Thursday, December 29, 2011

Struggling with Body Image: Part 3

I love my hazel eyes. They are not the beautiful green that I wanted them to be. They are not a gorgeous blue that everyone fawns over. No, but they have gold flakes near the center and a gorgeous blue ring around the outside, and they change color depending on my mood and, sometimes, my clothing.

I hope you've been with me for my first two posts. If not, you'll find links to both at the end of this post. Both of those posts have focused a great deal on me and my experience and opinion on this topic. And, while I LOVE to talk, which those who follow me on Twitter will no doubt verify, I do not want these post to be just about me. These posts are about women in general. They are for women. I have added my own stories, experiences, woven them into the posts in order to be true to the heart of my purpose. I'm not just trying to help women, girls, men...I'm trying to help me as well. I still struggle. As do many of you. 

However, I have exceptional people that I know who are willing to walk along this rocky path with me. Hand in hand. A dear friend of mine, Lou, a.k.a. @MonsterMaX3, a.k.a. Hashtag Queen, from Between the Covers has offered up her own story, her own struggle.  I am so honored to have her be here today to share with you. 

Take it awaaaay, Lou...

*pauses for dramatic applause to subside*

*  *  *

So, when I was younger I was really skinny. I mean REALLY skinny. It wasn't that I dieted...I definitely could have used a few more meals. It was my body. I have an insanely active metabolism which kept me very underweight. In this pic...

...I was topping the scales at 102 pounds. About 15 of that is probably the hair. *laughs*

I never dieted. As you can see, I didn't need to. But weight was never my thing, that wasn't the issue that I had. 

See... *points to young Lou* ... that girl? When she would look in the mirror what she saw was the quintessential ugly duckling... in the still ugly phase. 

She hated how she looked. Her nose was too big. Her teeth weren't perfect, despite braces. She had naturally pink cheeks, and OMG were they ever fat! She had freckles, and a chickenpox scar. She was too skinny and didn't have any curves. Boobs? What were those? (For the record, at 102 I was a B / C cup, which was completely fine for my body size.) She had scars on her knees and one on her chin. And her hair was the most B-O-R-I-N-G color of brown! *UGH*

I look back at that picture now and I still vividly recall how I felt when it was taken, how I felt when I saw it. I cringed. All I could think was "Oh, God... why do I have to be so ugly when everyone else looked so pretty?"

But now I have some time... it's none of your business how much.. and distance and, much more importantly, life experience, under my belt. I can look at that picture and see that I was damn cute. I wasn't going to stop traffic, but I was a pretty girl. My eyes and my smile were and still are my best features. *fidgets and gives the shifty eyes* I still think my nose is too big, but I've accepted that it's my nose and I'm stuck with it. *shrugs* I never claimed perfection. Well, okay... I did, but we all knew I was BSing. The point is that somewhere along the way I not only grew up, I grew comfortable in my own skin. 

I like how I look and think I look damn good for a woman of... an unannounced age with three children, one of whom is grown and of legal drinking age. (Do the math and I'll kick your ass. Or have Kyla break out the Krav on you.) I look back at that picture and wish I could go back in time and tell that girl that she IS pretty. Because she could have used the self-confidence.

I wouldn't undo my life. Nor would I do it over. But there are things I wish I could change and how I saw myself, how I felt about myself for so many years, is one of them. 

I'm now a mom with two daughters and I'm doing my best to raise them as confident girls / women. Some days I see I'm doing okay with that. Others I feel I'm failing them miserably. *shrugs* I don't hold the key to the answers. I'm also raising a boy who I hope never looks at any female and uses her looks or her lack of self-esteem against her. Judging by his girlfriends, I don't think I have. I'm calling that one a win. *laughs*

I suggested that Ky use this picture of me because I think it's important to show that body image issues don't always have to do with weight, that they stem from all different kinds of reasons. And from none at all. But most people would look at that picture of me and think I had no body image issues. Why would that girl have any? They would be wrong. Insecurity comes in all shapes, sizes and forms. No one is exempt. Not even skinny brainiac cheerleaders. 

I love...

*  *  *

Thank you so much, Lou, for sharing that with us. For allowing us to see yet another aspect of body image distortion. I would also like to grab the DeLorean and smack super, skinny, young Lou around a bit. But that's just me. I am sincerely grateful to you for sharing with us.

I'd like to transition now and include a couple more of my ladies, who, like Lou, have graciously provided me with pictures of themselves. Who have shared with me, with you, what it is about themselves that they love. Finding those things that you love about your body--no matter how small--can be a great start to helping you along this bumpy road.

I would like to leave you today with information regarding a website I stumbled upon while doing research for these posts. Healthy is the New Skinny is an incredible organization that uses natural models, has programs for schools, colleges, universities, reaching out about health, self-esteem and transformation.

Healthy is the New Skinny is a multi-platform movement to bring a message of health, joy, and responsibility to the beauty and the fashion industries. Through bold and creative initiatives, HNS works with media, corporate, and modeling partners to create lasting change. -from 

By far, one of the most powerful images I have seen, is the one below. Katie Halchishick, founder of Healthy is the New Skinny, poses with an iconic figure of beauty. The photo appeared in an issue of O Magazine in November 2011. The dotted lines indicated where she "needs" cosmetic surgery in order to be "beautiful".

Below, Katie discusses the reaction to this picture from others and how it affected her. She is an amazing woman. She is absolutely gorgeous just the way she is and she has a wonderful energy that comes through in the video.
It’s really unfair to assume that anyone regardless of how they look don’t have issues with themselves on any level.

And, on the topic of Barbie. A young student creates a life-size Barbie. Sorry, Barbie, but I wouldn't want your body.

There are many ways in which women struggle with body issues. Lou is correct, it's not always weight. I also agree with Katie, that assuming someone that you view as beautiful, can't have issues, can't struggle...that takes away part of who they are. I have made that mistake, but more in an I'm-completely-shocked-you-could-struggle way. I'd never deny anyone their rocky road (the path in life or the ice cream). 

Thank you for stopping by. Please take a moment to comment, here or on Twitter. Men, women...anyone. I love to hear from you. Have you had similar experiences? Know anyone who has? 

Also, be on the lookout. I'll be continuing with this series as the week progresses.

Struggling with Body Image: Part 4
Struggling with Body Image: Part 2

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Struggling with Body Image: Part 2

Starting off this second post with how I ended the last post. So, here's another picture of my legs (and my new tights, check it!). 

I love my legs. They aren't perfect. They are athletic when most of the actresses and models plastered in the media are sporting skinner versions. They are short. I am only 5'2.5", of course they're short. They are scarred from years in sports, from being clumsy, from Krav Maga. But I love them. I can dress them up, show them off or hide them away. And they are pretty damn good weapons.  -Ky

Society is obsessed with beauty. Beautiful landscapes, paintings, animals and, of course people. I’m not quite sure who decided what is and is not beautiful, or why it has changed over the last few decades to include such unrealistic, unattainable standards. But, this is what is thrust at us in everyday life. This is what our young children see.

There are some who go to extreme lengths to achieve perfected bodies that resemble what they see in the media. I'm not talking about women trying to be healthier versions of themselves. No. That is fine. But there are girls and women (and, yes men) who, in their quest to mimic what they see, do damage to themselves--body and soul.

Yo-Yo dieting. Pills. Anorexia. Bulimia. Breast augmentation. Liposuction. Abdominoplasty. Rhinoplasty. And every nip, tuck and lift that can be imagined. I'm not saying women shouldn't get cosmetic surgery. That's a woman's prerogative. I don't judge women who do. Why should I? For that matter, why should anyone? Does it make a woman less real? Less a woman? How far would that even go? Women can't wear make up? Heels? Clothes? (okay, men, you don't get to pipe in on that one.)

For that matter...what makes a "Real Woman"? 

By far, my favorite line from this is: 
I'm pretty sure we all know what makes a real woman a real woman. And it's not curves.
Cosmetic surgery is a perfectly acceptable option for anyone who chooses it. So is dieting, make up and heels. My complaint isn't that women do these things. 

My issue is:

  • why they do them and the image that some of them are trying to imitate. 
  • the 13 year old girl who is bulimic because she's trying to be Brittany Spears or whatever idol is current these days. 
  • my 5 year old who thinks she needs long, straight hair because that's what all the princesses have. 
  • the 10 year old that is afraid of being fat.
  • the men that think women should look like the women in magazines.

Here's the rub. The images that are thrown at us, children and adults, are not images of real people. Or, rather, they aren't real images of people. They are altered. The "imperfections" are taken out, covered up, painted over. In part one, I posted the following picture (left) of my legs. I am 5'2.5". Other than being a black and white picture, I did nothing to alter them. However, on the right, I simply made them longer. Longer = skinnier. While I love my legs, when I accidentally adjusted wrong and this (right) is what I got....I wistfully wanted the longer, skinnier legs.

Also, it pains me a little bit even to show the picture on the right. Only because now I assume you're all judging my real legs based on that other picture. However, it shows a drastic difference. And I really do still love my legs.

What does my mistake have to do with my point? The picture of Brittany Spears posted earlier? Altered. Check it out:

In fact, each of the pictures below have been altered (as have most, if not all, images published by the media today)

I think these women are all beautiful. But I think they are more beautiful in their natural, untouched pictures. By retouching, they aren't removing imperfections, they're removing what makes these women beautiful. And in doing so, in trying to create perfect people (which DO NOT exist), they are doing damage to girls, to women, and even to men. If perfect is what we seek, if perfect is what men expect us to be...we'll always be a disappointment. We can't walk around life airbrushed (okay, that's not true, since we have air brushed tans, but you know what I mean).

What they are doing to us, to our daughters, is distorting our expectations and our own body image. As I stated in my previous post, I had the belief that I was too heavy in my youth (see picture below).

This pic has been modified on the lower right-hand side, merely to remove my name.

How in the world did I believe (and would the BMI indicate) that I was overweight in this picture? I looked damn good. But because of what we see in the media, what we are and how we see ourselves, often don't match up.

Here is a drastic representation of what we are vs. what we see. (Body-Dysmorphic-Disorder.jpg)
This image is chilling because it is so accurate. Even skin and bones girls with anorexia or bulimia will continue to see themselves in skewed ways...essentially seeing what isn't there. In an effort to help change this, to make any impact I can, I have asked women I know to provide me with a picture of themselves and to tell me something they love about their body. These posts are not meant to be about me. They are about women. All women. 

The previous pictures have not been retouched, except to add in their quotes and names, and/or color adjustment due to lighting. Other than that the pictures appear as they were given to me. 

For some of these women, it was a struggle to find a picture, to pick something they loved about their body, to share it with the world (or the part of the world that will read my blog). Each of these women is very brave, and I am deeply grateful for their part in helping me with this post. I also recognize the courage it took for them to do so, and applaud their effort to think positively about their bodies...even if only a part of it.

There are several other ladies that also provided pictures for me, which will appear in the subsequent posts. In addition, I have posed some questions to men regarding how they view women's bodies, as I have noticed that what many men view as sexy is not the same as what we women perceive as sexy. I hope you'll return for these posts. Moreover, I hope you'll take an active role in helping to spread the word. Comment on what you've read or seen. Tell me your reaction. Pass the word along to a friend, mother, daughter, sister. Compliment women, don't tear them down. Reblog pictures on Tumblr of women who are beautiful, but not perfect. 
Take a stand for yourself, for women, for the next generation.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Struggling with Body Image

I hate my thighs. My breasts aren’t big enough. My breasts are too big. I need a flatter stomach. My arms shouldn’t be so jiggily. Shoulders are too broad. Hair too dull. Eyes, nose, teeth, toes. Head to toe, we women nit pick. We stand in front of the mirror and categorize all of our shortcomings.

Who are we comparing ourselves to? The short answer…every woman.

A previous version of ourselves. The woman down the street. A best friend, sister, enemy. The woman in line ahead of us. Our significant other’s ex. Jennifer Aniston. Angelina Jolie. Heidi Klum.

We are ruthless in our judgment, and we don’t just pick ourselves apart. Women pick each other apart. Even if they don’t voice their opinions, the act of picking apart another woman’s flaws only serves to make yourself even more dissatisfied with your own body.

Think body image isn’t an issue? Think again. According to Nikki Katz,Your Guide to Women's Issues:

Approximately 7 million girls and women struggle with eating disorders

42% of elementary school students between the 1st and 3rd grades want to be thinner

80% of children who are ten years old are afraid of being fat

80% of women are dissatisfied with their appearance 

Beyond statistics, I do not know a single woman who is satisfied with her appearance. This is not an issue that only affects women. On the contrary, men have similar struggles. However, given my experience is mostly with women, I’ve decided to focus these posts on the womenfolk.

So, what’s wrong with us? Why can’t we be happy with ourselves? In the last six months, as I have begun losing weight myself, I have noticed an increase in my love for my body. The question for me became…when did I become UNhappy with it? The easiest answer, and the one that came to immediately to mind was “during my first pregnancy”. However, that wouldn’t be accurate. If I think back really hard. If I am completely honest…it started way before that.

I can remember being told by my doctor, as a freshman in high school, that I was under average height and over average weight. Gee, thanks. Just what every teen needs to hear.

Add that to the fact that my only sister is a good 4" taller than me. She was always "the pretty one". We don't look much a like, each taking after the opposite parent. Both cheerleaders. In my eyes, as the little sister, 4 years younger, she was (will always be) better than I. 

(I'm in the pale purple) You can't judge the height here...I've got some massive heels on!

It weighed on me. I’ve never fit within the BMI standards. Even at my littlest, I wasn't within those ranges. I didn't get much taller, so I'll never look like the models, never have the eloquence of their bodies. I don't hate being short, but I almost always want to be taller. For practical reasons sure, but mostly for vanity. Although, aside from my hang ups, I still had fun.

Was there any doubt? 

There are many girls, women, who aren’t as lucky as I. Doubts and dissatisfaction may have plagued my formative years, but I never struggled to the point that many young girls do. Thankfully.

Looking back though, I ran track (100, 200 and 400, hurdles, long jump and high jump) and I cheered (basketball and football). You could say I was athletic. I had friends in all sorts of places. I had attention from guys, was envied by girls. I was happy. Not to say I was a Cindi Mancini (“Can’t Buy Me Love”). I was just me. Enjoyed befriending people (still do). The point is, I shouldn’t have been worried about being short, which I can’t do anything about, and being overweight, which seems to be the norm for me. And, looking back at these pictures of me…I don’t see me as overweight. At. All.

Okay, just a funny pic here to show my height. See my prom date? I'm in HEELS in this pic. Yeah. That didn't work out well. Oh, and I was blonde. Shush. The point is, even with the body I had in these pictures, which as an adult I strive to regain, I was still considered "overweight". Really?

Imagine then, years later when I got pregnant. I started out with body issues and gained about 60 more. Add to that the fact that everyone in Hollywood got pregnant the same time as me. Every magazine was filled with articles detailing which stars hadn't lost the baby weight, who lost the weight the fastest. Image after image of Hollywood starlets mocked my inability to lose the weight. 

It's taken me years to get to the point where I feel comfortable in my own skin again. Where the image of myself didn't haunt my thoughts, cripple my personality. And sure, some of that changed when I started losing weight. Beyond the weight loss, though, I changed on the inside. I stopped picking up the magazines. I started looking at myself in terms of positive thoughts and not negative thoughts. Or trying to. It's a struggle every day. I have good days and bad days, but I am more comfortable in my own skin than I have been in too many years to number. 

While I still have issues, I strive each day to get more comfortable, to improve my body image. Part of that process was coming up with something about my body that I love. So...

I love my legs. They aren't perfect. They are athletic when most of the actresses and models plastered in the media are sporting skinner versions. They are short. I am only 5'2.5", of course they're short. They are scarred from years in sports, from being clumsy, from Krav Maga. But I love them. I can dress them up, show them off or hide them away. And they are pretty damn good weapons.  -Ky

I ask each of you ladies to find something about your body that you love. ANYTHING about your body. Your big toe? Lips? Smile? Fingernail? Something about your body that you love. Leave a comment here or Tweet it @kyla_holt with the hashtag #BodyImageFTW and I'll post it in my subsequent posts. 

I have lined up women and men to help me with this so be on the lookout for more posts this week. Men, if you want to help women, compliment one. Compliment your significant other, daughter, sister, mother. 

Saturday, December 3, 2011

I made a difference...

I made a difference in someone's life! 

I am so touched that me, my quirky little self, could do something so powerful....I had to share. 

A while ago, I wrote that post for Amanda at On a Book Bender  about my past and the difference books have made in my life. I also had some open discussion about my past with some close friends. Prior to any of that...I’d told my best friend and my Ex. That's it. My only sister still doesn't know. Somehow, in the years I've spent rebuilding myself since my Ex and I split, I've come to terms with it and, in that, felt the need to share a little. Not the point though. 

The point is that I wrote a letter to my Krav manager and instructors (which bares resemblance to what I wrote for Amanda) telling them about my past and how much of an impact they've made in my life. It's hanging on the wall in the gym. Signed by me. There for all to see. I don't really think much of it. But today, a man stopped me after class. He stopped me to tell me that he'd been sober for several years, but he was having a particularly bad day recently. Whatever was going on was really pushing him to seek solace in old habits. Just so happens he read my letter that day. And stayed sober. He said it just really affected him and made him realize he’s not staying sober just for himself, but to be the kind of man he would want his daughter to marry. That feeling stuck with him. He’s still sober. And was so touched, he stopped me to share. Which must have been really difficult for him. (Yes, I hugged him. #KylaIsAHugger). If you’re curious, here is the letter I wrote:
Well, Aaron, you did say to take up as many pages on this thing as possible, right? Well, rather than spend hours writing on the wall, I am just dorky enough to type this up at home. [insert jokes here]. No really, I can handle it.                                                                             So, while this may not be exactly what you were intending us to divulge…I feel compelled to express the true weight of my gratitude.                                                                                                     Growing up, life was…well, not ideal. Whose is though, right? Well, mine sucked in an abusive way. Men who were supposed to love me and take care of me, kiss my skinned knee and protect me from bad things in life…well, they were those bad things. I was the recipient of abuse for the first time when I was five. After that, I just got passed from one to the next. There was no father figure in my life to show me how a man was supposed to act, so logically, I picked what I knew: a man who picked up where the others left off, albeit in a more subtle way.                                                                                                                                      Depressed? Don’t be. Somewhere along the way, I not only found courage to take a stand for myself, I found myself. So…what does this all have to do **** Krav Maga? I’d like to say that it was Krav that led me to my quest of self discovery. But I found that path through some self-exploration and soul searching. I extricated myself from the type of people that’d I’d been drawn to and focused on finding me. I decided I would never be a victim again.              Enter the search for a martial art that I could afford and do in my limited time without my two young girls. Google led me to KM and I popped in for Free Women’s Self Defense, expecting a cursory look at key points. What I got was the most intense, exciting and educational hour of my life. I haven’t left since. It has been a roller coaster of a year here. I have made friends and learned skills I never thought I could learn. I have taken chances, stepped out of my comfort zone and set myself up for failure…only to succeed instead.                                                                                        In August 2011, I took and passed my level 1 test. The best 3 hours of hell I could have asked for. I am still learning. I will always “still” be learning. I learn something every class I take. Seen choke from the front thirty times…I still learn something. I learn some new technique, new twist or some new tendency I have I didn’t know about. I have different attackers who attack in different ways. I have new instructors who have a different approach or way of looking at it.                                                                                             So…thank you Terri, Aaron, H******* KM, instructors, friends, and those people who kick my ass in class. Because of all of you, I no longer believe I will never be a victim again. No, I am pretty sure at some point in my life, I will be. Maybe more than I care to speculate. However, I now know this:                                                          I will never be a complacent victim again. Ever.                                                Thank you to all
I didn't expect the letter to touch other people's lives. I just felt compelled to tell them how much of a difference they make in my life. 

I really am very touched that I made such a difference. And, that there are people that make a difference in my life as well. Some of you make a difference every day. Some in big ways, others in smaller ways. The point is—you DO make a difference in my life. Thank you for that. Thank you for the smut, snark, jackassery. Thank you for the laughs when I need them. Thank you for the virtual shoulder. Thank you for more virtual hugs than a hugger like me could ever hope for (tackle hugs, ahem…table hugs, all of them). I guess…just thank you for being my friend. 

Drop me a line. Has someone made a difference in your life? Not, me. Not fishing for that. *snicker* You don’t have to get detailed, don’t have to name names. But it would really help me to know that people are making a difference in your life as well. 

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