Open Letter to an Insecure Girl from the Guy Who Finds Her Incredible {Guest Post}

I devote large portions of this blog to promoting body positivity ’cause — quite simply — I believe women in today’s society need to hear encouraging messages and words of affirmation more than ever before.
¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†However, lately it’s occurred to me that these “body positive” mantras often¬†come from a sole female perspective. While this isn’t a negative thing, it does exclude one crucial component from the overall equation.
¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†Let’s face the facts. We ladies care deeply about how we’re perceived by the men in our lives. Often, we have absolutely no idea what they’re thinking when they give us the requisite once-over. But, deep down, we crave their wide-eyed approval, reassuring us that we’re still desirable.
¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†Seriously, though…what DOES¬†a guy think when his girl enters the room — tiny¬†flaws¬†and all?¬†I’ve recruited a certain dapper dude (otherwise known as mah boyfriend) to answer this question. It’s about time we added a male voice to the “body image” commentary and shed some light on what they see behind our self-deprecation.
       So, without further ado:

                                                                                                                              To an Insecure Girl from the Guy Who Finds Her Incredible

Dear Beautiful,
¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†Before we go out on a date, I’m usually the first to get ready. I’ll be sitting on the couch, scrolling through some article on my phone, and then I’ll look up and catch a glimpse of you getting ready.
¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†You’re straightening your hair. Picking out jewelry. Zipping up that dress. Then, you examine yourself in the mirror. You’ll stare silently for a while before beginning the inspection: legs, arms, torso, backside…the list goes on. Finally, you give this look.
       A look I know too well.
       A look that reads: Disappointed. Not impressed. Not good enough. 
¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†You’ll leave the bathroom, unaware that I’m gaping at this radiant goddess in front of me. I’ll say “You look incredible,” and you’ll respond with a small, quiet “Thanks.”¬†
¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†But I still know what you’re thinking: Disappointed. Not impressed. Not good enough.
¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†So, here’s my response to those toxic words poisoning your mind.¬†
¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†They’re simply not true. Nope, not all.¬†
¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†Before I reveal what’s really going through my mind when I say¬†“You look incredible,”¬†there’s something else you need to know. And this might just be the most important thing I’ll ever tell you. So, take notes. Remember my words. Make sure they stick.¬†
¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†You, my love, are beautiful — both on the inside and out.
       Did you read that? Carefully?
       I repeat: Beautiful on the inside and out. 
¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†You’re probably wondering right about now, “Did this joker actually say he cares about my character? Not just my physical appearance?”
¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†Listen. I won’t lie about the male species. We do respond to visuals. And there are plenty of men out there, who focus only on visuals. Those guys are pigs, though. Assholes.
¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†I apologize for the pigs and assholes you’ve encountered throughout your life. They’re not real men. Maybe they’ll learn to become one someday.
¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†But, the real men — who respect their peers, support their loved ones, and stay true to their morals — those men want a real woman.¬†
       I want a real woman.
¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†I¬†don’t want an airbrushed model on the cover of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit or that busty chick in some Playboy spread. I want the beauty standing right in front of me, who I can see with my own eyes. The¬†feisty¬†spit-fire I can debate with over cocktails. Someone with hopes, dreams, and goals.
       A real woman is kind. Intelligent. Funny. Compassionate. Ambitious. Strong. And it just so happens that this man is attracted to this real woman.
¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†I’m crazy about her smile, her infectious laughter, and the way her voice pitches when we discuss a topic she’s passionate about. I melt when those huge, engaged eyes stare into mine, embracing this moment just between us. I love how she plays with her hair when she’s nervous or casually sips her drink with those smooth lips.¬†
¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†That’s real.
¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†Those artificial, photo-shopped images you’re obsessing over — the ones you think all men desire — they can’t satisfy a real man.¬†
¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†They’re just¬†ideals that many girls wish they could emulate. But I find this sad because a real man doesn’t want an ideal. He wants you.¬†
       I. Want. You.
¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†Because you’re¬†real. And they’re fake.
       So, stop. 
¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†Stop comparing yourselves to those other girls. Stop scrutinizing your reflection and thinking “my thighs are fat” when, in reality, they’re gorgeously toned. Stop pinching your stomach and sighing¬†“this isn’t flat enough” when there isn’t even extra skin to pinch. Stop jiggling your arms and¬†moaning “Look at all this flab hanging from my biceps”¬†when such nonsense couldn’t be further from the truth. Stop staring at your chest and wondering “If these boobs were fuller, maybe he’d be more into me” because, babe, that’s outrageous!
¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†Just stop! Don’t stack yourself up against those false representations. You know what will happen?¬†
       You will decompose. 
¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†Decompose before my eyes. You’ll gradually become consumed with dangerous thoughts, like “If I eat less, I’ll look like her,” or “Gotta skip lunch and dinner if I want that perfect body.”
¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†No. That is not healthy. That is you rotting away. And you’ll lose yourself in the process.¬†These ideals — the ones you constantly compete with — they’ll win. Please don’t let them win. Never in my life would¬†I want to witness you deal with such torture.
       My desire is to see you grow. 
       Grow into that strong, capable woman you truly are. Grow into that confident bombshell, who loves herself and takes pride in her uniqueness.
¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†Your physical shape or size simply doesn’t matter. A real man will love everything you have to offer. He won’t hear the negative voices¬†screaming in your¬†head. He only sees you marching to the beat of your own drum.
¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†And that’s what a real man finds most attractive.
¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†So, when you finally walk out of the bathroom, and we leave for our date night, pay close attention when I say “You look incredible.”¬†Because here’s what’s on my mind…
¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†I’m so blessed by you. Blessed to sit across from you. Blessed to slip my hand into yours. Blessed to learn more about you. Blessed to make memories we’ll both cherish.
¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†Knowing we’re spending this evening together — me and this lively, passionate goddess — makes my heart race. How did I get so lucky? The most beautiful girl I’ve ever known chose me, and I’m truly honored.
¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†In a¬†world full of illusions plastered on computer screens and magazine covers, you’re all¬†I see.¬†
       Because you look incredible.
Love,
A Real Man
me and Brandon prof pic

Why I’m No Longer Pro-Fitspo

Lately, I’ve noticed several articles cropping up around the web — from fellow Bloggers to the Huff Post — all focused on the same controversial issue: FITSPO.

Since this has become such a hot topic in the fitness community, I’m suddenly feeling the urge to “weigh in” and add my voice to the conversation. But, first, let’s clarify why Fitspo is even a thing and what its original intent was.

Here’s how Urban Dictionary defines the trend:

Short for “fitspiration.” Images of active, strong and fit women that promote proper exercise and diet.

So, that’s the purpose Fitspo supposedly aims to fulfill. However, now it’s teetering on the brink of soft porn.

Soft porn that makes you kinda sorta question everything about your physical worth.

(Like…does this REALLY have to be either-or?!?!)

flat stomach or sweets

image courtesy of Pinterest

How did this movement — which should have been a positive and dynamic lifestyle initiative — veer so far off-course?

Hell, that’s what I wanna know.

When I initially heard about the whole “fitspiration” concept, I wasted no time jumping on-board. I mean, here was the confidence-booster we’d been waiting for, right?!

Thinspiration’s healthier twin sister.

Social media’s gift to female psyches everywhere.

Rather than bombarding us with airbrushed propaganda of unrealistically skeletal frames, Fitspo motivated us to strive for “strong” over “skinny.”

image courtesy of Pinterest

image courtesy of Pinterest

Well, in theory anyway. Because that’s where the motivation ends. Despite these so-called good intentions, Fitspo still panders to an exclusive audience. It doesn’t celebrate the beauty of each unique physique but, instead, discriminates against body types that aren’t tucked and toned in all the right places.

Case-in-point: “strong not skinny” is actually a derogatory message. Some women are naturally thin — not eating disorder thin per se, but thin. They can’t change their builds any more than curvy women can.

Nor should they. Stick-straight, hourglass or voluptuous — the female figure is worth embracing, regardless of shape or size.

So, why have sculpted obliques and sinewy biceps become the arbitrary benchmark to gauge our “hotness” levels?

Well…umm…compliments of Fitspo.

Don’t get me wrong, if you do have sculpted obliques and sinewy biceps, take pride in those accomplishments. After all, fitness requires both effort and commitment. You know what though? Sometimes, even the most vigilant efforts won’t turn us all into Miranda Kerr doubles. And there’s no shame in that either.

Here’s the bottom line: I don’t feel inspired by body-shaming mantras disguised as “healthy” workout incentives.

I’m not gonna run a marathon because some Pinterest meme-creator thinks I’ll be spurred into action by Victoria’s Secret angels in barely-there spandex, sports bras and the uplifting text overlay — “Train Insane or Remain the Same.”

image courtesy of Pinterest

image courtesy of Pinterest

Nope. I’ll exercise for ME, thanks. Not a subliminal you-aren’t-working-hard-enough quote, or some sexually stimulating model with an unattainable bod. Those are illusions. And illusions won’t get results.

Society has begun equating fitness with the feminine ideal, but this label misses the mark. Who cares about looking like a superficial slice of eye-candy when you can strive for personal acceptance instead? Exercise isn’t about some fleeting “Dayyyum, girl!” once-over.

Exercise is about vitalitytoughnessexhilaration — both physically and mentally. Fitspo, however, won’t get you there.

So, what will?

  1. Gradual progress at your own steady pace.
  2. And self-love. Yeah, TONS of self-love.

My final advice, then? Unplug from this Fitspo trend. It’s basically just Thinspo with a sportier-sounding name.

love yourself

image courtesy of Pinterest

5 Reasons to Date a Girl, Who Has Recovered from an Eating Disorder

A few days ago, while absentmindedly scrolling through my Facebook news feed, a certain article caught my attention. One of my female friends had posted it on her wall, along with a comment that said something like¬†“Worst. Thing. Ever.”

The article was titled “5 Reasons to Date a Girl With an Eating Disorder.”¬†(Warning: if you’re negatively triggered by dysmorphic body image material, I wouldn’t recommend clicking that link).

My initial reaction: Umm…WHAAAAAAT?! ¬†

Nevertheless, persuaded by morbid curiosity, I gave it a read. Then, subsequently wished I hadn’t. Only 1 word can adequately describe my feelings toward the archaic, misogynistic, and downright offensive message perpetuated in this article: Horror.

Just pure and utter horror.

Whoever wrote this (come at me, bro!) is – in my admittedly biased opinion – a heinous human being. I consider myself a tolerant, unflappable individual, but I have ZERO patience for someone, who spouts unfounded and verbally abusive nonsense about such a sobering societal issue as mental illness.

An eating disorder is no joking matter. It’s a life-threatening concern that runs rampant in today’s culture. It does not discriminate across gender, racial, or socioeconomic boundaries. It trashes self-esteem. Destroys relationships. Ravages both mind and body. Causes long-term physical and emotional repercussions. It even has the power to kill.

Nope, not amusing. At all.

However, the dude behind this post sees things differently. From his sexist and – can we all agree?! – skewed POV, men should pursue anorexic and/or bulimic women for the following reasons:

  1. They look sexy.
  2. They won’t cost big bucks on date night.
  3. They’re easily dominated.
  4. They probably come from money.
  5. They’re great in bed.

‘Kay…???

Let me just begin by pointing out that I have personally battled and overcome anorexia, so¬†I can assure you ¬†none of these claims are factual. But, for good measure, I’ll break them down one-by-one.

  1. Sick isn’t sexy. It’s detrimental. Is outward beauty such a deal-breaker that a guy would rather see his girl¬†suffer than gain 5¬†pounds?
  2. Not all disordered eaters starve themselves completely. But, even if they did, what kind of cheap bastard goes on a date without his wallet?
  3. Au contraire. While¬†this illness does attack confidence levels, I’ve known several ED survivors (myself included), who are¬†feisty little spit-fires. Dominate that!
  4. I was raised middle class. And I met girls in treatment, whose financial backgrounds ran the gamut from gated communities to inner cities. Wealth is NOT a contributing factor.
  5. To quote the author,¬†“It‚Äôs a well-known fact that crazy girls are exceptional in the sack. A girl with an eating disorder has just the right cocktail of pent-up insecurity, neuroses, and daddy issues¬†to ensure that your whole building knows¬†every time you‚Äôre beating it up.” Yup. Nailed it. But not really.

Here’s another point worth mentioning: in the article’s comment section, some male readers were telling a (rightfully!)¬†incensed female reader, “Chill out. It’s satire.”

Ummm…let’s examine that cavalier dismissal, shall we?¬†As a former theatre major, I’ve read my fair share of satirical literature, from “The Importance of Being Ernest” to “Cloud Nine.” Satire uses “humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues” (source: dictionary.com). In other words, it aims to promote¬†something more than misogyny.

Sorry, folks. Not buying the¬†“it’s satire”¬†argument.

Instead, I’ll offer a counterargument. Call it the “5 Reasons to Date a Girl With an Eating Disorder” in reverse. Consider, if you will, “5 Reasons to Date a Girl, Who Has Recovered from an Eating Disorder.”

Also known as The Truth:

  1. She has fought hard to achieve confidence and self-respect. 
  2. She recognizes and appreciates the value of inner beauty. 
  3. She exhibits joy and gratitude for life’s simple pleasures.
  4. She does not demand perfection and freely forgives a slip-up.
  5. She knows better than to take loving relationships for granted.

Think about it. This girl is a survivor. She¬†has a positive new lease on life. She¬†voices her opinions and beliefs. She can be counted on for honesty. ¬†She admits to¬†vulnerable moments, but isn’t controlled by them. She laughs at her own idiosyncrasies and doesn’t take herself too seriously. She embraces both strengths and weaknesses. She’s one tough chick and will go the distance for a real man, who treats her like his equal. Basically, this girl is a badass.

She lives with spirit, as though each day is hers alone to carpe diem. 

And loves with fierceness, as though her chosen person deserves happiness just as much as she does.

Why We Shouldn’t Need to Mind the Gap

I’ll admit…

I became preoccupied with obtaining a “thigh gap” before I even knew it had a name. Let alone a hashtag.

All I knew was if my feet were together but my thighs were NOT apart, then that equaled failure. If they so much as grazed against each other during an evening jog, I’d inwardly curse the loose folds of cellulite that had taken up residence there. Granted, this egregious cellulite only existed inside my head, but still…

Why. The. Hell. Must. Those. Stupid. Thighs. Touch?!

Arrrrrgh!

What is this madness?!

Madness indeed. Not only was I fixated on a meaningless centimeter of space between my inner thighs, but now¬†millions¬†of other young women are too. You can’t scroll through an Instagram feed or peruse Tumblr posts without being inundated by this troubling trend. #MindTheGap has recently become just as much an institution as social media itself. Proponents of the elusive “gap” use these sites as sounding boards to either tout their progress or bemoan their inadequacy. Nope. There’s no mistaking it: thigh gap fixation has given us tunnel vision toward our own physical appearances.

It’s no longer acceptable to simply be considered fit and trim overall. Now every last INCH of our bodies demands perfection.

But, let’s be honest, are thigh gaps even all that noticeable? If you didn’t spend a solid 10 minutes positioning your legs at just the right angle to snap a boastful – and perhaps teeny tiny bit…filtered – selfie, would your friends have any idea that you claim membership in the Thigh Gap Club? Yeah, didn’t think so.

Which raises even more questions: Why is this our new benchmark for beauty? Why is a sliver of breathing room separating 1 skin layer from another suddenly the latest status symbol? Why do we measure personal success in such superficial, fleeting terms?

No, really. WHY?!

Do yourself a favor next time you cringe at your own reflection. Rather than gauging the dead air between your legs, consider instead how those same legs move you through each miraculous day of your beautiful life.

Not that’s worth minding.

Another First Post from Another New Blog.

So, I started a blog. Well…so what, right? Just imagine for a second how many millions of blog posts get published every single day. And I’m just one tiny blip on the radar. So, why should this matter? Hell. Why should you even read it?

You might have skimmed the title page and made an (accurate) assumption that I’ll be blogging about everyone’s 2 favorite topics (read: those pesky little guilt-trippers we all love to hate): Health and Fitness.

*Insert eye rolling.* Great. Just great.

Well, isn’t that convenient?! Yet another reminder you aren’t taking care of yourself in the same obsessive way Cameron Diaz does. That you skipped working out again this week (yup, that gym membership sure was money down the drain!). That while all your Facebook friends are running marathons, posting photos of their “bikini bods,” and yakking about the latest juice cleanse (skinny bitches!), you’re just over here on the couch with a glass of wine in one hand, a sleeve of Oreos in the other, and a “Friends” re-run on TV. Hey now! Even Monica Gellar knows the finer things in life include junk food.

So, you’re gonna pass on the “thin-spiration,” right? Thanks but no thanks. Who needs one more blogger droning on about her experience with Clean Living, Paleo Diets, Yogalates, or whatever the hell this week’s big hype might be.

“After all,” you’re probably thinking, “she’ll just turn out to be a bitch too” (“I bet she even senses where I hide my secret Godiva chocolates stash!”). The horror.

Well…as long as we’re confessing our guilty pleasures here, let me tell you a little something: I love chocolate too.

And cheesecake. And frappuccinos with extra whip. And queso-smothered nachos. And French fries. And take-out Chinese. What I’m saying is I GET IT. I understand the cravings, temptations, and post-“food coma” shame. Yup, I’ve even pulled the old “I’m too tired for exercise” excuse. I UNDERSTAND.

I also understand the social stigmas.

Look. Here are the facts: we’re all woman trying to keep our heads above water in this calorie-counting, fad dieting, food shaming, thigh gap-trending, Soulcycling, image-obsessed culture of the 21st century. We’ve gotten more weight-conscious than Barbie Doll herself. It’s not enough that magazines Photoshop their (already stunning) cover girls…if there was a way to Photoshop ourselves in real life, we would’ve done that yesterday.

Blame the media. Blame red carpets. Blame glossy “Sports Illustrated” swimsuit issues. Blame that guy who reads a “Sports Illustrated” swimsuit issue. Blame that spray-tanned chick who Instagrams a selfie and hashtags #skinnygirlsareprettygirls. Blame effing Jennifer Aniston. Blame yourself for not being like her.

Blame. Blame. Blame. Blah. Blah. Blah.

But enough with the blame game already! Why do we instinctively hate that petite blonde in line at Starbucks, who orders a tall-no-sugar-no-foam-skinny-soy-latte, and unknowingly forces everyone behind her to follow suit? WHY?! I’ll tell you why: because her tight toned ass looked damn good in those yoga pants, so the rest of us just couldn’t resist rattling off the exact same “let’s pretend it’s coffee” order.

It’s simple, really. We thrive off competition. We love to outdo each other in the looks department. And maybe that’s why Health and Fitness have become such taboo subjects.

But I’m not some ripped and intimidating Jillian Michaels wannabe screaming at other women to drop the Cheetos, log off Netflix, and hit the treadmill. ¬†My goal is to empower women to discover (and hopefully, embrace) the beauty they already possess.

Because, ladies: you are strong. You are able. You are sexy. You are wholly unique.

And furthermore, your minds and bodies are powerhouses waiting…wanting…to achieve their full potential through ¬†(you guessed it!) Health and Fitness.

*Insert eye roll-*

No, wait! Stay with me because I’ve got a weapon in my arsenal that I’m willing to bet the average “thin-spiration” blogger lacks. I’ll never preach suppressing your hunger or camping out at the gym. My concern is balance. And moderation. And mindfulness. 3 basic principles that nearly saved my life a few years back.

Real talk. I went from being severely anorexic and consumed by a singular pursuit of physical perfection to content with WHO I am and HOW my body functions. That’s my aim for you too. And for anyone else, who happens to stumble upon my ramblings.

So, it might indeed be a tiny blip on the radar. But let me assure you…it’s not just another blog.