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Megan Glosson

Learning to Love My Body in a Swimsuit as a Woman With Poland Syndrome

As a woman who lives in a larger body, I already have a love-hate relationship with my appearance to say the least. However, when you add in the fact that I have Poland syndrome, it’s easy to see why swimsuit season is my least favorite time of year. It’s too much attention to all the parts of my body that I hate. I can’t remember the last time I felt comfortable in a swimsuit. In fact, I spent a large part of my 20s and early 30s avoiding swimsuit shopping altogether. Finding a swimsuit that fits my curves and doesn’t draw attention to my lopsided chest often feels like an impossible task, and it’s not one I usually have the energy for. But, last April, I started dating an incredible woman who, among other things, loves to spend time at the pool and the beach. Unlike many of my previous partners, she never once made me feel self-conscious or uncomfortable with my body, despite its deformities. She didn’t ask tons of questions or make jokes about my chest, she simply let me share in my own way and continued to show me time and time again that she loved me exactly the way I am. Yet when she suggested a date day at a local hotel with a water park, I panicked. What if she sees me in a swimsuit and no longer finds me attractive? What if people make comments or stare at us because of how I look? The pressure felt so overwhelming that I almost backed out on the date. However, I decided to push through the discomfort, and I’m glad I did because we had a great time. I spent the entire day in and out of the water, and I didn’t feel the least bit self-conscious. In fact, there were even moments when I felt good about myself (although that could have just been because my girlfriend kept complimenting me). It was a rare moment for me to feel completely comfortable in my body, and I was so grateful for it. Shortly after that day, my girlfriend had a surprise for me: a new, two-piece swimsuit. Again, my inner monologue ran wild. What makes you think you can pull that off with your disgusting body? That will not look good on you! Yet again, with my partner’s encouragement, I pushed through my fears and tried it on. Once again, I was surprised by how I felt in the swimsuit. It somehow fit in a way that was comfortable but didn’t make my chest look off. I also didn’t feel like the rest of my body looked bad in it. In fact, I actually felt attractive. Before I knew it, I was wearing this new swimsuit any chance I got. I would wear it to the pool at our apartment complex. I took it with me on weekend trips. I even wore it to two different water parks we visited in the past year. When I wear it, I don’t feel like people are staring at me, nor do I feel like it makes my Poland syndrome obvious. Instead, I just feel like a normal woman in a swimsuit, enjoying my time in the water. Who knew that an article of clothing that was once my nemesis would become something I loved to wear? I would have never guessed! This summer is in full swing, and once again my partner and I are spending lots of time in the water. But unlike previous years, I am not dreading the pool the way I once did. In fact, I’m having lots of fun. I do think I have a long way to go towards accepting my body. However, I feel like this simple swimsuit has done wonders for my self-esteem. It’s helped me really embrace my Poland syndrome and see it as a part of who I am instead of something that holds me back. I know that may sound small, but I think it’s something that many people with health conditions that impact their physical appearance struggle with. But, maybe if we all shared stories like this more often, we’d all see that beauty really does come in all shapes and sizes, and the journey towards that acceptance really does start within our own minds.

D. Tyler Webster

How Ankylosing Spondylitis Helped Me Learn to Love My Body

My body was carried by a woman who when faced with adversity plants her feet and remains stable no matter the severity of the storm. It was made by a man with vigor, an insurmountable capacity to endure challenges, and the ingenuity to make a meal with a few forgotten pantry staples. Both have never cowered or run from anything — even each other — when at times they should have. Instead, they persevere, sometimes shaken, but nonetheless, moving forward. My mom’s favorite saying is, “Chapter closed.” This is typically said when something traumatic has happened and we no longer want to discuss it. We instead begin the next chapter of our lives and hope for more. I’ve found myself saying “chapter closed” after a flare, or the failure of another medication. I’ve closed many chapters recently. When I become frustrated with my body and its inability to withstand the normalcy of a full-time job, or its pain that leaves me reliant on a cane, I come back to the things I’ve inherited from the people I love. I remind myself that I embody the same vigor and willingness to persevere. Though I am flawed, I do not run or cower, I plant my feet and endure the storm and remind myself that my body is a good place to be. I will not have biological children. I wouldn’t want to pass along the pain that comes with owning a body of my particular genetic mutation. If at some point I do have a child, when they are faced with the inevitable obstacles of having a body and navigating the human condition, I hope to pass along that same vigor and willingness to preserve. Though it won’t be hereditary, it will be taught. I was never taught to love my body; for years, I found comfort in destroying it. I pushed myself to extremes, and I prided myself on the ability to endure the damage I inflicted. Maybe if I was taught to love my body, to nourish it, and speak kindly of it, I wouldn’t have sought comfort in harming it — while unbeknownst to me, it was harming itself. When your body begins to recognize its own tissue as foreign, and you’re presented with an illness that is out of your control, you become regretful of the harm you’ve inflicted on yourself. I wish I spent more time loving my natural weight instead of denying myself second helpings of my favorite meals. I wish I spent less time drinking. I wish I had spent more time being consciously grateful for my body’s abilities instead of doing my best to hinder them. I didn’t feel like my body was a good place to be then, which in retrospect is why I spent so much time being removed from it. Now, even while managing chronic illness, my body is a good place to be because I take care of it. I honor its fatigue, I support it with a cane, and I listen to its desire for a second helping of my favorite food. I am consciously grateful for my body’s abilities, even when they are limited. I can’t imagine hating a body that was created by two people’s desire to personify their love. I have the height of my grandfather, the easily tanned skin of my father, the dark features of my grandmother, and the bone structure of my mother. I see the characteristics of the people I love that weren’t assigned to my DNA in my siblings, and it seems impossible to hate my body when it is made from and shared with the people who taught me what it means to be a good person. I feel the softness of my belly, the weight of the bags under my eyes, the dull ache in my legs, and I fall asleep knowing tomorrow there is time to love the parts of myself I was unable to love today.

Community Voices

How to help deal with the new requirement for calories on menus

The new requirement for restaurants and cafes to display calories on menus will no doubt challenge people with eating disorders – myself included, as I have personally suffered with anorexia. Here are some things to remember, which might help if you’re struggling with this.

Firstly, calories aren’t the enemy. Calories are simply units of energy, which everyone needs in order for your body to carry out its basic functions. You wouldn’t tell your younger self that you couldn’t have that cookie because it had ‘too many’ calories in it, would you? You wouldn’t make your younger self have that plain salad instead of pizza would you? So why would you now? You are still as deserving as your younger self to have full food freedom and have permission to live your life to the fullest, without a number on a flimsy menu telling you otherwise.

Secondly, for someone with an eating disorder such as anorexia nervosa, it may be hard to have foods that you’re scared you may not like, and it be a ‘waste of calories’. But calories aren’t a currency you spend, they’re something everyone needs to live! When you’re older, looking back on your life, don’t you want to say you made the most of it, and enjoyed it to the fullest? Don’t let a number control you. Calories aren’t money and you don’t need to ‘save’ them up, or decide what to get with them. You control food. Don’t let food control you. Because a life of food freedom, will always be better than a life listening to an eating disorder.

Lastly, calories aren’t an exact science. They’re simply an indicator of how much energy a food contains. Your body doesn’t care if it’s had X more calories than usual; it only cares that it’s getting enough fuel.

#BodyPositivity #EatingDisorderRecovery #anorexiarecovery #Selfacceptance #eatingdisorderawareness #tipsandtricks

One thing I can promise you is that once you push through the hardest parts of recovery, you will not regret it. I can't promise that things will be perfect, or that recovery will be easy. But I promise that you will find yourself again and things will be so much better than they are.

So, don’t let this new law knock you back. Get that pudding. Eat what younger you would really want. You wouldn’t tell your friends they couldn’t have something, so why would you tell yourself that? Don’t let a number on a menu get in the way of you enjoying yourself and creating memories. You’ve got this!

'Bodies Are Cool' Children's Book by Tyler Feder Celebrates Difference

Working at a public library, I encounter a lot of books. And I know you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but I do see a lot of covers as I’m shelving. I can’t help but judge them. One picture book that instantly caught my eye was “Bodies Are Cool,” by Tyler Feder. Published in 2021, this book takes body positivity to a whole new level. The cover alone features various bodies, of different sizes, different skin colors, having scars or stretch marks, using a hearing aid or insulin pump, and covered in various amounts of hair. The book shows even more different bodies throughout. Pages focus on height, eyes, tummies, scars, and more, all while proclaiming that “All bodies are good bodies! Bodies are cool!” One page in particular features skin differences. The text reads, “Freckled bodies, dotted bodies, rosy-patched or speckled bodies, dark-skin-swirled-with-light-skin bodies. Bodies are cool!” while each person illustrated also enjoys speckled or swirled ice cream. Not only are the illustrations bright and fun, but they show skin differences rarely seen in illustrations, if ever before. Even beyond this page, several illustrations feature spotted, vitiligo-like skin. This is skin that looks more like mine. When I was diagnosed with vitiligo as a child, my mom was handed a pamphlet of clinical information from the dermatologist and sent on her way. She later told me that this was terrifying, so she looked elsewhere for personal stories. She found news anchor, Lee Thomas’s, memoir, but I was too young to be interested in that type of book. We did find a picture book, “Different Just Like Me,” which was about differences among children, but despite it being inspired by vitiligo, the illustrations did not ever show vitiligo. Representation of skin and other visual body differences was improving, but certainly still lacking. This is why books like “Bodies Are Cool” are such a huge step forward. It has representation that’s just existing, rather than making it so heavily a difference. It presents diverse bodies as the natural state of being, which is how bodies are in the real world and how it should be in literature, especially children’s literature. For me, seeing vitiligo in a picture book is stunning. This book is a radical form of acceptance of all bodies. Everyone, of all ages, will hopefully find themselves represented somewhere. One of my other favorite pages shows a group of people at a dance class. The text reads, “Round bodies, muscled bodies, curvy curves and straight bodies, jiggly-wiggly fat bodies. Bodies are cool!” Most of the people in the illustration break the mold of a “traditional” ballet dancer somehow, whether that is being in a larger body, being male presenting, using a prosthetic leg, having messy hair, or having no hair. I have danced my whole life and recently experienced weight gain, which made me feel less comfortable going to a ballet class. Yet, here is a page in a picture book showing me all bodies can do ballet, and all bodies are cool. I’m not surprised that here in Illinois, “Bodies Are Cool” is among the nominees for the 2023 Monarch Award, voted on by readers K-3. If I was eligible to vote, I would choose this book in an instant. We must keep writing and illustrating diverse bodies, until books like this are the norm. In the meantime, “Bodies Are Cool” should be in every library, every classroom, and every home.

Stop Shaming Lizzo for Being a Proud, Fat, Black Woman

Ever since Lizzo’s “Truth Hurts” was featured in Netflix’s film, “Someone Great,” and the 2017 song reached the #1 spot on Billboard’s Hot 100, Lizzo herself has been regularly centered in social media discourse across a variety of platforms. As exemplified in her 2021 song “Rumours” (featuring Cardi B), Lizzo has had every aspect of her identity picked apart and criticized for clicks and clout under the guise of concerns surrounding health, morality, children’s internet safety, and the publics assigned title of “role model.” Celebrities are no stranger to the public enforcing the role model title on them as a way to shove them into a box of respectability, but Black celebrities, especially multi-marginalized ones like Black, fat women, get it especially. Regardless of what Lizzo does or wears, she is heavily scrutinized and shamed. One could say this comes with the territory of celebrity, but stardom alone doesn’t account for the cruel treatment she faces. It’s fatphobia. Fat Black women have a trope that they are expected to follow. From TV shows, to movies, to cartoons, to comics, fat Black women are characterized as the comedy relief, the emotional support, the Mammy. They are to be loud, but quiet when it comes to their confidence and appearance and serve as the backup to a skinnier character, rarely ever the main character that’s cast in a truly good light. When Lizzo stepped onto the scene, she made it clear that she wasn’t about any of that. She pushes self-love and being yourself even when everyone else doesn’t want you to. She doesn’t exist to serve as a gauge of your moral standing or as a role model for you or your children to follow every step of the way. She’s a human being who simply exists, and due to being a celebrity, her existence is spread across social media platforms making people think that they somehow know enough about her to hold her to their arbitrary standards. Whether she gains or loses weight, has her ass out and who she’s possibly in a relationship with, is no one’s business. Every aspect of her life doesn’t require a veiled think piece or academic critique. From TikTok to Instagram to Twitter, just her posting pictures of herself alone is enough to relight the fires of whatever discourse surrounded her the week before. I imagine it has to be exhausting being picked apart like a seventh-grade science class anatomy project. She’s constantly accused of “promoting an unhealthy lifestyle” (which is just a veiled attempt at hiding fatphobia behind faux health concerns) despite her talking about exercise and eating differently. Since she’s aiming to better herself while also pushing back against weight loss being the goal, that’s ignored since it doesn’t fit the ongoing narrative. Fatness and healthiness can’t coexist in the eyes of a public who can’t even acknowledge that skinniness doesn’t automatically equate to having good health. Lizzo is frequently stripped of her humanity for doing the same exact things that skinnier celebrities do while getting three times the vitriol. Can y’all just let her live?

Community Voices
Community Voices

Still Learning to Love Myself

<p>Still Learning to Love Myself</p>
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What Real Disability Inclusion Looks Like in Fashion Marketing

Some brands are lying about their inclusion when in fact they are exploiting us for their own greed. Brands are NOT inclusive if they are just throwing freebies at you but not posting your bodies on their main social media pages.They are gaining sales and followers from your advertisement and that’s why they do it. It’s evident they are afraid to show our “real” bodies. Brands are NOT inclusive if you have to have a minimum number of followers to be featured on their site or social media. This again creates more sales to benefit them. Having real people is what should matter to them. Brands are NOT inclusive if they just focus on one disability, for example, only using those in wheelchairs or those with stomas.They should be doing their research and use their following to gather more representation. Brands are NOT inclusive if they don’t think about the vulnerability of others. They should be supportive rather than seeing someone as just a number. More needs to be done by these brands who have the power to create change by paving the way and breaking the mold. True representation is needed to help those struggling with body confidence and to break down beauty standards for our future generations. One perfect body does NOT exist, because we are all perfect in our own unique way.

Community Voices

Learning to love myself and my body at 32.

#EatingDisorder #learntoloveyourself #Recovery

I remember when I was very young feeling so much larger than my friends when I was extremely petite. Always frustrated, not feeling any worth. When I was 14, I got food poisoning and lost weight. From there on I blamed my developing eating disorder on not being able to gain that weight back. Lying was easier than admitting that I had a problem. When I was 24 I came close to dying from #Anorexia It's hard to love something you hate. Something that people don’t understand because in their opinion you look good, you look fine. If you are like me, 32 years old, and still accepting your beauty and body, you aren’t alone. In a realness, #BodyPositivity is so much harder than they make it seem. Let’s learn to love ourselves for where we are at, not where we will be in 5 months or 2 years.

I'm In Eating Disorder Recovery, and My Mum Doesn't Love Her Body

I am 33 years old and I am watching you pick apart yourself in the dressing room mirror. When we started today, you promised we would have positive self-talk, but we’ve only made it to the first store and you are already complaining and comparing. I stare at my body weight recovered but my mind still struggles with the dysmorphia that I know you will never accept. As a child, I looked to you for acceptance and found that I started to mimic your behaviors. “Mum, does this make me look fat?” “Mum, I just need to lose a bit of weight.” Instead of assurance that I was beautiful, you often gave me feedback on what to improve on. You never doubted that I was beautiful, but you always ended with how I could just be slightly better. I’ve never blamed my eating disorder on one thing. Eating disorders are often complex in their nature. I know my eating disorder didn’t stem from just a mother who didn’t love her body or said the wrong things. But it could’ve helped to have a woman to look up to who loved all her curves; who told her husband to accept that her body changes as she grows older; who only accepted positive comments and threw out all the dumpster fire body-shaming comments to the curb. I found a picture the other day of you as a child, kissing the mirror with such confidence as children often do. I wondered who took that from you. Was it my father, who belittled you and made you feel that every pound you gained meant that he would love you less? Was it the media that fed you lies with each magazine that told you who was fat and who was skinny? Or was it before that? Was it your mother, and her mother before her? A pattern that goes back generations. A cycle of self-loathing and body shaming. I refuse to be a part of the cycle anymore. If I could go back in time, I would tell generations of women in my family that their appearance doesn’t determine their worth. It is the things they do, the energy they put out into the world that is their strength. I wish you understood that your weight, the size of your pants, your stretch marks — it all doesn’t determine your worth. Your body will always be beautiful because it houses your soul. We are in the dressing room and you say, “It’s terrible, getting old. I’m so overweight. I have stretch marks and I just need to lose some pounds.” I take a deep breath and I remind myself that I no longer need to take on your insecurities as my own. I look into the mirror and I see the strong woman I have become. I do my best to tell you that you are beautiful and I hope that someday you will find that in yourself when you look in the mirror. Enjoy my writing? Find my writing and advocacy on Instagram and my poetry book on Amazon .