape and size of her body exclusively, we are no better than the media messages that do that same shit to us day in and day out.

Let’s be honest, though. Living comfortably in your body is easier for some people. Saying it isn’t verges on absurd. There are certain kinds of bodies — usually cis, white, thin, and athletic — that are validated everywhere they go. I get why it feels frustrating sometimes to include people with that specific kind of privilege in the body positivity conversation. It is important to acknowledge that many bodies are validated by virtue of existing. Because that’s a fact.

Sometimes, to stay the course and see myself as amazing, I need to have conversations where fat bodies are the singular focus. I think that’s okay. People who have walked similar difficult roads need and deserve spaces where our experiences reign supreme. We need a time and place to be the norm instead of the exception. Sometimes, in fat positive spaces, it’s appropriate to celebrate fat bodies exclusively without mentioning that it’s okay to be thin, too. We need that.

But there’s solidarity, then there’s toxicity. Fat babes, we have to be careful we aren’t choosing to be catty and toxic, pretending it’s healthy community.

If we, as fat people, see any woman for the shape and size of her body exclusively, we are no better than the media messages that do that same shit to us day in and day out.

Yes, it’s important to declare, “Hey, fat people deserve to exist happily, too!” Too often, we are excluded and undervalued. It’s not okay. We have every right to feel like Horton’s Whos once in a while, chanting, “We are here! We are here!” The world isn’t always nice to us, and we are totally allowed to be done with that bullshit.

But while we endeavor to be comfy in our fat bodies, we need to be able to say, “Come over here, thin girl. We see your struggle, too. You can sit with us.”

Our message isn’t diminished if we include people in thin bodies in the conversations sometimes. Everyone needs a little help feeling comfortable and at peace in the vessel that carries them through the world.

Finding that peace looks different for everyone. I had to change my mind, but some people have to change their bodies. Some people will never find peace with their body if they leave it as-is. If someone knows that they must make a change to their body to live in comfort, there is no choice involved for me. I’m going to support them a million percent.

You need to change your size to find peace? Rock on, friend. Don’t hurt yourself, and don’t buy the lie that you’re not enough today and every day — no matter what that scale or that clothing size says. Nourish your body with foods that contain all the things a human body needs. Move in a way that feels good to you, and watch your body change so you can feel the peace I finally feel. I’m not here for diet culture, but I’m here for YOU.

I’m in for personal transformative growth, whether than means changing your size, adjusting your body to reflect your gender, sculpting your muscles to appear stronger, or any other thing a person might need to do to feel at home in their body.

Fat people are the perfect group to lead the charge on speaking the hell up about bullshit body expectations and unrealistic depictions of size and beauty. We fight against it so much. We are experts.

But we shouldn’t only declare, “Our fat bodies are fine!”

We really should add, “Because all bodies are fine!”

And we need to believe it.

All bodies. Fat bodies. Thin bodies. “Perfect” Hollywood bodies. Post-baby bodies. Trans bodies. Shrinking bodies. Expanding bodies. Healthy bodies. Chronically ill bodies. All of them. All the bodies.

We need to find space to celebrate and validate every kind of human body or our body positivity isn’t very positive at all…and wouldn’t that mean it’s kind of for nothing?

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I Finally Quit Dieting, And I’ve Never Felt So Good

I have a confession to make.  I have a secret stash of ice cream that is just for me. Yeah, I’ve cried when my husband polished off the last of the chocolate brownie ice cream, and I fear it may be a deal breaker for our marriage. So, I got my own, put it in the back of the freezer, and eat it when my kids have already gone to bed. Listen, I don’t deprive my kids of ice cream, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to douse all their pajamas in Shout every time they eat dessert. The kids get vanilla based ice cream until they can show me that they can eat an ice cream cone without rubbing it all over their cute little faces.

So yeah, sometimes I feel guilty for eating ice cream because I intentionally and purposefully hide it from my very own flesh and blood. But the difference between these feelings of guilt and shame that I’m experiencing now and the guilt and shame I felt while I would scarf down a half gallon of my roommate’s Haaagen-Dazs while she was out for the day couldn’t be greater.

I had been struggling with a binge-restrict cycle since I was 15, and it took me a good 10+ years before I figured out what was going on. I often echo the sentiments of the non-diet dietitians I admire when I say that guilt and shame should never be feelings associated with food unless you stole it. It’s funny when you think about it, right? If you’re feeling badly because you went over your “points” or because you’re supposed to be keto or paleo or whatever diet is all the rage on Instagram, then I encourage you to take a step back and look at the big picture.

Here’s the thing—diets don’t work, and when you deprive yourself of the stuff you really want, it only makes you want it more. You are not broken. The diet is broken.

Sophie Mayanne/Getty

Call it a lifestyle change if you want, but if you’re setting food rules for yourself, then yes, friend, it is a diet. If these rules make you feel like you’ve failed when you have a cookie after 8 p.m. or eat a sandwich on real bread, then it is a diet. A diet with a different name is still a diet.

So if diets don’t work, then how can you lose weight, you ask? Here’s the thing: Actively pursuing weight loss can actually be worse for your health. The psychological pressure, shame, self-doubt, and bias that comes along with it can be damaging, so finding a way to eat and move your body in a way that supports your health–regardless of your body size–is the best way to give your body the respect it deserves.

If you struggle with binge eating and feel out of control around food, then I urge you to reach out for support. The anti-diet movement is growing, and professionals are out there to help you make peace with food. If you haven’t read the book “Health At Every Size,” and this message is resonating with you, please do! It truly changed my life.

Now that I have two little girls, I am committed to shielding them from the pressure to be thin for as long as I can. I make sure to celebrate all bodies and think about the other things that make them unique, like their compassion and empathy and humor and, yes, their sass.

The research is out there that supports the pursuit of health, not weight, and it is a step in the direction of getting your life back from diet culture.

Now, who wants ice cream? I’d even share.

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Accepting My Body Has Completely Changed My Marriage

It was a rare evening. Both of our kids had cooperated at bedtime, falling asleep easily in their own room. By 8 p.m., the rest of our evening was kid-free and wide open. Sure, we could have caught up on laundry or watched whatever was waiting in our Hulu queue. I could have given into the exhaustion of my approaching third trimester and passed out while my husband watched TV without me.

But on this night, we decided all of that could wait. I decided I’d rather stay awake with my love than get an extra hour of sleep. We closed our bedroom door and took our time with each other, refusing to rush. When we were done, we lay in bed, tangled in our sheets, still breathless from passion. My husband rolled onto his side to face me, propped his head up with his hand, and asked, “Can I tell you something?”

He knew my answer would be yes. Always yes. Anything. He can tell me anything.

He reached over to smooth a piece of hair out of my face, and he said, “Both other times you were pregnant, I dreaded the end. I was excited to meet our babies, but I knew that the end of your pregnancy was the end of your self-esteem. You’re so uninhibited when you’re pregnant. It’s like you finally think you’re worth something when your body is growing a baby. I was sad to see it end because I knew you would go back to feeling unattractive. I’d have to go back to reassuring you, never touching your stomach in case you were feeling self-conscious that day. I knew I would miss the version of you that I only got to know when you were pregnant.”

He went on.

“But I’m not worried this time. You’re so different now. You haven’t hated yourself in such a long time. I still love how healthy and sexy you feel when you’re pregnant. I think your body is such a miracle with our baby in it. But now I know that I won’t lose this version of you when she’s born. You finally love your body like I’ve always loved it, and it’s so sexy to me.”

I can’t begin to really explain how proud that made me feel.

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It’s the last time I’ll ever be pregnant. I have a hard time taking photos of myself because my arms are short and my body is big, but I managed this one and to be honest, I love it. I know I’m very round. I have a long way to go with this pregnancy and I’m only going to get rounder. But I feel healthy and beautiful and my baby girl is safe in this body, growing and getting ready to meet us. I have never been self-conscious of my face, and now for the first time, I feel like more than a pretty face. My body feels worthy to me, finally. So, here it is. I’m never going to be that writer that inundates my social media with tons of full body shots. I’d have to ask my husband to take them, and I have no time for frequent photo shoots. But once in a while, I feel obligated to show more of my body than my face and shoulders because I am truly as happy and comfortable and content as I say I am. Not only with the parts I’ve always loved, but with all of me. I don’t know what my body will look like for the rest of my life. It could end up bigger or smaller or stay just like this. And I’m going to love every day of the life I get to live no matter what. I only have one body. I’m not wasting my life hating it. #plussize #plussizeandpregnant #pregnantbelly #nobodyshame #effyourbeautystandards

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He is right. I do love my body the way he loves it now. He loves so much more than how I look. That is what I needed to do so I could come around to loving me, too.

Everything in my life changed when I chose to stop seeing my own body as my enemy.

Enemies engage in a mutual fight. But my body wasn’t fighting me. My body was just existing, serving me well, carrying me through my greatest joys, and surviving my deepest tragedies.

I didn’t have an enemy; I had a victim.

Despite the fact that I was healthy and thriving, I was choosing to be cruel to myself because I did not see this fat body as a reflection of my intelligence or beauty. My body felt foreign to me, even as I lived inside it. So, I did all I could to change it into a thin body.

But it never happened for me, no matter what kind of abuse I subjected myself to. I could never continue hurting myself long enough to make the change. Every time I failed, I hated myself just a little bit more.

I had to confront my own biases about fat people to get past that feeling. I had bought the lie that fat people like me are inherently less intelligent and less attractive than thin people. It hurt to realize that I had contributed to that narrative by accepting it about myself.

But I shed that toxic mindset, and I choose every day not to look back.

I never considered that my husband would be so excited about it because he loved me so well even while I hated my own body. He has always been obsessed with every inch of me, no matter what I lose or gain. I have never doubted that he adored me.

I just never understood why.

Now I do. My body doesn’t look like a magazine cover, but it is a big part of the woman he loves. It’s carried both of his sons, and it’s carrying his daughter right now. My mind holds all his deepest fears and insecurities, and he knows I’ll never tell. My heart is honored to carry his pain, so he never walks alone. I committed to being one with him many years ago, and I have done an excellent job. I am an outstanding wife, partner and lover for him. It was never fair for me to feel like anything less.

This man loves me — mind, soul, spirit and body.

Especially body.

We have only ever been together. He has told me that I am irresistible almost every single day.

I always believed that HE believed it, but I didn’t understand what he saw.

Now I do.

We enjoy each other’s bodies, but now I do it without apologies, with the lights on, and without pointing out all my own flaws. Honestly, I don’t even feel flawed anymore. I feel like I deserve the way he worships my body.

He can tell. It’s changed everything.

Sex is hotter. So much hotter. As it turns out, feeling sexy is sexy. I thought it was great before, but the last couple of years have been a whole new experience.

We argue less because I’m just not as miserable. I don’t feel unworthy of the space I take up anymore. I don’t shy away from doing things I want to do because I’m fat. Since I have stopped hiding, I don’t pull the sheets over my stomach or hide my body with a pillow when we sit on the couch. It’s been a long time since I forced my body into a rigid diet, setting myself up for failure. I’m just happier.

He doesn’t have to think of ways to reassure me that I’m beautiful. I see myself through his eyes. When he stops me in the store just to spin me around and kiss me, I feel like I deserve it. I don’t care who can’t see what he sees in me. I see it. That’s all I need.

I thought I was on a journey to self-love, but it turned out to be so much more. Immersing myself in body positive messages has taught me a whole new way to see the world. I am a better mother, a more confident woman, and a more self-assured writer.

And it’s made my marriage a happier, more peaceful and way sexier place to be. It’s been hard to unlearn decades of negative messages about fat bodies, but it’s worth every bit of the effort it’s taken.

I’m so, so happy here.

The post Accepting My Body Has Completely Changed My Marriage appeared first on Scary Mommy.

My Doctor Called Me Fat And I Had No Idea How To Respond

I’ve gotten pretty good at reacting to things in my life. Happy things, like hearing my babies’ heart beats for the first time. Scary things, like the day my husband came home and told me he had lost his job. And funny things, like finding my child in her crib, playing with her own feces.

All of these situations–happy, scary, and funny–elicited relatively easy reactions from me. Were they to happen again, I would know exactly what to do. I know what my next steps would be. I could probably even demonstrate which faces I would make and what I would do with my hands.

There is one reaction, however, that I have not been able to nail down. Despite getting older and wiser. Despite giving myself pep talks in my car. Despite practicing in my shower the night before. I still don’t know the answer.

How are you supposed to react when a doctor calls you fat?

The answer to this question has evaded me for years. You see, I’m a bit of an expert in this field.

In high school, my family practitioner encouraged me to join his “physician monitored” weight loss program. He assured me that I was the perfect candidate. I drove to his office every other week to weigh in and receive my refill of diet pills.

Two years ago, I had a doctor evaluate me and tell me that my “Health Grade” was an F. At the time, I was doing CrossFit 3 times a week and running 3-5 miles on the days in between. I was the lowest weight I had been since college. BUT, according to their parameters, my weight was still too high to get anything more than a failing grade.

This summer, pregnant, hot, and miserable, most of my prenatal appointments began with the sentence “You know I hate to bring it up but…let’s talk about your weight.” One midwife said she expected to come in and see me swollen, with the extreme water retention and high blood pressure that comes with preeclampsia (Think, pregnant Kim Kardashian). All of my tests and vitals assured her that I didn’t have a life-threatening condition. I was just fat.

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Finally, last month I went to the doctor for strep throat. It was an open and shut case. Swallowing razor blades? Swollen glands? Fever? Boom. Your antibiotic is waiting for you at CVS. Unfortunately, the doctor didn’t finish there.

“How old is your baby?”

“She’s almost 5 months.”

“Hmmm. Interesting. Based on your chart, and the weight we took today, I really think you should have lost more weight by now. It doesn’t seem to be coming off fast enough.”

I wanted to tell this man to go f*ck himself. I wanted to storm up to the front desk and demand my records be transferred because I would no longer be their patient. I wanted to drive home blasting “I’m Every Woman” by Chaka Khan with the windows down, while telling my daughters that mommy loves her body and her curves, and that beauty is in the eye of the beholder…

…but I didn’t. Partially because I had strep throat and it hurt to talk. But mostly because even after decades of being told the same thing by doctor after doctor, I was caught off guard, again. I felt ashamed, again. I stammered through an “Oh, ok, well…”, again. And I cried in my car in the parking lot. Again.

Maybe he was looking for an emphatic, “THANK YOU!”

Perhaps next time I’ll be clever enough to say, “You’re right, MALE doctor. Now that you mention it, four months is a long time. How long did it take you to get back to your pre-baby weight?”

Or, and this is really out there, but maybe we could stop making people feel like their weight equals their worth.

I very much want to be the person who could wrap this story up in a pretty #selflove #bodypositive bow. I’m not quite there yet.

What I can say, is that wherever you are, whatever you are doing, this is your reminder to take a deep breath and give yourself some grace. You are beautiful, you are important, and you are worthy. Even if your doctor thinks you’re fat.

 

We are Scary Mommies, millions of unique women, united by motherhood. We are scary, and we are proud. But Scary Mommies are more than “just” mothers; we are partners (and ex-partners,) daughters, sisters, friends… and we need a space to talk about things other than the kids. So check out our Scary Mommy It’s Personal Facebook page. And if your kids are out of diapers and daycare, our Scary Mommy Tweens & Teens Facebook pageis here to help parents survive the tween and teen years (aka, the scariest of them all.)

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Why I Am Jealous Of My Small-Breasted Friends

There are women all over the world whom I hear lamenting their small, God-given breasts. They don’t feel sexy enough or they don’t feel feminine enough, they say. They wish they made dresses look better or whatever. As a member of the Giant Booby Club, I’m here to tell you that big breasts are not what you imagine them to be. Since my early 20s, I’ve secretly wished to have mine reduced because I find them garish and unpleasant. That’s why I’ve decided to share the top 10 reasons I’m jealous of my friends with small breasts.

1. They know what actual eye contact is.

When I was younger, it was difficult to hold conversations with men that involved them looking me in the eyes. My eyes received minimal attention, making me feel every bit an object. It took much longer to convince men that I had more going for me than my chest, especially when so many of them were unaware that I had a neck, much less a brain.

2. The concept of maybe owning a bra is very real for them.

I kid you not. I had a friend in high school who owned exactly one bra, and she only wore it with white shirts. Considering we were both part of that group of kids in high school who wore only black, you can imagine how much action that poor, lonely bra got. My bras are so overused it isn’t funny, mostly because of my next reason.

3. They can buy inexpensive bras from KMart or WalMart.

In high school, I could get away with this. Barely. I wore a very full C cup (with the beginnings of what appeared to be four boobs for the price of two) or a comfortable D. While making pickings slim in the aisles of the mart, I was still able to afford a few bras at once. Since marriage and children, the only place I’m buying a bra is online. There is no buying in bulk once you reach a G cup, friends. One bra requires the relinquishment of your firstborn. I only have two kids so … No wonder you see so many braless, saggy women out there. When your bra order rivals your mortgage payment, support for the girls seems a little extravagant.

4. They have pretty underwear.

My husband walked past a Victoria’s Secret once and lamented my lack of lacy underthings. I sent him on a hunt to find a matching set of lacy goodness in my size. He came home empty-handed and said, “First, I couldn’t even find your bra size anywhere, regardless of what material it was made from. Second, I’m sorry I called your underwear Amish. I had no idea big boobies were grounded from lace for life.”

5. They know and live the definition of “perky.”

When your mammaries get past the WalMart rack, perky no longer exists. Unless you’ve paid good money for them to be that size because, well, science. Those of us gifted these bad boys via hormones have never boarded the perky train. Nature just can’t work against gravity that hard.

6. They can have a baby and nurse them comfortably, even beautifully.

Nursing my kids required more hands than I had. I couldn’t hold my baby in the position he needed to be in and manage my engorged breast at the same time. Nursing in public was not an option, because the bigger your boobs, the less discreet you become. I was overwhelmed by their size. Could you imagine the stares I’d get with my breast, twice its normal size, unsheathed for the world to see? Men everywhere would come to a screeching halt while I felt like a wildebeest nursing its young on the Serengeti, minus the dulcet tones of Marty Stouffer’s narration.

7. They have no idea about the horrors of boob sweat.

Deep in the dog days of August is the worst. You can literally wring the sweat out of my bra, and underboob heat rash is a thing. You of the small boobs haven’t the first clue about the horror of that rash. Relief requires a yoga pose that even the most limber woman among us struggles to perform.

8. They can have pretty necklines on their dresses.

Those of us endowed girls have two options when it comes to necklines: Amish or Elizabethan collar. Any other neckline makes us look like we’re starring in the upcoming porn flick How Many Smart Cars Can My Cleavage Hold?

9. They can carry their friends’ breastfed children.

We girls with ample bosoms are the All You Can Eat Buffets of the infant set. Plopping your breastfed baby into our arms is like waving two giant steaks in front of a starving dog. The only time they’ve been near breasts that big was when they were in need of desperate draining, and babies are happy to oblige. In the safety of our arms, your docile cherub turns into an octopus with eight hands diving into our shirts. Nothing says I need more arms like trying to pry those baby chicks away from our already strained necklines.

10. They can roll over in bed without major whiplash or nipple damage.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve rolled over in bed and either smacked myself with my own boob or crushed one in my armpit. Not fun. The worst is when I’m deeply sleeping and my husband rolls over, inadvertently placing all his weight on the elbow he planted on my nipple. Not the most pleasant of wake up calls.

Regardless of where you fall on the breast spectrum, I’m pretty sure you can see that small is definitely where you want to be. I personally think that if your boobs are bigger than apples you should be allowed a free breast reduction via your insurance. Or at least a lifetime supply of free bras.

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When A Stranger Told Me I Was ‘Brave’ For Wearing Shorts

As a work-at-home-mom, I don’t see the light of day very often. When I do, it’s a just cause to get myself “all done up.” And by “all done up,” I mean changing out of yesterday’s loungers, putting on some denim shorts, brushing my hair, applying some cheap mascara, and calling it a f*cking day.

It was one of those “all done up” days a few weeks ago when I was able to bust out of the doors of my prison household and get my nails done for a long-overdue appointment.

And as I walked into that salon, I felt damn good about myself. As usual, the manicurist and I chit-chatted our way through the hour. But when my nails were done and I went to stand up, she remarked to me, “You are so brave for wearing shorts! I just can’t with my mom bod anymore.”

Say what, lady-who-I-haven’t-tipped-yet?

Now, I’m a “thick” woman. Like most, I have cellulite. My legs rub against each other, and I don’t have anything close to resembling the “perfect” ass. (In fact, I’m nothing but legs from my heels clear to the bottom of my back.) But it’s hotter than hell, so I’m going to do whatever I need to do to feel comfortable and keep cool. Which means I will be wearing shorts despite those who believe shorts withhold some unspoken, designated weight-limit.

After her remark, I could see every inch of her cringing with regret. She had negatively mentioned my weight without thought, and she’s not a cruel being. She began overcompensating with all of the many reasons I was brave for wearing shorts… and it was obvious. In her attempts to make the situation better, she was making it far worse.

Still, I blew it off. People say things without a flippin’ thought every damn day. Hell, I do it. I’m familiar with that sinking, oh-shit-I-wasn’t-thinking-clearly feeling. Therefore, in my book, she gets some grace. After all, if her words did anything for or to me, it was that they spoke volumes of her own insecurities. And for that, I truly feel sympathy for her.

She’s gorgeous, and not that it matters, but she is far thinner than I am. And it breaks my heart that she, or anyone else, feels like they cannot wear shorts or reveal their body. Especially in the sticky heat of summer, because every human being deserves to do or wear whatever it is that they can to keep themselves cool and comfortable.

My Lord, it is hot outside. Wear. The. Damn Shorts.

Even though I’m certain my facial expression told a different story in the moment, when she made that comment, my heart broke for her. Because I used to be her. For as long as I can remember, I’ve struggled with self-love. Correction: I still struggle with self-love.

When I was eight, I remember covering my body at daycare on our weekly swim days because I was more developed than others. When I was twelve, I purged after meals so I didn’t have to be one of the only girls in middle school with boobs, an ass, and rolls. When I was fifteen, I was told I was fat more times than I was told I was beautiful. When I was 23, my ex put me down because of my weight on a regular basis.

I’ve come to a point in my life where I should feel fragile when it comes to my weight. But I truly don’t have any f*cks left to give when it comes to the matter. Because when I was at my absolute thinnest, I thought I was at my biggest. I should have been wearing all of the skimpy shorts, crop tops, and bikinis my little heart desired, but in my deceiving and distorted eyes, I was “too fat.”

To present a visual of how potent my body dysmorphia was, at that time I was a size three.

The excuses for hiding my body were pretty much all one of the same:

“I’m too fat.”

“When I sit down, I have rolls.”

“My inner thighs have stretch marks.”

”My arms jiggle when they move.”

Did you catch that?… “My arms jiggle when they move.”

Looking back, all I can think to ask my prior self is, who in the fresh hell has arms that don’t jiggle when they move?!

Frankly speaking, I was practicing self-hate for being a human being with an average body.

Now I am the biggest I have ever been when discounting my carrying-a-human-self. My stomach has (no joke) at least one hundred lines of criss-cross applesauce stretch marks, each of them telling a different tale of my unique pregnancies. My belly-button looks like it’s been robbed of all it’s joy and it’s name should be Droopy. I haven’t been a size three since those days long ago when I stood in front of the mirror and repetitively call myself fat, and that’s okay.

Today, I’m a size 12… and that’s modestly speaking. I notice my new curves, what the rest of the world might call “imperfections,” and I still have my days where I judge my body way too harshly. But I have more self-love as a size 12 than I ever did as a size three.

I’m a thick woman, and it’s summer. It is too hot outside for me to cover myself for another’s convenience, and I refuse to do so.

I will be wearing shorts every single day for as long as the weather is willing, because I — because everyone — is worthy of comfort no matter their body type, shape or size.

I am brave for so many things, but wearing shorts is not one of them.

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This Pelvic Floor Therapist Has A Must-Read Message For Folks With Vaginas

Look, I don’t think anyone is that excited about going to the doctor, spreading their legs, and getting a pelvic exam. Sharing that part of yourself with a virtual stranger is not supposed to be fun or even that comfortable. For folks who have a history of sexual abuse, assault, or other trauma, it can be downright triggering, even when working with a compassionate healthcare provider.

Yet one pelvic floor specialist is urging us all to stop doing one specific thing when we are spread eagle on the examining table: apologizing.

That’s right, we need to stop apologizing for the state of our vulvas and vaginas, according to Kristin Phillips, a pelvic floor physiotherapist from West Virginia.

All vulvas look different and are unique. There is not one perfect or normal type. And by God, there is no reason to apologize for the smell of your nether region, or whether or not you have recently shaved. All vaginas are gorgeous and it’s time we started celebrating them, Phillips proclaims.

Oh my goodness, I could not love this woman’s message more.

Phillips posted her thoughts on Facebook in May, along with a picture of the many varied and beautiful ways vaginas sometimes look – and her post went totally viral.

Phillips starts by talking about her own experience working with women in her physical therapy practice, where she treats everything from urinary incontinence to sexual dysfunction.

“As a pelvic floor and women’s health PT, I see a lot of external genitalia in a day,” writes Phillips. “I’m heartbroken by the number of times I hear people with vaginas say, ‘I’m sorry I didn’t shave’ or otherwise apologize for how their vulvovaginal region looks or smells. I want to scream.”

It’s not that Phillips doesn’t understand why so many women feel this way. “Everywhere you turn, there is advertising for body hair removal or a cream, supplement, or douche that will make your vagina smell like a midnight moon or fairy sprinkles,” she notes.

In addition, as she points out, there is a major double-standard here, because folks born with penises sure as heck don’t go around apologizing for their hairy balls and sweaty scrotums. “Ain’t that some shit,” Phillips remarks.

Yes, it sure as shit is.

Phillips truly pulls no punches here, and brings up the fact that all of this boils right down to patriarchal views of women, their bodies, their roles in society, and everything else.

“You will never convince me that this isn’t the patriarchy at play, keeping us down,” Phillips writes. “Because if we are trapped in the bathroom or salons making our vulvas hairless and smelling like raspberries, we can’t be out in the world and dismantling the institutions that make us believe our bodies aren’t already perfect.”

I seriously want to give this woman a medal – preferable one shaped like a lovely, juicy, flapping, unshaven vulva. I mean, how perfect would that be?

Speaking with Scary Mommy, Phillips says she was pretty taken aback by the huge response she got when she initially shared the post on Facebook. She didn’t expect it to touch so many people. But she soon realized how positive it was, because of the conversation it started, and the awareness it raised.

Even the negative comments were meaningful to Phillips. “The negative responses started to fuel my fire,” she tells Scary Mommy. “I realized that if this message could reach even just one person struggling with their body image, it was worth it. My hope is that everyone with a vulva can learn to love themselves and all of their parts and to stop apologizing for it.”

Of course, even with all the assurance that your vulvovaginal region (which is a new, very helpful phrase I learned from Phillips) is totally normal despite the smell, shape, and everything else, it’s still not always easy to embrace the whole thing. The idea that our vulvas and vaginas are dirty, ugly, and unsightly is so deeply ingrained in our psyches and it can be difficult to feel any other way about it.

Regardless of how you feel, Phillips is just urging you to perform the simple exercise of refraining from apologizing for it – at the doctor’s office, on the delivery table, or anywhere your luscious hot box might be on sight and in full view.

“Vaginas are supposed to smell like vaginas, not rainbows and unicorns and hair grows on the vulva naturally,” Phillips reminds in her post. “And you should never EVER feel like you have to apologize for your body. EVER. I’m here to tell you that your vulva and vagina are perfect just the way they are.”

I swear, Phillips is like a motivational speak for card-carrying vagina holders everywhere.

All of that being said, Phillips does not think any of this means we shouldn’t groom our vaginas as we see fit. The fact is that very few of us want to go au natural when it comes to our downstairs. And that’s totally fine, too, as long as the goal isn’t to demean yourself in the process.

“If you like a hairless vulva, you do you, boo,” says Phillips. “But do it for you and know that you’re a goddess either way.”

Phillips also notes that not all vaginal smells are positive, as sometimes foul odors indicate health problems like STDs or other infections. “If you notice a change in your vaginal odor, get it checked by a competent and understanding gynecologist or midwife,” says Phillips.

But the main point is that Phillips is encouraging us all to start thinking of our vulvas and vaginas as normal, healthy, special, and a testament to the goddesses we all are. “Your worth lies in your heart and soul, not in the appearance of your vulva,” she declares at the end of her post.

AMEN.

I understand that getting to the place of embracing your vagina in all its misshapen, fragrant glory is definitely a process for some of us, especially if those of us who’ve had a difficult sexual history. But I think it’s all about baby steps, and certainly seeking out gentle and compassionate healthcare providers like Phillips to help us get there.

But it is possible to fall in love with your vagina, to accept it for what it is. And learning to stop apologizing for your perfectly imperfect vagina is an awesome first step.

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