Thursday, September 25, 2014

Two things we can't forget about Beauty at Every Size.

After being told for 24 years that my body wasn't perfect enough -- by the media, by myself, by my gym, my peers and more -- I tried something new.

I stopped listening.

Every time I thought a thought that made my chubby cheeks feel like they didn't belong, I told myself to shut up.

Every time I heard some comment on television about crazy ideals of beauty, I didn't let it get to me.

Every time I tried on pants and had to choose between fitting my waist or my muscley legs and ballet-given booty, I'd just start twerking the crap out of the dressing room.

Eventually, I started to see a me that I liked when I looked in the mirror.

I'm telling you it wasn't always this way, and not every day is perfect, but when I stopped counting the pounds on the scale and started counting the pounds I could dead lift or bench press or row-- when I started counting my miles on the pavement -- I immediately started loving myself more.

There is a beauty at every size movement that's been going on around me and I got really excited about this because I'm a huge proponent for this very truth. I think it's great that women are joining together and forgetting the silly standards that have been put out there... but I have two cautions we need to keep in mind for this trend:

1. Body acceptance does not mean we don't have to take care of ourselves.

There are some sizes that are not healthy and it isn't okay. Body acceptance is good, but no one who is morbidly obese can be living a full life. Having to sit out of things is not living life to its full potential. Being sick all of the time is not living life to its full potential. You must take care of yourself. Living with the health issues associated with obesity is no way to live.

Obesity causes THOUSANDS of other health issues, but here are ten, all of which are life-threatening conditions: Depression, Reproductive Problems, Cancer, Diabetes, High Blood Pressure, Stroke, Kidney disease, Osteoarthritis, Sleep Apnea and Asthma.

Celebrating curves does not give us a Get Out of Health Free Card.

Childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the last 30 years.

The number one killer in America is heart disease. Its number one cause is obesity.

Obesity is one of the leading causes of breast cancer, a leading killer of women. New research finds that "An increase of two skirt sizes per decade, between the mid-20s and mid-50s could increase breast cancer risk by 78 per cent."

I'm not blaming the victim either. I understand that obesity is a deep problem with tough roots and thousands of factors.  In college, I studied extensively the various socioeconomic factors related to obesity. It is an epidemic that America's poor are malnourished, yet morbidly obese. It is an epidemic that we have to feed our children boxes of cancer-causing food because that's the only thing we can afford. It is an epidemic that people aren't receiving the proper education about nutrition and the human right that is health care they deserve.

Those of us who know about health and value nutrition are obligated to work towards teaching others about healthy living.

Those of us who have battled with the shit that comes with obesity and the self-harming extremes of dieting and not loving your body that are pushed on us by society must work towards helping others.

We cannot stop prioritizing healthy living because body acceptance is a thing, although it is a beautiful start.

2. This being said, body acceptance must come to love every size. 

This is hard for me to say. For a long time I've been very ashamed of this because I didn't want to be a brat for speaking up about being small. But I have to say it: Beautiful at Every Size is not Beautiful at Every Size Except for Size 0s. It is not Beautiful at Every Size except for Size 2. It is Beautiful at Every Size, you get it?

I mean, it's AWESOME that Meghan Trainor is dancing with curvy women singing about grabbable booties. Who doesn't love a grabbable booty? (and I actually really love the catchy song) But they're straight up hazing a skinny girl in her video. Why is the skinny girl's size not acceptable, too?

Look, I am a size 0. We exist. I'm not a size 0 because I starve myself, and I'm not particularly always 100 percent of the time in love with my body. I have fat on my legs, too. I have weird butt dimples in the muscle from the time a trailer fell on me. We can't keep thinking that to be this size you have to have serious body issues. Some people just are this size. Because it is a size too.

So why has it become so popular to bully skinny people now in popular culture?

I guarantee those petite women have some real self-consciousness inside of them too.

If we can't accept women at every size, then we're just back to where we started -- we'll just have gone to the other end of the spectrum and neither does anyone any good. 

From both ends, it's important that we just simply start taking care of ourselves and people around us. There are people who are naturally skinny and eat garbage every day. There are people who are naturally larger and they're healthy as can be. 

We need to love the way we look and be proud of who we are, but if we aren't working towards becoming the best versions of ourselves that we can be, then what reasons do we have to be proud of who we are?

Embrace Beauty at Every Size, but don't forget to be inclusive and to not stop taking care of yourself too.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Story of the Extroverted Introvert

Erin, Are you an Introvert or an Extrovert? 

Those who know me know this question is silly.

I'm ridiculously outgoing (and super annoying).

But it's actually a question I've asked myself a lot lately as I've moved to Pittsburgh and had to really make an effort to meet new people.

It's weird when you move to a new place because you kind of forget how you made all those old friends in the first place. You are no longer surrounded by thousands of people your age that you know. It forces you to take a good look at what you want in a new relationship and a deep dive into who you are.

I always took being called an extrovert as somewhat of an insult. I mean, I'm a writer! I'm supposed to fly-on-the-wall the crap out of every situation! I can't break down that fourth wall and actually gather my own life experiences, right? To participate and observe creates a skewed, conflict of interest to a story, right?

I spend a lot of time with myself. I like shopping alone and eating alone. I like watching boats pull bigger boats down the Allegheny River on my lunch break. I like putting up my ENO hammock and hanging out by myself as all the sidewalkers stare. So naturally, I thought of myself as an introvert.

But I think I confused introversion, independence and observation skills as being mutually exclusive.

I thought because I was able to spend days hanging out with myself and not getting self conscious -- because I could go out to lunch with myself without feeling the need to stare at my phone -- that I was an introvert. Really, it's just that I am independent.

When it comes down to it, as in most areas of life, we can't simply organize ourselves as one way or another. Humans are more complex than that. Even when we gather MORE boxes and MORE descriptions (like the ever popular Myers-Briggs tests), people still don't fit into our tidy little categories.

There are super self-conscious extroverts and insanely conceited introverts. There are extroverts who hate talking in front of others and their are introverts who can sing the Star Spangled Banner in front of millions on national television.

Introversion/Extroversion really explains where you get your energy from.

The other day, we bumped into someone who I think it's safe to call a legend in the organization I was involved with in college (called Younglife) at Dave & Andy's (an awesome homemade ice cream shop in Oakland).  He and his family had just moved to Pittsburgh to start a new YoungLife chapter here and I had known this from mutual friends, but had never actually met him. Casually, I approached the man and we held a titillating conversation for a few minutes before I got my strawberry ice cream and we headed on our way.

As we walked to the car, licking our cones, I was bouncing off the walls. My boyfriend pointed it out that my energy level literally changed because I had just met a new person. He laughed. hard. Because we've argued before whether I'm an extrovert or introvert. He was right. My attitude and mood after meeting this new person had gone from 0 to 60. So obviously so that it was kind of hilarious.

Ultimately, my confidence, extroversion and independence all come from the same roll of quarters. They all work together to make me who I am.

Everybody is different and it's really awesome to see how we all fit together.  We need all kinds of people to make it all work.

While, introversion and extroversion are things we need to know about ourselves in order to best take care of ourselves, there are also different skills that make us who we are that we can practice and perfect. These can change as we change.

It's so important that we all figure out where we get our energy (you probably already know this answer). It's important that we figure out the skills we love about ourselves and keep practicing them, and that we figure out the things we're awful at and, after scrutinizing them, we exercise them.

You are a unique person with some kick ass skills that you can use to make the world suck less.

Forget what box you fit into and figure out who you really are. Then go be that person. Be the best damn version of that person you can be.


The independent, somewhat introverted outgoing extrovert who enjoys hanging out with herself but also gets really excited about meeting new people.

Update: I was approached about this blog and told that I'm not an extrovert or introvert because I'm an ambivert — the person who fits in between. My point in this blog is to show that people are complex beings, inadequately categorized from simply getting their energy from alone time or social time. To take this blog and attempt to categorize my feeling that every person is unique completely misses the point.