Tag Archives: beauty

Staying Big in Paris

Why I’ll always chose the Croque Madame over the salad.

Returning to Paris as an adult and staying big means not giving a f*ck about whether I’m wearing the right thing. It means speaking French with an accent I once felt self-conscious about and not caring if I make a mistake or throw in an English word or two — or five. It means eradicating expectations about what my trip will be like. It means seeing all the beautiful French women — I mean they are STUNNING — and being in awe of them instead of comparing myself to them.  Paris is a new experience this time. I’m an adult. A real “I pay my own rent and (mostly) have my shit together” adult. The last time I was here was 2009 for a few days for work and before that was my study abroad spring 2005 and before that a study abroad summer 2003. That summer started my love affair with the city: the food, the wine, and the men (actually, just one man). So when I first stepped foot on the Metro after taking the RER commuter rail from the airport, the smell immediately brought me back to the many metro rides I took with friends to make it to a bar, already warmed up with a gentle buzz from the 3EUR wine we pre-gamed with at home because, who were we kidding, we couldn’t afford most of the places we were going to.

The smell of the subway reminded me of museum hopping that summer, wondering what kind of trouble we’d get into, and being slightly irresponsible 20-somethings. It brought me back to French house parties and driving past le Tour Eiffel lighting up the night. My petit ami (my guy) was a DJ and he had friends. And his friends were single and looking for girlfriends for the summer and it all came together so perfectly: we got to party and drink and eat a lot for next to nothing. And we had the time of our lives. I remember the party where I licked red wine dripping down the side of my glass and a smelly Frenchman stuck his nose up and told me how rude and unladylike I was. I remember being terrified of making a mistake when I spoke French so I would often resort to English or half-ass my French accent even though I knew damn well how to pronounce everything. I was terrified of judgement. The judgement was already there though – it was my own. It lay in my own rules that I couldn’t make a mistake and had to be perfect. Heaven forbid I sounded stupid speaking French.

I learned many things that summer. I learned how to take care of myself in a foreign country (with only a few stumbles here and there), how to navigate Paris’ intricate metro system, how to make a quiche with my host mom, and how to have an eating disorder abroad. I learned and perfected the ability to sustain and hide my eating disorder in one of the most glamorous cities in the world.

I have a memory embedded in my body: the memory of being in Paris the summer of 2003 for study abroad and amongst all the friends, the partying, the museums, the dancing, the men, the food and the wine I lived through a food calculator and made myself throw up wherever and whenever I ‘needed’ to. I was so unstable and unsure of myself that whenever I went on a date, I downed a glass of wine to settle my nerves and feel a little more confident. Before leaving the US I made a promise to myself that I would not throw up in Paris.


I broke my promise only 4 days after my arrival when homesickness set in and I “felt fat” after a big dinner. I returned to my host family’s empty apartment (my host mother being a very successful lawyer was almost never home) feeling terrible about myself and sweating my ass off because it was summer and most Parisians don’t need their homes to feel like the arctic circle by blasting AC. I put on my sleep shorts and tank top, felt my belly had grown a little since my last meal and decided I had to take care of this. I had to fix myself, immediately.  I went into the lawyer’s bathroom which had an ornate antique clawfoot tub and a hanger for my intimates drying overhead. It was in the bathroom where I made myself throw up — in the ornate antique toilet — over and over again. The smell of the bathroom was unfamiliar at first but as the summer progressed that smell caused a gut reaction (no pun intended) to purge.

The shame I felt: here I was studying abroad in Paris for a summer. Having the time of my life and making myself puke. All that good food and wine, gone to waste. People just don’t DO that, right?

At the end of my summer I spent a few nights in London with my mom and sister. We shared a hotel room which meant we also shared a bathroom. After one very indulgent dinner, I made sure I was the first one back to the hotel room so I could purge in private. Immediately after, I felt awful, but also felt the comforting emptiness that accompanies the act of purging. I put on my PJs and crawled into bed. When my mom returned to the room, she must have seen some residual throw up in the toilet and asked if I was feeling ok. Mortified. I was mortified. I buried my head in my pillow and muttered ‘yeah I’m fine, I don’t know what you’re talking about.’ I fucking flat out lied.


Always chose the croque madame.

Now, 12 years later, I am in Paris with my mother, sharing a hotel room, and a bathroom. I will be honest, I sometimes revisit my small fear that if I eat all this bread I’m going to turn into a cream puff. But am I really that worried about all the pain au chocolats I’m eating during this special week away? Nope. Am I afraid of all the butter in all the things? Not one bit. Can I put the fear away and simply enjoy myself? Can I say “Bring it Cream Puff, I’m also going to dive into this grand marnier soufflé and enjoy every morsel. And when I wake up tomorrow, I’m going to start my day with another croissant and not give it a second thought.”?

The answer to that question is a resounding YES.

Because in the end even if I do turn into a demi-baguette, it doesn’t matter. It just doesn’t matter. I chose to go on this trip to spend time with my mother, to eat the food, drink the wine, soak up the culture, and be in awe of all the beauty that exists in this great city. I did NOT come here to poke at my midsection and ponder “how can I fix this? Should I eat the boring salad or the croque madame?”

A new rule is established: Always chose the croque madame.

Not only do I keep a big picture in terms of what I eat (go for what I want) but because I care less about being perfect in my body, I care less about speaking perfect French. Now I can say “can we please have l’addition?” (“The check”) without being self conscious that I am blending the phrases while perfectly pronouncing ‘l’addition.’ Because really what is there to be so afraid of? The worst case scenario is someone doesn’t understand and asks me to repeat myself. Ok no biggie! And best case: they get it, they understand, and respond in French. Boom!

If someone told me to “Stay big” 12 years ago in Paris, the word big would have scared me, made me squeamish, and want to run away and retreat. Now there is still some residual shame and fear of “messing up” or not wearing the “right” thing. But my guiding voice in my heart consistently reminds me to Stay Big. When I let my heart lead and stay big I order the croque madame in my best possible somewhat broken French and have a cream puff for dessert because I’m only in Paris with my mom so many times in my life.


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When Releasing Body Shame Feels Like Letting Go of a Bad Relationship


Crouching Cat. Photo by Kelsey Finkle.

Sometimes when I feel so disgusted with my body, I am reminded of what it’s like to be in a bad relationship. The kind where you walk on eggshells around each other and forget anything else can possibly exist. It’s the one you just can’t bear to part with because you are afraid. Self-loathing becomes your security blanket, where it’s all you know. It’s your default because it feels safe. Who knows what terrors could happen should you dare to toss the blanket aside and find a new one.

Just like walking away from a bad relationship, turning off the self hatred switch is easier said than done. It will be hard as fuck, will make you scared shitless, totally vulnerable, and naked to the world. At the same time, it is something you never regret and it is one of the best things you will ever do for yourself.

Consider the way you talk to yourself. Be completely honest – what are the kinds of things you say to or about yourself? It is not uncommon for most men and women to verbally self-abuse. Imagine if you started speaking this way to the people in your life. They wouldn’t tolerate it for one second.

We default to negative self-talk because somewhere along the way we learned it is bombastic or pompous to think we are attractive. We learned we are not entitled to have an honest, clear view on ourselves. We have to first go through a filter, after which point it is then appropriate to determine our worth. And even then, we still suck. We are conditioned to act this way because we have gone through years of training and so this paradigm is far easier to exist in than changing our ways.

In the exact same way, it becomes easy to fester in an unhealthy relationship. We get accustomed to the silence that speaks volumes. It is seemingly effortless to tweak who we are for the sake of pleasing someone else, while we know damn well this person is not serving us.

The negative self-talk does not serve us either. Who told you to determine your self worth based on whether or not you have a thigh gap? Or that stilettos are objectively sexier than birkenstocks? It’s time to erase their message from your mind, permanently. The way you would erase a voicemail from an ex-lover on an old answering machine, and then throw away the tape for good measure.

How do we begin to redefine beauty? How do we release old beliefs of what our body should look like? How do we make up our own body beautiful rules?

One thing we can do is choose an empowering modality, such as a postural practice like Bowspring, to connect with the body. Move in a nourishing manner. Whether you select yoga, zumba, running, or hiking, the movement is not for the sake of weight loss and changing who you are but instead to wake up to who you already are. We want to wake up the little light deep inside.

Find a modality to wake up and be present within the body you are given. When you move, embrace the shapes you create. The shapes are beautiful not because anybody else says so, but because you believe so.

If we always try to comply with certain rules and regulations about what we should look like, or a certain way we should behave, we will live in the drone of an unhappy relationship. Only this time the relationship is with ourselves. Changing habits and patterns is hard work, but much like walking away from that stifling relationship, it is worth the pain and the effort.

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BodyLoveCT video with lululemon athletica

Please join me for this very special event.

With Love,



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When my dentist suggests I whiten my teeth & consider fixing the crowding…

I love my dentist but, it makes me want to run for the hills when they start talking to me about whitening my teeth a couple shades.

How is it that a regular cleaning turns into a pitch for brightening (read: changing) your smile? What if I was just getting acquainted with the newly coffee/wine-stained tint of my teeth? Is it going to cause any health issues further down the road?

Nope. The real kicker is when they tell me “it’s purely for cosmetic purposes.”

I understand they are only doing their job and they mean no harm by suggesting this.

It’s merely a representation of the way that our society has been permeated by a firm belief that we SHOULD change our appearance. That we really SHOULD look a certain way.

Don’t even get me started on what they said about my “crowding” on my lower teeth…

Really, I love my dentist. And I had a better experience at the dentist today than I have ever had in my adult life. No pain, no new cavities, no sensitivity. But it was disheartening that I couldn’t escape the need to change our appearance, even at the dentist. It’s something I’m almost used to at the dermatologist (“thinking about botox?”) – but I guess I’m not spared at the dentist any more…

All that said, I’m learning to love the tint of my teeth and the crowding on my bottom teeth that is a result of braces taken off too early and losing my retainer at age 14. Like, really, it’s OK. I love my coffee and tea and red wine. Maybe down the road when it’s in my budget, I’ll see what this whole whitening thing is about, but for now I’m all set.

Have you ever had someone suggest you change something about your appearance? How do you deal with it? I want to hear from you! Feel free to post in the comments below. XO

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Rolls, Thigh Gaps, and Spare Tires

6097785133_02db3aeb1bWhen did we learn that having “rolls” (on our stomach) is a bad thing? Furthermore, when did we learn that having these rolls makes us inherently bad?

I asked this of a dear friend and mentor of mine after reading her very moving piece pertaining to her own body image struggles and her reply was:

Society’s image: stick thin is so ingrained on our psyches that we can’t see ampleness as beauty. In Rueben’s day I’d be on the cover of Vogue.

I couldn’t agree more.

But then as I was driving to meet a client later in the day I thought to myself: wait a minute, what about the girls who ARE stick thin and are STILL unhappy with their bodies and themselves? I can think of a few friends off the top of my head who I look at and think wow they must not have any body image issues, but then they open up to me and all the self-hatred leaks out so effortlessly.

What I think this comes down to is a scarcity issue in our society. It’s a much bigger issue than I can sometimes wrap my head around. I know that people often look at me, or even read my blogs about struggling with my own body image, and think to themselves “what does she have to worry about?”

But from a young age I can remember comparing myself to the other girls who were smaller, thinner, prettier, smarter, more talented, getting into better colleges, and so forth. The comparing and subsequent self-loathing seemed endless.

I allowed myself to believe that, despite my parents best efforts in trying to reassure I was doing enough – that I was gorgeous, smart, and talented – I still firmly believed that I just wasn’t cutting it. Something had to be wrong the very makeup of me. And nevermind my little belly that I discovered at a very early age and have had a love/hate relationship with every since (mostly hate until recent years).

The conversation isn’t over. An answer has not yet been found as to how we are going to cure this illness we have in our society. I aim to continue thinking about it, writing about it, discussing it, and sharing it. And in my own small community I hope to show women and men how they can use yoga as a modality toward self-acceptance. It certainly does not happen overnight but through regular practice.

I don’t care if you can do a handstand, touch your toes, or twist into a pretzel …. what I care about is how do you take the yoga with you? How does it infiltrate your self-worth? Therein lies the true practice. When you can be standing in line at the grocery store, and look down at your legs – regardless of their shape or size – and think how grateful you are that they are holding you. Rather than ripping into how lumpy they may look, or wondering why you were one of the unlucky ones born without a thigh gap.

Or it happens when you are getting dressed in the morning. And you stop and see yourself in the mirror, and while your first inclination might be to drown in the squishiness of your belly and just plain hate yourself, instead you start to see your roundness and fullness as a representation or how full and grand your heart is.

Why can’t it all be beauty? Ampleness, thin, slim, round, full, slender, skinny minny… as long as our bodies and our souls are healthy – isn’t that true beauty?

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Apparently I haven’t made myself clear … Yoga Saved Me

I was at dinner a few weeks ago with Brett and some friends. We were having a great time, laughing and joking around about … eating disorders. To be absolutely specific, it was about making yourself throw up and that transitioned to eating disorders.

I guess, thank god, I am finally at a point in my life where sometimes, SOMETIMES, I can step back and poke fun of my former self and the way that I used to operate. The harsh reality is that when you are dealing with an eating disorder, the disorder itself is not so funny, and life becomes less funny because you are constantly criticizing yourself.

treestluciaBut I digress … as the conversation started to get a little more personal, my friend paused and then asked me, “Maggie how did you get over all your stuff?” In this case “stuff” was keyword for “bulimia.”

“Yoga,” I replied.

“What? Brett?” my friend asked, misunderstanding my mumbled answer amidst the chaotic restaurant.

“No, I got over all my stuff because of my yoga practice,” I replied, a little bit louder now.

Thinking to myself, isn’t it obvious? Doesn’t everybody know that? But clearly that is not the case because I have never truly shared my full story, except for with a select few.

I’m still building up the confidence to really let it all out but even saying it at the dinner table that night, where two people who were not privy to my triumph over an eating disorder with yoga, made me flush with pride.

So this is me starting to open myself up and share my story with you. Finally.


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