Body Positive… Big Girls Can Wear a Bikini

“Bikinis don’t look good on bigger girls,” is the statement she’s addressing here, and her response is perfect: “I’m going to have to disagree,” Lane notes.

Loey Lane has become one of the most influential plus size fashion vloggers on YouTube in the past two years. And there’s no doubt that Loey Lane swimsuit videos are among some of her most popular uploads via her channel, which — ICYMI — has 359,000+ subscribers to date.

Lane’s fashion and beauty repertoire on YouTube is quite extensive as she covers everything from skincare to makeup to shopping to fashion to, of course, outfit posts. Weaved within her videos is a body positive theme that’s hard to deny. Though the comment section on many of her videos is often littered with haters and people who try to discourage her outlook on her own body image, there is also a ton of solidarity — making it obvious that viewers the world over have found her encouraging viewpoints on being a curvier, fuller-figured woman enlightening.

Last month, Lane shared a video to address some of the grief she had been receiving for wearing swimsuits in photographs and videos. The four and a half minute reaction, entitled “Why Fat Girls Shouldn’t Wear Bikinis,” has come to media attention this week, leading to her thoughts on the so-called reasons that plus size women shouldn’t wear bikinis garnering over one million views.

Here are just seven body positive points Loey Lane makes in the video, all while wearing a killer bikini.

1. No one human or entity can decide what’s attractive or what’s not.

loey lane

“Bikinis don’t look good on bigger girls,” is the statement she’s addressing here, and her response is perfect: “I’m going to have to disagree,” Lane notes.

She pokes fun at the fact that some people act like the general consensus from YouTube commenters is the “be all and end all” when it comes to a fashion verdict. But trolls’ words mean nothing, and they just never will.

2. No one can dictate what you put on your body

loey lane

Even though the thought of seeing a bikini on a plus size woman might still make someone bigoted individuals uncomfortable, it doesn’t mean you have to live by their standards. Basically, Loey Lane reiterates that what you want to wear and what you feel comfortable in are no one’s choice but yours.

Lane also makes the point that most of the time, thinner women are never asked to not wear a bikini or revealing clothes, even if some people’s aesthetic preferences lean towards fuller figures. So why should plus women be treated any differently?

3. Wearing a bikini as a larger woman is not an effort to make people believe they should be bigger, too.

loey lane

I love how Loey Lane puts this into perspective. In her video, she notes that it’s not like she’s laying out on the beach stuffing her face with junk food as a way of “promoting obesity,” (although it’d be her choice and her choice only to do so), as some critics suggest she and other plus women wearing a bikini are doing.

It’s as simple as this: Plus size women are only promoting self confidence regardless of size. That’s it.

4. Plus-size women are often misunderstood when they do “healthy” things.

Lane makes an excellent point here by reenacting a hypothetical scene of her with a bowl of fruit. A voice says in the background, “Look at her trying to pretend to be healthy. Go get on a treadmill.”

Plus women are criticized when they don’t “embrace a healthy lifestyle,” (“healthy” as defined by the mainstream, because there are many different ways of being/looking heathy, of course), but then they are equally criticized all the same when they share gym selfies or pictures of a banana. This type of standard is absurd and unnecessarily cruel.

5. Plus-size women in bikinis are NOT asking for your feedback.

loey lane

Lane also addresses the idiocy behind the comment that “if a plus size woman wears anything revealing, she’s just asking for someone to shame her.”

Here’s the thing: Most people don’t actually want Internet trolls or IRL bullies to say negative things about them. And the way women dress is by no means an open call for others to vocalize their opinions. Loey Lane basically says that if you don’t have anything good to say, why say it at all?

WHY Do You Weigh Yourself?

Yesterday as I was leaving my gym, I noticed a young woman 20-ish, standing naked on the scale in the locker room.  I also noticed standing near her was another naked woman who was probably her grandmother, waiting for her turn to weigh in.  This caught my attention because I thought to myself why do we weigh ourselves?

Now a lot of  you are thinking,  “Gina done lost her mind! Duh!”   But hang with me here, because you all know that I look at things from a different angle, and generate new perspectives that I share with you.     The important thing, as I am prone to do with EVERYTHING  is to ask the question WHY.    Since I was a kid, that question is so prevalent in my life that I should be known as a whyman, instead of a woman. ( Ok, you know I always sneak in a weird pun.  Let’s hope that’s the only one today.)

Today I want to  invite you to explore the WHY to this question so that you have a vehicle to become more conscious of the many things we all do unconsciously and to break away from the herd and THINK FOR YOURSELF.  This way of thinking is like a muscle, and the more you use it, the stronger it gets.

Ok, so seriously, why do we weigh ourselves? What real purpose does it serve? What does that number on the scale have to do with anything important or relevant in our lives? I’m speaking here of a healthy person, just as a disclaimer. I know that there are some perhaps medical conditions where weight is a determinant or a marker of something, or professional fighters weight themselves for fairness in  the ring,  but I’m speaking just of the average person and particularly women.  What’s the first thought that came to your mind in answer to that question?  Did your brain go all fuzzy with, “hmmm, to find out what I weigh?”  Think again…

That number on the scale has absolutely no meaning other than its purpose to frustrate and lower the self-esteem of almost every woman who steps onto one.    Once you get that number, you IMMEDIATELY (talk about instant non gratification)  feel that there’s something wrong with you. The number is wrong and you need to change it, even if it’s only a couple of pounds.   Which then leads to your endless googling and obsessing about the ultimate weight-loss products, or deciding to go on a diet.   That number leads to comparison of what other people weigh, like that woman you saw in the magazine (which one, so many!) that made you hate your thighs even more than you already do, or your facial lines, or your eyebrows,or your butt, or your…..fill in the blank.

THAT FREAKIN’ NUMBER is a trigger, a catalyst that’s damned near Pavlovian to make you feel bad about you! Pretty soon all you have to do is SEE a scale and you’re terrified.  All those bad feeling start a rush of chemicals in your body, aka hormones, that make you feel like crap about yourself and soon you’re depressed.    In fact, most women will tell you that just the sight of a scale provokes anxiety.   I saw a statistic that said most women weight themselves an average of twice a week, or 104 times a year!   Think about the repetition of an act that makes you feel bad about yourself that many times in a year and the effect that has on your psyche.   That irrelevant number on the scale leads to depression and the sense of inferiority for almost every woman.  Tragically, even anorexics experience exactly the same thing because the number is never small enough.

Realizing they’re not  their “ideal” weight, some women eat their feelings, so  may end up self-soothing with food, and voila, when you step on the scale, guess what??  That sneaky number is bigger.  So you’re now more depressed, and you end up on an anti-depressant, which can make you eat more, eat less, feel suicidal, lose your sex drive, and affect your hormones.  Do you see the vicious cycle that develops just from stepping onto a scale?? Do you see the path of disempowerment that can be triggered by this practice of weighing ourselves?  To some of you it may seem I’m exaggerating, but for many this is truth.

You might argue that someone who is chronically overweight and on a program to lose weight would be inspired by the number coming down, and while that is true to some degree, it is also setting them up to define their successes by THAT NUMBER, rather than celebrating their discipline, commitment and choices, and the obvious visual that they’re shrinking.

Is that number a goal, a target, a golden ticket?  Is it like winning the lottery?  And what is the RIGHT number?  There is no right number on a scale.  It’s an insidious tool to keep you in the marketplace of all the consumerism revolving around deflating and destroying women’s bodies and beauty — and ultimately our power.  The right number comes from you living a healthy, balanced life; body, mind and spirit.  Our mindset is to reward ourselves for a number goal, rather than the goal of living in integrity with our authentic selves.  I wrote a blog post a while back called “Joy, the Key To Weight Loss” (in the archives), and in it I talk about the idea that when we are content inside, we are content outside, and our weight arrives at our most healthy, natural number.

So you see the scale is actually a tool that undermines your self-esteem, your self-worth and a healthy sense of your body.  What if instead of stepping on the scale you simply paid attention to how you feel, to the way your clothes fit? What if you ate a healthy diet and allowed your body to take the shape that it naturally wants to inhabit?  What if you exercised regularly, were emotionally healthy, self-loving and had a strong and comfortable connection to your sexuality?What if you became guided by what you felt on the inside, instead of by the number reflected on the outside? A number, by the way,  chosen by an industry focused on taking your money and your self-worth.    As it’s used by most women, that scale is a weapon of self-destruction

What if you decided to never ever set foot on a scale again to find out what that number is? What if you decided right now to chuck the one you may own?

Because I do share personally, I can tell you that I have truly lived this way. I’ve never personally owned a scale, nor will I.  Like any woman, my weight has fluctuated throughout my life, and I’ve had a  child, so weight gain was part of that experience obviously.   I know personally that when I’ve been unhappy or in self-betrayal, my weight has increased or decreased from what was MY HEALTHY.  My feelings and how my clothes fit were my clues that I needed to make changes in my life.  I wasn’t striving to arrive at a number on a scale, but to arrive at a place of equanimity and joy within me.  And only I know where that place lives inside me.  That place determines my weight, but the number has been unknown to me for years.

Yes, of course I’ve weighed myself at times, but it’s how I know NOT TO.  I’ve been just as affected by seeing a number not aligned with the “ideal.”  I live in the same world with all my sisters and I’m not immune to the subliminal and overt mental manipulations all around me.  I CHOOSE to unplug from them and listen to the voice within me.  She is my compass, my wise woman, and the keeper of my health; body, mind and soul.    In my opinion, our mental health, aka our belief system, is more of a determinant in our self-esteem and physical health  than almost anything else we do.   When you pay attention from the inside, life changes radically.

So I ask you again: why do you weigh yourself?

I’m now asking  you personally as you read this to stop and to answer what may seem like the most mundane and simple question, but to answer it for YOU personally. Answer it with the ideas in mind which I’ve shared with you in this post.  This will give you a window into your own feelings which may be unconscious about your body and your relationship to it.   And I truly hope it inspires you to become a WHYman about EVERYTHING.  (sorry, there it is again.)

If you enjoyed this post, please share it with someone you care about,  Especially the women in your lives.   And that goes for you guys reading this, too.  I hope that for the guys who read my posts, that doors and windows open in your mind to generate a better understanding of some of the challenges women face in the struggle to feel good about themselves.

And ladies, if you’d like some help in learning how to chuck the scale and to love yourself from the inside out, my NATURAL BEAUTY AND TRANSFORMATIONAL LIFE COACHING is an aspect of what I do that I LOVE and am passionate about.  Explore the page to learn more and to watch my video.

And remember to share this post with those you feel would appreciate the message.  And I invite you to weigh in here with me (got one last one in!) and leave a comment below.  I’d love to know your thoughts and have you share your feelings.  I’m deeply passionate about helping you shine your light and your beauty as fully and brightly as you can.

With wild, fierce love and gratitude,

Gina Cloud

How Burlesque Let Me Claim My Body Image

Here’s how I became more comfortable with my clothes off.

I got made fun of for my body as a teen, just like everyone else. I was tall and gangly. Super awkward and never comfortable in my own skin. I was ashamed of my small breasts, of my crooked legs. Even at home, I hated looking in the mirror. I just felt so ugly, so unappealing to the eye.

While in college, I began working in the New York City comedy scene. I was super self-conscious in that community, and I never felt comfortable. It seemed like everyone was more successful and confident than I was. But one day, while working as a production assistant on a show in Brooklyn, I saw my very first burlesque act. Immediately, I was hooked.

The dancer was incredible. Her act was unlike anything I would have imagined burlesque to be. It was performance art, stripping down to nothing and writing on her body in lipstick. It was empowering to watch. I approached her after the show, as I quickly became mesmerized by her craft. I asked her about her start in burlesque, how to take classes and get involved in the scene. I told her I wanted to become more comfortable in my body.

However, she told me that to do burlesque, you need to be comfortable in your body already.

The act of asking her these questions and the idea that I could do this made me think that maybe I am becoming more comfortable with my body already. Maybe I just wanted to be confident in general. She told me they were both important.

I took her card. Immediately I went home and looked up the class schedule for the New York School of Burlesque. In that one night, I completely forgot about my dreams in the comedy world and instead focused my attention on taking my clothes off.

Burlesque dancer

My first course was pretty much the basics of burlesque. Fan dancing, stocking peels, bump and grind, all of the essentials. At the end of it, I had put together my first act, a piece to a Gilda Radner song. My burlesque sister, who began classes at the same time as me, helped me choreograph it. My training in comedy came in handy, as it ended up being a highly comedic dance involving finger puppets.

Around the same time I was taking classes, I became involved with a “Rocky Horror Picture Show” shadowcast. I was cast as Janet, a character who spends a good two-thirds of the show in her underwear. Playing her week after week eventually got me completely desensitized to the idea of stripping in front of people, and at one point I realized I’m actually more comfortable onstage the less clothing I was wearing.

I had my first burlesque student showcase a few months after that. I did the Gilda number, and it was a big hit. My first time taking my top off onstage was a thrill I’ll never forget. My fellow performers and audience members were incredibly supportive, and the praise and applause I received was unlike any other response that I had ever gotten in my years of doing theatre and comedy. I fell in love.

I found that I could be funny and sexy at the same time.

After that show I began touring all around New York. I did shows at some of the most well-known burlesque theatres. At the same time, I was doing Rocky more and more, spending most of my weekends wearing little to no clothing. I was so fulfilled.

Finally I could say I was proud of my body. Finally I could be proud of my height and ganglyness. People loved me for me, and that was more I could say about any other scene I’ve been a part of. I was allowed freedom in creating my acts. I found that I could be funny and sexy at the same time. And that was what I wanted to be. Personable, entertaining, and easy to look at.

Since moving to New England, I haven’t been doing burlesque as much anymore. I’ve been focusing most of my time on Rocky and writing, but I hope to take those stripper heels and finger puppets out again one day.

For the very first time, I was unashamedly me onstage, and it was a thrill that couldn’t be replaced by any other type of performing. Every performance just proves to me more and more that I am not some scrawny, awkward teenager anymore. At least not onstage.

The Best Lingerie for Hard to Find Sizes Just in Time for Valentine’s Day

If you’re anything like me, finding lingerie that fits can be hard.

I am a plus-sized woman with small breasts. I have larger hips and broad shoulders, but am narrower in between there. Finding lingerie can often be a nightmare. I’m sure many of you can relate.

Two years ago, I had the opportunity to meet plus-size model Ashley Graham through a work event. I immediately felt the need to approach her and tell her thank you—thank you for being a role model, for showing me that it’s so important to feel comfortable in your own skin. She told me that having confidence comes from within, then she told me I was gorgeous. I’ll never forget that brief meeting and very time I see Ashley modeling lingerie, I remember I can do that too if I really wanted to!

If your wish is to look extra sexy this Valentine’s Day, here are six different body types and some recommendation pieces of lingerie for those hard to find sizes.

1. For plus-sized women with smaller breasts.

I recommend Torrid for plus-size lingerie for women with smaller breasts who may still have larger band sizes. This gorgeous red and white bra and panty set perfect for Valentine’s Day goes up to size 44B. If a seriously sexy black is more your style, you’ll want to try this set that also goes to 44B.

2. For curvy women with large breasts.

Valentine's Day Lingerie for curvy women

Curvy women with larger breasts who want something on trend and provocative enough for Valentine’s Day, Lane Bryant is a wonderful option. This provocative strapless number was such a best-seller it’s only available in a size 40G—perfect for curvier ladies. If your wish is for something a little more unexpected, this fishnet lace high-neck French balconette bra is a great choice.

3. For ladies with small busts.

Small busts have just as much problems as larger ones trying to find the perfect piece of lingerie for a special night like Valentine’s Day. Luckily, sites like Agent Provocateur carry plenty of sizes for our smaller breasted brethren. There’s even a gorgeous Valentine’s Day collection!

4. For long and lean ladies.

I’ve always adored Aerie and their cute choices for undergarments. If you’re planning on a low-key Valentine’s Day give one of their pieces a try. This day to play plunge push-up comes in a provocative black and this padded plunge bralette is a casual way to take Valentine’s Day off and enjoy it in bed with your partner.

5. For short and curvy girls.

Valentine's day lingerie

The tried and true Victoria’s Secret has so many choices, many of which short and curvy girls will find a good fit. There’s a sexy floral lace plunge teddy perfect for Valentine’s evening that comes in five different colors. There’s also a simple and sweet satin and lace slip that’s a sure bet for a fun Valentine’s Day (or any day for that matter!).

6. For larger-hipped ladies.

Hips & Curves has sizes from large all the way to 6x. Larger hips are accommodated with absolutely stunning lingerie like this Mon Amour Charmeuse Corset. Flatter hips with pieces like this tie bust babydoll with rhinestone buckle and marabou.

Shopping for lingerie doesn’t have to be frustrating.

Hard to find sizes don’t have to be hard to find with this list of great places for gorgeous lingerie. Whether you have large breasts or are long and lean, there’s something for everyone.

Make this Valentine’s Day one to remember with spectacular lingerie.

Interested in proposing this Valentine’s Day? Check out our ideas in this piece.

My Journey Toward Loving Myself at Any Weight

The highest weight I’ve ever been is something I never care to revisit—however, I’ve learned to love my body image no matter what the number is on the scale.

I’ve been just over 300 pounds and just under 200 pounds and everything in between. As I’ve journeyed in between those 100 pounds, I’ve learned a lot about myself.

Most importantly, I’ve learned to love myself no matter what the number says on the scale. There are days I struggle (and I mean truly struggle!) with appreciating me for me, but I know as long as I’m healthy that’s all that matters.

Here is just a brief glimpse into my journey with the scale.

I spent my childhood getting stuck in Lane Bryant dresses. In grade school, the boys in my class used to make fun of me that my butt wouldn’t fit on the small, child-sized seats. My seventh grade bathing suit consisted of a leopard print one-piece with a bust minimizer purchased from the Macy’s plus-sized women’s department—not exactly something a 12-year-old would be happy about.

I vividly remember one particularly snowy October my soccer team was losing by one goal. My coach chose to put me in as goalie and the other team’s girls were teasing me relentlessly saying “You’re putting HER in goal?” Thank God that time, my uncoordinated self blocked a kick and we made it downfield to win.

However, there was still high school when I wore size 30 tapered khakis for our school uniform instead of the flared versions most of my friends had. I rocked gold lamé pants and red velvet ones too. Both were from Lane Bryant before they started selling trendier clothes.

My freshman year of college, I decided not to walk about a mile to the grocery store with this guy I had a crush on. Every time we all took a trip to the mall, I longed to try out a Victoria’s Secret bra. Too bad most clothing manufacturers don’t understand that while you may have a large band size, cup size isn’t necessarily always large!

Years later, you know those little pictures that pop up on the side of your Facebook page? I used to hate them. I never used to like those pictures because people would see them and immediately say, “Wow you lost so much weight! How did you do it?”

curvy woman working out

Anyway, the whole weight loss thing started off as sort of an accident then grew to something a little more inspiring. When I started my freshman year of college, I automatically began walking more and the weight began to slowly come off. However, I still prided myself on never setting foot in my university’s fitness center. I was stubborn and always told my friends I was fine with being the biggest among us, or perhaps dating a guy who weighed less than me.

My senior year when the girls I lived with were giving me trouble, I began taking long walks to clear my head. Pounds began shedding a little more easily and I was hooked on the results.

This brings me into all my fat girl neuroses. I had always had a thing about going to gyms. I used to think everyone would be staring at the fat girl walking into the gym, wondering why she was there. That’s why I invested in two DVDs by the great Richard Simmons.

I kept this a secret for many weeks from my friends, but they found out quite easily. Let’s just say being friends with two boys really gives you a thick skin. It became such an ongoing joke that one of them sent me an “I party with Richard Simmons” t-shirt.

All that chorus line kicking and self-loving Richard professed in Sweatin’ to the Oldies did have its advantages though. I got down to a size 20 without even setting foot in my apartment building’s tiny overcrowded gym. This was accompanied with getting off the bus earlier and walking a few extra blocks to work and taking the stairs to my seventh floor apartment.

The other neurosis I had (and still have occasionally) involves going out to eat with friends. I would freak out if one male friend preferred a salad to French fries with his burger and constantly worried I’d be seen as “fry girl”—you know, the stereotypical fat girl munching on fries to no avail.

At one point, I only ate half of a cheeseburger I was so scared I looked bad. Now, I realize how incredibly ridiculous I was and I now know one cupcake here and there won’t hurt.  Sometimes, you just have to give in to your cravings.

Then one night, I did it. I couldn’t believe I worked up the nerve to walk downstairs. My old building had a gym in the basement and I don’t know what possessed me to go downstairs but I did. I sat on the exercise bike and made it all of 20 minutes before stopping. I cranked up my iPod and tried my darnedest not to let even one thought about the other people in the gym get to me.

As much as I wasn’t sure if I wanted to continue, I knew I had to do it. Pretty soon, I was not only walking on the treadmill but navigating the elliptical and Stairmaster too. I moved apartments the following winter and I soon became a regular at my new building’s downstairs fitness center.

curvy woman running

My lunches I packed for work got lighter and I became a fan of things I never in my wildest dreams thought I’d be eating—Greek yogurt, fresh fruit, granola. The crazy thing is, I found that I actually liked those foods. You also won’t believe it but it’s not that hard to not want to go back to greasy foods like pizza (although I definitely splurge a lot of weekends).

The first spring I was at my new building, I began jogging outside. My friends were shocked that I was exerting myself while on display to the thousands of people on my busy street.

You know what’s the crazy part? How all the women’s magazines I’m obsessed with, all the trainers and athletes, they’re all actually right about something—jogging is a huge stress reliever for me. The most I’ve ever jogged at once is about four miles but the decisions I’ve made, anger I’ve lessened and happiness I’ve achieved while pounding the pavement is countless.

I’ve always been a big lover of holidays and celebrations so naturally I had mini-celebrations with myself during all my weight loss milestones. When I lost 50 lbs, I celebrated with a slice of Cheesecake Factory cheesecake. When my size hit the teens, it was a shopping spree at the nearby Gap.

But story didn’t end here either.

Crunch Gym opened up a franchise near my apartment and I became intrigued and instantly had to join.

There was this one class, “The Athlete’s Workout,” that I took one evening. It was a warm and humid day outside and the instructor chose to take the class outdoors. My instinct told me to run far away from the situation but I told myself no.

An hour later, I’d run suicides, did Army crawls and did enough lunges that my legs felt like Jello. With dirt on my cheeks and my messy ponytail becoming undone, I practically skipped the three blocks home.

I remember wishing my grade school and high school teachers could see me now. Decades ago, I was the kid who walked the mile run, or continually moved to the back of the kickball line so I didn’t have to take a turn. Occasionally, I’d hide behind the church convent to avoid running.

Just over 10 years later, I’ve gained back some of the weight I’ve lost. I’m still proud to say I’m 60 pounds lighter than I was in high school. As a freelance writer and piano teacher to 22 kids and two adults and caring for a very needy English bulldog, life is busier than it was when I was working at a newspaper. I still try to get to my apartment’s gym three or four days per week and we have a gorgeous trail right near our apartment that I love to walk and jog on in the spring and summer.

My food choices have their good and bad days, but I know that it’s important that I am healthy. I know my “numbers” as the doctors say, and while I’ll always have to be careful, I know that I am doing okay. I’ll never be a size 2. Honestly, at 5’11” that wouldn’t look all that natural anyway!

My relationship with my weight will always be a struggle. I still think about most food that goes into my mouth and weigh myself often, if only to keep myself in line. It’s absolutely pivotal to remember that I am still the same person inside as I always was, no matter what the scale says. I’m still obsessed with chick lit novels and romantic comedies. I love entertaining friends at my apartment and hosting parties that revolve around the holidays.

I’ve finally realized what’s five or 10 lbs. gained or lost here and there? As long as I am healthy and happy that’s all that matters. Writing about my weight loss so personally for the first time has definitely opened up my eyes to what I’ve accomplished and the fact that I should be excited about what I’ve done. If anything I’ve become so much more active than I was at 16 and 17, even 21. Why hide something that I should be proud of, right? Oh and those gold lamé pants? I can fit my whole self in one pant leg now.

Interested in reading more about self love? Check out this piece from 2016 on how you can achieve self love faster than you think. If you want to join us in more positive and affirming wellness information, join LOVE TV

Working Out Isn’t About Being Skinny — It Should be About Uplifting your Mind and Body

If working out to be thinner or stronger isn’t your jam, try thinking of it as better mental health with a side benefit of increased fitness.

My vision of women in ballet barre classes are tall, lithe, ballerina-like women in expensive ath-leisure. This is not me. I am not tall. I am not skinny. I have never, ever been to a ballet class.

But here I am, in my 50th barre class. I’m addicted.

I hated barre classes

uplifting your mind and body

A few years ago a girlfriend asked me to buy a Groupon for 5 barre classes. I did not care for them. In fact, I may have genuinely hated one of those instructors. But last fall I found myself in a fitness rut. And perhaps in a life rut.

I wanted to avoid sliding from a rut into something resembling depression (it took me years to recognize the need for this, let alone how to put knowledge into action). I knew I needed to shake up my workouts. I also wanted to find something that lifted me up. Something or somewhere that could be my happy place.

Through Class Pass I tried yoga, pilates, aerial acrobatics, and other classes and gyms.

Don’t judge a book by its cover, don’t judge a gym by it’s classes

Wanting to give it an honest try again, I went to three different barre studios. They were vastly different. One made me remember why I had hated the class years ago, another was just too damn hot, and the third wasn’t an immediate love affair but I liked it and kept coming back.

Four months later I encouraged a girlfriend to come with me. It was then that I realized that studio had become a happy place for me. During class, I can’t check my phone and I’m working too hard to stress about life or work. This is me time that I don’t feel guilty about because I’m building a stronger body AND mind. At some point I started to value the classes because I always left feeling better than when I arrived.

I am happier and I am stronger

I have more muscle in my arms (though there’s still an annoying jiggle). My legs are stronger than they used to be. But more importantly, I have added another happy place I can feel grateful for. I take pleasure in making the time to go to the studio twice a week. I am grateful for instructors who uplift, inspire, and encourage me. They push me harder than I will push myself. So I have learned I am stronger than I thought. It’s a wonderful feeling to make this surprise discovery.

Tips to find your workout bliss

love yourself no matter the size

  1. Start close to home

If you can find somewhere that fits into your drive to or from work, it’s easier to make the time. If you work in a business complex, chances are you have a studio nearby that caters to busy professionals like you. Start Googling.

  1. Shop around for the perfect class

Sites like Class Pass, FitReserve, and offer packages to help you explore different classes, gyms, and activities. If you don’t have Class Pass in your area check out the websites of gyms and fitness studios near you. Many offer a free or discounted first class. And don’t forget about the YMCA– it’s affordable and has a surprisingly robust selection of classes.

  1. Be fearless

Everyone in these classes was new once. They are probably concentrating too hard to judge you anyway. You got this! Really!

To learn more about ways you can improve yourself, join LOVE TV today! 

How Goals For My Best Wedding Body Happily Didn’t Go As Planned

I struggled with the pressure of getting in shape with a “bride body” for my wedding, eventually I shifted my focus.

When I first got engaged, I was determined to get in great shape. I was all about “sweating for the wedding” and was ready to “squat before tying the knot.”

I’m already a regular gym-goer, but I thought my wedding was a good excuse to tone up my arms, get some abs, and lose a few pounds. Plus, I really wanted those beautiful, magical, perfect wedding photos where I would look toned, fit, and like I just stepped out of a magical fantasy land of unicorns and glitter.

I mean, that’s “the dream,” right?

But as time passed and I got busy with wedding planning, something weird started happening. I found that lots of people were asking me about whether or not I was doing a new workout regimen before the wedding.

Now, these weren’t friends who I’d talked to about my plan to get in shape. These were mostly acquaintances, distant family members, and Uber drivers. I would mention that I’d just gotten engaged and they’d ask questions like whether I had colors picked out, where we were honeymooning, and if I was on a special diet in preparation for the big day.

Then I started seeing the ads. Pop-ups for weight loss tips showed up on wedding websites and ads to get a “bride body” snuck into my Instagram feed. I suddenly felt a lot of pressure to have a wedding weight loss plan, and that took the fun right out of my goal.

I mean, I’m all for brides supporting brides, sharing tips and comparing notes, but this was different. It seemed like I was expected to lose weight for the wedding, or better yet, like I was expected to want to lose weight.

Then a personal challenge became a personal hell.

bridal body bride body bridal workout

A fun personal challenge to get healthier and score some great pics quickly turned into a stressful situation that made me question my body and even feel a little self-conscious. I was having none of it.

So, I tried to ignore the dieting and weight loss voices in the wedding world for a while and I focused on the aspects of wedding planning that I really liked.

So far, one of my favorite parts of being engaged has been collecting old pictures of my fiancé and I for framed decorations at the wedding. Because my future husband and I have been together for nearly a decade, there’s a lot of photos to go through and it’s been a lot of fun.

I’ll look back and fondly remember that summer I got pink streaks in my hair or laugh at the time I was so sunburnt that my arms were red for a month. I’ll smile when I find pics of my fiancé wearing his old favorite jacket and my heart will melt when I find silly photo booth pictures we took during college. I love seeing us at different points in our lives, literally a snapshot of that time in our relationship.

This made me think of the photos that will be taken at our wedding: capturing our faces as we say our vows during the ceremony and forever immortalizing our awesome dance moves at the reception. Those photos will document us as we are now, on the year we’re getting married. And I really like that.

The more I thought about it, the more I wondered why I even wanted to lose weight for the wedding in the first place. I mean, sure, it’s a big event and I wanted to look good, but I couldn’t help wondering if my size really mattered.

Why do we need to be that skinny?

beautiful bride kissing tenderly handsome man

I’ve seen so many friends get married in the past few years (it’s that time in my mid-twenties where I’m going to weddings every other weekend) and I’ve seen a lot of brides get really thin for their weddings. I want to celebrate women who accomplish their goals, but there’s so much pressure to be skinny that some women I know ended up going on crash diets right before the big day, which isn’t healthy.

Or, even when my friends have lost weight the right way, they ended up getting discouraged when they gained it back. A big part a new regimen is keeping up the lifestyle, and if your goal is to look good for a wedding, when the day is over, it’s easy to go back to old habits.

While seeing a higher number on the scale shouldn’t be that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things, gaining weight back after working really hard at the gym can be really disheartening, and I didn’t want to go through that.

At first, I told myself that I wouldn’t make those mistakes. I’d lose weight the right way, get super healthy, work out every day, and forever look like I just got off the set of a NordicTrack commercial. Hashtag: new marriage, new me.

But honestly… that doesn’t sound like something I’d do. It’s not like I have really unhealthy habits right now that need to be changed. I’m realistic with my lifestyle, I have a good balance when it comes to nutrition and exercise, and I like the way I live.

Of course, I think that brides and grooms should be able to do whatever they need to do in order to feel confident and happy on their wedding. If that includes dropping a few pounds, I say: more power to ya. But there’s so much pressure (especially on brides) to look great on their wedding day and to have those amazing pictures, and I can’t help but think that maybe I didn’t need that.

hipster wedding

For most of those old photos of my fiancé and I, I didn’t try to look extra beautiful and I wasn’t on a special diet. I was just being me, and I think that’s part of why I like them.

Some of my favorite photos are the ones where we’re screaming on a roller coaster or wiping ice cream on each others’ faces. I like the ones where we’re just being us, maybe not even knowing (or caring) that a photo is being taken.

Some of the best pictures are ones where I don’t even look good, maybe it was taken at a weird angle or I’m making a funny face, but it’s a photo of us laughing and having fun, and that’s what makes it special.

And sure, maybe without the awesome workouts and dieting I won’t look truly “perfect” on my wedding day. Maybe I won’t look like I just stepped out of a magical fantasy land with unicorns, but I want to look back on my wedding pictures and see the people my fiancé and I are today. Not perfect, not glamorous, but definitely “us.”

I’ll show off what I have, extra few pounds and all, and be excited to look back on all those imperfect, but wonderful, photos.

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Why You Shouldn’t Let Your Mom’s Body Critiques Bum You Out

Not everyone is lucky to have a family that’s self-affirming in all the ways. Here’s why you should ignore their body image comments, so it doesn’t affect how you feel about yourself.

The insecurity is real. A UK study showed that 91% of women are unhappy with an aspect of their bodies. Things like Instagram, fashion ads, and the overall pervasive idea that the best thing a woman can be is beautiful, doesn’t help. We get enough crap from society about our body image, but what about when the comments come from the people we love most?

I have a mother who loves me and who has my best interest at heart, and I know this. My mom is also African, traditional, and has very clear-cut ideas about what is classically beautiful and what isn’t — and some of the ways I have fallen short of that.

Her intentions are never malicious, just honest. Maybe you too have too-honest folks, or extended family who won’t stop making snide remarks around the Thanksgiving table every year. If you find yourself getting overly frustrated with their tactlessness, here are some things to realize:

Their comments reflect more on their insecurities than yours.

your mother criticizing you is not about you

You could be totally fine with your cellulite, or spindly legs, or toneless arms. But when you have relatives that have similar features, they might not be so lucky. While grappling with their own missing body image, they shoot you down in the process.

I’ll never forget the conversation I had when I first buzzed my head in high school, a beauty decision my mom did not approve of. She said, verbatim, “Only really beautiful women can be beautiful without hair. But for average women like us, our hair is our beauty.”

This wasn’t an insult per se,. but we’d all hope our mothers, if no one else, to find us beautiful. Or at least I did. I was bummed to hear that my mom didn’t see herself as beautiful either, when she had always been beautiful to me.

Sometimes family is a reflection of our biggest worries. If you know you have that one aunt who hates her complexion while you love yours, don’t let her insecurities plant seeds in your head.

The era and place in which they grew up is different from yours

don't let your family criticize the way you look

The ultimate proof of female beauty’s subjectivity is how it changes with every generation. Over the past 100 years in the United States, Americans have gone from praising a thin, boyish figure (1920s), a plump, intensely hourglass figure (1950s) to big boobs, big butts and a thigh gap (now). And that’s only within the the Western world.

If you have family who grew up with a different culture, their views of what’s beautiful may be even more skewed.

In West Africa they like their women with curves. They like their women with ample hips and thighs. Solidly built. Well, that’s not my body at all. I am thin with a narrow figure, and I have almost always been.

A trip to the motherland isn’t complete without the obligatory comments about how I need to gain weight, and that maybe it’ll help mbe get a boyfriend if I eat more.

I’m not saying this to elicit sympathy; in the Western world being thin is a beauty privilege. I don’t have job offers rescinded, or have to worry about finding places that carry my size, or being berated by randoms on the street about my body. But I also believe that if you can’t say something nice about someone’s body image, no matter their size, then you shouldn’t say anything.

Understanding that your family’s beauty standards can differ due generational and cultural gaps is something that can take the sting from comments that make you self- conscious.

Their comments may reflect their own upbringing

your mother criticizing your looks isn't about you

People model their behavior after what they learned early on. The family you were raised with is your introduction to socialization. And unfortunately, not everyone grows up hearing sentiments that are bathed in sweetness.

While my parents are not cruel, they are honest in the only way they know how to be. I don’t fault them for it. But I know that I also have the ability to say, “You can feel however you want about my ____, but I like it just fine.” That shuts unyielding commenters up pretty quickly.

You are the number one person in charge of how you feel about yourself. Just because people love you, doesn’t always mean they know how to show it in soft ways.

For some, honesty is love. If you’re around family members who put you down so much that your mental health plummets, stay as far away from those folks as possible. Family can be toxic, too.

If you liked this article, try reading…: How Burlesque Let Me Claim My Body Image, I’m Embracing Vanity. Here’s Why You Should Too, or WHY Do You Weigh Yourself?

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