Yeah, I’m Skinny and Yeah, I Have Feelings, OK?

skinny-2

By Lindsay Patton-Carson

This past summer, I got too thin.

I suffer from chronic migraines that can be as little as tense neck and head pain for one day or as big as throwing up an entire day or suffering from pounding pain for a week straight. It wasn’t always like this. I used to suffer from migraines sporadically. Maybe one every couple of months. Over the past year, I have been in some sort of pain weekly, many times daily.

It got to the point where it interfered with the things I love. Just a couple months after completing my first marathon, I could not run without triggering a headache. My work, which is a great source of pride  and fulfillment for me, became, well, work.

Bad Meds

For months, I took on the role of lab rat. I was desperate to try anything to get rid of my pain. In May, after being put on a couple different prescriptions, I saw a neurologist about the pain, despite seeing two different doctors to try to help me. In my mind I thought, ‘Neurologists are like migraine experts. This will be a good thing.’

This doctor put me on Topamax, a prescription I’ve heard good things about from friends and family members that also suffer from migraines. I thought if it’s worked so well for them, it might work for me.

One of the side effects for Topamax is weight loss. Since I was already at 114 pounds, I figured I couldn’t lose that much anyway, so I went for it. I didn’t understand that this drug takes away a person’s appetite and in the beginning, leaves them nauseous daily.

Every day, I had the feeling that I had to throw up, but nothing ever came up. I accumulated ginger ale around my desk at work because I needed to calm my stomach somehow. I told myself to just stick it out, that it would get better. That this is a good drug and it would help me.

After a while, I started to notice that I was getting smaller. I looked on the scale and I was 111 pounds. OK, nothing to worry about. I’ve been this size before.

A couple weeks later, it was 110. OK, I just need to try to eat more.

Then, 109.

When it got to 108, I knew I had to do something. I stopped working out completely because I was afraid to lose more weight. The last time I saw those numbers on the scale, I was 16 years old and not yet fully developed.

I was starting to get worried that people would notice. And they did. Some approached me out of concern, thinking I might be harming myself, it was that noticeable. If people were mentioning things to me and voicing concern, I could only imagine what was being said behind my back. In order to squash any potential rumors, I decided I’d be upfront about my struggle, letting people know that I’m working toward getting better.

Skinny Girl Problems

I’ve always felt uncomfortable about saying “I am skinny.” It’s the truth, it is what I am, but even though I know I’m small, I feel guilty around people who are bigger than me; like I am the one perpetuating the size-two culture we live in.

I feel bad because I have never really struggled with my weight. At 5’4″, I’ve fluctuated between 113 and 120 pounds for a good part of my adult life. I have never dieted. I have never said no to food because I was worried about calories. I know it’s a luxury not many people have.

But since I am the size-two culture, I’ve never been able to completely understand how messed up body image is in this country. I do know the culture is messed up, but since I’m right in the middle of the ‘problem,’ per se, I can’t fully understand how someone outside of that tiny bubble might feel.

And because of this, there is some sort of war against thin women. While other women get to embrace their curves, those that are my size must hold responsibility for what Hollywood and the media set as their standards. And once I started struggling with being too thin, I saw exactly how screwed up our culture can be.

I can give you some of my fat

I don’t expect people to understand what it’s like to be too thin. It’s not something that happens in our day-to-day lives. People struggle to lose weight. They don’t struggle to gain weight. So when I thought I was taking control with telling people about my struggle, it turned out that I just gave them a passive aggressive route as a way of responding.

“Wow. Must be nice to have that problem.”

“I wish I had that problem.”

“Which medication are you on? Maybe I should get my hands on that!”

And the most annoying, “I can give you some of my fat.”

Not only is that statement insensitive to what I’m going through, it is downright impossible. You cannot just give me your fat.

So in doing what I thought would be opening up a healthy conversation and understanding, it just turned out to be more stress on myself. Wow. Who am I to complain about this ‘problem?’ I should be happy I can no longer fit into my size-two pants, that my hard-earned muscles have shrunk, that I just feel weak all the time. I am the size of Kate Bosworth! I should be happy! I should shut up with my complaints because there are overweight people in this world.

And I get it, overweight people do get looks. They get nasty comments. To be concise, they get treated like shit. And trust me, I am not the problem. I want people to feel good, to be healthy, to be confident in their bodies, regardless of size. At 108 pounds, I felt weak, I felt unhealthy, I felt incapable. The healthiest I ever felt, in fact, was a year ago when I was 10 pounds heavier. I was strong, I was capable and I was confident. I was proud of my body and what it could do and I also liked the way I looked.

Getting better

As for me today, I’m getting better. I went off my medication and switched over to one that fits my needs. I’m back up to 115 pounds, my healthy and happy weight, and I’m focusing on regaining my strength, falling back in love with running and becoming an overall healthier me. Most importantly, my migraines are fewer because I’ve learned to listen to my body better.

So I ask you, before you judge someone for their size, before you think, ‘Just eat less’ or ‘Just eat more,’ it might not be as easy as that for them. In fact, they could be struggling with something more.

The best responses to Todd Akin’s ‘legitimate rape’ bullshit

Don’t you just love when politicians say they “misspoke”? Like, wouldn’t it be better just to say they had a stroke or were drinking?

For example, take this “misspoken” gem: “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try and shut that whole thing down,” said current rep in the U.S. Effing House of Representatives Todd Akin as he tried to defend his stance on abortion to a TV station. If I were his PR rep I’d blame the booze.

Akin’s suffered a lot of political setbacks in his Senate race since then––namely huge financial setbacks as GOP funders run away screaming, but dude’s digging in his heels, refusing to quit and instead offering some lame apology to the people (but none to Science, Biology, or FACTS).

Here are some of the best, definitely not misspoken responses since then:

President Obama: “Rape is rape. The idea that we should be parsing and qualifying and slicing what types of rape we’re talking about doesn’t make sense to the American people and certainly doesn’t make sense to me… We shouldn’t have a bunch of politicians, the majority of whom are men, making healthcare decisions on behalf of women.” (Washington Post)

Wall Street Journal Editorial: “Mr. Akin has sunk his own ship.” (WSJ.com)

Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass.: “As a husband and father of two young women, I found Todd Akin’s comments about women and rape outrageous, inappropriate and wrong. There is no place in our public discourse for this type of offensive thinking. Not only should he apologize, but I believe Rep. Akin’s statement was so far out of bounds that he should resign the nomination for U.S. Senate in Missouri.” (ABC)

A DOCTOR: “A further problem with proclamations like Akin’s, though, is what they sound like to women who have been raped. If you believe what he does, then anyone who did get pregnant wasn’t ‘legitimately’ raped. Moreover, it belies a willful ignorance of science. Rape has occurred in history time and time again. Women get pregnant from it. This is known. There is no debate to be had. (CNN)

Katie J.M. Baker: “For decades, conservatives have claimed that women can’t get pregnant from ‘legitimate’ rape thanks to their wise, all-knowing uteri, psychic ‘juices’ and Spidey Sense-like ‘secretions.’ (Hmm, if legislators can applaud our vaginas for being so omniscient, how come they can’t let us control them?)” (Jezebel’s “Official Guide to Legitimate Rape”)

“Akin” himself: “I am an evil, fucked-up man who should never have been elected to the United States Congress, and anyone who would vote for me is probably a pretty big fucking dumbshit, too.” (The Onion)

–TC

Essential clothes for curvy girls

As a curvy girl, it’s tough to find stuff that not only fits but flatters.

By curvy, I mean we ladies who have ample T and A and a defined waist. And a tough time finding things that both fit right AND look nice.

Here are few tried-and-true items of my own to share.

1. This bikini.

This. THIS. This is the happiest I will ever be in a bikini.
Is that me in this lovely and heavily Photoshopped photo? Of course not! But I feel fabulous in it.

It works for a few reasons: See the bottoms? They’re a “foldover” bottom that sits lower –– but not too low––  and does not cut into your hips. The bottom also actually covers a big booty, unlike the new trendy “cheeky” bottoms that show half your ass.

The top provides structure, removable padding and lift. The shitty thing about bikini tops is that they often leave your girls hanging. If you’re a curvy girl, you need SUPPORT. This top keeps your boobs front and center. The cute retro stitching on the cups is just a bonus. The Victoria’s Secret retro push-up triangle top with foldover bottoms is also on sale.

2. Magic pants Continue reading

Me Versus The Pill

Getting a really bad period can feel almost worse than this crazy fool yelling at you.

“I’m not going to pay for your birth control just so you can have sex.”

My dad said that to me when I was 22 years old and on birth control for the first time. I still remember the setting in perfect detail. He yelled it at me while on a family vacation with my mom, brother, aunt, uncle and cousins. And yes, they were all standing by.

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Why the Mississippi “personhood amendment” failed

Mississippi voters decided yesterday by a 55 percent majority not to outlaw abortion and some kinds of birth control methods. Photo by The New York Times.

Yesterday Mississippi citizens voted against a so-called “personhood” amendment that would have outlawed abortion and would have prohibited some types of birth control, too.

Continue reading

Yes, we can love feminism and fashion too

First Lady Michelle Obama: the kind of powerful and stylish woman who, upon arriving at her Vogue photo shoot, told THEM what she was going to wear.

Feminists are hairy-legged man-haters, fashion fans are fad-obsessed idiots, and never shall the two see eye-to-eye. Right? Wrong! Here’s why.

Continue reading

What free birth control means (and doesn’t mean)

Duuuuuuude! Birth control will soon be FREE!

How did this happen? The U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services has some sort of magical power to make sweeping regulatory decisions. Its latest decision mandates that private insurance plans cover women’s preventative services with no co-pays, starting on Jan. 1, 2013.

It’s not just birth control that’s covered under those preventative services; there are other “well-woman” services required for free too. But the free-BC mandate is what’s making a big splash, especially because emergency contraception (the morning-after pill) is also included.

This, of course, freaked a lot of conservative folks way the eff out, who began making all sorts of life-is-precious and women-are-whores kind of arguments. There is a religious exemption to the regulation, so religious employers won’t have to allow their insurance plans to follow it. But the fact that women will get free BC is still ruffling lots of feathers in a whole conservative kerfuffle (women wanting to be responsible parents: how upsetting!).

Here are the facts, friends:

While I applaud the HHS for their mandate,  I still have a few concerns. What about the folks who don’t have health insurance?  More than 50 million were uninsured last year. That’s one in six U.S. residents who won’t be helped by the change. And what about teen pregnancy, which increased for the first time since 1990, according to an estimate last year?

Yes, free birth control will help decrease the amount of unwanted pregnancies. But those who can’t afford insurance certainly can’t afford more children and thus must have access to birth control. Teens also need access to contraception and sex education.

We should be pleased that the HHS has stepped in to cover such important preventative care. But there are plenty of people who won’t be affected by this change, which means unintended pregnancy will still be a huge problem.

–By Tara Cavanaugh

Get your “beach body” on a budget

You don’t have to look like (or have the cash like) the Duchess of Cambridge to feel good in a bikini.

Ah, Memorial Day weekend—the unofficial beginning of summer and season of the “beach body.”  Instead of stressing over attaining a so-called “beach body,” it’s more important to focus on feeling healthy and comfortable with your body as temperatures rise and you can no longer hide behind a hoodie.  However, if you’re strapped for cash, sometimes cultivating wellness can seem difficult.  Buying raw and organic foods, gym membership, and exercise equipment can leave deep gouges in your bank account.  Here are some practical tips for inexpensive ways to improve your health through diet and exercise:

1.     Pick and choose what you buy organic.  Buy nonorganic fruits and vegetables that have thick skins, such as bananas and onions.  They belong to the “Clean Fifteen” fruits and vegetable s that contain little to no pesticides.  Produce such as apples and salad greens (lettuce, spinach, kale, etc.) belong to the “Dirty Dozen” and can contain from 47-67 pesticides per serving.  Plus, foods belonging to the “Dirty Dozen” taste much better organic.  (Try biting into an organic apple and then into a nonorganic apple and you’ll notice the difference.)

2.     Grow your own fruits and veggies.  Even if you live in an apartment, you can grow some of your own produce and herbs in containers.  Growing food from seeds saves grocery and gas money and it’s a cost effective way to eat organic foods.  For concise and user-friendly tips, check out About.com’s selection of links listed under Fruits & Vegetables – Growing Fruits, Vegetables and Herbs in Pots.

3.     Keep your eyes peeled for free classes.  By doing a Google search or browsing Craigslist.com, you can often find listings for instructors and studios that host free fitness classes.  Of course, the range of your selection depends a lot on where you live (areas with bigger populations and a high level of public interest in fitness generally have a wider selection of free classes).  Additionally, the YMCA offers temporary reduced membership rates for individuals and households and they have a variety of fitness classes to choose from.

4.     Don’t buy what you can borrow instead.  Between the public library and Netflix (starting at 7.99 a month), getting exercise DVDs is incredibly cheap.  Also, it’s easier to incorporate a wide range of workouts this way because you’re not shelling out money tons of money for each DVD you get.

5.     Go the “French” route.  I love Mireille Guiliano’s approach to fitness in French Women Don’t Get Fat.  Guilianp endorses the way in which French women stay trim, which is by playing sports, walking, cycling, and opting out of doing things the easy way (i.e. taking the stairs instead of the elevator).  Staying active doesn’t have to mean doing P90X workouts; it can be as simple as taking a brisk walk around the neighborhood.

And, as a final note, if you’re taking care of yourself but still feeling anxious when it comes to your body, do yourself a favor and read this gal’s take on how everybody has a “beach body.

–By Jenna Cooper

The Texas Sonogram Bill Debate

The Texas Pioneer Woman, erected in 1998 by the Daughters of the Republic of Texas.

While they could’ve been debating over the economy, Texas lawmakers instead debated over abortion in the first half of 2011.  Texas Governor Rick Perry is expected to sign a bill that mandates doctors to offer each woman considering an abortion a sonogram of her fetus, a recording of the fetus’s heartbeat, and a non-optional description of the fetus—i.e., the development of limbs and internal organs.  Each woman who wants an abortion in Texas will be required—by law—to listen to an explanation of her sonogram unless she certifies in writing that her pregnancy was a result of rape or incest, she is a minor who got judicial bypass, or her fetus has an irreversible medical condition or abnormality.  All the so-called “sonogram bill,” or HB 15, will need to go into effect is Rick Perry’s signature.  Since he himself designated HB 15 as an emergency bill, we all know what’s coming.

Texas is getting a lot of negative publicity over HB 15, but it’s not the first state to enact a law like this.  However, the fact that Rick Perry gave the sonogram bill emergency status in a recession when constituents need the state government to focus on economic issues—like the laying off of thousands of teachers this year due to district budget cuts—makes the emergency status of this bill particularly embarrassing (at least for Texan pro-choice individuals, such as myself.  Yes, we do exist.).  Furthermore, the premise of the bill assumes that women who initially choose abortion aren’t making an informed decision.  It’s ironic that so many supporters of this bill want to prohibit federal funding for Planned Parenthood, an organization that exists primarily to educate women about their pregnancies and choices.

The law will breach women’s privacy by forcing them to “justify” that they have a “valid” reason to opt out of hearing an explanation of their sonograms.  Women who are victims of rape, an already painful thing to talk about with loved ones, will have to disclose to their doctors that they were raped, or else endure a potentially traumatizing experience by hearing a description of the fetus.  Additionally, in order to obtain a clear image of the fetus and to pick up a heartbeat, doctors most often use transvaginal ultrasounds.  Pro-choice advocates, such as Texas State Representative Carol Alvarado, believe that the use of transvaginal ultrasounds make the forced sonograms particularly intrusive and disturbing.

Pro-life supporters believe that enforcing the sonogram law will result in fewer pregnant women choosing abortion.  Several have provided unsubstantiated statistics to support their argument.  For instance, Elizabeth Graham, director of Texas Right to Life, affirmed that “we know anecdotally that most of the time when women see their unborn child, 70 to 80 percent of the time [they] end up continuing their pregnancy and choosing life.”  Another pro-life supporter, Cristina Caine, who runs the White Rose Women’s Center in Dallas, Texas, claims that “we know it’s a lifesaving thing…in over 90 percent of cases, a woman will chose life if they see the baby in the ultrasound.”  Where on earth are these statistics coming from?  No clear consensus among the pro-life community exists with regards to whether or not getting spoon fed descriptions of the fetus prevents women from having abortions.

One of the few research studies ever done on women’s reactions to viewing their sonograms was published in 2009 in the European Journal of Contraception and Reproductive Health CareThe study shows that when given the option, 72 percent of women chose to view the sonogram image. Of those, 86 percent said it was a positive experience. None changed their mind about the abortion.”  However, the women who took part in that study had a choice—nobody legally compelled them to hear graphic details about their fetuses.

What would, in the long run, truly prevent abortions?  I believe the best possible option is education—education that focuses on the full spectrum of pregnancy prevention—but it shouldn’t start when a woman has already had sex, gotten pregnant, and wants an abortion.  (Seriously, will teens stop having sex just because their school teaches them abstinence?  Doubtfully.)  Also, women should have the freedom to ask for and refuse information.  The sonogram bill, soon to be signed into law, treats women as second-class citizens who can’t make the right choice without “authorities” intervening.

–By Jenna Cooper