Monday, November 17, 2014

A Story About Eating Disorders


I am super excited about this post. The main thing I want to do as a journalist is write stories like this one- stories about people who have beat incredible odds and overcome immense difficulties. Real stories about real people that will inspire those who hear them. 

I have always been really passionate about the topic of body image, and every other issue that falls under it. Anorexia is definitely one of those issues, so for a recent class assignment I decided to write a personal profile story about someone recovering from anorexia. Thanks to Instagram, I found Mackenzie Janssen, and amazing girl who has inspired me so much in these past couple of weeks. We've been emailing back and forth almost every day while I've been writing this, talking about her story, swapping ideas, and getting her approval on everything. Her descent into anorexia is unusual and much different than I would have thought, but that makes this story even more interesting and real. 

I know it's long, but I seriously encourage everyone to read it- especially anyone struggling with body image or an eating disorder. Mackenzie tells what it's really like to struggle, how society often views eating disorders wrong, and how you can help loved ones (or yourself) through the difficult but absolutely worth it recovery process.



The Fight with Anorexia: Losing Some Battles but Winning the War

           Laying in her bed in the middle of the night, Mackenzie Janssen wondered how her life had come to this. She was weak and tired, cold all the time, and always, always hungry. She wasn't ill in the way you might have thought though- Janssen had an eating disorder. Anorexia, to be exact, and it had stolen her life right out of her hands.
           When Janssen was seventeen, she developed Mononucleosis, a fairly common but draining illness that leaves its victims feeling weak for long periods of time. It was the summer before her senior year of high school, and it stopped her life in its tracks—even more than she could imagine right then. Janssen’s sickness eventually resulted in her developing anorexia, leading her down a path that she hopes never to return.
            At the end of her junior year of high school, Janssen was your typical teenager. She was involved in track and diving, slept in on the weekends, and chatted with her friends during classes while the teacher wasn’t looking. She was dating the boy of her dreams, was very close to her mother, and had a passion for rock climbing. Life was going really well. But that summer, everything changed.
            After contracting mono, Janssen had to put on the brakes and stop her busy schedule. She desperately wanted to at least continue rock climbing, but her spleen had become enlarged and she was ordered by doctors not to participate in physical activity. “I couldn’t do anything fun,” Janssen said. “I slept a good 13-15 hours a day, and eating kind of ceased. Everything just tasted really bad- like I couldn’t even drink water. I became dehydrated and lost a bit of weight. My body was just in lots of pain and I was very tired all of the time.”
            School started up again in the fall, but instead of being excited for her senior year, Janssen had to put what little energy she had into simply making it through the day. She still had mono, and couldn’t participate in almost any activities that she had once enjoyed. Initially, she did gain back some of the weight she had lost over the summer, but soon found that her body wasn’t processing food correctly. In December, she went on a trip to Venezuela and began to really notice changes. She remembers her body being in severe discomfort most of the time, and after returning home, she was taken to a doctor to see what was wrong. She had begun losing weight again, and was in a lot of pain. “Several weeks of not eating properly really made things change. I stopped hanging out with friends, I was tired all the time, and was really isolated,” she recalled.
            After several weeks of tests, Janssen was told that her gallbladder was not working properly, and on February 14th it was removed. At this time, she weighed about 100 pounds, much lower than her normal 125. “The number on the scale kept dropping, and part of me knew it was bad, but part really liked it,” she admitted. Once she got out of the hospital, Janssen assumed she would begin gaining her weight back, but that didn’t happen. “The food that I was taking in was minimal and very low calorie,” Janssen revealed. “I was thinking about food constantly. Looking for recipes, cooking high calorie foods for friends and family- but I wouldn’t dare eat them myself. I enjoyed food through other people.” She remembers not being able to sleep at night because thoughts of food and calories consumed her mind.
            Everyday life became increasingly difficult. “With absolutely no energy walking to class was miserable and sitting in class was even worse,” Janssen said. “Not having any cushion under your butt to sit on- that sucks.” Bruises on her tailbone and hips became a daily occurrence. Things most girls look forward to in high school were depressing for Janssen. One day she went shopping for a prom dress and found a beautiful, expensive gown she fell in love with. It was a little big, so she made it her goal to grow into it. Every once in a while she would try it on, only to find that she was shrinking and it was getting bigger and bigger around her.
            Janssen began lying about her food intake to her mom so that she didn’t worry. “My mind was not working correctly,” Janssen sighed. “It is so sad to say that I don’t remember any of my senior year. It was wasted.” She remembers feeling like she didn’t have any friends, spending most of her time in hot showers because she was so cold, and going to bed early every night so she would have less time to eat. “I cried all the time and didn’t know why,” she said. “I didn’t know who I was and nothing really made sense.”
            Anorexia affected more than just Janssen. Her mother, Gloria Janssen, recalls what a struggle it was for her as a parent. “This disease has challenged my parenting skills beyond measure. It has caused so much pain and anger - from watching my daughter in the fetal position crying that her stomach hurt so bad because she had just eaten, to watching her stand in front of a mirror in her princess prom dress upset that she was so ugly that she did not want to go to prom…An ED had stolen my daughter from me and had stolen her life from her.” Janssen’s boyfriend, Alejandro Arenas, remembers feeling confused and helpless. “I had no clue how to deal with this,” he said sadly. “I thought I could help her recover. I tried everything that I could think of to help but really nothing seemed to make any difference.”
            Spring break of that year was when Janssen first began to realize she had an eating disorder. Her daily intake of food never exceeded 300 calories. She wanted to gain weight, and remembers thinking about how ugly she was every time she looked in the mirror. It just wasn’t that easy. “I think society has a skewed perception on anorexia,” Janssen stated. “If you’re thin- oh you have anorexia. It’s so untrue. It is a mental illness, and it is not a choice. I feel like anorexia is an uncontrollable monster inside of you. We like to call him Ed…some people think that giving your eating disorder a name helps you disobey him. Ed tells me what to weight, what my shape should be, what to eat, how much, when to exercise, my happiness level, and most of all my body image. He really just takes control of your life.” Over break, Janssen, her mom, and her friend went on a cruise, but Janssen doesn’t remember having any fun. She was cold all the time, had to buy size 00 clothes that were still baggy on her, and had to deal with passengers on the ship whispering and staring as she walked by. At one point she ate a whole turkey wrap and didn’t sleep for a week because she felt like it was too many calories.
            On the first day back to school after spring break, Janssen skipped track practice and went home. When her mom asked why she wasn’t at her sport, Janssen curled up in her mother’s lap and told her she thought she had an eating disorder. Janssen’s mom, who had been suspecting this for a while but had never been able to convince Janssen, put her daughter in the psychiatric ward at a nearby university. At the time, Janssen weighed 75 pounds. After spending several weeks there and gaining 20 pounds, she was admitted to a program that specialized in eating disorders. She met a lot of people in similar situations, and made some really strong connections with them. During the program, she was eating over 4000 calories a day and steadily gaining back her weight. Janssen admitted though, that she wasn’t always happy about gaining. Her eating disorder was still a big part of her life.
            Janssen spent several months in the program. She missed most of the fun senior activities, but she was still able to go to prom. “I was still in the program, and finishing school was hard,” she recalled. “Going to prom and graduation was hard because people asked where I had gone and how different I looked.” When she finished the program, Janssen began seeing a therapist, but it didn’t go very well. She continued to count calories and think about food. “I was still being held by Ed, even though I didn’t want to believe it,” she reflected.
            Janssen wanted to go to college, so she decided on Grand Valley State University, two hours away from home. Unfortunately, it proved to be too much for her. “I spent two weeks there, and cried the majority of the time. Ed hadn’t been gone long enough. The last week I spent there I didn’t eat one thing. When I came home for the weekend, I came home for good.” She felt like a failure. Janssen started classes at a nearby community college the next semester, but still felt disappointed in herself. She continued to count calories every day, and her allotted amount got smaller and smaller. By December it was evident that she was in relapse.
In March her weight dropped below 100 pounds again, so she and her mother decided to go see a therapist and nutritionist. Janssen remembers not liking either women very much, which made the thought of recovery even harder. “Before I had major body issues, and they continued. I would go try clothes on and nothing fit. Ed told me they didn’t. Ed likes clothes to be baggy so that people couldn’t see my fat,” she said. That summer Janssen also became close to someone who, she later realized, had some problems that made her recovery even more difficult than it already was.
But in the beginning of October, things turned around. “It was really unusual,” Janssen recalled. “One day I woke up and said ‘I am so sick of Ed’. I said he was no longer going to control my life. I am so much more than a weight and I have a long road of success ahead of me to look forward to.” Her boyfriend and mother have seen this willpower inside Janssen. “It was her determination and energy that made me feel strong with her,” Arenas said fondly of his girlfriend. And as her mother stated proudly, “She is my hero, without a doubt.”
Janssen has stuck to this statement. It has been about five years since she first was diagnosed with anorexia, and although she is still technically in recovery, she feels like she is recovered. “Some days are hard- where I feel Ed really strong,” she admits. “But I have to remind myself that tomorrow will be better and it always is.”
What would Janssen say to someone who is struggling with body image or an eating disorder of their own? “Just stay strong, and never ever give up. You are worth so much more. In Ed’s eyes you will be failing, but in reality you will be living. Once you’re free, it will be much easier to see. I know it sounds cliché but every body is beautiful. Looking like the Victoria Secret model is so unrealistic. Real women don’t look like this- it is fake. You are beautiful, both inside and out. And what’s on the inside means so much more.”




 
Question and Answer with Mackenzie Janssen: The World and Anorexia

AT: How do you think society views anorexia, as a whole? Do you think that view should be different?

MJ: I think that society has a skewed perception on it. If you’re thin- oh you have anorexia, it’s so untrue. Everybody’s body knows what it should be at and the important thing is to remember that your body will be where it wants to be.  The other thing is some people think that it is for attention and is a choice. It is absolutely not. It is a mental illness, which has the highest mortality rate- IT IS NOT A CHOICE.

AT: How do you think the media (or society in general) is playing a part in anorexia? Do you think Photoshopped models and skinny celebrities being labeled as "the most beautiful women" are possibly some of the reasons girls develop eating disorders?

MJ: I think that the media plays a huge role in this. Ads are always stick thin models that have been photo shopped. What you can’t see also is that most of those models have disordered eating themselves. I truly think that the media plays a really big role in EDs.  From such a young age we see ads, and hear radio commercials about being thin, and beautiful. Part of the problem that I believe is happening is that the media is over compensating for the “obesity epidemic.” It is really pushing people to eat right and exercise. More than that have surgery to get the body you want…. It really is wrong.

AT: What do you think society could be doing differently to help people understand more about eating disorders?

MJ: I think that just being more educated and stop putting such pressure on what a body should look like and what we should be eating. I know that exercise and eating right is important. I like to tell myself that everything in moderation is good. Too much of one thing- anything- is bad.  By education and spreading the word about EDs is crucial and important. Instead we talk about it like it’s a secret.

AT: Are there things people shouldn't say to someone with an eating disorder, or someone recovering from one? If so, what are some of those things?

MJ: When dealing with someone with an ED it is important to remain nonjudgmental and let them talk about it. It always really helps me just to talk. When I help others with their EDs I feel great. Some bad things to say are things that hurt them, even though it may not be intentional. Ed will hear these comments and take them the wrong way. Some examples include-
           “Wow- you look good, or healthy.”
           “You look so much better.”
           “Just eat, it’s not that hard.”
           “Think about how much I eat, I eat way more than you.”
           “You look so different from the last time I saw you.”
           “Oh, you’ve gained weight.”

Everyone's eating disorder is different. Things that may trigger one person may not for another. For example I met one girl who had a hard time doing math homework cause it dealt with numbers. Some EDs are sensitive to numbers, clothing sizes, and weight. If you know someone with an ED- try to avoid these topics.

AT: How can your friends and peers help you while you recover?

MJ: My friends and family have been though all of this with me. When I was at my worse, when I didn’t believe I had a problem. To the many, many meals it took me four hours to get down because it simply felt to hard. Just being there has really helped. By them not giving up on me has given me the strength not to give up on myself. Visiting me in the hospital, and eating difficult meals with me has been a big help as well. They have been so supportive, and are always there to help. My mom and boyfriend have helped me more than you could ever imagine. My mom helps me realize when I say something that Ed really is saying, by explaining it to me. My boyfriend has eaten many meals and snacks matching the same calories, which happened to be a lot of food at times. Both my mom and boyfriend constantly reassure me that I am strong and beautiful, and that I can get through anything.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Wildflower

Wow. Wow, wow, wow. This video. I.........I am speechless. So beautiful.

So a friend of mine just shared this video on Facebook, and I am so glad I took the 20 minutes to watch it, and I hope you do to. SO. WORTH. IT. Aside from being an incredible love story, what gets me the most is how much Max loves Bonnie Kate, and isn't afraid to say that. I've been a little on the negative side when it comes to love lately (19 and still never-been-kissed), and to be honest, the idea that a man could ever love me like that is sort of a fantasy to me. Like, I see it happen to other people, but I just cannot imagine it happening to me. Not that I'm trying to be pessimistic, it's just something I've never experienced, and it's difficult for me to think about what that would be like. So hearing guys talk about how much they love a girl is the most beautiful thing in the world to me. Ok, I need to stop talking. Just watch the video.


I've noticed that some of my videos and photos are disappearing after a while, so if this doesn't work, you can watch the video here. 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Sticks and Stones

In my Biology class today we were talking about nutrients, and my professor decided to also talk about body image, what is considered beautiful, health vs. beauty, etc. We got a homework assignment all about this subject, which I thought was great, because as you know, this is a topic I'm pretty passionate about.

One of the questions was "What pressures do you, personally, feel about making your body look a certain way?"

Although I still get very self conscious about my body (who doesn't?), I have become much more comfortable with it in the past few years. This question did, however, remind me of an experience I once had.

I don't remember exactly when it was, but I was in middle school, so I must have been 13 or 14. I was on Facebook, and at the time there was this thing really popular that you could do. I can't remember what it was called, but basically you could answer these random questions about your Facebook friends, dumb things like "Have you ever had a crush on this person?" or "Do you think this person has ever lied to you?", and the more questions you answered the more points you racked up. When you had a certain amount of points, you could see what your Facebook friends were saying about you in these questions. One time I had gotten a lot of points answering questions, so I wanted to see what someone had said about me. The questions I clicked on was "Would Anne look good in tights?" And the person who answered had put "No".

The guy who had answered that question was a boy. I hardly knew him and I didn't have a crush on him or anything, but that was the first time I ever remember feeling fat. I had never thought of myself as skinny, necessarily, but I had never imagined someone thinking something like I wouldn't look good in tights. For at least a year after that, every time I put on a pair of pants, I had to spend fifteen minutes deciding if they made me look fat or not.

Now, it has been a long time and I am very over that experience. That boy probably doesn't even remember answering that particular question on Facebook, and I'm not here to call him out or anything. What I want to say is first:

LADIES: YOU ARE ALL BEAUTIFUL.

And second: Be careful what you say, even if you don't think anyone is going to hear you. Even the smallest, offhand comments can make a huge difference in someone's life. You have no idea how your words are going to affect someone. So to affectionately quote Thumper,

"If you can't say something nice, don't say nothing at all."

(To be grammatically correct, it would be "don't say anything at all, but you get the idea. Be nice!)

Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Church is True

I hope my title didn't scare anyone away- I'm not here to be preachy and in your face about my beliefs. But I think there is nothing wrong with sharing what makes you happy, and today I want to talk about something that makes me happier than I can adequately explain, although I will try.

Today I had the privilege of watching a broadcast of the Ogden Temple Re-Dedication. Whenever a new temple is built, or an old one renovated like the Ogden Temple, it needs to be dedicated before it is used. I had never been to a temple dedication before, so I was really excited about this one.

To attend, you had to have a current temple recommend. (Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints can receive temple recommends, also needed to enter any temple, after completing an interview with their bishop and being worthy to hold one.) I thought that was pretty cool, that you needed a recommend to just watch the dedication. It really solidified how sacred of an event this was.

An LDS temple is a special building where sacred ordinances are performed. Because of its sacred nature, only worthy members are able to attend and perform these ordinances.

If you want to learn more about LDS temples, click here.

There are a lot of things about the temple I don't understand. As you reach certain ages and make certain decisions in your life (like going on a mission or getting married) there are more things you are able to do in the temple. Since I am only 19 and have not gone on a mission or been married, I am limited as to what I am able to do in the temple. This isn't as bad thing at all- it is really incredible what I, a regular teenager, can do in this beautiful place. But most of the temple is honestly a mystery to me.


The thing is, as excited as I am to eventually go through other parts of the temple, I am perfectly fine with waiting. More than fine, in fact. I know with all my heart that the church is true, so the feelings I have about other parts of the temple are not doubts or fear, rather they are anticipation and excitement. I felt the Spirit so strongly at the temple dedication today, and it just re-affirmed my testimony that the temple is the Lord's house. The men and women who spoke were so filled with light, and the two apostles we were able to hear from, Henry B. Eyring and Jeffrey R. Holland, truly are called of God.

I know the church is true. I know it with a burning passion and a sincere confidence and an absolute assurance. Being the imperfect being I am, I do have doubts sometimes. But if I sincerely pray and ask for help and answers, I receive them. I know that Heavenly Father cares about each and every one of us individually and perfectly. I love Him. I love Jesus Christ, and I know He died on the cross so that my sins could be forgiven. I know that I am not alone in this life, and I cannot express what a beautiful and comforting feeling that is. I love this church and this gospel, and I am so grateful I am blessed enough to have it.

To learn more about the Mormons, click here. 
To see my personal Mormon.org profile, click here. 

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Why I Love to Write

So this was actually an assignment for my Comms 211 class, but I really enjoyed writing it. I always knew that I liked to write, but I never took the time to think about why. I mean, you don't really think about why you like something. You just know. But it was cool to really put some though into this.

Here's my paper, titled "Why I Like to Write":


There are a lot of reasons I love to write. It’s fun, first of all. It lets me say what I want to say, it gives me a place to vent my emotions, and it helps me ponder more about my life.
            But the biggest reason I love to write, and the reason I think I started writing in the first place, is that it gives me a voice where vocally I am not as adequate. I’ve never been one of those outgoing people who says hi to everyone they pass and actually introduces themselves to the person sitting next to them (the thought terrifies me). It’s not that I don’t like meeting people, because I really do. It just takes me a very long time to feel comfortable around someone or a group, and until I reach that point, I am the discreet, stereotypical wallflower every young adult novel portrays. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the phrase “Anne, you’re so quiet!” or my personal favorite, “What’s wrong?” (Nothing. Nothing is wrong. If something was wrong, I’d be crying. Or at least frowning. I’m just sitting here, pleasantly enjoying your conversation that includes nothing relevant to myself. I guess I just need to smile and nod more often to keep you off my back.) Not that I’m bitter or anything.
            Truthfully, I would love to be that person who jumps into conversations and feels completely at ease cracking jokes in front of strangers. (What’s that? “Just make yourself more outgoing! It can’t be that hard.” Oh, I have, and let’s just say that “awkward” takes on a whole new meaning when that happens.) It’s just not me. Thankfully, I’ve finally learned to accept that it’s who I am, and I’ve stopped comparing myself to the social butterflies of the world, thinking that I would be so much better if I could only be like them.
            Once I realized this, I started to write. If I can’t be clever and witty in person, I’ll do it on paper. If I don’t want all the attention that comes with an emotional problem, I’ll write it down and keep it to myself. If I have an idea and I don’t know who to tell, I’ll relay it to my journal and keep it there until I find someone who will appreciate it. (Now don’t get me wrong—I have a lot of friends. They don’t believe me when I tell them I’m an introvert, but it’s true. It’s new people I’m worried about, not those I’ve grown up around. So college has definitely been a struggle for me in this aspect.) There are a lot of things I want to say, I just don’t always have the courage to say them out loud. So writing does that for me.
            Another reason I love to write, which sort of falls into the category of giving me a voice, is that I love poetry. Slam poetry, to be specific. It’s interesting, because half of slam poetry is the presentation, which is normally my downfall. I suppose writing the poem gives me the confidence I need to perform it. (I’m realizing this as I’m writing this paper, so I’m having a bit of an epiphany right now.) Anyways, I fell in love with slam poetry during high school, and it has really been a creative outlet for me since then. I am very passionate about helping others (my career goal is to be a journalist who writes stories that will benefit others and hopefully change the world, so these two things really went hand in hand), and slam poetry gave me permission to write all my ideas down and express them fervently to my audience. Being able to write in such a unique way was so freeing and beautiful to me. It showed me that a writer can be so many different things, and they’re not stuck in a box like I had thought before. (I understand that journalists have certain rules they need to follow, and I will abide by those when I become one, I promise.) I guess I realized I don’t have to be like everyone else, and my ideas are worth sharing. It’s a really wonderful thing to finally understand.
            So why do I love to write? I love to write, because it lets me rediscover myself every single day. It lets me speak out with a pen what I can’t seem to say out loud. And it lets me be who I want to be in life, without worrying so much about judgment and opinion. Writing is who I am.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

God is Watching Over Me

Wow, so it has been like a million years (give or take) since I last wrote. I apologize. It's kind of funny, because I thought I would write every day once I got out of school because I'd have so much free time. But what actually happened was that I just got lazy and only wrote while I was working or something.

Quick recap of my summer (whether you care or not):

For the first couple months of being home I just relaxed and hung out with my family when they weren't in school or working. I also took care of our new puppy that we got at the end of May. He is definitely not so little anymore, and he's going to keep growing for a while. A couple weeks into June I got a job as a nanny and was able to care for two absolutely wonderful children. I miss them a lot. (Seriously!) The night I got off work for the summer, my family and I left for our vacation. We spent a few days in Seattle (per my request), then went down for a week to a couple national parks in southern Utah, then spent a couple days in Mesa Verde, CO, then spent two weeks in Aurora, CO visiting my grandparents. It was a really, really great vacation, but I was definitely ready to come home when we ended it.

Once we got back to Washington, I had five days to get in a dentist appointment, eye appointment, college shopping trip, visiting/saying goodbye to friends who hadn't left for college yet, and hang out with my family. That definitely went by too fast.

On Friday my parents drove me down to Provo. We got in super late, and on Saturday we unloaded stuff into my apartment, bought food for me and hung out, which was pretty fun. And that evening, I said goodbye to them. :( I am excited for school though. My classes should be fun (except for stupid biology) and I don't know all of my roommates very well yet, but they seem really nice.

The real point of this post is about an amazing experience I had today. So I honestly am very excited to school. I love BYU and I love studying journalism. The thing I don't love about college is how homesick I get. I'm not sure why it's so bad for me, but it just is. I struggled with pretty severe homesickness all last year, and though it did get better the longer I was at school, it was always there. I was concerned about this year, because I did not want to go through that again. And sure enough, right after my parents said goodbye, that first wave hit and all I wanted to do was chase down their car and go home with them. I spent all last night praying to my Heavenly Father to help comfort me and take this awful feeling away, but nothing happened immediately. I started thinking (I did this last year as well) why I was even at BYU and if this was all worth it. It sure didn't seem like it was at the time.

This morning before church I said my morning prayers and begged God once again to please help me feel not so homesick, and to do something to help me. During our sacrament meeting at church, every song seemed to remind me of home and my family and I only seemed to feel worse as the service went on. Then, right before our closing hymn, the 2nd Counselor of our bishopric jumped up to the pulpit and said he felt impressed to share something very quickly. He looked around the room and spoke: "You are where you are supposed to be. I know some of you may be going through struggles and hard times, and you may have other things on your mind that are making you question your decisions right now, but this is a wonderful place to be and you are supposed to be here." I started to tear up, which was embarrassing because I hate crying, but I felt so overwhelmed with love and with the Spirit that I couldn't help it.


I probably wasn't the only person who got something out of that comment, but I needed that remark so badly. I am so grateful for the counselor who listened to the Holy Ghost, and I am so grateful for Heavenly Father for answering my prayers. He really does listen, and He loves each and every one of us individually and equally, with a love that is unconditional. I am nowhere near perfection, and I make mistakes every day. I take God for granted and I'm rude and I'm lazy and I'm quick to judge. But even with all my imperfections, God takes the time to comfort me in a time of need. He's pretty awesome. :)

Monday, July 21, 2014

Try

I've never been a die-hard fan of Colbie Caillat, but she's one of those artists that I always wish I listened to more when I hear one of her songs. This was one of those moments.

Tired of Photoshop and makeup being pretty much essentials for women today, Colbie Caillat recently released a new single, "Try". It will make you feel beautiful in your most exposed form, and you may cry a little bit. It's is a really wonderful video with an excellent message.

Video: youtube.com


Monday, June 23, 2014

Health vs. Beauty

There has been a lot of talk lately about what "true beauty" really is. I agree with a lot of the arguments, but I believe there are a couple of huge points that are being missed that are kind of important.

I think it really started with the infamous 'thigh gap'. Pictures on Tumblr and Pinterest started popping up everywhere, images of skinny girls with a gap between their thighs.


This was quickly combated with a multitude of anti-thigh gap pictures and sayings, featuring popular celebrities like Beyoncé, Marilyn Monroe, and Jennifer Lawrence.


I think this was great. Nothing negative, just people saying that girls don't need to starve themselves to be beautiful. However, this is also when the problems started to begin.

More and more of these images started showing up, focusing more on complete body image (not just a thigh gap). Signs like "Curvy is Beautiful" were very popular.


I suppose this still isn't so bad. I mean, it's true, right? Curvy definitely is beautiful. I completely agree with that. But with these types of proclamations came more, this time starting to head in a negative direction. Pictures with the caption "Real Women Have Curves" were seen everywhere.


Real women have curves? Implying that women who are thin...aren't real women? I understand the direction they are trying to go, but I think people aren't realizing that the way they're complimenting curvy women is also downgrading women who are skinny. 
 
I think this was the main point everyone was trying to get across when this whole thing started: Girls who have thigh gaps, girls who are that skinny, have to be starving themselves to look that way. And yeah, that is definitely true in some cases. It's not true all the time though, and that's where the damage is. 

For example, I have two very good friends who look pretty much exactly like the celebrities in the top picture and the Victoria's Secret models in the second picture (only maybe not quite as busty). They are both tall, skinny, and beautiful. One of these friends totally has a thigh gap. But they are two of the healthiest people I know. One runs track at MSU and has a six-pack like nobody's business. The other runs cross-country for Northwest Christian University and eats ridiculously healthy food. And both of them eat A LOT. They don't starve themselves, they don't over-exercise, they just live extremely healthy lifestyles and that, combined with genetics, has given them the bodies they have now. 

So what exactly are the points I wanted to get across with this post? 

1) These "Real Women Have Curves" campaigns may have the right intentions (to let curvy women know they are beautiful), but they are also making all skinny girls look unattractive and unhealthy. There are plenty of thin women out there who are healthy, like my two friends I just mentioned. Which brings me to my next point-

2) All we are focusing on is outside beauty. What we need to be focusing on is HEALTH. I hope I can say this in a way that doesn't offend anyone, because that is not my intention. I believe that every single woman in the world is beautiful just the way she is, tall or short, skinny or curvy. But just because a woman is beautiful on the outside does not mean we can just disregard her health. We've covered this pretty well with anti-thigh gap campaigns, saying clearly that things like starving yourself to be thin or developing eating disorders just to 'look pretty' are not ok. I think it's easier for us to say that anorexia is a much worse problem than obesity, and maybe that's just because the average size of a US woman is large, not skinny. Maybe it's because seeing someone's bones right now is scarier than the idea of seeing them suffer a heart attack twenty years from now. They are both very serious conditions. However, a girl with anorexia is still a beautiful girl, she just has a problem and needs some serious help. The problem now lies on the other end of the spectrum: a woman who is plus-sized and curvy is still very beautiful, but being overweight can cause serious health problems now and in the future. I'm not saying all curvy women are overweight, but if they are, it is something else they should be understanding on top of knowing they are beautiful. 

I am definitely not a "skinny" girl. My abs are a little too shy to come out in public, if you know what I mean. I could stand to eat a few less sweets and be a little more active, but I am a healthy weight and so I am comfortable with my body as a whole. I eat healthy overall and exercise regularly, so why should I be ashamed of my body? Sure, I struggle with my self-image sometimes, but who doesn't? My point is that if you are healthy, you shouldn't feel like you should have to change anything about yourself. 

Tall or short, skinny or curvy, anorexic or overweight, every woman is beautiful. No woman should ever feel physically ugly, for any reason. That doesn't mean, however, that we shouldn't take into account our health. It's ok to change yourself if you're changing for the better.




Sunday, June 22, 2014

Catching Up

Wow, I haven't written forever. I'd like to say it's because I've been so busy traveling the world or volunteering 40 hours a week, or doing something else of the utmost importance. But really, it's because I've been kinda lazy. I (finally) finished winter semester at BYU, so I am officially on summer break! Which is awesome. The first month was just chilling by myself at home (since none of my friends were done with school yet) and re-reading Harry Potter (I'm halfway through the seventh book), and just a week ago I started my job as a nanny for two adorable and wonderful children. Now I wake up at 5:30 am Monday through Thursday and spend nine hours trying to entertain a couple of kids. Pretty tiring. But I'm free in the evenings and I get a three-day weekend, so it's a pretty sweet deal.

Oh, and a month ago we GOT A PUPPY! His name is Solo and he is a Great Pyrenees/Golden Retriever mix.

We got him because about a month before that our Golden Retriever Obie passed away. I can't really express how sad I was without sounding cliche and cheesy, but Obie was just about the best dog you could come across. He was smart and handsome and well-trained and cared about us even more than we cared about him, if that was possible. Writing this is already making me sad, so I'm not going to talk too much longer about it. Anyone who needed to know what a incredible dog he was already knows. And if anyone wants to know, just ask me. Obie truly was more than just a dog. He was a part of our family.


 


 One of the things I am working every hard on in my life is the ability to move on, so that's what I'm going to do. Losing Obie was terrible, but gaining Solo has been wonderful.




These photos were taken a month ago, and since then he has more than doubled in size. He no longer has those sad puppy eyes, but rather a toddler's mischievous look permanently on his face. He is crazy and chews on everything, but we love him so much. It has been so much fun (along with the hard work) to raise him. I'm enjoying every minute I have with this precious gem.

As for big news, that's about it. I am absolutely loving being home with my family and friends again, and I can't wait to see what the rest of the summer holds for me.


Sunday, May 4, 2014

The Single Life

I am becoming more and more obsessed with SoulPancake...I have just spent the last two hours watching video after video, and it's been a pretty hefty debate to figure out which one I wanted to share today. 

But, being very single and sometimes getting a little discouraged about it as I get older, I figured this was a good one to post.


I liked it. A lot. I liked how there are a lot more people out there looking for the same things in relationships. Sort of gives me faith in humanity. And I liked how it pointed out how important it is to take risks, even in relationships. I have a crippling fear of failing/being rejected/being painfully embarrassed, and this is no less true when it comes to anything to do with relationships. This past semester I met a guy at college and over the course of a few weeks I had developed a huge crush on him. But he was handsome, smart, athletic, stylish, kind, funny, the whole shebang, and I thought he was out of my league. I was too nervous to ever even indicate to him that I was interested because I was sure there was no way on earth he would ever be interested in me. At the end of the semester I passed him on campus once, and saw that he was holding hands with another girl. I'm happy for him of course, but as I look back I have realized that he made several indications to me that he could have been interested, I was just too afraid to see them. I'm not saying that if I had asked him out we would have started dating and eventually gotten married, I just want to point out that something could have happened. I was the only one who got in the way. From now on I'm going to try my best to be confident in myself, and not worry so much about possible failures. You never know what's going to happen in life, or what's going to not happen because of your choices. 




Monday, April 28, 2014

Compliments

Man, sorry I haven't posted in so long! I mean, it's not like anyone has noticed, but I still feel like I should apologize. Finals week, unpacking a million boxes from college, and searching for a job has kept me pretty busy. But things are settling down a bit now, so hopefully I'll be able to write more often.

I was watching SoulPancake on Youtube (again) and I found a new video that repeated a valuable lesson we all know, but probably need to be reminded about. Complimenting those we love.



I know telling someone you appreciate them can be hard sometimes, even awkward. Believe me, I have never been the "touchy-feeling, compliment-giving" kind of person before. But whenever I express to someone how much they mean to me, it's never as uncomfortable as I think it's going to be, I feel great afterwards, and I notice my relationship with that person it strengthened so much. 

So next time you go out to lunch with your best friend, get ice cream with your sister, or say goodnight to your parents, just tell them thanks for everything they've done for you. It will mean a lot to you both. 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Beautiful For Me

Girls and women in society today are constantly given reasons to be uncomfortable with themselves. It is disgusting and sad, but it's just the way life is right now. 

We are surrounded with images of "flawless" women. Tall, flat stomachs, about 3% body fat- you know what I'm talking about. 

(Quick side note: I'm not saying women with nice bodies aren't real- there are a lot of people with incredible dedication to fitness and healthy living who have great bodies out there. Women who are living a very healthy lifestyle should be praised for their commitment to themselves. Eating disorders can result in "nice looking" bodies, but lead to terrible results. That, however, is another topic entirely that I will focus on another time.)

The thing that is so misleading about these magazine cover models is that absolute flawlessness of them. Sure, some people really are a size 2, but no one has perfectly shaped legs, tanned and glistening all the time, with zero sign of cellulite. And some women really are lucky enough to not struggle with acne, but no one has not a single blemish or wrinkle or smudge of uneven skin tone on their face. 

I understand that companies are trying to sell things, and this is how they're going to get the best sales. If I see a gorgeous woman wearing a certain dress, I automatically think that I am going to look like her if I wear that dress. I mean, it's a great marketing strategy.

The problem, however, is that these strategies are given women an unrealistic idea of what beauty is. Here's the scenario: A woman looks at the cover of a magazine and sees a flawless, Photoshopped model wearing a bikini. That woman can buy that exact same bikini, she can do her makeup the same way the model did, she can even cut and dye her hair to look like the model. She can work out and eat less to get a thinner body, she can get a tan, she can get her teeth whitened, and paint her nails, all just like the model. But she is NEVER going to look exactly like that model. Why? Besides the fact that she's a different person, the model she saw on the magazine cover is not a real person. Sure, the original picture they took was, but the process that happens after that photograph is incredible. I've taken a photography class, and my professor showed us just a glimpse of what photoshop can do, and I was shocked at how easy it is to change so much about someone. This actually happens.

Here's that popular Dove video you've probably seen already. But the message is just as strong.

Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iYhCn0jf46U


So what do we do about it? I don't want to you sit here and feel like you have to start a movement (but if you want to, go for it). That wasn't my goal today. The point I wanted to get across is that you are beautiful, just the way you are. I know that is really hard to believe sometimes. I struggle with my body image every single day. But please know that God made you exactly how He wanted to. He doesn't make mistakes. And He know that you are more beautiful than you can ever imagine. 

There's a song I really like that emphasizes this message really well. It's called "Beautiful for Me" by Nichole Nordeman. This video has some Veggie Tales mixed in, but that's the only good one I could find because it was sung on one of their shows. Either way, listen closely to the lyrics. It is my go-to song whenever I feel down about myself. 


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=orc4TuIO56s


And because the lyrics are so wonderful, here they are:

Every girl young and old has to face her own reflection
Twirl around, stare it down
What’s the mirror gonna say
With some luck, you’ll measure up
But you might not hold a candle to the rest
“Is that your best?” says the mirror to Little Miss
But there’s a whisper in the noise
Can you hear a little voice
and He says

Has anybody told you you’re beautiful?
You might agree if you could see what I see
Oh
‘Cuz everything about you is incredible
You should have seen me smile the day that I made you beautiful for me

If it’s true beauty lies in the eye of the beholder
I want my life and what’s inside to give Him something to behold
I want a heart that’s captivating
I wanna hear my Father saying...

Has anybody told you you’re beautiful?
You might agree if you could see what I see
Oh
‘Cuz everything about you is incredible
You should have seen me smile the day that I made you beautiful for me
Close your eyes
Look inside
Let me see the you that you’ve been trying to hide
Long ago, I made you so very beautiful
So I ought to know you’re beautiful

Has anybody told you you’re beautiful?
You might agree if you could see what I see
Yeah
‘Cuz everything about you is incredible
You should have seen me smile the day that I made you beautiful
You’re so beautiful
Beautiful for me
So beautiful for me
Has anybody told you?




(Mercy River does a really great cover of this song as well.)

This is a topic that is very important to me, so I hope you can all keep it in your mind. You are incredibly and infinitely beautiful. I don't really know how else to say it. Please remember that. 


Monday, April 7, 2014

General Conference

This past weekend was one of my favorite weekends of the whole year- General Conference!

Twice a year, in April and October, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints holds a conference where members of the church gather for several two-hours sessions to hear inspiration and instruction from the leaders of the church. Members and nonmembers alike are welcome to come to the conference center in Salt Lake City, UT to view the conference live if they have tickets, which are free but must be requested because so many people want to go. General Conference is also broadcasted on several TV and radio stations, and all the messages are available online afterwards.

Learn more about general conference here.

Even if you are not a member of the church, these messages are very beautiful and I can guarantee they will inspire you to be a better person. The men and women that speak are kind, honest, spiritual, and have wonderful integrity. They care very much about their topics and the people they are speaking to, and you will be able to tell that if you watch them. 

To view this past weekend's messages, click here

All of the messages were wonderful. If you are wondering which talks to listen to, some of my favorite speakers are Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, President Thomas S. Monson, President Henry B. Eyring, and President Dieter F. Uchtdorf. Other talks that really stood out to me were by Linda S. Reeves, Elder Richard G. Scott, Elder Claudio D. Zivic, Elder Boyd K. Packer, and Elder Neil L. Anderson. But again, all were amazing.

To learn more about today's prophets and apostles, click here.

There is a reason Mormons get so excited for General Conference. It really is wonderful. I promise that if you sincerely listen to the messages and ponder them, you will get a lot out of these words, whether you are a member or not. 

However, if you want to learn more about the LDS church, click here.

Or here.
Or here.

Or see my personal Mormon.org profile here.





Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Fault In Our Stars

So a movie is coming out. In June. And I cannot tell you how excited I am.

The movie is "The Fault in Our Stars". 

If you haven't read it, please do so. Immediately.

But come prepared with tissues and chocolate because you are going to bawl your eyes out at one point or another. I was depressed for a week afterwards. But a good kind of depressed. A "reflecting on how good my life is" kind of depressed. How lucky I am to be healthy and happy. It definitely made me look at myself and the world differently. To enjoy every moment because you never know when that moment is going to end. 






TFIOS also comes with some brilliant writing. Some of my favorite quotes:



“As he read, I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once.”

“My thoughts are stars I cannot fathom into constellations.” 

“I'm in love with you," he said quietly.
"Augustus," I said.
"I am," he said. He was staring at me, and I could see the corners of his eyes crinkling. "I'm in love with you, and I'm not in the business of denying myself the simple pleasure of saying true things. I'm in love with you, and I know that love is just a shout into the void, and that oblivion is inevitable, and that we're all doomed and that there will come a day when all our labor has been returned to dust, and I know the sun will swallow the only earth we'll ever have, and I am in love with you.” 

“There are infinite numbers between 0 and 1. There's .1 and .12 and .112 and an infinite collection of others. Of course, there is a bigger infinite set of numbers between 0 and 2, or between 0 and a million. Some infinities are bigger than other infinities. A writer we used to like taught us that. There are days, many of them, when I resent the size of my unbounded set. I want more numbers than I'm likely to get, and God, I want more numbers for Augustus Waters than he got. But, Gus, my love, I cannot tell you how thankful I am for our little infinity. I wouldn't trade it for the world. You gave me a forever within the numbered days, and I'm grateful.” 

“Some people don't understand the promises they're making when they make them," I said.

"Right, of course. But you keep the promise anyway. That's what love is. Love is keeping the promise anyway.” 

“You realize that trying to keep your distance from me will not lessen my affection for you. All efforts to save me from you will fail.” 

“But I believe in true love, you know? I don't believe that everybody gets to keep their eyes or not get sick or whatever, but everybody should have true love, and it should last at least as long as your life does.” 




So anyway, you should definitely read this book. 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Fear

This is a big topic. Like, way bigger than I could ever cover in my lifetime probably. But I want to talk about it a little bit today.

So I am constantly becoming more obsessed with SoulPancake and their Youtube videos. One I watched recently is called "What is Your Biggest Mistake?"

Video: www.youtube.com/soulpancake


What does this have to do with fear, you are wondering? Well, there are a lot of mistakes people talk about, but the one I noticed the most was when multiple people said their biggest mistake was being afraid of making mistakes.

Man, I agree. One of my biggest fears in the entire world is failing. I hate doing something wrong, and that has stopped me from trying a lot of really cool things that I'm sure would have really helped me grow.

It is a big reason for why it can be really hard for me to make friends. It's the reason I am not outgoing, that it takes me such a long time to feel comfortable around people and feel like I can be myself. I am so afraid that I'm going to say or do something stupid, and that people are going to judge me for that. And what I need to learn is yeah, some people are going to judge me if I mess up. But the people I want to be around, that people that I am going to develop friendships with and the people who I am actually going to care about in five or ten years won't. They might think, "Oh, that's a strange thing to say" or even "Hmm. She's kind of awkward." (I really am, around strangers. I wish I could apologize ahead of time to people I am going to meet.) But if they're the kind of person I want to be friends with, they will still take the time to get to know me and realize I'm not always as awkward as I seem immediately. If someone won't do that, why would you ever want them in your life?

Fear has affected me with more than friendships too, but I'll save those for another time. The main point I want to get across is this:

Don't let fear control you. Fear only has as much power over your actions as you let it. Fear will knock on your door, and you're going to hear it, you're going to feel it, and you're going to know it's there. But only you can choose to let it in, sit down on the couch, and pick which TV channel to watch.



Sunday, March 16, 2014

Faith in God

So I love church. A lot. It makes my day so, so wonderful, and it is the best end to my week behind me and start to the week I have ahead.

This week in Relief Society we talked about faith and repentance, but we spent most of the lesson on faith. Faith is a really great topic because it is one of those very basic principles we talk about a lot, but it is something you are constantly working on and constantly striving to be better at. So I love lessons on it, because they just give me a great reminder to be faithful and to strive to do my best.

"Teachings of Presidents of the Church- Joseph Fielding Smith" has a really great lesson on faith and repentance in chapter 5. He says a lot of good things:

 Let it be uppermost in your minds, now and at all times, that Jesus is theChrist, the Son of the living 
God, who came into the world to lay down his life that we might live. That is the truth, and is 
fundamental. Upon that our faith is built. It can not be destroyed. We must adhere to this teaching in 
spite of the teachings of the world, and the notions of men; for this is paramount, this is essential to   our salvation. The Lord redeemed us with his blood, he gave us salvation, provided—and there is this condition which we must not forget—that we will keep his commandments, and always remember him. If we will do that then we shall be 
saved, while the ideas and the foolishness of men, shall perish from the earth.9 

I love how bold and solid this statement is. If we are faithful, we will be saved. It really is that simple, but we have to remember that being faithful is not just a declaration, it is an action. We cannot just say we believe and that's that. To truly be faithful, we have to show that faith, which involves doing what the Lord commands of us. That might require us to get out of our comfort zone, to give up things we really enjoy, and to make other sacrifices, but how can you say you love and believe in God if you won't trust Him? It's not always easy, but it will get better as your faith grows and you trust in God increases.

“Faith without works is dead” [James 2:26]—in other words, it does not exist. think James’ meaning clearly is, “You show me your faith without  your works, and nothing will result; but will show you my faith with my works, and something will be  accomplished.” [See James 2:18.] Faith means action. … Faith, therefore, is stronger than belief. …
  Faith is gift of God. Every good thing is gift of God. That is teaching of the scriptures as found in the 11th chapter of Hebrews—which chapter is very fine dissertation on faith—[and] in the revelations the Lord has given us in the Doctrine and Covenantsand in other scriptures.  Faith cannot be obtained by inaction or through indifference or passive belief.The mere desire to  obtain faith will not bring faith any more than the desire to be skilled in music or painting will bring  proficiency in these things without intelligent action. There is where our trouble comes. We get a  testimony of the Gospel, we believe in Joseph Smithwe believe inJesus Christ, we believe in the  principles of the Gospel, but how hard are we working at them?

Just something to keep in mind.