Category Archives: beauty

Pretty

momdadfionaThe sunset was pretty tonight.  It’s always pretty to me.  Halloween night, the sky was patterned with spotty white clouds, one perfectly like the next.  Tonight, there was a tinge of yellow and pink on the horizon.  Nothing spectacular, but enough to remind me of one of the perks of being alive.

I was told twice this weekend I was pretty.  I’m not sure if that amounts to a hill of beans, but it’s always something I “had”, at least since I stopped being an overweight pre-teen.

I’m fairly sure half of my readers just gave up on this post; I wouldn’t blame them, for thinking I’m vain.  I am.  I can be.  I think we all can be, at least most of us.

My father always talked about sunsets.  And so the sunset made me think of him, which made me think of time.  Because it’s almost been a year since he died.  And how time can strip you of many things – people, energy, health, looks.  Time is frightening.  Pressing, like a weight on your chest until there isn’t space anymore.

I find it frightening that I once was 15 and could operate on six hours of sleep with no problem, and now it’s twenty years later and sciatica is a common word in my vocabulary.  I find it frightening that I once had a tiny five pounder, and now I have a three year old who acts twenty-five and regularly asks me what words “In Spanish” are.  I find it frightening that a year ago, my father existed, as emaciated and twisted as he appeared at the end, and now…he just doesn’t.

Eating disorders are a good distraction from the real issues at hand.  Want to avoid your feelings?  Eat only raw vegetables and protein during the day for prolonged periods of time.  Want to forget that you’re a living breathing human being who will one day, too, stop breathing and stop existing?  Fixate on the fact that you’re becoming less pretty.  It’s a nice “smoke and mirrors” to the friend who you’ve lost from your life, or the brother that just won’t get well.

That’s where I’ve been lately.  Pulling at my jeans because I have gained weight, and I’d rather focus on that than on the fact my Dad’s been dead for a year.  Looking at my growing-out hair, and grimacing, because it makes me look old and fat.  Rather than think about the fact that some of the friends I had in my life last year aren’t here now.

Change: it’s a real ball breaker.

Don’t get me wrong; I love the compliments.  But it always gets my disordered brain thinking, “what if I wasn’t?  Would they still like me?  Would they pay as much attention to me?  What will happen when I’m old, saggy and grey?  Will I ever be able to let go of this attachment of self-worth to appearance?”

I’m sure this all sounds remarkably self-involved; I don’t know what to say.  Parts of me aren’t pretty on the inside.  It’s just the way it is.

The Only Kind Of Bad Fat You Can Be

I love Jewel.  Go f$%6 yourself.  I love running to Jewel at the end of my workouts, cooling down while simultaneously basking in the imperfections of her folky, yodel-y, touchy-feely birdvoice.  And I love the song Goodbye Alice in Wonderland; it is my story.  As my bad knee started to kick in at the end of my run, and I rounded past the cemetery back to my apartment, her voice warbled into my ears,

Fame is filled with spoiled children
We grow fat on fantasy

And internally, I stopped;

because that was the story of my food addiction.

******

I grew up with big dreams.  I dreamt of becoming a musical theater star, and of falling in love with the perfect man at 25 and having this perfect family that would make up for any trauma I experienced.  I dreamt of leaving the little town I grew up in and never fit into, and moving to the big city and showing everyone that I was really meant for something bigger.

The problem with big dreams and being a big dreamer is that you often live not in the real world but inside your head, and you don’t seek outside help or opinions and ideas.  You rely on magazines and images and other people’s injured self-esteem to tell you what is right and standard and spin a world so small that you can’t see outside of it.

Translation?  I thought I had to do it all perfectly, and look like the 113 lb, 5 foot 11 chick in People (yes, they used to post their weights in the 90’s, and yes, I remember it because I will always have an eating disorder I am grateful for).  And I did it!  I lost 65 lbs in five months, because that’s what it took to fit in and be beautiful and be happy.

You see, I was “fat on fantasy”, just like Jewel said.  Because things were sad, and disappointing, and just plain tragic growing up, I escaped into fantasy.  It’s all I had, before I realized I could escape into food.  I escaped into the glamorous life I would lead someday, being successful and perfect and beautiful and therefore worthy of some man’s love.

And in that fantasy, I despised fat.  Fat meant failure and disappointment and wanting too much and loss.  But I was wrong; physical fat isn’t bad; it’s just fat.  Yellow, squishy fat.  But what was bad and what was hurting me was the fat fantasy I lived on.  I didn’t live in reality.  Into my twenties, I lived in a world where I rehearsed social situations and scenes that never took place because I was scared shitless to step outside of it.  Things were dramatic and romantic and dreamy in my head, and messy and unpredictable and scary outside of it.  And the more I expected my reality to be like my fantasy, the more I starved and binged.  It isolated me from that messy, unpredictable world – when I used behaviors, I didn’t have to feel anything.

I think I’ve gotten better.  I know I’ve gotten better.  When I first put down unhealthy behaviors, I could barely carry on a conversation for fear of what others thought of me; now I can banter a bit better.  But my “fat fantasy” still remains in bits and pieces – it’s there when I expect my relationship to be perfect 24/7 in order for it to be long-term, or when I think everyone should act perfectly at a party I host.  The fantasy still bugs me.

And poor fat!  I projected all of this fantasy onto fat, this morally-meaningless substance and made it bad.  When you know what?  It never was.  It just sat there.  And it sits beautifully on me and others today.  Today, I understand that a size 14 woman who is honest with herself is way better off than a size 2 who isn’t.  It may sound trite, but it took me a long time to get there.

So to those who get annoyed by my truth-telling; I do it because it’s hard and because I can’t afford to grow fat on fantasy again.  I do it because I see the world as it is, not as it should be or how my partner wants to see it or how it might look with an Instagram lens.  I do it because it’s how we move forward.  I do it to survive.

And I keep running.

A Thank You Note To My Bullies

You know, I’ve been rude.

And it’s time I apologize.  I’m sorry.

I never thanked all the bullies at my high school for the wisdom they unknowingly passed on to me through their years of emotional and physical abuse.  I never expressed gratitude for the lessons I was lucky enough to learn early on in life.

So, if you were one of the people who hurt me because you were probably so cruelly abused and hurt yourself, and you’ve been waiting for a nod of recognition, here goes.

To the little boy down the street who was friends with me when my mother was around, but refused to sit in a chair I sat in at school, exclaiming, “I won’t touch it if fatty sat there!”, thank you.  Not only did you teach me that the separation between “pretty” and “ugly” starts early, but you taught me to pick my friends as carefully as one balances on a tight-rope wire.  You taught me to beware of people’s masks, and that some are really good at hiding their true selves behind that mask.

To the boy I had a crush on who wouldn’t clap for me when I got a music award in the seventh grade because I was simply, “Amanda Bruce”:  thank you.  You taught me compassion.  Why?  You were nice to me when it was just you and me at our lockers, but ignored me when you were around your friends.  In the end, I felt bad for you, because it was probably really hard to be a nice, popular kid who felt pressured by his friends to do what they did.

To the girl who called me “Turtle” since I appeared slow to her because of my size, I bow in gratitude.  First of all, you made me hyperaware of my size and lack of coordination.  I bought into the belief that I couldn’t do anything athletically for a very long time.  So much so that I developed an eating disorder because I was ashamed of my body’s appearance and what it couldn’t do.  And then, years later, I would have to go into treatment and take a very hard, long look at myself and those beliefs.  It would take awhile, but I would then realize they were bullshit.  I would start to run.  I would start to love it.  And finally, I would run for not what my body looked like, but for my internal sense of peace.

There’s a second part of my thanks to you, Turtle girl: thank you for calling me “a slut” and “too fat to wear leggings” at a school dance.  That night, I came home from the dance and cried.  My mother cried too, for a long time, because her baby had a horrible time at one of her first junior high school dances.  That night, the bond between my mother and I became stronger than ever.  I wonder if you ever had a night like that with your mother.  I’m grateful I did.  And you know what?  I hate the word SLUT because of you.  I won’t call another female it because it’s an incorrect, stereotyped, misogynistic word.  Thank you for inspiring the power of feminism in me.

To the boy who invaded my boundaries and tried to touch my leg repeatedly in music class: many thanks.  Because you viewed me as beneath you due to my weight, you felt you could attempt to harass me.  And you did, then.  But now?  My boundaries are rock-solid.  They were too solid for awhile, and I didn’t let many people in.  But now people can’t take advantage of me even when I share things like this.  Why?  Because I know how to take care of myself and defend myself.  I have turned the ugliness into beauty, and into love, and no one can take advantage of that.

To the adults in my life who didn’t stop the bullying when it happened:  I am grateful.  Because of you, I am the fiercest mama lion to my beautiful daughter.  You showed me exactly how not to be around children who are victimized.  When you forced me to stand up to eat lunch because you wouldn’t consequence the kids who wouldn’t let me sit with them on a field trip, you saved another kid from being bullied on the playground twentyish years later.  Because even on a nannying job in grad school, I kept my eye out for the kid on the playground who wasn’t treated fairly.  And you’ve also taught me to take a step back and let my daughter defend herself when she needs to.  You’ve taught me to not be an over-involved parent who screws up her child.

You see, I’ve spent years feeling tortured, controlled, and dominated by these memories.  Until I realized that a whole lot of love can emerge from hate, if we have the courage to stop and lead an examined life.

So on this Spirit Day, where we raise awareness for bullying, I salute you, bullies.  I acknowledge what you’ve been through and have compassion for it.  I can’t possibly understand the depths of your life experience.

I will, however, see your hate, and raise you with understanding and change.

Anorexia, On Vacation

I wish this article was about my anorexia going on a permanent vacation, but it isn’t.  There aren’t two ways about it: recovery is hard on any average routine-filled day.  So when you throw in a two-week period of little sleep, constant activity, and strange, indulgent foods, one in recovery can feel like he or she is on an anorectic rollercoaster.

I went to Los Angeles for almost two weeks, to introduce my daughter to friends she hadn’t the opportunity to meet yet.  (Oh, and I forgot to mention above the fun of putting a Boston toddler on Los Angeles time.  Joyful 3am awakenings where SuperWhy MUST be watched.  But I digress.)  Now, I love LA for many reasons – it’s beautiful, the weather is almost perfect, the people are relaxed, and I’ll admit, it’s pretty cool to see celebrities alongside of you shopping for groceries.  But it’s image-obsessed.  Two years ago, I had gone to LA, and when I got off the plane at LAX with a dream and my cardigan…wait…

No but really.  The first billboard I saw read:

“1-800-GET-SKINNY”.

I remember thinking how you’d never see that in Boston.

Also, the last time I went, I had gone out to a bar with my boyfriend and some of his friends.  I had excused myself to go to the bathroom, and when I entered it, immediately felt out of place.  The white hippie sundress and sandals I had previously thought were pretty attractive paled in comparison to the row of stiletto heels and skintight dresses I saw on the other women.  Now, I’ve never been one to follow trends, but I had to admit that my Boston-ness seemed glaringly apparent that day.

This time, I didn’t compare myself as much to other women, but I found the off-schedule eating pretty abhorrent.  Can you eat healthy on vacation?  Absolutely.  Is it harder when you’re dealing with low finances and a screaming toddler?  Yup.  So, long story short, I found myself eating more fast foods and sugar, and while you know I DEFINITELY don’t endorse abstinence from any of these foods, it was an imbalance for me.

candyamanda

 

The above picture was taken in this fabulous candy store, Dylan’s Candy Bar, in the Grove.  Think candy you haven’t seen for years AND a chocolate fondue bar where you could dip strawberries and rice krispie treats in chocolate.  This is me, overenjoying one of those delectable treats:

amandalickingchocolate

 

The folly for me always lies in this common anorexic miscalculation: linking food intake with moral value.  Because I ate a ton of candy that day, I was immediately a disgusting person…not.  I may have had uncomfortable feelings of my body breaking down sugars it doesn’t usually, but that doesn’t translate into my moral value.  Separating the physical and the emotional are so very important, at times.  And also…one can’t maintain a perfect food intake 24/7.  We are humans, which means we err.  Which means it’s ok to get off the bandwagon for a bit if we know we have the ability to get back on safely.  And at this point, I do.  I just need to remind myself it’s ok to indulge in healthy substances.  Writing, friend time, nerds ropes, and my daughter.

I will say this trip was not a total anorectic mental slip, and is documented by the following:  I wore a bikini with little to no shame, for the first time in my life.

amandabikini

 

I had planned this photo mentally, because I needed to challenge the irrational idea in my head that I looked disgusting in a bathing suit and needed to hide my body.  For some, this might be triggering, but for me, it was one of the most liberating experiences I ever had.  Truthfully, I’ve still found ways to pick apart this photo since then, but, it’s a work in process, isn’t it?

 

How does being on vacation affect your self-care?  Does it improve it or throw it off?

A Husband’s Perspective

heartout

Happy Tuesday, folks.

A BIG thanks goes out to Liz for sending me this posting by Nate Milsham.  Nate writes about the difficulty, pain and triumphs one experiences when trying to support someone with an eating disorder.  (I’ll go on record and say it’s one of the most difficult disorders to support.)  His wife has been battling ED-NOS for years, and in this post he details his sensitive observations of her and the how the outside world treats women.

Beautiful.  That is all.

 

 

Top Three Reasons Why I’m Finally Bikini-Ready.

bikiniready

I remember a time, long ago, when the internet was just a household fledgling and Sarah McLachlan played nonstop on my Walkman.

It was 1996, and I was so unhealthy and sick when it came to my body image.  Now keep in mind, I was also the thinnest I’d ever been.  Weighing twenty pounds less than I should have, my body cried out for nutrients.  But because I’d been told by many a person that I was “Super-skinny”, I decided it was finally OK for me to wear a bikini.  So I bought one and wore it on vacation to Panama City to visit my half-brother, who was stationed there at the time.

And I hated it.  I felt  like I was crawling out of my skin the entire time we went to the ocean or a water park.  I was paranoid people were staring at my body fat and shuddering in disgust.  When I developed the pictures from the trip, I despised looking at my stomach in them.  It seemed to pour over the bikini bottom and just looked, well, gross.

(And the fact was, it was just ill-fitting, and I was so weak I had no muscle tone.)

Fast forward eighteen years.  (Excuse me while I go have an age-related heart attack.)  I’m twenty pounds heavier, have had a child, and have some rumply skin right above my belly button since giving birth to my daughter.  I also have some rumply skin underneath my arms, just a little bit, that’s popped into existence over the past couple of years.  I have stretch marks, but I’ve had those since I was a kid.

Before this recent Fourth of July weekend, I briefly contemplated buying a bikini.  I hadn’t worn one since that trip to Panama City, and thought maybe I was finally in the right head place to do so.  “No”, I grimaced to myself.  “My abs don’t look like those people’s I see on the beach.  I’m too white.  I’m suppposed to be tan.  People would laugh.”

Then, I realized, I was listening to my old eating disordered voice, and f%$& that s*$%.

I’d been listening to it all along.  Who the hell CARED if my stomach looked fish-white?  I’m supposed to look like that, I’m Scottish, Irish, English, German and French!  Who the hell cared if my bikini bottom was too big and someone saw my ass for a second as my daughter climbed onto me?  It was at a freaking family BBQ.  I realized I’d been missing out on being me, crazy, “who gives a shit”, outspoken Amanda all these years because I was listening to an old tape inside my head.

So I picked out a polka-dotted bikini, and I wore it on the Fourth.  And here’s the reasons why I think I was ready:

  1. I stopped giving a shit about what others thought of me.    Was this easy?  Hell no.  It probably took about eighteen years!  But – the second you realize the things people say about you negatively are directly related to the way they feel about themselves, you are set free.  Seriously.  So that friend who always makes comments about what you’re wearing and how you look in it?  Probably hates herself.  And her body hate doesn’t have to influence the way you feel about yours.
  2. I gave love to the places on my body that needed it.  Some of you may remember the “Tummy Love Project” that I started on here.  I never finished it on the blog, but I finished it in real life.  One of the reasons I never wore a bikini was the amount of hate I had for my stomach.    So, I meditated about it, I gazed at it lovingly in the mirror, and I strengthened it (I find in my recovery that muscle strengthening exercise does not trigger me, but instead makes me feel empowered.)  You may be laughing at the gazing at it part, but it worked.  Why?  For years, I’d been pretending it wasn’t there, silently excluding it from existence.  For the first time, I acknowledged it and respected it.  And that started the hate loss.
  3. I respected my body for what it’s gone through.  The funny thing is, before I’d given birth, I loved my body way less than I do now.  Part of it is – I didn’t know what I was working with before.  I didn’t know that I had this amazing body, capable of producing and giving life to this world.  Again, you may claim corny, but I say it’s astounding that women can do this, and be up and walking the next day.  It’s a miracle!  So, I respected my body – and flaunted its magical prowess when I wore a bikini.  I gave birth, goddamnit.

I’m sorry if you read this article expecting some miraculous not-yet-discovered secret about weight loss that made me look bikini-ready.  I was only bikini-ready because I finally loved my body and respected it, not because I had finally achieved some weight loss goal.  My head had to be in check to wear one.  Interestingly enough, I was less bikini ready when I was thinner.

So here I sit, in my bikini, writing this out in the sun on our front lawn while my little one naps.  My legs are pale white, some fat hangs over my bikini-bottom (PS, we all have it when we hunch over)…

and I’ve never been happier with my body.

Dear Media: Stop Trying to Kill My Sisters.

Dear Media,

I woke up this morning to a picture my friend had posted (mockingly) of a “Get Beach Ready!” article in some beauty magazine.  In it, the first tip suggested,

“BAN STRETCH MARKS.”

stretch marks

and I say –

Go fuck yourself.  That’s right.  You heard me.

Stretch marks have nothing to do with beauty; in fact, I think they have a lot to do with skin elasticity.  So stop trying to attach moral value to stretch marks.

Or anything else body-related for that matter.

Media, did you know eating disorders are the deadliest mental health illness?  Bypassing alcoholism?


death

Well yes, they are.  And you are contributing to many a woman’s death, on a daily basis, all for your love of money.

Stop trying to kill my sisters.  Or my daughter, for that matter.

What if you, instead, chose to publish an un-airbrushed, average looking lady on your cover?  Might that young pre-teen you’re selling to have not chosen to go on a 500-calorie a day diet?  Maybe, maybe not.  Even if you’re not the direct cause, you’re part of the equation.

And when the women who don’t kill themselves via starvation give up on attaining that perfect ideal, they swing the other way.  They start binging, because they just as well might give up and “get fat because there’s no hope for me anyway.”  You may have heard of an epidemic called “obesity.”  You play a part in that.

binge

They buy into your bullshit because you’ve inundated them with false truths since the moment they were born.  Society’s values do a number on them too – “sweet, cute, Daddy’s little girl.”  Pushed down by the patriarchy as soon as they can breathe air.

Oh, and stop trying to kill our mothers.

The other day, I heard a husband joke about giving his wife 6 months post-partum to appear as if she never had a baby.  Behind the joking that made me want to stick a needle in my eye – there is truth.  A million of your articles have been dedicated to women pretending as if they never took part in assisting the human race in surviving.  Makes sense.

babyweight2

 

Keeping women insecure earns a lot of money for you.  How do you sleep at night?  How do you live with yourself?

Either way, it’s got to stop.  You make my new-mother friend feel like she should weigh less, you make my daughter the subject of weight stereotypes, and you make me feel like my genetic spider veins are little spindles of evil on my pasty-white, untanned-and-therefore-unappealing skin.

STOP.

(Another Piece of Cake realizes there are healthy ad campaigns out there, and applauds them!  Another Piece of Cake also realizes men are hit hard by the media too, but Another Piece of Cake only writes about women because she’s, well…a woman.)

Blissful Body Fridays: Don’t Talk About Your Weight in Front of My Daughters

Happy Friday, everyone!  We made it!

elfgifThis week’s link comes to us from Pam G, a friend from college who is a caring Mom of three (one older son and twin boys – she’s my hero!)  The article is written by Stefanie Wilder-Taylor, who has a TV show and books and other fabulous stuff.  It’s called Please Don’t Talk About Your Weight In Front of My Daughters, and in it she writes about the importance of adults NOT putting their own bodies down in front of kids.

Why?

Kids do what we do, not what we say.  So even if you tell them they’re gorgeous and breathtaking, they’re still probably going to have bad body image if you talk shit about your abs 24/7.

And I LOVE the attitude this lady has towards food.

Read away, and have a great weekend, folks!

(Gif provided by coed.com)

Blissful Body Fridays: The “Perfect” Female Body

babbleI am LOVING this Friday’s Blissful Body Friday link.  This was sent to me by Jen R, a very hip, astute young lady I went to college with.  In this article, Serge Bielanko writes about the ever-changing female perfect-body-ideal.  I blogged about this in a past entrybut Serge Bielanko attached all these awesome pictures to illustrate the crazy, ephemeral change of what is supposed to be attractive.

Do you know why I included this as a Blissful Body Friday entry?  Because this article illustrates how beauty is so damn arbitrary.   Hate your broad back?  Wait until 2085, then it’ll be attractive to society.  Want to get surgery for your cellulite?  In 3546 it will be the tattoos of today.  For heaven’s sake, unibrows could be in style one day.

Do you know what I mean?  None of it fricking matters.

Give this website some hits!

Enjoy, and have a blissful Friday!

Blissful Body Fridays: Debenhams Rocks!

beautylikethis

Debenhams, a high end retail store, has put the word out that they’re banning airbrushing and retouching!

Kickass.

This same department store has featured paralympians and disabled individuals as models before.  Way to encourage body acceptance all around!

They have even challenged other stores to follow suit.

You can read up on the article and check out before and after photoshopped pics here.

I don’t know about you, but I think the “real body” movement is gaining momentum.

 

A big thanks goes out to Alexandra for letting me know about this!