Let’s Stop Body Shaming Ourselves

When I was a teenager, there was a store in the mall called 5-7-9.

I guess it was the Abercrombie and Fitch of the 1980s. Certainly the name said it all. The store only sold sizes 5, 7, and 9. They were very clear in their assertion that no one outside of their idea of the “best” size should bother shopping with them.

Unlike A&F, they didn’t catch a lot of flack for this. In fact, in the 1980s, it was almost virtuous to shame people who were of a larger body type.

Having blown through size 9 (a “junior” size, whatever that is) by the time I was 12 and before I even HAD an allowance, I never even went in this store. And I think not being able to shop there formed a big part of the idea of who I was and what I could expect from others in terms of acceptance.

Yesterday I went shopping. I found this really cute outfit. I found my size but it was still a little loose so I asked if I could try the next size down. “I don’t think they make them that small.”

I’m not saying that to brag at all. In fact, what I want to say is the opposite.

Because, when I look in the mirror, I still don’t see that body type that I dreamed of as a teenager. I don’t have the boobs of Barbie or the rear end of Kim Kardashian. In fact, it’s still hard for me to believe that this body I see in the mirror fits in the size that I wear now. Somewhere in my head, the scale, the clothes, and everyone else’s eyes are lying, and I’m still the same large size I was when I started this journey a year ago.

I also know I’m not alone. I know women who are just as cute as can possibly be, who just don’t like themselves. I have had perfectly amazing women in the studio who almost have to force themselves to look at the photos.

I don’t think it’s a huge coincidence that so many of these women seem to be from the “5-7-9” generation.

Ladies, I have good news and bad news.

The bad news is, that picture you have in your head about what you “should” look like? That’s probably never going to happen, even with extensive surgery, diet, exercise, and some very good skin care. Younger women, brought up on a steady diet of body acceptance and the exposures of egregious Photoshop retouching — they seem to understand this more. But our generation still has this picture in our heads. And, quite honestly, most of that picture is based on lies.

That’s not to say that really great composition, lighting, and posing can’t make you look amazing. It’s to say that no one has huge boobs that just stick straight out by themselves, that skin is not pore-less and plastic looking, that everyone has a few small differences between the two sides of their face, that lips are usually normal lip-size and not plumped-up-pouty. That, in effect, there is a lot of crazy Photoshop stuff that goes on and has always gone on (in the case of our generation, pre-Photoshop, it was airbrushing) and so when we look at those images we should know they aren’t true.

The good news is really good.

It doesn’t matter.

We are still loved. We still have great friends and amazing relationships. Our kids think we are amazing. We can do incredible things, whether it’s packing the perfect lunch, making a cute birthday cake, decorating our house, or participating in the physical activity of our choice.

We have incredible lives. We are intelligent, capable. We run businesses and we run families.

I am learning to focus on what I have, what is right in my life. It was focusing on the love and joy that I already had, that inspired me to make a few changes, and then a few more.

In one year, so many things have changed, and it’s fabulous. But it started with celebrating myself, right where I was, with all the good and the bad, the fat rolls and the crazy hair, the beautiful hugs from my youngest and the goofiness of my oldest, the laughter with my husband and the delight in life that we all share.

It really doesn’t matter how you look, and it never will. Most of us aren’t walking the runway or baring skin on the cover of Sports Illustrated. What matters is love, and laughter, and health, and living, and being able to DO the things you love.

So know what? Do them. Do them now. To whatever extent you can, do what you love. Then a little more. Do something great. Then a little more. Make a difference. Then a little more.

It will all add up to something truly amazing and enviable: the true, honest, incomparable YOU!!

The Decision that Changed Everything

Little Rock Marathon MedalToday was an anniversary.

One year ago, I saw my brother use an app to track his exercise and his food intake. He showed it to me and I thought, “I could do that.”

So I did.

That’s the short version of the story, but the long version is not that simple.

Because the longer story goes back many years, with many unsuccessful attempts to lose weight. There’s frustration, depression, feeling inadequate, anger.

It’s a time of year that I reflect. Some highlights:

Six years ago I attempted Pike’s Peak Marathon for the first time since I had kids. I had tried to train, and I had told myself I would lose weight. But, I didn’t. I even gained a few pounds. My intentions were good but my actions were not. I had to quit on the way up the mountain, and no matter the excuses I made about training with young children, the fact was it was too much for my body to try to haul itself up that mountain.

Two years ago I was being asked to go to a diagnostic clinic so they could test me for lupus. I had caught a virus and my body was responding with some pretty scary symptoms. My joints would not stop swelling and hurting, and I could barely walk up the hill by my house. My knees were shot.

One year ago I had photos taken, and when we saw the slideshow, I thought, “Where did all those fat rolls come from?” We went on vacation and physically I was drained at the end of every day. It felt like a chore to enjoy time with my family.

Eleven months ago I shot a wedding and I thought I would cry with the pain in my knees. I kept squatting down to try and stretch them. I thought, “If this keeps up, I will have to not book any more weddings, because I can’t do this to my couples; If I can’t be confident I can serve them without pain and with a smile, it would be better for them to hire someone else.”

Ten months ago a friend asked me to run with her, and I had to admit — with shame — that I couldn’t keep up with her 11-minute miles. She promised to slow down and walk for me and for that I am so grateful!

Eight months ago I ran the Three Bridges Marathon, and exceeded the qualifying time for Pike’s Peak Marathon by an entire hour. I felt certain I would never qualify. But, I felt a bit better.

Seven months ago people started to compliment me on losing weight.

Five and a half months ago I was at a photography business workshop in Dallas and on my day off I went shopping. I tried on a shirt – medium – and it fit. This was inconceivable! I was used to trying on XL shirts and finding even those to be too small.

Five month ago I ran the Little Rock Marathon. And somewhere there was a shift. Halfway through the marathon I realized that even if I only pulled 15 minute miles – walking pace – from that point on I still stood a chance of qualifying for Pike’s Peak.

The next week I got into the Pike’s Peak Marathon!

Four months ago I realized I needed an entirely new wardrobe.

Two months ago I ran Catsmacker, a fun run in the Ouachita Mountains, that involved climbing a couple of peaks. I was slow, but I finished with ease and didn’t feel too bad afterwards.

Two weeks ago I ran my first ultra marathon, a 50K also in the Ouachita National Forest. At the end, I felt fantastic! I stayed and watched the other runners come in. Chatted with my friends. Had fun.

In 16 days I will run Pike’s Peak again – achieving a dream I’ve had for six years. And the path to that dream started a year ago when I decided to watch what I eat, and be consistent, and change the way I thought and felt and acted, one day at a time.

I MUST say this: I never thought I could do it, until I did it. I had every excuse under the sun why I couldn’t lose weight.

All that changed in one day. Though the results weren’t seen for months, everything changed that day I made a decision. Not a wish, not a plan, not a hope.

A decision. A decision that I was going to BE someone different. Not do different things, or try something, or plan something. Just be something.

What decision do you need to make? Stop procrastinating. It’s time.



Family portrait session

This blast from the past is in honor of the fact that this beautiful family will be back in front of my lens tomorrow. This time it will be all four of them, plus their two dogs.

Yorkies Bo and Cobe are getting on in years, and we want to be sure and capture a family photo with these two very special family members while the whole family is still together.

Each boy has his special dog that he has bonded with, and the brothers also enjoy playing with each other — to the extent that they rarely play alone. I love hearing about sibling relationships like this, because it reminds me of playing with my sisters all the time as I grew up.

The sibling relationship is one of my favorites to capture, because I know that as we grow older siblings may move away from each other, not spend as much time in each other’s company, but that bond is still one of the closest we will ever enjoy.