Monday, February 28, 2011

Dangerous Playgrounds

Since as far back as I can remember, people have commented on my appearance. When I was a little girl, I would relish in dressing up in my sister’s old dance costumes, getting up on the coffee table, and dancing to my father’s piano playing as my parent’s friends ooo’d and aww’d at my adorableness. Another favorite pass time would be after my nightly bath, when my mom would run her bristled brush through my hair with the warmth of the blow dryer running over my scalp, because I knew once I exited that bathroom in my clean, pressed pajamas, my father and grandparents would be waiting there to fuss about how beautiful and fresh I looked.

Then I entered grade school when, all of a sudden, the words about how I looked weren’t as kind. My arms were hairy, my hair was frizzy, my legs were too muscular, my eye brows were bushy, my t-shirts too baggy, and my breasts an embarrassing topic of conversation. I’m surprised the comments rushing from the mouths on the playground didn’t ultimately given me an early aneurysm (being the insanely sensitive person I am). Instead, they only caused emotional distress which I carried with me for way too long.

I’ll never forget the afternoons after high school when my friend Sherry and I would stand in front of the mirror, pulling our legs and stomachs back to see what we would look like if we had fewer inches. We would console each other, and I remember thinking about how sad it was that Sherry, this incredibly beautiful and talented girl, didn’t like her perfect body. It never occurred to me that maybe she thought the same thing about me. I’ll never forget these days. The crying over my pants size, the secret agony I felt over my mother’s Victoria’s Secret catalogue, the deep desire to look and feel like a confident movie star, and the feeling that I was all alone in this, because even though my friends would say they felt the same way, in my mind, they were way too beautiful to really understand.

One day, I came home crying after school (a usual occurrence so I’m not sure what the drama of the day was), but my mother held me in her arms, and in one of those awkward parenting moments, said something that I will never ever forget: “It's my fault. Instead of spending your childhood telling you how beautiful you looked, I should have spent more time telling you how beautiful you are on the inside.” I didn’t get it. How could her compliments cause any damage? How could it hurt to have someone tell you you’re the most beautiful thing on Earth?

After that day, I think my mom changed her approach. Her compliments started to be more about my academics, my musical abilities, my athletic accomplishments, and my choices. I’d still get the occasional, “you look great” comments, but the focus was moved from my appearance to my performance. Once a week after school, my mom would also teach a yoga class to my friends and myself, and at the end of every session, she would end the class with a quote on inner beauty and enlightenment. I don’t know if this is the reason why I eventually became less fixated on my looks or if maybe I just made the decision to stop the angst, but whatever happened, I entered my freshman year of college feeling confident and strong. I attribute this healthy transformation to my mother’s activism in my body image.

Now that I am 27, I only remember these feelings as a phase I went through as a teenager. At this point in life, I’m comfortable with my arms, I like my freakishly strong legs, I am happy that my eye brows are big, I think my hair looks kind of sexy when it’s frizzy, I find baggy t-shirts to be quite comfortable, and if my breasts are a topic of conversation, it’s probably because my best friend is a bra-sizing specialist, and she knows what she’s doing! But something inside me keeps reminding me how lucky I am that this so-called “phase” didn’t turn into a serious eating disorder or a lifelong distorted body image disorder. After all, can we really call these thoughts a “phase?” I think they are more of a lingering danger that we have to CHANGE. It’s time to redefine beautiful and to teach kids to be kind to each other. The playground is a dangerous place, and it’s not because of the monkey bars or tire swings.

Before I wrap up, I want to share a story my friend told me the other day:

Her friend was always a little worried about the size of her legs. One day, a girl at school asked her friend to pose for a piece of art: a clay molding of a dancer’s legs. The friend was thrilled that the artist, a popular “hot” girl, wanted to use her legs as a subject! After days of work, the sculpture finally went on display for the whole school to see…..Titled: An Overweight Dancer. This girl went on to develop a serious eating disorder. Are you surprised?

How can we turn the tables and encourage kids to be supportive of each other? I’m going to start by volunteering at my elementary school to come in and give a little talk. And if that doesn’t work, I’ll just work on my nieces and nephews until another opportunity comes up. I encourage all of you Guiltless readers to join together and rise against body image cruelty! Let’s take back what belongs to us: Our bodies and our peace of mind.

Shed Your Weight Problem Here

I remember the first time I picked up a Cosmopolitan magazine. The secrets to being beautiful, and sexy I was sure lay in the 200 pages under the provocative cover. While I may have learned how to "speak dirty in 3 foreign languages" and giggled at embarrassing stories, I never found the ultimate secrets in fashion magazines. While they still tempt me at airports, and I rely on them for elliptical trash reading, I now know that the secret to happiness, and beauty does not lay in their monthly pages. The truth of the matter is that sometimes these magazines do more harm than help.

The media doesn't cause eating disorders but they send out the clear message that you should be thin. They keep showing or telling us only thin women's bodies are beautiful and sexually desirable. That you won't find a boyfriend until you have a perfectly flat stomach. Tempt that once you're thin you will be confident, successful, healthy and happy.Let's have a little wake up call: You're life isn't going to suddenly become perfect if you lose 10 lbs. You can't and shouldn't be happy with yourself unless your body looks exactly like the thin ideal.

The fact of the matter is that happiness and being comfortable with your body doesn't sell.
The "beauty" and diet industries make more than $45 billion every year.Media is a business, and in order to continue to generate revenue they have to keep us in a state of unhappiness, constantly looking to the newest "quick fix" diet or beauty product.

Things are being shook up in Canada with the National Eating Disorder Information Centre Campaign to Cast Responsibly and Retouch Minimally.
On bus stops in Toronto they have an interactive ad campaign-"shed your weight problem" by dumping your beauty magazines.
While this isn't all we have to do to "Shed our weight problem" it's a step in the right direction
Not in Toronto?
"Like" the campaign on Facebook
Sign the petition to fashion leaders and marketers to broaden their definitions of "beauty"

What do you think of beauty magazines? Do they help or harm your self esteem?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Letter to a Bridal Shop

Dear Bridal Shop,

My friend told me a pretty horrifying story the other day about bridesmaid dress shopping in Boston. If you've ever been a bridesmaid, you know that more often than not, bridal shop sizes run big, and the dresses are not always the most flattering. This would not be a problem if it didn't often result in spending more money right before the wedding to get the dress altered. This is an inconvenient truth all women face when they are shopping for a bridesmaid dress at a traditional bridal shop. It's not something we put up a fight about, and it is to be expected. But this one particular story, which absolutely broke my heart, is beyond all negative expectations one may have when walking into a store. And I hope ALL stores listen up and act out!

My friend was shopping for a bridesmaid dress with a fellow bridesmaid at Priscilla's of Boston. Apparently, when they got to the store, not only did the shop not have the correct dress, they also did not have a single dress in my friend's shopping partner's size. This is ludicrous. As if the amount of stress the typical woman feels picking out a dress to wear in front of a crowd isn't enough, now this woman, this beloved friend of the bride, who set aside precious time in her Sunday, made a trip all the way to the Back Bay in Boston to find out that the store didn't even carry her size, because it wasn't part of the store's inventory size range (or something bogus like that). While my friend said her fellow bridesmaid stood tall and didn't show signs of soul crushing, you can only IMAGINE how frustrating this must be.

So my plea to you, bridal shop (especially Priscilla's), is to please make sure that you carry at least one of every size per dress in your inventory. After all, this is what you do. Women come in all beautiful shapes and sizes...the least you could do, as a dress shop after all, would be to honor them.

Thanks for your attention.

Guiltlessly yours,

Monday, February 21, 2011

Eating Disorders are Not cool: NEDA Awareness Week

Today marks the beginning of NEDAwareness Week which aims to prevent eating disorders and body image issues while reducing the stigma surrounding eating disorders and improving access to treatment.

Eating disorders are serious illnesses, not lifestyle choices, and affect men and women across all racial, economic, and educational boundaries. Eating disorders are complex conditions that arise from a combination of long-standing behavioral, emotional, psychological, interpersonal, biological and social factors. Look at the state of the world we live in today! A study found that adolescent girls were more fearful of gaining weight than getting cancer, nuclear war or losing their parents. Because we live in a culture that emphasizes an unrealistic ideal for most people, many try to fight our natural size and shape determined by genetics, through unhealthy dieting practices, poor body image and decreased self-esteem, which fosters the beginning of disordered eating.

In the United States, as many as 10 million females and 1 million males are fighting a life and death battle with an eating disorder such as anorexia or bulimia. Approximately 15 million more are struggling with binge eating disorder. Eating disorders rank among the 10 leading causes of disability among young women [Mathers et al., 2000] Eating disorders do not affect women exclusively. Men also suffer from eating disorders. Incidence of eating disorders has increased over the last 30 to 40 years [Academy of Eating Disorders, 2007] Not only are they becoming more predominant, but they are deadly diseases. Anorexia nervosa has one of the highest mortality rates of any psychological illness. Estimates range from 5% to 20%. [Birmingham et al., 2005]

Eating disorders have a profoundly negative impact on an individual's quality of life, wrecking self-image, interpersonal relationships, financial status, and job performance. While eating disorders are serious, potentially life-threatening illnesses, there is help available Recovery is possible. NEDA has information and resources available via their website and helpline:Helpline: 800 931-2237

Spread the awareness about eating disorders. Join the event on Facebook! If you are on twitter, Marci Anderson, a RD who specializes in eating disorders will be hosting a twitterchat on February 23rd at 8:30pm EST with the hashtag #endED Join in!

So this week let’s take some extra time to remember that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes. You are more than the number on the scale. Celebrate your inner beauty, strength, and spirit! Live Guiltlessly!

Tell me one thing you love about yourself today!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Letting Go of Rules

By: Janet Zimmerman

We’ve all heard the different rules concerning dieting and exercise. Rules (or maybe we should call them lies) like don’t eat chocolate, sweets, carbs, or fat. Or, rules that tell us we need to train our bodies physically in a certain way for a certain amount of time to look like we are “supposed” to, a way that is superiorly acceptable.

But, what I want to know is who set these rules and who gave them authority over our choices?

You see, I once was a slave to all these different rules. I felt guilty if I ate chocolate or a food that I wasn’t “supposed” to eat. I felt guilty if I didn’t exercise for ______ amount of hours a week. I felt guilty if I walked or took a day off instead of my usual running routine. As you can see, these rules bound me to a life of guilt. The rules made things that I enjoyed in life a chore instead of a pleasure.

Fast-forward to a few years ago.

I realized (through a long process) I could not continue to live enslaved to these rules. It took the joy and pleasure out of the simple things in life that I loved. I read books like Intuitive Eating that promote self-care and self-compassion. And ultimately, I learned that other people cannot set the standards and rules for my life.

I am my body’s expert, and I am my body’s advocate.

This is the same for you too. Each one of us is our body’s expert. We get the privilege of learning to understand our needs and desires. Sometimes this entails a nap and sometimes a run, sometimes a salad and sometimes a rich piece of dark chocolate cake, sometimes a night with a friend and sometimes a little time to myself.

We were intricately made and are multifaceted… what would make us think that everyone should look the same, act the same, or even benefit from the exact same foods or exercise?

If you haven’t already, start today being YOUR body’s expert and advocate. The right exercise for you is an exercise you enjoy doing and that leaves you feeling energized. The right foods for you do the same- they should be pleasant to your pallet and leave you with energy to tackle your day.

Let go of the rules and learn to listen to YOUR body without shaming it or feeling guilty. And remember, you are a BEAUTIFUL person with unique needs. Now go and live guiltlessly.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Double Agent

When your mind tells you one thing and your body tells you something different, which one do you listen to? When is it okay to take a break? And when should you just suck it up? There is a fine line between these decisions, and it's hard to determine which will serve you best. It's the double agent inside of you, and sometimes it's hard to tell who it's working for.

There are some common examples of this dilemma existing in us all. Sometimes these feelings can cause emotional stress which can eventually lead to physical stress. This makes it all the more important to have a strong strategy.

Social invitations: You get a call from a close friend who wants to get together mid week for dinner and drinks. But your work schedule has been increasingly demanding lately, and you could use a night in. Should you say no and risk going another week without seeing your dear friend, or should you say yes and risk feeling tired and run down? This is a tough call, and one which I struggle with on a weekly basis. What I've learned is that your friends will understand if you need some "me time," but your body will not forgive you for stretching it thin. My advice for this type of situation is to compromise! One week, maybe you decide to lay low while the following week you agree to go out, but you take it easy on the drinks and head home in time for 7 or 8 hours of sound sleep.

Extra work or Commitments: It's Friday and your boss asks if you're available to volunteer at an event the next morning. Typically, you're all for participating and being a team player. But this week, you are really looking forward to your Saturday plans to catch up on some reading and go to a much needed yoga class. Or maybe you don't have plans, but you've been feeling a little crunched lately and could use a day for yourself. In my opinion, it's okay to say no sometimes (especially in these types of circumstances). Saying something like, "I'm open to doing this at a later date, but unfortunately, I'm booked this weekend," is perfectly acceptable. And then next time you're asked to take on an extra task, you can go for it!

Rest vs. Working out: If you're anything like me, this is a daily struggle. But we have to face the facts: There are some days when exercise will leave you feeling energized and invigorated, and there are others when it will make you feel, well, exhausted. It's extremely difficult to determine what kind of day it is, and sometimes you'll skip the gym and wish you didn't or you'll go to the gym, get on the treadmill and think to yourself, "I need my bed." The best thing to do in this scenario is to quiet your mind for a moment and listen to your body. With a little practice, you'll start hearing it louder and clearer each time, and eventually, you're body awareness will kick in and this decision will be easier to make.

These are only three examples of daily conundrums. Additional issues include the procrastination of all other daily tasks which take precious time. The most important thing to remember is you're not alone. With a little mindfulness, you'll have no question about whether that double agent is working for you or against you.

What mindful strategies do you practice to avoid self espionage?

Be well, and enjoy the day!

Monday, February 14, 2011

This Valentines Day Fall back in love with YOU

Oh Valentine's Day. A special day to celebrate love, which can be wonderful for starry-eyed lovers, turn singles to romance movies and Ben and Jerrys, and paints the town red and pink. But everyday, everywhere, everyone wants to be loved. More than money, more than beauty, more than “things” many of us are just searching for love. Not to sound cliche, but how can you expect others to love you if you loathe yourself? We seek out pure and unconditional love, but how many of us grant ourselves that gift?

In a stunning new survey done exclusively by Glamour, young women recorded an average of 13 brutal thoughts about their bodies each day (some had as many as 35, 50 or even 100!). 300 women of all sizes from across the country were asked to note every negative or anxious thought they had about their bodies over the course of one full day. The results shocked us—97 percent admitted to having at least one “I hate my body” moment. I have some news for you: obsessing about what you eat or look like doesn’t make you look any better. In fact, it can just make things worse. Much worse.

So this Valentine's day, as you give some love to your mother, brother, sister, lover, share a little bit of love with yourself. It is your right to fall so deeply in love with yourself. Gift yourself the gift of accepting the person you are today, right now in this moment and love him or her, all of you this Valentine’s Day.

Show yourself a little self love this valentines day:

  • Write a list of 5 things you love about you today.
  • Say "Stop" out. loud. next time you have a negative body thought.
  • Give yourself some me time: Take a long bath. Read a book. Go for a walk. Write your future self a message
  • Focus on health, strength, joy and energy rather than weight: Eat and engage in physical activity that makes you feel great rather than tired and drained.
  • Appreciate your body for what it does, rather than how it looks.
Be confident. You are beautiful, sexy and deserving of all the love in the world! Happy Valentine's Day!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Thursday, February 10, 2011

I Love My Irish Tan

"I Love My Irish Tan!" -Richie Ferrari

I Love My Chest Hair

"I Love My Chest Hair." -Danny Osterweil, also known as "Raptor Boy"

I Love My Forearm Balance

"I Love My Forearm Balance." - Linda Horton, Yogi, Steph's mum.

I Love My Fluffy & Delicious Body

"I Love My Fluffy & Delicious Body" - Mike Rigazio

You're all invited to a Guiltless Meet-up!
Join us on Saturday, March 5th at The Beehive in Boston for a Guiltless night of fun. Hope to see you all there! Click HERE for more info!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Cleaning out the Closet

When you open your eyes to the world
You are on your own for the first time.
No one is even interested in saving you now.

and the world steps in
to test the calm fluidity of your body
from moment to moment

as if it believed you could join
its vibrant dance
of fire and calmness and final stillness.

- David Whyte, "Revelation Must Be Terrible" via
Stephen Cope's
Yoga and the Quest for the True Self

I love this poem, because it reflects the uncertainty of life as well as the inevitable in just a few simple lines. In life, it is certain that we will be faced with a first day and a final day, but the time in between is unpredictable each and every day. This is the challenge of our minds, hearts, and bodies. "The world steps in to test the calm fluidity of your body from moment to moment," and your body has options: to welcome or reject, to sleep or run, to fight or embrace, to love or to isolate, to wonder and to hope...

Somewhere within this "vibrant dance" we encounter stress in many different forms, but the outcome is usually the same: movement away from the true self and into a mental oblivion of "I should" or "I wish I had" or "I need to," etc. It is at these points when we are challenged most to stay centered.

It's time we asked ourselves, "What have I done for me lately?"

Treat these times like a messy closet, and approach it with the idea that you have endless time to organize and dust and store until the truly desired contents are left. Some items can be folded neatly and put away until the right time. Others can be hung in clear sight so they shine out from the closet like brilliant ideas through your eyes. Some items are simply ready to be discarded, and others are ready to be mended. Before you know it, the well-deserved attention you've given to your "closet" will pave the way for smoother days.

And now when you ask yourself the loaded question, "What have I done for me lately?" you can simply answer, "I cleaned out my closet."

Be well, and enjoy the days.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Staying Present by Seeing Food as a Gift.

A sentence from the book “Discover Mindful eating” by Megrette Fletcherand Frederick Burrgraf stuck with me long after the final page was turned. “Food is a gift that we deserve to respect.”

Far too often I take food for granted. I am blessed with adequate means to provide myself with nutritious, delicious, food every day. But remembering the gift that presents itself at every meal is a good way to bring wonder, respect and gratitude back to the kitchen table. Look deeply to see the effort, work, energy, and sacrifice in any food. Who brought this to your table? What was the food supply chain like? How far did this food travel? Do you know who grew it?

Madonna Mindfully eating

Mindfulness is being aware through the act of observing sensory experiences. It includes mental activity, physical sensation and your surrounds. You focus on the inner and outer existence of the current moment. Mindfulness enables us to see opportunities of generosity, kindness, compassion and understanding while freeing the mind of craving, hatred and confusion. Mindfulness promotes and preserves both physical and mental health. It enhances peach well being and joy in you body.

This week I’m going to focus on remembering the gift of food. Bringing this additional layer of mindfulness to my meals will hopefully. Celebrate each day and the gifts that it bears!

Suggested reading:

From “Discover Mindful Eating” by Megrette Fletcherand Frederick Burrgraf

And check out The Center for Mindful Eating online

Friday, February 4, 2011

I love my Legs

I love my Legs
by Sarah Kenney

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

My Compliments To You

Before I get into the subject of today’s post, I’d like to start off with a side note. I heard a quote on NPR during the drive to work earlier this week that really stuck with me. “If your compassion doesn’t include yourself, it’s incomplete.” I’ve always been a compassionate person, but rarely did that compassion include me. In fact, I would often sacrifice my own happiness without flinching if I believed it would bring happiness to others. Does this sound familiar? The goal is to stay compassionate for others while remaining thoughtful of ourselves. I hope this quote sticks with you as much as it did with me. It’s thoughts like these that keep us learning and progressing.

And now on to today’s post:

The Art of Accepting a Compliment

AB: You look great.

CD: (bashfully) I’m really tired and my hair is a mess.

EF: You’re body is beautiful.

GH: (hesitant) Thanks. I was in much better shape over the summer.

HI: Wow, you ran that whole race? I’m impressed.

JK: (disappointed) I didn’t run fast enough.

LM: You have such a nice home.

NO: (embarrassed) It’s a total mess in here!

PQ: You have great hair.

RS: (surprised) I really need to schedule a cut.

TU: That is impressive work. Well done.

VW: (frustrated) If only I had one more day to work on it, it could have been better.

XY: I love your smile.

Z: (stops smiling)


There are many reasons why accepting a compliment may be difficult for a person. Maybe he/she feels that accepting a compliment makes him/her vain or conceited. Or perhaps, the receiver of the compliment doesn’t believe it. Maybe it’s even just an old habit! Whatever the cause, when given a compliment, it feels so much better to just smile and say “thank you!”

Accepting a compliment is often viewed as a social grace or a form of etiquette. However, it is also reflective of our confidence. A thoughtful smile and a sincere “thank you” are not only ways to be polite to those giving you the compliment; they are also the ways to be polite to yourself.

Let’s practice a little.

Once per day for a week or two, look at yourself in the mirror and pay yourself one compliment. After you do so, smile and thank yourself. Yes, I know this sounds a little silly. You don’t even have to do this out loud if you don’t want to! But if you do this for one week, the next time you receive a compliment, you might be surprised about how that compliment will affect you! Maybe instead of feeling uncomfortable or awkward, you’ll internalize it, and for the rest of the day, you’ll know that someone out there thinks highly of you or something you did.

My compliment of the day goes out to Katy Perry for writing the most motivational song of the year! "Ignite the light and let it shine..." Gives me chills every time...

Be well and enjoy the day!

Do you recall a time when you felt awkward about accepting a compliment?