Ugly Selfie

I was down visiting family over Labor Day weekend with my dude and my cute baby, and of course, my mom wanted to get some family photos taken to hang in her hallway.  And I said yes, because I have a very adorable baby, and it seemed like a good idea to have all of us in photo together, since the gang was all there.

The problem was that a bunch of the photos were taken with the camera at the level of the baby, and since was held in our laps most of the time, that meant mucho unflattering upwards angles.

Exhibit A: all face, all the time. - superbalancedlife.com

Exhibit A: all face, all the time. - superbalancedlife.com

Viewing the photos sent me into a tailspin.  I have a really round face y'all, and upwards angles do it no favors.  And while generally speaking I am very much fuck flattering and all that, I would like to look decent in photos displayed on my parents' walls, you know?

And perhaps I need to recontextualize how my round face looks and be chill with it, but right now, I am doing a lot of emotional work and self-discovery already, being in the first year of parenthood, so I just wasn't up to doing that work in that moment. 

I posted how I was feeling on Facebook, and the first couple of comments were very much "yes, angles matter," with people with typically angular, socially-acceptable faces showing how upwards angles gave them extra chins.  But then, THEN!  Well, then my bestie Megan did something brilliant.  She posted a totally upwards shot of herself with the caption "ugly selfie, no shame!" and just left it there.

No photo of her face straight on.  No flattering angles.  Nope.  She just posted a not-cute picture of herself up on my wall, with no shame, and got on with her day.

It kind of blew my mind.  Being unattractive on purpose?  As a performance, almost?  Showing that we all have angles and times of days where we don't look our best and that's just life.  WHAT?  It was awesome.

And then a bunch of other people joined in.  And that was incredible.  It was so silly and real and irreverent.  I loved it.  I continue to revisit that thread for all my gorgeous friends' silly faces, and it's just awesome. 

It gave me the courage to post the unflattering photo, which I am also doing here.  Because normalizing that we all have those moments, those angles -- that's a big deal.  It's liberating.  It's inclusive.  It's humanizing.  It's radical.

So, if you wanna join me in the ugly selfie challenge, post an unflattering, real photo of your mug on Facebook or Instagram and tag it #uglyselfiechallenge.  Trust me, it's awesome.  Freed from the burden of having to look good, you can explore what your face looks like at any angle.  You'll notice things you didn't before maybe (cleft chin?  extra freckle?)  And you get to just be you.

Let's do this.

Exhibit B: no shame. - superbalancedlife.com

Exhibit B: no shame. - superbalancedlife.com

Dressing Myself Post-Partum: An Update

Wow, it's been awhile.  Taking care of a tiny human really does take up the lion's share of one's time and energy.  Back in May, I posted about struggling to dress my post-partum body.  It was the biggest self-esteem issue I'd struggled with since giving birth.  I'm happy to report that I took on that challenge like it was my own damn summer Olympics, and I'm pretty stoked about my new look.

I'm sharing some pictures and ideas here, so that if you or some rad lady you know is working through this too, it might help:

  • For awhile (maybe indefinitely, but at least awhile) after giving birth, you're probably going to be an apple shape.  Embrace it!  Now is the time for tops and dresses with killer drape, but more form-fitting pants and leggings, and banishing ruthless waistbands.
Superbalancedlife.com - Dressing my Post-Partum Body

Superbalancedlife.com - Dressing my Post-Partum Body

  • Go up a size (or two, or four!) and don't stress.  I'm a size up in pants and I give zero fucks.  My tummy is slowly getting smaller actually, as I nurse and return to exercise, but I'm giving it plenty of time, and honestly, it's fine.  I have embraced it.
  • Wear things with a lot of stretch that can accommodate your fluctuating shape.  You will change a lot.  I love jersey dresses for their versatility.  If you get some in solids, you can wear them with different layers and accessories to make different combinations.  This photo below was taken when I was ~3 months post-partum, and have more of a tummy than I do now.  I like that it worked for me then, but also works for me now.
superbalancedlife.com - Dressing my Post-Partum Body

superbalancedlife.com - Dressing my Post-Partum Body

  • Make sure everything works for nursing.  When I go to work, I don't have to worry so much about this (private pumping room, a godsend!  I can just take my top off, put on my hands-free pumping bra - an amazing invention - and not stress about it).  However, out and and about, I love Milk Nursingwear's tops and dresses.  They make it so easy to nurse discretely.  I hate nursing covers in principle and execution, but I'm not an exhibitionist either.
  • Capsule Wardrobe.  I can't say this enough.  I have 3 pairs of stretchy jeans, 2 cardigans, a bunch of tops, and a couple dresses that are on HEAVY rotation.  It makes a difference.  I can mix and match because everything goes with everything else, I have less laundry to do, and it's all machine washable in case baby spits up.
superbalancedlife.com - Dressing my Post-Partum Body

superbalancedlife.com - Dressing my Post-Partum Body

  • Most of all, acknowledge that you've been through a major journey lady.  You made a whole human being, and carried it for 9 whole months.  And now you have to care for that cute little nugget!  Be proud you're getting yourself dressed at all!

Dressing Myself Post-Partum

In the weeks after birth, I mostly felt fucking great about my body.  I made and pushed out a whole human, all by myself!  And my body was a champ about labor, birth, and breastfeeding.  I got lucky on all of those things.  But now?  Well.  Now is kind of surprising to me.

I lost a bunch of post-pregnancy fluid and the shape of my pregnant body relatively quickly.  My doula told me on her follow-up visit that I actually needed to eat more because I went back to a smaller body so quickly, and she was concerned about my milk supply with breastfeeding.  And it's true: breastfeeding makes you ravenous.  I had never felt hunger in such an immediate way until I started breastfeeding.

So it was all going okay during maternity leave as I adjusted to a non-pregnant, post-partum, healing, breastfeeding body.  I did the 40 days of confinement (well, for the most part, until I got stir-crazy and went out for 2-hour jaunts just to clear my head).  I started taking longer walks with the baby.  I went back to yoga.  Everything was fine until I went back to work.

Going back to work meant I was around adult people most of the week.  It also meant I needed to look professional.  And that made my leggings + tunic top + messy bun look a thing of the past.  I needed to wear adult person clothes, and that's where my post-partum body feels come in.

So: I obviously gained weight during pregnancy.  I'll be honest and tell you that my total weight gain was 36 lbs.  I lost around 23 lbs in the first weeks after pregnancy.  I have no idea what my weight is now, because I don't own a scale anymore (best decision ever, btw).  Weight isn't really important to me; what's putting my head through the ringer these days is the shape of my body.

I have always been an hourglass shape, at least from the front.  My boobs are kinda smallish, and my booty is bangin' so from the side, I'm a little more pear-ish I guess.  But anyway, after 34 years of dressing my body, I had it down:

  • Fit & flare styles to emphasize my smaller waist
  • Belts, for the same reason
  • Shorter hemlines, because I clock in at 5'1", so I get swallowed in long stuff
  • Necklines that emphasize my shoulders.  I have great shoulders.  Halter tops?  Yes plz.

Well, none of that looks quite right anymore.  I have a post-partum belly - loose skin, fading stretch marks, and extra fat for breastfeeding.  Dresses and fitted shirts don't hit that small waist point quite right.

My thighs have some stretchies too, and along with my upper arms, have gained some pregnancy weight.  Not a whole lot - I've always had big arms and thighs - but I've lost the tone I gained through CrossFit.  That means I'm not confident showing those areas.

Shorter hemlines are okay, but I'm a little more modest, because of the aforementioned thighs + I just had a baby so I'm just more wary about that area, I guess?  And there's the whole chub rub issue with skirts and dresses.

So all that to say that my old clothes are still in storage, and I'm going to have to be choosy about which ones I bring out, i.e. the more blousy tops and looser fitting dresses are cool, but the super fitted stuff will have to wait.

It's disorienting, having a new shape.  I knew the weight gain and stretch marks and extra fat for breastfeeding were going to happen, but I didn't quite understand that the shape of my body would be different.  I'd prepared for bigger, but not multidimensional. 

It's just one of the ways my life has radically changed since having a baby.  There's nothing like becoming a parent for the first time.  I can't say that enough.  It is a stark shift.  It takes some getting used to.

But hopefully, little by little, I'm getting there.

Melissa McCarthy on People Magazine

Melissa McCarthy on People Magazine

And in the meantime, I've decided my totem for this process is Melissa McCarthy.  She's a working mom, proud fat lady, and maker of my for real new favorite clothing line, Seven7

I may have to think of my body differently, but I can take this on as a creative challenge: how to dress this new body.  And that feels better.

Wear Clothes You Like

One of the longest journeys towards my self-acceptance centered around buying clothes.  It's always been relatively easy to accept my body sans culottes, if you will, because I can see everything, I know what it looks like, no surprises.  I like my curves and my strength.  But with clothes on?  Oof, girl, there's a battle.

For one thing, we all know the fashion industry is epic levels of fucked up.  From sweat shops in third world countries, to stupid sizing policies, to the lack of quality and fast fashion, it's got issues.  My biggest problem was the whole aspirational clothing wishful thinking thing. 

My weight has fluctuated some over the years.  Not like epic amounts, but I've definitely gone up or down a few sizes in my time.  And the rub of it was that I kept saving my smaller clothes for "someday".  As we all know, you can't live for someday, you gotta live in the here and now.  It's all we've got.

I had a victory last year when I got rid of some tiny-ass pants, and the world was a better place for it.  But I still had the occasional sentimental clothing item around in a smaller size, and that's been hard to shake.  I'm happy to say that I've figured out that holding on to that stuff is actually weighing me down, because when I see it, I miss the person I was inside it, as well as recognizing the happy memories it holds.  It's a bittersweet waste of energy, and another form of not living in the now and letting your dysmorphia run the show.  Photos and memories themselves are a better way to hold on to those good feelings, without being tempted to try to be a past self.  But the best antidote to aspirational clothing?  Buying clothes that fit you now that you actually like.

I can't even tell you how damn liberating it is.  I have heard nearly every body-pos blogger talk about this one, but for serious, it's a game changer.  It takes a loooong time to really get it, but once you do?  Shivers!  Sparkles!  The biggest damn unicorn singing you Bootylicious while handing you ice cream and tickets to a Beyonce concert.

Once I realized that I could wear anything and in a size that actually fit, shopping became exhilarating and my closet became a delight.  I went to clothing swaps and didn't look at the tag -- I just threw that shit on my body, and if it fit and looked amazing, I kept it, and if it did not, I gently removed it and suggested it to someone else.  Boom.

In stores, I guess-timated my size, and wasn't afraid to go up or down depending on the fit and the fabric.  Clothes were just ... clothes -- vehicles to enhance the lovely, strong, capable body held inside.  I didn't pause to check out my cellulite in the mirror, because I already knew it would be there, and that fretting about it wasn't going to change a damn thing. 

Instead, I just got on with my business, no longer an apologetic servant to clothes, pleading with them to fit me.  The game has changed.  Clothes serve me now.  And if they don't make me look good, back on the rack they go.  And I am more than good with that. 

Get yo'self clothes that fit. - superbalancedlife.com

Get yo'self clothes that fit. - superbalancedlife.com

Ode to My Belly

This is a little silly and vulnerable, but often the best things are.  And everyone likes it when you do something kind of embarrassing, right?  Here it goes:

Like many women, I have had the hardest time embracing my belly.  Some people don't like their eyebrows, or feet, or wrinkles, or ass.  For me, it's my tummy. 

That sucker refuses to be flat.  It's always had a bit of a bell curve, ever since I was a little girl in a red two piece strawberry bathing suit, with a pokey-out belly.  Throughout my teenage and young adult years, it was a constant battle to camouflage it with empire waist tops (90s), bootcut jeans (00s), and a combination of flowy tops and high-waisted jeans today.

But the thing about pregnancy + a miscarriage is that I think my belly is here to stay.  I've tried, girl.  I've done sit-ups til I near about puked.  I run.  I plank (front, sides, backwards, whatever).  I do those crazy ball exercises.  But it's not budging.

So instead of hating on it, I wrote it an ode.  I know.  This is not The Breakfast Club.  It's not a little crunchy and embarrassing.  But whatever.  I needed something to feel better about it, so I spent about 10 minutes considering it in the mirror over the weekend, then I got out my Radical Self Love Bible and a sharpie, and penned this ode.

ode to my belly - superbalancedlife.com

ode to my belly - superbalancedlife.com

I'm not totally there yet with the belly love, but I'm moving closer.  And it feels good to accept all of my parts.  I'm a whole person, and all of me deserves that acceptance and love.

What body part do you have a hard time with? 

This is the heaviest I've ever been, and I love myself anyway.

I find myself today at probably my heaviest weight ever.  I don't know for sure, because I stopped weighing myself awhile ago.  It was making me crazy and upset, and it was kind of a worthless measurement for me at this time.  (It's probably a worthless measure all the time, actually.)  At any rate, I haven't been making a concerted effort to lose weight lately, and I'm okay with that.

I gained weight for good reasons -- a wanted pregnancy.  When I miscarried, weight loss wasn't something I chose to focus on for a couple of reasons. 

  1. Hormones.  They were still pretty messed up for a long time.  Cycles, feelings, cravings -- all off.
  2. I have a lot of injuries right now, beyond the miscarriage.  My shoulder, a right heel thing, recurring side calf shin splints (kind of a mystery: I get them on the outer sides of my shins, instead of on the front.  If you know what this is, holla atcha girl.)  In March, I went on a heavy exercise binge, and now I'm paying for it.
  3. I want to get pregnancy again, soon.  And extreme diets like Whole30 or anything with strict calorie restriction can put a dent in my conception efforts, because losing 10% or more of your body weight freaks your body out.
  4. I tried, and it didn't work anyway.  In April, I tried a Flexible Dieting/IIFYM deal, and the calorie/macros tracking was driving me back into disordered behavior.
  5. I think trying to get back your pre-pregnancy weight right after delivery is one way that the kyriarchy objectifies us all over again.  Rather than focusing on your baby and healing from the arduous journey of pregnancy and childbirth, the pressure is on to "get back" your attractive, fuckable body, as if nothing has happened to you.

In some ways, choosing not to focus on weight loss was one of the most revolutionary things I could do.  Focusing on healing myself instead of some arbitrary aesthetic goal imposed on me and all other post-partum women by society is a radical act.

And the good news is that I am healing.  I hit a PR on my 3 rep max back squat the other day.  I threw up (the lightest, but still!) wall balls in a metcon.  I can actually sleep comfortably for the most part, without waking up with shoulder pain.  I've been going to body positive yoga regularly.  And for the most part, I eat  healthful, varied, and interesting grub.

I also know that by developing healthy habits and maintaining them, I am doing the best thing for my health.  Short-term, extreme, restrictive diets might give me short-term results, but I don't think the sigh of relief, or feeling of accomplishment at those results would be nearly as satisfying as the hard-won contentment I've found.

My body is amazing.  It has been on a hard, long, learning journey this year.  And it has carried me through all of it willingly.  It shows up for me day after day.  My injuries are a warning.  They say to me, "Hey, don't overdo it.  We've been through a lot.  Spend this time nurturing yourself, bringing us back to full health and vitality.  You can lose weight any time, but now is not the right time.  Heal, rest, rejuvenate.  Then hit it hard, like you always do.  You are not less, you are not unworthy because you're not losing weight, or a smaller size.  You are doing your best, and that is enough."  If I ignore those signals, I don't deserve my body's adaptiveness, its flexibility, its strength.  I need to show up for my body like it has shown up for me.

It's a great body.  And I live it in it now, fully and completely.  I love it, and that is worth more than anything weight loss could ever give me.

And sometimes, I even pull off looking cute.  - superbalancedlife.com

And sometimes, I even pull off looking cute.  - superbalancedlife.com


Step 2: Feminist Beliefs

I feel like given yesterday's Confession, it's even more important that I finish my series on how to bounce back from negative body triggers

Step 2 of Beauty Redefined's plan is Feminist Beliefs.  Now, I know not all my readers are feminists, or even ladies, but here's why this is applicable to everyone: because Feminism at its core believes that all people are equal, regardless of gender, race, age, sexual orientation, or anything else.  We are all equally worthy - fat or thin, muscled or not.

Further, feminism gives us some valuable tools:

Women who had feminist beliefs experienced less shame and body dissatisfaction than women who didn’t subscribe to feminism.

Feminism provides women with an alternative way to interpret objectification, and offers specific strategies to resist these ideologies on a personal and societal level.

One of the most important feminist strategies is maintaining a critical awareness using media literacy to resist cultural messages about women’s bodies.

Women need coping strategies as a buffer against self-objectification, such as decreasing self-evaluative statements (“I look fat today”), substituting self-affirming statements (“I am capable of much more than looking hot”), and cognitive reframing of objectification (“that company wants me to feel bad so I’ll buy their product!”).
Beauty Redefined

So with all this in mind, let me give you some rad Feminist blogs that I heart mucho.

Ladies I don't know personally, but follow religiously:

Fit & Feminist - Cannon.  "Because it takes strong women to smash the patriarchy."
Favorite Article: My Husband is More to Me Than a Living Jar Opener

The Militant Baker - "What everyone is thinking but no one will say."
Favorite Article: Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls... So I Will

Bitch Media - I mean, you all know about this one right?  Also cannon.  So important.
Favorite Article: Ms. Opinionated: I'm So Lonely! And My Family is so Critical!
 

Ladies I know personally, and love tremendously:

Super Strength Health - the blog of my bestie, Lacy Davis, a rad vegan health coach
Favorite Article: How to calm the voices that tell you your body isn’t good enough

The Span of My Hips - Josey, who is mad smart, writes about body love, mental health and critical theory
Favorite Article: Why Capitalism Relies on You Feeling Shitty About Your Body (brainy, and good)

Whole Body Health - Julie is strong, compassionate, and awesome, and studying to be an R.D.
Favorite Article: Why Do We Keep Going On Diets If Diets Always Fail Us?

Rebel Grrrl Living - Raechel is a professor, vegan, and awesome lady.
Favorite Article: Fitspo and Healthy Living Memes: A problem of appropriation, decontextualization, & depoliticization (more food for your brain)

 

Add to your RSS feeds!  And refer back whenever you're having a bad body day.  You'll feel pretty badass in no time. <3

More in this series:
Treatment Plan for Negative Body Triggers
Step 1: Compassion