Tag Archives: Embrace Your Curves

I Woke Up Like This

Last Spring, a friend brought to my attention the existence of a photography project called I Woke Up Like This and suggested that I consider participating in it. Conducting some research, I learned that the mission of the project is to remove criticism from the perception of our bodies by witnessing the vulnerability, beauty and imperfections of other bodies. As a social experiment, the project strives to weave individual stories with the narratives of these photographs, connecting viewers and participants on a mutual journey to find empathy, self-awareness and self-love.

I was happy to discover that Jillian Powers, the project’s creator, was traveling to Denver to meet participants who were willing to strip naked and expose their most vulnerable selves, sans makeup or fancy hairdos, for the camera. Of course, I immediately expressed my interest. A chance to further the fat-positive cause AND be a part of a social project pioneered by an award-winning portrait photographer? Yes, please! Where do I sign up?

I knew that by participating, it would mean removing all of my clothing in front of strangers. I also knew that there would be conversations surrounding body image and self-esteem. What I didn’t anticipate from the experience was having to face my own vulnerability; I am imperfect, I am fat, I am covered in stretch marks and cellulite and dimpled body parts. Being stark naked in a photo shoot with doors and windows wide open and strangers nearby managed to push a few unexpected insecurities to the surface.

Yet, despite those fleeting thoughts of self-doubt, I remained positive and uplifted. I gleaned something extremely valuable from that afternoon spent in front of Jillian’s professional camera lens: the realization that I am, without apology, a perfectly imperfect human being. Every single one of us is. And it’s crucial, absolutely crucial, that we remember that.

IWULT6

IWULT2

static1.squarespace.com

IWULT3

IWULT4

IWULT5

Interview with Jillian Powers

/// BEFORE SHOOT ///

What level is your self-esteem at from 1-10?
Nine.

That’s awesome!
I worked to get here.  It didn’t come easily.

Are you nervous?
Not as nervous as I thought I’d be. I was more nervous thinking about coming here, then I got here and it feels more exciting. More exciting than nervous.

Why did you want to participate in this project?
It’s an important project. I believe in positive body image, spreading the word of respecting yourself and loving yourself. That includes me. I’m still a work in progress myself. This project is an opportunity to be a part of a bigger picture. To be able to spread this message to the world.

With all the blogs, social media interaction, and so on…body positivity is important to me.

/// AFTER THE SHOOT ///

What is your self-esteem level now?
Nine point five.

How did the shoot affect your self-esteem?
It definitely lifted it, because I don’t look at pictures of myself naked. I don’t even own a full-length mirror. I’m not afraid to be naked, or see myself naked. It’s just fascinating to see myself through your lens.

How has your body affected your self-esteem throughout your life?
By third grade, I was wearing a bra – not because I wanted to, but because I needed to. No one else in my grade was wearing a bra at that point.

How did that make you feel?
Very self-conscious. I felt like a bit of a freak. I definitely felt fat. I was already getting the curvy hips, the belly. And most of my friends were thin. Limber. Athletic. All my friends could do cartwheels. Everything I tried to do in respect to that with my body just wasn’t on the same page. My body was holding me back from doing physical things.

What did that teach you about being fat when you were little?
I started finding other parts of satisfaction in my life. I turned to creative paths, things that didn’t require my physical body to be limber and fit and accomplishing physical tasks. This doesn’t mean that I wasn’t active; I participated in physical games and sports and ran around with friends. I was a very active kid. I just always felt like I couldn’t get to that level of athleticism that others could reach.

How old where you when you first began negative self-talk?
I would say sixth grade, eleven or twelve year old. It was my first year attending public school, and I didn’t have to wear a uniform. I felt out of place. I didn’t know how to dress right. I wasn’t popular. Boys only liked me because of my boobs. Girls didn’t like me because of my boobs. It was the first year I experienced bullying.

You run a body positivity blog, tell me how that began?
I went through a divorce about five years ago now, and my marriage had been very emotionally damaging to me. When I finally made the decision to get out of the marriage, I found a renewed sense of self that I had not experienced for decades, and I wanted to express that.

What caused that new sense of self?
When I was married, my husband was a negative, dominating personality in the relationship. Emotionally, he was overbearing, belittled me, made me feel stupid. Verbally, he made little jabs that consistently put me down. He never outright complained about my weight, but we did not have a close, intimate relationship like a husband and wife should have. It wasn’t satisfying, and it wasn’t loving. He didn’t treat me like he desired me, there was no romance between us. Eventually, the verbal and emotional abuse wore me down.

How did that make you feel about your body?
Prior to the divorce, I did not like my body. I liked myself as a person but I was ashamed of my body. I sort of retreated into myself, wore baggy clothing to hide all the rolls and the curves. I just didn’t want to acknowledge my own body. When I left the marriage, I realized that I wasn’t actually the person he’d manipulated me into believing I was. I was better than that. And I knew that I could love my whole self, body and all.

Do you have children?
Yes, I have a son, he’s sixteen. Before this project, I sat down and told him what it entails – that it’s going to be online, in a book, etc. The first thing he said to me was, “GOOD! We need more of that.”

What is the biggest struggle you’ve faced in your life thus far?
Being comfortable in my own skin. I think I’m almost there. My biggest hope is to inspire people to be comfortable in their own skin. It opens up a whole other pathway to happiness. Discovering your own inner and outer beauty is the key. I’ve had many friends through the years tell me they look up to me because I don’t come off as someone with low self-esteem. I don’t worry about what other people think about me, for the most part. I don’t make decisions based on what other people might think of me.

Are you a feminist, and why?
Yes. I know that there are a lot of women who claim not to be feminists because there can be negative attitude surrounding it – that feminists are aggressive, man-hating, don’t want to be mothers, etc., and I don’t think that’s it at all. It’s making sure that all women are seen as vital people in this world. Women have just as big a part in this world as men do. I’m not a man hater, and I’m not afraid of being sexual. Femininity to me is being strong with who you are, embracing who you are. It’s being a mother, it’s being a businessperson, it’s being whatever you wanna be. Whoever you wanna be. Not letting anyone tell you you’re not good enough or don’t have the right skills or that you’re not smart enough because of your gender.

Any last words for the readers?
My mantra is that I try to live an extraordinary life, even through ordinary circumstances.

 

For more information on I Woke Up Like This or to participate in the project, visit http://www.iwultproject.com/join-the-movement/

 

 

Advertisements

4 Comments

Filed under A Touch of Inspiration

Resolution Rebuttal

In this first Enchanted Zaftig blog post of 2015, I have no intention of going into a lengthy dialogue of what my personal resolutions are – not because I don’t believe in them, but because I think every day should incorporate the same resolution: make each day the best damn day it can be.

No matter how earnest you may be in the beginning, when you make New Year’s resolutions and don’t follow-through with them, you’re left with heavy disappointment and a sense of failure. To some degree, you may even experience self-loathing.

In my opinion, life is too short for that kind of negative thinking.

It’s absolutely crucial to have personal goals, and to pursue activities, friendships, studies, travels and cultural experiences that will further nurture our all-too-short time together on this earth. But to admonish yourself for not getting to the gym twice a week or not losing those extra pounds you gained at Christmas or not saving enough money to buy that certain something you’ve been wanting is contrary to living a harmonious life. Inner conflict robs us of a peaceful existence and affects our relationships with others.

When New Year’s Eve rolls around every 365 days, I find myself not drumming up resolutions, but rather reflecting on the activities of the past year – not for what I didn’t accomplish, but for what I did.

For instance, in 2014, I

  • celebrated my 8th-year work anniversary and further expanded my position there, which I have continued to do every year since I started.
  • applied at a local community college to begin taking courses that will supplement my knowledge of business administration and marketing.
  • continued to nurture my relationship with my teenage son, encouraging his personal interests, keeping him on track academically (which can be a challenge) and being a present and caring parent.NYE1.jpg
  • dove even deeper into a loving, fulfilling relationship with a man who possesses everything I could hope for in a life partner, including intellect, compassion, good looks, artistic abilities, strong sexual appetites and the propensity to treat me like a queen.
  • purchased a 1997 mint-condition Mercedes Benz C-class sedan (granted, this may seem trivial, but it is, in fact, the first car I have ever owned that was not a hand-me-down vehicle or a get-me-by clunker, and that brings me joy.)
  • participated in an authors’ reading event to help raise funds for a friend’s fight against invasive breast cancer, which was nothing short of inspiring.weddinglaughter.jpg
  • obtained a Certificate of Ministry in order to officiate my brother’s wedding, for which I also penned the ceremony script; it was a beautiful day.
  • added to my personal art collection, including the purchase of “Gratitude”, a bronze sculpture by Adam Schultz, which exemplifies how I’ve felt all year.
  • created The Zaftig Papers, an online platform where I am able to share some of my more obscure and spicy writings, in conjunction with the Enchanted Zaftig website.Curves_2.jpg
  • stayed connected with friends, both near and far, and made some new friendships along the way.
  • enriched (hopefully) and inspired those who have seen or read Enchanted Zaftig content via the internet or in person.
  • continued to encourage everyone to Embrace Your Curves and love yourself where you are.

Although not all major accomplishments, these points exist to remind me of what I contributed to 2014 – to my own life, as well as to the lives of others. Even the pitfalls come back into focus. Reflecting on moments of tragedy, conflict and struggle, whether personal or worldly, allow for progressive healing and growth. “Challenges are what make life interesting, and overcoming them is what makes life meaningful.” ~ Joshua J. Marine

My personal mantra for 2015 will continue to be the same mantra I’ve held since 2010, when I finally broke free from my shell and came into my own:

“Strive to live an extraordinary life, even through ordinary circumstances.”

Additionally, I’m going to make each day the best damn day it can be.

Happy New Year to you all.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under A Touch of Inspiration, Musings and Thoughts

I Am Not Fat, I Am Me

Call me delusional, or call me in denial, but I do not think of myself as fat.

Of course, I AM fat. I wear a dress size that can’t be found in most specialty boutiques or clothing stores. I have folds of flesh that encircle my body – a mid-section that’s hefty, breasts that are heavy, arms that are flabby, hips that are beefy. I have flesh-colored stretch marks that arc across my belly and ripples of cellulite that dimple my thighs and buttocks. I sport a double-chin and chubby cheeks and a body shaped like an apple. When I bend over to pull weeds or work on something at ground-level, I often find it difficult to breathe because my belly pushes up against my breasts, which push against my diaphragm, which cuts off my oxygen intake. Sometimes, my back hurts. Sometimes, the pain is in my feet or my ankles or my hips. I’m not always 100% comfortable, even in my sleep. Although this can be attributed to my weight, it can also be attributed to physical exertion and the slow aging of my body, which is inevitably creeping up on me.

But still, I do not think of myself as fat. Let me rephrase: I do not think of myself as ONLY fat.

festival1

In my every day life, being overweight is irrelevant. I am an active, involved, fully capable woman who chooses activity over laziness (except for those moments when I’m feeling lazy, and then I indulge in that laziness, because I can, and I have a right to.) I work full-time at a rather demanding job, raise a teenage son, tend to a house and a yard, go to arts and cultural events, find interest in the creative endeavors of others, participate in social gatherings, visit with friends, explore the city where I live and get involved in the community when I can. I also spend quality time nurturing and caring for my interpersonal relationships and showering my partner with lots of love and sex.

Recently, I overheard a woman at work complaining about her personal weight gain and how life has become more difficult and uncomfortable for her, because she can’t find any clothes that fit right in her closet, and drinking a beverage while sitting in a recliner is even a challenge now because her breasts get in the way. In her griping, she said, “I don’t know how Holly does it.” Meaning, me.

My immediate, though unspoken, response was: “I just do it.”

No one can call me a couch potato. It’s rare that you’ll even find the television on in my house. Yet strangely, I experience frequent twinges of guilt when I do sit quietly with a notebook or my computer, because I feel that I should be up and about, cleaning, gardening, walking, being productive in a more physical, tangible way. As a result, I don’t write or post blogs often enough, and my creativity suffers. For instance, right now, as I type this, my mind is thinking of a dozen other things I should be attending to – a dozen other things more important than this, which is false.

So, you see, I don’t think of myself as fat. I am much more than that. I am the woman with a body and a mind that allow her to  accomplish tremendous feats, even in the everyday – planting perennials, visiting galleries, writing poetry, taking walks, cooking meals, indulging in sensual pleasures.

My daily mantra has always been this:

“to live an extraordinary life, even through ordinary circumstances” 

So you see… I don’t have time to ponder my weight.

How would I get anything done?

 

gardentools

 

4 Comments

Filed under A Touch of Inspiration

Recognition and Reaffirmation

Yesterday, for the first time (that I am aware of) I ran into someone who recognized me as Enchanted Zaftig. Although I have many friends who know and support my EZ mission, I’ve never before been approached by someone whom I have never met, who only knows me as Enchanted Zaftig.

cartIt was in the frozen foods section of a grocery store that I never shop at. While navigating down the slightly cramped aisle, I approached a woman coming the opposite direction and tried my best to steer clear of her shopping cart with my own. As we passed, we made eye contact, and I smiled and said hello, because I like to smile and acknowledge people who take the time and have the confidence to meet my gaze. To my surprise, she stopped her cart and said my name. I turned to her, searching my memory for recognition, but her face was unfamiliar to me.

“I follow you on Facebook,” she said with a smile. “Your Enchanted Zaftig page.”

This news both took me by surprise and made me immensely happy. If a stranger in the frozen foods section of an obscure little grocery store recognizes me, then perhaps it’s safe to say that I’ve made some sort of impact with my Enchanted Zaftig project. No matter that I was in my weekend blue jeans and flip-flops at the time, with disheveled hair and no makeup and a cart full of random food items; I’ve always thought that if I could positively influence at least one person in this world, in this lifetime, then I’d feel accomplished in my ongoing efforts to inspire, spread knowledge and give encouragement to the women (and men) out there who feel oppressed and frustrated with societal body stigmas.

Thank-YouSo to Miss Dora in the Sav-A-Lot aisle… I say “Thank You” … for stopping your grocery cart, for taking a moment to say hello to me, and for reaffirming my Enchanted Zaftig mission. I strongly believe that one positive connection begets another, and that those connections will eventually make a measurable impact on this world, creating social change and fostering an environment of love and acceptance.

Viva la Zaftig!

 

Leave a comment

Filed under A Touch of Inspiration

The Cardboard Courage Project

Jen McLellan, blogger, body-positive advocate and mentor to plus-size mothers-to-be, recently conducted the Cardboard Courage Project, encouraging women of all shapes and sizes to denounce distorted body standards by stripping down and holding up signs of empowerment.

“Recently women of all shapes, sizes, colors, and ages came forward to participate with the Cardboard Courage project. This project aims to redefine the beauty standards that the media keeps pushing upon us.  By stripping down, these women were empowered to stand courageously behind the messages they held up.  Messages of body love,  beauty, and strength.  This is Cardboard Courage…”

courage

Because of my own body-positive advocacy and continued determination to extinguish fat prejudice, I decided to join in on the project, emphasizing the Enchanted Zaftig motto, “Embrace Your Curves.” I am proud to be amongst such strong, beautiful women!

CURVES1

Curves_2.jpg

If you’d like to participate in the next Cardboard Courage Project, sign up for Jen’s newsletter here.

And remember: Your curves do not hinder you ~ they enhance you!

 

2 Comments

Filed under A Touch of Inspiration

Forgiving the Monster in the Mirror

Yesterday, a good friend of mine posted on Facebook that a trip to the mall with her daughter had left her feeling old, outdated and fat. This friend is far from any of those adjectives. In fact, she’s beautiful, vivacious and perfectly shaped – not to mention she possesses an inner passion for life that touches all of those around her.

Her frustration with the shopping experience stemmed from several factors: 1.) She’d been shopping at a posh, overpriced mall in a pretentious part of town that caters to the wealthy and unrealistic. 2.) She’d been shopping with her 15-year-old daughter, who is tall, willowy and, as of yet, lacks the curves of a grown woman. And 3.) She’d been trying on clothes that should have fit her right, but, in her opinion, didn’t. “Victoria’s Secret makes nothing for a curvy body, at all.  I tried on a bunch of dresses, and if it fit me on the top, it was too big everywhere else. If the everywhere-else fit, it didn’t fit my top.”

A mother-daughter shopping adventure that should have been fun and fulfilling, ended with my friend crying in the parking lot. Even though she admitted later that she felt ridiculous about it, she also admitted that she’s in a place right now where she can’t quite embrace her curves and would like to get back to a body weight that she’s comfortable with. To most anyone, she would never be viewed as fat, not even for an instant; the curves she possesses are beautiful reminders that she has two lovely children and a blessed, abundant life for which she can feel proud of. But her self-doubt rightfully belongs to her. She is entitled to own that emotion, and I respect this and don’t wish to diminish or in any way invalidate her frustration.

warningWhat struck me the most after reading her Facebook post is that, personally, I don’t experience the shopping mall dilemma. A woman who has been thin most of her life and finds herself carrying a few extra pounds will undoubtedly feel disheartened by the fact that the clothing size which once fit her perfectly now doesn’t fit right, if at all. But a woman who has been overweight in varying degrees for the majority of her life doesn’t feel as disheartened, because she’s learned and accepted over time not to be delusional about the clothes shopping experience. She’s stopped searching for a particular fashion trend, style or size and is simply searching for whatever will “do the trick,” hoping it won’t result in the dreaded potato-sack. Sadly, when you have lowered expectations, disappointment doesn’t come around as often. But it does make finding that perfect dress, blouse or bra that much more rewarding.

With shops like Lane Bryant and online specialty stores offering a vast range of sizes, finding flattering jeans, cute dresses and bras with the right fit has become much more attainable. Yesterday, I stopped into a Lane Bryant location I had not been to before and was surprised to see an entirely new look and layout: fashion-worthy blouses and slacks on strategically-placed chrome racks; bras and panties in every cut and style displayed beneath decorative chandeliers. Gone was the department store look. In its stead was a specialty boutique that resembled Victoria’s Secret – only with more abundance, realism and accessibility. Although, in my opinion, Lane Bryant would be better off sticking to its own unique branding technique, offering us plump women a pleasant place to shop where we’re both welcomed and accepted is something to give accolades for.

Body Image ~ Lindsey de Ovies

Body Image ~ Lindsey de Ovies

So to my beautiful friend who faced the disappointing shopping experience yesterday: I have compassion for you. I have compassion for every woman who finds herself without a familiar size at her favorite clothing boutique. I understand the difficulty in accepting your reflection in the dressing room mirror, even though it’s never as monstrous and unforgiving as you give it credit for. But know that there’s hope for finding an equilibrium of peace with your body. Look beyond the norm… think outside the box… become creative in your shopping endeavors. Don’t put too much stock in the pretentious, high-couture malls, where reality is shamefully skewed.

Getting to that place of embracing your curves is a journey not likely to be accomplished overnight, and it may even be exhausting and seem implausible. But have faith – once you arrive at it, the liberation is tangible.

Leave a comment

Filed under A Touch of Inspiration

The Skinny Within Us

“Help!There’s a skinny person inside of me trying to get out!”

A phrase, similar to the 1980’s Life Call commercial depicting an elderly woman exclaiming, “Help! I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up!”

Why do we cry out in agony, as though our curves are cloaks of doom, needing to be shed?

How sad to go through life convinced that our bodies are not our own. To feel shame and the desire to discard our physical vessels like unwanted clothing. At what point did our self-loathing begin? And at what point do we find our way back to self-love?

There are countless reasons why our “skinny” body may have disappeared (if she was ever even there!):

  • Physical maturity
  • Marriage
  • Childbirth
  • Divorce
  • Health
  • Various life circumstances that evolved and changed, therefore evolving and changing us

Perhaps the thinner bodies which once existed for us humbly and respectfully stepped aside in reverence to the greater, richer, well-rounded person we became through our life experiences. Rather than view our physical transformation as unacceptable, we should proudly display each curve as evidence of the milestones we have reached.  Like the rings of a tree, which grow and expand throughout its existence, so should our curves  represent our accomplishments, wisdom and grandeur.

Consider this: When walking through a forest, what type of tree captures your attention ~ the tiny sapling just emerging from the ground or the mighty oak, casting its lush shadow across the forest floor, proffering comfort, stability and shelter?

The skinny within you may be gone, but don’t fret over your curves, Beautiful One. Instead, spread your branches and revel in your  lusciousness!

Leave a comment

Filed under A Touch of Inspiration, Musings and Thoughts