Bikini Revolution Part 3: Change What you See - Amazing Body Image Advocates
In part 1 of our bikini revolution series, we talked about those perfectionistic voices in our heads, the stories we tell ourselves about our self worth as it relates to our body image and how to change them. Plus I gave you my top four resources to start recovering your relationship with food and your body. In part 2 we talked about the pressure to be thin, I gave you the coolest body image exercise and told you how your dog can help, and I gave you tons of ideas on what we can start doing to change the way we see our bodies. In all of these posts and episodes I kept reaching the same place:
"You can't be what you can't see".
This is especially true when it comes to young girls and boys who are now growing up in this age of social media, but it's also the case for us as adults. Our instagram and facebook feeds, the media and advertising are showing us only one possibility. One beauty ideal that we should all reach for: a white, slim, toned, sexy, feminine, perfect woman, and an athletic, well-built, chiselled, masculine man. Where does everyone else fit in?
If you don't fit in these standards, and most of us don't, where is our place? Do we have one?
Of course we do.
When it came to introducing you to some of my body positive role models, the women who have inspired me and taught me so much about self acceptance and love, things get tricky.
Who knows what we're going through? Is it the super curvy gorgeous women who are considered plus sized? What if there is no curve in sight when it comes to our body? Is it the supermodel who has won the genetic lottery but who has seen the back story to all the photos of women our society values as beautiful? What if I'm overweight or obese?
Is it the white woman with a "normal" body? What if I'm a woman of color, Asian, Indian, latina?
Who will inspire us?
Who will show us, and our young demographic, that indeed there is a place for us and we can feel blessed to have whatever body it is our mamas gave us?
Who should we listen to when it comes to positive body image?
The answer is everyone.
The key is not only being able to relate to women (or men) who look just like us even if that steps away from society's views of what beauty is. The key lies in filling your environment with men and women of all shapes, sizes, colors and sexual orientations. The love and cherishing of diversity is what is deeply missing in our world today, and the message I want to send to young girls and to women is that there is not just one way to be "beautiful". That their self worth should never rest upon fitting a certain mold, but it actually lies in breaking molds, and making a difference in this world, in being who they are, proud of it, and in inspiring others.
We don't need more curvy women on TV. We don't need more slim perfect women on TV. We don't need less feminine women on TV. We don't need more women with cellulite on TV. We don't need more black women on TV. WE NEED EVERYONE.
Diversity is what's missing. Make no mistake, what we have right now as the body ideal in the media is but one, maybe two options to choose from. Where is everyone else?
Until things change, it's going to be our responsibility to make sure we see what real men and women look like. By real I mean many different types of men and women, because the truth is our world is filled with fantastic and beautiful diversity, it's just not valued by the people responsible for putting images in front of us.
We discussed all of this in the first two parts of this series, but I promised that in today's installment I would guide you to some positive body image advocates so you clean up that instagram and facebook feed, and start seeing body positive messages left and right. So you start seeing bodies like yours but also bodies very different from yours.
So who did I choose and why?
I chose the women who have inspired me, who share not only beautiful real pictures of their imperfect bodies, but who tell us their struggles in the captions. Who show us vulnerability, empowerment and the joy that finally came when they learned to love or accept their bodies exactly as they were.
From a woman who shocked the world with a before and after pic that is not what you'd expect and inspired thousands of women, to incredible body positive plus size models who are challenging the industry's standards, to a Victoria Secret Angel who has seen what is behind the pictures we see day in and day out.
From a pro surfer changing the standards of what is expected of female athletes, to two babes bringing yoga to women who never felt they could go to a class because of their larger size, to an incredible writer who took us along her own journey of never going on a diet again, and how she found herself and love in the process, and more.
Just in case you thought being body positive is a move away from health, I'm also introducing you to 4 amazing body positive and health at every size dietitian nutritionists who changed the way I related to food and my body.
Then, we'll close things off with a woman who inspires me daily. A Haitian-American woman who is as inspirational as they come, and who has a story similar to the most body positive woman I have ever met, my mother. You'll see why at the very end.
I wanted you to meet my instagram feed.
I wanted you to see the wonderful words of wisdom that come out of these women. You might see some of them and thing they don't look anything like you. Heck! You might even see some of these women and think you don't want to have a body like theirs. Change that thought into this:
"I want to finally see what real looks like, and real means diverse, it means all shapes and sizes and colors. If they could find a place for themselves in this world, and freedom and joy in their bodies, then there is certainly a place for me in it too, there is certainly freedom and joy for me too. Even if my body is different."
Time to meet some body image rockstars:
Instagram: @bodyimagemovement Website: bodyimagemovement.com
Her amazing documentary film about body image: Embrace
"I want every woman on the planet to experience the joy and and freedom that comes from embracing her body. And I will be spending the rest of my life on a mission to reach you all."
"Every decision I make about how I present myself to the world is 100% my choice. So that means if I want to wear make up - I do, if I don't I don't, if I want to wear daggy clothes I do, heck if I want to wear a rara skirt from the 80's I will.
Not conforming to anyone's standards or rules around how I should look has been one of the most rewarding and empowering decisions I've ever made. In simple terms I just don't give a f%% what anyone thinks and it's never felt better!
I've heard so many conversations between women saying things like "I'm too old to wear that" or "I could never wear that!" - Well YES you can because...
Your body. Your choice. Your rules.
When YOU embrace YOU it doesn't matter if it's 5pm or 6pm - photo 1 or 2 - the love for yourself is equal and unconditional. Choice cultivates feelings of empowerment and strength"
Instagram: @iskra · Website: iskralawrence.com
After showing a heavily retouched photo of herself on Instagram:
"You might be wondering who that random blonde girl is👆
Well it's me!
About 6/7 years ago.
I might look different because I was a few dress sizes smaller but the main difference is...
I'm HEAVILY retouched.
That smooth a$$ skin?
Not mine - a computer programme did that.
The full thick hair - extensions.
Push up bra
Waist + legs + arms slimmed with a photoshop tool.
No eye bags, well actually no nothing that makes me resemble the real me.
And the WORST thing about it...
I WANTED TO LOOK LIKE THIS!!!
Yep I thought if I had 'perfected' images (like the ones I saw of other models) that I would book more jobs = would make me happy and successful.
When in reality seeing retouched images of myself gave me even more insecurities and body image issues because I couldn't even look like or relate to the image of myself!
So please NEVER EVER compare yourself to images you see, many aren't real.
Perfect does NOT exist so trying to achieve that is unrealistic and editing your pictures will not make you happy.
What's real is YOU, your imperfectly perfect self that's what makes you magical, unique and beautiful."
Just in case you missed her fantastic TED talk last week, here it is! (a must watch, all about self care and the pursuit of perfection):
Instagram: @theashleygraham · Website: ashleygraham.com
"My goal is to give a voice to young women... who struggle to find somebody they look up to. For girls who struggle to look inside the mirror and say "I love you". For women who feel uncomfortable expressing their confidence they locked away inside themselves"
Her wonderful TED talk:
Instagram: @bostanley · Website: bostanley.com
"My happiness , health and self worth are not determined by a number on the scale or the size of my bikini. Happiness to me is surfing good waves , long paddles and swims , running my favorite trail, or just moving my body outdoors. I don't feel the need to fit any image to do all of these things . Taking this pressure off allows you to fully enjoy these things without expectations to be anything else besides the best version of just YOU".
As part of NEDA's Eating Disorder Awareness Week:
"Throughout my teens I hated my little tummy that rolled when I sat down, I didn't like walking to the waters edge in a bikini in fear that someone may notice my back roll or cellulite that was visible in certain lighting. I feared, I shamed, I felt like hiding my body . I felt this way because I was told that I was not marketable , that those things had to go away in order to be appealing , worthy and beautiful . And so I tried everything to fit this mold. Until I realized this was leaving me depressed , with low self-esteem and ultimately not feeling like a whole person any longer . Who was I even living for ? Ultimately, for someone else's idea of what would make me beautiful, and sadly at the expense of MY own health. Not theirs........ We have been shown that putting our health and well being on the line is ok as long as we reach this idea of "perfection" and "beauty". Shown that the goal of this ideal far surpasses living a healthy and whole life. It doesn't ! Living in your head, constantly thinking about your body and shaming the parts that do not fit a picture perfect mold . That's not living. That is giving your power away. We hold all the strength to regain that power. To make our own rules, live by our own beauty standards, love and nurture our bodies . Empower yourself to be the strongest version of just you, embrace all your parts and let go of the negative self talk that no longer serves you. If I learned to love my body, I know you can too. It's not overnight , and it takes practice. But it's worth it , and it IS accessible to you and me and everyone. This week as much as any other week, remind every person in your life just how worthy and beautiful they are exactly as they are. Together we are stronger , together we make a difference".
Instagram: @mskelseymiller · Website: kelseymiller.com · Her AMAZING book: Big Girl: How I Gave Up Dieting and Got a Life · Her column: The Anti-Diet Project at Refinery 29
"I took a breath and watched as he leaned down over my exposed, lumpy belly. Very lightly, he kissed it. He kissed the spot beneath my ribs and all the way down to my navel. He kissed across my lower stomach, that wretched expanse where the stretch marks raked across my skin, then up and down my sides. Harry kissed every inch of my horrible flesh with a tenderness so great and loving, and all the while, my eyes stayed clenched tight. 'I am loved,' a voice inside me declared."
Anna Guest Jelley and her Curvy Yoga Method
Instagram: @curvyyoga · Website: curvyyoga.com
"I can't tell you how many times I've invited myself anywhere but back. Not intentionally, or even consciously. It's more like I got this idea that if I wasn't perfect...in my yoga practice, relationships, or life, then I didn't deserve those things. That it wasn't okay to come back, to try again.
Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. How I see it now is that life is nothing but coming back. I think we're in a constant ebb/flow, push/pull with the life around us, and that it's the definition of counterproductive to criticize ourselves for that.
Instead, what if we see the moment we're away as an opportunity for recognition, for "rueful bemusement" as I recently heard the wonderful Sharon Salzberg call it. "Oh, I'm away again," we can say with kindness. And then -- we can invite ourselves back. And back. And back."
Instagram: @cameronrussell · Website: cameron-russell.com
"If you are ever wondering, 'If I have thinner thighs and shinier hair will I be happier?' you just need to meet a group of models because they have the thinnest thighs and the shiniest hair and the coolest clothes and they're the most physically insecure women on the planet."
" So the first question is, how do you become a model? I always just say, "Oh, I was scouted," but that means nothing. The real way that I became a model is I won a genetic lottery, and I am the recipient of a legacy, and maybe you're wondering what is a legacy. Well, for the past few centuries we have defined beauty not just as health and youth and symmetry that we're biologically programmed to admire, but also as tall, slender figures, and femininity and white skin. And this is a legacy that was built for me, and it's a legacy that I've been cashing out on. And I know there are people in the audience who are skeptical at this point, and maybe there are some fashionistas who are like, "Wait. Naomi. Tyra. Joan Smalls. Liu Wen." And first, I commend you on your model knowledge. Very impressive.
But unfortunately, I have to inform you that in 2007, a very inspired NYU Ph.D. student counted all the models on the runway, every single one that was hired, and of the 677 models that were hired, only 27, or less than four percent, were non-white."
Her fantastic TED talk:
Instagram: @jessamynstanley · Website: jessamynstanley.com
"We live in a society of instant gratification and I think many of us tend to expect that one day self-confidence will appear out of thin air. However, obstacles are how we grow stronger. Verbal + emotional bullet wounds make us better. Usually, people who've never been bullied evolve into hypersensitive adults who buckle under the slightest bit of emotional pressure. I am forever grateful for the people who showed me no mercy as a child, who made it their mission to let me know just how "fat", "ashy",and "ugly" I was in their estimation. Because of those "insults", I was forced to get to know myself inside and outside those descriptions. I didn't know it at the time, but those sh%% experiences were tests of character & strength. And strength means nothing if it's not tested. Often, the test is waking up and going to school or work in active defiance of our oppressors. I guess what I'm saying is that it gets better. Really. If you're afraid to go to school tomorrow because your classmates make fun of you, or if you eat lunch in your car while at work because you can't stand the smirks and stares in the break room, believe me- it gets better. Building an internal fortress against those who mean you ill will is hard as f%%, but the payoff beats being a victim."
Instagram: @katiehwillcox · Website: katiehwillcox.com
"As women it would be highly beneficial to our wellbeing as a whole to not focus so much on our bodies, no matter what shape or size. We need to care for them naturally, but our bodies should not be our identity or sense of self. One of the things I try really hard to do on my IG page is to post content that reflects me as a whole person regardless of the amount of likes I get. Try it out! Share things you find funny, things you are passionate about, real moments, and your personality even if it isn't a perfect photo. If we want the world to see us as more than a body then we need to see ourselves that way as well!"
4 Awesome Body Positive Registered Dietitian Nutritionists
Evelyn Tribole (M.S. R.D.) and Elyse Resch (M.S. R.D. F.A.D.A)
Authors and creators of the Intuitive Eating Method
Website: intuitiveeating.org · Books: Intuitive Eating · The Intuitive Eating Workbook
"I feel blessed to be involved in the profound paradigm shift that is taking place in our modern culture. The world is beginning to move away from the diet mentality and move into this gentle and healing world of Intuitive Eating. In the many years I have been helping people return to the Intuitive Eating wisdom with which they were born, I have found that the concepts integral to Intuitive Eating can also be applied to most other aspects of life. Listening carefully, whether it is to our own internal wisdom or to the important thoughts of others, deepens our life experiences. It allows us to slow down and be present for all that life offers us. As we listen, we begin to notice the nuances of events and to go more deeply into the inner meaning of life." - Elyse Resch
“Accept your genetic blueprint. Just as a person with a shoe size of eight would not expect realistically to squeeze into a size six, it is equally futile (and uncomfortable) to have a similar expectation about body size. Respect your body, so you can feel better about who you are. It’s hard to reject the diet mentality if you are unrealistic and overly critical of your body shape.” - Evelyn Tribole
Instagram: @chr1styharrison · Website: christyharrison.com · Her fantastic podcast: The Food Psych Podcast
"There is no question that fatphobia impacts people in larger bodies the most. Size discrimination is very, very real, and it affects a person's ability to get a job, access compassionate healthcare, be paid a fair wage, and much more. But when we talk about fatphobia, we must recognize that the societal impacts touch us all. Simply put, for anyone of any size, body hatred and body dissatisfaction generally stems from the fear of being fat. It is reasonable to say that if we didn't live in a world that fears fatness so profoundly, it's possible that we could live in a world devoid body dissatisfaction. How amazing does that sound? A world where we don't all want desperately to change our bodies. The only way we can accomplish that is if people of all sizes work together to dismantle this fatphobic culture... so let's get started."
"Our relationship with food and our bodies is complicated, and very often it's so much more than what it seems. Preoccupation with what we're eating or how we look is of course real, but it's often sparked by something far outside the realm of these specific issues. Instead, shame around food and the body, or appearance and what we consume, is usually about so much more. It's often a cover for, or a distraction from, emotions that run far deeper than food or your appearance. So the next time you find yourself struggling with your body image, ask yourself, what do I really need right now? What feelings am I trying to avoid right now? You might be surprised to see what you uncover.
Julie Duffy Dillon
Instagram: @foodpeacedietitian · Website: juliedillonrd.com · Her fantastic podcast: The Love, Food Podcast
"Stepping away from diets doesn't mean you are letting life just pass you by. What a lie!! Rather, it is stepping INTO life and all its beauty, drama, excitement, and reality. It's being vulnerable to what life brings you. It's letting yourself BE."
Meet Mama Caxx
I chose to leave Mama Caxx for last, because she shows a side of body positivity we normally never get to see. It's the one I was exposed to all my childhood. To me body positivity and body image is not only about the size of your body, having curves or a super slim body. It's not only about cellulite or lack thereof. It's about finding your place in this world no matter what your body looks like or has gone through. It's about feeling like you have a worthy place in this world no matter what, whether that "what" is a larger body, a very small body, having lost one of your limbs, having alopecia, a skin condition, or anything that makes you different from the beauty ideal we have today.
After growing up with a single mom with a disability, who later underwent a leg amputation, and a second one just before her death, Mama Caxx's message went straight to my heart. Hers is the voice of all men and women whose body's are somehow not "whole", but who fill the room more than any other person could. My mother was like this, and I wish I could have introduced her to Mama Caxx like I'm doing with all of you today.
Instagram: @mamacaxx · Website: mamacax.com
"Due to a chemotherapy procedure I ended up with a nickel sized scar near my right shoulder blade, whenever I would go out I'd cover it with makeup and thought to myself "one day I'll save enough money to fix it surgically". Months later I had a hip replacement and a muscle flap and 4 months after that, an amputation. All in all the surgeries left me with a scar of about 30 in long from abdomen to back. This was what I used to describe as my Frankeinsteinesque body and suddenly the nickel sized scar was the least of my worries.
"We all have scars, inside and out. We have freckles from sun exposure, emotional trigger points, broken bones, and broken hearts.
However our scars manifest, we need not feel ashamed but beautiful.
It is beautiful to have lived, really lived, and to have the marks to prove it. It’s not a competition—as in “My scar is better than your scar”—but it’s a testament of our inner strength.
- "It takes nothing to wear a snazzy outfit well, but to wear our scars like diamonds? Now that is beautiful." -Alexandra Foss"
This post and episode is dedicated to my mother, the most incredible body image rockstar I have ever met. Whose body failed her in more ways than one, but which also gave her life, experiences, a daughter (that's me!), and the most joyous, biggest zest for life in spite of all the pain. She never once spoke negatively about her body, except for one day. The night before we went to the hospital for her first leg amputation.
She was unsure of whether to have it or not and she very quietly, almost in a whisper, like if she felt she was betraying the hundreds of feminists she had stood beside, like if Gloria Steinem herself was going to come over and whack her in the head with a newspaper, she asked me if she thought people would stare and see someone who was incomplete.
Out of all the memories I have of my mother, this stood out as one of the most real moments we shared together. The only thing I could think to say was that she was beautiful, not in spite of her scars but because of them. That it was her scars that had made her into the wonderful, wise, intoxicatingly inspirational woman she was. It was her scars that made everyone around her stick to her like bees to honey because everyone felt better if she was close by. I told her that to me she would always be beautiful, and that when I looked at her, it was her smile that always caught my eye, not her scarred legs or curled up fingers, or soon to be one leg. It was her smile, her glow, her joy. She was always smiling.
I hope these women inspire you to find that power within yourself and proudly stand up and say that you accept where your body is right now, and if there isn't any love for it yet, start with compassion and kindness. Speak to yourself with kindness, then accept, then be proud, then speak up, then feel the love wash over you. It takes practice, but when it is done, life gets amazing.