Category Archives: war on girls

The War on Girls: Battle of Body Image

These images a part of my series ‘The Secret Lies of Men & Women’ | Bonnie Rose Photography © 2007 – 2013 All Rights Reserved
I grew up on magazines.  In fifth grade in Italy I got my first issue of Teen magazine. In seventh grade after my move  to Germany I found out about teeny-bopper magazines like Teen Beat and BB.  For several months my walls were covered in two by four posters of Devon Sawa, Mark-Paul Gosselaar, and Jonathan Taylor Thomas. Then in 9th grade after moving back to Italy my favourite magazines grew extensively to include anything talking about fashion, beauty, or celebrities. I was swayed at the checkout aisle in stores by the attractive covers of pretty models with perfect hair and makeup and svelte bodies in beautiful clothes. I think it is important for this post to state that I did not grow up in a house with six foot tall super skinny models who looked perfect 24/7.  I instead invited them into my house by way of monthly magazine subscriptions. It was not my mother who I judged what I should look like as I became an adult but the unattainable idea of perfection from people I had never met. I modeled my version of perfection from the girls in my magazines.  
“I used to cut out magazines ads that I liked and tape them together to make strips of wallpaper in which I covered a wall of my bedroom in our rented house.  My bedroom and closet doors were a collage of magazine cut outs creating a visual piece of art.  Anything I saw that appealed to my eyes or represented what I was feeling would be meticulously cut out.  It was a creative outlet in a tangible experience.”
As a teenager I set this bar that I had to be pretty.  People are attracted to pretty shiny things and I was already looking at myself in that regard.  My goal was to be beautiful and sometimes my version of beautiful was on the verge of sexy. To be honest I did not fully understand what sexy meant. Nor did I really understand the fact that men and women’s brains work differently when it comes to how we look at the opposite sex. I never quite comprehended why my more conservative friend would tell me to pull my shirt up when my neckline started to plunge too low. What did it matter? The girls I saw on television wore the same clothes and no one was telling them they were immodest.  It was the same clothes I saw in my mail order catalogs.  Growing up in Europe the girls on the billboards wore far less clothing and I was living in a world that was more sexualized and open to the human form.

“I cannot look at my teen self, now in my thirties, and judge her because I have forgotten what it means to be sixteen.  Even the girl I was at twenty one has changed from the woman I have become.  I look at myself reflectively.”

I never felt I was able to achieve that status of perfect as a teenager.  I never felt thin enough, tall enough, fit enough, or pretty enough.  My hair was not long enough or blonde enough.  I had to wear contacts or glasses to see and even had my rite of passage of wearing braces in my younger teen years.  In University I found I was able to relax a bit more.  I met my husband my freshman year and we soon became inseparable.  I do not remember focusing so much on my body during those first two years.  I am not sure if it is because I went to a very conservative school with strict rules of modesty or because of the security I found in my college boyfriend.   Perhaps it was because I hung out more with him than I did with other females. So I never had to compare myself to girls to feel I was competing in  competition of perfection.  While my friends went to the tanning booth, I felt secure in my skin.  If at least for a while. 
After my first child was born, my body issues returned and continued unnoticed through till after my second son was born.  As I was now wanting to get my figure back a what I liked to call a dysmorphia resurfaced and this time with an eating disorder I could not ignore.  It festered and grew with an obsession I had of looking at my ideal body type online.  Photos of celebrities who were just skinny enough or too skinny.  Photos of real girls, like me, who were working towards attaining their ideal body type.  I found my online friends to be my biggest support network.  Girls who could respond to me with empathy as we were all part of the same club.  Where like fight club, no one talks about the eating disorders in real life, but hides behinds screen names online.  There was this ‘diet’ (the name I have decided would be best to omit) where every day for a certain number of days would have a certain calorie count.  From all over the world we would encourage each other online in this competition to keep to the calorie count restriction. I won one month and my online friend sent me a package of shirataki noodles that contain 0 calories. 

Self Portrait series | Bonnie Rose Photography © 2007 – 2013 All Rights Reserved | 
There was a time in my early twenties where I could tell you the exact calorie count of almost every food item in our kitchen. A talent I was able to achieve by constantly looking up an item of food by its quantity and how many calories that held.  As I would recall the same foods over and over again, I could put together combinations in my head quickly.   To add up which items I could eat that would stay under 100 calories as if I was a eating mathematician.  While I was not hiding my new obsession from my parents, I was hiding it from my family of my husband and kids.  If I knew my husband would be cooking and would make sure I ate, I would starve myself until then and then say I was full before finishing my meal. I may have my days were I slipped and ‘overate’ in a matter of minutes as I scarfed down food. I would then punish myself with days of fasting to get back on track. I do not want to say that fasting is not healthy because I believe the opposite.  However, the way I was doing it and at this point of my life was not healthy. This was the time of my life where I was a slave to my scale.  I would stand in my shower and scrub my skin raw in the attempts to feel clean and think that it would help me weigh less.  The days the scale went down I rejoiced and the days the scale stayed the same or got higher in number I would feel the weight of the world crashing down on me.  I wanted to be perfect like the girls I saw online. How else could my husband love me if I did not look like the best me that I could be?
It was my boss at the salon that drew my attention to how I was letting my body shrink away unnaturally.  Who helped me get into doing crossfit and yoga with my coworkers to get onto the path of finding my own happiness in life.  My weight since then has done the yoyo up and down, give or take fifteen pounds.  Depending on how much exercise and what kind of food I eat.  I have gotten near to how small I was before but this time weighing significantly more because I was eating and doing weight training to build muscle.  I am still obsessed with food but this time in eating organic, buying from local farms, and not feeding my children processed food.  If you would like to know more about what kind of a Paleo diet we model our eating style after look up The Bullet Proof Diet.  It is not exactly Paleo but based off of of science. 
My story is not over and I will still obsess over my body and how it looks.  I struggle with wanting to be perfect so I take one day at a time.  I do not weigh myself because muscle weighs more than fat and I judge my body by how well my clothes fit.  I try to stick to a  paleo diet of food that is mainly protein and vegetables and keep away from anything processed, with sugars, or carbohydrates.  I have nicknamed my diet as a ‘flexiterian’ because I allow a 85% rate of keeping on track and 15% to cheat foods.  I enjoy food and flavours and let myself fully experience passion of eating when my husband who loves to cook makes us meals.  I do not want to trade my body fat for less of it but in exchange for more muscle tone.  To be fit skinny and strong and not squishy skinny and unhappy because I am slowly starving myself over time.  I try not to fixate on perfect models and celebrities but to look at friends who have built tight bodies of strong muscle tone and and rejoice in the fact that there is another version of beautiful that is healthier than before. I love to look up fitness images that will restructure how my mind looks at beauty and strength and motivates me in my fitness journey.  You can follow along with my Fitspo Board – Pinterest

“I know I am not alone in this war on girls and the battle of body image.  I am just thankful that I now eat to live. Not live to eat…or to eat less and have my whole day devoted to that goal. To value food and the type of food I eat as fuel for my body to do what I love to do.”

Meet Elspeth
For anyone who is struggling with body image I wanted to introduce you to one of my friends I met while we were both working in the salon in Hawaii.  Her name is Elspeth and she is a personal trainer and a fitness ambassador.  I met her when we were both working at the same salon in Hawaii.  She has been an influential person in directing me towards a healthier way of looking at body image.  She recently posted a before photo for the first time.  

Her caption to this was:
“I’ve never posted this ‘before’ picture, but I hope it inspires someone! The before was taken at a time where I was doing at least 7 plus hours a week of cardio, no weights, and barely eating. I weighed about 90lbs & was completely unhappy with my body and my self esteem was low. The second picture is from this month- doing roughly 90 min of cardio a week, strength training 4-5 days, and eating 5-6 small meals a day. I weigh now about 103-105 lbs and am so grateful for my journey. Not only has fitness changed my body, but its changed my whole life! Like so many people I struggled with body image issues and terrible eating habits. (And that’s not to say that I don’t have a bad day here and there-I’m human! But overall, Fitness has empowered me and has been a driving force for me to live a healthy, happy life. *Never set limitations on yourself!” – Elspeth 

I think this is a great testament to how we should approach not only body image but our whole concept of fitness and achieving your goals.  I end this by giving you three women who have influenced my view on food and fitness and hope that if you feel you have an unhealthy view of yourself and are fighting the battle of body image you will find these women as positive role models.

*Photography belong to Bonnie Rose Photography © 2007 – 2013 All Rights Reserved |
** The model in the title image has been photoshopped towards fitting the ‘anorexic’ role in the conceptual photographic piece for the series ‘Secret Lies of Men & Women’ by Bonnie Rose Photography. 

When Life Took A Turn

Today’s Blogtember prompts asks to ‘describe a distinct moment when your life took a turn‘.  For me it was not one moment in time but a summer where my my life took a turn. More than one turn to be exact. On a personal journey that would not all together be beautiful. New experiences, heart wrenching pain, and learning just what it meant to rely on oneself.  I did not plan for nor could have expected what that summer would have had in store.
 “See, I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction”  
Isaiah 48:10
It was the beginning of Summer in 2009 and I was living on the island of Oahu, Hawaii.  I had recently experienced a tearful goodbye as we sent my kids to the mainland for the summer with my husband’s parents who had been visiting.  The decision came up in a discussion when we were trying to figure out the current logistics of our lives.  A year had not yet passed since my dad was killed and I was still going through the grieving process with depression and anxiety.  Our marriage had hit rock bottom when we lost my dad and since had experienced ups and downs. We were currently at a ‘down’ moment. I had sought counsel from a dear friend I had known since my I was young and was advised to get out of the situation.  I had hoped that giving us both space we would finally be able to work through the issues.  Sometimes staying in the same situation without change can only have the same result.  I wanted change.  With my kids spending the summer with grandparents, I  took a new job in a start up salon on the other side of the island.  To cut down on transportation costs I found a room to rent that was close to the salon.  That began the start of our trial separation while we continued marriage counseling.
The First Turn.
I went from living in our small apartment that resembled a cave from lack of natural light to having my own room in a light airy space close to the ocean. I changed roles from being a full time stay at home mum trying to work through the loss of my dad to being a working woman who for the first time since leaving University had free time without kids.  In the beginning I came to work every day as a way to keep myself busy.  The more I worked, the more I did not have to think about how much I missed my kids, how much I missed my dad, or wonder if my husband was missing me.  It was very lonely in the beginning because I felt abandoned in away.  I was now without a car and had not been able to get my friends to come over and visit.  Being a military wife stationed in Hawaii I also had no family members I could call on for support.  I really wanted to hang out with my coworkers after work but my boss told me I should start learning how to rely on myself. To be okay with being alone. It was a lesson I was not wanting to learn, but began that summer.  So I slipped into my new role and took one day at a time. 

The Healing Turn.

The second but not last turn my life would take that summer was of the healing kind.  I had been prescribed Klonopin from my doctor to help me with my depression and anxiety issues that had come up after my dad’s death.  My doctor appointments always felt like visits to a local drug peddler as it seemed more about drugs and dosage and less about my feelings and spending time talking.  The klonopin took away the pain or anxiety of a situation but it also took away a part of me.  I was beyond flat and become like an emotion zombie.  The worst was how it would just zap all the energy out of my body and make it so easy to fall asleep.  By the time I had been working at the salon my boss sat me down for a heart to heart.  He told me he could not tell me to stop taking the klonopin, but that he did not feel I needed to rely on it anymore.  He promised to help me by coming up with a fitness programme and diet  so that I could be happy naturally.  As a former life coach and the one positive male role model in my life at that time I  decided to follow his advice.  I stopped taking Klonopin and started doing crossfit and yoga with my coworkers.  Slowly I started my journey towards finding my happiness.  Yes there were bumps along the way and it was not easy.  However I was making lots of new friends, picking up new hobbies, and learning again how I could be okay with being independent.

Training for a marathon with my co workers and boss on the picturesque beach in Lanikai. 

When Life Took a Turn…
…I saw my life through renewed eyes.  I would like to say that the rest of the summer got easier from that point, but things took another turn for the worse.  Another story for another day.  This was the beginning of my summer and a moment in my life where it took a turn towards change.  I think it is so important to look at the trials in your past as stepping stones of change to the person you have become today.  I never thought I would have to lose my father so soon and it was the first time I have ever had to grieve a loss so great.  I look back on it now as an experience in which I can give empathy and support to others who may find themselves in similar situations.  The one thing I would never want someone to have to go through alone is a period of loss.  I have started a Sunday series entitled The War on Girls where I focus about the issues I feel personally society is failing the female generations. For me I had more judgements or silence directed at me in a period of my life where I could have used so much encouragement.  I believe it is so important to not look at someone’s life and judge from the sidelines.  To go off of limited information, speculate, and speak illy of someone where in a world of social media such words are a form of bullying.  It is definitely easier to assume and to give advice to someone, it is harder still to encourage when you have not walked a few steps in their shoes.  This is a sneak peek of things to come on Sunday’s continuation post on The War on Girls. I challenge everyone who reads this to focus on unconditional love for others.  
I have another post about Overcoming Klonopin if you are interested in knowing a little more.

Q: How do you look back on the trials in your life?  
Do you see them differently in retrospect compared to during the time in question?

*photographs  belong to Bonnie Rose of Bonnie Rose Photography © 2013 All Rights Reserved | 

The War on Girls: Pt. I My Beginning

I have dedicated the next few Sundays to this series entitled The War on Girls.  It comes from a list of blog posts that have put on the back burner but have wanted to write so much about on ACR. Personal things that I have experienced that I now realise effect so many in our world.  Where silence is kept I want to speak openly. To take an honest look at how our society has shaped this surreal world for us as women.  Not just in the social media age but in society and and from the places where we seek unconditional love.  The war on girls is impacted by and directly affects the male population.  With raising two boys of my own I have seen the correlation between the issues women face and the type of men I am trying to raise my boys to be.
This statement of advice that I heard recently impacted me on a personal level.  I am the first to stand up and say that I am my own worst enemy, the first to judge myself harshly.  To put thoughts in my head about how others perceive my words and actions.  An example would be a look at my blogging. I have butchered posts up to make them shorter or taken out post ideas entirely.  While I have a love of writing and at times feel moved to say what is on my heart, I let either the opinions of others stifle my voice or stop writing for the fear that if it is long no one will read it.  Be honest with me, if you do not see a lovely photograph in a the next paragraph will you get bored and move on to the next blog?  Has the world of social media  shackled our lives so much that to be engaged online we need short and sweet writings that are pretty to look at to keep our attention? Or is the truth in the matter covering up the fact that my preconceived fears of what others think may indeed be the root problem of it all?  Where did this fear come from and why does it hurt so many in our society?  More importantly how can we stop this from affecting our younger generations when the media world continues to dictate what we should feel and believe?
The war on girls and how society is failing us will be my focus for the series while I take a personal look at my own life.  To do this I want to take this introductory post and give you a look at my beginning and how it shaped who I was to become.  
Who am I?
I was born into a nomadic family thanks to my father being a USAF officer who enjoyed taking one overseas assignment after another.  I became a third culture kid (TCK) from living in a few different countries and cultures outside of my parents’ home culture during my developmental years. I was always in between cultures getting ready to leave one place and move to another while never fully feeling apart of one world.   As TCKs having this background it is  normal to experience what has been labeled by TCK author Pollock as a delayed adolescence. But more on that in later posts. 

I recognize that my life growing up as a teenager in Europe was unique to me and my situation, although a vast different experience from my husband’s time being brought up in the midwest of the US.  Drinking and sex are two things that come to my mind when I think of how the US and European mindsets differ.  From living in the land of beer in Germany to the land of wine in Italy, alcohol was a was a highly present commodity in my life.  I grew up with parents that I saw drinking often, though I never saw them drunk.  While I did drink wine occasionally with my parents, that was the extent of my drinking before I turned twenty one.  I used the word ‘sex’ above but I really mean how the human body is viewed in Europe.  From art scene, to the people at the beach, and to the media world of magazines, television, and billboards.  A perfect example for me recently was the reaction of Americans about the latest celebrity news of tweaking in a musical event and how people in countries in Europe did not take notice.  This was the world I grew up in as a teenager and 
I went off to University straight after high school graduation to a conservative private christian university.  As a student I adhered to the rules that included no drinking, no dancing, no mixed swimming, no members of the opposite sex in our dorm rooms,  etc.  As a girl I was also held to a strict conduct of modesty at all times and the dorm rules which included strict weekly inspections.  For example, I could not go out one night because I had not effectively cleaned all the dust off my blinds. However, when I helped my boyfriend move out at the end of the school year, it was clear they never had to clean once in nine months. You see where things are not balanced. I state all this to explain the type of world view I was being molded to as a young adult away from home for the first time.  I went to a school where in my freshman classes the professors liked to point out that we could be sitting by our future spouse and peers joke that they came for the M.R.S.  not a specific degree.  I loved my theatre department and I loved that I did meet my husband there.  It just was not your typical college experience and a world away from what life was like in Europe where I grew up.
I got married after my sophomore year of university and pregnant with our first son in less than a year.  This prompted my husband to follow in my father’s footsteps and join the military.  As a newlywed and a new mother I would now fill the role of a military spouse.  I had traded in my single life and my adult life for starting and taking care of our family.  Any needed girls’ night outs would be replaced by play dates at starbucks and playgrounds. This was my life up till the summer after my father was killed.  That summer became a turning point for me in many different ways.  
I will be continuing this series on Tuesday as part of the #Blogtember challenge and picking it up again next Sunday.  I hope the introduction to this series has intrigued you and that you will follow along at ACR.  I have tried my best to keep Sundays to these days of when I may need to say a little more than normal. In the blogging-sphere where reader numbers go down on the weekends, I dedicate these writings to my die hard fans. Thank you to those that will read my words and hear the message within.  Remember ‘you are better than you think you are’…go out next week and do something you have wanted to do. You deserve it.

*photography belongs to Bonnie Rose Photography © 2007 – 2013 All Rights Reserved |