3 Ways to Deal with the Fat & Body Shamers in Your Family Right Now!

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Most of you reading this right now have been body-shamed at some point in your life. It was likely a relative who first made you feel like shit about your body. The first person who body-shamed me was my father. At age 14, standing 5′-7″ tall and weighing 145 pounds, he thought I needed to go on a diet. And it hurt like hell.

I don’t think most of our family members intend to hurt us with their opinions, but it stings like a motherfucker anyway. And unless you have the unusually high self-esteem of say, Donald Trump, it’s likely to leave an impression on you. In my case, the impression was felt for the better part of 20 years.

Up until the last few years, any comments about my weight from my family cut me deeply. I didn’t understand why my body needed policing, regardless of whether it was thin or fat. I just wanted to be left alone — to just be in my body without having to account for my worth based on its size.

We wrongly believe that pointing out so-called imperfections and flaws in others will somehow distract from our own shortcomings. But that’s a lie. The only thing it does is magnify our assholeness.

Today, I am mostly free from the abuse of body-shaming from my family. But it took learning some lessons before I could stand up for myself and realize that I had a lot more control over the situation than I realized. Here are three ways that I’ve found helpful to get through the pain of body-shaming from relatives and friends:

1

I know it seems counter intuitive, but having compassion for your body-shamer is very healing. It’s not about you. It’s about them. I know it sounds cliché, but it’s the damn truth. After having observed the way my parents had fat-shamed me and others over the years, it occurred to me that they had their own set of insecurities which plagued them. Their insults were just a reflexive response to hating some part about themselves. We’ve all read stories about how a bully was once the object of a bullier. Well, same idea here.

We are exposed to so much pain and judgement in this world. None of us are free from it. We wrongly believe that pointing out so-called imperfections and flaws in others will somehow distract from our own shortcomings. But that’s a lie. The only thing it does is magnify our assholeness.  Yes, I just invented that word. You’re welcome.

When we realize that negative comments are really reflections of how others feel about themselves, it easier to forgive and let go. Don’t get me wrong. It takes a lot of practice. But it does work.

*Side note: they do still fat shame other people, but I call it out when they do it every time!

2

Please stop expecting other people to change. You can’t. You can only change yourself. Once I decided that I was done with dieting and that I was comfortable with the way I looked, the comments completely stopped. I literally stood with my head held high. I wore what wanted and ate whatever I wanted in front of whoever was there. I am still in awe of how powerful self-love is. When we stop giving away our power, life is so much better.

12-Step programs and therapy  were instrumental in helping me to get to this point. For so long I hoped my parents would change their tune and simply stop commenting on my body. But this misguided hope was the very definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over, expecting a different result. Probably not gonna happen in this lifetime. So stop. Right now! Stop it!!!

Instead, I want you to focus on finding ways to love your body more. If you’re reading this, chances are you are on social media and have access to a myriad of resources that DO celebrate your body. Just search for hashtags like #iamenough#bodypositive, and #effyourbeautystandards,  to fill your feed with inspiring images. It really does work!

3Be willing to create boundaries. You have the right to choose not to be around people who make you feel bad about yourself. And you also don’t need to explain your decision. Self-care and self-preservation are your God(ess) given right. So claim it!

You can still love your family and choose not to be around them. They might not understand. They might get angry. But would you rather be angry, or let them be angry? I know what I would do. And if they do confront you about your absence, it’s okay to tell the truth. Again, they may not get it. In fact, they may get defensive (my family certainly does) Simply go back to tips #1 and #2: have compassion and don’t expect them to behave differently.

And then get the hell out! LOL

Look, I don’t have all the answers. All I can do is share what has worked for me. I hope these tips are useful and that you find more ways to release yourself from the grip of the body-shamers in your life. Until then, I wish you self-love and light!

xo

 

 

Fat, Black, Muslim, and Stylish as Hell: An Interview with Fashion Blogger Leah Vernon

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Photo by Reel Clever Films

I discovered Leah Vernon’s Instagram a few weeks ago and was wowed by her style. Her vibrant and bold approach to fashion struck a chord with me immediately. She is a fat, Black, Muslim woman with a strong voice in a society obsessed with thinness, whiteness, and anti-Muslim rhetoric. Talk about facing multiple forms of oppression! Vernon is always covered from head to toe, as required by her religion. She wears a hijab daily, which she sometimes substitutes for a fabulous head wrap or turban. But that doesn’t stop her from experimenting with fashion. I adore her creativity and personal style. The truth is, this fashion femme fatale just can’t be ignored!

Leah is the creator behind the blogs Beauty and the Muse and LeahVDaily. She is a 20-something style/fashion blogger, plus model, freelance writer, novelist, and body-positive activist from Detroit. She was inspired to start blogging in 2013 because there wasn’t enough diverse representation of real beauty in the media. Her goals are to continue to spread style and self-love to underrepresented groups, and to spark a fashion revolution!

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Photo by Remy Roman

MFC: When and why did you start blogging? What inspired the name Beauty and the Muse?

LV: I started blogging in the early 2000’s, three separate times actually, and didn’t know what I was doing and failed miserably. Haha. On the fourth try, I started blogging in 2013. My friends had forced me to create an Instagram account and after telling them ‘hell nah’, I finally caved in. I was feeling depressed because I had injured myself pretty badly at work. The sun was shining through my window when I woke up one day. I began scrolling through my IG timeline and saw Essie Golden looking bad as fuck in an army fatigue inspired getup. At that moment, I was like I can do that, too. I wanna slay!

In the next moment, the name Beauty and the Muse came out of nowhere. “That’s my blog name,” I said to myself. In my world, I have a split personality. There’s the beauty part, where it’s slayage and Gaga glam all the time. Then there’s the muse part, where I’m quiet, thoughtful, educated, and always seeking some answer to the world’s secrets.

Basically, I started blogging because I needed a creative outlet to express myself. As a fat, Black, Muslim woman, we are often times hidden from mainstream media and even within our very communities. I was tired of being overlooked and stuffed into a square. So, I made a conscious decision to bust out.

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Photo by Reel Clever Films

MFC: Do you consider yourself a feminist? How does that tie into your religious beliefs, if at all?

LV: Interesting question. I’m not going to lie. Over the past few years my views of feminism have changed greatly. At first, I didn’t get it. I thought that all feminism equated to was women having the right to show off their boobs in public and be sexually free. But as I started to actually learn and meet other feminists in real life, my views started to sway.

At this moment, I think that feminism is whatever a woman wants it to be, but it’s mainly compromised of wanting and deserving equality and inclusion. And sometimes feminism is in the eye of the beholder when we start getting down to the smaller details. It’d be a little different fundamentally from an atheist feminist point of view versus a Muslim or a Hindu feminist point of view. I don’t claim to be a ‘feminist’. But if wanting inclusion across the board equates to being one, then yes, I am. Lol.

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MFC: Do you think feminism and fashion can exist simultaneously?

LV: I’m a fat, Black , Muslim from Detroit who models… Anything is possible. Haha. I feel like in this time and age fashion is used to express so many different movements. So feminism and fashion can exist. Religion and fashion can exist. Culture and fashion can exist.

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Photo by Brooklyn Cashmere

MFC: You have great style, and you take big risks. Do you ever feel limited knowing that you need to cover your body? And is that challenging during the hot summer months?

LV: When I was younger and didn’t know myself or my fashion capabilities, I used to think that covering my body was an issue. That I could never mix the two: fashionable and covered! They didn’t show that in the media. If I wasn’t out there wearing booty shorts, then I could never be confident and cute.

When you truly start to be comfortable with who you are and what you’re doing in life, and not caring what others think, things become a lot easier. When I started being creative with my head scarves/turbans and my makeup and my ridiculous outfits, I had people from all walks of life coming up to me, a fat Muslim, asking me how they can do it, too. So, now, I’m never limited. When you have true style and imagination, nothing can limit you. Nothing.

And as for dressing in the summer for a Muslim girl, you get used to the heat. But you dress accordingly. Lighter fabrics and less layering.

MFC: What does body positivity mean to you as a Black, Muslim woman of size?

LV: I rep the body positivity movement because to me, it means inclusion of all sized bodies regardless of whether they are naked, covered, lumpy, thin, pale, or Black. It means freedom to do what you want, when you want to do it, unapologetically.

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MFC: What do you want the people who are reading this right now to know about you?

LV: I want the readers to stop being afraid of failure, of looking stupid in front of people who really don’t matter, of speaking out on human injustices. I want them to wear what they feel like with confidence and poise. I want them to embrace their perfections as well as their imperfections  — inside and out. I want them to stop believing what the media says or shows all the time, because most of the time its skewed.

MFC: Where can we find you on social media/web?

http://www.beautyandthemuse.net
FB: http://www.facebook.com/Beautyandthemuse
Youtube: Leahvdaily
IG: @Lvernon2000 (www.instagram.com/Lvernon2000)
Email: Lvernon20@yahoo.com

 

Thank you, Leah. You are a body-positive Queen, who slays and slays and slays!

xo

You are enough, You have enough, You do enough.

You are enough,you have enough,you do enough

I’ll keep this brief.

We are constantly told that we aren’t doing enough — that we should achieve more, want more, be more, get more. The truth is, you have everything you need. You are everything you need. You are doing your best right now.

So print this image out and put it where you can see it everyday as a reminder of your enoughness!

xo

 

 

3 Reasons to Stop Body Shaming Celebrities

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Jessica Simpson being body- policed by the media.  Photo courtesy of Hollyzood.com

I occasionally find myself silently, and sometimes not to silently,  judging and policing the bodies of celebrities. Perhaps the barrage of perfectly polished images of celebs in the media has brainwashed me successfully. But I bear some of the responsibility too.  I can consciously choose not read rag mags and look for cellulite on Jessica Simpson’s upper thighs.  I can walk away when my co-worker wants to gossip about Beyonce’s boobs. And sometimes I do. But sometimes, I just can’t help myself. I want to judge the way I’ve been judged. I want to inflict pain where I’ve been injured.  I just for once, want a pretty, thin woman to feel the shame  and insecurity I’ve felt. And so, on occasion, I indulge in the kind of exchanges that afterwards make me feel dirty.

I admit it. This body-positive activist and speaker fucks up now and again.

 

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It’s important for me have this awareness and to expose it. When we hide behind our dirty secrets, we live in fear and resentment. And then it becomes easier and easier to be complacent. We get comfortable in our negativity and reproach for others. And we think to ourselves, everyone else is doing it, so it’s no big deal. As much as I hate to be the bearer of bad news: IT’S A BIG FUCKING DEAL. And here’s why:

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Celebrities are people too. We think that money and fame dilute a person’s humanness, making them immune to hurt feeling and humiliation. But it doesn’t. It does the opposite. It tests humanness and then sells it for public consumption. And boy do we eat it up. As someone who has the tiniest bit of visibility in the body-positive movement, I’ve experienced my fair share of push back from internet trolls. As much as we know that a 16-year old bored teenager is behind most of the fanfare, it still stings. Because it triggers something painful that happened to us in the past. It may have been your brother calling you ‘thunder thighs,’ or your dad offering helpful diet tips when you were 12. It doesn’t matter. The point is, if we want things to be really different, if we want to raise our daughters to not worry about their pot bellies, then the buck stops with us. Gossip magazines exist because you buy them. Stop buying them. Please. It takes action to create change. Be a warrior.

 

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Pot bellies are beautiful!

2

We need more diversity in the media. This is not new information, and yet it needs to be said. People of size are rarely depicted in positive ways in film and television. They are often the butt of stupid jokes, the fat best friend, or perhaps even the pretty chubby girl who loses weight and gets the guy. BORING! We must take some radical action to make sure that fat folks, and even non-thin folks, have the opportunity to take roles that don’t revolve around their body size. Because guess what? We have talent too. And the world is missing out on some seriously gifted people because of our obsession with thinness as perfection. Let us be bold and try something new. Let’s put big bodies on screen and watch the world change.

 

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3

Celebrities have power. They do. They have influence, which is the stuff of revolution. Imagine if a fat actress had the support of millions of viewers. They wrote letters letting the network know just how much they love her. They create fan pages and create buzz. Imagine her dimpled arms highlighted on the cover of Vogue. All of a sudden she’s breaking down barriers and is the star of her own show, where she wears crop tops and body hugging dresses in bright shades. She begins to normalize large bodies on TV. We see her over and over, and after a while, we forget she is fat. We see a talented actress, who moves us. We see her inner beauty AND her outer beauty. We see ourselves in her. And then…who knows?

 

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Photo courtesy of Daily Venus Diva.

 

In solidarity,

xo

I Hold My Stomach in Sometimes

Am I body love failure? No.

What I am is brainwashed from years of exposure to advertisements that promise a flat stomach in 10 days. It is so ingrained in my subconscious that I often hold my stomach in without realizing it.

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I HATE these ads!!!

Today, as I walked back to my office from my lunch break, I caught a glimpse of myself in a storefront window and noticed the top roll of my stomach protruding under my t-shirt. Suddenly I stood up straighter and did my best to tuck in my tummy. In that moment I was aware of my embarrassment about my by body being so big and so exposed. And then I was embarrassed that I was embarrassed, because duh, I’m a body-positive activist!

I think about this shit all day — what Melinda Alexander calls “Getting Free.” So, when stuff like the tummy incident happens I feel like I’ve been set way back. It feels like being punched in the face after having trained in the ring for years.

The truth is, I have not come to terms with the size and shape of my stomach. It’s the biggest it’s ever been. For the most part, I almost always had a pretty small waist and stomach, giving me an hourglass figure that made my body acceptable by mainstream standards. But not anymore. It’s big enough that I just can’t hide it, or disguise it, or manipulate it. And though I’ve made peace with many of my body parts, this one is especially hard for me.

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This is me 3.5 years and 45 pounds ago.

Anyone feel me?

I know so many fat women who own their big bellies and wear clothes that accentuate them. I am not one of those women. Part of me wants to be at peace, and the other part of me just wants to have a small tummy again so I don’t have to overcome another hurdle.

The reason I share this with you is because I promised myself I would be honest and upfront about my own body image struggles. My friend Jen at Plus Size Birth just posted something I resonate with on this topic too.

Thank you for seeing me and accepting me the way I see and accept you.

Perhaps I need a pair of high waisted Spanx.

Or an affirmation…

Or to surround myself with images of large bellied women reveling in their gorgeous glory…

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Photo by Substantia Jones

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Photo by Substantia Jones

Or maybe some combination of all those ideas until I start feeling better.

xo

Tiny Houses, Turning 40, & Clearing the Clutter

When I first started writing this post, it was going to be called, “5 Soul Changing Events of 2014.” I started writing it, and it was basically a boring recap of what I’ve already written about this year. And it felt like a major cop-out given that I haven’t written a post in over a month. So, I changed my mind, which happens often, as you know.

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I’d rather tell you all about 2015, and what’s to come.

There are a few things that will happen in 2015 for sure. For one, I’ll be turning 40! And I can’t tell you how excited I am about it. My 30’s have been so full of growth and change, I can hardly recognize myself. Getting older has been a wonderful experience for me. I trust my instincts more and care less and less about what others think of me. Talk about a weight (pun intended) off my shoulders.  I’m quite certain that 40 promises to take that self-confidence and carefree attitude to the next level. YAY ME!!

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As I’ve reminisced over the events of the last year, I realize just how much I miss my creative self. Don’t get me wrong, writing is a wonderfully creative outlet, and I plan to continue doing it well into the future. What I haven’t spent much time doing is cultivating my crafty/DIY side. I have so many projects on my Pinterest boards that are just waiting to come to life. And so, while I don’t really like resolutions per se (they’re way to fraught with pressure and expectation), one of my goals in 2015 is to give myself time to get my hands dirty and start making things again.

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My other obsession has been tiny houses, a movement that has increased in popularity in the last few years. The idea being that you downsize your living quarters to the bare minimum, owning only what you really need and love. Some folks move into places as small as 150 square feet! That’s not something my hubby and I are prepared to do, but we agree it’s time to purge and let go of the stuff that’s bogging us down. Between the two of us, we have more collections than an antique shop. It’s embarrassing to admit, but we have a 5 bedroom house (3 bedrooms are tiny) and every inch is filled to the brim. It’s a bit fucking much. I look forward to being clutter free in 2015!

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And finally, I hope to rid myself of virtual clutter in 2015. I’m as addicted to social media as the next gal. And it has taken up so much of my brain space, leaving little room for my own thoughts and feelings to fully develop. I love the connectivity  aspect of social media, but I’m not that interested in watching the latest YouTube video of cats tucking in babies. Yeah, it’s cute. But really, I can’t. I’m done. One way I plan to cut the clutter is to unfollow a lot of Facebook “friends.” I want to know what my close friends and family are up to. I want to see pictures of their kids and their moments of joy. I want to scroll less and live more.

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I feel really good about 2015. I anticipate lots of joy and adventure, allowing myself to really be free. My life is so good, and I never want to forget that.

Wishing you and yours the happiest of new year celebrations. May your 2015 be full of hope and possibility!

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xo

6 Reasons to Love Your Stretchmarks

These aren’t mine, but they are beautiful!
 
Women are told that stretchmarks are ugly and that we should use expensive creams to get rid of them.  I was sold on the idea that my stretchmarks were inherently bad and that getting rid of them would enhance my beauty.  I actually tried some of these so called “miracle cures” years ago with no results. I felt desperate and unattractive. That was then. This is now.  
Don’t let this be you.

I have a lot of stretchmarks — mostly from having an eating disorder that had my body going up and down in weight many pounds at a time.  With every 20-30 pounds gained and lost, a new set of stripes would appear on my hips breasts, and stomach.  I used to cringe at those marks as they altered the texture of my skin.  I still don’t love them 100%, but I’m really trying.  And here’s why:
  1. I earned these motherfucking stripes god dammit!  My stretchmarks are a steady reminder of where I’ve been.  When I look down at them, I see a girl who used to hate her body and cover it up in shame.  I see a woman who has evolved into having a more positive relationship with her body.  My marks tell a rich story, with lots of twists and turns.  These stripes are sacred now.  They are mine.
  2. They’re perfectly normalA lot of people have them;  both men and women, fat and thin. I am not unique!
  3. Stretchmarks are like fingerprints: No two sets are exactly the same.  How cool is that?
  4. I get to tell advertisers to fuck off.  I LOVE doing that.  No more selling me shit I don’t need.  I no longer have to be manipulated into believing that parts of my sacred body are ugly.  So next time I see an ad for stretch mark diminishers, I’m going to scream “NO THANKS MOTHER FUCKERS!”
  5. They’re kind of cute. I know it doesn’t feel like it right this second, but I’m going to give it some time.  I will be nice to my stretchmarks and tell them that I love them.
  6. I have an opportunity to set a good example for the women and girls in my life. It’s not what we say that has impact, it’s what we do.  So I will be brave and show the people in my life that stretchmarks are not scars to be hidden, but badges of honor to be worn with pride!

Here are some links to sites that celebrate stretch marks:
http://stretchmarksarebeautiful.tumblr.com/
http://www.tumblr.com/tagged/stretch-marks
Google search
 

In solidarity,
Pia