Risky Business: Common Pitfalls of High Heel Shoes #HeelFree

“I cannot tell you how bad your feet will get in the future if you don’t bother helping yourself now, and if you’re already in pain and decide not to do anything about it, I guarantee things will only get worse with time. This is not to scare you, but to emphasize how important your feet are and teach you to look at your feet in a different way than you may have before.”

Dr. Sara Johnson, chiropractic physician

Dr. Johnson’s message summarizes much of what I’ve been pondering since my #HeelFree campaign began: the importance of foot care and how seldom we, as a culture, tend to consider it.

The average woman in the U.S. spends around $25,000 on shoes in her lifetime. If she gets bimonthly pedicures, she’ll spend about $1,345 per year on prettying up her toes. Time and money invested in protecting her feet from damage? Not shockingly, I couldn’t find a study on that. I’m guessing very little. Chance she’ll suffer to some degree as a result? Pretty darn high.

Why all of this is the case became pretty obvious as I delved into my personal history and the history of heels overall. In short, we’re all taught that high heels are sexy, attractive and practically essential in certain situations. As a result, we tend to feel more confident wearing them.

Here’s a little secret: Our legs don’t need to be elongated, clenched or upheld at a particular angle to be beautiful and perfect as they are. No “buts” about it. 

No one seems to say that, so I’m not going to stop saying it. (You should’ve seen the clerk’s face at the grocery store just now…)

As I’ve mentioned, my goal is not to shun anyone who wears or makes high heels, but to encourage more women to think about these factors. With knowledge, we can make our own informed decisions. Part of that knowledge is understanding the risks.

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Common Risks of High Heels (2″ or higher)

♦ Your feet contain 25% of your bones. (WOAH, right?) Stress or misalignment of any of these bones or the surrounding tendons, ligaments or muscles can affect the rest of your body.

♦ So it’s no wonder that high heels are the leading cause of foot pain and injury in women.

♦ Because heels change the way you walk, placing added strain on various bones, they commonly cause knee, back and hip pain as well. They may also up your risk for osteoarthritis of the knee—a type more common in women than men.

♦ Over time, high heels can shorten the muscles in your back and calves, causing more pain plus, potentially, stiffness and muscle spasms.

♦ Frequent wearing can shorten your Achilles tendon, which could contribute to tendinitis, shin splints and plantar fasciitis.

♦ Along with pain comes inflammation, the root cause of many diseases. High heels can also make pain and inflammation from other causes throughout your body worse.

♦ Pain and inflammation tend to have emotional consequences, too, so heels can cause heightened stress, anxiety, depressive moods and mental fatigue.

♦ Pressure from high heels on the nerves in your feet can trigger numbness and pain in your toes.

♦ High heel-wearing negatively affects your walk even when you remove them and go barefoot, shows research. This is because of heels shorten leg muscle fibers, increasing strain on your calves.

♦ Up to one-third of high heel wearers suffer permanent residual problems.

♦ Two such problems are bunions and hammertoes, especially if you wear particularly tall or pointy heels or if either condition runs in your family.

♦ One-third of women who wear high heels at least three times per week have reportedly fallen while wearing them—complications of which are on the rise. High heel-related injuries, including broken bones, doubled between 2002 and 2012.

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Image credit: The Washington Post

And yet, almost no one suggests not wearing them.

I find it interesting that virtually no articles on high heel risks suggest giving them up as a viable way to prevent or minimize these problems. Most simply suggest cutting back on how often you wear them and lowering the height—I’m guessing because they realize that for many women, giving them up is simply not perceivable. Or maybe my friend Scott was right: they’re concerned about losing profit. (Heels bring them loads of business.)

No one should tell us what to wear, of course, but shouldn’t they at least mention that bypassing heels is not only an option, but the surest way to prevent high heel side effects? Otherwise, it’s a bit like saying, “It’s okay to wear pants so tight you can barely breathe, just don’t wear them daily” for less abdominal angst, or, “Look both ways when you cross the street, most of the time,” for lower risks of falling or getting hit by a car.

Trust me, I’m glad there’s plenty of information out there for high heel fans to wear them more safely. I just wish women were encouraged to consider comfortable, health-promoting shoes without any sense that doing so might end their world, style- or confidence- wise.

Many women who switch to lower shoes do so because they’ve already experienced problems or can’t wear heels for health reasons. Huge kudos for that. Many women keep on wearing heels anyway. But there’s also this little thing called prevention. I’m a fan.

We really can feel confident without heels. It may take effort for some of us (it has for me), but it’s worthy. There’s serious strength in feeling strong and authentic as we are, no shape/height/weight altering devices required. As a bonus, the less we rely on high heels, the lower our risks become for crippling our feet and bodies over time.

To learn more about high heel risks, click the hyperlinks throughout this post.

More related links:

Standing with Confidence: Body Image, Height and High Heels – a post I wrote for the National Eating Disorders Association

Why I Won’t Wear High Heels Ever Again, via XOXO Jane

Science Weighs in on High Heels, via the New York Times

How to Cultivate “Belly Out” Self-Confidence, on Girl Boner® Radio

Were you aware of these risks? Which have you experienced? If you wear heels, what do you love about them? What are your favorite flats? I love hearing from you! ♥

PS Check out my new #HeelFree Pinterest board for resources and links to gorgeous, comfy heel alternatives. 🙂

Eye Candy and Power Tools? The Sexist History of High Heels

Did you know that privileged men were the first to wear high heels? Way back in the 17th century, heels provided a beneficial lift while riding horses. Gradually, privileged women followed suit, both genders wearing them to convey prestige and power.

This all changed in the next century, when men and women’s dress began to reflect social class and profession.

And here’s the clincher, IMO:

Because men were considered the more intellectual and capable sex, they gave up heels for practical shoes they could do work that smart and powerful folks do (such as business and politics). Women’s perceived inadequacies made walking well less important. To ensure that they stayed as lovely to look at as possible—their main skill set other than childbirth—high heels became more decorative.

Men’s shoes became comfortable, reliable and supportive, while women’s remained decorative, unstable and painful. Because who cares if decorations can walk well or get hurt?

I wish I were kidding. (Learn more herehere, here and here.)

While women have more opportunities, choices and respect nowadays, it’s still complicated…

Stilettos, the most hazardous heels, appeared in the 1950s, when the fashion industry made the wartime pinup-girl look a trend. Women did everything from housecleaning to posing for erotic photos in the steep shoes. Meanwhile, they were seldom allowed positions of power or leadership.

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The heels trend diminished a bunch during the 60s and 70s (I LOVE YOU, HIPPIES!), but not for long.

In the 1980s, as women began readily climbing the corporate ladder, people feared that such work would strip away their desirability—by, you know, doing all that “man stuff.” Particularly tall stilettos were marketed as a solution, a way to stay sexually appealing while moving forward professionally.

skyscraper shoes

By 2000, high heels were called a woman’s “power tools.” Her sex appeal was popularly considered her main source of professional strength, one she could use to manipulate people, giving “working your way to the top” a whole new meaning.

High heels are still associated with prestige and sexiness, regardless of well-known risks they raise for pain, bunions, fractures, bone deterioration and more. Related injuries have nearly doubled in the last decade, which speaks of their popularity and women’s determination to wear and embrace them, but more so of the media and fashion industry’s power of persuasion. (If comfortable, supportive shoes were all the rage, we’d be wearing them by the masses.)

Does any of this make wearing high heels wrong? Or anti-feminist?

Of course not. Feminism is about equality. We should all have the freedom to dress and express ourselves as we choose.

If you feel empowered by high heels and love wearing them, go for it. (If you do, consider these doctor recommended tips.) No one should be shamed for wearing any particular type of apparel.

I think it’s important, however, to put thought into what we find strengthening and why. The more informed we are, the better choices we can make for ourselves. And the better choices we make for ourselves, the better role models we become for others.

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My latest #HeelFree faves. Wearing flatter shoes with a dress felt freeing.

I also feel there’s a fine line between putting a bandaid on insecurity and empowerment. A few months ago, I probably would’ve told you I wore heels at important events because they helped me feel empowered—more capable, attractive and confident. Now I realize they gave me a false sense of security and worked against me in numerous ways, from foot pain and poor body control to a lack of authenticity.

Why did I feel the need to stand taller? To have my calf muscles clenched? To make my legs look any different than they naturally are? (I explored these questions in my first #HeelFree post, available here.) Why do any of us?

In short, because of societal messages. We’re taught that high heels are a near prerequisite to sexiness, confidence and success. They’re considered a way up in the world, literally and figuratively, as they have been since their invention.

But times have changed. We don’t need to rely on our society’s idea of “sexiness” in order to have the careers, respect and lives we desire. I plan to live as long and as happily as possible, and I just don’t think that footwear that causes irreparable damage and makes walking comfortably difficult facilitates that—at least not for me.

I’ve also noticed in my years of work with folks with eating disorders and related issues that poor body image often goes hand-in-hand with high-heel wearing; it’s another common means of changing our outsides to aid inner wounds. But again, that’s a bandaid, not a solution.

If you can relate, I hope you’ll prioritize greater self-love and acceptance—regardless of your shoe choices. If there are any “power tools” worth having, it’s these.

If we wish to change the harsh pressures placed on women to appear a certain shape, size and height, we have to start with ourselves—by not holding ourselves up to those standards and by valuing what matters most. Whether you’re joining me in going #HeelFree or not, I hope you’ll consider taking whatever positive steps you can.

If you’re obsessive passionate like me, you’ll blab about it in the process. 😉 If not, you can still help better the world.

As a reminder, I’m posting #HeelFree photos and links on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Feel free to join the conversation!

What surprised you about high heels’ history? If you wear them regularly, how do they make you feel? Have you embraced your legs and height as they are? I’d love to hear your thoughts! ♥

#HeelFree Campaign: Going a Year Without High Heels

How do you feel about high heels? Does the thought of ex-naying them from your wardrobe for a year sound daunting?

If not, kudos! I admire you, just as I admire the women who were turned away from the Cannes Film Festival for wearing dressy flats instead of heels.

That news angered me, but I was in also awe of those women for arriving to a world-renowned upscale event in flats. FLATS! I’m embarrassed to admit that for me, that would have taken courage.

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A bit of personal history:

Until age 16, I felt pretty neutral about height, mine included. My parents’ heights vary by about a foot, and my siblings and I all fall about midway between. While I’m considered tallish, there was never any emphasis on one height range being superior to another.

I’m grateful for that, particularly considering my other insecurities. I deemed my naturally thin, small-framed body chubby from about ages 5 to 25. It’s called body dysmorphia, and it’s no fun.

During my sophomore year of high school, I started modeling—a shift that stunned, delighted and terrified me. When my agents didn’t mentioned my perceived extra pounds, I wondered for the first time if I’d imagined them. Maybe I was just fine, attractive even, as I was.

That all changed after my first editorial photo shoot. At the end of a long, gratifying workday, the photographer looked me in the eyes and said, “You could be working in Paris….if you lost 10 or 15 pounds.”

In effort to soften the blow, numerous industry professionals and fellow models assured me it was because of my height.

“It’s not that you’re fat,” one said. “It’s just that shorter girls have to appear taller, like an optical illusion.”

Another explained that to give that “hanger” look—as though the apparel hung on a clothes hanger, versus a human—I had to look as long and lean as possible. I couldn’t change my height, she said, but I could alter my weight. Proportionately, it would all work out.

Only it didn’t.

With my insecurities about my weight seemingly validated, I began shedding pounds and my already vulnerable sense of self. Not only was I indeed overweight (by industry standards), but displeasingly short? Both words seemed like F-grades on the exam called Life. So I traded normal meals for restriction and my loafers for heels.

Fifteen pounds and hundreds of steps in heels later, I landed a prestigious contract with a modeling agency in New York City, where I wore heels so frequently, I felt as though I was walking uphill without them.

A few years later, the photographer’s prediction proved true. While living and working in Paris, I nearly died of anorexia. It took nearly a decade, but I’m now fully past the eating disorder and the dysmorphic self-perceptions.

Healing from an eating disorder is often a live-or-die situation. I chose life, which required dealing with demons I’d carried for decades. That process brought me to a place of body- and self- embracement I wish more women experienced. I prize authenticity more than almost anything, and have virtually no negative thoughts about my body or aesthetics. If I fixate on anything, it’s my passions.

So why did the thought of not wearing heels for a year make my palms sweat?

Is this an old wound I’ve overlooked? Lingering insecurity that fell through the cracks? I plan to find out…

I haven’t worn heels as often in recent years, partly because I primarily work from home. But whenever I attend an important event, be it a glamorous night out or a public appearance, I’ve considered them essential. Do I place my sense of self-worth in my height or footwear? No. But I do feel more attractive and, in some ways, empowered by them. To be honest, they feel like a crutch (which is ironic, seeing as wearing them raises my risk for needing crutches…). I’ve also suffered some harsh side effects of the tall, angular shoes, which I’ll explore in another post.

My discomfort at the thought of going heel-less made me so uncomfortable, that I’ve launched a campaign. Whether this will remain my own personal venture or one shared by many, I don’t know. What I do know is that the experience is already strengthening me. I haven’t worn heels since this idea struck me a few weeks ago.

My mission: 

Until June 1, 2016, I will not wear high heels. Instead, I’ll choose comfortable, supportive flats, clogs, athletic shoes and boots. Throughout the year, I’ll post updates on my experience and research here on my blog and on social media (Instagram, Facebook and Twitter), using the hashtag #HeelFree.

Will I wear heels again thereafter? No idea. At the moment, I suspect so. But a lot can happen in a year.

My goals:

I’m doing this in honor of the women who were turned away from Cannes for wearing flats. It’s part social-experiment, part person-growth challenge—one that I hope will benefit others.

One thing my journey has taught me is that the most uncomfortable steps we can take often prove to be the most empowering. We can’t know the rewards, or how deeply (or not) an insecurity is holding is back until we face it, head on. So, off I go!

IMPORTANT NOTE:

I am NOT doing this to shun women who wear heels, or suggesting that everyone should give them upI realize that there are ways to more safely work heels into one’s lifestyle (wearing certain brands/types, lowering the frequency, etc.). I also recognize that some women are criticized for wearing heels for various reasons; I’ll explore that, too, as part of this series—while sticking to my #HeelFree mission. This is simply my journey, which I hope others will learn from. 

If you’d like to support my #HeelFree mission, here are some ways:

  • Join in! If you wear heels routinely, give them up along with me. Post about your experience using the hashtag and including a link to this post and/or tagging me. Feel free to use the above image.
  • Join the conversation online by sharing thoughts and images related to #HeelFree. (Post a photo of your feet in your favorite comfy flats, for example.)
  • Read, comment on and share #HeelFree posts, from me and/or other folks.
  • Send us happy vibes! Those always count. 🙂

How do you feel about heels? If you wear them regularly, could you give them up for a year? Will you? What’s your footwear/height story? I love hearing from you! 

Positive Body Image Quiz: 35 Signs and Rewards to Aim For

Most folks analyze, or at least consider, their appearance and lifestyle habits regularly. But what about your body image? Have you ever taken inventory?

As I explained on Rick Gabrielly’s fabulous new podcast The Marriage BOSS poor body image is seldom rooted in vanity. Women are taught in countless ways that certain physical traits pave the way for happiness and success, and if we lack them, we may as well succumb to misery. Luckily, that’s not true. We will suffer, however, if we make them our truths. Make sense? How we feel about our bodies and looks becomes self-fulfilling. A little self-awareness can go a long way in shifting your ways toward the positive.

I compiled the following list of healthy body image signs based on decades of personal and professional experience. To use it as a quiz, jot 1 – 35 on a sheet of paper. Then beside each corresponding item that applies to you, draw a star or smiley face. If you’d like, circle item numbers you plan to work toward.

Super important note:

Please don’t shun yourself if you find yourself shaking your head as you read. Very few women identify with all, or even most, of them. My hope is that you’ll notice areas in which you could improve and areas you’re ROCKING. You can also use the list as inspiration—rewards you can look forward for cultivating positive body image. (It’s so worth the effort!) It’s not an all-inclusive or universal list. Once you’ve perused it, I’d love to any important items you feel I’ve missed! Body Image QUIZ

Words and Lingo

1. You don’t speak negatively about your body shape, size or appearance.

2. You don’t comment on others’ body shape or size, even to say, “Wow, you’ve lost weight!”

3. Terms like “bikini body,” “beach body” and “dream body” aren’t in your vocabulary, unless you’re pointing out what’s sad or harmful about them.

4. You don’t share or laugh at demeaning “humor,” such as racist, blonde or fat jokes.

5. You never semi-brag about eating too little. (i.e., saying, “I haven’t eaten all day!” with a bit of pride).

6. For you, “carb” is not a cuss word—and dieting nearly is.

Food and Nutrition

7. You eat for fuel and nourishment most of the time.

8. When choosing foods, you consider the ingredients and enjoyment, versus calories, fat or carb grams.

9. While you may eat for emotional reasons, such as having cake at a party, you aren’t an emotional eater.

10. You aren’t afraid to eat potatoes, carrots, pineapple, legumes, bananas, low-nutrient treats or other diet-prohibited foods.

11. You don’t cut certain foods from your diet, unless you have an ethical or health reason for doing so.

12. You respect and respond to you body’s hungry and full signals. 13. You seldom, if ever, eat until you’re uncomfortably stuffed.

Health and Numbers

14. You prioritize medical and dental checkups, and don’t simply see either for aesthetic reasons.

15. Unless you’ve recently had a physical, you don’t know your body weight or BMI.

16. You’d rather wear sunblock or protective clothing than aim for a perpetual tan.

17. You don’t take risky, unnecessary dietary supplements or drugs with hopes of changing your body weight, appetite or muscle mass.

Sex and Sexuality

18. You have healthy, shame-free attitudes about your sexuality.

19. You prioritize a gratifying sex life, however you define it (unless you’re asexual).

20. You can make love and strip down comfortably around a partner with the lights on.

21. You prioritize sexual health checkups.

22. You practice safe, consensual sex.

Aging and Aesthetics

23. You don’t run for cover when someone pulls out a camera—but you also don’t feel the need to take, over-analyze or post photos of yourself perpetually.

24. While unflattering photos of you may not thrill you, they don’t horrify you either.

25. Whether you enjoy expressing your personal style through wardrobe and makeup or not, but you don’t fixate on any of it.

26. You prioritize wearing comfortable clothes that fit.

27. You aren’t ashamed of your age.

28. You see inner and outer beauty in aging.

29. Most of your close friends have positive body image.

Exercise and Fitness

30. You exercise namely for health and because it feels good, not to look a certain way.

31. You don’t feel guilty for skipping a workout.

32. You seek out activity you enjoy, and avoid those you hate or push your body too far.

33. You don’t exercise at a high-intensity for more than an hour a day, unless you’re a training athlete.

34. You never exercise as a form of self-punishment.

35. To you, getting enough rest is at least as important as getting enough exercise.

What areas are you strong in? In which could you improve? Any items you’d add to my list? I LOVE hearing from you! I’ll also happily answer any questions you have about items on the list. ♥

To hear more about cultivating positive body image, and other means of empowerment, you can also hear my chat with Rick Gabrielly (aka, The Marriage BOSS) on iTunes.

#NotSorry: 5 Things I No Longer Apologize For

You may have noticed that women apologize a lot. A whole lot. While it’s appropriate to say, “Sorry!” when we’ve, say, stepped on another’s toe, apologizing for being ourselves hurts us and, by way of example, others.

A few years ago, the ever-sparkly Natalie Hartford published a blog post called 5 Things I’ll Never Apologize For, which basically says, “This is who I am. Deal with it!” (Woot!)

I’ve thought of her post many times since, particularly upon realizing I’m no longer apologetic for aspects of myself that once left me guilt-ridden.

Here are five of those things:

1. For not being a night owl.

I think I’m genetically predisposed to turn into a mushy-headed pumpkin by 9pm. (I don’t even know what that is. Anyway…) I used to feel dorky for wanting to eat dinner at 5pm or donning PJs when “hipper” friends were taking pre-going out naps. Not anymore.

Proof that turning in early can be sweeter.

Proof that turning in early can be sweeter.

If I stay out late, I know I’ll pay the price the next day; feeling groggy and not on top of my game. My work and relationships are too important to do so regularly.

Nurturing what makes us feel healthiest and most alive—especially when it isn’t the norm—shows strength and self-respect.

2. For being passionate and outspoken.

I sometimes think I was born an activist. As a kid, I campaigned for endangered animals, protested for planet-friendlier school lunch dishes and co-organized events to raise awareness about child abuse. Then there was my first walk-out. (How dare my piano teacher deny me M&Ms for neglecting my homework expressing my artistry through improvisation?)

By my early 20s, I’d lost some of that confidence and occasionally felt I was on an annoying “high horse.” Does everything have to be a world-altering mission? No. But it’s important to me to feel that I’m contributing to positive change, or at least trying.

Writing and speaking have helped me see that using my voice and passion for greater good is my happy place, and washed away concerns over what others might think. (And, wouldn’t you know? Most folks don’t shun me anyway.) Now, rather than feel crushed by injustices I see, I find peace in knowing I can do something. And I’m not afraid to speak up.

You know you're in your happy place when someone walks in on you taking blog-prep-selfies and you keep on shooting. ;)

You know you’re in your happy place when someone walks in on you taking blog-prep-selfies and you keep on shooting. 😉

Meeting my awesome husband also helped. Early on in our relationship, he caught me apologizing for babbling on and on enthusiastically sharing. “It’s the best part of my day,” he said. *swoon* (Yep, I married right.)

We all deserve to nurture our passions, and what makes us feel obscure or alone at times could actually be what makes our lives extraordinary. People who truly care about us will embrace them.

3. For not having perfectly groomed appendages.

Does anyone else fight the urge to yelp, “Hurry up! I’m bored!” when having your nails done? Ugh. Now that I meditate, I could probably handle it. Regardless, nail treatments feel like a waste of precious time and money I could be investing elsewhere.

When I first moved to LA, I often had gels added to my nails, fearing that others would judge my “imperfections.” Now, I embrace my imperfect, guitar-playing, typing-fanatical hands.

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Dear Nails: Thank you for showing the world how much I value typing and strumming over aesthetics, and for putting up with my bashing. I promise not to have you ground down and covered up again. Sincerely, Me

What we see as “flaws” are often quirks that reflect who we are. Not sweating over them is a huge relief.

4. For not caring much about fashion —at least not enough to appear totally put together very often.

Looking back on my life, I see a direct correlation between how much time and energy I put into my appearance and insecurity. That’s not to say these are linked for all women, of course.

One sign you're not putting much thought into your wardrobe… #whoops

One sign you’re not putting much thought into your wardrobe… #whoops

I admire women who consistently look like they’ve just stepped out of a style mag, but I’m so not one of them. While I enjoy dressing up for special occasions, I prefer spending my time and energy elsewhere. As long as I’m clean and comfy, I’m a-okay.

When we fixate on our looks, what we need to change almost surely lies deeper than our hairstyle or wardrobe.

**If you’re a low-maintanence gal, too, this Elite Daily article is a must-read: The Science of Simplicity: Why Successful People Wear The Same Thing Every Day

5. For taking up space.

Last year my friend Sheri, I and another friend were standing and chatting in an open hotel lobby. When a group of people walked our direction, I apologized and stepped aside, giving them ample (if not necessary) room to pass.

“You don’t need to apologize for taking up space,” Sheri said without hesitation. “We have a right to be here.”

Woah. (See why I adore her?) In the following weeks, I noticed that I had a tendency to offer up my space to others in this way; it was a dangling thread of insecurity I hadn’t yet clipped.

Owning the space we stand in is empowering, and it’s never too late to grow.  

Why stay small?

Because why not?

Whether we say the words or not, feeling regretful for who we authentically are can hold us back in all sorts of ways.

As Natalie shared in her post, she dresses provocatively, cusses regularly and speaks her mind–without regret. Is she judged for these traits on occasion? Probably. But they’re also three of the reasons I, and many others, love her. It would break our hearts if she held back. We should have that same compassion for ourselves. Don’t you think?

What have you stopped apologizing for? Do you relate to any on my list? I’d love to hear from you! ♥

Stopping Anorexia: An Open Letter to the President of France @fhollande

Dear President Francois Hollande,

I want to start by thanking you for caring enough about women’s wellbeing to make changes in France’s policies. Banishing pro-anorexia websites and not allowing anorexic models to walk your nation’s runways could help minimize the epidemic of body-hate and responsive self-harm that runs so rampant. I’m also grateful for the conversations your campaign to stop anorexia has spurred, and feel compelled to offer my own thoughts.

I realize I’m one voice amid countless, and it’s likely this won’t even reach you. For this reason, I’m sharing this letter publicly, with hopes its message might make a positive difference—if not for a country or industry, then for someone.

These issues are dear to my heart. I modeled for years, and nearly died of anorexia while working in Paris. I’ve since fully recovered, and spent over 8 years as a nutritionist, offering dietary therapy for people struggling with eating disorders and related issues. Now, as an experienced health writer, radio host and public speaker, I routinely interview experts in psychology and medicine, as well as women who’ve overcome severe self- and body- shame. As someone who can speak from multiple sides of the body-shaming epidemic, I thought my insight might prove helpful.

Real beauty quote

On BMI as the Determining Factor

Others have expressed concerns about your new law, prohibiting anyone from hiring a model with a below healthy BMI. I share those concerns. (For those who aren’t familiar, Body Mass Index is a tool used to determine body fat content based on weight and height.) BMI is sadly inaccurate as a measure of health for many people, and I imagine many models will find ways to falsify their results.

Secondly, I’ve known models who were tall and lanky naturally, to the point of being bullied in their youth. Modeling gave them a sense of empowerment; finally, they weren’t being ridiculed for their atypical thinness, but celebrated. These women would undoubtedly fail the “healthy” BMI test. Ostracizing naturally thin women isn’t right.

Many women with eating disorders, including models, partake in dangerous tactics to maintain a slimmer physique—yet aren’t underweight by BMI standards.

In some ways, focusing on “the numbers” perpetuates the damaging notion that they matter most.

It’s understandable why you and your associates have taken this route, given the fact that anorexia diagnostics are based on such numbers. (They shouldn’t be, in my opinion.) But I side with others who’ve suggested alternate means of determining models’ wellness, such as thorough health exams. While helpful, however, I don’t think such measures would suffice.

More Effective Steps Toward Positive Change

Attempting to regulate the health of models, but still allowing the standards of thinness over all to carry on, won’t solve this epidemic. The standards need to change. While this is a huge task, it’s doable, in my opinion. Here are some powerful steps that would help:

♦ Require fashion shows and magazines to depict a broad range of body shapes and sizes, as well as ages.

♦ Encourage fashion designers to create clothing for those shapes, sizes and ages.

♦ Don’t merely show women seducing cameras in editorial shoots. Show them working, creating art, raising kids, being human.

♦ Require medics and other health/safety measures at fashion shows and photo shoots. (Show models that their safety and wellness matters as much as that of Hollywood actors.)

♦ Prohibit modeling agents from making harsh comments about models’ weight.

Placing the pressure on those who hire models actually puts more pressure on the models themselves. If someone had landed in jail for hiring me when I was anorexic, I’m not sure I would have forgiven myself—and most women with anorexia are already crippled with shame.

One of the most important ways we can all contribute to a world that empowers, rather than shuns, women is by embracing ourselves.

I’ve personally boycotted fashion shows, publications and work I find de-powering. (The narrow definitions of “beauty” were a major reason I quit modeling, even though I had an ongoing career after healing.) I’ve stopped saying anything negative about my body, which has cultivated more positive thoughts. I’ve embraced my sexuality—a lack of which is another issue underlying many women’s body hate. And I’ve learned to pursue my passions, to stop living up to anyone else’s standards, knowing that in doing so, I can live a happier and more meaningful, impactful life.

Here’s hoping that no matter what efforts you and your administration prioritize moving forward, more women will start questioning whether those “extra” pounds are worth the time, tumult and energy making ourselves smaller requires—and that living largely means recognizing the existing real-beauty inherent in ourselves.

Sincerely,

August McLaughlin

A note to other readers: I’ve included President Hollande’s Twitter handle in the title, in case you’d like to use the share button to help alert him of this post. Regardless, thanks for reading!

Asexuality and a Naked Conversation on #GirlBoner Radio

“It’s so important that there’s support for asexuals. There are people who are scared, like I was, and think they can’t be feminist and asexual, or an artist and be asexual, or that they need to perform sexually to have intimacy with another person, and that’s just not the way it is. You can be asexual, human, and do whatever you want.” — Lauren Jankowski

I’m so grateful for every chance to explore important topics with bold, insightful guests each week on Girl Boner Radio. Yesterday was a prime example.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Lauren Jankowski, a novelist and activist, on what it’s like to be asexual, related myths and what she wishes the world knew about the orientation—such as being asexual doesn’t mean you can’t have a life rich with love and creativity. If you have any doubts about that, a few minutes with Lauren would douse them.

I also shared touching highlights from a 20/20 episode about an asexual couple who met online, and one of the most offensive quips I’ve heard about asexuality, which aired on a popular news network. *quivers* (We can’t work to change misconceptions we aren’t aware of, right?)

Then the wonderful Shan Jeniah chimed in with a reading of her prizewinning Beauty of a Woman BlogFest IV contribution. Her post about embracing her naked body, and how her body image has changed over the years, is unforgettable. She shared her motivation for writing the piece, what she works to instill in her kids regarding their bodies and more.

To listen to the episode, visit this link on iTunes: Asexuality and A Naked Conversation

August McLaughlin_Girl Boner Radio

To learn more about Lauren Jankowski, visit her website, follow her on Facebook & Twitter. Her debut novel Sere from the Green, the first volume in The Shape Shifter Chronicles, is available on AmazonCreateSpaceSmashwords and Square Marketplace.  To stay tuned to Shan Janiah’s happenings, subscribe to her blog.

What did you think of Lauren’s insight? Did she debunk myths you’ve believed about asexuality? Could you relate to Shan’s story? I love hearing from you! ♥

The Beauty of a Woman BlogFest IV: Wrap-Up + Prize Winners! #BOAW2015

“For beautiful eyes, look for the good in others; for beautiful lips, speak only words of kindness; and for poise, walk with the knowledge that you are never alone.” ― Audrey Hepburn, poem by Sam Levenson

Wow, what a week! You are all such rockstars. The Beauty of a Woman BlogFest IV reached thousands, no doubt inspiring as many. I was blown away by the uniqueness, poignancy and boldness of this year’s contributions.

I was also moved by participants’ support of one another. So before we get to the raffle prizes, I’m thrilled to announce a brand new prize category:

Fab Fester Awards!

The following participants not only contributed remarkably insightful posts, but supported other festers the most, through thoughtful comments, shares and overall interaction. They epitomize what makes the Beauty of a Woman BlogFest not only fun and inspiring, but successful in reaching so many.

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Kate, Kitt, Patricia and Karen, THANK YOU! Please accept this blog badge, to share on your sites as you wish. ♥ Thanks also to the multitalented Amber West for helping me make this superhero look beautifully human!

Highlights from Fab Festers’ posts:

“The idea, perpetuated by our society, that women should hide their sensuality, reject their sexuality, and diminish their emotions hit home far stronger that day than it ever has before. These women did none of that. They flirted, undulated, and flaunted their feminine asses off. They were bold, beautiful, and brassy. Their emotion captivated, their strength inspired, their vulnerability enthralled.” — Kate Wood

“It’s all about ownership. Of herself. Her body. Her wants and needs. Does it mean she has to be the aggressor? Only if she wants to be. But it does mean that she’s responsible to communicate. To explore her own body and discover what feels good.” Kitt Crescendo

“I worry about the world today, where the media focus is more frequently on stereotypes that deliver a skewed vision of “beauty” to fertile young minds. I want my granddaughter, and all girls, to grow up in a world that is safe. A world that gives the right messages. I want girls to grow up proud, confident, educated, and kind-hearted, with a strong social conscience.”Patricia Sands

“Perhaps beauty is the key to the door of equality that we cannot seem to unlock. Far too often beauty has been seen as a barrier rather than as an avenue to equanimity… The beauty of a woman is in her having the freedom to be who she is, free to evolve as the unique human she was born to be.”KM Huber

Raffle Prize Winners!

Huge thanks to our wonderful sponsors, and all of you who entered the raffle by supporting others, the fest and these companies! Here are the lucky winners:

1: Style by Rayne Virtual Styling Consult + a Bathing Suit From Sunsets Inc + Corpus Dei Perfume by Natalie Bolton WINNER: Michelle Williams

2: #BOAW2015 Original Artwork, created by A’driane Nieves and Renée A. Schuls-Jacobson + #YouSparkle affirmation sticky notes  (2 prizes) WINNER: Jess Witkins & Kate Wood

3: Organic Intimacy Prize Pack from Good Clean Love WINNER: Alica McKenna Johnson

4: Two 12×12 Highly-Textured Original Contemporary Arylic Paintings by artist, Stephen Vanek, donated by Jan Morrill WINNER: Brandi Dagwan

5. Rekindle Your Desire Workshop Pack from Dr. Megan Fleming WINNER: Kitt Crescendo

6: Professional Manuscript Evaluation, from Jenny Redbug WINNER: Jenny Hansen

7: Filmmaking Q&A + a Signed Women Kick Ass Postcard, from Melanie Wise, founder of the Artemis Film Festival WINNER: Susie Lindau

Mini-Features on Girl Boner Radio:

I selected Lana Fox and Shan Jeniah, for their brave and insightful Girl Boner posts. Thank you, ladies! ♥

NOTE FOR WINNERS: I’ll send the sponsor of your prize the name and email address associated with your raffle or fest entry. If you do not receive an email within the next few days, please contact me.

Lastly, I would love your feedback! If you have a minute or two, please complete this survey so that I can keep improving the fest you’ve all made so wonderful.

What was your fest experience like? Any highlights to share? I love hearing from you, and hope you’ll join us next year for the Beauty of a Woman BlogFest V! ♥

#BOAW2015 FAQ, Update and Prizes!

Hi Beauties!

I hope you’re enjoying the Beauty of a Woman BlogFest IV as much as I am. Once again, I’ve been blown away by writers’ insightfulness, bold sharing and uniqueness. Thank you for bringing light to real beauty, and inspiring so many—me included. The fest collectively reached well over 1,000 people on day one. BRAVA!

Since the fest is carrying on here, I thought I’d pop into my blog living room and share answers to your questions and a bit more on our fantabulous prizes!

FAQ:

Q: What if I can’t comment on a  post?

A: Two or three of the blogs either don’t allow comments, or have technical kinks to be worked out. If you’re going for maximum prize points, by commenting on all posts, simply comment on all of the posts you can! Then tweet the posts you can’t seem to comment on, including the hashtag: #BOAW2015.

To simply share your (respectful, of course!) thoughts on those posts, feel free to find that writer on Facebook, Twitter or their own website. You can also post comments on the #BOAW2015 Facebook event page.

Q: I’m running behind! Can I still enter as a blogger?

A: You sure can! Just make sure you follow the remaining guidelines detailed here. (Commenting on posts that appear after 2/23 won’t be required for full points in the prize drawing.)

Reminders:

♥ Don’t forget to enter the raffle! Doing so supports our prize sponsors and could land you a stellar prize. Enter through the fest page, or through the Giveaway tab on my Facebook author page. Bloggers and readers can enter through March 1.

♥ Support fellow festers! Participants supporting one another is one of the best parts of BOAW—and the more we do so, the more people we reach. Huge thanks to all of you who are reading and sharing others’ posts. You rock!

♥ Post your #BOAW2015 selfie! For a fun way to keep the conversations going while bringing added light to the fest and your fine work, post a selfie with the hashtag, letting us know what makes YOU feel most beautiful. Here’s mine, as an example:

#BOAW2015 selfie

Prize highlights:

#1: Rayne, of Style by RayneVirtual Personal Styling by a Hollywood Stylist + a Bathing Suit From Sunsets Inc + Corpus Dei Perfume by Natalie Bolton   Value: $395.00

#2: #BOAW2015 Original Artwork, created by A’driane Nieves and Renée A. Schuls-Jacobson + #YouSparkle affirmation sticky notes  Value: $250.00 each (2 prizes)

#3: Organic Intimacy Products from Good Clean Love: 2 oz. Restore Moisturizing Personal Lubricant, 1.5 oz. Cinnamon Vanilla Personal Lubricant, 4 oz. Indian Spice Love Oil, 2 oz. Spicy Orange Body Candy  Value: $64

#3: Highly-Textured Original Contemporary Arylic Paintings by artist, Stephen Vanek, donated by Jan Morrill

#4: Rekindle Your Desire Workshop Pack Includes a 60-minute audio track, a companion workbook, access to a live Q&A, and lifetime access to a private FB page, led by clinical psychologist Dr. Megan Fleming. Value: $79.00

#5: Professional Manuscript Evaluation, from Jenny Redbug  Value: $600 – $1500
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#6: Filmmaking Q&A + a Signed Women Kick Ass Postcard, from Melanie Wise, founder of the Artemis Film Festival! Value: $300.00

Learn more about these prizes here.

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Any additional questions? Or thoughts to share? Let me know! I always love hearing from you.

10 Ways to Look and Feel As Lovely As You Are #BOAW2015

OMG, it’s blog-fest day! Woo hoo! Can anyone else feel the sparkles in the air?

The Beauty of a Woman BlogFest IV is taking place at this link from 8am today through March 1. Head over there to read incredible posts from many talented writers, and for chances to win some awesome prizes!

Our grand prize sponsor, Rayne, and I created a little video gift for you all. We hope you enjoy it!

10 Ways to Look and Feel As Lovely As You Are

 

For practical, entertaining style tips delivered to your email box each week, make sure to sign up for Rayne’s mailing list. Do so this week, as part of the #BOAW2015 raffle, and you’ll also gain four chances to win a prize! We’re giving away incredible prizes this year, including a personal style consult, swimsuit and perfume from Rayne, original artwork, professional manuscript analysis, a filmmaking consult, intimacy products and more.

Which tip was your favorite? What would you add to our list? We’d love to hear from you! ♥