Linda Froiland: Image Consultant – Small Is Powerful

Linda S. Froiland is an Image Consultant & Wardrobe Stylist in Minneapolis St. Paul. Find out more at http://www.lindasfroiland.com/

When I was a child, I was very tiny for my age, photos of me in school show me smaller than most of my classmates. As I aged, particularly when I got to junior high school, I was reminded how small I was when shopping for clothing. The older sales women would comment how tiny I was, did I eat? Of course I ate but not much I was very fussy about what I consumed. Even now as an adult while I do like to eat especially fresh organic veggies, I sometimes will go for long periods of time during the day without food. It’s just not something I think about.

As an adult I have rarely struggled with my weight, even when twice pregnant I did not gain much weight. The first time I gained 22 pounds the second time 28 pounds, each time I wore my pre-pregnancy jeans home from the hospital. While all of this sounds good to someone who easily gains weight I do believe it has affected how I see myself around others, especially as a teen and young adult. 

I don’t think I ever felt very powerful because of my size, it has also made me look much younger than my age and so most of my relationships have been with those that are younger than myself, including the men in my life.  I have always felt like I am catching up with things and never quite where I am supposed to be. Finally as an older woman I have realized that those images of myself our powerful and that I need to make sure they don’t undermined what it is that I am doing. Small is powerful, small is strong, small is smart. Now the only thing standing in my way is myself.

 As an image consultant I have clients who struggle with their weight and size. It’s my job to tell them how gorgeous they are and how to really cash in on their assets. I have started a campaign to get women’s clothing companies to look at a demographic that is underserved in the retail market. The over 40, size 12 and up woman who wants to dress as smart as she is. Who wants beautiful clothes that work for her, make her look and feel important? Funny how life hands us the oddest things.

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Copyright Ark Stories 2011

Weight: One Black Woman’s story

I have to say that the subject of body image is a very touchy topic for millions of people everyday but I was relieved in a way to be able to share my story, anonymous or not. I am a thirty-two year old black woman who has suffered weight issues as far as I can remember.  Food was used as a comfort; it was my only friend in so many stressful and depressing times.

First let me say, though, I was HUGELY surprised that white women think black women have it easier when it comes to weight and body image!!!! WOW! I would really beg to differ because I look at certain movies that are made i.e. Shallow Hal verses Norbit. In Shallow Hal the man was made to see the beauty in women no matter what their size. In Norbit (which I loathe to this day) the audience was able to further feed into negative stereotypes about black women who are overweight. The white overweight woman was made to be beautiful, calm, loyal and friendly, while yet again the overweight black women was made to be ignorant, vulgar and alas, loud. So sad…I can’t stomach these kinds of movies, especially where the black woman with a little more plump is made to play what I like to call the fat person. All she talks about is food, eating and being fat. WE ARE SO MUCH MORE THAN THAT!

I would sooo much like to have a husband and family. I’m an aspiring actress (which took me years to tell anyone that’s what I wanted to be) but feel if I don’t lose the weight I’ll be typecast. It’s hard to lose weight because in my mind I’m just not ready and not motivated. Family doesn’t always help, which is why I started gaining the weight in the first place. I used to wear baggy clothes, not wash—anything so as to not be noticed, even though I sank into a deep depression.

I’m much better now because Yahweh has helped me realize how beautiful I am. Do I feel that way everyday? No but it’s a slow process that took years of doing. I have tried to overeat myself to death and ended up in the hospital. I was literally A MESS!

TV doesn’t help. It seems like all the actresses are getting smaller and smaller. There’s so much, I can’t even begin or end. This world is made up of appearances. Beyonce makes it so a man expects a high standard of a woman they will never achieve. Why must we be half-naked to show that women are beautiful? And how did we dub her the spokesperson for ALL the images of black women?

Body image is something I deal with everyday but with God on my side, I will conquer this  demon and this too shall pass like everything else that was or is a hindrance to me and my walk with God.

Submit your story here: http://arkstories.com/bodyimageblog.html

Copyright Ark Stories 2011

A Blessing And A Curse

 Being beautiful is strange.

I know what it feels like to enter a room and have everyone, both genders look my way. I know what it feels like to know that I look better than most. I know people envy what I have. I also know that being beautiful is a blessing and a curse.
 
People assume that when one is beautiful, everything is easier. Love, money, success. Perhaps that is true for some. But not for me. I ask for no sympathy. I am quite accustomed to the way I look and am too vain to trade it in if the option were presented. I have wondered if I might have been happier if I was “just pretty.” Not striking. I wonder about it but looks don’t have anything to do with happiness unless you allow it to.
 
Today I saw a very young woman who is incredibly beautiful. I immediately compared myself to her. I am not so young anymore. I envied her skin tone. I wished that I could turn back the clock. But I also wondered what might be going inside of her beautiful head. Does she think she’s beautiful? Does it make her life easier? If I looked like her, would I be a happier person?
 
Sometimes my looks have worked against me. I have dated men who felt the need to win my affections like I was Mt. Everest. As soon as they were satisfied and got what they wanted, they left skid marks. I sometimes found out that the next girlfriend they had was “just pretty.”
 
My beauty has caused me great pain at times. I have been very lonely. Men don’t always approach a beautiful women because they assume she has millions of men after her. The key word here is assume. We all make assumptions and we really should not.
 
I know my looks are a gift and I don’t think I am better than anyone because of them. They will go away one day and that will be hard for me. I am used to being the beautiful one. But there is a part of me that feels like it will be a relief. My life has been a lesson.
 
When I was young, I also believed that my looks were going to set me up for happiness, love and success.
I have learned and continue to learn that real happiness has nothing to do with looks and when I take the focus and pressure off of myself, I am more at peace.
 

Submit your story here: http://arkstories.com/bodyimageblog.html

Copyright Ark Stories 2011

Interview with Psychotherapist David Klow: Men and Body Image

David Klow is a psychotherapist at The Family Institute at Northwestern University in Evanston Illinois who specializes in working with men. He has been practicing there for five years.

Please explain the unique struggles men have with their body image. How does that relate to their self-image?

Men have been taught from early on to armor their bodies. They are taught to perform and be tough, hiding signs of vulnerability and weakness. Since it can be impossible not to be vulnerable, men learn to hide their faults at an early age. We see posturing and overcompensation as an attempt to make up for perceived inadequacies. Men’s sense of self then can become split, as they try to appear one way but are actually another.

How do you help men overcome these issues?

I work to end the splitting. I make it safe to finally take off the armor and to explore the buried vulnerable pieces that got lost so long ago. It is in these buried fragments of the self that we find the real treasure and true power.

Do you see differences in gay and straight clients or do they share the same problems with self-image?

For the most part, I would say it is very similar. Men in America are conditioned in a particular way. Of course there are variations and nuances in each man’s experience but the splitting and hiding phenomenon is still there.

Breaking your clients down into age groups, do you find that there is one group that has more of a problem with body image?

There can be variations across generations. Today’s young men do not have as much armor or baggage as their forefathers. The times are a bit different in that men are more encouraged to be able to express themselves honestly and creatively.

In your opinion, how do men differ from women in the journey to achieve a better self image?

Men hide in a different way than women. Our body images are harder to identify; they are more buried in the shadows of our beings but they are still there.

So often when we hear “body image” we think of women and eating disorders. Regardless of gender, everyone has a body image whether it’s good or bad. Do you have any suggestions as to how to achieve a more positive self image?

Tons of self-compassion and acceptance.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Finding a good therapist can be very helpful to address body image issues. Group Therapy also provides a wonderful forum for healing these issues. More information about both types of therapy are on my website at www.davidklow.com
 

Submit your story here: http://arkstories.com/bodyimageblog.html

Copyright Ark Stories 2011

The Dieter: Brian Valentin’s Story

I’m Brian Valentin, owner of 4HourBodyZone.com.  I have a B.S. in Exercise Physiology and an M.S. in Guidance and Counseling

I am a thirty-five year old husband and father of three.  For the entirety of my adult life I’ve been overweight – at 5’9″ my heaviest weight was about 215.  This was after high school and I was trying to get into the Air Force but was told I was too heavy to meet the height/weight/bodyfat standards – I needed to lose thirty-five pounds to get down to a maximum allowable weight.

I started exercising (but only very little) and heard of this stuff called “RippedFuel” – so I decided to try it.  The weight fell off. Within four months I had gotten down to about 185 and was given the go ahead to join the Air Force.  Of course, RippedFuel was the infamous Ephedra/Caffeine/Aspirin stack but for me it worked and worked remarkably well.  Once out of basic training and back to my regular lifestyle the weight crept up.  I never went back as high as 215 but I also could never get below 195 without seriously depriving myself.  I should also point out that during this time I was getting my bachelor’s degree in Exercise Physiology!

From this point on I would go on diets, lose a few pounds and fall off the diet and gain my weight back.  Sometimes I would work out, sometimes not.  I wasn’t what you would call “fat” – more like chubby.  But when I looked in the mirror I saw an obese person with way too much extra bodyfat all over.  I kind of started to believe that maybe I’m “genetically” disposed to being chubby.  My father is thin and so is my oldest brother but me and my other brother are chubby – I just assumed that I was this way.  I never stopped trying to fix my diet and eat a conventional healthy diet (i.e., whole grains, low fat, etc…)

It wasn’t until this past December that I realized I could actually eat better, lose weight, and most importantly not be deprived.  It started out with me reading “The 4-Hour Body” by Tim Ferriss - the big thing in the book was the “slow carb” diet. This is not Atkins or no-carb. It allows beans, meats, veggies.  This diet allowed me to eat plenty, feel full, have energy and most importantly lose weight.  I lost fifteen pounds in the first thirty days – but I started noticing I was having trouble with beans.  The more I read and learned, the more I decided that a “paleo” diet lifestyle was for me.  Paleo is meats, healthy fats, veggies, fruits – but no legumes/beans, or starches/grains.  This goes against conventional wisdom – but for me, conventional wisdom was keeping me fat.

Six months later I’m down approximately thirty pounds from where I started (196 in Dec.) – and I feel much better about myself.  I feel more confident and I walk with better posture.  I have more energy to workout and play with my kids.  I’ve created a blog (http://www.4hourbodyzone.com/) that gives me the ability to keep me focused and tell/help others who are interested in this lifestyle. 

Submit your story here: http://arkstories.com/bodyimageblog.html

Copyright Ark Stories 2011

Little Kids and Negative Body Image by Kimberley Johnson

Recently, I had the opportunity to be a guest on On The Street with Wayne Metrano. Wayne said he thought things were improving where body image and the media is concerned. I vehemently disagreed with him. I cited an ABC news article titled;
Body Image Issues: Six-Year-Old Worries She’s Fat
 
This is very disturbing on so many levels. How does this child come to the conclusion that she is fat?
 
My girlfriend told me that her seven year old daughter said something similar. I know this little girl and there is not an ounce of fat on her. But that is really not the issue. The issue is that children at extremely young ages are now negatively focusing on the way they look.
 
I have a very distinct memory of when I was six. I was in the first grade and two of my little girlfriends and I were in the restroom. We were all talking about how much we weighed. My friends weighed fifty pounds. I weighed sixty. I was significantly taller than most my age, so it is not surprising I weighed more. I do remember feeling slightly self-conscious about it but as soon as we left the restroom, I didn’t think about it again. I do find it curious though, that it remains such a clear memory for me. It illustrates how my being tall has always played a part in how I view myself. Even in that moment, it felt like a negative for me.
 
As much as I would have preferred to be the same height as my peers, when I was six, the idea of seeing myself as fat, well, let’s just say it was a non-issue. The poor six-year-old in the referenced article has already been conditioned by the media and society to put a significant amount of focus on her outward appearance. Things are not improving, they are getting worse and out of control.
 
This morning as I logged on to my computer, I saw an article that Kim Kardashian had her rear-end x-rayed to prove she has not had implants. Really??? I mean REALLY??? I don’t seek out this kind of information out but I am aware of it. I see headlines online, at the grocery store and as teasers for entertainment news programs. These are not healthy messages. Yet it is totally acceptable. We get used to it. Can you imagine if in the 1920′s, the cover of a magazine zeroed in on celebrities’ cellulite? It’s been a slow process.
 
Body image will always be important to human beings. We care about how we look and what others think of us. In the last twenty years, it has become increasingly difficult to look in the mirror and feel happy with what God gave us. Teens are getting caps on their teeth, plastic surgery, botox and breast implants! When we see this all the time, a manufactured kind of beauty, we become conditioned to it.
 
This is an issue that has no easy answer. It’s, in part,  a combination of parents and the media. For instance, parents can instill a healthy body image but if a child watches television or movies, the images and the pressure to look a certain way will negate much of the positive influence from family.
 
It’s like the government. Until enough people demand real change, nothing WILL change. Magazines only make money because the public buys them. We accept models who have eating disorders. We actually perpetuate it. 
 
It’s fine and dandy that articles are written about how we should love ourselves they way we are but an article in a beauty magazine making that suggestion is not going to undo years and years of conditioning. At best, it makes the reader think about it for a few minutes until they turn the page and see that impossibly skinny model who has been altered to look skinnier and then all of the insecurities come flooding back in and the impact of that article quickly erodes.
 
As I write this, I feel so powerless. I think people will read it and agree but will do nothing about it. I hope that at least, you think about it and make a decision to change one thing that helps to perpetuate the negative message that you have to look a certain way in order to be loved, happy or successful.
 
I used to buy all the beauty and fashion magazines. Now I don’t. What change are you willing to make?

Submit your story here: http://arkstories.com/bodyimageblog.html

Copyright Ark Stories 2011

The Runner

I’ve spent an embarrassing portion of my life thinking there was something wrong with me.  I think about this while I run.  How did I become so obsessed with my body?

Mom once told me Dad was a 6’1″ beanpole when he graduated from high school. My grandpas were both pretty slim in their primes, standing 5’8″and 5’9″, respectively.  By all indications, I will not be splashing out of this gene pool onto the cover of Men’s Health.  I’m 5’11″ tall and weigh 160 pounds.  Looking back, I’ve noticed a distinct correlation between the fittest times in my life and those two numbers. My measurements hovered there when I was in peak condition as a college soccer player, just as they do now.

I’m built to run.

Like many guys, though, I spent a lot of time trying to pack on muscle to fit the mold it seemed pretty girls wanted.  The ideal male figure, I thought, was chiseled from stone to 6’2″ and 200 pounds with 4% body fat.  My long arms and longer legs came up way short on that attractiveness scale, so I joined the rest of my gender in the gym. I jumped on the carousel of lifting and eating plans “guaranteed” to get me a beach-ready body (despite living eighteen hours from the nearest ocean).  I was bound and determined to be able to say, “Look at me!  I got all muscle-y for you! Don’t all throw your panties at once!”

Try as I might, nothing worked.  I gained a pound or two, maybe even five, but never achieved the cover model body.  Sadly, I have yet to be buried under an avalanche of lacy thongs from Victoria’s Secret.

What I did acquire, in lieu of the superhero physique and trailing pack of sex-crazed swimsuit models, was a distorted body image.  I developed a mild case of gymnophobia – fear of being nude — thinking I wouldn’t look appealing with my clothes off.  I still deal with it, on some level way inthe back of my mind, to this day.

The male ego is far more fragile than any of us would like to admit.  If we were really honest, we’d acknowledge we can pinpoint trouble spots in our mirrors with almost the same speed and ease any woman can in hers. Though different and much less severe than the social pressures associated with looking like Barbie, a large portion of us struggle with being Ken (minus “the underwear issue,” of course).

This is called dysmorphia, quite literally a “state of abnormal shape.” Though body dysmorphic disorder — it’s technical name — is only diagnosed in 1-2% of the population where it becomes so crippling it can lead to depression, anxiety or social isolation, it’s safe to say most of us carry some sort of bias against ourselves.  Who am I kidding?  Your body issues came to mind the minute I mentioned the mirror in the last paragraph.

What I’m talking about is more subtle than simply thinking you’re fat – or knowing you’ve swelled up a bit since college.  It’s more sinister.  A defect, whether small or even just imagined, turns into a controlling obsession.  The slightest imperfection defines your whole existence.

I’ve passed hours and hours wondering how I let one woman tear me to pieces because of it.

The Spring and Summer after I turned 25 were the most painful I can remember. For the first time in more than three years, I took up running as a regular part of my week.  Having been poked at and prodded for several months about what I lacked during the Winter, I told myself it was a good time to put my life back in order and the singular therapy of a long run alone would do the trick.  “I’ll be able to get away from everything,” I said, “and burn off the stress from school.”  I almost believed me.

Over a few weeks, I worked up to four miles at a time, then six.  At one point, I did twelve.  I completely changed the way I ate, incorporating vegetables into most meals for the first time in my adult life.  I dropped twenty-five pounds in four months, going from no extracurricular activity to averaging twenty-plus miles per week.  “Man, I am so healthy,” I thought.

But I wasn’t.

Henry David Thoreau wrote, “Methinks that the moment my legs began to move, my thoughts began to flow.”  Any runner of any skill level can tell you this is the truth.  It’s as if the brain, suddenly given the opportunity, allows anything and everything to bubble up to the surface.

“Is there anything you like?” I snapped.  Stephanie had just spent a couple of minutes pointing at the pudge around my belly button and squeezing my slender arms.

“Your chest.  Have I not said that?”  She looked genuinely shocked, completely unaware how deep her “playful jokes” were cutting.

I couldn’t buy Coach purses or diamond tennis bracelets.  I wouldn’t be modeling for Abercrombie and Fitch.  I had transformed from a man comfortable in his own skin for the first time in his life into a quietly self-conscious wreck.  She wanted more muscle and more money.  (I wanted my last girlfriend.)

Only in retrospect am I able to grasp how much pressure I felt to fit into that mold.

Needless to say, running with this banshee screaming during every trip outside curbed my desire to train for a marathon.  What had begun as enjoyable means to test myself became a painful slog through my psyche.  I did my best to power through for months, then, after ten miles one September night, I gave up.  I couldn’t handle it any more.  I put my shoes in the closet and told everyone I needed that time for studying.  I was really just tired of being haunted by the ghosts of relationships past.  Even today, years later, I still have moments on the trail where I wonder what she’d think.  That’s how deep the scar is.

My heart hardened as my self-worth deteriorated.  As I began evaluating myself against her criteria and my inferences, I felt like I would always come up short.  My first instinct, as I met a new woman, was I would just end up heartbroken after disappointing another one.  I found outs before I was even in.

Recovery took a long time.  I picked apart my physique and bank statement. I could not find anything right with myself.

People do change, of course.  We grow and develop new habits but, in the end, it’s very damaging to attempt to be something we’re unable to.  When actions are performed to produce the façade I think others wish to see, then I’m ultimately unsuccessful.  (A lack of such self-awareness leads meatheads at the gym to keep hitting on women despite repeated denials.)

This is the road dysmorphia leads us down.  Chasing those external standards long enough causes our identity to disappear.  Our minds get lost in the struggle to clear a bar forever out of reach.

I am not a chest or biceps, a glittering watch or stylish haircut. Putting on forty-five pounds of muscle will require me to do something inconsistent with who I am, what I am capable of or what I wish to be. The standard was her problem, not mine.  I am ashamed to admit it took more than three years for me to realize I can’t be those things.  I’ve regained the confidence I had and I refuse to go back.I’ve long since lost the desire to impress a woman such that her drool ends up turning the beach into a pool of quicksand beneath her.

I’m built to run.

Submit your story here: http://arkstories.com/bodyimageblog.html

Copyright Ark Stories 2011

The Personal Trainer: Djuan Means

Djuan Means, is a certified personal trainer and owner of By Any Means Fitness, LLC. He’s a former college football player and has been personal training since 2006. Means is based in Louisville, Kentucky. For addition information, please visit byanymeansfitness.com

What are the most common concerns with men when it comes to body image?

Men fear that women will find them unattractive or that compared to other men, they just don’t look good enough. Some of the most fit people I’ve encountered have the worst body image issues. They feel like they’ve never done enough work in the gym, or that the person at the weight bench next to them looks just a little better than they do.

The chest and stomach come up most often in conversation.

From your observations, how does body image affect the way a man conducts his life?

Men are less confident when they have poor body image, resulting in them being afraid to approach women, anxious about an inability to compete with the next athlete because of size, or just unhappy about their body because they desire to see a different reflection in the mirror. Having a negative body image prevents men from reaching their full potential.

Is age a factor? If so why?

Younger men seem to be more conscious of their body image. Perhaps they’re more likely to be influenced by the buff images of their peers in the media and feel pressured to live up to those standards. Though there are fewer of such images of older men floating around, some older men fall into the category as well, particularly if a nice body gets them things they had in their younger years, like younger women!

Can you describe some cases in which a man had poor body image but with your help, overcame it?

I’m a personal trainer, so it’s my mission to help people become healthier and look better physically. However, as I work with individual clients, I learn their struggles, and body image always comes up, whether it’s someone who is morbidly obese or an elite athlete. One client in particular avoided swimming and wearing the types of clothes he desired because of his insecurities with his body. After working with him for six months, he informed me that his experience with me transformed the way he felt about his body and pushed him to become his best self, physically and mentally. As his body began changing he became comfortable with engaging in outdoor activities with his family.

How do you think men handle body image differently than women?

Men hide their body image issues. They don’t discuss it amongst their friends in the way that women do. Negative body image issues rarely come up in their favorite magazines.

What are the benefits of an improved body image when it comes to “the self?”

A positive body image breaks down barriers. As I train people to become physically fit, I make a point to encourage, motivate, and positively reinforce, taking it a step beyond the physical to the emotional. I operate under the premise that being your best self is the key to a happier, healthier life. When you feel good about yourself, that confidence radiates to everything and everyone you touch.

Why do you think people in general have such a difficult time with their appearance?

We’re infiltrated with images of people with extraordinary bodies that, from the outside looking in, seem perfect. These media and social influences translate to the idea that you must be ‘perfect’ in order to be desirable. The problem is that no matter how hard an individual works, some looks are unachievable. Instead of trying to become their own best self, people find imperfections because they can’t achieve a certain look.

Other than fitness, how can someone improve body image?

A positive body image extends beyond the physical. It’s a holistic mindset. Men faced with body image issues have to learn how to become comfortable with who they are and how they look. No two bodies are the same, so getting out of the comparative mindset and learning to embrace your own body is imperative.

Do you have any unusual stories?

A perfect illustration of going against nature and pursuing a body that’s not for you is an obsession I had with my own calves. Biceps a go, six packs a go, but those pesky calves, I just couldn’t build them up. It took years for me to get past the fact that due to genetics, I would never have big calves. When I come across clients with body obsessions, I can give my own personal account to help them get past things they just can’t change.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I worked with a client who embodied the word confident. To the outside world, he was overweight, but other than that, he had it going on. A big personality, great home, great car, great family. Everything everyone else wants. At the beginning of our relationship, it seemed that the only reason he hired me was to help him avoid some of the health problems that plagued his family. He knew he was on his way to those same issues. But as our relationship grew, and I really got to know him, all of his insecurities began coming to the forefront. Although he didn’t show it, he hated the way he looked and faced an internal battle every single day. He showed me that as a personal trainer, I have to try to unlock those issues and help my clients overcome them.

Submit your story here: http://arkstories.com/bodyimageblog.html

Copyright Ark Stories 2011

Moon River

I’m a sixty-year old male. I’m neither a pro nor an expert but I’ve dealt with body image issues for my entire life. I grew up as the fat kid and was scorned and taunted throughout most of my childhood and adolescence. When I was a young teen, the song “Moon River”, recorded by Andy Williams, was popular. At one point the kids in the neighborhood started calling me “Moon” based on the lyric snippet “Moon River…wider than a mile”. Throughout my junior high school and high school days, I had hardly any friends because nobody wanted to hang out with the fat kid. I had only one date in my high school years…a sympathy date with the sister of a guy I was in a band with. She went with me to a high school concert and that was the extent of it. It wasn’t until I was in my early twenties that I actually had the opportunity to kiss a girl but those few experiences never went anywhere. The one girl I got close enough to to begin to think I had a girlfriend let her best friend (who despised me because I was fat) convince her that she should dump me.

It wasn’t until I was about twenty-three that I lost my virginity, sympathy sex with a girl too young and stupid to know any better (I realize now that I owe her an apology for talking her into it).

I married in my late twenties to a wonderful woman…we stayed together for twenty-five years. However, it always tormented me when we were with her parents and she and her mother would make caustic comments about a fat person they’d notice. They didn’t understand that they were also talking about me.

I finally found a real career in my middle thirties and once I achieved the skills that gave me real self-confidence, I came to the realization that my body image was an issue I no longer needed. I vowed to stop concerning myself with how people perceived me based on my weight and to make them respect me for my skills, knowledge and intelligence in the workplace. As a result, I conform very little to corporate dress codes. I wear jeans, a geeky t-shirt and a colorful open shirt over it most of the time. I’ve allowed my hair to grow down below my shoulders and sport a full beard and mustache. I do contract work in the IT sector and am often the only long-haired weirdo on the corporate campus. I’ve built a great reputation in my field…others seek me out for advice and I give it freely. The new self-confidence from being an expert at what I do has allowed me to escape my body image issues.  It’s taken a long time…I’m sixty now but I’m happier with my life than I’ve ever been.

Submit your story here: http://arkstories.com/bodyimageblog.html

Copyright Ark Stories 2011

Big Gurl Diva

I am pleased to share my story, after reading the home page of the blog I was even more inspired and enthused to share my story!  Almost like the introduction was speaking directly to me.
 
My name is Tamara Jackson and I currently reside in Chicago. I am a literary artist who has independently founded and started my own production company (which is still in development stage). I’ve been writing since 2007.  In 2009, I had the opportunity to perform (the) spoken word with Black Poet Ventures and landed a role in a hit stage play Black Poets Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow
A single poem of mine also landed me the opportunity to perform in the nationally celebrated MLK day event and event/celebration hosted by NAACP chairman of Phoenix Az. This is my 4th year in the literary industry and I plan to become a well-known author and speaker! 
 
Since I was eight years old I have been dealing with weight issues. I was teased a lot.
 
After five kids, my teeth are decaying and missing due to lack of nutrients and calcium. I was devastated at my appearance so much that I wouldn’t speak in public or with many of my family members because I was so ashamed. I use to be so down on myself. My teeth are messed up and on top of that I’m a big girl.
 
I missed out on many opportunities in life because of this but somewhere, somehow, I began to look at myself differently (maybe it was because of the therapy I’ve  had).  My self esteem has boosted so much; I no longer allow my weight to be an issue for me.
 
I am currently known as the Big Gurl Diva and mind you, I flaunt it with no problem, even the missing teeth. I accepted the fact that it is what it is and right now I can’t do anything about it. It does nothing to my confidence level.
 
I was on the Judge Mathis show a couple of weeks ago and the defendant caught me off-guard and told the judge to have me to smile and with no hesitation I smiled for the cameras. The peers in the courtroom and all.  There is no longer any shame in my game. I recently published a book entitled Let Sheedom Ring (Women With Voices) which is my tribute to womanhood, a motivational piece I have written expressing my views in my own words, with words of encouragement and more, for the many women who suffer from low self esteem. I was one of them but while writing the book, even I was  inspired. The book was therapeutic for me! Many of us feel we can’t be loved how we want and deserve to be but I would like to share what God gave me:
 
A woman’s touch by Tammy J

 
Looking deep within inside of me, to find true happiness and where I wanna be;
no diamonds and no money can make me feel, this feeling I’ve found that’s all so real;
Although all of the above would be so nice, but don’t allow yourself to be bought please take my advice;
We must first find that happiness from within ourselves, before we can seek it in anyone else;
Yes we all come in various shapes, sizes and colors, but we’re all still the same in one way or another;
We allow our feelings too much to be dictated, we fall carelessly in love to only be manipulated;
Is it real or is it just a dream, that we as women need to have more self esteem;
I’ve often heard that its a man’s world and in it is so much, but what would it be without a woman’s touch?
 
You can find this piece and others inside my book Let Sheedom Ring, overweight, underweight, big, small, toothless and all, we’ve got to come to grips with who we are and get our shine on!
Thank you for allowing me to share my story and much love and many blessings to those that are struggling and who have overcome……..
 
I am currently in a contest for Bougie magazine. I want to be able to express to the world that no matter who you are, where you’re from, and what you look like, there are no boundaries to your success (physically, health, and otherwise).
 
You may find me by visiting either of the sites below:

Copyright Ark Stories 2011

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