On Eating Disorders And Being An Athlete In The Midst…

I appreciated receiving this article, written by Karen Crouse, which speaks to a very real problem in sports. It is also – I should point out – scarcely relegated to figure skating (the topic of the article) and related performing or aesthetic sports such as dancing, bodybuilding, and the like.  Rather, it has a much broader (and frankly insidious) grip on athletes around the globe. 

Eating disorders were something I grew up knowing plenty about – I was classically trained in ballet for over ten years, competitively figure skated for about sixteen years, and danced competitively in International Latin and American Smooth ballroom for seven years. In those arenas, thin is ALWAYS in.

Yikes.

Can weight make a difference in performance? Yes, absolutely. When it comes to one’s joints, or one’s ability to do the particularly acrobatic and athletic jumps and spins, it’s important we are at a weight healthy for our frame. Figure skating, for one, is a high impact sport and that takes a toll even on a healthy body. When we are unhealthy, those negative side effects can be multiplied many fold. However, a lot of it – a sometimes far heftier percentage – is about the “look.” And, when it becomes about our appearance, things can go downhill very quickly…

It isn’t only that I, like many athletes, was “young and impressionable” at the time – top athletes generally ARE on the younger side (remember that part about impact on the body?) Athletes begin training early, so there is certainly danger in implanting these injurious notions early on.

What is also a real issue, however, is that a focus on a person’s “weight” can suddenly have bearing on whether or not you are even “considered” for a winning position – that will change your tune pretty quick if you have goals of any kind. (Deny politics play a role in results? You’re kidding yourself!)

In ballroom, for example, if you aren’t groomed properly, you simply aren’t taken seriously. Period. It’s as easy as that. I’m not putting it down, I was in it…and LOVED it. But it was a horrible hassle, and I knew I didn’t really have a choice. Before a competition I needed to be:

  • Spray tanned…TWICE (because my pale skin wasn’t in)
  • Have my nails done (as in, they needed to be long and noticeable)
  • Have my hair professionally done every time I competed (multiple days, means days of hair-doing)
  • Professional makeup (fortunately I did this myself, but then half my suitcase was makeup I had to lug)
  • Make sure I was as fit as could be (wearing next to nothing / very revealing costumes…yes, people would notice if you gained a little extra. And they wouldn’t be shy about mentioning it)

Those things were prerequisites.  Then you added to that judge preferences like wearing tan fishnets or stockings (okay, no big deal, that helped “pull me in” a little so I stayed slim in that tiny costume…) But it was rough because if you didn’t take those “suggestions” you often were out of the running…before you even took the floor. No, I’m not kidding. Figure skating was a little less harsh on that front, but the pressure to “lose a little” was definitely an undercurrent.

I remember going to skating camp at Simsbury’s International Skating Center of Connecticut. I was in my mid to later teens (definitely the mesomorph of the group!) and I recall – very clearly – the younger skaters being worried about gaining weight. They wouldn’t eat ice cream, they would ask for coffee (at that age?!) with skim milk… They wouldn’t have chips…. Even back at our dorms, some would skip breakfast because they didn’t want to have too much (more Lucky Charms and Golden Grahams for me?)

Let me be clear, I am ALL about healthy, clean eating – it’s not about how I look so much as how it makes my body feel. My body is a “finely-tuned machine,” according to my doc, and it tells me what it needs. But when you are FIGURE SKATING…for HOURS A DAY…you burn more than a Clydesdale! I mean, it was craziness!!! These kids were WAY too young to worry about weight, not a single one had any inkling of a problem (which could impact joints, as athletic as skating can be), and they couldn’t enjoy themselves as a result – it was heartbreaking!

Now a days, the pressures are – apparently – still there. It was eye-opening to read that Brian Boitano (an idol I watched win his gold when I was ten years-old) was very much subjected to this, and wasn’t actually at peak performance (very likely) at that time. Hard to believe if you saw those jumps! It’s also saddening to hear that Adam Rippon has struggled with this as well. I love that they are open about it because eating disorders carry a lot of shame with them – speaking up and making it known that we are not alone can be enough to save someone afflicted from a life of suffering.

My disorders – Anorexia and Exercise Bulimia / Anorexia Athetica – were a result of something very different, but they nearly devoured me whole too. I thankfully managed to cruise through my sports both unscathed and unapologetically…but I was acutely aware of the oft-unspoken-about illnesses in the background. Having suffered through it later, knowing full well how damaging and dangerous such sickness can be, was testament to how powerful these diseases are… 

For many of athletes, body image is tightly wound around performance. . .which is tightly bound to our identities. Sometimes – to add fuel to the fire – that can be perpetuated by the people we look up to or rely on in the sport, as well as tied to our future success.

It’s a struggle to see the “good” sometimes – to see how strong we are, how well we are doing… It’s even harder to recognize…and then ADMIT…when we aren’t fueling ourselves the way we need to. I recently took back to the ice (on a VERY minor scale) but I’ll tell you…my legs are different. I can see it, I can feel it, and my body is asking for more carbohydrates and food. And…that’s what I give it if I need to. But like Adam Rippon, the mind will make a point to call out that we are doing something different – It’s like an internal guilt trip from the Ghost of Athletics Past!

Eating disorders are terrifying – like other addictive illnesses, they have the power to completely derail us, if not end our lives completely. While I refrain from “talking politics,” and don’t much care for celebrities shouting out their messages at the top of their lungs…there is some benefit in this particular arena. It is important to be honest and open because eating disorders are often highly isolating – we begin to decay on our own, and keep everyone at a distance while we whither away. The knowledge that we aren’t alone in our struggles it might help others find the strength and courage to seek treatment – one life saved is one life saved!

Truth be told, having had no one to look to during my own…? I would have LOVED to have this kind of hope to grab onto… 

 

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Things Are…And Aren’t…What They Appear To Be

I posted these photos on Instagram because, as an athlete, I’m often around other people exercising, aiming for fitness or sport goals, or in a sports class. Our goals, our aesthetics, our abilities, and our priorities are all different and I make a HUGE point to remind people that comparison is never a helpful tactic. But when I say that, I don’t just mean comparison to other people – what they have or don’t have, how they look or don’t look. . .  – I also mean that we need to be gentle with ourselves

Our own mirrors, cameras, eyeballs (!). . .can tell very different stories simply based on angle and lighting. Hell, time of DAY can make a difference too – did you just have a huge glass of water? Have you eaten three meals already? Are you a woman dealing with cyclical change?

Sometimes people say very kind things, but they say them in a way as if to put themselves down… That makes me crazy. We all have room for improvement, but we also all have a lot to be proud of. When we see images of people in “perfect” shape it’s easy to be hard on ourselves – because I’ve grown up in sports (which I consider a great thing!) I also have the side effect of always wanting to achieve. To – absolutely – my own detriment sometimes!

What we ourselves (a highly visual species) post on social media generally portrays the happy, the fun, the good, the ideal “stuff”…but not as much the rough patches, the blemishes, the mistakes. As with everything, we all have our own reasons for that…and tons OF them. For some of us, we look to one another for inspiration and motivation. We also like to share funny and personal tidbits along the way – we are connected to friends, after all. But it’s important not to forget the human element, and that there is more to what we see.

Lately, I’ve gone easier – I was down and out with a cold, I’ve been struggling with a back problem…it’s just been harder to push myself to the limit. BUT…I’m doing okay. I’m healthy and have a LOT to be thankful for (I’m serious, I could write a monster gratitude list off the cuff.)

Being off my game doesn’t mean I’m suddenly a horrible person or I’m not still doing a good job! I make little jabs at myself (NOT nice and NOT a good habit, ps – I work on that every day) but I’m never going back to depriving myself. Fortunately when I was doing that, I didn’t think I looked well at all, and it was not the result of wanting to change my figure. Still, that unhealthy propensity is there and it takes daily reminders sometimes that my own EYES can deceive me…just like yours and everyone else’s can. 

Social media definitely doesn’t help that case so I think showing that appearances are easy to alter is a positive thing. It’s okay to post the good and happy and pulled-together…but just don’t forget that everyone has imperfections. Lighting and angles also play a big part – both for good and for not-so-good. We aren’t getting professionally airbrushed like celebrities in Vogue (well, maybe some are!) but there’s still room for focal shifts!

 

 

Hollywood Ladies Baring All For Pirelli

Word of a new Pirelli project came my way recently, and I love that for it, these “elite” ladies are being photographed au natural.  Yes, part of me knows that they probably had facials, and undoubtedly have their own selection of skincare and preventative aging measures (in general, but also in preparation!) BUT. . . I still appreciate that they are being photographed withOUT the layers of makeup they usually are seen wearing.  Refreshing.

Why would I bother mentioning it, especially given that I don’t follow celebrity media?  Because a lot of ladies look up to the “stars.”  Young ones, in particular… The faces in the spotlight matter – right or wrong (whatever your opinion) – to many.  So it’s great to see them taking it all off to encourage people to love the skin they are in – no one should have to hide, and it is OKAY to be bare-faced.

newbeauty.com

newbeauty.com

Per photographer Peter Lindbergh and New Beauty:

“I wanted to use the 2017 calendar to convey a different kind of beauty,” said Lindbergh at a press launch in Paris. “Since it’s based on consumption, the present system offers a single kind of beauty, which is essentially one of youth and perfection, since its objective is to get people to consume. But this idea of beauty has nothing to do with the real world or with women. Through the Pirelli Calendar I’ve tried to convey a different message, which is that beauty is far more than what advertising offers us today. My aim was therefore to portray women in a different way: and I did this by calling in actresses who’ve played an important role in my life, getting as close as possible to them to take my photos.”

While I wish this kind of encouragement was more prevalent, I am thankful for any of it at all – it’s important, in a world of false pretense and facades (grazie, social media!) that people realize a pretty face often has a lot more going on to make it APPEAR that way.  Let’s remember that we are human beings – we have dynamic wrinkles because we are alive and laughing!  Our skin sometimes has little spots because we see the sun from time to time.  We aren’t plastic, and flawless…and there’s nothing wrong with that.  We don’t have to live up to “perfect” (someone else’s term and standard, probably!) all the time…or even, how about this…? EVER.

Thank you, Pirelli, for the calendar…and for supporting “us” as we are.

Pirelli Instagram photo

Pirelli Instagram photo

Ageism in Fashion

I was really excited to see this post because…Ohhhh, how true this is!  

I grew up during the reign of ladies like Christy Burlington, Linda Evangelista, Claudia Schiffer, Cindy Crawford, Amber Valetta, Naomi Campbell, Paulina Porizkova, and Shalom Harlow – most of whom are in their mid to later 40s now.  At the time..they were all young and spritely, nary a wrinkle to be found (naturally no editor would have entertained THAT idea!)

moviepilot.com

moviepilot.com

These days, those Fashion icons still look stunning…but they are no longer gracing covers, and haven’t for a long time.  Those who are anything older than teens, for crying out loud, seem to be airbrushed to oblivion – scarcely a realistic picture for the younger generations.  (I say younger because sometimes it isn’t as obvious to them just how much goes INTO creating a flawless image – no, your favorite celebrity did NOT show up to the shoot that way.  Once you have had any stretch of time in Fashion, you know just how MUCH is poured into the final images presented in your glossy.  *It’s A LOT.)

smashcave.com

smashcave.com

As the above article mentions, “It isn’t uncommon for models in their 20s to serve as spokeswomen for anti-aging creams…”  Having taken Marketing as one of my college double majors, I fully recognize the angle cosmetic companies are aiming to take in order to make their products enticing.  But at the end of the day, no topical will have the more dramatic effect a filler or other injectable might.  They might help, absolutely, but the immense fine-tuning that’s often presented (once again, thank you, airbrush) is not likely the outcome of dutiful application twice daily.  

Kristen McMenamy Photographed by David Sims, Vogue, 2010, vogue.com

Kristen McMenamy
Photographed by David Sims, Vogue, 2010, vogue.com

So in my own my…a 20 year-old posing for a wrinkle serum?  Doesn’t make sense.  Should we start our skincare early?  YES!  But is it entirely fair to have these ultra-smooth faces sell us our anti-aging products?  Not so sure…  We are certainly intelligent enough to make educated, adult decisions, but how about being presented with something a bit more REAL?

I’m happy to see that the conversation includes Runway as much as it does other aspects of Fashion as a whole.  Back in the day, touting youthfulness was the thing – I get it.  But it IS 2016.  I feel like society should have – yes, I said “should have” – matured beyond these parameters.  I don’t really proselytize – I don’t feel pushing my opinions onto others is the right thing to do.  I’m not shouting from rooftops that this is “an outrage!”  

But. . .what I AM saying is…it is important to represent the wider array of beauty that exists in the World.  It’s helpful, particularly in a time overrun by social media, enhancement apps (that double as Adobe!), and the “flawless,” Insta-presentation of our “best selves” at all times…that we SEE, and learn to APPRECIATE, aging.  If…let me say…for no other reason than we aren’t broadsided one morning looking in the mirror in our 30’s thinking “wait!  What are these!? This doesn’t happen!  All those ads for these products…those ladies are so young and fresh and line-free!”

I’d kind of like to know I’m not alone, and have beautiful ladies decades other than myself to look up to.  Comparing our older selves to teens – even if subconsciously as we pass the magazine stand – simply isn’t healthy.  Hallelujah that some aren’t afraid to out the topic!

MAC x Susanne Bartsch Collection

I have to be honest here…I had NO idea who this was!  But I LOVE MAC and I love their ever-interesting collaborations. After having read the below, it made perfect sense that I didn’t know who this was – I’m admittedly far out of reach of the celebrity scene.

“Since the 1980s, famed nightlife icon Susanne Bartsch has been known for her elaborate, outlandish and extraordinary fêtes for designers, celebrities and partygoers alike. Three decades later, her events continue to attract New York’s beautiful, strange and eccentric. Now, a collaboration that harnesses the unique world of Bartsch into two fantastical false lashes.”

MAC x Susanne Bartsch Collection

MAC x Susanne Bartsch Collection

Falsies and extensions have DEFINITELY picked up steam over the last decade – certainly they were out there but having been a competitive Ballroom dancer for many years during the last decade…it’s fair to say they were not as easy to come by in stores!

MAC x Susanne Bartsch Collection

MAC x Susanne Bartsch Collection

There is nothing really mild-mannered about these – those who do buy them are likely among the fearless stand-out types (which doesn’t mean if you aren’t that way, there is anything wrong with that!  I’m not sure I could manage these even ON the Ballroom floor where false lashes are so common they are almost a pre-req!)  Given who these are in collaboration with, though, I’d expect nothing less!

The two limited edition lashes are as follows:

MAC Curlicue Lash – $75.00: Swirling and “girly” retro lashes. 

MAC On Top Lash  – $75.00: “Wispy waterfall”-look lashes.

MAC x Susanne Bartsch Collection

MAC x Susanne Bartsch Collection

MAC x Susanne Bartsch Collection

MAC x Susanne Bartsch Collection

Feeling sassy???

 

Progress and Frazzling Fashion!

Some days our challenges feel insurmountable… We forget that they are all completely manageable (how blessed are we really!?)…if we can stay in the moment…and that even little steps towards the end result is PROGRESS.

I remember days in Fashion when I was literally thrown to the wolves. Happened often. *lol* One day I learned I had to give a report to a group of people with only three days prep time… Okay, no worries, I just needed to ask some questions…

For whom?  The major heads of a company backing the child star of an already massively-famous celebrity.  

Topic?  Her line.  

I’m sorry… WHAT?!  😯

Pulling together the essence of a brand (that’s the hefty task, even with a team over TIME!)…supporting it with fashion boards, trend analysis, and samples, and presenting it with authority to a room full of people with “-ident” or “O” at the end of their titles…no problemo! 😕  

Progress

I went flying out the door the minute I found out to buy jewelry, fabrics…and a lot of foam core and tape!  I was horrifically frazzled but…I had some “stuff” to jazz up my non-existent trend boards.  

It was progress.

Back at the office, I sifted through thousands of show samples, pulling at least 30 that could “make the point.”  I had shards of leather all over the place, but each snip was closer to pulling together boards that looked like I had two weeks to do.  

Still uber frazzled…but it was progress

Screen Shot 2015-03-17 at 3.16.14 PM

Needless to say, in a few short days, I had six or seven badass boards, not only speaking to trends relevant to the current cycle, but that were consistent with said celeb’s style…and then some.  Brand is HUGE.  If you don’t jive with your consumers in every way, you’re doomed. 

I was pretty petrified, but all the baby steps on the way were progress…and got me through a very important meeting.  Needless to say, my bosses were equally as surprised because I was, literally, thrown into it not even knowing what the “report” was referring to.  

Fashion is TOTALLY like that.  It is chaos mode 24/7 because the next-big-thing just showed up on someone.  You are constantly chasing and trying to keep up – so “frazzled” HAPPENS.  Remember that each little thing you do is a step in the right direction, and you ARE making progress!