Tag Archives: body image

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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Here’s How You Can Prepare for “Bikini Body” Season

bikinibodyIn case you haven’t already been reminded, bikini season is almost upon us. And chances are you have seen a multitude of messages letting you know the various methods to obtain your perfect bikini body through detoxes, yoga, and bootcamps.

Before signing up for that Bikini Body Bootcamp – take a beat – and listen. Listen to yourself and what your intentions are for obtaining the so-called “bikini body.”

I have to first clarify that there is nothing wrong with exercise. I don’t know how I would get through my own existence without it. But if the primary intention behind exercise is to alter the shape of your body so that you can finally rock that bikini and to seek approval… then I’d like to have a talk…

The very nature of the “Bikini Body” phenomenon is that our bodies are simply not suitable for a bikini just as they are. The phenomenon preaches that we have to go through great lengths to prepare them for the season whether through cleanses or bootcamps, or sadly sometimes both. Why is it that we can’t just make a nice smooth transition from winter to summer months without feeling pressure to change our bodies? Why is it that it can’t be as simple as shedding the layers and donning a bikini? Boom! There’s your bikini body.

Instead we are bombarded with messages that we MUST do something to change the way we look before that can possibly happen. There is a belief that exists here that if I’m going to reveal my body to the world, it better be perfect – that anything less is unacceptable – this is heartbreaking.

Even if we want a bikini body just for ourselves, we hold ourselves to a standard of non-existent perfection. I don’t always love my body, and I’ll be frank with you that when I try on my bikini once the weather starts to warm up, I tend to look at myself disparagingly.

What I often notice first is the area right around my hips, where the bikini cuts in and when it’s a really unkind bottom my belly just won’t stay put. Like it has a mind of its own. I will notice that I have cellulite on my thighs and stretch marks circumventing my entire middle. I start to do this like I’m weeding out a garden that has been covered in snow for months. I lay it all out there as I tear into myself. Never mind finding the beautiful parts of myself – the parts I like – I’m too busy ripping myself a new one.

But then I start to walk around in the bikini, I start to own it, and say “so what?” The only reason I believe (or one of the reasons) that my body has to look a certain way to rock a bikini is because society tells me so. But who is society to set the rules for how I must look? Why is it that I can’t create my own rules? The rules are: the way that I currently look is the way I am meant to be … it’s as simple as that.

Before you sign up, I challenge you: put the bikini on. In the privacy of your own home. Walk around, feel the freedom you give your skin to breathe, room too stretch and say hello after being concealed by multiple layers for months. Work on this: freedom from judgement and self-hatred. Where sure you can acknowledge the things you don’t like about your body, but you start to make your peace with them. And slowly they become the best parts about you. I promise. (And we can talk more on how to do this in a later blog.)

What if, instead of investing the time and money into getting that bikini bod, you invested it into a path of self-acceptance? Where each day you confront the relationship you have with your body. You begin a slow process of acquainting yourself with the softest, squishiest part of your outer thighs and think “Hell yeah, I am gorgeous!”

It takes time and in doing so you will most likely encounter some very raw, very uncomfortable emotions as you dig into deeply rooted pain. But allow that to flood through you – as you give your soul a total cleanse.

The motivation to exercise needs to come from somewhere else, it needs to come from a place of self-love. Because, let’s just say, you work your butt off and get the bikini body of your dreams. What happens then? Are you finished with the work? Are you happy and fulfilled? Well sometimes yes we feel fulfilled, but temporarily. We seldom dig deeper to come from a place of love and acceptance. We just can’t keep letting unrealistic societal demands or a desire to please others in our lives be our motivation to exercise.

If you want to go for that bikini bod then I say go for it. Just listen to yourself a little closer this time and answer the question: What is my intention? What is my heart saying? Make sure that in addition to doing the work for your body, you are also doing the work for your soul. That it does not become a punishment but instead a celebration for the amazing person that you are.

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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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Crushing It, Softly

I did a yoga photoshoot yesterday. I was asked to be the subject in a local photographer’s shoot entitled “Crushing It: Portraits of Women Athletes.” My first reaction to even being asked was “Wait, what? You think I’m an athlete? You think I’m crushing it??” Hello gremlins!

In the days leading up to the shoot I was sure I would nail it. And not nail it in the sense that the photographer would get a great shot – I knew she was talented and would get the shot she wanted. I mean nail it in the sense that I would feel like a million bucks, comfortable in my own skin, as if I would all of a sudden magically transform into a total yoga babe.

But as the day of the shoot arrived, I started doubting myself, again. I still can’t hold a handstand in the middle of the room. Nor can I run very far or fast at the moment thanks to a knee/hip injury I am trying to heal. And I have to take at least one of the races I’m signed up for this year off my calendar due to said injury…

So … let’s get the straight … you still think I’m Crushing It? You still think I’m an athlete? Okay…

And then of course I had to analyze my body. No, wait, I had to deeply criticize my body.

I do not have the defined muscles like some of the other incredible subjects in the project. Even as I changed into my outfit for the shoot – a sports bra (suggested item) and yoga pants that I tried on that I picked out believing yeah I can totally rock this – I started to doubt. No, I went further than doubt – I started to really tear myself apart.

I started to see the softness around my belly button. My familiar pooch – it’s definitely still there, and probably always will be. Thought to myself why won’t it just disappear? To me the sports bra dug in and created even more softness around my chest, arms, and back. I thought to myself “is she really going to want this in her photograph?”

I could feel myself sinking and slipping deeper into that bottomless pit of self hatred.

As I looked at myself in the bathroom mirror at the studio where we were doing the shoot, I felt that familiar lump in my throat and the tears started to swell. Tears of shame about my body. That somehow the fact that I have a softness to me means that I am bad, that I am a failure, that I cannot possibly be an athlete who is crushing it. You can’t crush it with softness. Right?

But the tears were also a sadness that I could beat myself up in such a way. That I have been conditioned to criticize. To constantly look for my flaws even when at first glance I don’t even see them! I fast forward past “You look great!!!” to “What the fuck were you thinking Maggie picking a SPORTS BRA for this photoshoot??? You can’t pull this shit off.”

As I gathered my things and started to leave the bathroom, I gave myself one last glance in the mirror, I saw where my underwear cut into the softness around my hips leaving a dent, and said to myself “It doesn’t matter what you look like. That’s not what they see, that’s not what they care about.” And if I’m being totally truthful here, it’s not what I want to care about.

And then I started to do the yoga. I started to do the poses. I started to wash away the bullshit…. almost immediately. It felt like I was coming home in my body. I loved the softness of my belly that lengthened as I curled into a backbend. Conversely the strength in my back that supported me while being soft enough as if it were uttering “I love you.”

It was like all the mindfuckery had vanished. Just like that, it was gone.

The next day I put on my clothes to go or a run. There was that familiar puffiness around the top of my waist band. I took a moment to look at myself in the mirror, then felt, palpated the puffiness. I thought to myself, it is what it is. It’s me and it’s beautiful.

I know through this work that I need mantras. I need positive self-talk to pull me out of my own bullshit and shame. And the cherry on top is the yoga asana practice. Somehow it just seals the deal. It eases me into a perspective on my body and my self that allows me to really believe “hell yeah, I am crushing it.”

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Bowspring in action. Letting my belly be! Photo by Alley Maher. Another very talented local photographer.

Why can’t we see ourselves in the same light that others see us? Why oh why is it so terribly challenging? And why do we habitually resort to the self-criticism and judgement? It’s second nature to us.

Can you imagine if we talked to our friends and loved ones in the same manner we talk to ourselves?

I will say that through years of working on this I recognize the struggle may never fully go away. That I will have those moments where I define myself and my worthiness based on my appearance. Where I find myself slipping into ripping myself apart. But the work of practicing self-love comes and sweeps me up like a good friend picks you up from a bad breakup.

And I begin to turn off the negative self-talk and turn on …. believing. Believing that I am worthy, I am capable, that I am a hell of a lot more than enough. And believing that I am crushing it … softly.

If you’d like to see Irene Penny’s photo that was selected for the show (and all the other subjects she features), it will be on display Thursday May 21 6-8pm at Athleta – Westport, CT, 103 Main Street.

 

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Letting My Belly Be

image1I have a confession. I have spent most of my life trying desperately to conceal or minimize my belly.

Even as a child, I had this little “pooch” that stuck out. I always took ballet and the leotards and tights dug their way into that pooch that wouldn’t budge. I wished on eyelashes that I would wake up with a perfectly flat, no, perfectly concave stomach. I would stare at myself in the mirror, sticking it out, sucking it in, pulling it in, flattening and spreading it with my hands as best I could – then I’d pinch all the belly I could muster. Oh, how I hated that thing.

As a teen I learned about sit-ups and crunches and ab-work and pilates and when I would put on my leotards I would hope in vain that the 25 sit-ups I had done the night before might have made a difference. More and more I started taking things into my own hands to rid myself of this abomination. I was taught, over and over again, that this belly just needs to go away. I so strongly felt that I needed to make it disappear, and then everything would be alright.

I went through periods in my twenties where I felt skinny and the belly was a little less of a problem. On those days I felt happier, more confident. But then I would wake up the next morning with it protruding over my pajama bottoms. What pants could I possibly wear that were both cute AND would hide my body? What could I wear that would make me appear different? What would make me appear better?

Now in my early thirties my relationship with my body has changed, mostly for the good. I have bad days and I have good days – the good days mostly outweigh the bad. But still I sometimes see my reflection in the mirror in an exercise class and all I notice is that darn belly trying to peek out of my lululemon pants that were supposed to be so slimming, they were supposed to make it disappear, at least for a brief moment. The deep-set belief of belly being bad as a child still rears its ugly head as an adult.

Five months ago I kind of fell into a new yoga studio with brand new teachers and a brand new practice. I fell into this studio during a period where a lot of change was happening in my life – everything felt like it was uprooted and of course this made me go back to old patterns of disliking my body. I almost didn’t go to my first class there because I thought to myself “No Maggie, you’re dealing with enough change right now, why add more fuel to the fire?”

Fast forward to class last week when our teacher Mitchel instructed for the umpteenth time for everyone to let our bellies be long, to let them hang out. When we are on all fours or in crouching cat (think downward dog with very bent knees) he often instructs us to imagine our bellies swaying side to side like a cat. And whenever he does this I can’t help but smile and think of my cat Milo who flaunts his belly like it’s his job. If he’s flaunting his belly, why shouldn’t I?

But the point is that for these five months I have been instructed to just let my belly be. To let it freaking hang out. To forget about the sucking in, the flattening, the diminishing, the shortening, the crunching. I can let my belly be itself – that little pucker toward the bottom of my torso that has held on to so much guilt, shame, and pain for most of my life. And the more I allow myself to let my belly be, the more confident I feel and the more solid I feel within the structure of my own body.

I am discovering a part of my body, my belly, for the very first time. With fresh eyes and a loving and wholly accepting heart. I know that my belly journey will have its ups and downs but what a great sense of relief to put my hand on my belly and say to myself, for the first time ever, “Hell yeah!”

 

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How to Like Your Body … a FREE workshop

Body Image is a hot topic today. It would be wonderful if we could wave a magic wand and love everything about ourselves, but even just starting to LIKE ourselves is a huge challenge. And it doesn’t happen overnight. It is a process.

Yoga was a huge catalyst that allowed me to shift the way I looked at my body. I struggled with bulimia for several years in college and it was diving deep into a yoga practice that finally allowed for that shift to happen:

I remember looking at my thighs in one class. Those thighs I hated for so long — I used to look at my thighs when I would sit in a chair and feel so horrible about myself because of the way they splayed out and almost tripled (or so I thought) in size.  I forever wanted to transform them into tiny sticks and for the first time ever I said “WOW. Those are my amazing thighs! They do so much for me!”

It was at this point where I started to finally accept myself, little by little, and respect myself so much so that I opened doors for even more change to happen.

I want to share some of my story, some of my experience, and help you begin to like your body from the inside out. I hope you will consider joining me for this free workshop on June 30th from 5:00-6:30pm. We will meet at M3Yoga Studio, 44 Main St., Westport, CT.

Please RSVP for your free tickets by clicking here. For those who cannot attend but are interested in learning more about the work that I do, please email me at maggie.converse@gmail.com

With Love,
Maggie

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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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My blog post on Intention Daily

Is it weird to post one of my blogs that has already been posted but published on another site? No? Ok good because I’m about to do it.

Last week while I was teaching yoga in St. Lucia Intention Daily published this piece that I wrote. Since I had limited internet access I wasn’t able to properly share it so … one week later … here goes!

If you’ve already read the piece, it’s still a great chance to discover a cool new site sharing beautiful and insightful writing and ideas.

I’m as happy as a Maggie doing a headstand on a beach in St. Lucia.

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I’ll take my abs just as they are thank you

I started taking a new exercise class lately to add some variety to my routine. I want to start by saying that I have loved how strong these classes make me feel – they focus on small isolated movements to strengthen various muscle groups throughout the body. I feel the difference in my yoga practice, when I run, and even when I’m sitting at my desk and writing.

ImageIt has come to my attention however that these classes focus a great deal on the physical “end result” – or the way that your body will look upon completion of an exercise. Do you get my drift? I’m probably far more sensitive to these verbal cues in class because this is something I base my work on (body image, and a healthy one at that) but I can’t help but wonder if these cues are actually helpful to the other women in the class, or further causing them to only dislike their bodies. Causing more self criticism. I’m usually able to just block out these little cues throughout class.

And then last week something pretty darn cool happened.

During the abdominal series the instructor cued us to visualize the way we want our abs to look when we are done. Here’s what happened …

I laughed to myself, feeling totally full of certainty that I like, no, I LOVE my abs just the way they are. I was filled with this warm fuzzy feeling (yup, warm and fuzzy) and excitement that I had arrived. I had arrived at a place of starting to truly love the things about my body that I had once hated and punished myself for. And as the music blasted and we kept crunching our abs, it felt like I had the most wonderful secret sitting deep within me.

So what does this mean?

Well, allow me to preface this with the fact that my “abs” have, for as long as I can remember (or since I was age six), been a “problem area” for me. My stomach has, and probably never will be, flat, defined, akin to a washboard – you get the picture. There never will be a six-pack but my stomach is soft and it is strong. It helps me get into handstands, sit up straight, hold my torso up straight while running, and breath deeply.Screen Shot 2014-04-06 at 1.26.40 PM

I’m almost certain this “ah-ha moment” is a clear indication of moving a step in the right direction. It is proof that the work of training myself out of the negative self-talk actually works. I wasn’t even trying to think positively during this class and I’m certain I will still have those low “my body isn’t good enough!”, moments. But the consistent effort of redirecting my attention AWAY from those thoughts is finally starting to work so that I am able to see my imperfections as part of a beautifully imperfect whole.

I leave you with this: I encourage you to start by simply giving yourself the opportunity to see your imperfections in a new light — even if it feels silly. Slowly start to accept them as part of what makes you beautifully imperfect.

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Moving Away from Negative Self-Talk (and toward LOVE)

How often are we judgmental toward ourselves? We can be hard on ourselves about a great number of things. One thing we are particularly consistent at being judgmental about is our appearance. I think most everyone can relate in some capacity and what I’d like to share is how I move away from the negative self-talk.benice

The self-loathing includes but is not limited to hating our skin, hating the size of our feet, the fat around our belly, or the cellulite in our thighs. This applies to everyone – all shapes and sizes. To some degree, we are all familiar with negative body image, and verbally beating ourselves up.

The thing that gets me the most is that while getting lost in this verbal attack on myself, I start to feel physically ill.  My body temperature rises, nausea sets in, maybe even a headache. And how often do we try to fix this with a bowl of cereal, a hershey kiss, or an extra diet soda? How often do we turn to food for comfort, as if any of this will magically make all of our imperfections disappear? Or at the very least we try to distract ourselves for the 30 seconds it takes to devour that chocolate kiss.

I have battled with this for years. However, after years of practice, I’m much better at putting my internal bullies to rest. Trust me, I know what it feels like – when your mind really goes for a ride, telling yourself things you wouldn’t DREAM of saying to anyone else. So, how do we stop it?

Let’s compare the obsessive negative self-talk result of feeling physically low to when I get a migraine. Neither one feels good and yet I am very familiar with both. With migraines I know that there are things I need to avoid such as eating tomato sauce and doing too many chatturangas in yoga. I choose to avoid these things because I know the ramifications are just terrible. The same thing happens with this negative self-talk. I will start to go down the road of putting myself down, whether it be in the swimming pool, in front of a mirror, or even out to dinner. However I know that if I stay on this road and keep bashing myself, I’m going to feel terrible both mentally AND physically. I want to avoid this result so I have trained myself to turn around and run away from the negativity.  In order to do this I picture I am stopping myself in my tracks, IMMEDIATELY. Imagine you are running to catch a bus, and all of a sudden you realize you forgot your wallet at home and have to stop short immediately. What do you do? You turn around … and run in the other direction!

Run in the other direction

Run in the other direction

I remind myself of how horrible it feels to go down that path of self-criticism. In order to “turn in the other direction”, I will say positive affirmations to myself. This can feel corny and really challenging at first but, the more I do it (ex: “You are strong and stunning!” or “I am enough”) the easier it becomes. It is like training a muscle: everything shakes and hurts at first but the more you strengthen it, the more work it can do.

This may sound simple, so much so that you are thinking “it’ll never work.” And trust me, there are multiple practices I use to combat these internal bullies. But give it a try and start to train yourself out of that path of self-doubt and run toward love.

How do YOU deal with negative self-talk? Do you have any strategies you call upon? If so, I’d love to hear them! Please email, leave a comment on FB, or my blog.

 

 

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